Sunday 26 August 2018

The coming of the Cruiserists, a brand new Beatcroft Social show, and that old kangaroo/wallaby joke

They come to Zetlandia in their hundreds, not exactly tourists, as they do not really tour. They cruise. They are cruiserists, observers mostly  from behind glass, with occasional forays into souvenir shops and restaurants primed to provide them with portion-controlled bulk-catered fodder included in the price of their on-shore excursion. For lo, they have arrived by ship, where everything is free, or pre-paid, and they will leave by ship. In many ways they were never really here at all.

That’s if you can call these gigantic alien floating holiday camps ships. They’re more like vast, incredibly ugly apartment blocks, floated out sideways and sharpened at one end. They dwarf the small town of Coalfishreek, and from their enormity fleets of buses take thousands of cruiserists to gaze at our sheep, our (not total) absence of trees, our strange knitwear, our imitation vikings, our boiler suits and beards.. Well, apart from myself, Zetdogg, of course; I am not a Bearded collie so my facial hair is slick, smooth and carefully tended. Attempts to dress me in a boiler suit have failed on more than one occasion. And I have only once been forced to wear Fair Isle, in the middle of winter, something which nearly caused a nasty traffic accident involving a quad bike, an invalid carriage and a migrating parrot (climate change - it’s having some odd effects).

The Lords and Ladies of the Grand Aristocracy of Ports and Havens (GAPH) in Coalfishreek welcome the cruise ships, of course, as they earn money from everything to do with them - the harbour fees, the bus parking charges, passengers’ right to breathe Ports and Havens air. But as to the actual fiscal benefits to Greater Zetlandics, who knows? I believe tour guides and bus operators do quite well, but I have heard that shoplifting has become a something of an issue when busloads of cruisers descend on souvenir and knitwear emporia. So much so that The Omnipotent Bishopric of Coalfishreek Haberdashers (OBOCH) has begun insisting that certain parties of cruisers (those from the Level One ships, the refurbished prison hulks offering full board and all the Buckfast you can drink for a fiver a day) must have their arms cable tied behind them prior to entering their members’ establishments. This has not proved entirely popular. Most food and drink outlets allow the cruiserists to be conjoined, one of the pair having a single hand free to feed or water each of them in turn. Again, there have been incidents of a messy and unfortunate nature as a result. Such is the price of security.

There is little I, Zetdogg can do save observe and bark foul mouthed abuse at any cruiserists who dare to try and photograph me. One particularly embarrassing incident occurred when I was attempting to - I believe the term is ‘do my business - on the grass at the Hillhead in Coalfishreek, a well known canine toilette, when some cruiserists began snapping away with their digital camera box machines. 

“Look!” I heard one cry, “A small native kangaroo! Or perhaps a wallaby.”

I said nothing, finished my ablutions and then chased them with deep barking of an intimidating kind into the nearby Miniature Library. 

“I am Zetdogg!” I cried, though I feel they did not properly understand me.After a few hours I allowed them to leave. By that time their ship had sailed. Suddenly, they were no longer cruiserists, but touristics. If only they’d had sufficient money to pay for accommodation. Still, the police cells are relatively comfortable, I believe.

Soon the cruiserist season will be over, and life will return to the abnormal. I’m looking forward to it.

Sunday 12 August 2018

Polydogg! I am become vegan. Or sort of. Apart from the dead sheep. Oh, and here's some music

It is the summer country show season in Shetland, and I, Zetdogg, have been banned
from attending any or all said events after that incident at Cunningsburgh two years ago
with the chickens.

It was self defence! That cockerel was a psychopath, and pushy with it. Cocky in fact. 
He  will undoubtedly come to a bad end, hopefully one involving soup and cushions. 
Although it is obviously important not to mix the two up. That way confusion, disaster, 
indeed indigestion lies.

Not to worry, as there has been a great deal of activity here in the People’s Republic 
of Northmavine, deep in the upper digestive tract of the Greater Zetlandics, and the 
top news is...I am become vegan! Or vegetarian. Or at least, I ate a lettuce leaf the other 
day by accident. Although I think there was a caterpillar on it to provide at least a 
semblance of protein. I can still feel it wriggling. Which is nice. Slow release protein!

