Dog Training – a Short Story.

It’s cold and grey here in Scotland today. Perfect weather for cuddling up on the couch with a blanket and something to read, so I thought I’d help you out with a short story.
If you live somewhere warm and sunny, reading a short story while soaking up the sun can be rather pleasant too, especially if you have a cool drink to hand and your sunhat perched. 😎🤓📚😀
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This short story won first prize at a conference for The Scottish Association of Writers, many moons ago, and it was where I first developed the character, Hugh, whose story I subsequently wrote in my novel, For What it’s Worth.
Being a short story, it is easily and quickly read, so I hope you enjoy it when you get a moment or two to chill.
If you want to read more of my work, you can find all of my published novels listed here on Amazon.

🐶

Dog Training

 

“Excuse me, sir. I’m afraid dogs are not allowed in the park without a lead.” The Park Keeper pointed to the sign.

“Ah, yes! I see that, but you see, the thing is …”

“The thing is, sir, your dog is fouling on my grass. There’s a penalty for that.” The Park Keeper pointed to the relevant notice. “Unless, of course, you use a pooper-scooper and dispose of the offending mess appropriately, sir.”

“Ah, yes! I see that too, but you see, the thing is …”

He reached into the pouch he wore across his body. “The thing is, sir, I have some plastic bags here for just such an occasion.” And he handed one over. 

“Ah, yes! I see. Plastic bag. Yes.” Hugh looked at the bag as though it was from outer space. “And what exactly?” He made a vague waving gesture with it.

“Never done this before, have we, sir.”

“No, actually. No, haven’t. Haven’t needed to really.”

“Ah! New to this area, are we?”

Hugh nodded, looking at the dog as it crouched on the grass adding to its offence. 

“Thought so. Standards, sir. It’s all about standards, if you don’t mind my saying so, sir. We like to keep our park up to a high standard. Litter, dogs’ mess, ball-games – these are the things that bring a park down, you know.”

“Quite, yes. Yes. I can imagine.” Hugh wrinkled his nose in distaste. “Thing is, don’t you know.” He still held the plastic bag at arm’s length. A look of puzzlement crossed his face when he looked at it.

“If I may, sir?” The Park Keeper took the bag from his grasp and walked across the grass to the offending pile. “Allow me to demonstrate the use of the plastic bag as a pooper-scooper.” And this he ably did. “One places one’s hand inside the bag, thus.” He demonstrated. “Pick up the poop, thus.” He did. “Turn the bag inside out, thus.” Again, accomplished expertly. “Thereby containing the mess within the bag, to be disposed of in the receptacle provided.” He indicated the bin at the end of the path.

“I say, well done.” Hugh applauded. “Donald, is it?” He gave a nod to the name badge on the Park Keeper’s jacket.

“Thank you, sir.” Donald beamed. When Hugh made no move to relieve the Park Keeper of the plastic bag of pooh, he walked across to the bin and demonstrated how it should be deposited. “Thus.”

Hugh nodded his understanding. “Yes. Yes. Quite. Now, the thing is, you see.”

“And now, sir. May I suggest you collect your dog and put it on its leash before any further mishap occurs?”

“Good idea. Yes. The thing is though …” Hugh raised his hands, displaying the lack of a dog leash.

“Ah, I see your problem now.” The Park Keeper clicked his fingers together. He reached into his pouch once more. “Fortunately, I carry this length of rope for just such an occasion.” He handed it to Hugh.

“Rope. Yes. I imagine you …” He held the rope out and wiggled it about a bit as though putting it through the dog’s collar.

“Exactly, sir. Now, if you’d care to call the dog.”

“Yes. Yes. See what you mean. Call the dog. Rover, don’t you know. Always called my dogs Rover. Ever since I was a boy. Got a puppy for my birthday.” Hugh smiled at the memory of waking to the warm, wet nose snuffling round his face. He’d wanted a dog so much, hadn’t dared to hope his mother would let him have one of his very own. He’d called him Rover, unable to think of a more original name. Continued to call it Rover even after realising, or, rather, being told, he was a she. “Old-fashioned now, I suppose. The name, I mean. Rover. Still, Mumsie has kept up the tradition, don’t you know.”

