That was quite a busy day. I ran two miles this morning (I know, but it’s a long way for me) went to three meetings (Fermanagh Churches Forum, Clogher Justice Peace and Integrity of Creation Group, and the parish Laudato Si study group) and took Robbie for three walks. Not exactly long walks; the third was only a few yards to the end of the road with the wheelie bin, but it’s three more than he wanted this time last week. I’ve said many uncomplimentary things about the pharmaceutical industry, but I’m certainly glad today that steroids are a thing.
Sorry this is late. I wasn’t inspired to post anything yesterday, as we were feeling so sad about Robbie’s increasing age and infirmity – he’s now lost most of his sight as well as his sense of smell, and doesn’t seem to know who we are any more. To remind us of the good times, here are a few pictures from his glory days – see more on his own old blog, Terrier Diary.
Robbie isn’t a young dog, and it’s beginning to show these days. He’s lost most of his sense of smell, can’t see or hear very well, and has the odd embarrassing accident. It’ll come to us all.
Meanwhile the one thing that he does enjoy is a quiet walk along the lough shore. This afternoon we went to Trory, just outside Enniskillen. Here is Rob, cunningly disguised as a large autumn leaf …
… and a brave swan with four adolescent offspring.
We’ve had a quiet sort of weekend, watching a bit of rugby and M. painting the back yard while I’ve been doing some preliminary research for a new project – details in due course. We’ve also replaced my old camera, which was fatally infiltrated by Donegal sand, and I’ve been trying out the special effects. Above is Robbie, on ‘miniature’ setting.
My sister and niece have come over from England to visit for a few days, so we took advantage of the sunshine they’d apparently brought with them to take Robbie up to Rossnowlagh beach in County Donegal (or Dognegal as I started to type). Fortunately we found the bit of beach that doesn’t have rows of black 4x4s parked on it ….
Meanwhile, more family news as Gawain (our eldest son) has a new book out next month. Or two new books, I should perhaps say.
It was sunny but cold for the puppy farming protest at the Diamond in Enniskillen this morning. It follows the BBC Scotland programme The Dog Factory, shown on 15th April, which exposed the suffering caused by irresponsible dog breeding. One of the establishments visited by the investigation is close to us, and received its licence from Fermanagh District Council. This morning a petition of nearly 12,000 signatures was taken into the Town Hall, after a peaceful and good-natured rally by two and four legged protestors.
All the political parties were asked to send representatives, but I was surprised to find that none of the others had bothered. This is a desperately important issue to many people, and a real concern to many more, and it is dispiriting to discover that it is of no importance to most of our elected representatives.
I spoke after two of the organisers, and two veterinary nurses, who vividly described the medical, psychological and social problems experienced by puppies who are taken from their mothers too early, deprived of contact and affection, and unprotected from serious, often fatal infections.
This is what I said:
Thank you all for coming along today: it’s really encouraging to see so many people gathered on a Monday morning. It shows the extent to which we as a community really care about the welfare of animals, and that’s a great hope and inspiration for us all.
I’m here this morning with Robbie. Robbie was found eight years ago, wandering around outside a hospital in Belfast. Despite lots of enquiries, no one ever found out who he was or who he belonged to. We think his owner was probably an old man who was taken into the hospital and never came out again.
Since then, Robbie’s lived with us and been a part of our family. He looks after us all: me, my husband, our sons, the cat … When a robin flew into the house, when a frog hopped onto the carpet, he even looked after them. And when we watched that BBC Scotland programme, he ran across to the television to see what he could do to help.
But today is about more than just one puppy farm, however big it is and however serious the concerns. It’s about a whole society that treats animals as commodities, there to serve human greed, titillation and vanity. Whether it’s puppies being separated from their mothers at a shockingly young age, battery chickens grotesquely pumped up and crammed together, foxes torn to pieces by hounds or wild animals dragged halfway round the world to perform in circuses, we in the Green Party are here to speak for those without a voice.
The health and wisdom of our society can be judged by how it treats those least able to resist, to argue or to fight back. If we cannot be trusted to behave with decency and compassion to animals, who can’t disagree with us, how can we hope to build a shared society for ourselves?
Animal welfare is a fundamental issue for us Greens. Whether it’s companion animals, livestock or wildlife, we work on every level to keep them safe from deliberate cruelty, from barbaric commercial practices and from the pollution and lost habitats caused by industries like fracking.
This issue matters. It matters to you, it matters to me, and it matters to the Green Party. Let’s make sure, speaking out with peace and dignity, that it never gets forgotten.
And by the way, everyone stood on the bench to speak – not just the little ones like me!
