Where ancestors rest (part 2)

You may know that the tall person is English. His ancestors were landowners in the County of Somerset in England.

On his last visit to England, the tall person went to see his brother who lives in their ancestral village of Stogursey in Somerset.

The village is very old and contains the remains of a moated 11th century castle built after the Norman Conquest.

The tall person and his brother went to the village church of St. Andrew where several of their ancestors from the seventeenth century are buried.

The church is a legacy of a Benedictine Priory that was established by a Norman lord, William de Falaise, who had been given the village by William the Conqueror as a reward for faithful service.

Remains of the Priory walls and a beautifully restored Dove Cot still remain.

The church was already in existence when the monks took over the Priory. The herring-bone in the tower masonry uncovered during restoration work in 1954, together with the pier capitals in the church, date the building to the last decade of the 11th century.

The church tower, which is capped by a spire, survives from the late 11th century and holds six bells, the oldest of which dates from 1611.

The bells are still rung regularly. The tenor bell weighs an impressive 1.25 imperial tons!

The beautifully carved pew ends date from 1525. The tombstone is one of the tall person’s ancestors.

It is set in the stone floor in front of the sanctuary inside the church, a place reserved for important members of the community. The tall person’s ancestors owned much land in the parish of Stogursey and also in surrounding parishes.









The church has a graveyard that has several very old lichen covered tombstones.

This one probably pre-dates the tree that has grown alongside it and displaced it.

Fuel for tall people

You may know by now that the tall person has a routine in the morning. It begins with me waking him up with several short, sharp, alarm barks. I decided early on that alarm clocks are very annoying so I made our one redundant and took over its job. Ruthless? Yes, but I believe in waking up the tall person in a ‘natural’ way, to the sounds of nature (me), which is much more holistic and environmentally friendly than a buzzing alarm clock. The tall person partially agreed but did ask if I could imitate the soft gentle lapping of waves on a desert island seashore. I tried to but it still sounded like barking.

Anyway, after the tall person opens the back door and lets me out he goes to the kitchen to make a cup of strong black coffee. By the time I return, he is beginning to look more like the tall person and less like a comatose person.

The tall person told me that he has performed his coffee ritual every morning for as long as he can remember. He said that coffee is one of the greatest discoveries of all time, right up there with electricity (to heat water for coffee) and fire (to heat coffee when there is no electricity).

He went to the market yesterday to buy more coffee. He never likes to leave it until his coffee supply is “dangerously low”. By this he means he has about a week’s worth left.

There are several coffee sellers in the big indoor market and the tall person found a new one. You can see from the picture that the man who sells coffee has colorful buckets for the coffee beans and a very fancy grinder.

The tall person likes Arabica beans from Ethiopia. He told me that one of his treasured memories is participating in a coffee ceremony in a remote village in the highlands of Ethiopia in Africa. He said he sometimes thinks of that when he sips his morning coffee.

He bought his coffee and then walked with De to one of the big outdoor markets to buy vegetables. It was very cold yesterday and as it had been snowing recently the market was very muddy.

De does not allow the tall person to talk in the markets because she thinks that the market people will charge more because he is a foreigner so he carries the bags and takes photographs and waits patiently.

The tall person told me that it was very cold in the market and he had forgotten his gloves and as he was holding the bags he could not put his hands in his pockets to warm them.

Poor cold tall person. Anyway, he said that suddenly he spotted a lady who sells coffee to go. She had an impressive mobile coffee shop where she made steaming hot Turkish coffee.

Wow! That would warm the tall person up! Unfortunately, he couldn’t put his bags down because the ground was too muddy and De was nowhere to be seen.

Poor cold tall person. You should have found the lady who sells plastic bags and lemons and bought some bags to put on the ground so your bags would not get muddy and you could then have drunk a steaming hot cup of Turkish coffee.

Hmm, I need to give you some lessons on lateral thinking tall person!

Me and my shadow

This is my shadow. I don’t mean my actual shadow but the shadow of the person who is always with me. He is the last person I see before I go to sleep and usually the first person I see in the morning. He is the person who gets up in the night if I hear a noise and start barking. He is the person who feeds me and makes sure I have fresh water – I drink a lot so he is kept quite busy! He is the person who I learn from. He is the person who helps me understand the world. He is the person I go to if I feel lonely. He is the person who brushes me. He is the person who watches the sunrise and sunset with me. He is the person who walks with me (De and the little person also do this). He is the person who solves problems. He is also the person who follows me around with a camera!

