The One With The Broken Sink: A Fawlty Towers Holiday

The One With The Broken Sink: A Fawlty Towers Holiday

I holiday in Pembrokeshire about three times a year. I stay in my parents’ holiday home, a large Georgian terrace that’s been in the family for a hundred years and regularly have My Long Suffering Friend with me, as her daughter has grown up with my sons and they get on well. Usually these weekly breaks are predictable: beach walks, mooching around the charity shops for books, visiting the deli for sweets, Scrabble, lots of card games, welcome conversation and alcohol.

As we’ve been friends for so long we’re comfortable in one another’s company and look forward to our holidays together; but this week our friendship was tested to the limit.

After the long, long drive down, I began unpacking my suitcase and as I got to the bottom I realised my underwear was missing. “What! That can’t be right,” I thought, checking the other bags. No pants and bras to be seen, only a pile of brightly-coloured socks.

I collapsed into giggles and went to find My Long Suffering Friend to tell her the news.

“What’s up with you? You’ve turned into a total airhead recently!” she exclaimed.

“I blame it on the hormones,” I said ruefully. (Perimenopause has started with a vengeance). “Tesco will have some. I’ll go down in the morning and have a look.”

The following day, I hopped in the car and purchased some underwear along with the toilet rolls, bread and other groceries we needed. Disaster averted, it was now time to relax and enjoy myself. How was I to know it was a bad omen?

PD photo 8

Tesco’s best knickers!

Sunday, Monday and Tuesday passed peacefully enough. We were blessed with glorious sunshine and so packed up the car with beach towels, swimwear, bats and balls, the camping stove and food to cook on it and made a day of it, returning tired and sandy but happy in the evenings.

On Monday I met up with an old school friend at West Angle Bay who I hadn’t seen for 16 years. Thanks to Facebook, we found out we were holidaying around the corner from one another and arranged to meet. Over the afternoon we caught up on one another’s lives;  with 6 kids and several careers between us there was a lot to talk about!

PD photo 6

D and I went swimming!

 

pd photo 3

My dog loves chasing a ball.

***

I’ve been wanting to replace the beds in the house for years; they are as old as me and after a week of sleeping on them you need several visits to the chiropractor just to be able to walk upright again. My Long Suffering Friend had deliberately chosen one of the single beds because it wasn’t quite as dilapidated as all the others but she still had backache after a couple of nights. Enough is enough I thought, I’ll go to the furniture warehouse at the bottom of the road and see what they have.

Half an hour and several hundred pounds later, I’d chosen two new single beds and a one double bed for the attic bedrooms and arranged to have them delivered on Thursday. The frames would need assembling but I wasn’t worried; usually they aren’t hard to put together.

“Where did you go?” My Long Suffering Friend asked when I returned.

“I went to look at beds,” I said, “I can’t stand them any longer.” I told her what I’d ordered and when they were arriving.

I also informed her that unfortunately we’d have to take the old beds to the tip ourselves, as the furniture place charged exorbitant removal fees, which meant wrestling them down three flights of stairs.

We had a coffee and then went up to the attic to have a look at what we had to do. Luckily for us they were all divan beds, so very easy to take apart. The mattresses went down easily and by the time we got to the last flight we simply threw them down into the hall but the bases were more difficult, having to be angled round 90-degree bends and we gained lots of bruised shins and arms in the process. More worryingly as we were putting one of the bases into the car My Long Suffering Friend twisted her knee, yelping with pain. And then she bashed the same knee the next day putting a mattress into the boot. She should have got in the car and driven home then, for there was worse to come…

***

Wednesday dawned bright and sunny and the beach beckoned. In my head I was planning what food we could cook after Tuesday’s triumph of teriyaki beef drew envious glances from other holidaymakers but no, Wednesday was to be The Day The Kitchen Sink Broke.

After I’d washed the breakfast dishes, I emptied the water into the sink but it didn’t go down the plughole. Instead it sat there uninvitingly, speckled with bread crumbs and coffee grinds. Cursing I went in search of the plunger only to find the rubber had perished and it was useless; I flung it into the bin crossly.

