I have been picking the blackberries which we have on the bramble-bushes in our garden. There is a tangled branch along one side of the garden, which you have to negotiate when you are either pegging out clothes on the washing line or collecting laundry from the line once it is dry. These branches are really prickly and the thorns on them are lethal. Having collected all the blackberries which were in the garden, I decided to take a stroll along the Redway behind the house and pick some more. Carol thought it would be a good idea to combine my blackberry-picking excursion with taking both dogs for a walk. This sounded a good idea, but trying to get both dogs suitably equipped with their leads on (and, first of all, discovering where the leads were was a problem, but we managed to find them fairly easily.) was no easy task. The moment Alfie, particularly, realises we're going to take him for a walk, he gets so excited and begins to bark and carry on extremely noisily. Poppy, on the other hand, is not quite so vociferous, but can still get quite worked up. Nevertheless, we managed to get their leads fixed up (Carol has managed to arrange the leads so that both dogs can be walked together on a sort of 'Y' shaped arrangement.) and I was able to take a plastic box to put the picked blackberries in. We got out to the Redway, walking towards the canal, and along the path which runs around the back of the hospital. Before the path got to the main road, Marlborough Street, we crossed over the Redway and back into Eaglestone and let the dogs off their leads in the park. Surprisingly, Milton Keynes has many really attractive places to walk, and Eaglestone Park is rather a pleasant place to walk, particularly with dogs. There are a number of little bridges over running water and streams and wooded areas to walk through. Poppy just potters along enjoying the scenery, occasionally disappearing into people's front gardens for a sniff around, and at one point disappeared under a hedge and we didn't see her for quite a while. Alfie, for a little dog, has enormous amounts of energy. He can run for a long way, and is extremely well behaved, and always comes back to us when he's called. He didn't need much training to walk on a lead and almost always comes to 'heel.' He does, occasionally, get very excited and yaps rather a lot, but I think this is just because he enjoys being out and is allowed to run free.
I did manage to pick a few blackberries, but not enough to make a blackberry-and-apple pie or maybe a crumble. I have a feeling that most of them have already been picked by other people. It doesn't really surprise me, as it's a free supply of food on most people's doorstep. In most cases, a lot of the inhabitants of Eaglestone have a ready supply of blackberries at this time of year, and have only got to go out of their front door like we have to get quite a good amount to make a really tasty pie or crumble. I shall go out on my own again tomorrow sometime and pick a few more. Those we have got we put in the freezer and can be used during the winter months. In Morrisons the other Saturday they had blackberries on sale, which seems incredible when you think you can get them free by just going out and looking. It was something like £2 for a really small punnet. (Sorry, I don't think they use traditional punnets any more. These were in those clear plastic boxes so loved by supermarkets.)
We had to put the dogs back on their leads when we walked back through the estate. We got back to the house just in time, as a really heavy rainstorm came in with very black clouds hanging over Milton Keynes virtually as we walked in the front door. Both dogs seemed quite exhausted by their walk, and within half-an-hour of coming home were both asleep on the sofa! Poppy had several bits of twig caught in her coat which we had to pull off! Alfie seemed to avoid the twigs this time, but I remember the first time we took the dogs for a walk when Alfie was still a puppy (I think it was either Stockgrove Park or Salcey Forest, I forget which exactly.) he got really upset by the fact that he was picking up quite a collection of twigs and leaves in his coat as he walked along, and stopped every few yards and sat down to pick them out with his teeth. It really was quite amusing! I don't think he liked them for some reason best known to himself. Alfie can get very stressed about going in the car. It is virtually impossible to have him in the car so that he just sits on the back seat. He will just run all over the place and even try and sit on the lap of the driver, which can be quite dangerous. We have even attempted to have him sitting on my lap while Carol drives. The first time we tried this, we were going to one of our favourite places, Stowe Landscape Gardens near Buckingham. We were driving along the long, straight road which leads to Stowe, when Alfie was sick. We had to stop the car to clear up the mess, but after that we realised that it was going to be very difficult, if not virtually impossible, to take him out in the car, if he was going to continue with this behaviour. I'm not sure whether this is normal behaviour for Yorkshire terriers, but it would be very difficult to drive and have him creating in such a stressed-out fashion. We eventually purchased a cage from a pet shop, which was the right size for him to fit in, and would go in the back of the car. He does make a certain amount of noise, but I think he probably rather likes it and does eventually settle down and go to sleep once we are out on the road. When we stop, it's then he starts his noise. This has rather put us off taking him out with us in the car, which is such a shame, as he does enjoy his walks, but we think we're going to just persevere with him so that he gets used to car journeys.