This Morning it was back to business very much as normal-sunshine- riverside- squirrel chase- paper shop-look sadly for Minnie no sign –home—breakfast, but just a few short days before all was very different…. (cue harp music and a wobbly screen image, yes dear readers here is a period style 1940s flashback sequence) ….come with me now to the deep countryside and a place called… Dorset.
Alarms and Arrivals and the Key Mystery
As usual I was lured on to the back seat of the evil car (all cars are evil) with a Hansel and Gretel trail of Cathedral City Vintage Mature cut into natty little cubes. I can’t help it I just can’t resist it yum, and I fall for this base trick every time. So after clambering in the back and scoffing off the mini cheddar treats we were off and I dozed on the back seat for what seemed like the length of my entire puppyhood. All went very well until we actually reached the mythical cottage.
While Pamphlet man struggled to hold on to me and drag the many bags and cases back out of the evil car it turned out that the mistress seemed to have brought the wrong key so we were locked out of the cottage and couldn’t get in which did not please pamphlet man at all.
‘It might be an idea to actually label the cottage key’, he fumed quietly, while holding me back from exploring a patch of what looked like waste ground but was in actuality Barry’s garden. Barry lives one building along from the cottage and had a band saw and bench set up outside his front door in the lovely afternoon sunshine and a very old evil car up on bricks in his front ‘garden’.
He came out holding a plank of wood.
‘We’re locked out’, Pamphlet man said, ‘brought the wrong key’, he added nodding in the ditrection of the mistress.
‘Oh right’, Barry said.
‘I don’t suppose you have a spare’.
‘No’, Barry said looking hard at the edge of his plank of wood.
The mistress thought that the neighbour opposite had been left with a key ‘ages ago’. She went and spoke to her but soon came back out.
‘She’s busy making cakes for a friend’s wedding so can’t look now, her husband’s out till 5 30 and even then she wasn’t certain they would find it’.
Pamphlet man looked at his watch. It was 2. 20 he sighed loudly and was less happy than before if possible.
I admit I was getting nervous too. They kept trying the wrong key this way and that hoping perhaps that the lock would forget and suddenly open if they sneaked up on it.
The mistress eventually lugged all the shopping to the back door and went off to ask another neighbour about possible keys. Pamphlet man sat down on the porch step and I curled up beside him. The sun was shining, it was warm. Although we couldn’t actually get inside there could be worst places to sit on a fine September afternoon with the view of the distant hills across the valley and birds singing and a gentle breeze stirring the leaves.
Then there a massive whining sound which went up and down the scale like a screaming mad banshee. Barry had started up his electric band saw in his front patch. Pamphlet man was a little unhappier now if that was at all possible. I was getting more than a bit worried and nervous myself. The noise was deafening, worse than any of the planes which fly over our house every five minutes back in West London.
I was getting stressed out now by everything, the piles of luggage bags all round me, a cross Pamphlet man and the huge screeching saw noise…. welcome to the country.
The mistress came back and said, ‘no good’.
‘ What’, said Pamphlet man cupping his ear?
‘I said, NO GOOD’, and showed her empty hands.
‘Can’t hear a thing for that’….(the saw stopped its screaming suddenly)… BLOODY SAW’, pamphlet man shouted into the silence.
Barry appeared from behind his B&D workmate just as the cake baking lady also appeared with a key ring.
‘Try these’, she said.
Barry stood quietly his head wobbling oddly and then said
‘You’m have to take me to hospital, seem to have cut the end of my thumb off again’.
He was holding a bunched up and bloodied bit of kitchen roll against his hand.
‘Second time this week’, he added, ‘ought to put the safety on, they’ll tell me off proper this time’.
The Mistress had no choice but took Barry off to the hospital 15 miles away. I didn’t much like seeing her suddenly drive off with the strange and bloodied man and went off on one of my whinings as if it was early morning. Pamphlet man tried all the spare keys on the cake baker’s key ring while holding my lead in the other hand. One of the keys turned the barrel of the lock but nothing else, no door opened.
We were expecting weekend guests to turn up, ‘two veggies and a vegan’, Pamphlet man had quipped at the cake baker earlier. They were old friends and due at any moment. All the shopping including bags of ice and my doggie treats were gradually going off under my dog blanket by the back door of the cottage.