This is my tall person, my shadow.

Don’t worry, he hasn’t suddenly put on weight. He was wearing a leather jacket today because it was quite cold out, even though the sun was shining.

Bassa Saves Christmas

It will be October at the weekend and I am already thinking about Christmas. I love Christmas. I asked the tall person how many days we have to wait and he said another 85. Hmm, that sounds like a very long time. He could see that I was disappointed and told me that he had just finished writing a Christmas story and asked if I would like him to read it to me. Would I? Of course I would!

I should mention that the tall person writes stories for children about the adventures that me and my friends have.

We sat down in the toy room and the tall person read this story to me. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Bassa Saves Christmas

Once upon a time in a beautiful country called Sakartvelo (the Republic of Georgia) there lived a Caucasian Shepherd dog called Bassa.

Bassa lived in the capital, Tbilisi, with a little person called Gigi, a tall person called the tall person and the little person’s mummy who was called De.

Bassa loved to play with Gigi and his best friends – a large iguana called Biggy, a rabbit called Rabbit and a teddy bear called Mike Bear.

Bassa, Gigi, Biggy, Rabbit and Mike Bear were very happy because they had lots of adventures and lots of fun.

This is the story of their best adventure.

It was the evening of Christmas Eve and snow was falling. Bassa was at Gigi’s grandmother’s house playing with Gigi, Biggy, Mike Bear and Rabbit.

They had hung their stockings on the fireplace and were playing a game to try and guess what gifts they would receive from Santa Claus. Gigi loved toy cars and knew what gift he would like.

“I have been a very good boy” he said proudly, “and I hope Santa Claus will bring me a toy sports car.”

Bassa, Mike Bear, Biggy and Rabbit all agreed that a toy sports car would be a very good gift.

“I have been a very good dog,” said Bassa, “I would like a new collar.”

They all agreed that a new collar would look great on Bassa.

“I have been a very good teddy bear,” said Mike Bear, “I would like Santa Claus to bring me an iPod so that I can listen to my favourite music.”

Bassa, Gigi, Biggy and Rabbit all agreed that an iPod would be a fantastic gift.

“I have been a very good iguana,’ said Biggy, “I would like Santa to bring me a very warm coat so that I can play with you all in the snow without getting too cold.”

They all agreed that a warm coat would be an excellent and very practical gift for Biggy.

“I have been a very good rabbit,” said Rabbit, “and I would like Santa Claus to bring me a lovely carrot.”

Bassa, Gigi, Mike Bear and Biggy laughed.

“Is that all you want?” asked Bassa.

“Yes,” replied Rabbit, “but it must be a very big carrot that would last me until next Christmas.”

Bassa, Gigi, Biggy and Mike Bear laughed and agreed that it would be a very practical gift.

“Let’s play another game” suggested Bassa.

She jumped down from the bed and turned off the light. It was now very dark in grandmother’s bedroom.

“Let’s play ghosts!” she said and made scary ghost noises.

Rabbit did not like scary games and was about to protest and suggest another game when the room suddenly lit up with a strange red glow.

Rabbit yelled with surprise and dived beneath the bed covers to hide. Gigi, Mike Bear and Biggy looked at each other. The strange light made their faces red and very scary.

“Is this your ghost game?” Mike Bear asked Bassa.

Bassa shook her head.

“Look!” cried Biggy, “The light is coming from the window.”

They all turned to see where the strange red light was coming from.

In the centre of the window they saw a glowing red nose and behind it were two brown eyes and two large antlers.

Bassa, Gigi, Mike Bear and Biggy all looked at the red nose and then at each other.

“What is it?” asked Gigi.

Bassa took a deep breath and puffed out her chest so that she would appear bigger and slowly approached the window.

“Don’t be afraid,” said a deep voice from the other side of the window, “I am looking for Bassa the Caucasian Shepherd Dog.”

