Follow the dogs

Warning: hideously off-topic (and also duplicated, if you subscribe to my other blogs) post to follow, for today only.


About eighteen months ago, I was strolling across Cheltenham Racecourse on a sunny Tuesday morning when I had an epiphany.

We’d been there for a music and arts festival, and these gatherings are synonymous with creative sharing. There are writers’ workshops, song-crafting panels and at night you’ll leave the lights of the village and its coffee stands and art displays to the camping area, where the air is alive with the sound of a hundred strumming guitars. “Be not afraid,” I said to Joshua and Daniel on our first night there. “The isle is full of noises.”

My idea wasn’t new or revolutionary, it was just something I hadn’t tried before. I was recalling the sequence in Amelie in which the titular heroine cures her agoraphobic father by kidnapping his gnome and arranging for it to go travelling. Assorted photos arrive on his doormat from round the world, and in the end the old man conquers his fear of travel, packs a suitcase and leaves.

I know that the concept of the travelling gnome – the item that is abandoned in various places and then picked up, and then put down somewhere else – is nothing new. I’ve even seen it done with books. But it struck me that it would be a fun topic for a blog, so I spent the next week or so obtaining three cuddly dogs from local charity shops, before typing out a multi-lingual set of instructions that could, I imagined, be understood by the bulk of the word’s population. I set up a blog, Facebook feeds and even a Twitter account. Then I left the dogs in assorted locations around the home counties, and sat back and waited.

It was a dismal failure.

I don’t think the problem was in the methodology. For one thing I’d dumped them all in different places to maximise the spread. Manny was left in Didcot town centre and was picked up by a local girl who promptly emailed me with a photo and promised she’d be taking him to Oxford in a day or two. Bernard was left in Reading University library by the husband of one of my colleagues – it took some effort because the staff kept running after him to remind him to take his stuffed toy with him – before being collected by a chap who said he was going to the Isle of Wight. Francesca fared the best of all, having enjoyed a whistlestop tour of Oxford courtesy of another colleague, before being collected by a family who assured her that they were off to Australia and that they’d take the dog with them.

Then zip. Zilch. Nada.

The first three, just before their brief voyage.

The first three, just before their brief voyage.

I guess I placed too much faith in human nature, and that someone decided to pick up the dogs and disregard the (clearly visible) instructions. I’d like to hope that they’re warming a young child’s bed somewhere – that wouldn’t be such a bad ending to a journey, however brief. There is, of course, the possibility that they’ve been incinerated by zealous security staff who assumed that they were a suspicious package. I probably caused a major alert at an international airport somewhere and delayed several long-haul flights. Sorry about that.

That was September 2011, and very recently, off the back of conversations I’ve been having in the office, I decided to have another go. The infrastructure is already in place – I simply had to find new dogs. And here they are.


Meet (left to right) Penny, Leonard and Sheldon. Well, obviously.

I have no idea how far we’ll get, but the possibility of failure shouldn’t stop you trying – Thomas has taught me that much, at least. So I’m plugging the other blog here, and granting you the opportunity to join us at the start of our journey, should you be so inclined. God knows I could use the moral support. Simply pop across to and hit the ‘follow’ button. And then sit back and watch as ABSOLUTELY NOTHING HAPPENS.

Well, we’ll see…

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14 thoughts on “Follow the dogs

  1. Missus Tribble

    I’m from Cheltenham, but – as I like to tell people – I escaped! 😀

    One of my geeky friends began a similar adventure for “Frank the bear”. She posted him on to me, upon which I got lots of photographs of him with various Discworld cosplayers at the Convention in Brum that year and passed him on to a friend from Yorkshire. After that he didn’t go anywhere – I prompted her to bring him to the Con last year and she forgot, so he’s still sat on her Welsh dresser with a wonky arm 😦

    I wonder if things would have been different had it been a cuddly Dalek or something…

    • reverend61

      Aww, I rather like Cheltenham. Although I don’t have to live in it!

      Sometimes these things work, and sometimes they don’t. It’ll be interesting to see how far they get. And yes, I think a Dalek might have got further, although perhaps it’s even more likely that someone would have chosen to keep it! Perhaps that’s the trick – you pick something compelling, yet ugly. I should have gone with Cthulhu.

      • Missus Tribble

        Nah; I know los of people who would keep Cthulhu. Or a Klingon, or any other ugly sci-fi/mythical beast that you can think of! Perhaps one of those “disease” plushies? They’re cute, but nobody wants to hang on to syphillis! 😀

      • reverend61

        Yes, but I don’t want to be held responsible for spreading it throughout the world…

      • Missus Tribble

        Well yes, there’s that too…

  2. Missus Tribble

    PS: Husband-shape and I are both huge Black Books fans too! I’m a particular fan of the multi-talented, Doctor Who loving Bill Bailey and absolutely adore him as Manny! 😀

    • reverend61

      Yes, Black Books was fantastic in its heyday, and moderately funny even after it jumped the shark. I’ve been working on a BB / Who parody for a while, starring Dylan Moran (in Bernard Black persona) as the Doctor, assisted by Manny. Watch this time and space!

      • Missus Tribble

        Oh yes – this must happen! I love to hate Bernard and Manny is just too sweet for words! Remember the episode where Manny accidentally locked Bernard out with the new security door? I could watch that a million times and I’d still bust a gut laughing!

        And don’t get me started on the first episode with The Little Book Of Calm… *insert hysterical laughter here*

      • reverend61

        I think my favourite was ‘The Grapes of Wrath’, because Bernard’s mad scientist routine (and the punch line with Manny) is a joy to behold. Mind you, the sequence in ‘Blood’ where they’re making the tower of soup is wonderful…

      • Missus Tribble

        I think I’ll be asking for the BB box set for my birthday in November. What was the one with Manny drinking all the Absinthe and toasting bees? That one almost killed me with giggling so much 😀

      • reverend61

        That was the lock-out one. It’s the one where Fran is listening to the Shipping Forecast and Bernard winds up working in a burger bar.

      • Missus Tribble

        OMG the Shipping Forecast, haha! And Bernard is your nightmare employee but hysterically funny with it!

        There’s also the one where Bernard fires Manny and he goes to work in the rival bookshop next door – and Simon Pegg is the manager. Is it only me who immediately wants to call him Shaun or The Editor when he pops up? Simon is *so* good at playing an absolute git 😀

      • reverend61

        He does ham it up tremendously, and I know a lot of people didn’t like it. I found it rather amusing, and it’s nice to see him get his comeuppance in the final scenes. It’s also nice to see Bernard portrayed as the lesser of two evils…

      • Missus Tribble

        The hair clippers will do it every time… 🙂

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