Category Archives: Family

Rusty New Year

We took Rusty for a New Year’s day walk out to Tweseldown today. A huge wooded area with all sorts of things for a pup to get excited about… Mud, sand, grass, trees, and plenty of water.

She’s just turned 21 weeks old and is already 22″ tall to the shoulder, and weighs in at 24kg.

I didn’t get a chance to take many photos before she took to the water… over and over again.





WHAT? You still have the ball? THROW IT, DAMN YOU!










More photos HERE (Lots more…)

Rusty Comes Home

Back in the 1960’s my dad (a scientist at RAE Farnborough) worked with an Alsatian in a project to use them to find black boxes at air crash sites. The old recorders were very susceptible to getting wiped by people searching crash sites with metal detectors, so alternate methods needed to be found.

Pathé News clip can be found HERE:  Black-Box-Retriever

My dad loved the dog that was trained at RAE Farnborough for this task.

The dog was called Rusty.

As many people will no doubt know, we love our animals, be they hens, crows, cats or horses, but we have wanted a dog for some time. So, in memory of my dad, and his Rusty work mate, we looked for a dog to fill our homes dog shaped hole. It had to be a GSD (German Shepherd Dog) with a good temperament and fine with children and other animals. Chris did a lot of research and found a breeder in Ireland called Alsace Royale German Shepherds, who had exactly the style of GSD we wanted, and raised from a pup with children and animals around it. Chris did her homework, asked around and decided that these were the ones for us.

These dogs were originally called German Shepherd dogs until the war, at which point having something ‘German’ became unsavoury. As such, they were renamed ‘Alsastian Wolf Hounds‘, and then shortened to ‘Alsatian‘. Much campaigning took place, and in 1977 the original breed name was given the okay to register under again. In 2010 the ‘Alsation‘ tag was officially dropped.

We also knew who we wanted as the parents of our pup, so were going to wait until next year when they would breed the pair again… but in the meantime I went behind Chris’s back and talked to the breeder. I wanted to see if I could get a head start and somehow get a puppy ahead of the time Chris and Alex thought we’d be getting one, and then it would be a great surprise for them both.

Alex has been using pocket money and treats to buy dog toys, ready for when we got a dog, even though he knew we weren’t getting one for a long time. Even when asked what he wanted Santa to get him for Christmas, he replied “Dog toys please“. When asked why he didn’t ask for a puppy, he said “That’s not going to happen for a long time, so I’m not even asking”.

I asked what could daddy get you to make daddy better than Santa (expecting “a puppy!!!”) and he said… “A hug…

Yeah, that knocked me back a bit too.

Well, that really made me want to surprise him. What a lovely, selfless answer. He didn’t want toys for himself, he wanted things for a dog that we wouldn’t be getting for a very long time, and the one thing he did want cost nothing.

Then Jackie from Alsace Royale called me just over a week ago. She had some news. One of the previous litters from the parents we wanted, had to be returned to the breeders because the new owners had some news after 8 weeks of ownership that meant they would not be able to keep a dog. A 15 week old female short hair GSD was available. Okay, she wasn’t a 10 week old GSD next summer… but what’s six weeks older, just to see the looks on Christine and Alex’s faces?

How could you not love me?

Here she is as a few weeks old, from the Alsace Royale web site (she’s the one who sniffs the camera):

After some careful planning, lots of calls with Jackie and a traffic jam encountered by Lenny, the Alsace Royale specialist dog courier, Alsace Royale Rusty showed up at our meeting place. I had intended to keep this all secret from Chris, and then turn up at Alex’s school that afternoon and wait at the gates as they left… but in the end, I took Chris with me, and some excellent friends picked Alex up after school – telling him that mum and dad had broken down in the car, and would be around later to pick him up.

Rusty meets Chris

Well, it goes without saying that Chris and Alex were really surprised and incredible happy. Rusty absolutely loves Alex, and her temperament is perfect. She gets on with our hens and cats, and is a really well behaved around strangers and other dogs.

Alex and Rusty – “Santa didn’t stand a chance daddy…”

She’s already become close friends with Ytsur, the mirror dog…

… and she’s discovered the lake, where she doesn’t care less about the swans and ducks…

So yup, she’s a happy new addition to the family.

Click link below for more pictures

Lots more photos HERE

Amazing Find…

I just stumbled across a short story someone wrote…


It features my dad (Fred Jones)… and yes, his role in the V2 saga is accurate.

