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We travel together often, Daisy, Wilf and I and it has become something of a chaotic affair. We pour ourselves and assorted paraphernalia, portable dog bowls, leads, dog coats, water bottles, blankets, towels, treats, wellingtons, waterproofs and the like into my tired little car and head off.

When Daisy was a single lady it was a much more sedate activity requiring a lot less effort. She would sit back on her haunches in the front seat of the car, recline against the upholstery, ever so slightly raise her right paw and gaze enigmatically out of the window. The sight caused much amusement amongst my friends, neighbours and passing travellers. She was very Garbo in those days.

Daisy is, as you know, a dextrous and supple individual. Travelling in the car she has always found it easy to shift her balance extremely well in order to remain upright whilst I corner or take a roundabout. She leans into the bends like a seasoned TT rider taking them all with ease.

We first noticed this phenomenon just after she came to live with us. We used to travel daily along the narrow, winding lanes of Cornwall in order that I might catch the Cremyll Ferry into Plymouth for my work. She would sit on MOH’s toolbox in the back of the car and placing a steadying paw either side of the front seats peer out intensely through the gap. Ears cocked and eyes alert she would follow the twists and turns of the road ahead whilst occasionally turning to absentmindedly lick my ear. She handled each bend with aplomb. She would then hop into the front seat for the return journey home, sometimes before I had fully left it.

If I were to anthropomorphise, I would say that on the beach of life Daisy would have to be a surfer and, I apologise here, something of a cliché, with tousled hair, bleached blonde by the sun, clad in the finest make of wet suit and riding the biggest waves on the very best of boards. She would undoubtedly be a champion.

Wilf, on the other hand, would be the unfortunate chap who is painfully salmon pink at the end of the day from too much sunbathing and too little factor 8, dressed in day-glo bermudas with a muffin top. He would be the person the RNLI would have to rescue after he had been haplessly washed out to sea on his plastic lilo.

Meanwhile, back in doggy form……

We travel everywhere these days in a snow like flurry of dog hair. There is also a tenacious battle of wills for the window seat. Daisy usually wins and maintains her position by leaning forward so that her back paws are on the seat and her front paws are on the dashboard. Wilf has tried to emulate her on numerous occasions with varying degrees of success. Unfortunately, he is quite a stiff legged little chap (think the legendary James Cagney dancing in ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’) and consequently has a poor sense of balance (unlike the immortal Mr Cagney). Wilf has fallen off a floor cushion before now, whilst it was actually still on the floor!

I have lost count of the number of times on our travels he has suddenly pitched forward and slid inelegantly off the passenger seat and into the foot-well. On each occasion it has been a prat fall worthy of Del-Boy. Like Del-Boy, Wilf has also mastered the art of getting up very quickly in that age old and very human fashion of hoping that by doing so no-one will notice that anything untoward has happened at all.

I can’t be sure but I am almost certain that on each occasion Daisy was smiling!

Bright Blessings
x

I love my dogs. However, walking them is often a fraught affair, on occasions slightly hazardous and always potentially embarrassing.

Neither Wilf nor Daisy can be let off the lead so they both have extendable leads to allow them the maximum right to roam. Daisy, as every terrier owner will know, is guided not by her brain cells, which are cunning and clever should she choose to use them, but by the unfortunate desire to pursue anything with a pulse. In the presence of an interesting scent, squirrel is a particular favourite but anything will do, it is nose to the ground, tail in the air and, given the opportunity, she is gone.

We lost her once in Cornwall on a miserable and wet day when she turned her nose to the pursuit of rabbits. After a long and fruitless search she was eventually found and returned to us by a kindly walker. She was totally sodden and an alarming shade of orange due to the red colour of Cornish soil, which by the state of her she seemed to have been wallowing in and which that county is renowned for.  It took an age, a lot of hot water and any amount of scrubbing to get her clean.

We lost her a second time in Wiltshire when she decided to tryst with the rather sleekly handsome young man from a nearby cottage.   MOH foamed and roared on her return like a disapproving Victorian parent whose only child has dishonoured the family name by such a dalliance. I rather liked the boy. He was of excellent pedigree, extremely good looking and very well behaved, unlike my two. I think it safe to say the little minx led him astray on that occasion!

