I like the odd tipple now and then – although I wouldn’t class myself as a drinker. Well, not really anyway!
My OH and I do stock up on alcohol for Christmas; it seems wrong not to offer visitors a celebratory drink when they call in and I like to give a choice, so, on a recent trip away, while travelling back via France, we called in at Majestic Wines and Leclerc.
I knew we already had a few gin varieties at home – ‘Needle’ being my current favourite as it is aptly named (we live in’ Needle Cottage’) so I wasn’t planning to buy any gin: we also keep Whiskey, Brandy, Aperol, Vodka and Tia Maria in, but our wine stock is severely depleted, so that was the main reason for our visit.
Several cases of wine – red, white and rose – went into the trolley, a bottle of Liebfraumilch for my mum, a bottle of Chateau Neuf du Pape (a Christmas gift), port (very well priced and recommended by Majestic, a bottle of Pastis and my favourite appertif – Pineau de Charentes: I couldn’t resist a bottle of Mateus Rose (reminding me of the 70’s) so that snuck in too!
Whilst chatting to the knowledgeable and friendly sales advisor I discovered that sweeter wines such as Hock, Liebfraumilch and are best drunk in the afternoon with a slice of cake. What a marvellous idea?
She told me, ‘If you have cake – like you might have at an English afternoon tea – with Champagne or Prosecco it is…’, at this point she screwed her eyes up, wrinkled her nose and stuck her tongue out. It did the job: six bottles of Piesporter were added to the trolley meaning invites to a ‘Girls Afternoon Tea – French-Style’ will be sent to my closest girlfriends after Christmas.
I just hope the wine lasts till then.
Friday 2 November
The last day of this adventure has been jam-packed with activity. Firstly, we popped into Étaples so that my passport could be updated (I had to have tape-worm medication too, as is the norm for canines entering the U.K.). We then strolled through the town which, unlike yesterday, was superbusy; it really was a totally different experience to yesterday’s visit where the absence of people gave it a ghost-town feel.
Maybe because today was a normal day (not a bank holiday like yesterday) where people were going about their everyday business, plus the shops and a buzzing street market were operational, we were seeing Étaples at it really is? I was disappointed in the place yesterday but today I enjoyed visiting; I would describe it as, ‘French-France, typically shabby-chic and traditional. Ooh-la-la’. Yelp!
Calais was a surprise too. We have driven past and through this town many times but never bothered to visit. I’ll do my best to describe Calais – especially as it appears to attract bad press in the main. The Town Hall is very, very impressive from the outside. It is far bigger and far more ornate than most Town Hall’s I have seen – with gleaming-gold decorations on the pretty clock tower. The surrounding garden is neatly planted out with (mostly) winter pansies and the lawns are very well maintained, as are the trees.
We did struggle to find what you would call the ‘heart of the town’. There appear to be two ‘Town Centre’s’; neither of which would draw any of us back but who are we to tell anyone what to do, really. Yelp! The area around the wonderfully ornate theatre houses a few pretty buildings, a huge modern shopping complex and perhaps one or two traditional eating places.
The area to the north of the Town Hall offers a lovely park – which was dedicated to Chinese Festival of Lights and full of allsortsofwonderfulthings – and many restaurants and street cafes.
We found a lovely place for lunch. Leigh’s fish dish was amazing.
From Calais we drove to ‘Majestic Wines’ so that my humans could stock up on Christmas drinks. I won’t tell you how many bottles they purchased. Yelp!
Then we decided to drive through Boulogne-sur-Mer on the way home. Time was getting on so we didn’t have time to really explore this town but it’s on my list for another year. It is apparently Frances largest fishing port and specialises in herring. Tom took the coast road back from Boulogne and seeing a sign for some sand-dunes decided to stop the car so that we could take a walk.
Oh my. The dunes were wonderful; grassy, hilly and wild. The beach beyond them was huge – broad and wide and sandy. There were several canines – all off-lead – so I managed to socialise with a rather bigboy which was fun.
The sea air was good for all of us. After about a thirty minute walk – Leigh and I did some running too – we wound our way back to the car. Before doing so I cleverly managed to write a message in the sand.
Approaching our campsite we realised our neighbours were heroes. We are situated next to a huge Commonwealth Military Cemetery where over 11,500.00 soldiers, cut down in the prime of life during both World Wars, lie sleeping. It is, indeed, humbling.
I am left with nothing else to tell you apart from this is the last adventure in ‘Travels with Martha’. I have decided to retire and rest my pounding paws. So, I leave you with a final photo and a huge woofy-thank-you for coming along on my European Adventures.
Woofs, Martha xx
Farewell my friend…
Leigh and I have just returned from a long walk around the picturesque lanes of Tardebigge. Tom is out for the day. After guzzling down my breakfast I decided it is time to admit to myself that my mum and best friend, Rosie, has left us.
Rosie was born on 1st October 2004. A few weeks later Tom said to Leigh, ‘We’re going out for the day’. He wouldn’t tell her where but they ended up in Lincolnshire, at the home of a Parson Russell breeder, and they left with a bundle of white fur – Rosie.
Leigh cuddled her all the way home; those cuddles lasted 13 years – as Rosie was put to sleep Leigh was still cuddling her and whispering in her ear, ‘You’re my lovely Big-Girl’. Tom was stroking and soothing her too. She was so loved.
