Those unexpected little extras….

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Our Norfolk terrier is 21 months old. He came to live with us when he was 4 months old, past the most intensive of the early puppy stages of house training, but still in need of some guidance into the garden. It didn’t take too long; it was a hot summer so doors were open and the penny soon dropped.

During the puppy stage Bosworth emerged as the delightful, interactive dog he is now. Good with children, very friendly and with an amusing line in vocal greetings and a tendency to “chat” or emit little howls of excitement, he also got into chewing – all puppies do – and having reflected on what he has chewed, ruined, and what’s needed replacing etc. since we had him, here’s the current list:

One hairdryer – left unplugged on the bedroom floor and munched to death, wires hanging out of it. Replaced by new one, now stored in a cupboard.

Three duvet covers – pulled off beds as he searched for daughter’s cat who’d been staying. Being a mender rather than a thrower-away, I got out the sewing machine and patched up the gnawed ripped bits. They’re all usable. Good job our guests aren’t fussy!

Three sheets – ditto. Still searching for same cat. Having pulled off the duvets, he had a go at the sheets. Also mended & back in use.

Garden fence take 1 –  the fence  was elderly and good enough to stop The Great Escape happening while he was still in the first puppy stages….until one day he was missing. A hole had been chewed through the bamboo screening attached to our 3 foot trellis fence. He’d squeezed through, had the freedom of the garden backing on to ours and was going crazy searching for the cat who lives there. Returned by the neighbour, who was rather amused. Agree to share cost of new fence.

We call our local fencer who’s done some previous work and fix a date for installation. In the meantime we block off the chewed hole and any other likely escape routes, supervising trips into the garden.

Garden fence take 2 – new fence installed. It’s 6 feet high. Dog sits looking intently and fixedly at fence. A few days later goes missing and is seen racing round the neighbour’s garden again, still trying to find their cat. Said cat is sitting watching this through the patio doors. We find a hole dug under the new fence. He will come to it from the other side but not come through. I go round and try to get into the garden. Side gate is locked, neighbour is out.

We devise a rescue and retrieval operation. We lift one of the bottom panels of the fence and wedge it open. Husband crawls through and gets dog. We tell neighbour what happened and he fills in the escape route hole with concrete.

Garden fence take 3 – dog starts looking intently at other areas of the fence, frequently disappearing behind the arbour in the corner of the garden, where we find him staring at the fence. We keep an eye on him but he finds a way through the corner gap where two panels of the fence meet. We lift the bottom fence panel again, husband crawls through and gets dog. We block the gap.

Garden fence take 4 – we didn’t block it enough. Dog repeats escape. We repeat retrieval procedure. Gap is successfully barricaded and blocked. The garden should now be like Fort Knox.

Garden side gate – dog begins sitting looking intently at the locked side gate, nose down on the small gap beneath it. It’s suspiciously quiet, so I go to check. Dog in process of digging up plants and soil by the gate and adjacent fence. Very swiftly bricks and concrete slabs are put in place. Dog continues to sit and look at gate and fence, but The Great Escape game is over.

Garden bench – we notice he’s started creating a hole underneath the seat of our stone bench on the lawn and say “Oh what the hell – he’s a terrier – let him have a bit of fun!” We’re hoping he’s now past the stage of springing these unexpected extra outlays on us, but to be honest, we did need a new fence anyway…..

 

Valley of the Saints

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On a grey, chilly, windy day in August I visited the Valley of the Saints in northern Brittany. Like a modern-day line up of Easter Island-like giant statues, some of the many religious saints associated with bringing Christianity to Brittany are depicted in stone, sculpted by modern-day artists who are taking part in this developing project.

About 50 saints are already in place, standing proud on a windy hillside with views of the surrounding countryside and the sea. Each one is different and has it’s own story – there is a guidebook outlining the story of each saint, and there are guides too, to tell their stories.

The teenager in our Anglo-French family group took it upon himself to entertain the younger members of the group, making up stories for them about the statues and acting as an alternative guide – his stories were very funny and creative and while the children half-beleived what he was saying, the adults were chuckling a lot. If there was a saint with a sense of humour somewhere on that hillside, he or she would have been proud of our alternative guide and his amusing tales.

The saint with an axe in her head, pictured above, is touching a lion’s head – you can just see it’s teeth. Our alternative guide’s take on this one was that she reminds us to be kind to animals and the environment, otherwise we will come to a nasty end.

I fully concur with that.

Grandchild on board

“Oooh, Audrey’s got a TV too!” said granddaughter, as I removed the cover from the flat screen TV so she could watch her Mr. Benn DVD. Audrey is the name of our Murvi Morello campervan; Mr Benn is classic children’s TV from the late 1970s when her dad used to watch this same programme.

On site Freidrichshafen

When we put in the order for our Morello we asked for an extra bunk to fit in the cab area so we could initiate granddaughter into the delights of going on holiday in our palace on wheels. We were shown how to set up the bunk on handover day, and I tried it for size and accessibility, but we had yet to use it for real. That was granddaughter’s job.

At 3 years old, and rapidly approaching her 4th birthday, we took her away for her first trip – two nights at the Caravan & Motorhome Club site at Chatsworth in the last chilly days of May. Excitement was running high when we set off over what she called the “mountains” (Peak District), but she had yet to see where she would be sleeping. The van was set up for transporting passengers, which meant a bit of push and shove as the long sofa was transformed into a back seat with seat belts. The child seat was strapped into one of them, and I was strapped into the other; she wanted Nanny to sit next to her while Granddad got on with the driving. We were on familiar ground here as she’d already taken a preliminary trip in Audrey the Van with her dad sitting next to her.

