How did we suddenly get to the middle of January? I’ve been meaning to write about this exciting news since the New Year! So, this happened: the #SausageArmy calendar for 2015 hit the shelves on January 1! (Okay, technically, it hasn’t hit any shelves, as this is a Limited Edition calendar, but there are more copies available should you be interested in getting your paws on one of these beauties…)
This calendar possibly takes some explanation for those of you who don’t know about the #SausageArmy. When I was asked to join this band of dachshund brothers and sisters last year, well, there was a moment of disbelief. Really? Me? Enrollment was an honour. The #SausageArmy is exactly what it sounds like: an army of dachshunds who are stubborn, whip-smart, and usually up to no good. That’s how we roll. The Army is headed by General Fonz, who also created this calendar with Rachel Heuston, who takes credit for the fantastic layout. (Ed: I think Fonz’s Mum might have had a hand in it too… you know, for those days when Fonz was too busy with army duties for worrying about things like print deadlines). The calendar was arranged according to the participants’ birthdays, which is how yours truly ended up being Mr June.
And, as you may have noticed, Mr June is not a singular entity – my Uncle Bracken had to be involved, and as my Dad’s birthday is also in June, well, he got into the act as well. (Sort of… Mum cropped off his head in the photo.) (Ed: your Dad was ruining the composition.)
The calendar is also themed by month, so we had to decide how to “do June” in September. Mum, Dad and I had an Editorial Meeting around the kitchen table. I kicked things off. “All my friends are going to come up with really inventive themes,” I said. “Basically, you guys need to step up your game.”
“Okay, so what do we need this photo to say…?” Mum was thinking out loud, as she does pretty much all day long. (She says it’s what eventually happens when you work on your own.) (Ed: the truth.) “It needs to say summer. Warmth… balmy summer days… balmy summer days on the beach…” Dad is nodding. “Balmy summer days building sandcastles on the beach!” she said.
In hindsight, Dad should have thought about this. He possibly should have asked for some clarification, some details. Like, who was building the sandcastles? A few weekends passed. We didn’t have sunny days. Scotland really does not look like June in September. It looks even less like June in October. There are grey skies. The beach looks cold because the beach is cold.
Mum also realised she had to think about accessories for this “beach shoot” – beach towel, sunglasses, bucket and spade? – so she turned to her super-stylist friend who is also my Auntie Stephanie. “Yes, get a bucket and spade, but not in yellow as it might not work with the sand colour,” my Auntie said. “I’d go for red firstly, then orange or blue.”
Armed with this information, and on a sunny day in October when the forecast was looking good, we headed out to Grannie’s to pick up my Uncle Bracken, and then drove down the coast to Northumberland, stopping off on the island of Lindisfarne. It was a beautiful day; blue-skied with a smattering of suitably dramatic and photogenic puffy clouds. Mum had the idea of driving to Bamburgh, which has the most incredible beach, and doing the ‘shoot’ with Bamburgh Castle in the background.
Not a bad idea, we agreed. See the small dark shape in the middle of this photo, just above the boat? That’s Bamburgh Castle as viewed from Lindisfarne, where the sky was bluer, and that’s where we were going…
So before leaving Lindisfarne we popped into the one touristy shop we could find and picked up a bucket and spade. A child’s bucket and spade, in blue and red. And Mum handed this to Dad. “Sandcastle building is your job,” she said. And then we got back in the car and drove further down to the coast to Bamburgh.
Somewhere between Lindisfarne and Bamburgh, the weather changed gears. Suddenly, the sky was grey. By the time we reached Bamburgh and parked near the beach, rain was blowing through the air. We stayed in the car while Dad did a ‘recce’. “Okay,” he said when he came back, “the beach is pretty empty, apart from a few dog-walkers, and it’s blowing a gale, and it’s raining, and there’s a group of surfing dudes.”
Oddly, Mum brightened up at this news. “Ok-ay,” she said. “So we’re good to go?”
Dad looked at Mum. “You seriously want me to go down to the beach, carrying a bucket and spade, and build a sandcastle, for our dachshunds, in front of the surfing dudes?” He was clearly less enamoured than Mum was by this thought.