“Yes, sir.”

Hugh drew himself back from his thoughts and shook his head. “No matter. You see, the thing is …”

“If you’d care to call the dog, sir?”

Hugh could see Donald was getting edgy.

“This particular dog has been, ahem, irritating me, shall we say, on and off for days now. Never on a leash, trotting about as if it owns the park, cocking its leg where it will, digging in the flower beds.”

Hugh affected a look of understanding and sympathy.

“I’ve been watching out for you, sir, and I’m pleased to have the opportunity to make clear the park rules concerning animals. “If you wouldn’t mind, sir?”

The dog was perilously close to a beautiful display of roses. In fact he was beginning to dig around them.

Hugh looked doubtful, but reluctantly co-operated with the request. “Rover! Erm, Rover!” he called self-consciously and ineffectually.

The Park Keeper smiled his encouragement.

Hugh tried again. “I say Rover, old boy, do come over here.” He tapped the rope against his leg.

The dog, a large black Labrador, disdained to come over anywhere, but began digging in earnest, putting the roses in serious jeopardy.

Hugh pursed his lips and attempted to whistle, not something he was ever good at, but something he always believed he would someday be able to do. He felt it was a requirement of a dog owner and had sought to perfect the technique since being given that first puppy, also a black lab as it happened.

The sound that came from his lips was thin and frail and the dog could be excused for ignoring it.

Hugh called again. The dog dug on. The roses toppled in the dirt.

“Not well trained,” Donald remarked through gritted teeth. “If you don’t mind my saying so, sir,” he said.

“No. No.” Hugh was eager to reassure the Park Keeper. “I don’t mind at all. Completely in agreement on that point. Has a will of his own, don’t you know.”

“Do you mind if I try?” The Park Keeper indicated his willingness to round up the dog. 

“Not at all,” Hugh said earnestly. “Be my guest.” And he handed over the coiled rope.

“May I suggest, sir, you go round that way?” Donald indicted one side of the shrubbery. “While I advance from this direction. That way we can perhaps cut off his escape.”

“By all means,” Hugh acquiesced. 

Labrador Retrievers are not by nature difficult dogs and Rover proved true to his breed, allowing himself to be rounded up and captured without much protest.

“Firmness, you see, sir,” Donald said with due pride. “They respond to firmness. Firmness of voice. You have to let them know who’s in charge.”

“Yes, absolutely. Yes. I see that. Thank you. Well done. Most Impressive.” Hugh knew it was true. Mumsie had often tried to goad him into being his dog’s master rather than its playmate. The role had never suited him and none of the dogs he’d owned over the years had been fooled by any attempts on his part to play it.

The Park Keeper dusted down his jacket and stood tall. “And now, sir, if you’d be so good as to remove the animal from the vicinity.” He handed the rope over to Hugh. “I’ll tidy up round the roses.”

“Yes. Yes. The thing is, you see …” his voice trailed off when he realised the Park Keeper was no longer listening. Obviously, as far as he was concerned, the matter was now satisfactorily concluded.

“I’ll fetch a rake,” he said.

“Yes, yes, of course. By all means,” Hugh agreed.

When Donald returned, he seemed surprised to find Hugh still there.

Hugh was sitting on a bench and the dog was far off, digging again at the same spot, the roses torn and scattered between its paws.

The Park Keeper drew a long breath between gritted teeth and bore down on Hugh. “Ahem!” He coughed. “Excuse me again, sir.”

“Oh, hello!” Hugh smiled. “Waiting,” he explained. “Waiting for my wife.” He looked at his watch. “Late.” He pulled a tolerant face. 

“The dog, sir?”