When she heard her name Bassa felt her heart beat faster but she knew she had to be brave so she went to the window to have a closer look. It was difficult to see anything because the red light was so bright.

“Please open the window” said the deep voice.

Bassa looked at Gigi, who nodded that she should do as the voice asked.

Bassa nudged open the window with her nose and stepped to one side just as a large head with antlers pushed through the open space into the bedroom.

The large head shook, shaking snow from its antlers, “Thank you kind dog. I am Rudolf the Red Nose Reindeer and I am looking for Bassa.”

The red light from Rudolf’s nose filled the room.

“What is happening?” cried Rabbit from beneath the bed covers.

“Don’t be afraid Rabbit” said Bassa, “One of Santa’s reindeer has come to see us.”

Rabbit cautiously stuck his head out of the covers and when he saw that Bassa, Biggy, Mike Bear and Gigi were not afraid he jumped down from the bed and joined his friends.

“Have you brought my carrot?” Rabbit asked Rudolf.

Rudolf frowned and shook his head, “No one will get Christmas gifts unless I can find Bassa. Santa Claus needs her help. Can you tell me where I can find her?”

Rabbit, Gigi, Mike Bear and Biggy all looked at Bassa.

Bassa was a little afraid but remembered that the tall person had told her that she must always be brave and always help people.

She took a deep breath and stepped forward, “I am Bassa. Tell me what has happened and what I must do to help Santa.”

Rudolf breathed a sigh of relief, filling the room with his steamy breath, “Thank goodness I’ve found you. Santa Claus was delivering gifts to the children in Tbilisi when he got stuck in a chimney. Unless we can rescue him Santa Claus will not be able to deliver any gifts to the children of Georgia.”

Bassa, Biggy, Gigi, Mike Bear and Rabbit were horrified.

“No gifts?” gasped Rabbit, “That means no carrot!”

Rudolf nodded.

“What can I do?” asked Bassa, determined to help.

Rudolf smiled, “I knew you and your brave friends would help Santa. I will take you to where Santa is stuck.”

Rudolf withdrew his head from the window and vanished.

Bassa put her paws on the window sill and looked outside.

“What can you see?” asked Gigi excitedly.

“Come and look!” cried Bassa.

Biggy, Gigi, Mike Bear and Rabbit rushed to the window and rubbed their eyes to check that they were not dreaming. Floating in the air outside the window was Santa’s sleigh and his reindeer.

The sleigh was piled high with gifts of all shapes and sizes, wrapped in shiny, colorful paper.

“Is this real?” asked Rabbit.

Rudolf laughed, “Of course. Don’t you believe in Santa Claus?”

“Yes! Yes we do,” barked Bassa excitedly, “and we are going to save him!”

She ran back into the room, “Hurry up Biggy, Gigi, Mike Bear and Rabbit, put on your coats.”

Gigi, Mike Bear, Biggy and Rabbit put on their warmest coats and ran back to the window.

“Rabbit and Mike Bear climb into Gigi’s coat pockets” said Bassa. “Biggy, jump on my back and hold onto my fur.”

Rabbit climbed into one of Gigi’s pockets and Mike Bear climbed into the other. Biggy jumped onto Bassa’s back and clung on tight.

Snow was falling thickly.

“Be careful” warned Rudolf.

Gigi stepped through the window and onto the waiting sleigh. Bassa then jumped down and sat at the front where Santa would usually sit. She was very excited and her heart was beating fast.

“Well done,” said Rudolf, “Hold on tight!”

Bassa put her paws on the rail at the front of the sleigh and watched in amazement as the reindeer puffed and panted and began to slowly pull the sleigh into the air.

Gigi looked down and watched his grandmother’s house get smaller and smaller as the reindeer pulled the sleigh high into the evening sky.

Soon, all of the snow covered houses and roads of Tbilisi were far below them. Mike Bear and Rabbit looked out from Gigi’s pockets.

“This is amazing” said Mike Bear.

“This is scary” said Rabbit, trembling.

Biggy held on tight to the back of Bassa’s thick fur. He did not like the cold and licked the snowflakes from his face with his long tongue.

The way ahead was lit up by the light from Rudolf’s red nose, which made the falling snowflakes look pink instead of white.

