I wrote quite a lot about Billie when I visited Melbourne nearly two years ago. I told my friend Vicki to warn Billie I’d be relying on her for canine comfort as I’d be missing MasterB. She’s not a cuddlesome dog, said Vicki. But in the wayward manner of pets who like to prove their owners wrong, Billie decided immediately I was someone she’d like to cuddle her, and our bond was established. She was elderly then, her gait a bit wobbly, and made me think of a refined lady who’d had a bit too much Sherry but was still game for a knees up. Continue reading →
“There’s a deer out here with a broken leg,” says Cousin’s husband striding into the house with the Sunday papers. “Phone the RSPCA!” Cousin calls from upstairs. A few minutes late she joins her spouse in the kitchen. “Is someone coming?” she asks. He looks at her blankly. “Did you call the RSPCA? Who’s with it?” Still a blank look. “The deer with the broken leg.” He gives a snort and jerks his head towards the hall. “It’s out there lying on the table.”
I think I've redeemed myself with WestieBoy. After taking him for a walk shortly after arriving on Tuesday I went awol in Belfast for the next two days, but today the snow meant our other plans were put on hold so it was a two walk day.
The worst of the weather was elsewhere, but we have a nice dusting that feels seasonal and right.
I was wrapped up in warm clothes from London and the one of the hats Cousin has knitted.The first walk was the best. We only met two vehicles. We saw sheep in the fields and birds in the trees and hedgerows but no other living creatures.
The sky turned from white to blue and then grey again. More snow fell, and the wind made it dance in the air around us. Slieve Gallion was all but invisible, and this tree stood alone in a blue white fieldpp.
WestieBoy found plenty to sniff at but tugged and even whined when I wanted to stop and take pictures.
Today has been fairly quiet. We went out to a farmers’ market this morning, but actually it’s not until next Sunday, so we had a café breakfast and a slow wander down the street to buy fruit and veg in a shop.
Back at the house, a further shopping list was drawn up, and we set off on foot, Billie, the elderly dog leading the way. Vicki had told me Billie was not a cuddlesome dog, but last night she decided I was her new BFF and spent much of the evening with her head in my lap. She was equally attentive as I dressed this morning, commandeering the space between door and bed, so I had to step round and over her to get to anything.
Walking with an elderly dog demands frequent stops, bowls of fresh water, time to gather the muscles and energy to go the next hundred yards. The local shop owners know her, and she knows them. She seemed keen to join us as we chose a bottle of wine for later.
On and off throughout the day I remembered I hadn’t yet brushed my hair. Each time I was nowhere near my hairbrush. I remembered again on my way back to das Boot from blackberry picking and buying tomatoes. My fingernails were stained a gory red, I had blackberry juice stains on my shirt (I still have) and my face was flushed from the sudden return of heat to August. Well you have to let your standards drop so times. No laughing there at the back, you who know me.
Summer’s end of term report this year is unlikely to feature any A*s. There will be comments exhorting her to try harder, remarks about inconsistency and lack of concentration. Maybe she is in love. Certainly for much of the time it has felt as though her attention were elsewhere. We have lurched from cool days and grey skies to scorching heat and back again. Even coming away for this weekend I packed for three seasons.
Being British, the weather is of course a main staple of my conversation, and certainly this summer has not failed to give variety to the theme. But for this weekend she has it right. This morning I rather doubted the forecasters who predicted sunny skies and rising degrees this afternoon, culminating in one full day of heat and sunshine tomorrow before rain on Sunday evening.
In other words, the perfect weekend to be away from London and afloat. No doubt at this very minute some of my near neighbours at home are drinking too much after their barbecues, talking loudly, and preparing to open a few more bottles. Tomorrow will be an amplified version of the same, and tough if you want to get to sleep before the braying laughter and sudden shouts have ceased in the pre dawn. Continue reading →
Come seven o’clock in the morning, Not Cat is a bundle of fizzing energy. Hands outside quilts are leapt on and attacked; toys are brought to the bed and played with rigorously; vocal exercises are practised from piano to full-throated fortissimo; the blind is pushed up and the outside scrutinised.