“Yes, yes. Still here, isn’t he.”

“I did mention before, sir, the necessity of a leash?”

“Yes. Yes. Absolutely! You see, the thing is.” Hugh raised his hand, still clutching the rope.

The Park Keeper’s eyes followed the length of the rope as it snaked across the grass all the way to the dog’s collar. “Ah, yes. I see. Not quite the spirit of the injunction, may I say, sir?”

“Well, I must say,” Hugh said as he stood up. “It’s been very nice speaking with you, quite, you know, quite, well, quite educational, in fact.” He waved to Yvonne. “Bit of a lesson in dog-handling, don’t you know. But now, I see my wife coming. So, if you don’t mind.” He handed the rope to the Park Keeper. “You see, the thing is, at this point in time, I don’t actually have a dog.”

~~~

May I have Your Attention Please

When I was enjoying my daily perambulations one day last week, I caught the attention of some of my neighbours. These particular neighbours tend to be interested in whatever is going on in our garden and they meandered over to see what I was up to. I had a brief chat with them then scooted off to fetch my camera, thereby learning an important writing lesson.

Having captured our readers’ attention, it is tremendously important to hold it for long enough that they will want to hang on in and see what happens.

I had not done that with my neighbours and when I returned with my camera, they had lost interest and wandered off to seek diversion elsewhere.

So, when they returned the next day, I was prepared. I had my camera at the ready, having not only caught their attention but having also found a way to hold their interest.

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It really is that important.

Writers know that you, the reader, have to be persuaded to read our book, so we try to come up with that captivating first sentence, that intriguing first paragraph, that riveting first chapter, but it can’t end there.

As soon as we get boring, you get bored.

It’s as simple as that.

So every chapter has to hold your attention. Ideally, we want you not to be able to put our book down until you’ve finished reading the whole thing, staying up all night if that’s what it takes. Sorry, I know that’s pretty mean of us to cause you to lose your beauty sleep, but just think of the rewards. You can have our story buzzing about in your head for days afterwards. You might well feel you’ve made some great new friends of our characters.

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My granddaughters made friends with my neighbours. They even got to know them better than I do, exchanging names and contact details. Daisy is just off to the left there, and she likes to be whistled over. Primrose prefers a soft mooing sound.

Another lesson learned. It is important to connect with you, dear reader. I want to know who you are, what you like about my writing, what interests you, where I can find you, how I can reach you.

So why don’t you pop your head over the hedge and chat to me – or simply add a comment in the comment box below. I love when you do.

Meet Lesley Richards, Photographer, Artist and Baker

Well, here in Scotland, ‘the nights are drawing in’ and we’re beginning to look out warm coats and winter boots. Though so far November has been a beautiful month, autumn is fast heading for winter and it’s time to invite friends to join me round the fire.

I have a dear friend, Lesley Richards, joining me for tea and cake today. Cake she made, of course, and kindly brought with her. But more of that later. I hope you enjoy meeting her.

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Lesley Richards is a well travelled Scot who combines an eclectic range of skills and passions including scuba diving, photography, painting and baking.

After university in Glasgow and corporate jobs in London she now enjoys life based in Edinburgh where she combines corporate projects with creative pursuits offering artworks and images in various forms under the banner of Siren Art and bakes to order as  Siren Bakes.

First of all, Lesley, can you explain the unusual company names you have?
I was nicknamed a mermaid when I first went scuba diving because my very long hair would come loose underwater. That became the ‘sea siren’, another term for mermaid.

