Monthly Archives: June 2013

Walkies at Bleakholt

BleakholtA lack of time (or rather a lot of other stuff to do) precluded my posting about yesterday’s dogs, and since I’m skipping volunteering today (because it’s way too sunnyhot for me to spend three hours outside), I’ll tell you about them now. Oh, and since quite a few of you have been asking, I’ll also add a few photos that I took around Bleakholt highlighting the many other non-canine animals that these good folk look after.

Levi“Morning, Charlotte! Who have you got for me?”
“Ahhh, Wombie. You can take this new boy out. He’s a bit nervous.”

Charlotte was not wrong. Meet LEVI, who spent his first five minutes whining loudly and being scared by the other dogs barking (“My turn!”, “Me next!”, Oi, take me instead!”). I finally managed to persuade him to follow me out and along the lanes, though, and he eventually settled down to enjoying himself… just as his walk was over. Maybe next time.

ToddAaand here’s TODD. Toddy, todd-todd-todd. You remember Todd, I’m sure. He was a bit grumpy at first this morning, and did not want to go down the hill towards The Fisherman’s Rest, perhaps because he knew he’d have to walk back up it afterwards, and it was very hot by now. A little friendly persuasion worked, though. He also wanted to go in the field and run and run and rub, but the farmer has banned walkers from the field now. Grumpy twat – it’s not as if he’s doing anything with it; it’s just scrubby grass. Ahem. Another, longer-serving walker told me that Todd does not get on with everyone (probably why he’s not been snapped up), so I was lucky that he agreed to go with me. Yay me.

KeanoLast time I took KEANO out he pretty much ignored me and tried to pick up everything he found lying about. This time, though, we had much more interaction and I really got on with the little feller. We even had a sit down and a tummy rub (him not me). His legs seem just a bit short for his body length, so that when he runs he looks a bit like a weasel. You’ll have noticed that I take him out on a metal lead, as opposed to the usual blue lead the others have. This is because Keano likes to chew his lead from time to time and has been known to chew right through them. I guess this goes with his love of carrying stuff, too. He just loves to nom his teeth on things. Luckily, though, never people.

Until now I’ve concentrated on the dogs at Bleakholt, since that’s where I volunteer, but it’s a large site, and they have many other animals there too, most of which are available for adoption.

Cats aplentyCatsLet’s start with the cats. They have some gorgeous felines up in a complex away from the dogs. If I want to see whether any particular dog reacts to cats, I can take them up there to show them the mogs safe in their pens. We got our two, Midge and Buffy, from Bleakholt ten years ago and they’ve been and continue to be wonderful cats.

Smaller furries abound, in various undercover huts all with outdoor runs. There are some rather beautiful rabbits, a sprinkling of guinea pigs, and a whatever-the-collective-name-is-for-them of degu. Or should that be ‘degues’? What I am sure of is that it is not “Degu’s” *apostrophe shudder*

Goats with a viewMadge. Or possibly Harold. I have no idea.Like your animals on the larger side? Then admire the goats who overlook the lovely Irwell/Rossendale Valley, and enjoy coming up to the fence for a good old neck scratch. Or move along a few yards to say “Whoa” at Madge and Hilda, two large and vociferous pigs, who seem to spend all their time grumbling. Or maybe they’re singing, I can’t tell. I do not speak pig.

Not sure - Baby perhapsI think this is Dee DeeWander over to the stables (if they are open) to move even further up the size scale. You’ll know whether the stables are open, for when they are not a big sign will announce “The Stables Is Closed”. Yes, I know. Grammar’s not a forté up at Bleakholt. Here you can see horses tiny and huge. Sorry I didn’t take a photo of one of the big horses but I got a bit overwhelmed. Oh, and there are the donkeys as well, but I couldn’t be arsed to wander outside to their paddock.

If you live near and get a chance, get up to Bleakholt for a quick visit. Even if you’re not looking to adopt, it’s a lovely place to visit, and no doubt you’ll donate 20p for parking, and maybe buy something from the shop. This place is a charity, after all, and every little helps.


