How to spend 20 minutes geeking out with a toddler

How to spend 20 minutes geeking out with a toddler

Rudi, my 2 and a half year old son, dropped by my office yesterday afternoon, armed with Cranky Crane and a few other little toys.

He found comfort lying on my muslin green screen that I have hanging over my big freestanding whiteboard. Watching him lying there, quite contentedly playing with his toys whilst daddy taps away at the computer, I couldn't help but want to go and join him even if just for a few minutes.

But lying there on the green screen was just too good to miss, so I picked up the video camera and switched it on, and so began a quick journey into some video effects. Here's what we made together.

Rudi: "What are you doing daddy?"

Daddy: "Nothing honey, just keep on playing with your trains, daddy's just going to sit here an watch you."

Rudi: {plays with train for all of 30 seconds more while I sit, watch and film}

Rudi: "I'm going to find mummy".

Daddy: "Bye then Rudi"

Daddy: "I'll mess around with this on my own then."

So, first up, importing the original footage into after effects CC and using the Keylight Plugin to do some quick keying, refining this using the various Keylight plugin settings.

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A quick search for some background images, I found a nice little railway scene to use as the backdrop.

Applied some additional colour correcting effects and blurring to bring the composition together. My original footage was a bit shaky and couldn't be bothered to either stabilise it or map the background to the camera movements, so I figured if I chucked a load of other stuff on the screen, it would reduce the effects.

So, a load of smoke assets from Video Copilots Action Essentials for ambient atmosphere of the busy train station (not sure how many steam trains would come through here, but they were there, honest). 

Nope, not enough. 

As Rudi swings around the crane, seemed like as good an opportunity as any to chuck in a little explosion. A bit of masking, very rough, looks good enough. 

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Render out the footage.

Nope, still not enough. Bring the footage back into a new comp.

OK, let's add a whole load of graphics and pretend he's on the news, causing mayhem at a railway station. On Sodor. And the Fat Controller is pissed! Just about resisted the temptation to film a green screen of myself as a midget doing a report live from the scene.

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Found a few sky logos, built a scrolling BREAKING NEWS ticker using motion tile effects, a little lower third element and I think that will do.


Re-render out footage. Ticker is a bit quick and blurred, still not perfect, but I'm not eating into work time... onwards.

A few sound effects from FreeSFX and VideoCopilot found. Import these and footage into Adobe Audition CC. Build the sounds to the footage. Export the soundtrack.

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Everything into Adobe Premier Pro, a few more adjustments and export as a quicktime movie.

Phew, done. Really should stick to just running around the living room pretending to be a dragon, a lot less effort.


A Hemilaminectomy Later, Archie's Home.

A Hemilaminectomy Later, Archie's Home.

10 days is the longest Archie's ever been away from us, and even then he normally had Barney for company. 

Well, now he's home and walking well. Fortunately for me, the vet kindly provided some helpful release notes, so for once, I don't have to try and remember it all...

History: I saw Archie on the 25th September 2013 with a 24 hour history of hindlimb incoordination. He was slightly wobbly the previous evening and on the morning of the 25th could barely walk on his back legs. He has a long term (12-18month) history of recurrent, self limiting, mild hindlimb weakness/incoordination where he will drag his paws climbing steps.

Examination: He was bright and well when I saw him and he was able to walk with assistance and wagged his tail. He had a mild heart murmur that we did not think was significant. His signs were consistent with a spinal cord disease; most likely a disc herniation in light of his breed. We admitted him for MRI the following day

Investigations: MRI confirmed a lateralised disc extrusion between his two caudal thoracic vertebrae. These were likely to be T13/14 as it appeared he had a transitional vertebra. The extruded material was removed via mini-hemilaminectomy on the 26th September as we felt the small risk of deterioration with surgery was outweighed by the reduced chance of future recurrence. He has steadily improved since surgery and is now able to walk unassisted with only mild incoordination.

His return to home was delayed as he initially developed some watery diarrhoea and mild abdominal discomfort on the 1st October. He did not have any abnormalities on abdominal ultrasound and this resolved without specific treatment. Subsequently, he started to constantly drip urine and incompletely void his bladder. He reacted to palpation of his urethra and was treated for a suspected bacterial cystitis and urethritis with cephalexin. His urinary signs have now resolved but this morning he vomited once. He is very bright and well otherwise and so we have decided to send him home and investigate this further if his signs persist.

Aftercare: He has been discharged on Cephalexin 300mg twice daily for a total of 14 days and 20mg Omeprazole once daily for 5 days (for his vomiting). Please prevent him from jumping up or climbing stairs/playing with other dogs for the next 2 weeks. He should also be kept on the lead when outside for this time.

He should recover completely from this injury and his chance of recurrence is between 5-15%. We did not perform prophylactic fenestration of the discs in him as the benefit of this in Bassets is unclear. It can prevent recurrence of disc extrusions but may increase the chance of disc protrusions. As Bassets can experience both diseases we felt the benefit did not out weigh the risk . This could change if he has further recurrences and so if his signs recur we are happy to see him back.

And, if that wasn't enough, they also kindly provided copies of the MRI scans so I could share them for the record. 

MRI Scan showing Cross Section and Lateral View. Yellow lines reflect cross section position and are located on the affected disc.

A closer view of the affected discs


I can't recommend the Langford Veterinary Services highly enough. 

Basset Hounds have 66% Chance of Spinal Problems.

Basset Hounds have 66% Chance of Spinal Problems.

Well, that is according to my statistically insignificant sample size of 3. 

Those of you who recall my previous ramblings and our family trauma of Maisy, who endured a lifetime of ups-and-downs, will be familiar with our experience of Basset Hound spinal injuries and their consequences. 