“Yup,” Mum said. “They won’t even notice. And I’m wondering, now I’m thinking about it, if you could build a sandcastle that in some way reflected Bamburgh Castle behind… you know, just in the way you structure it, perhaps…? Something that looks… architectural…?”
So off we trotted – Mum: photographer, Dad: sandcastle builder, Uncle Bracken: art direction, and me: modelling and trying not to get too soaked. We reached the beach. It was raining. Rain runs off my Uncle’s coat. You would never know. Meanwhile, my coat is a sponge. Within two minutes of being rained on, I look like I’ve had a perm. Dad needed to work fast. No time for location scouting, no time for “finding the perfect angle with the castle in the background,” and no time for building a castle that looked like a historically accurate representation. We needed a castle of any description, on the beach, and fast.
“Uncle, you’ve got to be in this photo,” I said. “I need you there beside me. I don’t want to do this on my own.”
“Squirt,” Uncle Bracken said, “have you discussed modelling rates?”
“It’s not like that Uncle,” I explained. “No one’s getting paid, and about 10% of the purchase cost of each calendar is going to the Dachshund Breed Council for health research, which is such an important cause. It’s just great to be part of this.”
“I get that,” Uncle Bracken replied. “I’m 100% behind this. There isn’t a dachshund out there who wouldn’t be. I was meaning, have you discussed modelling rates with the Parents? I’ll do anything for a charitable cause, but our Slaves need to cough up some chicken if they expect me to get in front of a camera. Plus..” he sniffed the air, “it’s about to pour. Seriously pour with rain. We’ll be out of here in five minutes.”
So while my Uncle wandered off for a quiet moment of contemplation about how he might take up surfing in 2015 and become a Surfing Dude himself (“I can feel a new phase of life coming on,” he said), I sat beside the hastily assembled sandcastle for a few ‘test shots’. They weren’t good. I wasn’t looking happy. The sky wasn’t blue. And I did feel a perm coming on.
“Okay,” Mum said, sighing. “Let’s scrap this idea. It isn’t working and it’s too dark. Let’s try it again next weekend at Yellowcraig beach, yeah?”
Again, Dad looked at her. “We’ve driven 80 miles to get here,” he said, rather quietly. “Yes, and it’s been fantastic, hasn’t it boys?” Mum said as my Uncle drew her a look. “And now we get to have a proper beach walk, even though it’s getting dark, and that makes it all worthwhile.”
And then, having walked 200 yards along the beach, the heavens opened. It poured. We made it back to the car in a fragrant pile of soggy dachshund and damp wool. And while we did try another beach shoot the following weekend at Yellowcraig, it was too dark, howling a gale, and freezing. Seriously, you can’t fake June in Scotland.
Soooo… Mum moved to Plan B. The photo that General Fonz used for the calendar was taken on a sunny day at the end of May last year, when Mum, Dad, and my uncle and I were on holiday in Crovie in the north of Scotland. We were staying at a cottage by the sea. It was our first holiday together and a happy time. The village is just one cottage deep and runs along the shoreline below a hill, so we had to park the car at one end of the village and wheelbarrow all our belongings along the winding pathway that led to our cottage.
Dad thought it would be fun to give my Uncle and I a hurl in the wheelbarrow. As you can see from this photo, my Uncle was like, “Whatever pal…” He’s too cool to break sweat. I was thinking, is there a way that we could replicate this at home, where I could get wheeled around when I fancied some paw rest…?
Alas, friends, there’s no such thing as paw rest in the city…
It’s an honour to be appearing with my pals in the #SausageArmy calendar, and alongside my main man, The Dude. It’s clear that everyone put so much work into creating the images, and The General has, as you would expect, excelled in co-ordinating everyone while Rachel has done an amazing job with the finished product (if you are interested in getting your paws on a copy, you can contact General Fonz, who is Mr January, via his Twitter account). I wonder what the theme will be next year… Dad has made one request in advance: no more sandcastles. Please.