I felt rather sad today, taking down the tree and decorations. I was so busy in Advent that they only went up just before Christmas Eve, so we haven’t had time to get bored with them. And the whole tidying away thing took quite a bit longer than it should have done, since I was followed (and preceded, when he could work out where I was going and get there before my feet did) by a disconsolate terrier. He knows all about Christmas: it’s when the boys come home, and he gets strange and exciting things to eat, and the opportunity to disgrace himself afterwards. Now he’s sitting in the hall, refusing to speak to the wicked festivity-slayer, and counting the days until the next time.
I know how he feels, but we’ve got a lot to do before then, and a lot of it starts this week. Yesterday was my first meeting of the year, Steven Agnew is visiting Enniskillen on Friday and this morning my New Internationalist diary and stock of Green Party business cards (thanks to those who’ve helped towards the cost) arrived. We have two new members of the Fermanagh & South Tyrone Green Party this week and are looking forward to welcoming many more as the election approaches. So, away with the robin coasters until next December; the real ones need us more urgently.
After a few days of damp and thick fog, we got proper autumnal weather today, which would have been ideal for a long walk in the woods. Robbie, however, had other ideas, and this was as far as he was prepared to go. Sunshine, it seems, is for sitting on the doorstep in, not for ambulatory motion.
Meanwhile, a couple of updates. Ryan Smith from the Fermanagh Herald just contacted me to say that they’ve had a number of letters about the zebra crossing in Enniskillen, and how many pedestrians have had bad experiences crossing the road there. They’ve opened a comment thread on their Facebook page about it, and I’ve added a link to our survey.
And Fermanagh councillors have agreed to introduce brown food waste wheelie bins early next year. The bins are expected to be available from February or March, initially in the towns and later in rural areas.
And talking of recycling, my task for today is to sort out the stuff that’s accumulated in Rory’s old room in the past few years. I’ve already filled several boxes and sacks with bits and pieces for the Oxfam shop and recycling – now to work out how to transport them. It’s one of the few times when I do slightly regret not having a car, though it’s still outweighed by the positives: getting enough exercise, not buying too much, meeting people as I walk and cycle around…
Tonight I’ll be walking to the library in Enniskillen for the third of Johnston McMaster’s brilliant Faith & Politics seminars – all are welcome, so please come along if you can.
Finally, if you read yesterday’s post last night or this morning, please look again at the final paragraph. It is possible to become a member of Friends of Earth (I’d initially thought that it wasn’t) and like me you can do so here.
Still aching a bit this morning, so I decided not to cycle to the main post office in town. Instead I took Robbie with me and walked to the smaller one at Cornagrade. It’s a lovely walk if the weather hasn’t been too wet, through the Hillview Community Woodland, managed by the Woodland Trust. The wood was a millennium project created in 2000, and borders the Racecourse Lough, a small lake with wildfowl and fishing jetties. Four years ago, when we’d recently formed our climate change group ONE (Operation Noah Enniskillen) we arranged a clean-up here, as part of 350.org’s 10/10/10 Global Work Party. It was a great success, involving people of all ages (see picture below) and we collected bags and bags of rubbish, most of it recyclable.
We wanted not only to make a difference to the wood that day, but permanently, and so I followed up the event by trying to persuade the Woodland Trust to put litter bins in the area. That took considerably longer, but we did finally get them in time for the G8, just in case Mr Obama and Frau Merkel felt like a wander in the woods and a convenient place to dispose of their cans. (I don’t think they actually did, though Obama and Cameron visited the Erne Integrated Primary School which isn’t far off.)
So here is the bear now, complete with adjacent bin (and green lipstick, but that will wear off, as have all his previous adornments).
The council also now employs someone to tidy the wood (among other places) so although it is still occasionally festooned with lager cans, after a boisterous picnic, it never gets near the state it was in before we got there.
It was a beautiful walk today, and as I approached one of the jetties, I saw a large heron perched on the end of it. Sadly, as I reached for my camera it flapped away across the lough, and I didn’t see it again today. We see herons regularly though, both on the Racecourse Lough and on Lough Erne in the centre of town, so it won’t be long.
The whole experience – the walk which both Robbie and I enjoyed, the friendly service at the post office, the little supermarket where I bought local bread and coleslaw, brought home to me how simple the elements can be that make up real ‘quality of life’. We need services, transport and shops, but they don’t always need to be the biggest, the fastest, and the glossiest. What really struck me about the Green-run Freiburg, when we stayed there last year, was the way in which individual localities were so vibrant on a small scale, with schools, medical facilities, retail and leisure, all within a community and close at hand. The ‘environment’ doesn’t have to be something distantly out there, that we feel alternately sentimental and guilty about. It is simply the place where we live, and where we can, with a bit of work and imagination, create community, comfort and moments of calm. That’s got to be worth a bin bag or two.