I was properly spooked by something, nothing, whatever it was …the shadows under the trees I don’t know I even barked once which as you know is very unlike me.
Pamphlet Man fed up with waiting for guests and keys took me for a walk around the little village. Many evil cars and pick ups came thundering past much worse than in our ordered suburbia. They were faster too and appeared round bends without warning and belched out fumes. The drivers seemed to favour cowboy hats and confederate flag bumper stickers. Pamphlet man was forced back against the hedgerows and stung his arm on some nettles, which did not help his mood.
When we got back to the cottage a small dog which looked like a bath mat came and barked at me loudly and for no reason which caused me to bark back and frighten the little girl holding the dog’s lead. The mother of the girl with the barking bath mat was the self same wedding cake baking lady and she finally produced a spare key to the cottage just as the mistress drew up having dropped Barry off at the hospital.
Pamphlet man was able to get a drink, ‘at last’ he said sighing and slumping down at the wide kitchen table. The table takes up nearly the whole kitchen floor space and so wherever I stood I was in the way, so that was a good start. Soon the visitors arrived.
‘You missed all the fun’, Pamphlet man said.
Soon everyone was busy loading the fridge and cooking and generally fussing about. Everytime I stood somewhere somebody else needed to be in exactly that same spot so I was moved on or shooed over to the further corner and then back again it was all very confusing to a nervous girl.
The cottage kitchen is too small. but at least we were inside it and Pamphlet man had his desperately needed chilled drink.
We went out later and it was dark. I mean really dark.There was no street lighting of any kind just starlight and owls hooting very close to us. I just couldn’t see anything at all. Lots to smell but not to see. It made me nervous and I certainly couldn’t ‘go’ in any significant way. The pamphlet man needs to buy a torch asap. Pamphlet man took me out on to a patch of neglected garden. This had once been an orchard but it was now just scrub and weeds and nettles and ankle deep in all kinds of interesting smells. I spent a long time as possible snuffling there and fast circling, my usual prelude to dropping a hot bundle but I wasn’t exactly sure what to make of it. The smells here in the real countryside are in the end confusing and not a little worrying too.
We went further on down a steep slope into the village. I walked past a very large and somehow familiar machine. It was much higher off the ground than any evil car. It had huge rear wheels with thick set tyres. The wheels were all covered over with lumps of dried mud. Something haunted me about this machine. I had to get very strong indeed on the lead ( a squirrel sighting strength tug), and pull at Pamphlet man very hard in order to get me over the road so that I could have a good look at it and a good sniff at it too.
Some indefinable tug attracted me, something from my deep buried past, there was something almost Proustian about this big ugly yellow and blue machine. Ifinally got Pamphlet man near enough to it so that I could snuffle with my nose twitching fast and breathe it all in and savour it.
‘Why on earth are sniffing at a dirty old tractor’, was all he said?
He seems to forget that the orphanage from where he rescued me was in the middle of a farm. At times he is truly clueless…..
After our late afternoon walk around the village we got back to the cottage to find that the second key had failed to work yet again. We were all of us completely locked out for the second time. Pamphlet man was not happy at all, especially when the mistress reminded him of his reaction to her bringing the so called ‘wrong key’, it was clearly and plainly the lock that was wrong not the key
The delightful vegan girl, Perdita (very good at head rubs and under chin strokes btw) gamely offered to climb up and in through a narrow upstairs window which had been left open. There was a ladder in two halves at the side run. Perdita’s father (for shorthand purposes known as Erudite Veggie 1) reluctantly fetched the two halves of the ladder. He gamely tried to assemble the messy thing into one complete ladder but finally said,
‘It’s not only bent out of true but they are two different ladders and don’t actually belong together at all’.
Perdita insisted on trying anyway and so one half of the two ladders, the straighter half, was laid up against the cottage wall.
‘You are going to hold it aren’t you Dad’?
‘Yes of course I am darling’, E Veggie 1 said with eyebrows raised.
Perdita got on to the ladder with any number of squeals and laughs. She started to climb only to say when half way up the ladder,
‘I just remembered something’.
And that is’?
‘I suffer from vertigo’.
‘Good time to remember darling’, E Veggie 1 said and sighed.
Down she came and the ladder was replaced.
Barry appeared from behind his work bench with a fresh selection of brightly coloured plasters now covering both hands ( see part one) and said without much enthusiasm.
