Virtually everything is all over the place at the moment at home.
A new kitchen is mostly wrapped in cardboard, leaning up against various walls in scores of boxes and in a couple of hefty, two-man boxes (lifting, I mean, not for keeping men in, although that’s a notion to conjure with) which are towering close to the ceiling in the dining room.
There’s a lot more walking around involved in ordinary everyday tasks – fridge in garage, washing up basin upstairs, toaster in the living room, which underlines how efficient life usually is.
I love my kitchen. I’m no Fiona Fullerton, who has a kitchen where all her foodstuffs tins and packets are lined up with military precision, in order of category “labels to the front, you’orrible little jar of Marmite!” I know where everything is, even in Herbs and Spices where it’s “Definitely in there somewhere. I distinctly remember having to buy asafoetida for half a teaspoonful in that Roman curry, New Year’s Day 2008.”
But now I know where hardly anything is. The washing up liquid and general washing up area is in the bathroom, the spices – forty eight jars of them (Yes, I know, I wouldn’t have thought it possible either! Schwartz have a lot to answer for) is making the spare room smell like Zanzibar, the cutlery is in its drawer but in the living room on a chair. The microwave is on the coffee table, the toaster is on the floor, ready to be brought into service on the coffee table at any time.
The bread is just behind it, in a bag, student-stylee and there is handly marmalade for those Paddington moments. The plates and bowls are on the top of the piano. The wine glasses are reassuringly in their usual place.
The cat food – dried and tinned – is on the floor of the dining room. It was only when I was feeding Leo and Fat Lily just now that it hit me how different things would have to be if I still had a springer spaniel.
All three of mine – Capt Sensible claimed some kind of small print in the contract about only having one at a time – were voracious diners and hunters of tuck. Any tasty morsel left out within reach would be wolfed up and the area left immaculately clean. Anything wrapped would be frantically unwrapped and devoured. Even something zipped securely in a bag would be burgled. There was the Visitor With Chocolate in His Rucksack incident. There were the Hay Festival chiller bag incidents; the first where Roly managed to unzip and eat a very nice chicken salad for two with crusty rolls, the second where we confidently secured the zip with a little padlock but returned to find he had chewed a convenient sarnie-sized hole in the side of the bag to access the lunch within.
But as far as food burglary is concerned, that wasn’t his finest hour. He achieved that dubious distinction at a hotel in Padstow. Rolls always came on holidays and weekends away and shared a room, being generally well-behaved. But the food thing meant that his food had to be kept in a separate room – in this case, the bathroom seemed sensible. Three days worth of food, in a bag, in the bathroom, with the door shut. Dogs definitely can’t turn doorknobs.
Fine. He’d had a walk, had dinner and was fit to be left with a couple of chews while we went out to enjoy a Stein-feast with some friends. We arrived back at around half past midnight. Captain Sensible, being somewhat tired and emotional, took one look at the bed and decided that was the place to be. He didn’t really look at Rolls. I did. With difficulty, Rolls staggered up to me wagging his tail weakly “I don’t feel very well, actually” written all over his face.
He looked as though he’d swallowed a barrel or someone had inflated him to 120 psi with a bicycle pump. He was vast. Too vast to sit or lie down; too vast to do anything much but stand there with a leg at each corner.
“Oh my God! Look at the dog!” I exclaimed to Capt Sensible. There was a gentle snortling.
The bathroom door was open, dried dog food scattered over the floor. Rolls had eaten almost all of it – two days worth of food in one gluttonous sitting.
I looked at him.
“What’s all this?” (If you’re a dog owner you will completely understand all this talking to the dog. If you’re not you’ll just have to take my word that it’s quite normal among dog owners)
He drooped his head and looked at the wall.
“Well I know now that i shouldn’t have done it, obviously,” he might have said. (This really is how conversations go between pet owners and animals, honestly….)
But how did he get in to the bathroom? I’d closed the door myself. I tested it. Oh. It was one of those push-pull doors without a proper catch. So he followed his nose, barged in and embarked on a magnificent food-fest.
At around 1am, with the hotel silent as a grave, there was only one thing for it. To get him moving to encourage the many calls of nature that it would take to make him feel more comfortable. I put a fleece on over my smart stuff, got him on a lead and look him out. He was somewhat reluctant. Walking doesn’t come naturally to one if you suddenly weigh an extra stone.
So we walked painfully slowly down to the Quay and along the deserted front with the reflected lights bouncing about in the sea and the rattle of the boats. We were out for about an hour before it started drizzling with rain. Some missions had been accomplished and it was now now physically possible for Rolls to sit down. I was freezing cold and very tired.
We went back to the room where I got my damp clothes off changed into a nightdress – not a good idea with hindsight – and tried to pretend I might have some sleep. I did for about half an hour, before Rolls made it clear he wanted to go out, urgently.
Fortunately our room wasn’t far from the hotel lawn, so I slung a fleece over my nightie – put on my walking boots and tip-toed out on to the hotel lawn with doggo on a lead. We did circuits of that lawn – keeping to the shadows as far as possible to avoid the bright pools of light from horrible sodium lighting – until several more missions were accomplished.
I remember thinking “I’m sure I’ll laugh about this at some point.” I just hoped all the residents were in a similar state to Capt Sensible – comatose. If any insomniacs had peered between their curtains to see a woman with a fleece over a nightie and walking boots furtively trudging the lawn at 3.30am, they might have thought the grounds were shared with a Home for the Bewildered.
There were other missions accomplished with half hour snoozes in between. I saw the dawn rapidly followed by dark low rainclouds which snuffed out all the estuary views.
By 10am, Roly was back to his bouncy self, waggy self and looking enquiringly at me as if to say “Actually, time’s getting on…. when’s breakfast?”
…..this also seemed appropriate