There has been a certain amount of speculation as to why I chose the name 'Bertie' for my VERY SOON to be arriving wire-haired fox terrier puppy.
It's been great fun finding out what people associate with the name. Well at least it was until my elderly mother got on the case....
I can now exclusively reveal that Bertie is in fact NOT named after our King Edward VII (fine chap though he was, and on the throne at the time when my house in Aberdeen was built). Nor was I thinking of the precocious little boy in Alexander McCall Smith's novel '44 Scotland Street' (I rather doubt that my little pup will master either the saxophone or the Italian language by age 5). And I can absolutely promise a certain very good friend and housemate that I hold no special affection for the former prime-minister of Ireland, Bertie Ahern!
You know how it is that it's never hard to read the expression on your mother's face, however much she might be trying to conceal it.... It took about a nano-second to detect that my mum was, well, how to put it gently, lukewarm about the name I chose for the new pup. It took a little while longer to find out why.
Before my stay with my parents last week, I had never heard of one 'Bertie Bellamy', cousin of my maternal grandmother Lucy Hargreaves (nee Bellamy). This side of the family lived in Castleford, South Yorkshire, and owned a factory which produced liquorice allsorts and 'Pomfret cakes'. My great great grandfather Joseph started up the business, 'Bellamy's', which then was passed on to his son Arthur, brother of my great grandfather. Arthur was unpopular, as was his son Bertie. My grandfather Francis Hargreaves, on marriage to my granny, gave up a good job as an analyst for the Coal Board to join his wife's family business, but was never happy, considering himself to have been unfairly treated by both Arthur and Bertie...A fact that my mother remembers well.
(You could still buy Bellamy's pomfret cakes when I was very young, but the factory was sold to Mackintosh's some time in the late 1960's).
So this is Bertie's first gift to me - a snippet of family history that would have otherwise been lost.
And believe it or not, my childhood pet, a guinea pig who lived to the grand old age of eight years old, was named 'Arthur' by my brother and me.
As for the real reason for the name Bertie? Well I decided against an overtly Scottish name, to avoid confusion with all the Scotties, Westies and Cairns in these parts. The slightly comic appearance of the wire-haired fox terrier seemed to demand a comical name. Why would I look further than to one of our finest writers, P.G. Wodehouse? Just a couple of friends did guess correctly, it was of course always the wonderful character Bertie Wooster that I had in mind.
Does this cast me in the role of Jeeves, I wonder? And need I worry about the sort of friends my Bertie will make?
Less than 24 hours to go now.
Expect some photos (of course) and an announcement about a new blog around midweek.
Dear old Hamish never really got the hang of toys. I can only imagine that they were in short supply on the farm where he spent the first three and a half years of his life. In the early days, I tried him out with a few different bouncy, fluffy, chewy or squeaky things, but, unless real food was involved, he took no interest whatsoever. Even before his vintage years, there wasn't much sign of him being in touch with his inner puppy.
Judging by what I saw when I dropped by Granddach Kennels last Sunday, I suspect things will be different with little Bertie. Not yet seven weeks old and already it was game on for an attempt at demolishing a blue and orange plastic creature of indeterminate species.
So it seems that I shall shortly be in the market for some playthings for the wee fellow. I wonder what he would enjoy most? This is new territory for me. Perhaps some of my friends have useful experience they would like to share.....
On a different note altogether (and those not of a scientific bent are advised to stop reading here......), I spotted this in the journal Nature this week:
Bit of an eyesight test I know. What's it all about?
Did you ever wonder how it is that, let's say Mango and Twinkytinydog can belong to the same species? We have to admit that there is quite a difference between a mastiff (just how much is it that you weigh, my Relentlessly Huge friend?) and a teeny weeny little chihuahua. Yet dogs all seem to get along quite happily together. Humans are SO boringly uniform by comparison. And think how much fuss some people make about a small difference in an insignificant trait like, say, skin colour.
Well, a group of scientists have been looking into the genetic variations between lots of different dog breeds, and wolves, to try to understand the whole subject better. Where did the genetic 'toolkit' come from, that enabled breeders to create dogs with such a radically different appearance over such a relatively short time span (mostly between 1830-1900)? The researchers did lots and lots of analysis of different aspects of dogs' genomes came up with a sort of a family tree showing genetic relationships between different dog breeds.
Well it doesn't seem so surprising that, for example terriers fall neatly into one group and, say, spaniels into another, as you can see on the chart. The phenotype (that's science speak for how a dog looks) is by and large reflected by the genotype.
More interesting is the fact that the original source of much of the genetic diversity, seems to have been the grey wolves of the Middle East (not wolves from East Asia, as earlier studies suggested). Which left me wondering if modern day wolves in the Middle East exhibit the occasional floppy ear or particularly fluffy coat?
As ever with science, more research is needed....
PS Things will be quiet on the blogging front next week as I have family matters to attend to. Bertie arrives on 19th April. Then the fun really starts. Don't worry, you'll be hearing all about it!
Hi, I'm Bertie, a wire-haired fox terrier pup. I live with Gail in Aberdeen, Scotland. An old Westie called Hamish used to live here but he died on 18th February 2010 (exactly the same day I was born). People tell me that he used to have a blog and that I have big pawprints to fill. That's a bit too much responsibility for a very young puppy - and anyway, I intend to make my own mark!
(Gail says that Hamish could certainly have taught me a thing or two about marking stuff....)