Ever since our experience with Maisy, Cas & I have always been uber-paranoid about the potential for spinal problems in our other two dogs, Barney and Archie. To the extent that we carry them just about anywhere that might cause them to jump off or down something, and one sign of discomfort would result in a trip to the vets just to be sure.

Well this year, Archie had been showing some signs of some back and hind leg issues. It fluctuated, sometimes being quite sloppy and un-coordinated on his feet. The obligatory course of metacam and some bed rest normally would sort him out after a few days and he'd be back to his normal robust self.

This is the same Archie who I used to climb up mountains in Scotland with, the Archie who would hold his own with the Spaniels out on the shoot., the same Archie that would always get the stick first because he just wanted it more.

Earlier in the week he was again showing some signs of discomfort and by Tuesday evening it was clear that he wasn't fairing too well. 

Even worse, when he got up the next morning, he could barely walk at all - instead resorted to dragging his hind legs a little confused as to why they weren't following as normal. 

It was oh so reminiscent of Maisy, as I carried him outside into the garden to do his thing, clamping my hands together under his belly and supporting his back and hind legs so he could walk with his front pair. 

Archie showing his sense of humour

A trip to our local vets and he was quickly referred on to a specialist for further diagnostics. This time, I knew exactly what that meant - MRI scan. After a few calls it was not going well. The initial referral practise ran a 2 weekly cycle for MRI scans, and I knew the answer as it was coming out of Jade, our vets mouth... the last one was yesterday.

The second choice practise used a shared MRI scanner, that was BROKEN! The best they could offer was a CT scan and if inconclusive, a mylegram - like we had with Maisy. 

Cross section of spine

Cross section of spine

After they phoned around to see who else may have a functional MRI scanner, we also learned that this week, of all weeks, the anyone whose anyone of Neurology was in Paris attending an industry shin dig. That was not going to help us.

In the end it came down to Bristol or Guildford, we went Bristol. 

An initial consultation with Tom, our neurologist (who had packed for Paris, but not left) and Milka, who would be staying behind, we agreed to go for the MRI scan and if the results reaffirmed our hypothesis that the issue was being caused by a slipped or burst disc, then we would go down the surgical route.

That sounds like it was a fairly simple decision, but it wasn't

I was told that generally, Archie had a very good chance of regaining his walk with no surgical intervention. Oh? Really? Well that was a surprise. But there's around 25% - 30% chance of a relapse.

With surgery, the strategy is not so much the treatment of the current issue - if that was the sole reason then Tom's perspective would be avoid surgery in this case. But instead, where we were able to also reduce the risk of recurrence, then the surgery would be an avenue to pursue. 

 "I'll be working on the spinal chord with a power tool"

That particularly grounded quote did wonders for my sensitivity towards the risks of surgery. But having also had a good experience of surgery with Maisy, felt comfortable that I understood the risks and believed that the rationale for going the surgical route was the correct one.

An example of IV Disc Disease

An example of IV Disc Disease

And as suspected, it was a burst disc. The MRI showed that Archie has a relatively narrow canal compared to the size of his spinal chord, which basically means he's even more susceptible to compression on the chord with any distortion of the discs. 

He went under the "angle grinder" yesterday afternoon. 

The surgery went as well as could be hoped - it certainly hadn't made anything worse. Today he is cheering up, and as I await further and more specific news from the Neurologist, I type this post as a recollection of events and to remind myself that these moments, however hard to deal with at the time, are what defines us - our love for our family (that includes pets), our ability to cope with what gets thrown our way and dealing with the aftermath of our decisions.

Frank "The Tumors Have Disappeared" Butterworth

Around 6 months ago, a dear family friend and mentor of mine was diagnosed with cancer. 1 large and 50 small, seemingly inoperable tumours were discovered on his brain.  For anyone, that would seem a fairly helpless road ahead.

6 months on and I am so completely overwhelmed to hear Frank repeat the consultants words, words of such meaning and power that can only really be fully felt by Frank and his closest family.

Frank and My Dad up at the Farm

Frank and My Dad up at the Farm

"The tumours have disappeared"

Frank's undergone 6 months of specialist treatment at Christies, taking part in a Europe-wide research study and treatment. It's certainly far from over, but is classified as being in "partial-remission". The final stage of treatment ahead is a stem-cell replacement, where Frank's central nervous system will be annihilated, rendering him completely exposed to the world's nasties.

Then, over next month, having his immune system rebuilt using his own stem cells to fire off the necessary processes to get him ready to release back into the unsterile world. 

I couldn't be happier for Frank and his family and friends. We couldn't have had a better result so far and long may that trend continue. 


Frank at the end of treatment

Frank at the end of treatment

Welcome baby Tyger

Wow. What a day.

What started as a fairly average Thursday, has ended up a fairly rapid and blurry rollercoaster.

Cas said she woke up feeling a bit crappy, dropped Rudi off at nursery and by 10am had started feeling some sporadic twinges.

At 11am, Cas phoned me in the office to ask me to come home and finish putting the crib together - then I knew something was happening.

I did that and then popped back to the office to finish a few tasks and shutdown properly, knowing in my heart that today was going to be interesting.

We were at 39 weeks - exactly a week before our due date of 2nd May.

When I got back home at around 1.30pm, Cas was fairly regular in her contractions, coming down from 30 secs every 10 minutes, to consistently 45 to 70 seconds every 4 - 5 minutes.

Determined to stay pretty relaxed about the whole thing, we monitored, Cas busied herself by hoovering and otherwise feathering the nest. I just did as I was told, kept recording the contractions and otherwise started my normal habit of making stupid jokes and inappropriate times.

Eventually, we decided to mosey on in to Dorchester, a 30 minute drive from home. We casually chatted in between the increasing contractions, reminiscing about 2 years prior with Rudi and I did some comparison on the signs of labour and the schedule - we seemed to be following a very similar pattern. I worked out that, based on that experience, we were due to arrive at the hospital at around 3.30pm, so I stuck my neck out and predicted that the baby would be born at around 5.10pm.