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When I needed a name for my photography Facebook page, ‘Siren Art‘ seemed to fit, then when I set up a page for my baking it was only natural to continue the theme with ‘Siren Bakes‘.

I know you love to travel, but where do you call home?
We moved around the UK a lot when I was growing up, so it meant I got used to being in different places, so home is wherever I happen to be. I suppose I feel like I have lots of places I can call home as they feel familiar if I ever go back.
I live in Edinburgh at the moment and must admit it is nice being back in Scotland, I love the variety of scenery and skyscapes we have here – I’m in a capital city with a historic castle and modern buildings like Dynamic Earth, but within reasonable distance I also have mountains or sandy beaches. Now if we could just add some warm weather – what’s not to like?

How many countries have you traveled to?
Lots! I’ve been fortunate to travel as an individual, for work and as part of scuba expeditions. I’ve been to most of Europe, parts of Canada, Central & North America, some of the Caribbean, Africa and a little of Asia & the Far East.

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There are many places I’d love to revisit but also lots of places I haven’t seen yet so plenty more travelling to do. Australia, New Zealand and Galapagos are definitely on the bucket list.

Do you have a favourite place?
It’s hard to pick just one. It depends what I want to do.
To relax nothing beats being on a dive boat, sunbathing on deck between dives, or sitting at the prow getting splashed as the boat is in transit and I can dolphin watch.
One of my favourite views is just under the boat at the start or end of a dive.

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I have two favourite restaurants, one is a little fish restaurant on a narrow jetty over the Red Sea at the Kahramana at Marsa Alam in Egypt. The other is a tiny fondue house in the Sacre Coeur area of Paris where it’s so narrow you have to climb over the table to sit on the other side and they serve baby bottles of wine instead of glasses.

What was your favourite job ever?  Where was it?  And can you tell us a bit about it?Well I can’t really call it work but I had a large group of divers going out to do a special trip of advanced diving on a brand new boat in Egypt. The political situation affected businesses in Egypt at the time and the new boat was not going to be finished on time. I was contacted about the delay and offered a different boat for our expedition. To assure me it was up to standard, the company invited me out for a week aboard to check her out.
So a weeks diving and holiday on a newly refurbished luxury livaboard boat in the southern Egyptian Red Sea – absolute bliss. Then two weeks later I returned with my expedition and we had a brilliant time then too.

Photography is something you love, isn’t it? What kind of things/people/places do you most like photographing?
I started photography when I first learnt to dive over 20 years ago now. Back then the underwater camera I had was fully manual, we had a maximum of 36 shots on a film and we had to develop our own films on the back of the boat to see what shots we had at the end of the day.
For me it was the best way to capture the incredible beauty that was underwater and share it with people who weren’t able to dive themselves – as well as being great memories for me.
With digital cameras it is now much easier to take lots of photographs and immediately review them, but underwater it is still essential to spot the shot, anticipate marine life, capture the best lighting effect and have perfect buoyancy to not touch anything underwater. When I was teaching scuba-diving we always said, ‘take only pictures, leave only bubbles.’ If you couldn’t get a picture without touching coral or stirring up the sand – then you didn’t take the picture. Conservation is everything.
I still love being underwater but I also do coastal and landscape photography as well as wildlife and local points of interest.
I tend to photograph places rather than people but I have been known to be on duty for candid shots at weddings and engagements.

You have taken so many fabulous shots. Do you have an all-time favourite? Tell us about it.
