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Mark & Mop Master Mapledurham

Have you ever had one of those long weekends that starts off as an absolute nightmare and ends up, well, really rather good?

That was the case for Mop and me over the past few days. ‘Mark’s Law’ states that ‘If something can go wrong, it will’ and it was running true to form from Thursday to Saturday afternoon.

To start at the beginning, it was the Ajaxs Agility weekend at Mapledurham and enthused by our success and great time recently in Cornwall, Mop and me were heading off to compete again and sleeping in the back of the old plumbing van once more. This time though I didn’t even book proper camping facilities near the event but decided to stay on site which meant no bath or shower for me and it was Mop’s turn to complain about the smell. This ever increasing addiction to dog agility is causing a worrying downward spiral in my personal hygiene habits, if things continue at this pace then by next year I’ll be found at events sleeping rough in a cardboard box, clutching a can of Special Brew and wearing a sign round my neck stating ‘will do dog agility for food’.

Thursday, the day before we set off, my phone went wrong, meaning I could use texts but actually making a call was nigh on impossible. A worrying situation but after phoning the AA, 999 and the Samaritans I was assured that just a few years ago people often ventured out without a mobile phone and regularly returned unscathed so I decided to give it a go. Provisions (beer and wine) were needed for the trip so off I went into Newport where having purchased the aforementioned essentials I promptly lost my debit card. At least I’d got the alcohol before I lost the card so as long as I didn’t need to spend money on anything for the next week until the bank send me a new card there wasn’t the need to panic too much.

After arriving on the site in Mapledurham I parked and set up camp fairly close to the Thames, a beautiful spot but I was warned that if it was a clear night and the mist rolled in then it could get a bit cold. A bit cold????? At five o’clock in the morning there was condensation dripping off the roof inside the van and I swear I could hear penguins and polar bears outside. A bit cold????? Let’s just say that if Captain Oates had been there with us he’d have left the van mumbling something about going outside and possibly being some time!Mist on the Thames

Having survived the start of the second ice age I’d have had Weetabix for breakfast if only I hadn’t forgotten the milk. Oh well, at least I remembered the beer.

Soon it was time for our first run, a steeplechase course that looked simple enough until a tricky little figure of eight manoeuvre from about number 15 onwards. I walked it several times, decided on my positioning and crosses and then waited for our turn. Of course, by the time our turn came I’d completely forgotten what I had planned, got myself in a muddle and ended up falling over Mop. From the floor I called Mop to wait before she faulted and she was perfect as I picked myself up and then sent her correctly over the jump. It would have been a brilliant recovery and clear round if I hadn’t then set off running in the wrong direction and got us eliminated!

Our next run was beginners jumping and after walking the course I felt reasonably confident. Unfortunately, although Mop was magnificent all weekend and performed better than I’ve ever known before she’s not yet a mind reader. She manages to make sense of my dubious calling and hand signals most of the time but when I ran past the weaves with no oral command and no hand signal either she quite rightly ignored them. We went back and completed it correctly and finished the course. Five faults.

We were part of the Wight Wizards team for the relay along with Jill/Stobie and Ollie/Saskin. I walked the course straight after lunch having been told the runs would commence promptly at 2:20. A team relay has two intermingling courses, you just have to follow the numbers for your particular part and ignore the numbers for the other course. The numbers are different colours to make it simple. At this stage I pointed out to the other members of my team that I’ve never seen a rainbow, have never seen a field full of poppies, and never will unless a cure for colour blindness is invented. Ooops!

The course was explained to me so all I had to do was remember where I was going. No problem there then!

The team relay was more than an hour late starting and while all this was going on I realised I’d missed the ring walking for my next individual event which was beginners agility. By this stage I had the right hump and was thinking to myself that the people running the show couldn’t organise a shitty smell in a portaloo. Totally unfair as the organisers do a fantastic job but had been thrown out by the huge number of people turning up unbooked wanting to run on the day. As an example of this, there were 70 booked in to do the beginners events but that number more than doubled with the ‘add ons’. It was difficult enough trying to walk the courses with that number so I dread to think how hard it must’ve been to do all the paperwork for it.

It was at this point that our nightmare weekend turned around. Having missed the ring walking we had to run the agility course ‘blind’ and make do with watching a couple of people in front of us to try to make sense of where we’d be going. But make sense of it we did! There was a hairy moment a couple of obstacles from the end when I thought Mop had missed her contact on the see-saw and started to take her back to do it again only to notice at the last moment that the judge hadn’t raised her arm. Another 180 degree turn put us back on course and two jumps later we had our first ever clear round in agility. Not only a clear round, but a third place! Who knows what might have been had we not wasted two or three seconds after the see-saw.

Agility clear rounds must be like buses, all of a sudden two come along at once as we go clear again in the agility section of the team event when it eventually starts. Then to finish the long day off nicely we go clear once more in steeplechase as dusk starts to draw in.

Actually the day finished even nicer than that as three people and four dogs squeezed into the back of Maggie’s camper van to share spaghetti bolognaise, wine and beer and Martyn’s birthday cake. Yum!

Whereas Saturday was freezing in the morning with the clear sky and uncomfortably hot during the day, Sunday was the complete opposite. Cloud cover meant a mild morning as the penguins and polar bears headed back to the frozen north and it was much more comfortable for the dogs waiting around for their runs during the day.

Five more runs for us on Sunday and our only ‘failure’ was in agility where a missed contact on the dog walk and a nose the wrong side of the weave poles in what was generally agreed to be a very difficult final section resulted in us finishing with 10 faults. The rest of the day consisted entirely of faultless rounds. Clear in the split pairs team event, two clear steeplechase runs both resulting in 3rd places and 2nd place for a clear round in jumping.

Mark and MopMark & Mop









Like an Ann Summers marital aid fitted with long life Duracell batteries I was still buzzing and raring to go long after the important business had been concluded and a total of seven clear rounds from eleven runs means that I’ll be counting down the days until March when we can compete again.

Mark & Mop

(Aka Team M&M)