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A New Year and a New Blog Start!

It is yet another year and I am starting my blog yet again! I love blogging but time seems to run away with me and there is always some other distraction which takes me away from writing. Enough. 2019 is the year for more writing and less mindless trawling of the internet for funny photos of cats.

Don’t get me wrong – I love the internet and I love funny pictures of cats as much as the next person but there is only so much time in a day and I need to start using my time more productively and more positively.

2018 wasn’t a great year for me in many ways. I was finally diagnosed with PTSD and 2 anxiety disorders but the positive spin on that is I will now be able to get treatment.

My job became ever more stressful. The positive angle to that is I have started a selling business which I love. I will write more about that another time because I have flirted with these businesses for several years but had never committed any cash until 2018.

What positive changes have you made for 2019? I’d love to hear!

Losing a grandparent – why no age is ever long enough

Losing a grandparentLosing a grandparent is never easy, no matter when in life it happens. I lost my first grandparent over 20 years ago when I was 21. He was my paternal grandfather and died of cancer before his 70th birthday. It was horrible and heartbreaking but since then I have been spared the pain of losing another and all three have been in pretty good health until last week when my 94 year old paternal grandfather quickly became ill and died without much indication of what was to come.

My family is one of those where some have chosen to move away (usually for work) but a large proportion of us live where we grew up and within stone throws of each other. I have been lucky enough to see my remaining grandparents frequently and am very thankful for this. However, even though I know 94 years is a fantastic life and we have been very lucky to have him that long … it isn’t long enough!

Grandparents fulfill such an amazing role in so many families. Mine have always been great supports and used to take me on holidays and for days out when I was a child. My paternal grandfather was a true gentleman and taught me so much about being kind and generous in nature. Unfortunately I didn’t inherit his amazing mathematical abilities and never managed to balance my books despite his great example.  He never lost the desire to learn new things and was given a laptop for his 90th birthday – something he quickly got to grips with and used daily.

I had the pleasure of chatting to him on many occasions over the years and did find out lots of information and hear magical stories but there are still wonderful new tales being told now. It is so important to gather as much family history as you can … I wish I had asked more questions and written things down.

Losing a grandparent is something I should have been prepared for considering their advancing ages but it has still come as an unexpected shock. Somehow I thought they would live forever and boy, don’t I wish they could…

Witley Court, Worcestershire – a great place to visit!

We had a fantastic afternoon at Witley Court and I’d love to share it!

Witley Court

Witley Court, Great Witley, Worcestershire is an incredibly beautiful English Heritage property. It’s main attraction which sets it apart from other properties is the fantastic fountain which has spectacular statues of Perseus and Andromeda and is fired hourly from April until the end of October. In its heyday it was said to make the noise of an express train! It isn’t as loud as that now but is still very impressive.

Witley Court

History

Witley Court is a ruined mansion and there are no interiors but that doesn’t ruin its charm. It was built in the seventeenth century on the site of a former manor house and expanded in the early nineteenth century. A second massive reconstruction took place in the mid nineteenth century and this created one of the most impressive palaces of Victorian and Edwardian England.

The then owners, the Dudleys, sold the court after WWI to a carpet manufacturer. In 1937, a major fire caused damage to the court and because of the cost of refurbishment, the estate was broken up and sold even though the fire only damaged about a quarter of the building.  The house was then stripped of its fittings and furnishings, thus beginning forty years of decay. Since 1972 there have been restorations and developments to make the building safe and it is stunning.

The fountain is the main attraction so we scheduled our visit to make sure we caught the firing. It happens once an hour but only from April until October.

Witley Court

Witley Court

The gardens

Although the house is a ruin, the gardens and grounds are kept in immaculate condition and make a fantastic place for a picnic.

Witley Court

There are romantic views around every corner!

Witley Court

And impressive glimpses of the original interiors.

Witley Court

Being an English Heritage property, there is a lovely shop which sells all sorts of interesting gifts as well as delicious ice creams (I had one!). I have visited Witley Court several times and it never fails to impress. I used the audio tour on this visit and that helped to paint a clear picture of the house as it would have been. If you don’t like audio tours, there are information boards around the building with original photos.