“OK, I’ll unscrew the u-bend and clear the blockage that way,” I said. The joint refused to budge. My Long Suffering Friend had a go too. No luck.

I went in search of Dad’s tool box and found several mole grips and an large adjustable spanner. They were all useless; that joint wasn’t moving for anybody.

“Perhaps the next-door neighbour can help,” I said and went round and knocked on the door. No-one was home.

“What shall we do now?” asked My Long Suffering Friend.

“Let’s see who else is in and can help before I call out a plumber,” I said, thinking of the £80 call-out charge.

The neighbour a few doors up, Dave, who knows my dad very well, was home. “I’ll come and take a look,” he said cheerfully.

He couldn’t move the joint either, so decided to undo the assembly from the other end. Soon he was passing me gunked up bits of pipe work to clean out and I dutifully took them up to the bathroom to clean in the shower. Eventually he’d taken everything off and cleaned it but then we realised we had a major problem on our hands: the attachment which fixes the overflow to the back of the sink was so old it had disintegrated, so now we had no way of reattaching all the pipes and making it watertight. We had to admit defeat and find a plumber.

I grabbed my phone and headed up to the attic for some signal. I found a few numbers but either they didn’t work or no-one was home. Now what? The first of the summer visitors was arriving in three days and there was no working sink. I felt like bashing it with a wrench like Basil Fawlty’s poor car!

Suddenly, I  remembered that on one of our many visits to the tip I’d noticed a plumbing supply centre.

“I’ll go down there,”  I said to My Long Suffering Friend. “They’ll have a plumber.”

I went in and explained my dilemma: “I think you’ll have to come and take a look” I said, “the sink is so old I don’t know if you’ll find anything to fit.” The guy behind the counter, who’d been ever-so patient, as I struggled to find the correct words to explain the problem, plumbing being an alien world to me, looked sceptical.

“You wait until you see the kitchen, then you’ll understand,” I said.

“I’ll come when I’ve finished my last job,” he promised. I thanked him profusely and left.

My Long Suffering Friend took the kids to Pembroke to buy sweets from their favourite shop, while I stayed behind to await the plumber.

Around 4 pm, there was a knock on the door. I showed Dan, the plumber, into the kitchen to assess the problem. He took one look at the pipework and said: “that’s the wrong kind of u-bend that’s been put on; that’s for a hand washbasin or a urinal. It’s no wonder it got so blocked. And I think the joint has been glued up which is why you couldn’t move it.”

I stared at him and then realised who had done the bodge job. It came as no surprise. Those of you who know me well will work out the answer too. Why pay money to fix something properly when you can do it yourself has always been the motto!

“I’m afraid I can’t come until Saturday morning,” Dan said but decided to only charge me £40 to make up for the lack of washing-up facilities for the next three days. I relaxed a bit; at least the problem was going to be fixed and we could wash-up in the bath in the meantime.

***

The following day, Thursday, was the day of the furniture delivery, so we had to be in after 3 pm to take charge of the beds. As it had been warm but cloudy that morning, I suggested we take a picnic lunch to the beach so that we could all spend more time there. My Long Suffering Friend agreed, so we quickly packed up a picnic and bundled the kids into the car.

But as we set off it started drizzling. “A bit of drizzle will be OK,” I thought. After all we’re usually here over October half-term when the weather is often dire.

As we reached Pembroke, we ran into a major traffic jam and it took us 20 minutes to crawl through the town centre and out the other side. All the time the weather was getting worse but we decided to risk it, thinking it wouldn’t last long.

We finally arrived at the nearest beach. My Long Suffering Friend discovered she’d forgotten her coat and her daughter didn’t have one either. They wrapped towels around themselves and I pulled on a thin fleece with no hood and we set off, determined to give my dogs a walk if nothing else. Big mistake! We’d been on the sand 5 minutes when the sky went pitch black and we were deluged with heavy rain blowing sideways in our faces. We glanced at one another and headed back to the car; in only 10 minutes we were wet through to our underwear.