There is a very special shot of a leopard-spot blennie that I love, these are very small fish that usually hide in nooks & crannies of the coral, you usually see just their face as they vanish into a dark hole to hide.
This one I spotted while it was out sunbathing on the coral. It was the first time I’d seen this type of blennie and he was so relaxed his dorsal fin is still down. He let me take a few pictures then swam off.
I love that his fabulous dotty pattern is even on his eyes and the amazing frilled effect he has on his mouth.

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I think I am always proudest of underwater wildlife shots as its their ocean and they can swim off and vanish at any point, that they stay and give me a chance to see and photograph them is very special.

Do you plan which shots you want to get when you travel, or are you an impulsive snapper?

I may have some shots in mind but I always adapt to what happens at the time. Even with ‘classic’ shots of landmarks or scenery, it really needs a dramatic sky or interesting lighting effects to make them come alive.

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I am always on the lookout for an interesting shot and they can happen very unexpectedly. This one was taken in torrential rain from Edinburgh’s Grassmarket as I had been driving through and stopped to capture the Edinburgh Tattoo fireworks above the Castle, no filters or photoshop required.
What’s the best impromptu shot you’ve taken?
Just last week, I spotted the moon emerging from behind Edinburgh Castle as I walked down Princes Street, I had to dash across the road and find a view through the trees before I missed my bus!

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I know you make prints of some of your photos. How else do you merchandise them?
It’s mainly been by word of mouth so far, I also had a stand at Scotland’s Boat Show last year & have some postcards at Thread & Heather in Edinburgh.
My Photographs are available as wall art, postcards, greetings cards, on cushions, calendars and whatever you would like them on – size & quality permitting 😄
My paintings are one offs, but I usually do a print of them also. If it’s a private commission then totally unique, no prints.

I also do food photography for my baking. Most recently I had the privilege of making my best friends’ wedding cake as my gift to them. I loved the effect of sunlight on the sugar lace, edible paint and pearls I had decorated the cake with.

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I can vouch for that cake, Lesley. Not only did it look amazing, it also tasted divine – both layers. Having tasted many of your cakes, I have to ask, are they available to order?
When I’m not in the water I do love to cook and since moving back to Scotland I have done a lot more baking. I’ve always brought homemade things to parties and get togethers and people started asking for more.
Popular requests for baking are Chocolate Guinness Cake, Carrot Cake, White Chocolate & Raspberry, Brownies, Tequila & Lime, Spiced Cranberry Cookies and Sticky Toffee Pudding.
Savoury requests include Lasagne and filo pastry quiches.
I also do gluten free, nut free and dairy free requests.

Are there some links you could share with us to view your work and to order items we would like to buy?
I post some of my work on Facebook: Siren Art & Siren BakesInstagram (@siren_art) and Twitter (@Siren_Art) and they are the main ways that people contact me.
I have a holding page at www.siren-art.com and am working on the website for 2016.
It’s best to get in touch and discuss what you are looking for and what you like.

Thank you so much for visiting, Lesley. It’s been great to sit and chat with you, and thank you for the cake. Your Chocolate Guinness cake was fantastic.

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Well, hope you enjoyed meeting Lesley, folks. Sorry if talk of Chocolate Guinness cake has your mouth watering, but it really was rather special. Think it’s the creamy, gooey frosting …mmmm!

If you live anywhere near Edinburgh, I can recommend you order one from Lesley.

You’ll not regret it.

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Do you have a favourite recipe? Tell me in the comments and, who knows, if I like the sound of it, I might invite you to join me by the fire for a chat, a cuppa…and a slice of cake.