‘Got dozens of locks layin around in this place ere, barrels an’ all. That is all old proper Yales everything, soon drill that out and fix a new one f’yer want’.
‘Thanks’, Pamphlet man said doubtfully, ‘we may need to do just that’.
I was getting restless again. The wind had got up in the dense trees near the church and I thought there could be anything lurking there who knows what kind of creatures hide in a country churchyard, and it panicked me.
Perdita was reminded of something by her mother, ( known here for shorthand purposes as Sweetheart Veggie 2 )
‘What about the time the lock failed at your flat in Camberwell’?
‘Oh my God’, Perdita said, ‘the landlady had to come trailing over more than once all the way from Sutton, and she was always drunk, and that was just to open the door and she kept muttering on each time about, oh I really must get this seen to, but of course she never did. In the end I learned to fiddle it just to let myself in to my own flat.
‘Why not try that now’, S Veggie 2 sensibly suggested.
Perdita took the offending key and manipulated it in the lock, listening carefully and half turning it like an experienced cat burglar. After a few seconds of discreet fiddling and clicking she flung open the door.
‘You are a dangersous girl to know’, said Pamphlet man admiringly
Once inside the remote Dorset Cottage there are two steps down to the ground floor bedroom where Pamphlet man chooses to sleep ‘nice and close to the bathroom’, as he never tires of telling anyone who will still listen,
‘I once had a nasty experience staying at this place all on my own. I fell down the stairs in the pitch dark during a middle nightime loo visit and it haunts me still’, he told the whole table after supper while waving his wine glass around (yet again) and with an exaggerated shudder . Supper by the way had involved parmesan cheese which caused me to go in for one of my sideways head laid on table while hoovering up crumbs and fragments with eager toungue moments…I admit…. I am not proud
At first try I just couldn’t manage to go down those bedroom steps. They are not very high but for me they were the equivalent of a sheer cliff face or that tower on the mission church in Vertigo when James Stewart looks down and everything seems to zoom forward and pull back at the same time making for a very woozy sensation, well think of that and double it, and I had that in spades. A girl is after all aware of the delicate nature of her fine long legs So on that first night I stood there feeling a little sorry for myself. I stared ahead through the half open bedroom door. I was like a locked out half frozen and starving orphan with its nose to the window of a warm restaurant window watching all the people inside laughing and eating. There was Pamphlet man lolling on his bed after his Buffalo Grass Vodka Tonics and his wine all cosy and I couldn’t join him, we Greyhounds are sensitive souls and we suffer terribly from separation anxiety. I was not unlike my usual early morning self and I went in for a wee bit of shameless whimpering and so forth. I finally gave up and went back to one of the two discarded and shabby sofas in the front room. I will manage the steps at some point and achieve the goal of finally getting on to Pamphlet man’s bed.I managed finally to broach the stairs down to the bedroom this morning. I stood for a while hesitating with one delicate paw (and they are very delicate, and I like to think elegant as well, I assure you), hovering, circling the drop, and then returning the single paw to the top step, trying again, hovering and then returning, this sad dance went on for a while and then I finally let go and went down a step.
This marked a great personal triumph for me sadly unnoticed by any of the others. Pamphlet man was dozing and was only half aware of my final encirclement, encroachment and small leap of surreptitious invasion on to his narrow bed. He blearily, and still half asleep, reached out and stroked my head and neck (always welcome) while I pushed myself down hard between his body (warm) and the wall and stretched out full length.This means that I am now fully able to get up on to pamphlet man’s bed when required, at least in this place. This is surely a first and now his fate is sealed.
However he struggled up shortly after that and pattered across the chilly lino tiles into the bathroom. I tried to follow him only to find myself trapped on his bed. The same Hitchockian Vertigo woozy sensation that had afflicted me on the stairs happened all over again. I stood wobbly and unsure, teetering on the very edge of the bed. Pamphlet man found me there on his return. I looked up at him as best I could manage with my pitiful ‘lickle orphan eyes’ expression.
‘You are joking’, he said, I thought just a little harshly.
‘Not again, look its not even as high as the stair’, he added, ‘you got up there easily enough’, and pulled at my collar in an attempt to yank me off the bed.
‘Come on’, he said.
I wouldn’t move. I went into immovable solid statue mode.