Not long after we’d finished lunch, when the sun was again cracking the flags, the furniture van arrived and I sent the men up three flights of stairs with the boxes, glad that we didn’t have to carry them up there. There was one slight hitch: the double bed frame wasn’t in stock, so I asked them to bring back a divan base instead.

As we unpacked the single bed frames, I realised there were no pre-drilled holes for the slats; thank goodness I’d had the forethought to borrow my neighbour’s very smart cordless drill in readiness for the job!

The first frame took us a long time to put together, as we wrestled to get the bolts to line up with those fiddly nuts that sit in the holes, so beloved of flat-pack furniture makers these days. Finally we finished it. All we had to do was fix the slats on.

“I’ve never used a drill before,” My Long Suffering Friend said.

“That’s OK, I’ll do it,” I said, feeling more confident than I felt.

After a couple of tries, I settled on the smaller drill bit and we quickly got in to the swing of it, My Long Suffering Friend even taking turns using the drill, after I’d given her a couple of tips.

One bed down, two to go.

The next frame went up in 10 minutes as we’d got the knack of lining everything up much more quickly. Just as we were congratulating ourselves, I realised that in our haste to get the job done, we’d made a mistake; the side rails were upside-down, which meant we couldn’t fix on the slats.

Queue peals of laughter and me asking My Long Suffering Friend did she mind if I sat and worked in my bra as it was stifling underneath the eaves even though the windows were open? She told me to go ahead, for she is also The Friend Who Isn’t Fazed By Anything!

Still shaking our heads we re-assembled the frame in record time and fixed on the slats.

Two beds done, one left.

The double bed was easy to put together and soon My Long Suffering Friend was testing out the mattress.

“Oh wow, this is so comfortable!” she exclaimed, “I might go and buy a double sheet and sleep up here for the rest of the holiday.”

“Why not?” I replied. Perhaps it might start to make up for the endless trips to the tip, the afternoon spent assembling beds, the twisted knee and the broken sink.

She soon returned with a turquoise sheet and some well-earned wine.

***

After an uneventful Friday, Dan, the plumber arrived promptly at 9 am on Saturday, the day we were due to leave.

“I have a problem,” he said. “We don’t have an overflow the right shape, I’m hoping this round one will cover the hole.

We went through to the kitchen and once Dan had put the part against the hole he looked doubtful he could fit it over what was left of the rusting part on the front.

“I’d rather you took the old part off,” I said. “It looks awful.”

He got his Stanley knife and removed it and to our dismay, we found that underneath it was a longer, rectangular slot than either of us had realised.

“Oh. Well the part I’ve got won’t do at all now,” Dan said.

Looking on his phone, he found the only place that supplied one the right shape was the B&Q in Carmarthen, a 60-mile round trip. But of course. Where else would supply it but the shop that closed down here two years ago?

“I haven’t got time to go all the way out there,” he said, “I have four other jobs today.”

“I’m not expecting you to,” I replied. “See what you can find locally. I need to get out of here and drive home.”

He went away and returned with a bigger rounder fitting that covered most of the hole and he filled up the little gaps with waterproof sealant. It looks much better than what was there before and the pipes work properly: job done.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Grandpa Fred: 110 today

Grandpa Fred: 110 today

Thinking of my lovely Grandpa, Fred, who was born on this day in 1907. He was a real looker when he was young, slim with blonde wavy hair and a great smile. He came from Devon and met my granny, Molly, when they were both at teacher training college in Lampeter, Wales. When they were courting, he rode around on a big motorbike with Granny in a side car.

G & G wedding photo (2)

Fred and Molly’s wedding. 27th December 1934 in Pembroke Dock

I learnt recently that he wouldn’t let Molly learn to drive cos he thought that was a man’s job and she was furious with him! They used to go dancing and won lots of competitions; cigarettes for him and silk stockings for her. I remember when I was a teenager, Fred disparaging discos for the very good reason that you couldn’t, “grab the girl you liked and hold her close like I used to!” Quite right.

When I asked him once why he trained to be a teacher, he told me that growing up where he did he had two choices: to be a farmer or to be a teacher, and he had no interest in farming, so he went to teaching training college. Once he qualified he took a job in Sheffield during the 1930s and it became his home for the rest of his life. He taught maths at a large secondary school, Jordanstone, was a keen bridge player and had a fine tenor voice.

