A Shaggy Dog Story and how a Hoodie got his Just Desserts!

Looking back to my childhood, one thing I’ll always remember is our dog, Bob. My brother and I always wanted a dog and one day I remember playing outside, waiting for Mum and she came towards us holding a wicker basket and in the basket was Bob, a mongrel puppy but, according to my Dad, ninety per cent Manchester Terrier.

He was named Bob because all my Dad’s pet dogs were called Bob. There was Old Bob, before him there was Even Older Bob and then the Last Bob. Presumably if there had been one before him he would have been In-between Bob.

Bob the Dog.

Bob the Dog.

Anyway, we grew up, my brother and I with Bob. He was a wonderful dog and we had some great times together. When we moved from Wythenshawe to Handforth Bob disappeared after a few days. We searched and searched but couldn’t find him. We went to the Police and the officer suggested that maybe Bob had gone back to our old house. “What? All the way to Manchester?” we asked.

“It’s been known!” he said.

We had no car so we walked back to our old house, a good five or six miles away, nothing in a car I suppose but a fair walk. The neighbours had seen Bob about and after waiting a while he turned up, very pleased to see us.

Where we lived in Handforth there was a dog called Butch who lived around the corner. Butch looked like the meanest nastiest dog ever but he was actually a really friendly dog. When we took Bob for a walk Butch would follow us to the old RAF camp where we went for walks. Of course, Bob would not allow Butch to actually walk with us. Oh no. Butch would have to walk about five yards behind us and if he approached, Bob would bark and growl until Butch went back to his proper station. When we got to the field and Bob’s lead came off then all bets were off and the two raced about and played together but on the way back home, protocol had to be observed and Butch had to adopt the proper position or be barked and growled at.

Butch’s owners were not the best or most responsible dog owners. Butch was an outside dog and when they went on holiday Butch was left to fend for himself until they returned and some of our neighbours thought Butch was a menace, a wild dog but he really wasn’t.

One day, during the school holidays, there was a knock on the door. Now, I do mean a proper knock, a real rat-tat-tat on the door knocker. When I opened the door no one was there except Butch, looking at me in askance. I assumed some kids had been messing about knocking on our door so I told Butch to go away and shut the door but a few minutes later there was the rat-tat-tat again. My Mum opened the door looked at Butch and said “Round the back Butch” and a few minutes later Butch turned up at the back door and my Mum gave him a few scraps to eat. It turned out this was a regular visit from Butch and Mum explained how Butch used to tap on the letterbox with his foot or his nose. He was a bright lad that Butch.

Anyway, one final dog story to finish with. I must be careful how I tell this one because I always seem to give the punch line away before the end. Anyway, here goes.

When I lived in Newton le Willows I used to take our Labrador for a walk on the playing field round the corner after finishing work. There was a little snicket you walked down to the playing field and further up was some rough ground and a bit of a pond where we’d have a run around. On this day as I approached the path a youth on a mountain bike came hurtling down the path, passed me and was off. As I came to the field there was an old lady there who looked a little odd. Something about her wasn’t quite right so I went over and asked if everything was ok.

“No,” she answered. A man on a mountain bike had just grabbed her hand bag and shot off. “I saw him,” I said. “He went off towards Newton. Stay here and I’ll run home and call the Police.”

“No,” said the lady. “It doesn’t matter,” and then she started to laugh, slowly at first, then developing into a great big hysterical laugh.

Well, I thought, I wonder if this is some sort of shock reaction? Should I perhaps slap or shake her or something? The lady could see where my thinking was taking me and held up her hand. “I’m not mad, just a minute and I’ll explain.”

When she had calmed down she told me that she came here every day to walk her dog but the dog always liked to have a poop on the football field. Well, she was aware of the kids playing football so she always used her poop scoop and picked up the dog mess but felt a little self-conscious walking back home carrying a bag of poop. Now this is the bit where you’ve probably preempted me and guessed what happened. The lady brought an old handbag with her to carry the poop and that’s what the hoodie biker had grabbed!

I can just imagine the face on that hoodie when he stopped to examine his goods. What would he find? Had it been pension day? Would he find a purse filled with money?

Well, when it comes down to it, he found exactly what he deserved!

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The Sound Barrier and My in-flight Canine Friend

I’ve always liked that lazy droning sound of light aircraft; maybe it comes from my childhood, brought up a stone’s throw from Manchester Airport which my friends and I would visit every weekend, cycling to the back of the airport down lanes and alleyways looking for obscure fields where we could get close to the aircraft. We spent many a lazy afternoon on the airport terraces, jotting down aircraft registrations and ticking them off in our flight books.

When I was younger I knew someone who had an ambition to be a pilot and was taking lessons at Blackpool Airport. He used to alleviate his tuition costs by taking friends or colleagues on his training flights if they would drive him down to Blackpool.

On the day that I joined James (the names have been changed to protect the innocent) as an eager passenger, I drove down to Blackpool Airport pretty excited. James advised that on the day he would be doing some instrument tests which involved flying the aircraft on instruments alone.

I stepped into the back of the small plane and strapped myself in. It was a hot day and the aircraft had a huge glass cockpit making it warmer still. I was at a point when I thought I would have to get out and cool off but just then the instructor turned up. He was an older chap and brought his big woolly dog along as he enjoyed, well so I was told, flying. Fido was led in to the rear seat with me and we eyed each other warily as he was strapped in.

The engine was started, we taxied out on to the runway and a few moments later we were aloft. It was exhilarating to look down on Blackpool and the tower, a place where I had spent many happy holidays as a child. After a while James had to put on a rather odd-shaped helmet which blocked out the view through the windscreen and he could only see his instruments. The small plane flew higher and higher, Blackpool Tower becoming the merest pinprick in the distance. Then the engine stopped.

image courtesy wikipedia.

image courtesy Wikipedia.

I’m not sure if you have ever seen one of those World War two films when German stuka bombers hurtled down at their targets with a banshee type wail. I only mention that because it seemed very much akin to our current situation and not only that, the pilot was lucky on this occasion that it wasn’t me issuing the wail but as we hurtled towards the ground Fido and I eyed each other with mutual fear in our eyes.

“Now come on James” said the instructor. “What have we forgotten?”

Fido pawed the back of the pilot’s seat in a vain attempt to jog his memory but our downward path continued. If you ever happen to see that rather old film ‘The Sound Barrier’ you might get some idea of our situation hurtling down towards the earth with Blackpool Tower looming ever closer in our windscreen.

“You’ve forgotten something haven’t you? The instructor might have been talking to a learner driver who had not put on his hand brake at the traffic lights.

“What if I mentioned the mixture?”

If that was a hint it was certainly in a much better class than his previous comments but either way the pilot got the message, adjusted the engine mixture and our tiny aircraft’s propeller burst into renewed life and not long later we touched down rather bumpily back in Blackpool.

“Watch out” said the instructor, “Fido gets a bit excited when we land.”

If this was a typical flight with his master then it was clear to me why Fido was excited when he landed but anyway, the dog gave me a look which said in its canine way “We made it!” and hopped out of the plane.

James completed his flying studies and left our company. He went on, I assume to a career in aviation and we never met again but I have learnt one thing.

Next time if, on the way to Spain, the engines of our jet airliner conk out I’ll be shouting to the pilot “What about the mixture!?”

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