Saturday, October 20, 2012


  May 9th 1998 - October 20th 2012

Many of you will know about my three dogs - Taz, Jack and Pip.  I have occasionally posted photographs on blogs and Facebook, and some readers will have met 'the boys' at talks I have come to give around the UK.

 Today's post is especially to remember and celebrate Taz.

He was a rescue puppy.  His mother had an irresponsible owner who had not bothered to spay her, and would let her out when on season.  She was 10 years old when she gave birth to Taz and a brother and sister.  At that point, she was taken into the care of a charity.
We were looking for a pup for my dog-mad 12 year old son and were put in touch with the charity.  My son chose Taz from the litter and at 7 weeks old, he joined our family.  My son was also a huge fan of the Tasmanian Devil cartoon character at the time, hence the name.  It was good from out point of view because it was short and strong and an excellent training name.
Taz (right) and his brother as puppies features in our local newspaper
and held by the kennel manager where they were being housed.

Taz the tiny (just visible) puppy, already being introduced to the allotment!
Taz did indeed prove very easy to train.  We didn't know his ancestry, but he obviously had a lot of collie in him.  At different times we also suspected corgie and spaniel, but who knows?  He was bright and intelligent.  By the time he was a mature dog, I could order him to stay outside a shop and he would do so, come hell or high water.  He quickly learned to stop at kerbs and wait.   We never taught him 'Sit' even though he knew 'Stay.'  As my husband said, 'How would you like to sit down on a cold wet pavement?'
Taz as a handsome young dog

As above.  About one and a half

He loved his walks and despite his short legs could go for miles and miles.  He would chase rabbits and squirrels.  A few he caught, most escaped to live another day.  He was an expert ratter, and mouser.  There was the embarrassing time he caught a pheasant on our walk, having veered off the path and onto a private game reserve.  Then trotted all the way home behind us with his contraband booty in his mouth.
He wasn't a knee sitter at home, but out and about was a different matter and he would enjoy plonking himself down in your lap while he gazed round at the world.  Wherever we were, he was always close, always attentive.
On the steam railway train to Whitby

One dog and his man
He wasn't that keen on playing fetch with a ball, but loved to catch one in his mouth and throw it back to you with a little twist of his jaw.  Among other simple pleasures he loved a good swim in the local pond, and was always game for a paddle.
Settrington Yorkshire during research for To Defy A King

A wet car in prospect!
However he HATED being give a bath (just look at the colour of that water!).

 He adored the snow and the moment any fell he would be out in it making doggy snow angels.

 One of his most favourite occupations was riding in the car.  He especially loved it at night, where he would watch the lights like a child watching the illuminations.  Even in his last days when he was too poorly to go for walks, he still liked a trip in the car and some of his old spark would return.  Taz had a weakness for soft toys and always had a favourite one that would be chewed, sucked and carried round until it fell to pieces.  We always knew when it was bed-time because Taz would trot past us, his teddy in his mouth, run up the stairs and climb into the built in wardrobe where he slept.  Never in the bed; always in the wardrobe.  He stored his marrow bones in there too.
Taz was equable about sharing his humans.  He got on with our cats when we had them.  There was the occasional spat, but it was all mouth and no trousers.  Later, when he was an elderly gent, but still with all his faculties, he weathered the arrival of two spirited Patterjack pups with aplomb.  They might have seemed as if they were running rings around him, but he was always in charge, even to his final days and always led the pack out on walks.

In later years, medication for an enlarged heart kept the problem well controlled.  A benign tumour that could have turned nasty was dealt with by an operation and he went on for another three years until the increasing problems of old age finally overtook him.  He started refusing food and his quality of life diminished to grim existence, so we took the hardest decision any pet owner has to face.
Taz was our first dog and a deeply loved, very special family member. We had the joy and privilege of knowing him for more than 14 years and there is a place in our hearts that will always be filled with his presence, and empty without it.
Farewell but not goodbye forever, our lovely Taz.
A blissful doggy moment.

A few more photos of Taz going about the business of living a full and rich doggy life.

On the train to Whitby

Waiting for instructions on his walk

Enjoying the Cleveland Way

As above

An Ear Tussle (Ludlow)

Any rabbits in here?

Trying to sleep in the cat basket

Seeking prey on the disused railway line

A summer day walk

a dip in the river

Wet dog after a dip in the river!

Alert at Castle Acre Priory

Inspecting the well at Castle Acre Castle

More well inspection

On a beach somewhere in Norfolk

Exploring castle walls last year

Photo taken this spring and still full of bounce.

Taz enjoys a roll in the sand on the riverbank

Sunday, October 07, 2012


Last weekend I was away in London attending the annual Historical Novel Society Conference at the University of Westminster.  It was a tremendous gathering of readers and writers of historical fiction from around the world and included some of the biggest names across the genre, among them the superstars Bernard Cornwell, Diana Gabaldon and Philippa Gregory.  I was behind the camera most of the time, so you won't see many of me, but I think you can get a flavour of how fantastic this event was from the pictures posted here, including excursions to Greenwich and the Museum of London.

London Eye seen from the river

Big Ben

Face of Big Ben

Setting out from Westminster Dock

Statue of Boudicca

Carol McGrath talks to another HNS member

St Paul's Cathedral

The Globe Theatre

The Anchor public house

Replica of Drake's ship The Golden Hind

Symbol of the Billingsgate Fishmongers Guild

Tower Bridge

Tower of London

Model of Tudor palace at Greenwich

Tales from the crypt at Greenwich

The Painted chamber

Listening to the guide

Westminster University - everyone gathers to hear the opening speeches

Richard Lee

C.W. Gortner addresses the room.

Agent Carole Blake, authors Joanna Hickson and Barbara Erskine

As above but joined by Christina Courtney

Add caption

A spot of military colour

Simon Taylor and Diana Gabaldon

Philippa Gregory

Barbara Erskine and Diana Gabaldon

A rapt audience!

Angus Donald, Karen Harper, C.W. Gortner, Shana Drehs,
Douglas Jackson and Gillian Green

Banqueting hall

Military chaps posing

Helen Hollick has a word

Richard Lee in black tie.  Margaret George with Heln of Troy headband

Bernard Cornwell speaks

Panel on the direction of Historical fiction

Carole Blake talks to Vanora Bennet

Top literary agent Carole Blake

Cathy Rentzenbrink

Barbara Erskine's beautiful hair

Heather Lazare and Cathy Rentzenbrink

Questions from the audience

Sarah Dunant getting passionate (probably about Twitter!)

Question from the audience

Barbara Kyle

Rosemary Rach (left) and another audience member

Alison Morton talks to a soldier!

Lyndsey Davis

Charlie Farrow

Diana Gabaldon

Patricia Bracewell takes the mike

Jenny Barden sits down for a minute!

Richard Lee, HNS Founder

Jules Frusher

Jules Frusher and Carole Blake

Our guide at the Museum of London tells us all about the Romans