Since Ian cannot post tonight, I thought I would share with you a blog I wrote about 3 years ago.
There are few things more majestic than a scenic ride into the Norwegian Fjords by boat. First, you pass through little villages, then as the fjords begin to tower above you on either side you see the splendour of what you are there for. This spectacle rises so dramatically out of the water and walls you in with their beauty. As you pass further into these giant natural formations, you come upon water falls flowing into the water and creating pools of foam. Still further into the fjord as the walls at your sides become closer you will not feel that they are closing in on you. You will be in awe with nature. In these waters, you may encounter seals along with goats on the shore. No matter how bad the weather, you feel like you are a part of nature for this portion of your life. This is Lysefjord! On a cliff six hundred metres above you there are hundreds of people looking down on you. Some will climb up this rock named Preikestolen or Pulpit Rock as it is called. As you go further along, there is another formation which appears to be a boulder in between two cliffs. This boulder, named Kjeragbolten – Kjerag for short, rises one thousand metres above the water. There are many adventurers who jump onto this boulder between cliffs. An adventure not to be missed.
Another not to be missed sight is Geirangerfjord. There are two very important ways to see this fjord. First is by boat, second is a tour up the eagle road with its eleven hairpin turns. Try to do both if you have time. Coming along the fjord, as the water narrows, you will pass quaint villages and little hamlets with many brick red homes. You will wonder why you don’t live in one of these homes with so much beauty surrounding you. You will pass by several waterfalls, one being known as ‘the bridal veil’ and one of the other important ones of note is ‘seven sisters’. Both of these falls are quite picture worthy. As a matter of fact, this fjord is so picturesque that it is now a Unesco world heritage site. If you are more into the adventurous feeling this fjord can give you, then make sure you kayak on Geirangerfjord. After you come back out of Geiranger and its beauty, make sure you hop on a bus going up the eagle road. There are many photo spots of the fjord below as you climb by coach.
There seems to be a sizeable portion of the readers of this blog who take more than a passing interest in the lifesaving activities of mountain rescue teams and another group of people who love to read about dogs and other animals.
Well, today’s blog should satisfy them all as it is all about search and rescue dogs.
These are known throughout the world for their work in finding missing people or those buried by masses of avalanche snow or rubble from collapsed buildings. They always seem to be at the heart of post-earthquake searches and were an important part of the search operation at Ground Zero, in the wake of the 9/11 Twin Towers disaster in New York.
This year, 13 years after that terrible time, golden retriever Bretagne, the last surviving rescue dog who searched Ground Zero after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, revisited the scene.
In September, aged nearly 16 and enjoying her retirement, Bretagne returned to the Manhattan site for the first time since 2001, accompanied by Denise Corliss, her longtime handler and owner. They live now, as then, in Texas.
Nearer to my home, if a search dog is needed then police or rescue teams call upon the services of members and dogs of SARDA, the Search and Rescue Dogs Association.
SARDA Wales is a specialist Search Dog component of Mountain Rescue (England and Wales) and are permanently staffed by unpaid volunteer dog handlers and their dogs to provide a search and rescue service to the Police, Mountain Rescue & Coastguard.
Dogs are trained in specialist skills including air scenting and trailing dogs to search for missing people in mountain, rural and urban locations. The association has 80-90 call outs each year in North Wales including missing children, vulnerable adults, dementia patients as well as hill walkers and mountaineers. Handlers and dogs are on call 365 days per year in any weather.
There is no doubt that handlers love their dogs and are united by a willingness to go out in any weather at any time of day to search for missing people anywhere in North Wales and occasionally beyond. Many SARDA Wales handlers are also members of Mountain Rescue teams. The three nearest me, Llanberis, Ogwen Valley and Aberglaslyn teams, have SARDA handlers and dogs in their organisations.
It takes many hours of commitment to train a search dog and it’s a continual process throughout each dog’s working career with the dogs and handlers regularly being assessed to ensure that they maintain the high standards for which they have come to be well-known.