Things moved pretty quickly after we arrived. We had talked before about trying a Pool birth, which we never got chance to do with Ru. This time, we made it to the pool, just about.  Initial inspection showed Cas at around 8cm dilated. Things were coming along.

In the pool, Cas felt a little more comfortable, just as well, since like before, she made it through the whole labour with no pain relief whatsoever - just a cold flannel and a bottle of water. I have no idea how, but her focus, resilience and tolerance of pain just blows my mind. I'm so incredibly proud of her. 

From the time Cas's waters broke, at 5.05pm it was a mere 4 minutes until baby Tyger made an appearance, gracefully surfacing from underwater in the birthing pool.

What happened next will live with me forever.

Everyone's seen it. Everyone knows about it. Baby is born. Pure elation and expectation. Expectation of hearing the noise that in the future will keep me awake, will make me impatient, will grind on me at 3am. But right now, the sound of baby Tyger's first cry is all I want to hear.

A few moments pass as Cas holds him in her arms. "Please, let's hear you cry baby".


Seconds pass.

"Come on baby, cry for mummy..."

More seconds pass. Nothing.

The midwives become increasingly agitated and the shift from natural and relaxed procedure to a more concerned and frantic manoeuvring of clamps, scissors and people was palpable. 

Still no crying.

The student midwife hits the emergency button and within seconds more midwives and consultants were entering the room.

Moving very quickly to separate mum and baby, the umbilical chord was cut after a few attempts to clamp it were unsuccessful, until finally it was done. A still lifeless Tyger hoisted out of the pool and away from mummy, out into the hallway with the resuscitator machine was waiting with who knows how many people busying themselves as they sprung into emergency action.

At this point, and with things moving so quickly, we realised none of us had actually noticed what the sex was. Our midwife popped in and out, reassuring Cas and I that baby was ok, but there was still no crying.

I had a growing sense that I was in an nightmare, the scenario escalating in front of my eyes and we were helpless - just asking over and over again "is he (guessing sex) ok?"

"What was that?"

A little cry. Was that him (still guessing sex)?

Again, a little cry.

"Let's take him back into mum". "Him?" It's a boy.

I tell you, my heart had never beat so fast and I was so scared, helpless and insignificant at that point. What was only a few minutes felt like hours. But eventually, he rejoined mummy and me for our first cuddle, a happy, if a little shaken, but beautiful baby boy.

It turns out the sheer speed that he whizzed down that birth canal and swan dived into the birthing pool caused such a shock that it just took a little additional persuasion to kick into normal functions. Very normal, very common, no less scary. Thank god.

And so, Tyger Brook Schofield born at 5.09pm (that's right, I was a mere 1 minute off with my prediction), weighing in at 7lb 8oz and measuring 48cm, joined mummy, daddy and Rudi in this new world.

Welcome young Tyger, you can do anything.

Oh and the name? We just like it. Nothing more. Not named after the golfer or anything else. Quirky, kinda cool (in our opinion) and very different. Just the way we like it.

Now I'm home, Rudi is sound asleep and we both can't wait to visit mummy and Tyger tomorrow morning. Sleep tight.

Tips for Entrepreneurs and their Spouses: The Response

Mark Suster published this post today, about how geezers and gals in startups could make for a better relationship by heeding some advice from none other than Mark and his own wife (talking from massive experience). Definitely worth a good read.

I sent it on to my wife, Cassie, to take a look at and awaited a reply.... Then it came. It made me chuckle, so I thought I'd share it.

Only had a brief read as very busy today but very good ideas and from what I can see most of them require you to make some amendments to the way you are.

Ha! Oh dear.... interesting conversations tonight me thinks...

The new addition: 20 weeks

It's been a very exciting few months in the Schofield household. We found out a couple of months ago that we are expecting our second child, due around the beginning of May.

We just had our 20 week scan today (having had the initial 12 week scan, well 8 weeks ago obviously).

It's going to be very interesting to see how not only we cope with a second little monkey or monkette (we don't know, so no point in asking) running around the house, how the dogs will cope with another one hanging off their ears and pulling their tails - but how Rudi will cope with someone new taking up our time.

5 years gone, not forgotten.

It was 5 years ago today that my dad passed away after 6 months of bravely battling a highly advanced and aggressive cancer.

When I stop to reflect as I often do, particularly when times are tough and perhaps seemingly not going my way, I remember that he was a brave man.

When confronting issues during his life, he made the wrong decisions in dealing with them and instead, chose to hide and run away. But when faced with biggest challenge any of us will ever face, I can be proud of his attitude and commitment to the good fight.

I'm sad that I really struggle to remember specific things, like what he sounded like. It's getting kind of vague and intertwined with the Dad I don't really want to remember, the one who featured prominently and disruptively for a number of years in my early 20s.

I believe many happy memories reside on miniDV tapes in my cupboard, and I need to get them digitised and mixed into a format that is more conducive and self serving - to preserve the essence of the memory I care to hold onto.

And so, with a refreshed perspective, I return to trying to make the significant difference on the world that I aspire to, through business, creativity, passion, innovation, technology and graft.

Thanks Dad for giving me the presence of mind to reflect, adjust and persevere in the right way - something I know you struggled with your whole life. That is your legacy. RIP

Rudi's first school report

Rudi went into playgroup yesterday for an acclimatisation session with his new class, since he's graduating up from ladybirds to bumblebees. Along with the graduation, we received his first school report - I didn't realise quite how closely they scrutinize every aspect of development and every little sign means something in relation to signs of the little one's early progression. I thought it was just innocent playtime!

But every dad want's to hear these words on your sons school report. And I quote:

"Rudi has started building relationships with other children. Expressing in a kiss."