I know what I like, but is it art?


Zombified Release Party

Who doesn’t like zombies, those cuddly sons of undead fun? Then you might be interested in this shingdig:

Friday, June 21st sees the release of Zombie War: Zombified, the final in the Zombie War Trilogy by Jean Booth.

970237_4887696636914_1964542591_n“Supporting her brother during his experimental treatments, Jessica finds herself betrayed by the one person she loves more than anything. Now she’s forced to either give up, or find a way to survive with what he’s done to her. Craving things she never imagined, her body has transformed into a killing machine, bent on consuming the one thing she can’t live without – brains.

“After months of killing, Jessica searches for a way to either end her existence or continue on without having to constantly kill others. She hears of a group of survivors and knows this is her chance. Now she’ll either live or die. The choice would be Sarah’s, the leader of this band of survivors.

“Wounded from the fighting, infected blood mixing with hers from the slaughter, Sarah finds herself fighting for her life. Will her boyfriend, Matt, help her end it all, or will she become the monster they’ve been fighting against and devour all those she’d come to protect?

“While watching Sarah struggle with the infection, Matt wonders, ‘Could I kill the one I love, to survive?’”

On Friday, June 21st, there’ll be a “crazy fun blog party” going on – The Zombified Release Party. Jean will be hosting on her blog that day and is inviting anyone who’d like to participate, to join in.

Here’s all you need to do –

  • Stop by Jean’s blog on Friday, June 21st and leave a comment – this’ll enter you in the drawing for signed copies of any two of Jean’s books – your choice!
  • Post a picture on your blog of you dressed up for Halloween and tell us a little about that fun time in your life, link it to Jean’s blog and you’ll be entered into the drawing for signed copies of any three of Jean’s books – your choice!295691_4887697076925_570961430_n
  • On Friday, June 21 post a review of any of the Zombie War books (Zombie War: The Beginning, Zombie War: Little Apocalypse on the Prairie, or Zombie War: Zombified) or an interview of Jean on your blog and get entered into the grand prize drawing for a $50 Amazon gift card!


969885_4887695876895_2092101403_nZombie War: The Beginning: “As a nurse in the genetics department, Sarah witnessed firsthand the mutation of the AIDS vaccine. The affected patients attacked other people, craving the power of the human brain. The vaccine turned viral, spreading quickly. Sarah was among the few survivors of the initial attack, quickly learning how to defend against the undead horde. Would she make it in time to save those she loved? Even if she did, how would they survive in this horrific new world?”


970770_4887696356907_1635323881_nZombie War: Little Apocalypse on the Prairie: “It’s been six months since the vaccine went bad and introduced zombies into the world. Matt and Sarah have gathered all the survivors they could find, protecting and teaching them how to survive in this post-infected world. They’ve arranged for one last raid into town to try and survive through the oncoming winter. Trouble is, no one could truly prepare them for what they encounter once they arrive.

“Those remaining on the farm have been trained and organized into a cohesive unit. Would they be strong enough together when it really matters? Would any of them survive the Little Apocalypse on the Prairie?”


9965_4887695316881_937856650_nJean Booth was born in the sweltering Vegas desert. She moved about during her childhood until returning to her roots in Northern Nevada. She’s happily married with 9 cats as her children. For the entirety of her adult life, she’s worked in healthcare, battling insurances and poor staffing to provide great care to those who need it. Her greatest escapes are the stories found in books and in her head that she’s finally decided to share. She can be found at

Connect with Jean on:

Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Goodreads

Smouldering bodies that ached for forbidden love


If their bodies are aching, why don’t they just take some paracetamol? You’d think they’d know that, being nurses. Also, I must say I do like the new NHS uniform modelled in the foreground here.

Spot The Dog

Today I took three of my regulars out. Those of you who are regular readers should have no trouble recognising them below. Everyone of you that names them correctly in the comments will get an exciting prize. You can choose one of the following:

  1. A voucher for a free Wombat arse-fondle at #YSPtweetup.
  2. A walk-on part in 1322, the novel I am currently writing.
  3. A free drink next time we meet.

