January 26th, 2006

International Kittens of Mystery

Nous Sommes Anglais - Part 9 - Animals behaving typically (i.e. badly)

Once in the room, it wasn't much better. Minnie, the kitten, started yowling and Guinny took exception. Even though we'd separated them from line of sight, Guinny could hear Minnie and that was more than enough provocation. She started making spitting noises. Which was viewed by Gypsy as an invitation to play. And bark. And worry my leg.

And they had been so well-behaved in the horsebox! It was as though they'd waited until they'd got us alone.

I tried to quieten Gypsy, while Shelagh took Guinny off into the bathroom. Perhaps if we separated the cats for a while it might help. And besides, the cats' crates could do with a thorough clean and the bathroom was the only place we could safely let a cat out.

Quietening Gypsy was never easy. The easiest way was to let her do whatever she wanted. Which usually meant allowing myself to be chewed or dragged across the floor. Neither game was among my favourites.

I tried interesting her in some of her toys - her womble, her chews and various rubber animals. She preferred my leg.

"Why don't you take Gypsy for a walk," a disembodied voice called out from the bathroom.

I could think of many reasons. But my legs outvoted me. It might be safer outside.

I walked nonchalantly past the dining room carrying my dog. Trying to blend in with the background as much as possible and present Gypsy as more fashion accessory than pet.

I don't think it worked. I could still feel a large number of eyes lift from their dinner plates and bore into the back of my neck.

Outside, the wind had found an occasional shower and was in the process of throwing it against the Wimereux coastline. I turned to walk Gypsy towards the promenade and was immediately peppered with hail stones. I turned and looked longingly at the hotel door. Could I go back in? Which was worse - to be battered and soaked for twenty minutes or walk back past the dining room carrying a dog?

It was a close call.

But not that close.

We moved out of the worst of the storm and tried a side street. At least, with the buildings shielding us from the wind we could walk in some degree of comfort. Above us, the wind had sculpted an arch of hail and rain which whipped off the roofs to seaward and smashed against the upper storey of the houses across the road. Gypsy looked up in amazement. And then refused to lift her eyes off the pavement for the rest of the walk. There were some things a puppy should never have to see.

At the next road junction we hit the wall of rain and ice and fought our way through it as best we could. Then we staggered another block or two before turning round. We'd had enough.

I checked my watch as we slipped in through the hotel door. Three o'clock. Surely the dining room had to empty soon. I looked in vain for signs of another staircase or at least another passage. But there were none. From the lobby you either went up the stairs or left into the dining room.

I felt so self-conscious. Perhaps if I tried speed? Slipped from behind the reception desk and shot up the stairs before anyone had a chance to look up? Swift and silent. It could work.

We burst out of the lobby, a blur of anorak and black fur. I flew over the first step, the second, where's the third, shit, grrrr, bark, bite.