“Usual routine for the dogs.” My clients informed me as they were leaving for the airport “Nuts for the wild birds are in the funeral urn on the hall table.”  This made us all smile because the last time I sat at Postman’s Cottage I didn’t dare move the urn assuming that it held the ashes of a deceased relative! “And if you wouldn’t mind feeding the badger, we chuck a handful of peanuts and a slice of the tiger bloomer, buttered, onto the lawn last thing before we turn in.” I wondered who else I’d be feeding next-time, damper for the deer? Roti for the rabbits? Or maybe I’d be putting out focaccia for the foxes?

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I do occasionally look after poultry although not all of them are as free to roam as Mr Humble, the handsome blond cockerel and his mother, helpfully called Mother. Every night, after a day spent scratching about the property far and wide, they would put themselves to bed in the barn, roosting on a partition between the stables and every morning they would be waiting for me to give them their breakfast at the conservatory door. This happened so often during the course of my sit that I was quite worried the day they didn’t show up for their slice of toast! I soon found them in the disused greenhouse making the most of the morning sunshine to dig up the grubs!

Dangerous Dave, my clients’ tabby and white cat, doesn’t have that nickname for nothing, especially after he savaged my hand and forearm during a recent sit. I like to think that I know my clients’ pets reasonably well now, however I do still sometimes get caught out. I was lulled into a false sense of security when Dave Dangerous started to lick the back of my hand as I was giving him a tickle, bless him, I thought until he sunk his teeth into my soft flesh whilst all four paws, claws out, did their best to shred my arm. To be fair, once The Tabby Terror of Trethevy had released me from his grip, he looked as surprised by his outburst as I was!

After washing my wounds I rootled about in my sponge-bag for the antiseptic cream I usually carry with me and realized I’d left it at home. A look through the contents of the bathroom cabinet for something suitable proved fruitless. I even searched the kitchen cupboards without success until I came across a jar of runny honey and vaguely remembered reading that it has healing properties. I’m not entirely sure that the honey did help but as I dabbed it onto my scratches (whilst spooning it over my morning toast) it certainly soothed the affected areas.

Whilst working as a Christmas Bookseller for Waterstones one year I found myself squinting at a magazine article my customer had given me regarding an author she was interested in. I apologized for my tardiness in serving her and mentioned I couldn’t see to read such small print without my glasses (which were in the staff-room!)

“That’s a very adult problem!” My young colleague at the next till scoffed. I gave him my best Paddington Bear Hard Stare in response and parried, “It’s my eyes!”

“It’s not your eyes,” he grinned, “it’s your AGE!”

I’m not certain why it has taken me so long, the lack of my own computer most probably, but I have finally started playing Scrabble online.   Leading such a peripatetic existence as a home and pet sitter means becoming acquainted with people who also enjoy playing my favorite board game is a challenge.  It’s not really something you can bring up in a conversation on first meeting without seeming a little odd or desperate or both. “Oh, what a lovely basset you have there, by-the-way, do you play Scrabble?!”

So between emptying, feeding, emptying, grooming, feeding, emptying and cleaning up after the poodles I’ve been playing Scrabble.  I thought I was doing well, winning quite a few games, until I realized that most of the players had English as their second language, which was rather humbling, especially when I lost to one player by quite a large margin.

I decided I needed to monitor myself when I had five games on the go and was the `last man standing,’ so to speak, in the small hours of the next morning!  The poodles’ walk was later than normal that day!

With all the cold, windy weather we’ve had recently I’ve been lathering on the moisturizer.  A friend gave me a bottle of high-end body lotion for Christmas, which I love.  I now smell gorgeous, unlike my clients’ pets!

My first walk along the beach with The Poodles of Minehead was a wild one!   In order to reach the seashore where it was damp underfoot we had to cross the powdery sand dunes which the wind whipped up covering us all in a fine grit. As I stumbled crab like along the shore, trying to keep the sand out of my eyes, strains from the theme tune to the film Lawrence of Arabia played in my head. The conditions on our walk, however, were nowhere near as arid!

At the end of the beach I decided to return homewards via the esplanade, thinking we might be more sheltered by the sea wall.  Unfortunately this didn’t prove to be the case and my face was treated to a free, abrasive exfoliation courtesy of the onshore wind, the poodles fared better being lower down.

Once home, having seen to my canine charges, I spent the rest of the morning removing sand from my crevices, especially my ears!

lola-play

The other day I was trying to retrieve a piece of digestive biscuit that had broken off and dropped into my tea.  It hadn’t quite sunk to the bottom of the mug and as my beverage was lukewarm I tried using my fingers to save the saturated snack.  I gave up and waited until I’d finished my drink, loudly slurping up the mushy mess!  This isn’t something I would’ve done a few years ago, I’d have probably used a teaspoon,  I certainly wouldn’t have attempted it if I’d had company.  I’m not saying that I am spending too much time with my clients’ pets, I haven’t started emptying myself in the garden or dragging my bum along the lounge carpet yet, but I do worry I may have forgotten some of the social niceties!  I regularly have to remind myself to use my `indoor voice’ on the odd occasions I meet a friend for coffee, thankfully I haven’t asked for my flat white to be served in a saucer, although it may only be a matter of time!