Once more, I apologise to website watchers that I’m so late in putting on an update. I’m supposed to be semi retired but somehow the ‘retired’ word doesn’t seem to come into play as I never have time to complete anything on time, including this!

Once more, Mary has had a great year with a brilliant end, the highlight being Levi winning 13 Championship Challenge Certificates, which beats the all-time record hence another year where he has proved to be the most successful dog in British Obedience. In addition to this, he has won 26 Open ’ C’ classes this year and … it’s also worth mentioning that Mary’s Crufts HTM routine one million hits on YouTube and is the most popular official Crufts 2014 video. Our new girl Lyric has won 6 Novices so is well placed to start in ‘A’ soon. Mary intended to retire Foxy at Crufts this year but didn’t tell anyone, as is her style, yet she was still so lively that she let it run on awhile and she’s done some smashing rounds this year, being in the places and really enjoyed her wind-down year. But Mary has now decided that the time has come and she is officially retired. One of the sadder moments was when we lost little Chico; well, it was a bit more than sad really as Mary was distraught and it really upset me. Even little Vinnie couldn’t understand where he’d gone. The vets told us that without doubt it was a heart attack and they couldn’t find anything else wrong with him but we decided not to go ahead with a full post mortem as it was just a very sad time.

Well, the competitions may have finished for the year but the work does not. Mary has already started to put together her 2015 Crufts Main Ring HTM routine and she has invited Richard to join her again – and it’s going to be something with a twist again which, of course, it has to have for the Main Ring! And after the 2014 routine, they really have something to beat and somehow I think this may just do it! I of course have to support her in her search for suitable clothing and props but I prefer not to see the routine in its early stages rather waiting until its nearer the finished product, looks like we have to stop calling it a routine and call it a production, you will understand when you see it !!!

The day after Discover Dogs, I had the onerous duty of flying out of the country with my mate destination Sri Lanka for a guided tour of just over two weeks. I go as a companion and I have to say that it’s a really hard life! Whilst I was away, Mary was at the Obedience Class Championships giving a helping hand there and the weekend of my return at the end of November she went down to a super little place at Great Rollright, near Chipping Norton for a weekend Obedience Seminar.

In early November we went to Earls Court for the final Discover Dogs which was a very sad time really because by the time you read this, Earls Court will have closed down and finished for good – another icon gone making room for houses. It was a really great show this year, packed with spectators in the main ring and everyone having a good time including the people running the event. Mary did some demonstrations and of course she and Richard performed their Crufts routine which by then had gone over one million hits on YouTube and let’s hope the show is supported as well when it moves to Excel on 17th/18th October in 2015.

The final show of the year was Tunbridge Wells where Mary and Levi did it again, winning another ticket under judge Janet Oliver and in doing so broke the record with 13 ticket wins in one year plus another Open ‘C’ win under judge Brian McGovern giving Levi 26 Open ‘C’ wins in one year – what an achievement!

At the penultimate show of the year, East Grinstead, judge Ann Northfield awarded the Championship Challenge Certificate to Mary and Levi, the twelfth of the year and she was absolutely ecstatic! And just to compound her joy, she also won her 25th Open ‘C’ and Lyric won Novice – so what another great show for Mary!

The previous weekend, we were at Cheshire which is always a good show on really good ground and we were blessed with good weather as well. This was the first show for a long time that we went in Mary’s van and not the motorhome – it did actually make me realise why I like using the motorhome! The icing on the cake, of course, was the fact that Mary won the Dog ticket – yes, that was number eleven. I watched her round and it was pretty stunning.

Prior to that Mary did a Cabaret Night at the Coventry Deaf Club. Yes, it may seem a little strange but we did have a sound system and there were lots of people who were not deaf, but we had two signers who worked in relay, standing not too far from Mary so that the non-hearing audience would be able to see the signing and catch what was going on at the same time. It was a lovely evening, Mary was on form and really very comical and the dogs were brilliant. Even though living with the boisterous Lyric can be difficult at times, I have to say that she performed amazingly and showed off all the little things that Mary has been teaching her at home. It was good to see two of our long distance friends there; Eryl from Llandudno who brought along her sister, fresh from singing appointments in Spain and didn’t know what she was coming to until she left home, being a non-dog person but she had a really good night, it must run in the family as Eryl’s proper job is a cabaret singer and having heard her, she’s pretty stunning. We also re-met our adopted daughter from Colwyn Bay, Melinda, who was brought down by her mother as a birthday treat.