See how good I am to you? Here are the pooches.

More Walkies

Here’s another pile of dogs that I took out during this morning’s volunteer dog walking session at Bleakholt, including a surprise bundle at the end of the post.
IMAG1440IMAG1441Pudding had already gone out by the time I arrived, so my first ‘client’ was this handsome feller, name of FLACK. He was a smasher. Lively without being overbearing, interested without trying to haul me off my feet, and rather hypnotised by horses (see right). I’m pleased to tell you that he will be off to a new home next week, bless his lovely heart.

Next up was a lady with all the energy in the world inside her, bursting to get out. Meet RUBY, who looks calm enough in this photograph, I admit. That was the only time I got her to keep still, however. For 35 minutes she hauled me around the lanes, seeing off a waggy-tailed farm dog that came to say hello with a huge RROWFF!


Ah now, you met SAFFRON yesterday, the nervous, skittish little lady with the curly tail. She was a little less nervous with me today, presumably having learned my smell (bot something I recommend that you ever do). That didn’t stop her constantly trying to trick me into taking her back to Bleakholt using what she obviously considered a foolproof trick. It goes like this: 1. Stop for a wee, 2. Move imperceptibly;y around while weeing so that Beardy Bloke doesn’t notice, 3. Keep inching around while ‘covering’ the wee with invisible earth, 4. Set off in the opposite direction.


This magnificent lad amongst the buttercups is LEO, a huge, but not fat, Doberman. You can’t really tell from the photo, but he really was tall. Lithe with it, to, and strong. Strong as he obviously was, he didn’t pull on the lead, or haul me every which way like Ruby did. He was well-behaved, and a perfect gentleman when we passed other dogs. He’ll be a great dog for anyone that owns a mansion.

IMAG1461-1OK, I promised you a surprise bundle, and here they are. Five little Boxer pups, just arrived in a van. I don’t know their story, sorry, as anyone I could see to ask was right in the middle of something else. So I went home for a pastie instead. Two and a half hours of brisk walking leads to an undeniable craving for pasties.

Oh, and yes, Todd (see yesterday’s post) has lived with cats and is four years old. However, the staff at Bleakholt are recommending he goes to live with a family used to Collies, as his behaviour is very collie-esque – he protects his food, nipping anyone who comes near, for example. Also, my common sense has prevailed – we WILL wait until after Scotland to begin looking for OUR dog. If nothing else, I’m learning that there’s a lot of lovely dogs that pass through Bleakholt. We’ll find one just right for us eventually.


IMAG1300There aren’t only dogs up at Bleakholt. It is home also to rabbits, pot-bellied pigs, goats, horses, donkeys and a large number of cats – we got our own Buffy and Midge there about a decade ago.It’s a fun place to wander around. Now that I know the staff, and am getting to know the different dogs, it feels a comfy place, too. “Hello Pudding!” I call merrily as I pass his pen. I’ve started to be trusted to put the dogs away safely, and fetch the ones that know me. Now all I need to do is persuade them – the staff, not the dogs – to call me ‘Wombie’ rather than ‘Mike’. Not sure I’ll manage that.

IMAG1425Anyway, here are the pooches that I walked today. Normally, I try to make their walks last about half an hour, the recommended time, but I’m afraid that if I really like a dog, I’ll often go beyond that. I went beyond that with TODD here, as I really enjoyed our walk. Gorgeous collie (much more handsome than my quick snap suggests), lovely movement, and really responsive. After about twenty minutes, when he’d relaxed with me, I tried doing some close control work with him. He was brilliant, walking to heel well. I might look more into TODD’s background – if he’s happy with cats I might just think about whether I want to take things further.

IMAG1426IMAG1428(Of course, we have a Scottish holiday coming up, and I was intending to wait until after that, rather than dragging a new dog on the long drive north). This Sharpei (is that right?) is SAFFRON. She shares a run with Todd, but is as nervy as he is outgoing. She was timid, nervous of even the wind in the trees. I was talking about her with one of the other walkers who said that she had slipped out of her grasp, and had run straight back to her run at Bleakholt, luckily. I did like her curly tail, though.