Author’s Note: The following owes much to ‘Air Crash’ written by Fred Jones.

Mr Jones was employed in the English government services between 1935 and 1980.

Mr Jones worked out of Farnborough and specialised in Air Accident Analysis. Fortunately for me he was there during WW2 and was involved in one very particular bit of analysis which is mentioned below…and yes, he did have ring-ins for the job, but he doesn’t say who or where from. This being the case I took a minor liberty and added one of my own people.

August 1st 1944 – Weybridge, England

I take a simple view of life: Keep your eyes open and get on with it. – Sir Laurence Olivier

Hope had been staring at the telephone in perplexity for over five minutes…Mac had been timing it. It was an odd expression of her face and Mac was less than comforted by it. It was an expression she tended to wear when something had gone wildly wrong with an aeroplane. It was an expression which had been becoming more frequent ever since work had begun on the jets. No one knew what happened with high speed flight, the casualties were mounting and the problems becoming increasingly bizarre and senseless.

“Hope?” There was complete silence and Hope continued to stare at the telephone.

“Hope!” A little more volume drew no more response.

“HOPE!” Mac settled for a yell and was relieved to see Hope twitch, it would take a moment or two before her full attention returned from where ever it was though.

“Something up?” Hope looked around and blinked rather owlishly.

“You’ve been staring at the telephone as if it’s a particularly nasty crash.”

“Oh.” Hope moved away from the telephone and found a chair. “It was Jones from Farnborough, seems to think he’s got an interesting job on hand and wanted me to show up because of something to do with the recent crashes we’ve had here.”

“Our crashes have been remarkably boring…except for the fact that we seem to be studying how many pieces you can separate an aeroplane into.”

“That’s what worries me.” Hope twisted restlessly and frowned out the window. “Fred has seven others over there and all they do is spend their time dissecting smashed planes. Why me?”

“Did you tell him no?”

“He said it would be interesting.” Hope was frowning at the counter top.

“Then go pack.” Mac settled himself down carefully. “Me and the twins will endeavour not to destroy ourselves, or the house, before whatever interesting problem has passed and I trust the big sneeze doesn’t mind letting you go.”

“It’ll probably come out of my leave.”

“You haven’t had leave in years.”

“Take it up with him, not me.” Hope was frowning at the bookcase, one book in hand and her intention clearly to obtain another one. “I really…no, no, no…possibly not…maybe…is it at all important?” Hope turned away from the bookshelf with a perplexed expression.


“It coming out of my leave. Is it an important matter?”

“No one else given such an invitation or request would have it taken out of their leave.”

“Oh.” Hope turned back to the bookshelf and pulled a book out. “Fred’s usually reliable…or at least if not reliable he’s not boring…that Halifax…”

“Which Halifax?” Mac looked up from the book he had acquired.

“Oh, it was back at the beginning of the war.” Hope returned the book she held and grabbed another. “Rocket assisted bombs or something like that. The Halifax blew up and no one knew why.” Hope began to flick through the book. “It was really rather idiotic because they loaded the plane for multiple tests and one of the bombs fired but wasn’t released…it was rather bad for the aeroplane.”

“Really?” Mac carefully swallowed a smile as he noticed that Hope now had seven books and was searching for more.

“I wonder…” Hope had pulled yet another book from the shelf and was thoughtfully thumbing through the pages. Mac smiled quietly to himself and went back to his book, the house could blow up and Hope wouldn’t hear it now.

Hope knelt among the litter of metals and knew a moment of awe. They’d been working for days now, simply sorting the different fragments into their individual metal types. There were days more work to do before they even began attempting to assemble this mess, and they intended to compress the assembly time and analysis time as well. It was the ultimate jigsaw puzzle. It was also a secret which Germany undoubtedly considered to be safe…to any sane person this was the outcome of obliteration. The people gathered at Farnborough were not sane though, mathematicians were already working on the trajectory information balanced by the mass of metal which had been collected. This mess was a gift from Sweden, a high altitude explosion and many fragmentary scraps of metal…well, hardly a gift, the Swedes got Spitfires in return. This and some mathematics were all they had to work with, but Hope knew no doubt, they would know success before Hitler ever used it against them. Hope fingered a sharp-edged piece of metal and pondered which of the millions available to choose from would actually have once joined it. The clues were sometimes subtle, sometimes glaringly obvious, but always there. Explosions sometimes actually made the job easier, for explosions marked the metals. This was going to be fun…long, hard, fun.