Wilf stays on the lead because, although he has a loveable nature, he is possessed of remarkably few brain cells and is not good with other dogs. We did lose him once in the bluebell wood when I was out one day walking with MOH. Wilf didn’t go far and kept us in sight at all times. MOH’s attempts to apprehend the escapee involved yelling ‘Sit!’ very loudly at every opportunity. As if that was ever going to work! Eventually I think Wilf worked out that Daisy was on the lead and, therefore, unable to elope with him, Elizabeth Barrett, Robert Browning style, to a life of sybaritic pleasure in the woods, so he gave himself up to me. He trotted up and calmly surrendered himself to the lead. My heart left my mouth, returned to its usual position and all was thankfully well with the world.

Once outside they are both highly excitable, running back and forth. On more than one occasion I have found myself trussed like an oven-ready chicken as they run widdershins and deosil around me to the point where one more tug, in either direction, would see me go down like a felled pine and up-end in a ditch!

In order to avoid this fate we have developed a rather strange dance which, to any startled passer-by, must appear very odd.   It involves me stepping over the leads as the dogs cross in front of me. Slightly reminiscent of a goosestep I suppose, but without the associated swagger or aplomb, or Double Dutch skipping but without any actual skipping! There is also a lot of spinning on the spot and frantic hand manoeuvring in order to stop the leads from fouling up.   Perhaps now you understand why I prefer to walk them alone in out of the way places!

As they run feverishly to and fro this actually amounts to quite a lot of unintentional aerobic activity on my part which I feel the urge to counter with coffee and copious ginger nut biscuits when I finally get home, red faced and exhausted.

Today’s embarrassing incident occurred when I managed to get my hair caught in Daisy’s lead. It decided to retract as I lifted my hand to my face to swat a fly which was bothering me. The lead snatched up quite a thick strand of my long hair which I then couldn’t get out because Wilf wouldn’t stand still long enough to let me get my other hand to it. Daisy, most uncharacteristically, decided at this point to sit down and stare up at me with those amber eyes of hers whilst I stood in the middle of the lane staring back at her with her lead firmly clamped to my head.  Eventually Wilf stuck his head in the hedge and I managed to extricate myself.

I once got my hair, which is really quite long, stuck in the electric window of my car. It was snatched up as it closed and, due to the number of cars behind me, I found myself having to drive up the spiral entrance of a multi-storey car park with my neck uncomfortably stretched and my head cocked to one side until I could find a parking space and release myself!

What a life!!

Bright Blessings

x

 

 

One morning, in Waitrose, I had one of those conversations that makes you think. Not that I spend a great deal of time in Waitrose, you understand, it is far too rich for my blood. In mitigation, however, I would say it is virtually on my doorstep and I needed something quickly. I am definitely more of a Tesco and Morrison girl really. However, my conversation with the lovely checkout lady made me think.

We were discussing the Marlborough Mop, a fair which stretches over two weekends a year, takes up all of the main street and whose currently 809 year existence is enshrined in the Town Charter of 1204.

She was saying that as a local Marlborough girl, born and bred, she is very fond of the Mop. She enjoyed it growing up and her grandchildren now enjoy it, although she bemoaned the fact that it would no doubt cost her a small fortune to keep them happy whilst visiting it. However, there are, she murmured darkly, over my soya milk, those who want to stop the Mop, who speak out against it each year and wish to see it banished as a tradition and they are all mostly ‘newcomers’ to the town. She was adamant they should not prevail!

I am sure that newcomers are not the only people who moan about the disruption to the town when the Mop arrives. It does means, after all, the closure of the central parking area of Marlborough over two weekends and doubtless many wish it would go away simply so they can avoid any upheaval to their lives and businesses. Making a living in this economic climate is not easy at the best of times for any of us.

I suppose my brief conversation with the checkout lady raised questions in my mind. Why do people move to an area, a small country town or a village and then try to change it? Invariably, in some way, they seem to want to recreate the very place they have just left. Why?

I have witnessed this phenomenon before having lived in two different places in Cornwall which I fell in love with initially for their quirky haphazardness and the spirited rebelliousness and friendliness of the locals. Cornwall really is another country.

The first was Looe. This is a quaint and ancient part of South Eastern Cornwall made up of East and West Looe or the sunny side and the money side, as those who are Looe born and bred put it. It has a working harbour and a fish market much beloved of a certain Mr Stein. It moves very much at its own pace which is summed up in a phrase much used by Cornishmen….. ‘dreckly’.