Below, Bassa could see house lights twinkling in the darkness and the Mtkvari River winding its way through Tbilisi.

Very soon, she could see the snow covered dome of the Presidential Palace and the beautiful Sameba church.

Rudolf and the other reindeer began to slow down as they approached the Palace. It was lit by bright lights and looked very beautiful.

“Is Santa at the Palace?” asked Bassa.

“Yes, he is stuck in the chimney”, replied Rudolf.

“Look!” she cried to his friends, “Santa was delivering gifts to the President’s children when he became stuck.”

“I hope my carrot will not be too large for Santa to bring down our chimney” said rabbit, secretly hoping that it would be.

Rudolf and the other reindeer swooped down and stopped by the chimney at the back of the Palace’s big glass dome.

Bassa looked down. The sleigh was hovering several meters above the chimney.

Mike Bear climbed out of Gigi’s coat pocket to look.

It was very dark and the only sound came from the reindeer panting and puffing in the cold air.

“Santa is stuck inside the chimney” said Rudolf a little breathlessly, “There is some rope under the seat. You will need it to climb down to the chimney.”

Bassa found the rope and a torch and gave them to Gigi who tied one end of the rope to the rail at the front of the sleigh.

“I have a plan,” said Bassa, “Tie the other end of the rope around my tummy and you, Biggy and Rabbit will lower me into the chimney and when I find Santa Claus I will hold onto him and you will pull us both out.”

“Ok.” said Gigi smiling bravely, though he worried that he and his friends would be strong enough.

Biggy jumped down from Bassa’s back and Rabbit emerged from Gigi’s pocket.

Gigi tied the rope around Bassa’s tummy and he and Mike Bear, Rabbit and Biggy held on tight.

Bassa leaned over the side of the sleigh and her friends slowly lowered her down.

Bassa was a little afraid. She was far above the ground and would be hurt if she fell.

Gigi, Mike Bear, Biggy and Rabbit slowly lowered Bassa until her paws touched the chimney and she could stand.

She held on tight and looked inside. It was very dark and even when she turned on the torch she could not see Santa Claus.

“Hello!” she barked down the chimney, “My name is Bassa and I am here to help get you out.”

From far below Bassa could hear a voice but could not hear the words.

Bassa looked up at the sleigh. Gigi, Mike Bear, Biggy and Rabbit were holding tight to the rope and looking down at her.

“I can hear Santa,” she called to her friends, “I’m going to climb inside the chimney. When I shout I want you to pull the rope up and pull us from the chimney.”

Holding the torch in her mouth, Bassa crawled head first into the dark chimney and began to guide herself down. The inside of the chimney was wet with snow and very dark and she could only find her way by feeling with her paws.

She went further and further down the chimney and was beginning to get worried when all of a sudden she saw something in the torchlight. It was Santa’s red hat.

“Is that you Santa?” she asked.

“Ho, ho, ho. Of course it is me” laughed Santa. “Well done Bassa.”

Bassa smiled in the darkness.

“How will you get me out?” asked Santa.

“I am going to put my paws under your arms,” replied Bassa, “and my friends will pull us both up.”

Bassa held onto Santa and shouted up to her friends to pull as hard as they could. Almost immediately she could feel the rope tighten but it did not lift them up.

“Pull harder” she shouted. She imagined poor Gigi, Mike Bear, Biggy and Rabbit sweating and straining as they pulled on the rope.

Suddenly, she felt herself move up.

Little by little they rose up the chimney as her friends pulled hard on the rope.

Her front legs felt like they were stretching. Santa was very heavy but she held on as tight as she could and up and up they went.

Just when she thought she could no longer hold onto Santa she felt her legs and body emerge out of the chimney and then Santa’s body and finally his head and then with a final heave out popped Santa and his big red sack of gifts like a cork from a bottle.

Gigi, Mike Bear, Biggy and Rabbit kept pulling until Bassa and Santa were gently swinging in the air and completely free of the chimney. With one final huge effort they pulled Bassa and Santa into the sleigh.

Rudolf and the other reindeer cheered as Bassa, Santa, Gigi, Mike Bear, Biggy and Rabbit collapsed in an exhausted heap on the floor of the sleigh.