Prior to that was the Elm Park Thurrock weekend, which is another regular event for us. It was a wonderful day for us when we set up the motorhome, what they call a “bloody good soaking” on Saturday then finished with a nice day on Sunday for packing up. This is always a pleasant show with plenty of room to exercise the dogs.

As usual, in September Mary went for the Birmingham holiday week with a Championship show at either end and an awful lot of people camping through the week. She really looks forward to this and it’s becoming more and more popular as a break. I think everyone knows where they want to park, usually being the same as the previous year, and once again Mary succeeded. I set the camper up with a full awning for the week and just prayed that the precautions I had put in place worked so that she would have enough electric in the batteries to last all week which, as you may understand with Mary, would need to include enough for the microwave, hairdryer, two i-pads, wi fi – and that’s without starting on the television, lights and electric cigarettes! It really is a great venue and a very social occasion with practice rings set up daily, a restaurant for breakfast each morning and, of course, later a short walk into West Bromwich town centre. Results-wise, it wasn’t bad either with Ticket & Open wins including another win for Lyric in Novice.

Mary normally stays for the whole of the last weekend but this year, the GSD Show was on the Sunday, so I went up on Saturday to pack the whole van then on Saturday evening we pulled out for the drive down to Chepstow arriving in the dark with a trailer on the back. Fortunately, with Cathy Russell, we found a decent place to park not far from the rings and in the dark with the aid of one of the show management and it was a nice, picturesque venue in the grounds on a castle. A bit hard to find as the postcode did not the venue but a phone call to a nice lady at the castle produced a satnav postcode at the property next door which worked fine.

Perhaps we will have to re-think dashing from one venue to another next year and it’s certainly a younger person ‘s game in that respect and I don’t know whether the bones are as dedicated as the spirit!

In the first part of September, Mary had Thames and Coventry shows which again she loves to go to and they’re both good shows.

The first week in September, Mary took her training week at Rex and Maggie’s at Anglesey and I have to say we had the best weather we’ve ever experienced. I have never seen Maggie having to throw open the big main barn doors to let in some cool air into the barn – it was just superb. We camp in an absolutely ideal spot opposite the barn, there’s a huge amount of area to walk the dogs straight out of the camper and the venue is not far from beautiful beaches. Yes, it’s really like a little bit of heaven if the weather is decent. This year, because we were not dashing up from the City of Birmingham Show so had more time, this gave me the opportunity to get involved with the catering myself. We had a fabulous barbecue as a welcome meal on the first night, as usual we went out to a hotel for one evening for another superb meal and the other night we had a little bit of doggie dancing when I made soup, maybe not as good as my usual soup but another lesson learned for next year. Anyway, it was a really great week, everyone enjoyed it and it’s probably already fully booked for next year.

I did say that we went to Anglesey a day early. Well, it was only just about a day early as on the Saturday prior to going to Wales Mary went to Lichfield Championship Show and spent the day there, a show she always likes to support Good this year with another ticket win!! .

As soon as the show finished, she drove home, I was waiting and within 30 minutes we were on the way to Anglesey. What a great run and I think we should always travel like that, well late evening but only if there are no motorway works/closures.

The weekend prior to this in August was the Wakefield weekend and Mary decided that we would go to Wakefield one day then Worcester the next. Wakefield is another show that we like as they always try hard and it’s a superb venue. It’s just a shame really that we have to leave because we’d made the conscious decision to support Worcester as well. Therefore on the Sunday night we left for Worcester which is quite a drive; in fact, we were the last unit to pull into Worcester in the dark on that Sunday night and were personally greeted by some very famous people who were waiting to go to bed – yes, Brian and Sandy were there to meet us as we drove through the gate and we’re indebted to them for finding us a decent place to park. In fact, I think we were with the show officials. This is another club which has found a great venue and also offers extended stay and it was really such a shame that it rained so heavily but Mary was rewarded with a ticket win under Roy Page, The committee tried really hard to make this show special and it poured all day! Such a shame so we’ll keep our fingers crossed for something better next year.

Prior to Wakefield, we had a few days of holiday and a lot of hard work as it was the Kennel Club International Agility Festival. I’m on the working party and I’m also catering manager and Mary is one of the waitresses. The show takes place over four days and with 16 competition rings and over 700 caravans/campers on site then it’s very busy. It is called “international” and there were over 200 overseas competitors at the show so it really is a phenomenal , world class event. Catering managers may not seem important but we served over a thousand meals for officals and helpers .