This veganism stuff  is all due to the household’s current obsession with growing 
inanimate matter, or vegetation as I understand it is called, and excitement about the local
health centre’s new polytunnel thingy (actually, it’s made of hard plastic so it doesn’t blow 
away in one of our mild Zetlandic zephyrs), which is called a Polycrub. 

It’s meant to be therapeutic, which I suppose means some people actually enjoy 
digging in the earth with their little trowels and then watering the green objects which 
subsequently, magically appear. This supposedly provides calmness and serenity, leading to mental health.

Personally, I find chasing Rottweilers, or otters works every bit as well.

I have been observing this vegetation, and some pieces of under- or overgrowth can 
even change colour, turning red, almost as if they were tomatoes or suppurating boils. 
I know, I know, it all sounds very unlikely. 

And I mean, it all appears so artificial to me. Contrived. 
What is nature for? What is the rain for? If you didn’t have plants inside a polytunnel, then 

The rain would get at them naturally. And the snow. 

Most odd.

At any rate, having consumed said lettuce leaf (seasoned with the aforemention bug of 
some sort) I went nosing around the beach and - oh joy! - discovered a dead sheep in the
kind of advanced state of decay I find particularly appealing. I rolled happily in 
its noisome innards for a good 10 minutes until the Human Companion noticed, 
and I managed to snatch a couple of mouthfuls of aged once-mutton before
I was hauled away. Tasty maggots abounded too! If only these vegans knew what they 
were missing.

Wonderfully, I have been vomiting now for three days! Isn’t life grand! 

(And by the way, here's some of the self-indulgent nattering the Human Companion 
insists on placing online,  along with unlistenable yowling from so-called 'musicians'):

Tuesday 31 July 2018

Orcadian flies, how midges become lobsters and human sacrifice at the waste to energy plant.

Cullicoides cullicoides (like many part-sheepdogs of high intelligence, I am of course a scholar of Latin), are the curse of Scotland and on my trips south to that Zetlandic adjunct I often find myself with clogged nostrils and bemidged ears. This is not to be sniffed at.

Thank you. I'm here all week.

One of the great Zetlandic advantages here in the Islands of Ultimateness, or Ultimatums, (should that be Ultimata? I must check) is that the fast moving air often known locally as 'wind' (dialect: wiiiind) moves midges along quite smartly, so that they are deposited in the sea where they gradually become lobsters. This takes many centuries, and by the time a lobster reaches the age when a human can eat it without expending more energy on excavating its shell for meat than is gained from consuming said flesh it is at least 374 years old.

Pre-lobsterian Zetlandic midges, when they swarm on dry land during still days, tend on the whole to be smaller and less prone to the sucking of blood than the monsters you  find in places like Loch Awe or the western islands such as Rum, Eigg and Bhachon. There they have been known to drain a hapless camper unprotected by Avon Skin-So-Soft or creosote of his entire blood content, leaving him (or for that matter her, though this is unlikely as women are less prone to haplessness) shrivelled and desiccated, a mummified shell useful only for making those patches you find on the elbows of  Harris Tweed jackets . The absence of trees means we Zetlandics have virtually no Clegs, (Horseflies) but the Orcadian Black Fly is a curse.

The Orcadian Black Fly (Digustimus Kafkatimus Orcadiensus) came to Zetlandica along with waste shipped from Orkney for incineration in Coalfishreek's waste-to-energy plant, which boils water in a highly inefficient manner using woven kettles heated over giant pits of noisome flame, and then transports the hot water to the houses of local inhabitants using a system of small tankers pulled by Shetland Ponies. This was seen as environmentally responsible, as well as offering the possibility of re-establishing viking religious practices involving human sacrifice. Sadly, this has been prevented by health and safety regulations.

The black flies buzz all day and night, disturbing the rest I, Zetdogg so need and indeed deserve. Efforts have been made to trap these creatures, stun them with liquified peat and then ship them back to Orkney during that island group's folk festival. So far without great success, though several bodhran players have been paralysed as a result.