My uncle, John, was born in 1937, and mum came some years later in 1944. Between them they gave Molly and Fred four granddaughters.

My sister and I stayed with Granny and Grandpa a lot growing up as Mum and Dad both worked, so they would often have us during the half-term holidays. And our families were often in Wales together at Easter or at Christmas, in the house in Laws Street, which was then lived in by Granny’s sister, Lil. My sister and I played on the same beaches which my boys do now and slept in the same attic bedroom, with the sun streaming through the Velux windows far too early in the morning. We’d splash Grandpa down by the waves and he would soak us in return, while Granny looked on with an indulgent smile and then he’d buy us an ice-cream if the van was there; our little dog, Lucy, begging for a share.

Me aged 4 with G & G (2)

Me aged 4 in the garden in Hemper Lane, Sheffield

sharing a joke with grandpa

Here we are toasting Grandpa’s birthday at my parents’ house. About 1980. Grandpa has obviously just cracked a joke which has creased me up because I can’t stop laughing and he’s wearing a special birthday hat my sister made for him.

Fred had a wonderful sense of humour all his life. I clearly remember him playing jokes on me throughout my childhood and roaring with laughter. One of the funniest times was when we were celebrating his 50th wedding anniversary in 1984; I would’ve been 15. The whole family went out for a meal in a smart hotel in Sheffield and were seated round a highly polished wooden table. Being a well brought up girl I asked him politely to pass me the salt. Instead of passing it though, a devilish twinkle lit up his eye and taking aim he slid it expertly across the table and taken aback I just managed to catch it before it tumbled onto the floor!

50th wedding anniversary meal (2)

Me (15), my sister (13) and my parents at the Golden Wedding anniversary meal

Well after that ice breaker, everything that could be slid across that table was and it’s a miracle nothing got broken. The men, vying to be the best, of course and everyone laughing as we all reverted to junior school children for the evening.

50th wedding anniversary group photo (2)

Family photo taken on their 50th wedding anniversary. Back row Eira, Mum, Granny, Grandpa, Uncle John, front row my cousins Helen and Kate, my sister,Henrietta, Me and our dog Lucy, and Eira’s dad in the armchair .

G & G on their 50th wedding anniversary

Granny & Grandpa. That’s how I remember Grandpa in particular; with a naughty grin on his face!

He was a generous man too. Never letting anyone else pay when we went out to eat, even if it was quite obviously our turn.

One of his pleasures in life was gardening; he had a big vegetable plot at the back of his garden where he cultivated many different plants and he would brew his own wine too. It was pretty good.

Fred used to come with us on our six-week summer holidays to France.  Molly came out once, when my parents first purchased the house and was so horrified by having to pretty much camp in a ruin (the house hadn’t been lived in for 40 years), that she never came back. Fred was game though and every year after he’d taken Molly to stay with her sister in Pembroke Dock, he’d drive to our house and then get a lift down to St. Sauveur in our camper van. Mum let him have the passenger seat and she sat on a little seat that Dad fashioned for her out of wood wedged in between the two front seats.

Fred would get stuck in with the renovation and help to plaster, paint, mix cement or whatever else was required. Whenever the heat was getting to him, he’d mix in a little salt with his water and re-hydrate himself. He even came canoeing with us on several occasions down the Drome. And in the evenings he enjoyed the company of whichever family was staying with us and the riotous meals with 10 or more of us seated on the church pews in the kitchen.

He died a week after my cousin, Kate, got married and five months before my own wedding. It fell to my soon to be father-in-law Joe to give me the news as Betty and I returned from wedding dress shopping. Obviously I wept for him. He was the only grandpa I had growing up and a good one.

Happy birthday Fred xxx

D is for Dyspraxia

dyspraxia

My teenage son has dyspraxia. When I tell people this, most of them give me a politely blank look, meaning, “I have no idea what you’re talking about but I’m too embarrassed to tell you.” And this is the response I’ve also had from his teachers during his 10 years at school. It’s not their fault; they receive very little special needs education during their teacher training. They’re expected to deal with children who have a whole range of disorders like autism, ADHD and dyslexia and yet know almost nothing about them and are expected to cope the best they can.

