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Genesis 6:14-16 (These days known as ‘Mop Visits Mapledurham Again’)

God spake unto Noah, and he spake thus:

Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch. And this is the fashion which thou shalt make it of: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, the breadth of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. A window shalt thou make to the ark, and in a cubit shalt thou finish it above; and the door of the ark shalt thou set in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories shalt thou make it.

Noah though, had other plans, so he said unto God:

“I’ll pop into B&Q next week and see if they keep gopher wood in stock. I can’t do anything this weekend though as there’s the Ajaxs dog agility show on in Mapledurham and there’s loads of us already booked and paid.”

Now this reply displeased God, in fact it gave him the right bleedin’ ‘ump. The rest, as they say, is history!

Mop had only started competing at the end of last season so it was two successful competitions and then nothing for what seemed like months. Actually, it was months, five of them to be precise, so the Ajaxs show at Mapledurham was being eagerly looked forward to by everybody concerned.

There had been big changes to our competition accommodation in recent weeks too, no more freezing in the back of the old plumbing van, we were now the proud owners of a campervan! Just as well too with what the weather was about to throw at us.

We took advantage of the cheaper ferry deals by going over at 1 a.m. on Thursday morning which meant a drive up to Lyndhurst and our first night in the camper was spent in the New Forest. It was as cold as a penguin’s chuff when we got up at 6:30 but the forest looked beautiful covered in thick frost and we had a lovely walk in bright sunshine. There’s something immensely satisfying about being the first person to walk across new frost or fresh snow before the world and his dog have despoiled it.  A spot of breakfast, a drive to a different area of the forest for another walk and then we set off to Mapledurham where we arrived just after 1 p.m.

Mapledurham, on the banks of the Thames was bathed in sunshine and as gorgeous as ever as we set up our home for the next few days. Come to think of it, there must be another River Thames because this one bears very little resemblance to the one I grew up near as a boy in central London. They’re both wet I suppose.

Ajaxs 2013 before rain

 By Friday morning we’re raring to go. Agility competitions are one of the few times Mop seems really animated, I’m guessing that a few hundred other dogs some of whom seem to think that a Tibetan Terrier looks like a tasty breakfast gets the adrenaline pumping! Anyway, she manages (just) to maintain her wait as I walk past the first few jumps on the agility course but as soon as I drop my arm she’s off and flying. It had rained a bit over night but the course is manageable and we get our turns and change of sides exactly as I’d planned. A winter of weave practice has saved us time and we’re clear as we approach the last two obstacles. Brimming with confidence I send her up the dog walk and leave her to it as I head for the last jump. Mistake! Mop is so keen to catch up with me that she misses her contact on the way down and although she clears the last jump we’ve finished with 5 faults. A real shame because had we gone clear the time would’ve given us third place.

The rest of the day goes even better than I could hope for. After our first two competitions we’re only 4 points short of moving out of ‘beginners’ in steeplechase; two clear rounds or a decent place will see us move up and we manage it in our first run. A third place in our clear round gives us 6 points and tomorrow we’ll be running at ‘novice’. Just for good measure we pick up two more steeplechase clear rounds and a clear 4th place in jumping. The jumping run means that we’re now just 6 agility points short of moving out of beginners in performance too, 6 points we’d have had if not for that missed contact earlier. Grrrrrrr!

I’m woken that night by heavy rain and it continues to rain on and off most of Saturday. The rings are cutting up pretty badly but worse still are the areas around them where everybody is walking and it’s now impossible to keep Mop clean or dry. Worryingly there are a few people deciding to pack up and leave but their cars and vans are getting stuck in the mud and have to be pulled out by any helpful 4×4 that’s handy.

Our next little problem is that having moved up to novice in steeplechase but still being in beginners for performance we don’t have a single run before midday but then everything comes at once. We end up with four rings all waiting for us and we have to do the four runs consecutively without even a break in between for a treat for Mop! Snakes and ladders is our first ever games run and after a good start it turns into a bit of a disaster as we both get completely lost and confused. To be fair, it’s me that gets completely lost and confused, Mop looks at me with a face that says “now what’s he doing?”

From snakes and ladders we move straight onto our first steeplechase run at novice and surprise ourselves by not just going clear but by picking up a 4th place too. Jumping next and despite it being probably the worst competitive run we’ve ever done we still go clear. The run is untidier than Michael Foot at a Remembrance Day service and we are all over the place with Mop and me regularly heading in different directions but somehow saving it before faulting. It’s also the slowest run we’ve ever done. Trying to run carefully in wellies, added to the dubious changes of directions and mistakes mean we finish in 50 seconds. The time limit? 50 seconds!

Mop is now beginning to think this is too much like hard work and when we move straight onto the agility course, well, to say her enthusiasm is waning is a bit of an understatement. I get my handling totally wrong which gives us 5 faults and then Mop gets to the top of the A frame, looks down at the mud, and stays where she is! I encourage her down but don’t bother finishing the course, we’ve both had enough.

We have one steeplechase run in the afternoon which is going quite well until I fall in the wet conditions and Mop comes to check me out rather than take her jump. Five faults. We finish the course but I’m now having serious doubts about running Mop the next day. I plan to look at the rings and the weather in the morning to see if it would be possible to compete in steeplechase but I’m not going to take a chance on any contact equipment. As it happens I don’t have to make a decision, torrential rain all night means that the ground is wetter than an otter’s underpants and UKA make the only sensible choice and cancel the show at 7 a.m. for the safety of the dogs and handlers.

We pack up in the teeming rain but then just have to wait. The only people to make it off the site are those with 4x4s and even some of those haven’t made it, everybody else is pulled to the road by tractor and mine and Mop’s rescue doesn’t come until gone midday. Could it get any worse? Well, the blizzard that started on our way home led me to believe it could and would!

Ajaxs the road home 2 Ajaxs the road home 1









The best thing to happen for a while was to be allowed onto a ferry more than six hours before our booked time without any additional cost. As soon as we get home the first job is to wash all the mud off Mop and then she lays upside down in her basket as I dry her with the hairdryer, it’s the first time I’ve seen her look happy in about 36 hours!

Oh well, less than three weeks and we do it all again near Swindon. Can’t wait!

Mark & Mop

(aka Team M&M)