Leigh’s niece, Georgina, helped choose Rosie’s name – she wrote several names on pieces of paper, scattered them on the floor and watched which name Rosie walked to first! Sweet…
Rosie was definitely hard work – she would wake Leigh at 5.30am for a walk for the first 6 months.
As a pup, she was bitten twice by a Weimaraner (the second time she was merely at the gate to our cottage, when the dog ran up and bit Rosie’s leg). Rosie subsequently developed a defence mechanism of barking like billy-o at every dog she encountered.
Leigh took her to several trainers but none could cure her; they all explained that Rosie was not aggressive, but simply defensive. Off-lead she was sometime O.K. with other dogs, but…you couldn’t trust her, so, unless remote, she had to stay on her lead. When I came along I tried to control her, and warn the other dog, by pulling Rosie in and biting her lead. To outsiders we must have looked like a pair of lunatics. Leigh and Tom knew what was going on but – as you can imagine – walking the two of us was always pretty stressful. They put up with this for about 10 years. Yelp!
Bizarrely, Rosie loved playing with dogs that she knew were not a threat to her – in particular, Ellie and Baloo (cousins by adoption), G (a lovely but very large boy) and Floyd (a handsome Wheaten terrier). She also loved humans.
Suffering from separation anxiety meant on our 4 year European Adventure our humans couldn’t go out ‘sans-chiens’. They had to take us everywhere. For Rosie and me this was great – for Leigh and Tom it must have been quite frustrating. I can’t tell you the number of museums and places that one or other of our humans missed out on, because Rosie and I weren’t allowed in.
Fortunately for the humans, a wonderful couple – Mike and Marlene – offered to have us one evening in Alberabello, Italy, so that Leigh and Tom could go to a festival. Leigh said she felt like they were on a date-night! What on earth two old humans want to go out on a date for is beyond me.
Rosie was particularly good with children. When our human brother’s first baby was born, Rosie was super protective. She watched her constantly; maybe it took her back to when she gave birth to me, Lily and Parsley (originally named Ruby and Big-boy). Rosie was a super mother – she put up with my constant ear-cleaning – albeit with a defeatist expression on her lovely face.
Some of the naughtier antics she got up to were stealing someone’s diary, hiding it in her indoor kennel, then chewing it. Leigh was mortified. She said to Tom, ‘What if Jean thinks I’ve read her diary? I am so embarrased’.
Imagine if Jean had written, ‘Going to Cleo’s parents for lunch – dreading it’ or similar! Yelp!
She also chewed Leigh’s passport just before Leigh was due to go to Chicago on business. Luckily, Leigh was also going to Jersey (where you can go to the passport office and wait whilst they issue a new one) so she had an intact passport (as the USA insist on) to travel to Chicago in the end…at a cost, of course!
When quite young, Rosie chased Leigh’s aunt’s neighbours chickens; have you ever seen chickens fly? They did that day.
On one walk (over fields full of crop – not livestock) she found her way into a field where a herd of horses were grazing. Thinking they looked bored, Rosie rounded them up and then chased them – she had great fun and her energy was boundless. Leigh had to clamber over the hedge into the field, and was almost trampled as she rescued the naive (or naughty?!) Rosie!
On other occasions, she chewed Leigh’s niece’s – Georgina – friend’s trainers – Georgina was mortified at the time. After a dinner party, Leigh, Tom and their friends went into the living room to relax. Rose seized an opportunity to steal food (a favourite pastime that remained till the end) and jumped on the dining room table to wolf down about half a pound of Stilton; she soon brought it back up. Yelp!
One Christmas she stole a whole box of chocolates (poisonous to dogs) from under the tree (silly place to leave them, Leigh) and ate them whilst the humans were out.
The worst she did was around 9 years ago. We were both off lead, walking down a quiet country lane when Rosie discovered a hole in a fence. She snook through the hole and into a field of sheep. I followed. Suffice to say, the farmer was furious and Leigh ended up in court, being bound over. I hasten to bark, ‘No sheep were hurt’. We just thought the white fluffy things were similar to us – but dumber. Yelp!
For the last few months Rosie had been having mini-strokes. In January she suffered one at Cleo’s (our human sister) home and Cleo really thought Rosie was about to die. She had gone almost blind and deaf too. the strokes or seizures left her disorientated and she would fall over. Our super vet, Adam, noticed that she, ‘Did funny things,’, with her back leg. Sometimes, Leigh would hold Rosie steady if her back legs were failing when she was toileting. She had an accident in the boat on Wednesday morning – black liquid poured out of her bottom. Leigh and Tom knew that Rosie’s quality of life was not good.
All of us 4 want quality, rather than quantity, when it comes to life. Rosie and I had our last journey in the boot of the car that has taken us to 28 countries over the last few years on Wednesday afternoon.
Neither of us were stressed. Rosie went into the Vet surgery with the humans, I waited quietly in the car.
A vet, a nurse, Leigh, and Tom all soothed and cuddled Rosie as she drifted off to sleep. She was not one iota stressed. She simply went to sleep. Leigh and Tom stayed a while with her; tears were shed. Rosie slept on – a deep sleep. Leigh took some of her fur (shaved where the injections were placed). Tom took her collar. They had said their good-byes.
I’m ok. I have been a little clingy to the humans. I stare at them now and then, wondering if Rosie is coming home. I guess she won’t but she will always be in our memories. We’re going to spread some of her ashes where Leigh’s dad’s ashes and memorial bench are – Bentley – and some of them will go around the same tree where Leigh spread the ashes of her last dog, Scamp.
Woofs, Martha xx