~~~

Book Release – I.T. Geek to Farm Girl Freak

I’m delighted to be involved in promoting a new book released November 1st by S.A. Molteni.

New Release 11/1/2015
I.T. Geek to Farm Girl Freak: Along the Bumpy Road of Rural Life

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Description:
After ditching a full-time career and moving to a small hobby farm to enjoy a slower pace and a healthier lifestyle, isn’t everything supposed to be idyllic or “peaches and cream” as they say in the South? Well, not exactly …
In this second instalment of the I.T. Geek to Farm Girl Freak series, follow the author as she holds on for the ride, “along the bumpy road of rural life” where her friendly neighbors become not so nice and her farm animals evolve into completely coddled pets – with her Royal Palm turkeys becoming the most pampered ones of all.

Available on Amazon:
I.T. Geek to Farm Girl Freak: Along the Bumpy Road of Rural Life (Book 2)
Daily updates of the happenings on the farm and the latest adventures of the farm animals can be found at: I.T. Geek to Farm Girl Freak on Facebook
Enter the New Release Give-a-way!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

About the Author:
S.A. Molteni is a retired systems engineer. She is also currently a hobby farmer, avid traveler and an author of several award-winning short stories. She lives on a small homestead with her husband and a menagerie of farm animals.
S.A. Molteni can be found on the following social media sites:
Blog – http://samolteni.blogspot.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/author.samolteni
Twitter – https://twitter.com/samolteni 

A Tantalising Glimpse of Invisibility

The other night, when I was preparing to head bed-wards, I got a bit of a fright as I opened my bedroom door. No, it wasn’t my reflection in the full-length mirror on the opposite wall, though I will confess that has caused more than one or two startling moments in my life. No, something fluttered. And no, it was not my heart, though that happened too, but, as it settled on the dark green carpet, I caught a tantalising glimpse of invisibility.

There are butterflies ~ I know because I’ve seen them in the butterfly farm, or almost seen them anyway ~ and they are transparent, translucent and iridescent. They are called Glasswing Butterflies and they are stunningly beautiful. And here was one in my house, resting on my hall carpet.

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Photo: Flickr User: thefost

Now, here is where a small confession is necessary. I’m rather nervous of things that flutter ~ funnily enough, not when they are in their own habitat so much as when they are in mine. So, although I desperately wanted to study it up close, I was afraid to get up close. I retreated back into my bedroom with all decent haste when the beautiful creature first fluttered before me, and was now faced with the problem of catching a second glimpse, never mind a study opportunity. Opening the bedroom door with all due caution, I saw that it was still there, still resting, still beautiful. What to do?

Retreating once more behind the safety of my bedroom door ~ I know, I know, what was it going to do to me? Maul me? ~ I had a brainwave. Well, a brain flutter at any rate. I had a largish, clear plastic jar in my drawer. It used to contain night cream, but guessing the jar might come in useful sometime (like now) I had washed it out once empty and kept it.

Taking the bottom bit ~ yes, I remembered to take the lid off ~ I once more sneaked up on the resting butterfly, and after one or two abortive attempts due to unreasoning terror, I clapped the jar over the Glasswing Butterfly.

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Photo:  David Tiller

Now what?

Remember, if you will, that I am afraid nervous of things that flutter in my home, so it was going to be tricky. Trouble is, I’m also half-blind somewhat short-sighted, so to be able to study this beautiful creature properly without getting down to recline beside it, I needed it raised to my work station.

Dilemma.

If I tried to slip the piece of card I held in my shaking hand under the jar and contents, the likelihood was I’d fumble it and let the butterfly loose to do what it does best ~ flutter.

Solution.

Call long-suffering man about the house, my hubby.

Obliging as ever, hubby came upstairs and slipped the card underneath jar and contents ~ at least we thought he’d managed to do so, but on examination, he declared there was nothing in the jar. Next thing to remember: hubby is also somewhat sight impaired, at least for close work.

‘There’s nothing here,’ he said, holding the jar up to the light.

‘It may look like that,’ I replied, but it’s a glasswing, so you won’t be able to see it without your reading glasses.’

‘What d’you want me to do now then?’

I was getting scared nervous there really was nothing there and he’d let the exotic creature escape to flutter into my bedroom. Clutching my pyjama trousers tightly round my legs to foil any attempt it made to flutter up inside them, (Well, one never knows with these things!) I decided there was only one kind course of action. ‘We’ll have to set the poor thing free,’ I told him. ‘If you can’t see it in the jar, then I’m going to be struggling to study it without something stronger than my reading specs.’ (The thought did cross my mind a glass of wine might be the necessary ‘something stronger’)

So we went to the back door.

‘Sure?’ hubby asked as he prepared to set this most exotic, exciting, tantalising glimpse of invisibility free.

I nodded, sad to have to miss such a rare opportunity for study, but conscious we’d already imprisoned this beautiful specimen for quite a large proportion of its natural life.

He took away the card and let it go and…

out it fluttered…

transparent

translucent,

iridescent as it caught the light from the hallway…

a stunningly beautiful specimen of…

cellophane.

~~~

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