As well as the beautiful house, there is also the breathtaking, neighbouring Great Witley church to see… but I shall save those photos for another day!

Choosing A Rescue Dog – How to do it!

Choosing a rescue dog

Why choose a rescue dog?

Rescue dogs are the best dogs out there! Yes, I am probably biased because I have 4 rescue dogs but that also means I have some experience and knowledge to share about choosing a rescue dog.  There are thousands of dogs in rescue centres across the UK and sadly, many healthy dogs are put to sleep because there are simply not enough homes out there for them.

If you are thinking of choosing a rescue dog instead of buying a puppy from a breeder you will be doing a wonderful thing for that dog. It can seem like a hopeless situation when the problem is so large but there is a fantastic story which shows the difference you make.

The starfish story

There was once an old man who had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. One morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions. 

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, ‘Good morning!  What it is that you are doing?’

The young boy paused and replied ‘Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves. When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.’

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down and picked up another starfish which he threw as far as he could into the ocean. He then turned and smiled…’It made a difference to that one.’ 

Why are dogs in rescue centres?

There are many reasons why dogs find themselves in rescue centres.

  1. Some are young, even puppies and can be from unwanted litters or remain unsold.
  2. Others have been in a home and have been rehomed due to no fault of their own (not that I believe it is ever the dog’s fault!) and are victims of changes in circumstances- marriage breakdowns, home relocation, new babies, owner death etc. There have even been cases where dogs no longer match a house decor!
  3. Other dogs may have physical or health problems which have resulted in owners abandoning or surrendering them. These may need on-going health care which will not be insurable since it is pre-existing.
  4. Rescue dogs are often though of as being problem dogs behaviourally and there are indeed some which have been unwanted due to behavioural issues. Some of these issues can be quite easily sorted with training and more attention, others are more deeply rooted and require more specialist understanding. I will talk about this more later.
  5. Old dogs who have possibly been replaced by puppies or may have elderly owners who have died or can no longer cope.
  6. Numerous other reasons!

Where to go when choosing a rescue dog

I have 4 rescue dogs and had 2 before these so have amassed some experience when it comes to choosing a rescue dog. My first were over 20 years ago and it was a case of turning up at a rescue (Birmingham Dogs home for my old greyhound) and speaking to the staff about what doges were available.  Times have changed and choosing a rescue dog is now far easier thanks to the internet.  Here are some of my suggestions:

  1. The first place I suggest for an overview of many rescues is http://www.dogsblog.com/    Dogsblog has dogs listed from many rescues countrywide and you can search the available dogs according to location, breed, temperament characteristics etc. Not all rescues use the service but if you are looking for the first time then it is a good place to start.
  2. Large rescues- https://www.dogstrust.org.uk https://www.bluecross.org.uk/  https://www.rspca.org.uk
  3. Smaller rescues – these may have rehoming policies which make them suitable only if you are within a certain radius of their centre/base but others rehome nationwide. My favourites are http://www.lizziesbarn.co.uk   (where 2 of my dogs are from) and http://starfishdogrescue.co.uk
  4. Breed rescues – man breeds of dog have their own rescue organisations. Some of these include: http://www.terrierrescue.co.uk/,  https://www.caessr.org.uk/ 
  5. Facebook groups- some of these are for the kinds of rescues already mentioned and can be more up to date than their own websites.  In addition there are smaller groups which only exist on Facebook and these can be worth a look, especially those local to you or for specific breeds. You can sometimes find dogs needing homes on ordinary Facebook pet groups but please be wary of these because you will probably have no support afterwards and there could be medical or behavioural issues which are not disclosed.

How to choose where to look from all the options available

Before you are actively looking at choosing a rescue dog, I suggest you look at some of the options I have suggested just to ‘get a feel’ for what is required from each and which may be possibilities. Each rescue will have their own rehoming criteria and some may be more suited to you. If you have children you may find your options are more limited: some rescues have a blanket ban on rehoming to families with small children while others may take each individual dog and assess accordingly.  I have adopted 2 dogs and a cat from one particular rescue and will always look there first if I am going to be rehoming another dog into our family.

Homechecks will be required and this can be one of the reasons for rescues rehoming locally. They also often provide follow up support and this is harder to do over longer distances.

