Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Wednesday 30 October 2013

A somewhat disturbed night.  Both girls slept well - a little too well, as it happened.  Come the wee small pre-dawn hours, some odd noises could be heard emanating from Betty's bedroom.  As Betty seems to be enduring a return of her recurring ear infection, my partner and Gisèle decided that they'd better investigate...

They tip-toed (and -clawed) to Betty's room (aka the bathroom with Betty's bed in it) and peeped in.  Betty was sound asleep, but growling, wuffing and muttering in her sleep.  She was burbling something incoherent about "the potatoes".  Giz looked instantly amused.  I was just quietly warning her that she ought to consider the fact that she, too, mutters in her sleep before she laughs too heartily at Betty - when Betty herself suddenly sat bolt upright with her eyes open (though clearly still in the deepest of sleeps) and barked clearly and loudly "The potatoes!  There aren't enough potatoes!  Nellie -" [Betty's Springer Spaniel house-mate] "- we HAVE to plant more potatoes or no carrots will grow!  Quick!  The potatoes!!  This is important..." and, with that, she collapsed back onto her blanket and fell into deep muffled snores again.  Giz could barely suppress her giggles as she and my partner crept back to their own bed.

I sternly forbade Gisèle from teasing Betty about this during the following day.  With her usual faux-sincérité, Giz nodded and promised not to mock her friend, all the while her twinkling eyes signalling mischievous plots being created...  I shook my head as, some time later, I spotted Giz grasping 'twixt her tiny fangs the little potato bag from my partner's vegetable-rack.  She crept back to where Betty lay sleeping and dropped the bag, arranging the small spuds around Betty's head and then lay down to wait.  I didn't linger to view the outcome, such japes were only occasionally amusing to me.  I did, however, catch Betty following Giz with a look of rapt wonder on her face pleading "But how did you know, Gizzy, how did you KNOW?" Gisèle merely giggled and replied "I saw it in my crystal bowl..."

I despair of those two, I genuinely do.


I had a very good nights' sleep in my sleeping bag and jumped out of bed. I couldn't WAIT to get out and about and on with the business of being on holiday. I heard Devon and Eis, the big (German) Belgian Shepherd Dogs, and their owners from the next-door cottage going out for the day while I was eating my breakfast, but Marnie came bounding up with her trademark rubber-ball when I put my first paw outdoors for a wee-wee. "Good morning!" she grinned. I liked Marnie, she was really friendly. "Come and meet the chickens!" she wuffed (I hadn't quite worked out how she could wuff clearly, despite holding her ball in her mouth, it was like magic). "Oh... I don't know..." I replied, doubtfully. Mistress had not let me forget what happened with the chicken on my last holiday, nor the level of spanked bottom I would receive if I repeated my wicked deed.

"They're locked in!" persisted Marnie, "Only mum and dad can go in to feed and look after them and collect the eggs. Besides, chickens are boring! I mean, they're useful and everything, and I always remember to say thank you for the fresh egg I get every day - but they're RUBBISH at playing ball! They just scratch and cluck and peck about. Come and see though! Dad built them a nice, proper big chicken house what foxes can't get in! Come on Giz!"

"The thing is," I muttered, in the subdued tones of a guilty confessor, "I've got a bit of history with chickens... I was a bit naughty with one last year. I mean, I didn't kill it or anything!" I added quickly, as Marnie's eyes widened, "I just, erm, 'redesigned' the chicken's outfit..."
"What did you do?!" asked Marnie, with a giggle.

"I pulled out all its bottom-feathers..." I admitted reluctantly. "The owner was all right, the chicken should not have been where it was. And she said the feathers would grow back. But I think the chicken had to walk around with a cold bum for a while...!"

Marnie couldn't reply; she was laughing at me. The ball fell out of her mouth and rolled away. "Hang on," I muttered and then I turned and went back into the cottage. Mistress was eating some toast. "Please may I go with Marnie to visit the chickens?" I asked, putting on my prettiest smile.
"I'm surprised you're even asking that, Giz..." sighed Mistress. "No. You may not."
After her parents had assured her that the chickens were safely guarded apart from the best efforts of the most devious, Mistress said that I could go, but only if I stayed with Marnie and didn't misbehave or wander off by myself. I capered out to rejoin Marnie and we trotted up the hill side-by-side.