IMAG1430(I wonder whether Bleakholt would be able to put a dog up for a week for us if we were interested in Todd? Probably not, since they rarely have any space. Something else to think about, though). Anyway, here’s LITTLE KIA (cos there’s a BIG KIA at Bleakholt, too) – she hated the rain, and kept trying to out-stubborn me and return to a place with a roof. I wasn’t having that, though, and persuaded her that she had to do what I wanted. Adie, at Bleakholt, told me that she came back from a walk once covered in stinky stinky fox poo. He ran a hose at low pressure to wash her off, but as soon as the water touched her she went monkeybonkers and sprinted for cover. Wuss.

IMAG1419(Yeah, I’ll find out about Todd versus Cats first. If he won’t wear them, there’s no point in continuing). Right, here’s the last dog that I walked today. You met him yesterday, of course. It’s that cheekie chappie of a Staffie, PUDDING. We had a good long wander. He keeps checking that you’re still there, glancing back to make sure aliens haven’t taken over the lead or something. He had a good old bark at some grass that startled him cos he walked into it with his head down. Idiot. Trust him to lick his face just as I* took his photo.

I’ll be walking more dogs tomorrow morning, and I’ll carry on blogging about them, since these posts have been getting such a positive response. I really should post about my writing again soon, though.

Wombat Walkees

I know you’re probably getting bored with dog posts by now, but I’m not, so ner up your pants. Here’s today’s Wombat Walkees from Bleakholt.
IMAG1395IMAG1391This feller was LOVELY, the ugly bugger. Such a nice temperament, interacted with me (“what’s that camera thing do?”), and responsive to command. When I told him ‘WAIT’ when a car was coming, he’d back between my legs for extra protection. Oh, and he’s called PUDDING. Hope I take him out again.


Here’s KEANO – he is full-of-life-run-pull-quick-go-there-go-here and very fond of carrying sticks. Plastic bottles. Paper bags. A stone. Any bloody thing he could find. Metal lead so he doesn’t chew through it.


And on your right is KIA. I’ve taken her out before and she’s still a bit nervous of me. She usually comes out of her shell after ten minutes.

Moth Girl vs. The Bats, Part the First

This is the first part of a new short story inspired by a conversation with @theagilmore and @ratporchrico on Twitter, and referencing Thea’s haunting songs. Hope you enjoy it, Wombat fans.

Start as we mean to go on

Moth Girl moonOut of the moonlight they sped in their thousands, swift as death, razor wings glittering in the pale glow of the Wolf Moon. In the frost-shrouded city below, the final toll of the curfew bell faded. Latecomers hurried inside, the hems of their capes whisked through narrowing gaps as doors were slammed, shutters bolted and chimneys blocked.

Those without homes huddled in hidden crevices, or burrowed under piles of rubbish as the bats hurtled out of the night sky. A high keening filled the air – whether emitted by the mechanical creatures themselves, or created by their sharp wings slicing the air no one knew – and suddenly the streets were filled with vicious whirling things, shredding anything soft that they happened across: clothing, flags, living flesh.

Here, a tunic accidentally left out on the washing line was shredded in seconds. There, a rat poked its whiskers out of a hole to investigate the noise and was seized upon by three of the deadly automatons. A beggar, too drunk on leafchew to ensure that he was entirely covered by the bridge under which he cowered, had first the shoe and then the flesh stripped from his foot almost before he could react. His screams brought more of the maniacal machines to him and he died quickly, his blood splashing the mossy stones of the bridge and darkening the stream that passed beneath it. Ten minutes later his bones glistened in the moonlight.

An anguished howl echoed across the town square as the bats found an unfortunate stray dog somewhere, to whom the curfew bell had meant nothing. Thea leaned on her iron spade and peered through a crack in the door. Her breath fogged in the freezing air. She rotated her arms, the better to sit the weight of her ankle length cloak on her shoulders. It clanked as it settled around her. Tonight’s haul should be the last. The final collection that she needed.