Collar and bell on, he is allowed to his personal playground. The garden is full of new smells left by foxes and smaller things with longer tails we like to pretend don’t exist. And Sonny may be in residence. It doesn’t matter how many times Sonny tells Not Cat to get lost, my boy simply can’t get over his hero worship and desire to be pals.
He’s more successful with his human friendships. The other day, he met Viola, and took to her immediately. We were in the garden. Viola has corkscrew curls, and Not Cat was fascinated. He sat up on the table and gave them a gentle, exploratory pat, then touched Viola’s nose with his. Sweet. Continue reading →
Some friends came up to the boat yesterday. The same ones who came my birthday weekend.
Just call me Miss Marple, but you know what, I think they like it here. Something about the big smiles; the words paradise, perfect, I love it; the way their shoulders settle back where they ought to be, gives the game away.
Their dog likes it too.
Last time, he was fine on the boat itself, but flattened himself on the pontoon in the way dogs have to show they are not happy. Yesterday he went onto another pontoon to say hello to a friendly native, and as for the people in the motor home, well you’d have thought he’d known them all his life.
We wanted to take the boat out, but there were logistics to deal with, which meant keeping both Cat and Z happy and safe while still being able to see out of the back of the boat. So we couldn’t reapply last time’s solution of simply closing the door between the galley and the aft cabin.
A Solution was Required.
While we had lunch, and enjoyed the sunshine with the boat in coupé mode, and a nice bottle of château Waitrose they’d brought, Z wore Cat’s lifejacket and was tethered to a drawer handle.
It seemed to work, so mid-afternoon, off we set for a pootle down the river. Teamwork. S at the helm, P on boat hook, me at the ropes. Maybe we should start a band.
S was enviably stylish in the way he took the boat out of the marina entrance. We had encouragement from two lovely boaters who were working on their boat. They are reluctantly selling it. It’s a gorgeous boat, though it needs some work. Their daughter owns half of it and needs the cash for her higher education fees.
It was a good thing Z was tethered. The reversal of his usual position vis-à-vis ducks had him scrambling to leave the boat and get them. His little nose twitched constantly.
We all took turns at the helm so that we could enjoy a turn about the boat and stare at the riverbanks.
The quiet of our conversation was punctuated at intervals by P squeaking at S to take a photograph. A heron flow across the river. The geese and their adolescent goslings were strutting their stuff, two adult swans waited on the river bank as their tiny cygnets struggled up the bank. The grass was green, the skies were blue, a gentle breeze kept us cool.
S guided us back into the marina smoothly; demonstrating that our exit had not been a fluke, but skill. We tied up and then it was time for them to leave.
It wasn’t a very promising start. Grey skies, rain still falling, temperatures well below the seasonal average. More March than May. I was relieved to find I had closed the car’s sunroof, but it felt like a ‘count your blessings’ day rather than a ‘whoopee’ one. The friends who had planned to visit and I exchanged text messages. Why come if the day was going to be a washout?
But they did. And it was great. More than great; fabulous.
The rain stopped. We went to the pub and had a really good meal. Steve drove back, while Patou and I walked the dog along the footpath.
When your friends enthuse about something and somewhere you have come to love, it’s a great feeling. As the skies turned blue to give us a glorious and entirely unexpected end to the afternoon, they were already planning their next trip here. And buying a boat. We kept Cat and Dog separate by closing the door to the aft cabin where Cat was enjoying his afternoon nap, and passing Dog through the window of the fore cabin. Dog was curious but not aggressive. He modeled Cat’s lifejacket, sniffed the cabin interestedly, and conquered the biscuit ball. None of us had a camera. Next time.
Their son called and asked when he could visit. We laughed and joked; discussed the various family problems we have to deal with; laughed some more.
When they left, I had a warm, fuzzy, contented feeling.