Every mountain dog handler is an accomplished climber and mountaineer in their own right in summer and winter conditions, as well as being a member of a Mountain Rescue Team. Mountain dog teams are assessed at lowland standard first and then go on to be assessed at mountain level. Skills include avalanche searches and every handler is equipped to be self-sufficient in all weathers and conditions. Handlers play key roles in their own rescue teams as well as being available as a dog team to every other rescue team in North Wales.
All SARDA air scenting dog teams train as lowland search teams. They are trained and assessed to cover open areas, buildings, woodland, sand dunes and caravan parks and this type of work forms the majority of call outs. Lowland areas can be extremely complex to search and require a great deal of skill from both dog and handler. There are often many distractions and the dog will often be working out of sight in complex ground.
The trailing dogs can follow a scent of a specific person from the point that they were last seen. They can work in almost any area from urban to mountain and are trained to ignore other scents to find only the person for whom they are looking.
Running SARDA and its training and assessment operations is not cheap. As I have said, they are all volunteers, all unpaid, and they rely entirely on donations to fund the association.
To give you an idea of the costs involved, here is a summary of its main expenditure items: Assessment Weekend – Cost £2000; Training Weekend with accommodation and catering – £750; Equip a new dog team – £2000; Search Managers Lap Top with software – £1000; Re-equip an existing dog team with new waterproofs – £500; Cover a dog teams motor expenses for a year – £300; and cover a search dogs annual pet insurance – £300.
In total, SARDA Wales’s annual running costs average about £20,000 and its only income is from public donations.
If you’d like to make a donation, you can do so online by following this link or use your mobile phone (cellphone) to text SDOG01 £5 to 70070 to donate (of course, you can change the amount)
Practical support is also welcome. Volunteers are needed as ‘Dogsbodies’ and to help with catering at training/assessment weekends.
Dogsbodies are vital as without bodies to find the dogs cannot train. Volunteer Dogsbodies will get a friendly welcome, free food and accommodation in North Wales for the weekend and join the team as a valued member.
Some important qualities are: You must like dogs and be happy to get wet and slobbered on! Must have a sense of humour and be prepared to hide in obscure places in all weathers. Lastly, you must be happy to take instructions.
Anyone interested should email email@example.com for further details.
Pictures, from top:
Bretagne, 9/11 search dog, now retired
Helen with Cluanie, Llanberis MRT
Antony with Moss, Aberglaslyn MRT
Sally with Spin, Ogwen Valley MRT
Baby (Jessie Hart) and Johnny Houseman (Lewis Kirk) danced their way to success in the roles made famous 28 years ago by Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze.
A stupendous production with fantastic scenery and stunning visual effects brought a well-deserved standing ovation from a packed theatre when, last night, Lisa and I saw Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage. It was live on stage at Venue Cymru in Llandudno, as part of its UK national tour.
Meanwhile, the same producers have other performing companies on tour in the USA and Australia with more countries lined up to make it a real worldwide enterprise.
Of course, I can only speak of the UK show but if the others are anything like the performance we saw last night, all I can say is: if it comes to a theatre near you, don’t hesitate, buy your tickets immediately.
Moreover, it is on at Venue Cymru until Saturday 17th October, so if you are anywhere near North Wales make the effort to go and see it. You won’t regret it – but don’t delay as tickets are selling really fast.
I doubt many people have not seen the 1987 movie Dirty Dancing that starred Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey; that was a rip-roaring box office hit and I just have to say that this stage show captured everyone’s favourite parts of the film to perfection.
Lewis Kirk excelled as Johnny Castle while Jessie Hart danced her way into our hearts as Frances Houseman, better known as ‘Baby’.
So let’s take you back. It’s the summer of 1963, and 17 year- old ‘Baby’ is about to learn some major lessons in life as well as a thing or two about dancing.
Baby’s life is about to change forever as she is thrown in at the deep end as Johnny’s leading lady both on-stage and off with breathtaking consequences.
But it is not just Johnny and Baby that were great, there is the rest of the energetic cast that wrapped up the whole audience in a totally authentic stage version of the movie.