Bassa was the first to recover and when she had untied the rope from her waist she helped Santa and her friends onto the seat.

Santa and Bassa were both covered in soot from the chimney and Santa looked very funny with a sooty beard.

Santa laughed at Bassa’s dirty face.

“De and the tall person will be angry with me for making you dirty” he said.

Bassa shook her head, “No, I think they will be happy that I helped you.”

Santa Clause smiled and gave Bassa a big hug. “You are the bravest dog in the whole of Georgia.”

He then shook Gigi’s hand and Mike Bear’s paw and Biggy’s little clawed hand and Rabbit’s little paw.

“You have saved Christmas” he told them. He looked at his watch and smiled, “I still have time to deliver gifts to all the children in Georgia.”

Bassa and her friends felt very proud and very happy.

Santa looked down at the chimney of the President’s palace, “I think the President needs a wider chimney in his palace or I need to lose some weight” he joked.

Bassa barked happily and wagged her tail and her friends laughed.

“Let’s get you back to grandmother’s house” said Santa, “Hold tight!”

Rudolf and the other reindeer rose into the air and pulled the sleigh through the dark starry sky back to grandmother’s house.

When they arrived, Mike Bear and Rabbit got back into Gigi’s pockets and Biggy hung on to Bassa’s back and Gigi and Bassa stepped carefully from the sleigh through the window and into grandmother’s bedroom.

Santa looked at his Christmas list and picked out several gifts from his big red sack and passed them to Bassa.

“Merry Christmas Bassa, Gigi, Mike Bear, Biggy and Rabbit. Thank you for rescuing me and saving Christmas.”

He gave them one last wave and then his reindeer pulled the sleigh into the sky and very soon he was out of sight.

“What an amazing adventure” smiled Gigi as he closed the bedroom window.

“Yes” agreed his friends. “Woof” said Bassa.

They all sat on the bed and Gigi gave them their gifts from Santa.

Bassa opened her gift. It was a new collar with little silver stars and the words, ‘Bassa the Hero Dog’ written on it!

Gigi opened his gift. It was a toy sports car!!

Mike Bear opened his gift. It was an iPod!!!

Biggy opened his gift. It was a very lovely warm coat!!!!

Rabbit opened his gift and was so happy to see it was the biggest carrot in the world!!!!!

Bassa and her friends were so happy. They were also very tired and quickly fell asleep.

But their adventure was not over yet!

In the morning when Bassa, Gigi, Mike Bear, Biggy and Rabbit were back home in their house having a Christmas morning breakfast with De and the tall person, they heard a knock on the door. De opened it and was surprised to see Mikheil Saakasvhili, the President of Georgia.

“Good morning Bassa, Gigi, Biggy, Mike Bear and Rabbit” said the President. “Santa Claus came to see me this morning and he told me that you had rescued him and saved Christmas.”

He reached into his pocket and took out five medals and gave one each to Bassa, Gigi, Mike Bear, Biggy and Rabbit.

“This medal is the National Hero Award and is given to citizens who have done a great service to their country. On behalf of Georgia and all of Georgia’s children I award you these medals for saving Christmas.”

Bassa and her friends were so surprised and so happy.

“Thank you Mr. President,” barked Bassa, “We are proud to have helped Santa and all the boys and girls in Georgia.”

Bassa, Gigi, Biggy, Mike Bear and Rabbit looked at their shiny medals and agreed that rescuing Santa and saving Christmas and getting a medal was the best adventure EVER (until the next time!).

The End

Copyright © 2011 Michael Day

Note: Temporary illustrations

“Bottom paper”

I’ve just been to the shops with the tall person. On the way back we had an English language lesson. We do this regularly and today we discussed the nuances of the English language. It was prompted by the tall person hearing the little person say that there was “no bottom paper in the bathroom”. The tall person had smiled at this literal translation and told him that the correct term is “toilet paper”. The little person thought about this for a while and then asked why people use words that don’t really describe things properly. He used the example of ’tissues’ and said that “nose paper” would be a much better description.  The tall person had to agree that “nose paper” would be more accurate but pointed out that some words had been created to ‘soften’ things, especially those things associated with people ‘maintaining’ their bodies!

Hmm, interesting but I’m still not clear why wood is such a popular body maintenance product!