But even more proud;

"Rudi is confident on his feet and has a great throw and a long kick. He loves outdoor space and exploring."

"...will be sure to show off his football skills and ability to kick and throw balls. He has a great shot."

OK, mr Ferguson, I'll do you a deal, �60k a week and you can sign him up now... get in early and beat the competition...

Brings a smile to my face - Everytime.

I was playing around with my fast growing 15 month old son, Rudi, and the iphone voice recorder. Here's the result and it's amazing how such simple things bring so much pleasure. His laugh is so intoxicating...


Introducing... Rudi Brook Schofield (part 1)

It's been a few weeks since my last post, and for good reason.

Work's been really busy and I've been fortunate to work on some great projects and to collaborate with some exciting companies led by inspirational entrepreneurs. That's partially why I've not been in the right frame of mind to keep my personal blog up to date much recently.

The other reason, for those of you who are tuned in may have guessed based on the timing, is that on the 4th April, 2011 at 6.11am, we welcomed Rudi Brook Schofield into the world. Weighing in at a respectable 7lb5oz and measuring 49cm in length, our beautiful little boy was a picture of perfect health - much to our relief and delight.

The story of his birth, one I've told umpteen times to our friends and family, but one that I hope when captured here in my blog, will live on forever. I wish my parents could have had this kind of tool available when I came about. They may well have captured their thoughts or feelings of the time, perhaps in a notepad, scrapbook or diary, but if they did I'm not sure it exists anymore. Obviously, nothing can beat your parents stories straight from their own mouths, but as in my case, when my father passed away, it would have been great to have even more of his memories captured for my future consumption.

This is but the beginning of Rudi's story.

Rudi was due on Sunday 3rd of April, but despite trying most of the recommended "inducing techniques" - spicy food, raspberry leaf tea, fresh pineapple, long walks (you know which one is missing) by the close of play on the Sunday, there were no signs that he'd be making an appearance any time soon. Convinced that we would be looking at upto 10 more long and dragging days of waiting, we went to bed that night a family of 2 adults, 2 bassets and a bump for the very last time.

At round 12.50am, Cas awoke, feeling a little dodgy, with some stomach problems. After a few minutes on the toilet (not wanting to be too graphic) it became evident that something else was going on, not sure what, but something. I'm not entirely sure what Cas did for the next 40 minutes ir so, but I think it involved more trips to the toilet and standing in front of our full length mirror in the bedroom looking at the bump.

I woke at around 1.30am, to find Cas in the latter position. Not knowing what was going on or even what time it was, I asked if everything was OK. With a slightly excited but nervous tinge to her voice, Cas explained that she thought it might be time - that she was starting to experience the signs of early onset of labour. There was only one thing to do, something any englishman worth his salt would do - wake up and go and make a cup of tea.

We monitored what were some twinges and movements, which very quickly formed into "mild" contractions. Those mild contractions got steadily more intense, but were quick - 30 to 40 seconds. They were also frequent, typically every 4 minutes. Remembering that 1 minute contractions every five minutes for an hour is the "call the hospital benchmark" we were unsure what our situation meant. Not wanting to panic and be too eager to go to the hospital, we went and got out the Tens machine that we'd been given.

What a kerfuffle. I successfully installed the system on the patient, but left the operation to Cas. She couldn't get how it worked at all, regardless of my many thorough and non-patronising demonstrations. In the end, it was tossed aside and discarded as a method of pain relief - much to my relief as teaching Cas to use a gadget whilst in labour was about the most stressful part of the whole thing!

Instead, we also passed time by downloading the BabyBump app for iOS. This enabled me to avidly track the contraction time stats  and feed back the results to Cas. I also took a few not very flattering profile pictures, to use on the app's profile picture page - but we wont go there (unless I receive a decent offer from OK magazine or something!).

After an hour or so, we were still non-the-wiser how far along we were - but presuming that it was merely the start of a lengthy process. Keen to stay relaxed, Cas kept mobile wandering around upstairs, and finding a comfortable position as possible for each contraction - ranging from kneeling, bending over, sitting on the toilet and lying flat. After one trip to the toilet, Cas identified a small amount of clear discharge, which suggested that her waters may have started or had broken. It was at this stage that we decided to phone the hospital.

After explaining the nature of the contractions and going through the checklist provided by the midwife at our antenatal classes, the midwife on duty suggested that the contractions should really have been longer and more intense than those we were reporting to warrant the 30 minute drive to Dorchester hospital. She recommended a hot bath, some exercises and other relaxation techniques. That would have been the end of the call and easily no more said, expcept I chose to mention the discharge we had seen, albeit very minor. To this, the midwife changed her mind and suggested that if we suspected that the waters had broken, then we should start to make our way to the hospital as they would want to check Cas over. We were on.

Again, partly because we were sure it was so early on and partly because we just didn't want to be one of those panicky paranoid couples, we leisurely prepared ourselves and a slow and calm pace. Grabbing the prepacked bags, sorting out the dogs, packing the car, we eventually set off for the hospital at around 4.15am.

By this time, it was clear that the contractions were getting more intense and remaining consistently at 3 to 4 minute intervals. We arrived at the hospital after (if I do say so myself) some very sympathetic driving and unlike most days we'd visited before, had the pick of the parking spaces. Heading gingerly up to the maternity ward, a midwife exiting for a cigarette break said "they're expecting you up there".

On first examination, rather than what we were expecting to here - "1cm, go home, don't be so silly!" - we found that Cas was 7cm dilated and things were moving steadily along. With a fairly thin cervix, it was expected that the last 3cm would go quite quickly. It was 4.40am.

Rigged up to a heart monitor, everything was checked out ok, it was just a matter of time. We were not far away, and it appears, arrived at the hospital just in time...