And that 's something, I suppose.

Thursday 26 July 2018

The Moon Yet Beckons! Spaceport Zetdogg still on the cards for Njust/Unst

Hold everything! I, Zetdogg, may yet be going to the moon, or possibly Njust! Sorry, Unst. My Old Njorks origins occasionally burst through.

 It has come to my twitching ears that hopes of turning the most northerly landmass in Zetlandica into Tracey Island with sheep may yet come to fruition. It seems the much-vaunted investment in Spaceport Sutherland is (a) a piece of sleight-of-grant social appeasement by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and (b) actually just fake money to research whether or not an inaccessible bog on the North Coast 500 single-track Lamborghini motorhome route can host alien life forms.

 Unst, I am reliably informed by a reliable person, is actually the favoured choice of the companies (and most importantly military authorities) who want to launch lumps of metal into space, some of these possibly with brave and medal-bedecked canines aboard. And before you start sneering about Unst being Very Far Away, I should point out that it was home to a busy RAF base for the best part of a century, has an airport (currently only used for the competitive over-revving of Vauxhall Corsas and Citroen Saxos), deep water harbour access from the, ah, sea, and a long history of invasion by alien beings. Ranging from monks through vikings to Squadron Leaders and nuns of every theological bent, not to mention people from Hillswick claiming to be Tourism Development Officers.

 I, Zetdogg, have already been approached regarding my participation in an experimental launch program which will see several hundred redundant Zetlandic plastic wheelie bins (salvaged from the sea, where they have become a hazard to shipping) launched from the site. The necessary fuel will be manufactured on the island using windpower-generated hydrogen, helium and nitrous oxide, which can be produced by the well-proven method of running electricity through shredded cardboard, plastic bottles, unread Zetland Islands Councillors briefing papers, peat and sheep excrement.

 True, the plastic and much of the cardboard has to come from Australia, but there are subsidies to cover shipping costs. Anyway, the fact remains that infinity and beyond may still await! I, Zetdogg, am so thrilled I allowed myself the merest nip at a passing tourist today, only damaging his kayak very slightly. He thought I was an otter. Easy mistake.

Wednesday 18 July 2018

Braggart is here! There's been a Mordor, and Dogs (not) in Space

Greetings, Dogg lovers! This week I chased a tourist and very nearly levitated a fence in pursuit of said Gore-tex-clad individual, had I not been strenuously detained by the Human Companion in as tetchy a mood as I’ve known him. I believe this may have been caused by over-caffeination, to which he is undoubtedly prone. He has been lurking in the Peerie Shop Cafe again, Lerwick’s prime source of coffee beans, imported from that well-known source of such drugs, Perth.

Why was I chasing said money-dispensing visitor to our beloved archipelago? Threat! He represented a threat to our safety and security, clearly and indubitably. Why? Why? What kind of stupid question is that? Because He Was There.

Anyway, we do not really want tourists in the Greater Zetlandics, we want permanent residents with talent, cash, children to send to our schools, and cash. They can rent one of the many vacant houses hereabouts and start thriving and imaginative businesses with their cash, thus making more cash which they can spend in one of the 27 different cafes which have just opened in Commercial Street.

They will probably have been attracted here by watching that deeply moving TV saga of everyday detective folk, Shetland, known by all those of us desperately wishing to enrol as extras (A haggis supper a day and a chance to try on Jimmy Perez’s designer donkey jacket) as Braggart. It’s Taggart crossed with Lord of the Rings  (“There’s been a Mordor!”).

The new series of Braggart has started filming, with moody scenes of Perez (1) walking along a beach, and (2) standing outside a ‘police station’. It is rumoured he will also be seen on a ferry, on boggy moorland and in both Greenock and Largs, but none of this has been confirmed.