She pulled the leather flying-helmet over her head, tucking her chestnut hair safely beneath the sturdy leather, and fastened the strap securely beneath her chin. She lowered the goggles over her eyes. The thick glass fogged for a moment and then cleared. Taking a deep breath of frozen air that shocked her lungs, she opened the door and stepped out into the maelstrom of wheeling metal.

Immediately the bats arrowed furiously at her, intent on slaughter. She heaved her weapon through the air in a scything arc, smashing several to the ground. Some struggled and rose again, while others sparked fitfully and lay spent on the ground. Numerous others flew past the spade, and threw themselves on her, tiny steel teeth and sharp claws tearing at the cloak. The air was filled with an almighty clattering as their tiny attacks bounced off the metal outer layer. A few attacked her head, but the old flying helmet, reinforced with chain-mail that Thea had sewn on herself, deflected the worst of the attack. She would have a hell of a headache later, mind.

She gasped as a bat slashed at her eye, but the goggles did their job, and she continued to gyrate strenuously, laying about her with the blade of the heavy spade, bringing more bats down around her feet. They flocked about her, trying their damnedest to get through to her skin, to rip her apart.

A sudden pain in her calf caused her to stumble. Damn. A bat had found one of the few remaining weak spots in the cloak. She felt its teeth, claws, whatever-the-hell sink into the soft flesh and tear through it. Quickly she switched the weight of the spade to her left hand, and groped down with her right to dislodge the attacker. She ripped it away painfully from her leg, and held it up in front of her. It squirmed in her gauntlet, pinpoint teeth, sharp claws and slashing wings flashing in the moonlight.

Thea tossed the metal horror up into the air and in one fluid movement swung the spade to bat it forcefully across the square. That’ll teach you, you evil little tin bastard.

She continued swinging, gasping now and giving little moans as she tired. Her arms throbbed, burning with the effort, and the wound in her leg pulsed wetly. One last effort, come on girl!

Moth Girl batsShe gave up on her to-and-fro sweeping, and simply circled wildly now, bats clanging against her spade as it cleaved the frozen air. Her head, her back and her arse stung from the constant battering from frantic metal attackers. She was becoming dizzy from the spinning, and decided to call it a day before she fell and allowed metal destroyers to creep under her protective shroud.

Slowing to a standstill, she waited a brief moment until the world stopped spinning too, then banged rapidly three times with the spade handle on the cottage door.

It immediately opened and she leapt inside, followed by half a dozen whirring bats. The door slammed behind her, and she concentrated on despatching those enemies that had entered with her.

Her grip now was tired, but Thea managed to smash five of the intruders to the ground before the spade twisted out of her weakened grasp and clattered to the floor. With a high buzz the remaining bat launched itself at her face, and she scrabbled desperately at it with her gauntlets, trying but failing to beat it off as it frantically scratched at her goggles. She felt a claw rake across her nose and cried out in despair. She was losing this one. One last desperate effort enabled her to fling it a foot away, but she was spent. Next attack it would get through.


The bat flew across the room and smashed into the wall, propelled by a hard blow from a dark object. Small cogs and metal screws tinkled to the dusty floor.

“Ee, Moth Girl, they nearly got you there!” creaked an amused voice.

“I’ve told you not to call me that, Ratporchrico,” Thea panted, shaking her head at the wizened old man by her side. He grinned a toothless grin, and put down the cricket bat he was holding.

“That’s what you look like, though, out there in the moonlight with your cloak, your helmet and your goggley eyes. Like a giant glittery moth.”

“I’ll moth you, you old git, if you don’t stop calling me that.”

“You make no sense,” he rasped good-naturedly, “How on earth do you moth someone? If you’re going to indulge in badinage, at least try to make it coherent and quippy.”

“It’s badinage that I have to talk to you in the first place. How’s that for quippy?”

“More pun than quip, but I’ll allow it, given how well you did out there.”

“Thank you,” she nodded. “Now, shut your whiskery face and help me get this cloak off. And then light a fire, for fuck’s sake. I’m freezing my tits off here.”