New years resolution

Happy new year everyone. 2010 was a pretty interesting year for me, both personally and professionally, and 2011 is going to have to go some to top it. But, I have a enemy suspicion that it just might.

There's going to be so much going on with the business side of things, and what with dobby being on the way, it's going to be really exciting.

So this year, I'm really keen that my fitness doesn't suffer. So resolution number 1 is to get and stay fit. I've got a couple of things in the diary to keep me motivated as well, something I really need it would seem. First up is the Coastal trail series half marathon in February, a tough slog on steep terrain, but the spectacular views across the south Devon Coastal path is well worth the effort.

However, that's merely a pre cursor to getting out on the bike in preparation for June's Project 30 expedition. This will see 7 eager but immensely naive 30 year olds taking on the route from Cherbourg, France to Bilbao, Spain - a route of around 600 miles, in one week.

Resolution number 2 is a little more tenuous in it's likelihood of actually happening. I've wanted to learn the guitar for years, ever since having a couple of lessons as an 8 year old and not really getting it,and therefore giving up. It's ground away at me ever since, and my intention is to make 2011 the year where that particular wrong is righted.

I started resolution number 1 off with a 10 run this afternoon, which felt much farther than I remember it, hurt a lot more and took much longer than I hoped. But, it's a start. Oh and I read and article for beginner guitar players, so I'm ahead of the game.

My greatest adventure - Daddy Steve

That title is not referring to me in some kind of macdaddy pimpin gangsta term, nope, as it says on the tin - in but a few months I'm going to be a dad.

Let's roll back a few months. Cas and I had decided to start trying, casually with no real expectations of an immediacy in results. For one, my dad had a low sperm count and I had in the back of my mind that therefore I may do too. I have never had the "pleasure" of finding out for sure if that was indeed the case, and I never really spoke about it other than the odd joke (quickie somewhat of a defence mechanism, as those who know me will testify). I would mention that as I am one of four, a low sperm count didn't do my parents chances of conception any harm at all, except perhaps that all of the fellas that he was missing, must have been little pink and fluffy Girly ones as I have 3 brothers.

The other reason was that Cass's pill, cerazzete, was renowned for taking up to like 2 years to potentially conceive. So, with this in mind we gave it a go and would just see what happened.

Not long after we had all the issues with Maisy, her back and her illness. I wrote a long and emotional post about that here. At the same time, Cas was suffering pretty badly feeling sick and with nausea. We put it down to the grieving process with Maisy, and in hindsight, were totally wrong. The symptoms persisted and Cas went to the doctors for some blood tests.

I remember that I was in the office in Bristol when Cas phoned to tell me the news from the bloods, everything was fine - oh, and she is pregnant. I couldn't contain the grin on my face, but, not sure what the etiquette is for announcing these things, tried to play it down with the guys in the office.

Doing some quick mental maths, I worked it back to either being 6 weeks, or 8 weeks. Cas had taken a pregnancy test, which showed up negative and so there must have only been a couple of occasions that could be accountable.

We were soon to find out, at what was supposed to be our 12 week scan, that Cas was actually 16.5 weeks gone! That meant that little Dobby is due on 3rd April 2011, a week or so after my own birthday.

Just to explain, we haven't decided to name our son or daughter after the Harry Potter house elf, but Cas and I used to joke that with my ears and her nose, any off spring was more than likely to bear some degree of resemblance.

As of writing this post, we are now at 23 weeks, and all is well. Cas's illness has settled down, all tests and scans have shown up as well as can be determined, and we have chosen not know the sex - one of life's great surprises. That said, I am now determined not to be told, but to work it out with the evidence I have at hand...

TWIN CUPZ - A Golfing Odyssey

It was a summers evening. "Gavalar" and I took advantage of the £15 twilight fees at my old track, Dudsbury Golf Club. That course successfully single-handedly destroyed my A-level results, but did grant me a 2 handicap by the time I left to get drunk and ruin my degree at university. This was a trip down memory lane, and a privilege to educate mr D in the Dudsbury ways. 

The trees are much bigger now, no more free drops from the once staked saplings. The course is still in good nick, with water in play on 16 out of 18 holes. Large and smooth greens, well kept fairways and rough up to your elbows. A true test as we're about to see. Pay attention to our tribute to a Golfing Classic, with Twin Cupz. Enjoy.

The Basset Hound Story - Maisy, Sleeping Among the Bluebells

I started writing this post a couple of weeks ago, but had to keep stopping and writing bits as it was quite emotional and I just couldn't keep reliving it. It has become easier and I really want to tell Maisy's continued story.

I can easily say that yesterday proved the hardest day of my life, and I've been through some stuff already. Now a lot of people won't understand, they'll think I'm mad, but there will be many people that do feel the same intense sense of loss and heartbreak when their dog goes to sleep for the final time. It hurts so much. Deep in the pit of my stomach and chest, the pain is physical as much as mental. It feels like I've lost a limb and my life has been turned upside down as I struggle to fill the immense gap she has left with all I have - mainly memories, photos and the things that smell of Maisy. She was part of our family and like a child. My princess. Princess Maisy.

Maisy snoozing on the steps at Kingairloch House, Scotland during our wedding

Maisy was a special dog. You can read all about her story in previous posts here and here. It is a story of unbelievable strife interspersed with delightful happiness, from her early life suffering at the hands of cruel puppy farmers, to when we rescued her a gave her all the things she had missed from life.

Everything that could go wrong went wrong with Maisy. From the early days, with a hernia, cherry eye and severe teeth problems. She had epilepsy and suffered numerous fits. She had a heart murmur and problems with her skin. But it was a couple of years ago when things turned pretty ugly. What has turned out to be a chronic disc protrusion within her spine came to a halt when a disc burst and caused some trauma to her spinal chord, completely losing use of her hind legs as a result. A successful hemilamenectomy, hospitalisation, physio and hydrotherapy later, she slowly regained full if not slightly more laboured mobility.