On arrival, the seat was magicked back into a sofa while she and I took an exploratory walk around the campsite. She liked looking at the vans and asked why some of them had tents (awnings) on them. She also liked the walk we had in the grounds of Chatsworth, and the ice cream she had at the end of it. But would she like the bed?

She ate hungrily, watched Mr. Benn and had some stories. She liked having two tables in the van where she could do her colouring in, and was fascinated by the loo flush mechanism and the way the lights in the van could be changed to ambient blue. She happily got ready for bed. We made it up so that her head was on the driver’s side, loaded it with the soft toys she’d brought and pulled the dividing curtain across, leaving a gap at the foot end for a bit of reassuring light to get through. Once in bed she made token gestures towards sleep but our expectations were realistically low. Rightly so too. She insisted on turning the whole lot around so her head was on the passenger side where she could peep around the curtain.

M in van bed

She proceeded not just to peep but to play, giggle, bounce, sing and generally be as naughty as she dared while we ate our meal and tried not to let on we were laughing too. At 10.25, her mum sent a text saying. “So is she asleep yet?!” and I firmly (but lovingly) read the riot act. She slept.

The next day we tired her out with a full day of walking through the parkland to Chatsworth House and a visit to the farm and adventure playground. That night she slept like a log. And she wants to go away in Audrey the Van again, claiming the bed is much better than the one she sleeps in at our house.

This was written when granddaughter was 3 and went on her first motorhome holiday. She’s now just turned 10, has several van trips under her belt and loves the whole camping experience.

Chatsworth Caravan & Motorhome Club site

Set in a walled area/ large walled garden. Broken up into smaller areas and cul de sacs. Many trees and shrubs, green areas, small children’s play area, reasonably well-stocked shop in reception. Baby/toddler bathroom (£5 key deposit). Direct access to the Park from campsite. Approx 20 mins walk to Chatsworth House and Gardens. Farm offers guinea pig handling, goat and cow milking demonstrations, tractor rides plus horses, sheep, pigs, chickens etc. Adventure playground excellently appointed with top notch activity equipment for young and older age groups, water play, treetop walkways, trampoline. There’s a first aid post on site with magazines for parents/guardians to borrow and browse while the children play.

This edited and updated article first appeared in the Murvi Club in-house e-magazine.

Twin sisters, Brittany

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These happy ladies are volunteers in Chapelle du Kreisker, Saint-Pol-de-Leon, selling tickets for those keen enough to climb the 79 metre-high bell tower for a view over the surrounding area.

The 179 steps to the top are accessed by a very narrow steep, stone, spiral staircase. Husband and son went up, taking photos of the narrowness of the staircase just to convince me and daughter-in-law that we’d made the right decision to stay on the ground.

I asked the ladies if they were sisters….”Yes! But we are twins”, they said laughing and with eyes twinkling.

“Which one is the oldest?” I asked (my dormant French woke up and was used).

It’s the twin on the right. She didn’t know by how many minutes she was the senior twin, but there was a fair amount of good humoured joking going on between the two of them about this.

Market at Plestin-les-Greves

There’s nothing like a bustling French market to awaken the senses after a long….very long in this case….journey to Brittany.  UK roads to Plymouth were beset with detours, a hefty storm delayed our ferry crossing to Roscoff by 12 hours, and the sea was full of heaving white horses when we sailed. The Kwells worked; I didn’t throw up, but the voyage is best glossed over.

So a trip next morning to Plestin-les-Greves to browse in the market and pick up the ambience made for a good start to the week. There were flowers, fruit, veg, and food of all kinds to please both eyes and nose. We shuffled along in the crowd of locals and tourists, enjoying the atmosphere and feeling glad we’d finally arrived.

Granddaughter cajoled her parents into buying her a watch from one stall, we each bought ourselves stylish belts from another and husband resisted the temptation to get himself yet another small change purse (he seems to get one whenever we visit France!).

Then we headed for the remains of a Roman villa and ran and played with the children on a nearby stunning beach before returning to the 16th century manor house where we were staying.

Our group of seven was due to expand to fourteen next day with the arrival of another branch of the French side of the family. More on that later.

The Smallest House in Great Britain

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This tiny, quirky, bright red house is wedged into the walls of Conwy in North Wales. It’s been a tourist attraction for as long as I can remember and I went into it many years ago when my children were small. On this occasion, I was there with grandchildren who decided they didn’t want to go in (there was a queue) but went up to inspect it so they could see just how small it is.

I have vague recollections of how poky and gloomy it was inside the two small rooms – one up, one down. It was built in the 16th century. In 1900 it was occupied by a tenant, a 6ft. 3in, tall fisherman, who eventually had to move out ( perhaps he kept banging his head on the ceiling?!). It’s still owned by the same family and is open in the summer season as a tourist attraction.

There is always a lady in traditional Welsh costume on duty to take the entry fee and sell a small selection of souvenirs.

The Steepest Street in the World

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Recently on holiday in North Wales with visiting grandchildren, we took them to Harlech to explore the castle, perched high above the surrounding area. A very successful visit it was, and they enjoyed the ins and outs of this part-ruined but interesting and historic national monument.

After we’d seen the castle we found the recently announced steepest street in the world – Fford Pen Llech –  and walked first down, then back up up it. I can vouch for it’s gradient – my legs really felt the stretch walking back up and I couldn’t stand up straight. The grandchildren, they of the young legs and mobile knees, took it literally in their stride and once back up, went straight to the children’s play area by the castle for more activity.

I went for a sit down!