This woeful state of affairs has meant to a large extent, I have been educating my son’s teachers by giving them practical tips on how to help him and at the same time battling the scepticism of some who don’t believe my son has any kind of condition at all and that I’m just an overly worried middle-class mother who needs to stop bothering them.

Let’s get down to the nuts and bolts then. What is dyspraxia? It’s defined as, “a developmental disorder of the brain in childhood causing difficulty in activities requiring co-ordination and movement.” Well that’s part of the problem but the complete picture is so much more. Yes, my son doesn’t have the greatest co-ordination but he manages to write and tie his shoes laces; he just can’t do it as well as his peers.

The greatest impact has been to his concentration and short term memory. He can focus on a written task for 5 minutes, perhaps 10 if it really interests him and then his mind will wander; he can’t remember verbal instructions and has very poor organisational skills. His notes in class are often inadequate and it’s really difficult for him to put his thoughts down on paper, especially for a creative task. When it comes to verbal comprehension however, he’s right at the top of the scale. He has the added problem of being a very bright child, which masks his condition. As he’s started his GCSE coursework this year, his difficulties have become much more apparent and he needs a lot of support at home.

To give you some idea of how dyspraxia affects his life, let’s compare him with his brother who’s 10. Every morning the younger one will get out of bed and dress himself before coming downstairs and getting himself breakfast. When he’s finished he’ll go and clean his teeth and style his hair, usually without me reminding him to do any of it. When I tell him it’s time to leave to go to school he’ll put on his shoes and coat, then pick up his school bag without prompting.

The older one on the other hand needs constant reminders at every stage. I’ll have to get him out of bed (hey, he is a teen) and make sure he has some breakfast. Then I have to send him upstairs to get dressed. Unless I make sure he’s changing he will distract himself at every opportunity, either with his phone or a book. Once dressed I often stand over him to make sure he’s cleaning his teeth and getting his shoes on. He’s a little better at preparing his bag and making sure he has his keys but he’s very inconsistent. Then I have to insist that he leaves at a certain time or he will make himself late.

Homework causes the most stress. My son would prefer to do it in his bedroom but unless I check on him every few minutes I know that he won’t be doing it, he’ll have found something else to do. He doesn’t like me monitoring him but he dislikes sitting at the table downstairs even less.

Some of his homework he finds easy like maths and science because it’s logical and straightforward. English is an entirely different matter. Often he has no idea how to the tackle the task he’s been given and I have to break it down into manageable chunks and then we’ll look at each part together. French is also a struggle for him to retain and we’ll just do a little bit at a time so he doesn’t feel overwhelmed.

My son does have friends at school but they’re a small, select group. He wants to have more but many of his peers find him a little odd and unfortunately it’s a perception that once made is hard to change.

I know that once my son leaves school he’ll find his place in the world but it won’t be easy for him. What would make the biggest difference to his chances is if the world knew more about people who lived with developmental disorders and accepted them for who they are. One day this will happen, just as the barriers about talking about mental health are crumbling. Until then I’ll educate as many people as I can about dyspraxia as it is only through awareness that we can hope to affect change.

Beyond Brilliant (or C is for Choir)

I jokingly said I’d write a poem about choir for today’s challenge. This is the first one I’ve ever written, so I know it’s not brilliant but it was hugely enjoyable to write. And as I’m sometimes a front row diva, I feel entitled to take the mick. After all, one should be able to laugh at oneself!

Big Gig 2016

Rock Chorus performing their Big Gig

Beyond Brilliant

Blue hoodies

and black shoes.

Men and women

singing away their blues.

 

Old and young,

the point is to have fun.

Haven’t sung since school?

Well, this choir’s for everyone.

 

Four sips in and another four out.

Swivel your hips

and shake away your doubts.

Lauren counts us in and off we go,

some voices high and others low.

 

We sing Madonna, Tom Petty

and some Coldplay too.