“Language, girl! You did not learn such speech from me. You’re not too old for a slapped backside, you know.”

“I’d like to see you try, old man!” she smiled, removing the helmet and shaking her burgundy hair free. It glowed in the flickering candlelight.

“You spend too much time down The Murphy’s Heart,” Ratporchrico continued, reaching up to lower the heavy mantle from Thea’s tired shoulders. “Common lot down that tavern, they are.”

“They are good friends, too. Do not forget that. I’m going to whack some cayenne and honey on this wound. When you’ve got the fire going, pick up these bats here. I can start attaching these until them outside sod off. Then we’ll gather the rest. I think I downed enough out there to fill all the gaps.”

“So you reckon you’ll have enough now?”

“You know, I really do. I put in a lot of effort out there.”

“I saw,” Ratporchrico nodded, “Moth Girl in thrilling action.”

Thea shot him a glance, which he ignored.

“Tomorrow’s the big adventure, then?”

She nodded. Ratporchrico peered at her closely.

“You’re still sure? You’re still determined to do this? To plunge into the unknown?”

“Somebody has to. It’s been five full moons now, three nights each time, that those buggers have been coming. Tomorrow will make fifteen nights of terror for the people of this city. And what does Lord Liejacker do? Bugger all. Oh, except hide. He doesn’t even know why or whence they come.”

Thea widened the ragged hole in her thick tights and washed the calf wound, then sprinkled cayenne to sterilise and stop the bleeding. Wincing, she smeared honey on top to aid the healing, and wound a strip of clean linen over the sticky mess as a rudimentary bandage.

“Well,” Ratporchrico told her, lighting kindling in the fireplace with the candle, “My Lord Liejacker has decided that since his biplanes and his dirigibles are too slow to catch the bats, they simply cannot be caught. He’s a great believer in the principle of ignore it and it will go away.”

“I’m a great believer in the principle that he’s a useless pillock.”

“He is that.” The old man stood up. “There. Fire. Come and warm your tits while I gather these bats.”

Moth Girl fire“Language, man!” Thea laughed at him. She sat on a rickety stool by the growing flames and warmed her boots, rubbing her hands together and flexing her fingers.

Ratporchrico carried Thea’s cloak over to the large oak table by the back wall of the cottage and laid it out, metal side uppermost. He lit a second candle and stood it by the cloak. Finally he collected the fallen bats and put those on the table by the cloak.

“Ready when you are,” he said.

Thea sighed and stood, tugging her tunic straight. She reluctantly left the warmth of the fire, and limped over to the table. She picked up one of the broken bats and worked the wings loose. She spat on them, and polished the metal to an unbroken gleam with a soft cloth. She sang as she worked.

We’re gonna start by aiming higher,
We’re gonna start by naming names.
We’re gonna start some rumours, start some fires, and then start to fan the flames.

Ratporchrico looked up from his book, a battered copy of “So You Want to Pilot a Dirigible?”, and a smile brightened his crinkled old face as Thea’s voice soared above the continuing clatter and screeches from outside.

Thea took up needle and thread, and began to sew the bat wings onto the few remaining bare patches on her cloak.

Today’s dogs

IMAG1377You know I do volunteer dog-walking at Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary, right? Here’s who I took out this morning:

This is Tillie, timid and shy. It took me a while to get her to trust me, but once she did her little legs merrily toddled her along for a while… until she suddenly remembered to be timid again.


Meet Lottie, as in your face happy as Tillie is timid. She’s so delighted with the world, she’s like “Oooh a tree look at the tree! Grass grass grass! Are you my daddy ooh a tree BUTTERFLY!”


And finally I took this chunky lass out. She’s like one of those road-sweeper lorries when she walks: slow, steady, relentless. Her name? Betty Spaghetti.

Oh, and I had a word with Gordon, the trainer. He tells me that Evan has found a working home as a gundog. While I dislike the killing wild creatures aspect, I’m pleased he found somewhere more suited to his boundless energy.

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