Maisy basset in the snowWe were so careful not to inadvertently cause a relapse so ensured she stayed off of the sofa and carried her up and down stairs. But, it wasn't enough and in November 2009, Maisy suffered a relapse. The options here were considerably fewer and it was only Maisy's sheer bloody mindedness that quickly enabled her to regain use of her legs. At the same time, Maisy picked up infections of the urinary tract, her bladder and then finally around the vulva. She was on a different antibiotics every week as the tests increasingly showed that the bacteria was resistant or the infection changed from e-coli to pseudomonus. This was hard going for Maisy and she was subjected to so much in tests and treatment that must have been awful. But, in her usual fashion, she just stuck her head down and got on with life,

doing the same little rituals that became her style.

Little things, like the bed time routine. We'd carry her upstairs and put her on the landing, while Cas carried up her bed. Maisy would then toddle into the study and roll around on the floor while I went back down and let the boys out. It was always the study, never the spare bedroom, maybe because sometimes I would sneak her upstairs to sit with me in the study while I worked. Or when we got to Cas's parents house. She loved it there. After getting her out of the car, she'd always toddle off onto the stones on the front garden for a wee, without fail, while the boys headed straight fir the back gate.

Well, in the last couple of weeks, the spinal problems came back and again, she lost use of her hind legs. This time it felt different, it didn't seem to be getting any better. After a week we took her to the vets and they tested her urine. They found a number of infections again, namely e-coli. It was back. We had been considering getting her some wheels, never contemplating any other scenario. We'd fight the infection as we had done before and we'd give her the best quality of life she could get. She wasn't a gun dog or a spaniel who just wants to run in the fields, Maisy was used to being fairly sedentary and just adored being with the boys and us. Wheels could be the answer.

A month or so ago, Maisy had a weird spontaneous episode of bleeding from the mouth. She went to the vets and they stitched it up. It appeared to be a puncture wound in the top and bottom gum, as if she had bitten down on a stick and it had pierced through. She was stitched up and the bleeding stopped. On Wednesday night, I noticed Maisy sitting at the bottom of the stairs while I was upstairs, changing the bed. Given the effort it takes for Maisy to get all around the house, I knew something must possibly be wrong - she's quite expressive in that way. As I came downstairs I noticed drops of blood on the floor and on her leg where she had been licking. She'd also wee'd on the floor and had a poo just for good measure, she was clearly in distress. I cleaned it all up and mopped the bleeding from her mouth. I took her to the vets in the morning. We left her in overnight so that the could assess the origin of the bleeding and stop it. The vet also wanted to take some blood tests to see why the issue has persisted.

Maisy when we first rescued her. Such a sad start to life.All they found was an ulcer on her tongue. The question was why hadn't it healed up? There was a worry that her liver was not functioning correctly in allowing the blood to coagulate (clot) as it was supposed to. While under GA, they did a clotting test to find out if this was an issue. The clotting test involves creating a small nick in the gum. In an ordinary dog, it would take 2-3 minutes max to stop bleeding. They aborted the test after 5 minutes with Maisy, no sign of stopping the bleed.

We took Maisy's pills into the vets and when we arrived, the vet was there to great us. He seemed agitated, almost frantic. He explained how the blood tests showed that Maisy's liver wasn't producing the level of protein that would be expected and he was seriously worried about it. In addition, her red blood cell count and platelet levels were worryingly low. She was anaemic. Overnight they carried out some more tests. The nurse called us in the morning and let us know that Maisy had recovered from the GA and was perky like she normally is. At this point I wasn't thinking about any other scenario (except maybe deep down) other than that they would find some further course of treatment that would at least give us some hope and some more time. They would be scanning her liver to check for physical abnormalities that morning and we would hear back around midday.

I got the call from the vet and she walked us through their findings. No physical abnormalities of note with the scans. Unfortunately, that wasn't a good sign, as it gave us nothing to go on with what to treat, as we know something is definitely wrong. Her faeces showed signs of blood in it. She seemed to be haemorrhaging into her intestine and/or ingesting the blood from her mouth. Either way, she was already losing more red blood cells through this and with the anaemia, she really couldn't afford to be giving them up so freely. They tested her bone marrow to see how she was producing blood cells to replace those that were being lost. There were no signs of reproduction at all. Her bone marrow had given up the fight. It was time that Maisy could rest and stop the relentless battle for health. It was her time, and as her mummy and daddy, we had to make the decision for her. That is what every responsible pet owner must be prepared to do. In fact, over the last 3 days I've come to appreciate the privilege afforded to me. I was able to offer Maisy eternal peace and spare her the inevitable suffering she was bound to endure should we take any other course of action with what would only have been purely selfish motives.

Maisy during hydro. The most important post therapy treatment and gave her back her legs.Signing the consent form, I felt numb. We were ushered in to sit with her before hand - for as long as we wanted. I thought we'd spend as long as possible with her, cuddling, kissing and reassuring her. It was impossible. We just couldn't prolong the inevitable. The longer we sat there looking into her eyes, we could see that all she wanted to was go home, to her sanctuary where she felt safe and where she had been so deeply loved. It was breaking our hearts. We beckoned the vet and agreed that the time was now. Cas and I both stayed with her, I held her face in my hands and Cas stroked her back. She was laid on her side and the vet tried to find the vein in the inside of her hind leg in which to inject her.

The vet had warned us that her blood vessels had contracted to such an extent that it had previously proved difficult to insert a needle. He assured us that he would try his best to get it first time, but we should be prepared if he missed that he may have to administer some gas. I had my fingers crossed that it would be quick and clean, I was dreading any more distress than we were already facing. The needle went in, which I watched despite trying not to look. My stomach was filled with dread and my throat had a lump in it the size of a grapefruit.