He sloped off and came back with my dreaded lead and buckled it on. He pulled at me and I did my best to ‘dig in’, that is I braced myself on the bed. I hadn’t reckoned though with the bedcover, a puffy slippery thing which slid against the sheets underneath it so that I was pulled forwards in slow motion and eventually tumbled down in a muddle on to the lino with half the cover wrapped round my feet.
‘Silly dog’, he said, (charming) ‘don’t you want to go to the beach later’?
Well yes actually I did.
So later on that afternoon, (and a perfect afternoon it was) we set off in two cars for the beach.
I was excited to see the sea and there it suddenly was. It was looking especially beautiful. It was flat and calm and a very appealing colour, a kind of light turquoise blue while the the sky faded from a similar blue down to a soft Naples yellow at the horizon. The car park was crowded as was the beach, families and children running about and all enjoying the last of the summer sun. There was also just to be extra tantalising the delicious smell of beach barbecues. I detected sausage bacon and chicken on the air and my oh so tender and sensitive nose roiled and twitched at it, oh the bliss.
We walked towards the seething crowds of happy people all enjoying th sea and the late afternoon light. There was a gap in the wall and beyond the gap I could see the golden sand of the beach itself. I prepared myself, I raised my forepaw and was about to take my first step on to the soft shimmering stuff when pamphlet man noticed a National Trust sign which read, No Dogs Allowed Until After September 30th, this was accompanied by an insulting graphic symbol of an all purpose dog with a line through it.
So that was that.
Pamphlet man pulled me away at the last minute and we stood together in the car park. It was agreed that The mistress and S Veggie 2 and delightful Vegan Perdita would paddle while pamphlet man and E Veggie 1 would climb the grassy cliff path which was at least awash with a selection of good doggie trail smells.
As we climbed higher the beach and the sea looked even more inviting, the sunlight sparkled on the waves and the beach barbecue smells overlaid everything and drove me mad. A couple were far off near the very edge of the cliff. The woman had a baby in a sling on her front which was crying and the man was on his hands and knees carefully searching the ground where they were standing. He was very carefully patting at the grass with the flat of his hand while the woman jiggled the baby up and down and the baby cried and cried.
‘Dropped the dummy’, said Pamphlet man with the usual spurious air of authority and using his ‘seen it all before’ voice.
We got to the top of the cliff with a view back across the bay laid out below us Pamphlet man was excited by a building left over from the war.
‘Pillbox’, he said pointing.
‘Yes’, said E Veggie 1 as if half agreeing but at the same time in a subtly questioning tone, ‘certainly a commanding view’.
‘Yes they laid mines all along these beaches too’, said Pamphlet man, still in his air of authority mode.
There was a mile post or perhaps it was an ordnance survey marker or somesuch thing at the summit and there while I was enjoying a ‘watery moment’ on the long grass which by the way I was also enjoying eating. E Veggie 1 found a pair of glasses on the ground.
Pamphlet man in a very rare moment of perception said,
‘that man over there at the cliff edge was looking for something as we came up’.
Indeed he still was, the cries of the baby could be heard wafting up from the lower slopes and the man was still there down on his hands and knees patting the ground gently all round with both hands.
‘I doubt they would care so much about a baby’s dummy’, E Veggie 1 said.
He set off, striding downslope across the tussocks with the glasses held high above his head, calling out as he walked.
‘Are you looking for these’, to the crouching figure, who must have been crawling around on his hands and knees on the ground for at least half an hour?
‘Oh yes’, came a heavily accented and even at our distance an obviously very relieved reply.
A happy reunion of glasses and owner followed as E Veggie 1 handed them over.
It turned out that the owner of the glasses was Dutch and there he was on a remote Dorset cliff top having his glasses returned by, if not the only man in England who spoke any Dutch at all, then certainly the only man on that beach or cliff who did.
‘ Admittedly’, said E Veggie 1 on his return ‘I speak it in the slightly specialised accent of a Rotterdam Stevedore which must have puzzled him’.
Plainly E Veggie 1 has had an interesting past. The return of the glasses was a satisfying moment for all, a happy ending to the afternoon and later on even the key worked in the front door. Later still I managed to sleep on pamphlet man’s bed for the first time and all night. I might have been denied the beach but I got to sleep on the beach blanket a real triumph.