Speaking of permanent residents, it seems we are to be infested with space travellers. Despite the announcement that Sutherland is to be the site of Scotland’s first ‘vertical take off’ rocket launching site (as opposed to ones that go sideways). There has been a huge fanfare surrounding the signing of a Vaguely Non-Committal Memorandum of Possibility (a VNCMP) indicating that Lockheed Martin may or may not site an old Kia Sorrento with a satellite dish on its roof in Unst, which is an island north of Shetland, to track fireworks each Guy Fawkes Night. This will lead to Unst becoming “the Tracey Island of Europe” according to Informed sources. There will be jobs. There will be cash. There will be displacement of sheep and puffins. There will be cash. Laika-like, I may be called upon to travel to the moon, or Uyeasound.

Or possibly not. Thunderbirds Are Went. To Sutherland. Woof! I’m off to chase an astrophysicist. I am Zetdogg!

Friday 13 July 2018

I, Zetdogg, speak! The threats to Zetlandica from tourism, bicycles, fishing boats, plastic waste, wheelie bins, environmentalists, golf and Donald Trump, and how sheep-stalking could provide an economic boon/boom

It’s been a frustrating week here in the Greater Zetlandics, full of tourists, birds and the usual oversupply of sheep, all thwarting attempts by the Human Companion to provide I, Zetdogg  (and himself) with exercise of a varied and inspiring kind.

I mean, tourists are all very well. They provide much-needed cash, fresh faces to bark warningly at or nuzzle affectionately in the hope of treats, and pleasantly fragrant suede shoes to pee upon (for some reason, this piece of politeness often fails to impress).

But the cheapskate and somewhat threadbare travellers (not like those rich, though sometimes shoplifting-prone cruise liner passengers) who come here in their camper vans, motorhomes or lugging tents either on their backs or on ill-advised bicycles (it’s often windy here)...they usually come supplied with their own dried noodles, gluten-free vegan dairy-lite  oatmeal and cashew stew, hemp underwear and vegetarian plastic shoes, thus contributing little to our proud wool-and-dead-animal  economy. But they frequently abandon their vegetarian shoes on our beaches, thus adding to the mountains - mountains I say, bigger than any hill on Zetlandica - of  polyethylene rubbish that accrues hereon.

I know much of this is to do with oceanography - these islands are trapped in the tidal drift between North Sea and North Atlantic, a catch-all for all the fishing industry’s artificial shoal-slaughtering aids. And make no mistake, though no-one likes to mention it in Zetlandica, it’s fishing boats that cause most of this. People here prefer to don biohazard suits and just quietly clear up the mess as best they can, once or twice a year, ignoring the cataclysmic tsunamis of plasticrap and toxic chemical waste which inevitably wash up next day from the sandeel hunters and codling chuckers-back.

I understand from the HC’s grumpy shouting on the subject that some environmental campaigner arrived here and said Zetlandica’s beaches were the worst for plastic waste he’d seen anywhere in the world, He caused mortal offence and much huffing and puffing among the local bourgeoisie, who worry about such things. But this noisy Greenpeacian is right. This week, two seals were found wrapped in plastic fishing next. One died. Now, don’t get me wrong, I hate seals, and so do all fishermen and every salmon farmer, but none of us would wish such a fate on them.  How else is an aquaculturalist supposed to learn how to shoot?

And speaking of shooting and sheep, as we almost were, I have always believed that some kind of  ram-stalking could flourish here as a harder alternative to the hunting of deer by toffs which brings in much cash to tweed-wearers in High Scotland. Much more dangerous, as sheep retaliate when injured, or even offended, as I know to my cost. Talk about dogs worrying lambs! When you’ve been head-butted by an angry ewe, you know all about it. 

In the wider world, we have had to face the disturbing thought of Chairman Trump arriving in Lower England and even That Scotland, or Ayrshire. Many blandishments have been offered to his Organisation of Transcendent Evil by The Convocation of Zetlandicism in order to convince him that all Unst should be turned into a golf course, though his demands that he should be given Jarlshof and The Broch of Mousa as hotel sites seems to have fallen on deaf ears, or stoney ground, or Fetlar. 