During one of our basset walks. Maisy + 25.

I continued to hold onto her face and stroke the soft, familiar fur around her jowls, tears streaking down my face. As the needle was pressed and fluid administered, Maisy stirred briefly, knocking out the needle. The vet cursed, unsure if enough had been put into her blood stream to take immediate effect. After a couple of frightful moments, Maisy's body relaxed, her eyes closed and she fell asleep in my hands as if she had just laid down on her bed after a long walk in the fields. The vet checked her heart beat. Nothing. It was over and Maisy's pain was no more. Cas and I wept and caressed her lifeless body, emotion running free and uncontrollable as the realisation began to set in, the loss being realised in the pits of our stomachs.

Afterwards, we left and went back home. I then went back not long afterwards to pick up Maisy's body. We left her fleecy blanket to be wrapped in and the nurses brought her out to my car. I drove to Cas's parents house, where we were to lay her to rest, in the field behind their house where she loved to run with the boys, Penny the Westie, puppy Scotty Lexie and the Spaniels; Teale, Willow and Rowan. Man, that was one big hole I had to dig. 

I brought her body from the car and laid her on her blanket on top of an old duvet cover, next to the grave. I let the boys come out into the field and they came over and sniffed her. So did Lexie and Penny. They knew where she was and they were respectfully gentle and in sombre mood.

We said a few words, shed many tears, said our final goodbyes. Cas then left me, as I wrapped her fully in the blanket and duvet and lowered her slowly to the bottom of the grave. Taking the shovel and with every load of dirt, my tears got fewer and my sorrow easier as if the act of burial itself was cleansing my grief; as she finally disappeared from sight, beneath the earth that was now her blanket and where she would be able to rest, painless, for ever more.

It's been really hard since that day. All I kept thinking about for some time after was what had happened, what had we done? The look on her face when we went in to see her. It still gets me going but I'm a lot better. Cas is still very upset and it pains me to see her so. 

We received a card of condolence from the vet a day later. He wanted to reassure us that there was nothing more we could do, that her suffering would have been great, and that we gave her the best life possible in the time we had with her. He had become very fond of her in the time he knew her, as did many of the vets at Damory - not just because all of her treatment funded their xmas party 4 years running (Cas and I often liked to joke...) We have learned to take great comfort in that and it is what I've had to force myself to remember whenever I feel low. More than anything, he thanked us for treating Maisy with love and respect, which I know we did.

On the front of the card, there was a picture of a beautiful woodland, serene and calm. All around the floor of the wood, the most beautiful image of bluebells in the long grass. Quite befitting, and it touched our hearts, for Maisy rests in the meadow, among bluebells.



Trials and Tribulations

It's been a tough couple of days for two main reasons. Number 1 reason was that yesterday (25th August) represented the 3 year anniversary of when my Dad passed away. Doesn't time fly when you've got your head stuck up your own arse, huh? Still I do hope that the level of passion and perseverence I am giving to realising my dream of being a successful entrepreneur would make him proud. 2nd is Maisy. Easily the MOST EXPENSIVE dog ever invented. A few weeks back the spinal injury that has repeatedly plagued her over the past 2 or 3 years came back and with inglorious aplomb. Maisy has lost the use of her back legs again and this time, I'm not so sure it's coming back. This has inevitably made life much harder - having to carry her out into the garden for a wee or carrying upstairs to bed. Inevitably, we don't always get the timing right and accidents happen. We've gone through more kitchen towel and disinfectant anti-bacterial spray than you can wag a tail at. Add to the mix, a couple of weeks ago, Maisy had a weird occurrence of bleeding from deep in the mouth. We took her in to see the vets out of hours and she ended up staying in and having some stitches put in to help seal up what was described as 2 puncture wounds in the gum. Strange. Well last night I was upstairs doing some chores before Mrs S got home and I saw Maisy at the bottom of the stairs. That's out of character, since it takes a huge amount of effort to get there from the kitchen using only her front legs and pulling herself along. She is often a great communicator and knows when something is up, so I went down to see her. There were drops of blood all over the tiled floor. I checked her arm and more blood where she had been licking. It was her mouth again. So, I'm off to the vets AGAIN in 10 minutes to hopefully get this resolved. It's driving me crazy and breaking my heart to see her in such a predicament. She doesn't appear to be in pain, otherwise it would be a very different outcome, but I can't help feel that as this goes on it's just not fair on her, on the boys and on us. Don't know what to do.

First Post with My iPad

Just got a shiny new ipad today. It's been a few weeks in the off-ing as my desire for a tablet has grown and grown. Being an Android fan (though some-what peeved with my HTC Hero thus far) it was a bit of dilemma. Wait for the myriad of Android options to flood the market or go Apple. I succumbed. Apple it is. Along with a wireless keyboard and kickstand case, I'm all set. I'm so looking forward to carrying this around - on the train, on the plane, rather than my bulky 15" laptop. Now, which carrier should I go with?

The Open Golf - Memories of St Andrews

Watching the Open Golf is always a favourite. I look forward to it every year, and what bugs me the most, is that I've yet to go and actually watch one. 

 View of St Andrews

If I was to go watch one, it would most certainly be at St Andrews (like it is right now, I know!). St Andrews is a magical place, you feel the atmosphere as soon as you drive in to the town - it's almost like a fairytale, a place you've seen so many times on the TV, that when you go there you feel like you're on a TV set.

Watching the golf this week reminded me of a few years ago when I was fortunate enough to play the Old Course at St Andrews. I was up there for a client Sales Conference and I took my clubs, hoping to get a game, by hook or by crook. 

I was fully prepared that it could be the Jubilee or the New Course, or even the excellent Kingsbarns. But, being the cheeky chap that I am, I approached the starter box and tried to fix a game on the Old Course, thinking that if I got turned down, I'd just work my way round to the next favourite course and so on...