Dirty Dancing – The Classic Story On Stage features hit songs including ‘Hungry Eyes’, ‘Hey! Baby’, ‘Do you love me?’ and the heart-stopping ‘(I’ve Had) The Time of my Life’.
Many favourite original masters are featured within this stage sensation blending the movie soundtrack seamlessly with live performances by the cast. Some of these classic tracks include ‘Cry To Me’ by the larger-than-life rhythm & blues singer, Solomon Burke, the no.1 hit single ‘Hey! Baby’ by Bruce Channel and ‘These arms of mine’, Otis Redding’s first solo record.
Of course, the very last and highly emotional scene (yes there were some tears in the audience) is when Johnny says the famous line “Nobody puts Baby in the corner” and then they go into the I’ve Had the Time of my Life dance that culminates in Castle’s lift of Baby as she seems to fly in his arms.
The author’s years of experience in journalism includes being a theatrical columnist and critic.
Extremists are generally accepted as being bad news by most people who regard themselves as reasonable or moderate.
Jihadists, such as those making up the murderous Islamic State, are probably the most well-known extremists in today’s world but they are by no means the only ones; neither now nor in history.
In earlier times, fundamentalist Christians found themselves in violent conflict with rebels in Syria; the white-supremacist Klu Klux Klan burnt crosses and carried out terror campaigns mainly in USA’s deep south; and both republican and ‘loyalist’ paramilitary organisations killed and maimed in Northern Ireland. Of course, the most renowned and successful act of terrorism by an extremist group was the 9/11 attack on the twin towers of the World Trade Centre in New York and the Pentagon, Washington DC.
Along with the other plane hijacks, the effect of flying two air liners into the towers was devastating. Thousands died on that sad day, not only many who worked there but also hundreds of firefighters who entered the buildings to try and save people.
And we have seen extreme terrorist groups such as the Red Brigade and Black September. It was the latter group that was responsible for the atrocity involving the kidnap and subsequent massacre of 11 Israeli athletes and one police officer at the Munich Olympic Games in 1972. This horrendous event is firmly etched in the memory of those who were around at the time.
To a lesser degree, we have seen American citizens angry at the killing of black people by white police officers. This has given rise to a protest group ranged under the banner of ‘Black Lives Matter’. Some of their protests have included a chant “pigs in a blanket, fry ’em like bacon”, referring to killing police officers. That is a terrible thing to incite. There is no way that I can condone violence of that kind.
While I am reluctant, as a British citizen, to comment on domestic issues in the USA, for what it’s worth, I really do need to express my own views. Right here, right now.
Of course black lives matter, how could anyone argue otherwise? But so do Asian lives, Oriental lives, white lives and so on. In short, all lives matter or should matter – not just black ones. It might be that what they really mean is that ‘black lives matter too’ because they don’t believe black people get a fair deal right now.
Veering off the subject slightly, it is amazing to me that society can allow organisations that are distinguished by race or gender. In the UK, we have a Black Police Officers’ Association, an Association of Muslim Police Officers and Women’s organisations of all three of the main political parties, for example. Could we have a White Police Officers Association or Men’s sections of political parties? No? Why not? Simply because White and Men’s would be considered racist and sexist respectively, whereas the Black, Muslim and Women’s groups are seemingly acceptable.
Well, at the risk of utter condemnation from those who disagree, I consider those ‘acceptable’ groups to be just as racist and sexist as the others. And society in general is being hypocritical in allowing such organisations to exist.
Main photo: Firefighters’ memorial at 9/11 Memorial.
Middle: Two pools mark the former locations of the Twin Towers, with names of those who died on their surrounds.
Bottom: Freedom Tower, the new 1 World Trade Centre.
All pictures: Ian Franks, December 2014.
Did you miss any of these posts from the last week? Is so, be sure to check them out now!
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Loving, dedicated and intelligent guide dogs need support
Ambulance targets ditched for 90% of emergency calls
Burlesque to be weekend of fun
Execution stayed – Beyond reasonable doubt? Really?
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