There are some things we can choose to share but…….

The tall person told me that the ancient Egyptians greeted the sun each morning with a ritual, part of which included the words, ‘May your rays illuminate the earth’. That sounds nice. I have my own ritual each morning. I usually wake before dawn and alert my pre-dawn companion (the tall person) that it is time to get up and let me outside so that I can ‘water the earth’. I then go to the toy room balcony and watch the sunrise. I usually perform this part of the ritual alone because the tall person has his own dawn ritual that involves a cup of strong black coffee.

Today was a little different. I waited on the balcony and watched as the sky got lighter but I couldn’t see the sunrise because the sky was cloudy.

The tall person assured me that the sun did rise but we couldn’t see it because of the clouds. He told me that the sun is always shining but sometimes we can’t see it because of the clouds. Ok, I have seen a cloud cover the sun during the day and noticed it was still there when the cloud drifted away but where does the sun go at night? The tall person smiled and told me that at night the Earth has its back to the sun. He explained that all the people and plants and animals in our world have to share the sun’s light and warmth so the Earth turns slowly and when it is dawn for us it is sunset for people and plants and animals on the other side of the world.

Ah, I think I understand. There are some things that we can choose to share but darkness and light is shared by everyone. ‘Yes’ he replied, ‘if you understand this you will accept that the sun cannot always shine for you and you have to share the darkness but you will also know that darkness will turn to light’.

Hmm, I think there was a deeper message here but it’s time for a nap!

He is like a mother attuned to the sound of her crying child

I woke up early today, which meant that the tall person also woke early. I know that because I woke him. We have an arrangement. Whoever hears me bark in the morning gets up to let me outside. It is usually the tall person who hears me. Perhaps he has extremely good hearing or is a light sleeper or he is like a mother who is attuned to the sound of her crying child. I like to think it is the latter explanation because it is such a lovely one. Or, it could be that De and the little person are a little deaf or are deep sleepers or just pretend to be!

Anyway, it’s nice to spend some quality time with the tall person at the crack of dawn. I say quality time but that is perhaps exaggerating it just a little bit. When the tall person gets up his eyes are half closed and he staggers to the back door to let me out. I stay outside for a while and by the time I come back in he has drunk a cup of strong coffee and is wide awake. You are probably thinking that we are now ready to stand side by side and face the challenges of a new day. Yes and no. Yes because the tall person now has caffeine coursing through his veins like a volcanic lava flow and no because I now feel very sleepy.

Enjoy your morning tall person, I’m going back to sleep.

Do children’s ears grow slower than the rest of them?

The tall person still calls me Puppy sometimes. I suppose in his eyes I am still that little pup who would curl up on his lap and fall asleep. Technically I am still a puppy but I would squash him if I were to sit on his lap now. I have changed a lot but everything around me has not really changed that much. De and the tall person look the same and the little person is still little. I asked the tall person why this is and he explained that animals usually grow fast because their parents only look after them for a short time. He could see that I was a little alarmed by this and quickly reassured me that he and De would always look after me. That was good to hear but I was a little worried about the little person. He is nearly nine years old and I’ve seen him making a sandwich so I know he can look after himself. I asked the tall person why they still looked after him. Shouldn’t he be getting a job, perhaps one that didn’t require reaching for tall things? The tall person said that I had asked a good question and explained that children take a long time to learn everything they need to know to be able to survive in the world. Ah, I think I understand. I often hear him and De repeat the same things to the little person day after day. Perhaps, children’s ears grow slower than the rest of them?

I always make sure he doesn’t over-eat!

The tall person had a late dinner this evening. I was on the balcony and nearly missed it! Fortunately, I heard De call out “come and get it”. Thanks De – great early warning! Believe it or not, I actually got there before the tall person! The thought of food always makes my legs go faster.

It is a little dim in the kitchen at the moment because several of the light bulbs need replacing. No problem. I switched on one of my fog lights to get a better view!

My attempts to encourage sharing really seem to be paying off and it wasn’t long before I was tucking into a delicious meal. Aside from personal benefit, I also encourage sharing for health reasons. You can see from the picture that the tall person is very slim – that’s because I always make sure he doesn’t over-eat!