“I trust your absence for the past couple of weeks has been suitably interesting.” Mac glanced up from some cheap paperback as Hope let herself in through the back door. Hope noted with faint curiousity that there was actually quite a significant stack of books next to Mac’s chair.

“Yes.” Hope sank into another chair with a sigh. “Marmelade and Marine?”

“Upstairs and asleep.” Mac laid the book aside and rubbed his forehead. “Very hush-hush?”

“Hmm?” Hope blinked in momentary bewilderment. “Oh, yes.” Hope gave her head a small shake. “Some rocket which came out of Germany and detonated. We think we got it sorted…but we may be wrong.”

“That is always a possibility.” Mac smiled faintly and then it slowly widened. “Payload?”

“Nasty…also a whole sudload of senseless electronic stuff. At a guess we assume they’ll start arriving in London within the next couple of months…but we’ve got their flight trajectories, ranges…we know where to look for the launch sites even if we can do nothing about them.”

“Nice.” Mac picked his book up again.

“Mac?” Hope had finally managed to bring her mind back to the present and that pile of books was bothering her.

“Mm?” Mac looked up from his book.

“It’s two o’clock in the morning and you have eight thrillers piled next to your chair.”

“Oh.” Mac glanced at the pile with a faint frown. “Obviously I only thought about aski…” Mac stopped what he was saying and turned back to his book.

“Mac?” Hope’s brows had risen questioningly.

“Picked a fight with the back door and lost…resulted in some enforced rest I’m afraid…the kitchen is the most shocking mess.”

“When?” Hope was feeling distinctly resigned.

“Ten..twelve days ago.” Mac gave a slight shrug. “Just something else I’ll have to get the hang of not doing.”

“Why do you usually seem to save your best attempts at killing yourself until my back is turned?”

“Skill.” Mac gave a tired smile. “Marmelade’s managing the dogs so you needn’t worry about that this time…though I might have to worry about finding a new job…he’s good with them.”

“Well…try not to get one in London.” Hope gave a tiny smile.

“I’ll keep that in mind.” Mac returned the smile and then picked up his book. “I’m not sleeping much courtesy of pain, there’s no need to wait up.”

“Am I allowed to sit and chat with a husband for a bit after not seeing him for twenty days?”

“Certainly…said husband felt his company was pretty rotten though.”

“Well, said husband is not made up of crumpled pieces of duralumin I’m trying to piece together and is therefore a very welcome change.”

“Oh.” Mac laid his book aside again. “That being the case said husband will stop imitating being a piece of stuffed furniture.” Mac rubbed the back of his neck and then yawned. “You’ve been offered a week of leave.”

“Good.” Hope kicked off her shoes and tucked her feet up. “Such an odd fin formation on that thing…must have a chat to someone about the effects of such variations…might be a…” Hope trailed off her eyes fixed on something in the infinite distance outside the window. Mac smiled quietly to himself and picked up his book once more. Life was good.

A/N: September 8th 1944, the first V2 Rockets arrived in Kent with specifications exactly matching those predicted by RAE…the senseless electronics were absent though, they were a remote flight control system which had never received permission to use a rocket.

The name’s Peck. Gregory Peck.

The other day we lost Chicken 22 to old age. She was clucked out, but had a fun and free life after we rescued her from battery farm hell. A lovely lady and one of the oldest we had.

At the same time 22 reached her final days, a friend of a friend told Chris that she was moving  house and needed someone to take on her hens. Yes, it writes itself… The hen numbers are back to where they were a few months back. Lovely pets, and these two new girls are stunners!

Sally & Mabel

Avid readers of this blog (ha!) will probably have realised by now that we are animal mad…

It just got madder.

Chris picked up a new family member at the stables the other day. An injured bird had been hanging around for a few days, so with our birdy experience, Chris decided to nurse it back to health.

Gregory Peck joined the madhouse.

Now we know chickens are clever, but this guy is worlds apart. You can see him think… he looks at one thing, then moves on, then back to the other thing…. and you see the thought process… He’s not the largest crow I’ve seen, but he’s still a big lad.

He’s been in a fight. Maybe another bird, birds, fox… car? and he has an old scar across his back under his feathers and his head is half bald. This scar may be pulling his skin when he tries to fly, as he doesn’t seem comfortable getting airborne, even though his wings are fine.

He has a mild chest infection, and is a bit bug infested, so he is going through some bird nutrients and a bathing ritual to clean him up. He already looks a lot better.