With forty songs under our belt,

there’s a lot for us to do.

 

But expect a lot of giggling

if you mention Toploader.

Oh the jokes made about that song

If only you knew!

 

Camaraderie and laughter

is really all we’re after.

You want us to sing in harmony?

Well, we can do that too!

 

Sometimes we sing to three men and a dog,

with the raining lashing down

it’s all part of the job!

Other times we have a Big Gig to get through

and that’s when you really see what we can do.

 

The rehearsal beforehand can be a bit of a fight,

with too many divas wanting the limelight.

What do you mean I can’t stand in the front row?

It’s my right to stand here. Didn’t you know!

 

But when the curtain goes up and the lights go down,

watch out folks. Rock Chorus is in town.

Twenty two songs sung with passion and feeling

If you’re really lucky we’ll throw in some tambourine-ing.

 

Blue hoodies

and black shoes.

Men and women

singing away their blues.

 

 

 

B is for Brač

Croatia and Wales 109

Village harbour and church

 

The Croatian coastline is speckled with over a thousand islands; little green, wooded jewels in the bright blue sea, some inhabited, some not. In summer, brilliant white yachts tack between them; day trippers trailing their feet languidly into the sea, basking in the sunshine.

On our first visit to Croatia, four years ago, we explored these enchanting islands from our base on the mainland and discovered a relaxed, unhurried pace of life. The wooded landscapes dotted with ancient towns and the clear blue water utterly seduced us and we decided to stay on one of them next time we came.

Two years later, I found a little cottage to rent in a fishing village on Brač, an island near Split. It looked idyllic but was it going to live up to expectation?

Driving off the ferry, we followed the signs uphill out of the port and drove west through a landscape of olive groves and farms. Fruit trees grew in abundance and a purple rash of bougainvillea spread along many walls. Surprisingly, there were piles of white stones poking out of the ground everywhere.

Brač is famous for its limestone and there is still a working quarry on the island. The Diocletian’s Palace in Split is built out of it and Croatians claim it was used to construct the White House.

We turned off the main road into our village and drove down to the harbour. Looking at the narrow lane winding its way perilously close to the sea and crowded with shops and restaurants, John asked, quite reasonably, “Are you sure we can drive along here?”

I looked at my detailed printed instructions, “Yes. Just go slowly. We’ll be fine.”

He made his way hesitantly past the harbour, fishing boats rocking gently, some small shops, a tall church spire and a restaurant with tables and chairs set out by the sea. Inches to our right, was the Adriatic, where children were playing and men fishing.

Then, a beach and a small bar with a spacious balcony perched over the sea: our local for the next fortnight.

“Turn left, our cottage is up here,” I instructed.

John turned up a narrow lane and there was our cottage, an old fisherman’s place with white walls and green shutters, its little garden holding a magnificent fig tree.

Flagging in the sweltering heat, we dragged our suitcases out of the car.

“Who’s coming for a swim?” I asked.

The boys perked up and flung everything on the floor in their rush to find their trunks. We walked back down the lane and dived into the sea.

Floating on my back in the warm water I smiled. In front of me the sea stretched all the way to Split, just visible below the mountains, behind me the village clung to the hillside, colours vibrant in the hot sun.  In the distance, the little coast road disappeared over the horizon, meandering past tiny coves and pine forest, enticing me ever onwards …

 

Croatia and Wales 101

Biastrica beach at the end of the lane

A is for Awakening

live your life quote

My writing/inspiration/motivation has been in one of those periodic ruts that affect creative people. Last night I came up with a plan to get out of it: writing 26 pieces of creative non-fiction, one for each letter of the alphabet. Here is today’s musing :

**************

Two years ago a friend nagged me relentlessly about going on a personal development course. Every time I spoke to him on the phone, he mentioned it and told me how much he’d benefited from it. Eventually I gave in and booked a place just to shut him up. What harm could come from going?

It turned out to be three of the most uncomfortable days of my life and the repercussions are still affecting me. As I listened to other people go up to the microphone and unburden themselves of terrible secrets – abuse, bullying, affairs, regrets – thoughts long buried slowly percolated to the surface of my mind. My one overriding realisation was how unfulfilled my life was.

