The sand martins have begun to return to the nesting holes! Joy unconfined! Proof, if proof were needed, that life is gathering speed in our midst and that we – the watchers and the waiters – are worth the candle. The wind-blown nesting places which have lain forlorn – and indeed unseen – as we passed beneath them on the darkest mornings, are now alive with the chattering of the creatures which, with miraculous accuracy, have located them as home for yet another breeding season. As of today there are at least four pairs, but, when the wind turns southerly again, numbers will shoot up and soon the dawn will be full of their gossiping voices.
Around and about our home itself, our friendly neighbourhood bird life is busy, too. Any returning house martins will be terribly disappointed to find that the boxes erected especially to attract them to our eaves have one and all been commandeered by our fat little sparrows, most numerous of ‘the ones who stayed’. Even the two natural clay martin nests are now providing bed and board to chatty couples, late risers though they be; unlike the sand martins they never celebrate the early morning sun or greet us on our return home after the run. But the dawn chorus of blackbird, robin and the rest is intensifying day by day and the dawn obliterates the moon ever earlier. Our jackdaws have kept an eye on their chimney throughout the winter, and now look set to get cracking with a brood. The feeders are kept full, so starlings newly returned to them can have a mouthful, too and, to the box in which they successfully raised their clutch last spring, have returned our blue tits, busy all day, every day, and so conveniently near the nuts and fat balls.
But if the birds know what they are about, that is more than can be said for the sausages. It says it all about the serendipity which characterises our little posse that a family get-together last Saturday at the Scottish Dachshund Club Championship Show, ended with both Nicholas and his sister, Tiggy, having qualified for next year’s Crufts. Having achieved second place in their respective classes, the terrible twosome will now be heading Birmingham-wards next March, ‘for the experience’, as they say. This picture captures all the chaos of the aftermath, both from the confused disposition of the certificates (which, in a way, says it all) to the restlessness of pup Frederick, their tiny nephew, whose intervention displaced the intended line up. We are grateful to the friendly judge who found Tiggy and Nico worthy: it was a lovely surprise. Who knows, once he reaches six months young Fred will probably honour the ring with his presence and may even qualify as well!
Of all the many and varied doings of 2015 – some carefully planned, some utterly serendipitous – one stands out above and beyond all others: the chance reunion of Nicholas Nickleby and his little sister, Miss Tiggywinkle. What can the securing to safety of any number of stranded seals, or the myriad colours of the sunrises we’ve witnessed, compare with the bringing back together of two tiny little miniature dachshund souls, separated from each other when they left the place of their birth at only two months hundreds of miles away in Lincolnshire, never thinking for a moment they would ever see each other again?
But last Easter, all innocent and unwary, the two converged on Berwick-on-Tweed and trotted round to no avail in the Minor Puppy class, only to become precious winners when they recognised each other and rekindled their mutual love in joyous play.
Since that occasion, Tiggy and her hoomum have become a wonderful new presence in all our lives (together with dear Pupkin, a mini dachshund of very advanced age). Fate has brought Tiggy miraculously close as she lives in Edinburgh, just seventy miles up the coast, so we all get together regularly, enjoying the madness, fun and frolic all dogs love, especially when lunch and tea are involved. For Christmas, Tiggy sent Nico a lovely squeaky cow, an exact replica of her own personal favourite, to which was appended the utterly moving note: ‘To my darling brother Nico from your loving sister Tiggy.’ Nicholas, currently barking at the fireworks which have started prematurely this New Year’s Eve and therefore keeping us all a lot safer than would otherwise be the case, says it is his best thing ever, but best of all is the love and friendship of his dear, sweet sister – so pretty, so intelligent, so present in his life: in all our lives!
Spoiler alert: pictures of them in their matching Christmas Scandi-noir jumpers coming soon!
As I write, we are all enjoying the wonderful warmth of the intense sun on our wet fur; it is just like August up here! We have just returned from our afternoon romp on the beach, an outing blessed in all kinds of ways. First, the tide was low-ish so there was plenty of room for the holiday-makers as well as our posse; next, Newman’s pool was still just within reach, so we took it in turns to retrieve the ball from deeper water – terrific fun, always guaranteed to get me over-excited and drive everyone mad with my barking. Also this was the day on which young Nico took to the sea, swimming out and back in Barnaby’s wake, fearless and free. He really is a brave boy, just six months old indeed. I took much longer to take the plunge, but then I had not then – nor have I yet – been emboldened by meeting any of the siblings I so loved.
For over the weekend, Nicholas and his only sister, Tiggy, were unexpectedly reunited. Neither he nor she nor anyone else had any reason to think there would be a serendipitous reunion on the occasion of the Scottish Dachshund Club Championship Show, on that day or any other and, moreover, that she would turn out to be living not so far away.
More wonderful still, though, was the reaction when these siblings were re-introduced to each other: the flurry of kisses, rollings, mouthings, squealings, inexpressible joy. In that instant, months and months of separation, new faces and new experiences evaporated like a mist before the sun, and all at once the glorious rays of infant fun and frolic, warmth and cosiness, the togetherness of the whelping box, and memories of a beloved dam, filled their hearts and minds. All those who witnessed the intensity of their pleasure in seeing each other again were moved and silenced; that two such tiny creatures could sustain emotional memories so deep and indissoluble; that they would never forget each other, no matter what. They paused in their mutual delight for the above picture to be taken, a special family portrait to mark a magical moment. That neither Lokmadi Miss Tiggywinkle (to give her her full title) nor her precious brother troubled the judges that day mattered not a jot. For each took home an inestimable prize: touched by the lasting love that will never die and the knowledge that they will see each other again very soon.