January 11th, 2006

International Kittens of Mystery

Nous Sommes Anglais - Part 4 - A night under canvas - almost

It was our last evening in an English pub. We had £10 left - everything else was in Francs. We sat sipping our real ale and draught cider surrounded by beams and antique brasses.

And watched the 9:25 weather forecast on TV. You could hardly make out the English Channel beneath all the isobars. And it was getting worse. The forecast for Thursday and Friday were horrendous.

Walking back to the lairage we expected to hear a cacophony of barks and screams but it was strangely quiet. Perhaps everyone was dead?

But no. Gypsy was asleep in her box, curled up in the straw and looking angelic. And there was news about the window - it was expected around eight o'clock the next morning. But only for a few hours. Oh and yes, the vet inspection had been booked for 5:30.

What vet inspection?

We shouldn't have asked.

Apparently all our paperwork for the move was now obsolete. The embarkation port had changed, and our vet inspection - which had to take place no more than twenty-four hours before embarkation - had now lapsed. We had to start again. Luckily the lairage was used to this and had all the forms and their own vet on stand-by.

We performed our final check on the animals, cleaned out the litter trays, changed the water, replenished the food, mucked out Gypsy's box and said goodnight to the horses.

And then went to bed.

Or, at least, into the darts room. Which was starting to feel distinctly cold. It was February after all. So, we went to the stable for horse blankets. Naturally the horses were wearing the warm ones and were both crashed out in their stalls pretending to be asleep. Which left us with the cold, canvas New Zealand rugs instead. I am often amazed at how far we had allowed ourselves to fall down life's pecking order.

Back in the darts room it soon became apparent that two people could not sleep on the sofa. The only other place to sleep was the floor. We tossed for the sofa. I won. We argued. You're the one who wouldn't stay in a hotel. They wouldn't have taken Gypsy. We could have left her here. Not for the whole night.

And so on.

Solely in the interests of equality I insisted that I had to take the sofa. Anything less would have been an attack on the entire feminist movement, which I just could not countenance.

Five minutes later Gypsy climbed on top of me and tried to get between me and the back of the sofa. Whether this was an attack by or against the feminist movement I was unsure. But she did manage to gain a foothold on the sofa.

For a while.

I threw her off, she jumped back, I threw her off again. But I was tiring and as I started to drift towards sleep, she wedged herself against the back of the sofa and started to use those long legs of hers to push and lever until I woke up at two o'clock and found myself on the floor. I hadn't even got a New Zealand Rug. Shelagh had one and Gypsy the other. A combined victory for the united feminists.

By 4:30 we were up and ready for whatever the day could chuck at us. I was cold and my back hurt but I was alive. And by this time my threshold of expectation had sunk so low that being alive was about as good as it gets.

I took Gypsy out on the lead while Shelagh washed. It was still pitch black and a raw wind was searching out all the gaps in my clothing. Gypsy looked up at me and I agreed. We went back inside.

By the time the vet arrived we'd seen to the cats again and cleaned up the darts room. Sue was making coffee in the horsebox and all the yard lights were on and the lairage was awake.

The vet raced through the paperwork, documents stamped and signed in a few minutes. Then Sue called to us that we were booked on the 8:30 ferry, the window had arrived.

All we had to do now was load the horses.

And the less said about that the better. Suffice it to say, Rain and the pony loaded like lambs and Rhiannon did not.

(next instalment: Die Hard 4: The trousers come off)