As I sat in the white-walled lecture room it dawned on me I’d spent the last decade sleep-walking through my life and completely lost sight of who I was. It was an endless cycle of childcare and domestic matters which I could do with my eyes closed and used about a tenth of my brain power. And if I didn’t do something about it now, I would become stuck in a prison of my own making, never able to break free. Now I’d voiced this feeling there could be no returning to my old life.

By this time I’d been writing for about a year but it took doing the course and its follow-up to restore my self-confidence enough for me to sign on to the journalism course I’m halfway through and to teach me to believe in myself.

And when I hit a bump in the road now, I remember the most important lesson I took away with me: words are easy, action is hard but in the end only action will move you forward, so take it.

For the Love of a Dog

A friend of mine lost her beloved dog yesterday.

“Why are animals such an important part of our lives?” she asked me.

“They become part of the family, give us unconditional love and de-stress us,” I replied.

I got to thinking about the death of my little dog nearly three years ago and sat down and wrote something about it. 

********

You lie on your bed sleeping peacefully, wrapped in a blanket for warmth, only your little black and grey head peeping out. The door bells rings and I answer with a heavy heart; it’s better you don’t know that these are your last moments on earth.

The final two years of your life have been hard as you’ve slowly declined and we’ve become your carers, nursing you from this day to the next. One afternoon, not long after Christmas, you started being sick and kept falling over. I thought you’d had a stroke but no it was vestibular syndrome, which affects your balance. Once you’d recovered, your little grizzled head had a slight tilt to it but otherwise no-one could tell you’d been ill.

I asked the vet straight out what your prognosis was; it’s better to know the truth about such things, even if they’re hard to hear. He was direct, “eventually it will kill her, from now on it’s about her quality of life.” It was sobering news.

Long walks were replaced with short ones and then disappeared altogether as your arthritis got worse and worse and you panted in pain. We visited the vet again and he adjusted your medication. Your circulation became poor and you would often shiver uncontrollably. When that happened I’d wrap you in a blanket and sit you on my lap until you stopped.

The next symptom of increasing age was senility: always a very clean dog, you started forgetting that you had to go outside to go to the toilet and would poo on the floor instead. If I told you off you just looked bemused, so after the first few times, I just quietly cleaned up the mess and worried that it would get worse.

Of course it did and after several stressful weeks of you weeing everywhere we started putting dog nappies on you and I moved your bed downstairs into the kitchen, where the tiled floor was much easier to clean than carpet.

And all the while vestibular syndrome lurked in the background, waiting to pounce whenever it had the opportunity. You had frequent mini episodes and with every one declined that little bit more. Sometimes, you would fall over flat on your side and I would pick you up and cradle you until you could stand again. One attack left you with the inability to walk straight; instead you had a strange crab-like gait from then on.

Visits to the vet became more and more frequent as I agonised over your quality of life and wondered whether I was being cruel or kind. Dogs are far more stoic than humans and despite all you medical problems you still enjoyed a little sniff round the garden and a cuddle on the sofa and two years after the first vestibular attack you were still with us.

But one morning you couldn’t get out of bed; during the night, one of your back legs had become paralyzed. It hung uselessly at a strange angle and you couldn’t stand up. My husband and I looked at one another: enough was enough. “I’ll call the vet,” I said sadly “and ask him to come over.”

So this morning, two vets in maroon uniform have come quietly to our house to end your suffering. I move your bed into the living room and keep you comfortable. We all sit round stroking you while the vet inserts a needle into you paw. Within seconds the chemicals have stopped your heart and you’re no more.

“She’s gone,” the vet says solemnly checking for a pulse. My eldest son bursts into tears and I wrap him in my arms, my tears mingling with his. The vet picks you up, your little head flopping peacefully out of the blanket, and leaves. Tension and worry swap places with sadness and relief.

We let the puppy out of the kitchen, put on some shoes and take him for a walk in the woods. Your long life with us is finally over but ours must continue.

 

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Beautiful Sophie who lived until she was 16