Meanwhile, the arrival of wheelie bins and demands from the C of Z (Environmental Princedom) that everyone recycles their plastic, paper, glass and unwantted eBay purchases so it’s easier to landfill has brought consternation here in the Isles of Doom. Customised hooks to attach the (especially lightweight so they won’t hurt sheep) bins  to walls in order that they don’t blow away are being manufactured and sold, but have not as yet been tested. We await the first hurricane of the summer, which will eradicate all visiting cyclists at first puff, and could send fleets of plastic bins out to sea as a kind of retaliatory plastic hazard to fishermen. 

I, Zetdogg, will keep you posted. 

Monday 2 July 2018


A human companion writes:

The truth is, despite what Zetdogg, aka Dexter may have said to you over the past few weeks,  he’s a mutt. A mutt whose lineage is uncertain, who arrived in Shetland from one of the dodgiest of dodgy puppy factories  to be adopted by Catriona, whose car and house he proceeded to eat.

I don’t know whether Citröen Berlingos are particularly tasty, their seat fabric recycled from unwanted Winalot, or why Dexter took such a panicked desire for the wholesale destruction and then consumption of  Catriona’s soft furnishings, but he did. He then processed and defaecated the lot safely out again - in the car and house, of course, where by dint of Catriona’s work schedule, he had to stay. He peed a lot too. On the whole, you can understand why Catriona advertised him as free to a good home with a garden and owners with time to let him out into said garden. And a less edible car

We think he’s a cross between a sheepdog - Border Collie type - and the ubiquitous urban bruiser known as a Staffordshire Bull Terrier. This means he combines high intelligence and athleticism, great eyesight, a desire to round up and fetch, and general trainability with dogged, absolute loyalty, a stubborn refusal to let go of something you try to take off him, enormous upper body and neck strength  and a territorial possessiveness.

And from the moment of arrival, aged about 18 months, until now, four years later, he’s been a joy. He has eaten nothing dodgy save the dried dog food and, ahem, table tidbits he has been offered. Well, except for that time he ate one letter the postman left on the mat. Didn’t touch the other five, just that one. Who had been handling it? Possibly a Citröen  salesperson. Oh, and the unchewable, dogproof balls and ‘flying discs’ (you’re not allowed to say ‘Frisbee’ unless it’s a real Frisbee, and ours weren’t)? he ate them. All of them. And an industrial mooring buoy for a fishing boat. No ill effects. Some curiously-tinctured-and textured ordure.

I should say that he really doesn’t like the postman, postwoman or anyone wearing hi-viz clothing, which may relate to his early days in puppyhell. He dislikes the open inter island car ferries in Shetland I think because the ferry crew all wear luminescent yellow, and the kennels on the overnight boat to and from Aberdeen are a horrorshow of yowling, urination and a kind of terrible, glum acceptance. If he travels with us, we now just leave him in the (well-ventilated) car, with food and water. He never eats the seats. Or soils the car in anyway, even if left for almost 12 hours. But then, it’s a Volvo.

Not that he’s ever actually harmed a postal delivery executive. He accidentally closed his jaws on Andrew’s hand once, but he was delivering a postcard from Paris, and you know what’s made there. It never happened again.

He’s incredibly agile, friendly to other dogs and we love him dearly. Our attempts to provide him with a companion - when he arrived, we had an aged St Bernard who treated him with bored Swiss contempt; see The Chronicles of Rug and Dexter - failed last week with the brief sojourn of Big and Bouncy Arnie the Rottweiler. It’s fair to say that they did NOT get on. And a full-on battle between the Staffie side of  a cross like Zetdogg and a Rottie is not really sustainable in a  busy, much-visited household.

So anyway, this sounds as if we’re trying to sell him or get rid of him, and we’re not. Zetdogg remains, delights and barks at people wearing reflective yellow jackets.  He guards the house and family against evil otters, blackbirds, rabbits and wrens. He can fetch, beg, shake paws, lie down, roll over, play dead, turn around and understands we think about forty words.

And he’s a mutt. Our mutt.

The coming of the Cruiserists, a brand new Beatcroft Social show, and that old kangaroo/wallaby joke

They come to Zetlandia in their hundreds, not exactly tourists, as they do not really tour. They cruise. They are cruiserists, observer...