So without so much as a practise putt, I was amazed that I would be teeing off on the first hole at St Andrews Old Course, with three great guys from Norway. 

Standing over that first tee shot was such a surreal experience. Even on just a normal day, there were Japanese and American tourists there taking photos and watching people tee off. It was like I was a pro standing over the ball waiting to get my open championship underway (in my head anyway). So imagine my slight embarrassment as I connected solidly with my three wood, looking up to see a power pull hook that went so far left, I actually managed to miss the widest fairway in golf (as it combines with the 18th), ending up on the tiny patch of semi rough that separates the 18th fairway from the road and the white fence you see on the TV.

Settling the nerves, I knocked a killer wedge across the Swilken Burn, and onto the front of the 1st green. Putt for birdy (which I missed), but definitely settling down.

It's widely said that if you hit the ball left on St Andrews, you'll be fine. Hit it right and you'll die. Fortunately, of the wide array of angles my shots can sometimes go at, I brought the pull with me. I was striking well, but always left off the tee. Therefore, I was never in too much trouble. 

Once I'd knocked the rust off, having not played for sometime and not warmed up, things started to straighten up and the great ball striking continued to put me in some great scoring positions. However, when playing in to these massive greens, and as is typical with links golf, it's not until the ball has come to rest that you know if it was a good shot, regardless of the strike and direction.

Shared green on the 4th, that's the 14th flag behind me.

More than once, I was hitting putts from 100ft or more, often in completely the wrong direction from the flag, such is the undulation of the greens at St Andrews. But the greens are so true, that a good putt hit firm and on the right line had every chance to go in and I holed a quite a few par saving putts that really held the round together.

I reached the 17th, the infamous Road Hole, at 4 over par gross. I was really pleased with the standard I'd been playing at so far, considering the lack of golf time I'd had since I went to University, a fairly competent 2 handicapper.

Over the "O" in Hotel

The Road Hole is one of THE holes in golf. It's right up there. From the drive over the old railway sheds now in the grounds of St Andrews Hotel, to the tiny little green with the path and road to the back and the famously treacherous Road Hole bunker, positioned to gobble up any stray iron (or wood!) shots to the green. 

I absolutely nailed my drive and was relieved to look up and see it soaring over the "O" in hotel with a little draw and bounding it's way up the firm fairway. I only had about 160 yards left in to the green from the semi-rough, where the ball came to rest eventually.

Not wanting to over shoot and certainly protecting against the flyer, I hit a solid 9 iron. It was right at the flag (which believe it or not, wasn't a good thing as the flag was pretty close to inline with the greenside bunker I was so desperately trying to avoid). As planned, I came up slightly short, the ball kicking to the right on first bounce and away from the bunker. Nestling on the lower tier at the front of the green I was pleased to be able to get the putter on the ball for my third shot.

Posing in the road hole bunker. I'm 6ft 2. Nuff said.

Still far from easy, I hit a solid putt up over the very steep bank at the front of the green and to within a few feet for a solid Road Hole par. Felt like a birdie to me.

The eighteenth hole was another fantastic experience. The sky had an air of foreboding - dark clouds and sunshine breaking through, as is part of the common beauty of St Andrews. I hit a solid, if slightly scoopy drive, which was flew straight and drew gently back to the left side. Landing over the path, and bounding on up the fairway, I was left with a grandstanding pleasing pitch into the 18th green. Drive up the 18th soaring into the distance

That would have to wait however, as is the norm for visiting players, to stop and take some photos of ourselves crossing the bridge over the Swilken Burn, much like those memorable pictures of Jack Nicklaus a few years ago.Like Jack Nicklaus, it felt like my swansong at St Andrews

I hit a solid pitch, taking the deep gulley known as the "Valley of Sin" out of play. One bounce forward and checked on the second.  20 ft for birdie (which again, I missed) but a pleasing and solid par for an overall score of 76.

Feeling pretty pleased with my game, the company I kept and the overall delight and privilege of playing this magnificent course, we retreated to the Jigger for a wee dram (alright a pint of guiness).

And an Archie in a Pear tree.....

Here's a little video of Archie, the little rascal of a basset hound, who decided that having waited all of 6 hours behind meals, he needed a little additional nourishment in the form of Schofield's finest pears. 

Watch the first minute or so in particular, as the gutsy little sod leaps like a gazelle, leaving the ground by at least 5cm, grabbing a juicy looking fruit morsel and then falling in style back down to the ground - where he then spends the rest of the video devouring and plotting his next attempt for further pears.

The other funny moment of note, is when my little princess Maisy sneaks in to take the the other pear that falls and trots off to enjoy back on her bed in the kitchen.


Sunday lunch

I don't know about you, but I love Sunday lunch. It doesn't matter what I've been doing or where I've been during the week - often on the road, in the air or in some hotel somewhere - Sunday lunch is the humbling, grounding experience it always has been.

For the 10 years Cas and I have been together, we've been lucky enough to have parents that have, apart from a handful of times, been willing to host Sunday lunch.

It's always been a family time, when nephews, nieces, aunties and uncles come and get together over roast chicken, beef or lamb.

We are a family of dog lovers, and the inlaws house becomes a hive of activity with, at last count; 3 basset hounds, 2 cocker spaniels, 1 springer spaniel, 1 westie and the most recent addition, Lexie, the mischevious scotty.

Often Sunday lunch includes sport, on the tv and then re-enacted in the garden with my tireless nephews. More often, I'm a climbing frame.

I'm sat writing this, with smell of roast lamb and potatoes in the air, and the whining of my little nephew "Bryan" (Ryan, but Bryan annoys him!) who wants to show me his new football tricks he learned this week. So off I go, towed by child before Sunday lunch is on the table.