Some rescues house their dogs in large centres where the dogs are kept in kennels, but others have them in foster homes. This may also influence where you choose to look for your new dog.

All rescues will charge a rehoming fee which goes towards medical bills, feeding etc which will have been incurred during the dog’s time at the rescue. The fees can vary and some will include 4 weeks pet insurance once you adopt.

Choosing a rescue dog

Before choosing your rescue dog you need to think hard about whether a dog is actually an appropriate pet for you to have. Wanting a dog is one thing but if you are out at work for long hours each day you must consider whether it is going to be fair to the dog. It can be possible to get a dog walker to visit your dog during the day but this may not be acceptable to a rescue. Some of the dogs in rescues have developed behavioural problems such as excessive barking and destructive behaviour in their previous homes due to this situation having already happened.  Please think long and hard – if you are not going to be accepted by a rescue, are your circumstances right for a dog? It is easy to go out and buy a puppy in this instance but does that make it ok for the dog?

Ok – here are the things I would be considering if I was looking for another dog.

  • Breed/type/size – there are all shapes and sizes of dog in rescue and I love them all!  However, my house is very small and I need to consider practicalities. I don’t have huge amounts of time for grooming and will take the dog into muddy fields with horses so the longest haired breeds won’t be top of my list. It is worth looking up breed characteristics to get an idea of which may be most suitable for you but dogs are individuals and there are exceptions so please listen to the rescue who will have assessed each dog’s temperament.
  • Age – there are dogs of all ages in rescue from young puppies to OAPs in their twilight years. The oldies can be incredibly rewarding to rehome and can be perfect for older people.
  • Training – many dogs will be house trained, have good lead walking skills, be cat safe etc but others will not. Rescues such as http://www.manytearsrescue.org/ have lots of ex-breeding dogs and bitches who have only lived in kennels so have no experience of home life at all. Again, the rescue will be able to advise and help you find the ideal dog for your experience and capabilities. It isn’t unusual for a dog to forget some of their training with the stress of a new home so you may need to be patient if things aren’t quite as you expect.
  • If I already have dogs in my home, will they get on? A ‘meet and greet’ will be essential to check all the dogs are going to be happy in each others company.

I will be writing another post about  meeting your potential new dogs and what to expect when you bring them home. Hopefully this has been a useful start to your search and please do seriously consider choosing a rescue dog as your next family member!

Bargain days out with Tesco clubcard!

Days out with Tesco I am blogging about this because don’t think many people are aware of how great the Tesco Clubcard deals are for days out! Whenever I have mentioned it to friends, they are always surprised so that has made me think it is a bit of a secret that needs sharing. Here are some of my favourite days out with Tesco.

Where can I find the deals?

The Tesco website has a link to ways the vouchers can be spent and this has all the current days out available, as well as other offers. https://secure.tesco.com/clubcard/boost/fun/days-out/4294967290%7C4294967277.cat

My favourites are the really great value deals such as Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The ticket for that is valid for a year to allow return visits and only costs £7 in vouchers instead of the usual £35. We have used this offer before but I am planning to buy it again this summer because there is just so much so see there! My favourites are HMS Victory, the Mary Rose Museum and the boat trip around the docks. Keep a look out for the post I shall do about the docks wen we go. 😉

Other favourites I shall be using are: Blenheim Place (currently out of stock), Longleat, Warwick Castle and the Black Country Museum. These are all fairly local to me but there are attractions all over the country including theme parks such as Thorpe Park. People have written reviews about the places and also about how easy it was to use the vouchers. There is also a membership option for English Heritage which covers lots of castles and other historic buildings.

In addition there are opportunities to exchange vouchers for train tickets on Red Spotted Hanky.

How do you do it?

Go to the website, browse what you wish to visit and put the appropriate number of deals into your basket. Tesco will email a code for you to use and this is what you exchange at the attraction, rather than the actual clubcard voucher.  I usually print my code email and take it with me but there are reviews where people have shown the code on a mobile phone. (It is best to check with the specific deal that this is ok before travelling without a printed version though!)

This post isn’t sponsored – I just wanted to share something which I think is a great deal. 🙂