On the Monday morning after this show we drove straight down to Herstmonceux , no it’s not overseas, it’s just outside Eastbourne. We parked the camper at Pete and Sue Bishop’s place (Croft Cattery) . Well it was a garden centre as well but the cattery is so busy that this part is closing down and they’re turning it all over to a cattery. A little bizarre I suppose for dog people who compete at Obedience Shows but certainly catteries are a much quieter life so I don’t blame them. Just behind the cattery they have a certified location with parking for five caravans in a little orchard and, of course, as they’re dog people then dogs are welcome and you can put up a garden. We would really recommend this if you want a few days away. It’s about 15 minutes to the beach and a lovely stretch of coast, within striking distance of both Eastbourne and Brighton. I can tell you that the best fish and chips I have ever eaten were in Bexhill-on-Sea which again is just down the road.

From there, on the Friday we drove up to Ditton Show – a great venue, great place to camp, good food and a bar in the clubhouse, great working surface and good company, what more could you ask for, that is l except for wins, Levi had Open C wins both days and a Ticket win under Sharron Webley

The first week in August was Hatchford Brook. This year, we decided that we would do the Championship day at Hatchford Brook then travel down to Halstead the next day for the Championship class there, It’s a super venue,But , it was hard work doing that, I have to say, and I think maybe if we were a lot younger then it may have been okay but suffice to say that I think we’ll be staying in one place next year. Hatchford Brook, as usual, is a decent venue with a bar on site and good company.

Halstead the next day was just a superb venue being a golf club with perfect grounds. The camping area was great, the rings were lovely and the club had gone to a lot of effort for the show. There is an amusing tale though as, just after lunch, a brand new range rover turned up, drove into the ring area and parked not far from one of the rings watching the dogs work. It was an older guy driving and someone did say to him “would you mind moving back” to which he responded “I can do what I like – I own this place!” So young Mary Ray goes up to him and says through his window “Do you own this place?” to which he replies “Yes.” So Mary says “can I marry you?” to which he replies, “no, but you can be my mistress BUT mistresses have no rights !!” So she declined the offer! I don’t know what she would have done if he’d said yes !!

On the last weekend in July we were at Redcar and what a great show that was – I loved it! I bought myself a motor scooter so took it with me in the trailer so that I was able to dodge off, the venue is just off the seafront and a very short walk to get to the beach from the rugger club where the show is held. We were lucky with the weather so it was a great, great show and a lovely place to camp. Hence we may be going there a little earlier next year, if we can. I have to say that it’s cheap to eat out there as well, we had a fabulous carvery meal with drinks at a seafront hotel in Redcar for probably the cheapest carvery I’ve ever had.

Around this time, Mary also did her latest QVC advert for Pet Munchies. Suzanne who owns it is a lovely lady and of course Mary wouldn’t do anything for any company unless she liked the product, which is why we feed Arden Grange food. Anyway, she was promoting some of the newer products, the latest ones being salmon skin based and they really are fabulous as the dogs absolutely adore them! If you want something that’s a real treat for the dogs then that’s what you need to get.

As usual, we did the Eastleigh/ Winchester weekend. This is a nice weekend in a lovely part of the world with two good showgrounds and a very pleasant atmosphere. It’s also our annual visit to Peter and Carol Lewis – Peter has put in so much work for working dogs at the Kennel Club and, as we all are, he’s getting older now and of course very much retired. It was great to see them and we had a lovely meal with them on the Saturday evening. I had too much to drink although Mary and Pauline were sober! Also the neighbours must think it strange to see this big, high camper reversing into their garden but of course it’s not far to walk home!

Prior to this were Chadkirk and Cippenham shows so again we did a Saturday evening changeover from one venue to another.

At the end of June it was Mary’s Daventry Camp again and what a great time everyone had as it really was a great week. We had good weather, Kath Dark’s farm is a lovely place to park, it’s a super outdoor facility, everyone joined in and the atmosphere between all the participants was really really good. As usual, I don’t think I’ll need to advertise it for 2015 as I already have a waiting list.Apart from all the attention from Mary and Jan, it’s a good holiday week as well. We had a welcome meal on the Sunday evening provided by a professional caterer in an on-site unit, an evening in the local pub for a meal, I held an outdoor barbecue on the Wednesday (fabulous, I must add!) and we had a meal on the Thursday evening as well.

I got a slightly bigger trailer and put the great photo that Chris Parkin took on the side, looks brilliant Chris, if anyone want a small lightweight box trailer e-mail me for details as it will be going on ebay shortly

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