Monday, 28 July 2008

A new view

When I look out, now, instead of the small paddock and buildings of the Bubble Car Museum, I see a 10 acre field, liberally dotted with tents and caravans, surrounded by woodland, where the dog is delighted to take her daily rambles. We're on a proper farm, with eggs etc for sale at the farmhouse door and it feels a bit like a pop festival without the music, mud and crowds! A very happy atmosphere, with everyone relaxed and having a good time, and none of the jostling for status that you can get on "posh" sites.

We moved here on Saturday. Living the way we do means that every time we move, we spend about 90 minutes making sure everything is secure, disconnecting plumbing and electrics, making sure that weight is properly distributed, then hooking up to the car, sorting out those electrics and rear view mirrors etc, before we actually get on the road. Depending how far we have to go, we then have the journey, which can be exhausting and frightening, as many drivers are so impatient they overtake in dangerous situations, which can make for a white-knuckle ride - who needs fairgrounds! These drivers seem totally oblivious to our lack of ability to brake suddenly, for instance, and usually underestimate how long we are, leading to some tight squeezes. Then, of course, we have the fun of actually finding the new site - the directions can be a bit woolly sometimes, and turning a car and caravan around in someone's farm yard is an unpopular but sometimes required manouvre. Having found our destination, we have to check and pay up, find our pitch and site ourselves ( sometimes very entertaining and time consuming in congested spaces) then find the water, drainage, sewage, electric hook up, bins . . . not always as straightforward as you might expect! Some site owners seem to delight in making us play hide and seek for these essentials, hiding taps drains in hedges, behind sheds, halfway down a long drive . . . .Then we have to spend some time searching out the local Laundrette and shops, as we won't have time after work. After all that, we're lucky if there's any day left! Still, it does often mean that neither of us can be bothered to cook, so we get fish and chips, or push the boat out and have a bar meal!

All this means we only have Sunday to explore the sights, especially in the winter months - at least we can do a bit of exploring on summer evenings, even if it's British summer weather i.e. wet! It's hot and dry at present, well dry as in 'not raining' being an island we always have a fair degree of humidity, which can make it feel like you're trying to breathe soup and makes me very tired (poor old thing!) If we have to move every weekend, it does get a bit wearing, to say the least, and as I (a) don't drive and (b) can't stand or walk for very long, it means that all I ever see is the camp site! Not that I'm complaining, we've been on some lovely sites - in Yorkshire we stayed for a couple of months in the grounds of a stately home, by the lake that was part of "Capability" Brown's landscaping, it was gorgeous, and the wildlife was rampant and highly entertaining (especially for the dog, but she never did manage to catch a water vole!)

If it wasn't for our mobile modem and the dog, I could get pretty bored and lonely, but Sioni (the dog) drags me out of doors and into some exercise, even if it's pouring. We've always had dogs in our family, apart from the gaps between losing the last and gaining the next, even when we have been very hard up, somehow we always found a way to feed a dog as well as us, and they have always given full value for money! The first dog I remember was Scallywag, a golden brown spaniel, who was far too fat. I was very small, it was when my father was still alive, and I suspect my mother had panic attacks everyday, taking him ashore on the raft, so that he could have his walks, for she was severely aquaphobic and being willing to live on a boat is a measure of how much she loved my father, I think. Apparently, I nearly killed poor Scally, by putting an elastic band around his neck - with all the folds of flesh, no-one realised till he was at death's door. Luckily he survived this trauma, to become even fatter, and ended up being sent away to special kennels to lose weight! He was still there, I believe, when my father died so I can tell you no more about him. Once we were settled at Castle Street, I managed to inveigle my mother into adopting another dog.

Looking back with the wisdom of hindsight, I realise that what happened must have given Mummy many a sleepless night over money, but children are oblivious to the implications of poverty. Mummy worked part time at a restaurant down the road, a very upmarket place, and the daughter of the house became my friend - are you out there, Yvonne? During the summer holidays we would sometimes hang out around town together, and in the Cathedral precints we met a man (a Traveller, I now realise) with a cute terrier puppy and we both fell in love with his delightful little creature. Now, Yvonne, bless her, was rich from my perspective, and got real pocket money, reliably, every week, and she'd just got the latest ration - the enormous sum of 10 shillings. To cut a long story short, Yvonne blew her pocket money on the puppy. When she got home, the smelly stuff really hit the fan! No way were her parents going to have a dog in their high class restaurant. They were quite right, of course, but that didn't help Yvonne or the dog. I ran home and pleaded with my mother - the dog would have be put down if we didn't rescue it, cos the man at the Cathedral had gone and Yvonne's parents didn't care about the dog and they were incandescent about her throwing away all that money on the dog, and couldn't we possibly rescue the dog and Yvonne from the wrath of her parents? I must have been distraught, because Mummy said we would take the dog and they could dock the 10 shillings from her wages! That was a very special dog, my mother named her 'Patum Pepparium' which is the name of an anchovy paste (very expensive) known as 'The Gentleman's Relish' because she was such a pretty dog!

Patum was very intelligent, and Mummy was a dedicated and responsible dog owner. Patum learned many tricks and became our favourite companion. She would allow us to dress her in baby clothes and would lie, patiently, in the dolls pram for a surprisingly long time, being pushed around the park and up and down the street. She could open and close doors, fetch all sorts of things reliably and perform remarkable acrobatics. She became my mother's true companion and comfort through many ups and downs, and gave birth to 2 litters who gave the family more generations of loving support, as well as some of our friends who adopted the puppies. One little charmer went to an actress ( that's a whole new bunch of stories!) and even went on stage himself - his name was Fabrizzio, known as 'Brizzi", and some wicked wit taught him to believe that the word 'sex' meant 'chocolate', predictably, he went hysterical whenever the 'S' word was mentioned!

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