Corvids are among the most intelligent, if not the most intelligent, of birds. Peck has shown this by completely accepting us as friends. Day one and he was very wary and pecky to us. Day two, after food, bath, blow dry and mite powdering he is easy to handle and no fuss at all. It is said that crows have very good memories and facial recognition, so if you cross one or mistreat it, it won’t forget. From a shy, scared and pecky wreck, he now sits on my shoulder with out a care.

More photos HERE.


Goodwood Revival 2012

The Revival was upon us again….

So a few years ago I got to sit in a Jaguar XJ13 whilst talking to Norman Dewis – and that was a Revival meeting that is hardly ever to be topped… but this year came close. (See that 2009 write up HERE).

Over the years more and more people have decided to don period clothes and dress for the occasion that is one of, if not the world leading classic motor sports events. Last year we didn’t dress up, and that was the year that we felt more out of place for not dressing up, than if we had dressed up…. So this year we went in style…

Chris went in a military style, as did Alex, and I went as a 30’s racing driver.

As usual, the entire day was fantastic – that’s pretty much standard for the Revival, but this time we were invited as guests, so got a little closer to the action, sounds and smells of the racetrack.

It was astounding. Driver changes and pit stops within arms reach! Cars worth hundreds of thousands, even millions, of pounds, were racing as if it was 1960 all over again.

We’re not talking sedate demonstration laps – We are talking foot to the floor, spinning out on corners and sharing paintwork style racing…. Exactly what these cars were designed to do. When you see a Ferrari GTO rub up alongside an Aston Martin, or a £10 million Maserati spin off and slam into a tyre wall, then you know these drivers are in it to win, and not to show off the looks of these often unique historic cars.

What was the value of all the cars there over the weekend? I’d hate to think! Even a parade of classic Ferrari GTO’s must have topped 10’s of millions!!!

GTO’s are surely a pricey car…. but then I saw this line up…

The most expensive car total value on the track at one time must belong to the German ‘Silver Arrows‘…. The original German bad boys of motor racing.

The pre-WW2 silver Mercedes and Auto Union ballistic racing cars that dominated the sport… V16 engines, rear mounted, meticulously built with typical German detail and precision. Even now, these cars are a marvel of engineering. Just looking into the engine bay you can’t believe that these are 1930’s racers!

Not just cars though – The track was filled with vintage motorbikes, tearing around on the ragged edge of their limits… and beyond! Vincent, Norton, Rudge, BMW, Ariel, Honda… so many types – and the noise was all enveloping!

For a motorsport enthusiast or just for a fun day out to see all the events and sideshows, Goodwood Revival really is second to none. For me, one of the highlights was the pit stop that was that arms reach away….

I say ‘one‘ of the highlights, because as I walked around after the racing had ended, I saw a Tojeiro chassis Jaguar D-Type. Much like today, many racing cars used to be custom built to suit certain specifications.

Quite often a standard car was modified to suit a particular need, and Tojeiro used to work with Jaguars to produce some top racers of the day. Trojeiro’s work eventually lead to the monster Shelby Cobra, so he has a pretty substantial claim in the racing car hall of fame.

7 GNO : Year of Manufacture 1956 : Date of First Registration 19 04 1956

Anyway, several Trojeiro models were racing, and after the day of racing ended I went to have a closer look. One of the best looking (in my opinion) was the first Trojeiro, based on the D-Type Jaguar (which was a stunning car in its own rights, and one of my all time favourites). Luckily enough, 7GNO was at Goodwood on this Revival Sunday…


Well…. If you don’t ask….

There are MANY more photos and films HERE!!!


Here Come the Girls

The girls have settled in well now. Bunty has made sure that the others all know that she is still queen bitch, but the others really only pay her lip service… Sorry, beak service…

The new girls are all competent jumpers, and even with cropped wings they still manage to reach new heights – literally. We’ve had to put higher netting up around the fences after Knickers found herself in the neighbours garden…. after getting on top of the hen house, along the fence & over the trellis…

Three of them are like shadows whenever we go out into the garden. Hulahoop, Porsche and Sonic have to be at our feet as soon as they see us. Hulahoop goes One further and tries to be eye level – or at least as high and close to us as possible. They are all very lovely ladies, and we’re glad that these rescued hens have settled in so well.

V8 Leaves the party

It’s been a hard May for us, losing Crispy and Turbo… but then we rescued some new girls and the flock increased to 12…

for 24 hours.