The chickens were in a well-fenced hillside enclosure. They were close by, but I had somehow missed them when I had gone out for my stroll the previous evening. These were certainly plump, lucky fowls. Not only did they have a nice hen-house the side of a small garden shed, but a shade stand in their yard, a small drinking-pond, secure fencing all the way around, and a notice on the gate with a picture of each resident chicken alongside their name and breed of chicken. There was a little plastic tub by the gate, where you could buy six eggs for £1 (a bargain, especially as they turned out to be the tastiest, freshest eggs I had ever tasted in the whole of my life). "But I get one every day for free, because I live here." explained Marnie. I have a little one, boiled and chopped up for my breakfast every day."
I thought Marnie was the luckiest dog in the world, and told her so. But then I became distracted.
"Where is that voice coming from?" I asked. "I could hear a voice close by, but couldn't smell a person near to us." Marnie giggled again.
"The chickens have got a radio in their chicken-shed." my friend explained. "Dad puts it on in the morning and turns it down quiet at night. They like listening to Radio 4, and it makes the foxes and weasels think that there is a person there with the chickens, and it stops them trying to get at them."
I thought this was a very clever idea.
"I didn't hear the radio last night though." I said.
"No," replied Marnie, when the chickens have been locked in the shed for the night you can't hear the radio outside. It might be annoying for our guests. Sometimes I go up and sit by the chickens to listen to The Archers."
I didn't have the first clue what 'The Archers' might be, so I kept quiet and nodded in a way that I hoped made me look like I understood.

At that point I was called back to the cottage as my Mistress and her parents were ready to go out for the day. Marnie walked back with me to retrieve her ball and we barked goodbye, with half a promise to meet up for a game in the evening.

Mistress's mother was quite keen to visit the town where she was born and grew up close to, Bovey Tracey, so Mistress and I hopped into The Gizmobile and followed her parents' car along the three miles of tiny winding lanes into the little market town. It was very pretty. We passed an agreeable hour visiting the shops, some old and fondly recalled by Mistress's mother, and some brand new. We also bought some flowers for the little churchyard where my Mistress's great-grandparents and great-aunt had been laid to rest and made a pretty arrangement on the gravestone. It was a very nice place to lie down after life has worn you out.

After that we went up onto Dartmoor proper and Mistress and I had our first REAL walk of the holiday. I remembered my lessons from last holiday (for a few weeks before we left Mistress took me on walks next to fields with animals living in them, so that I could practise behaving myself properly) and behaved myself very nicely with the crowd of ponies near the car park (THEY didn't behave themselves. They leaned against, and tried to fiddle with, The Gizmobile while we were on our walk and Mistress's father had to chase them away. They still left dirty nose-juice all over the car bonnet though. Rude beasties).

Because I had been a good girl, Mistress bought an ice-cream each for her and her parents from the ever-present Molly-Mac's van in Haytor car park (equally welcome hot cups of tea on offer in cold weather)

and I was allowed to share some. Yum-yum!

We were quite saddened though. Mistress and I like to do Dartmoor Letterboxing (Jasper liked it loads. I do too but I'm not yet as good as he was, but this was only my second time) and she owns TWO letterboxes. One was not too far from Haytor, above (well, a couple of miles away, but close enough), overlooking Bovey Tracey in the valley below and the house in which Mistress's late great-aunt lived (and she really WAS, from what I have heard, great in every noble sense of the term), in her memory - called "Auntie Win" (her name was Win Snow) - and another on a different part of the moor commemorating Jasper's late predecessors Jaki (a Jack Russell, but not a Parson one like me) and Tess (Tickle) called "The Gold of Friendship" (the stamp featured the profiles of both girls and the legend "The Gold of Friendship is a Wonderful Thing - The More We Spend it on Each Other, the Richer We Become"). Alas, BOTH have been stolen. A sadness.

Better fun shall follow....

Byeeeee! Love from Gisèle x
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