This word is open to wide interpretation and can, and does in my experience, mean almost anything. What it definitely doesn’t mean is that whatever you want done will be done straight away. It means ‘it will get done eventually, now take the weight of your feet, sit down here and tell me your story.’ It reflects the laid back, hospitable, almost horizontal nature of those folk who live by the sea.

I can understand it getting irksome when, having moved in from up country where you are used to having things done before you have even thought of them, you find yourself tackling ‘dreckly’ head on. You should know in advance that you’re never going to win because this is the way it has always been. The sooner you accept this, the sooner you will find your shoulders dropping, the tensions ebbing away, and you becoming as laid back and generous as the lovely place you have made your home.

It is, when all’s said and done, a totally different pace of life, unwilling to be rushed and governed by the tides and surely this is what you loved about the place so much it bounced you out of your comfortable, well-catered for, everything available 24/7 urban life. Now, if you understand the connection you’ll be fine. If you don’t and all you want to do is change this, stop that and remove whatever, you will be doomed to failure. There were a few in my time in Looe who came, full of bravado, cooking up plans for making Looe a hip and happening place, all to no avail. They upset people along the way and were eventually thwarted. Looe is as Looe was and I, for one, hope it will remain so.

My second encounter with this phenomenon is a prime example of adapting to the tide of life in a coastal village. This stems from my time as a resident of Kingsand Cawsand in Cornwall’s forgotten corner, the Rame Peninsula.

Cornwall, Kingsand in particular, is my spiritual home and the place My Other Half (MOH) and I constantly long to return to. This is my fantasy euro-millions lottery winners destination. I am just a temporary exile in Wiltshire and know that we will find our way back to Kingsand one day.

MOH and I found it easy to fit in in Kingsand. It was truly what we had always wanted and a magical place. The natives were lovely and we made excellent friends. We loved the pubs, the wild gig club dances, the beach and the woodland round about. We loved the isolated, ever so slightly lawless nature of the place. We loved watching holiday makers arrive whey-faced, stressed and beleaguered, towing children, dogs and kayaks, bemoaning the lack of a ‘proper’ supermarket. A few days later we would see them wandering, transformed amongst the listed buildings and narrow lanes of Kingsand Cawsand, having ‘learned the ways’ of the excellent local shop and, unable to get a decent mobile signal, almost totally and therapeutically cut off from the cares and worries of their other lives. They felt and responded to the magic.

However, there were a few souls who came to the village, drawn initially by its unspoiled streets and timeless nature, who felt unable to embrace it or live with it as it was and immediately sought to change it.

The characterful cottages they purchased had beautiful, uneven wooden floors, which had felt the passing of generation upon generations of feet, original sash windows and shutters, all the things people ordinarily seek out. But it was not for them. They decided to straighten the wobbly floors, strip out the old floorboards, change the windows and shutters, add large extensions where possible, thereby creating square, modern boxes which could have been found almost anywhere.

I know…I know… people have a perfect right to do what they want with the homes they own but they caused such distress, mess and chaos to those around them. Those locals who call Kingsand Cawsand their permanent homes pulled in their horns and made their disapproval known in the subtle ways of the Cornish. Ultimately, people dislike change. It is understandable in such a beautiful place. It chips away at the magic you see and, if you truly love a place, you really don’t want that.

Traditions, be they the local Mop Fair or the ethos of a particular place are extremely important. They are vital to the people who already live there and need to be understood and embraced by those who move into an area.

We have all read, I’m sure, the newspaper stories of people moving from town to country and immediately calling for the Church bells, local cockerel and/or sheep to be silenced.

I was recently astonished to read somewhere about a chap who moved into a village and quite soon after complained about a local farmer’s cockerel. The farmer was told that his cockerel crowed too loudly, thus exceeding some ridiculous environmental noise law or other, and he was taken to court. The farmer had an Order made against him under the terms of which his cockerel was to be put down. The appalled people of the village came down heavily in favour of the cockerel. The gentleman concerned was firmly ‘sent to Coventry’ by the village inhabitants, and eventually, ignored and defeated, sold up and left, hopefully a wiser man. Thankfully the cockerel was spared to crow another day.

I suppose people need to tread softly rather than rushing in like a bull in a china shop. Then, maybe, change can come about organically whilst traditions continue to flourish and the special magic of a place prevails to everyone’s mutual satisfaction.

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