V8, healthy yesterday, has been taken by egg peritonitis.

This, from

Egg Peritonitis is when the peritoneum (the lining of the abdomen) becomes inflamed due to an infection from bacteria. Peritonitis can occur after prolapse or when yolk goes into the abdominal cavity, instead of going down the oviduct and out in the normal way.

The yolk should go into the ‘ovarian pocket’ (the space surrounding the ovary). This often occurs after some viral diseases like Infective Bronchitis where the disease damages the reproductive tract. A ruptured intestine can also cause this problem.

Diagnosis and Treatment.

Sometimes a ‘Penguin Stance’ can indicate an egg bound hen or peritonitis but more often than not they don’t show this and may just be swollen around the abdomen and it is often hard to diagnose this problem whilst the bird is alive. The bird can have a blue comb, and diarrhoea but no book seems to believe these are conclusive and can also indicate many other problems. A post mortem on birds will show an inflamed abdomen and there will be a very putrid smell with yolk. Some birds have been treated with antibiotics and had the fluid drawn off but the chances of success are slim and you can often have a big bill at the end of this. It is usually better to have the bird put to sleep.


All a man made problem – It’s the trouble with how they’ve been bred into egg machines. If the already dodgy internals go wrong, the blockage is often quick & serious, as they have no recovery time before the next egg follows on. Okay, it’s a bit more complicated then that, but you get the picture.

Chris was saying the other day how all other birds lay seasonally (otherwise you’d forever see ducklings at a pond etc). Chickens have been manipulated to lay daily. That’s like running a car engine on the red-line…. all of the time.

Some battery farms artificially control the light so instead of a 24hr day, the hens have an 18hr day (e.g).

This year has been pretty crap for the girls. You get used to it because, well, it’s how they are. They are so characterful & individual though, it’s obvious when one goes.

Best we can do is give them a happy retirement!

Any day spent in freedom, is a better day for these girls.

Exit Crispy, Stage Left

Crispy the Hen went today. Dammit…

She was healthy looking, but prone to quiet spells. She had stopped laying a while back – She was the oldest of the girls.

She was a bit quieter today, and retaining fluid (Chris put this down to egg peritonitis – very basically: not laying, but still producing the protein).

Chris took her to the vets to get her checked out & fluids drained.

X-Ray showed that our plump bird had a large mass in her.

As she was drained she passed away.

The vet offered to find out what it was, and Chris said that it would be fine – if she could watch.

The vet (Fred McKenzie) from Farnborough’s Pets at Home – Companion Care was very interested to find out, as they don’t often deal with chickens. Chris watched on, equally interested.

Sure Crispy was a pet – but Crispy the clucking, squawking hen had ceased to be a pet the moment she passed away, now Crispy the pet was a memory, and the vet could learn from her to potentially help others.

The vet was excellent. After dissecting her, he found that the large amount of protein due the peritonitis meant that a certain cellular disease had a wonderful playground. Excuse my language, but ‘fuck you, cancer‘.

He even phoned later, after Chris had returned home, to say he had looked further in to it. He talked with Chris and confirmed the previous discussed diagnosis, and the dissection, was confirmed by his post-op research.

Crispy – Ruler of the Garden

Once more, as with the others, she was happy right up until the end.

No pain, no suffering.


Re-blogged from my God & Son website…
If you find offence in religious humour or commentary, then back away now. I’m not forcing you to look, so don’t go going all preachy on me. Respect. Peace Out.

God and Son

School is for learning proven facts. Core studies, maths, language, geography, health & fitness, logic & understanding…. and doubly so during the early years at infant school.

So it makes me angry that religion… a faith based subject, is taught to kids who do not understand the principal of faith.

Kids who play games of pretend, who think the Easter Bunny is real and get upset when a cartoon character gets an ouchie, are being taught that the figures in religion are real….

Real?!?! Well, that’s a matter of OPINION, and not FACT. Don’t get the two mixed up.

Maths is fact, science is fact, geography is fact…. God is a matter of opinion…. FACT.

My lad (not yet 6) is being taught religion, not ABOUT religion. Two very different things. I want him to know about religion, but I don’t want him (at this…

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Twitter Collapse

It’s that time of year when SMS, email, phone networks and so called social networks all grind to a constipated halt, just letting out dribs and drabs of messages  in flatulent bursts….

With that in mind, I hope that this WordPress blog entry gets out to you all!

From all in the Black household, be that human, hen, cat or horse….

….. We wish you all a…



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