HEALTH WARNING – THIS
IS A VERY LONG STORY. IF YOU GET BORED AFTER HALF A PAGE, DON’T START
I promised last time
to tell you about my big adventure. Well, it all happened when John and
Daff decided to have a late break in the caravan (or, as that child,
Discit, calls it, the Likkle Kennel on Weels).
Daff was, as usual,
feeling homesick for her roots, which, she thinks, lie somewhere west of
the A1. I tell her she should be happy with what she’s got, but she
still hankers for Stamford and beyond, so she and John booked a few days
over there in early November – Daff said it was for the Twins’ birthday,
which is on the First, but I think it was really for her. Luckily, it
was still warm and more like late summer, otherwise I think we’d all be
dead with hypothermia now.
We went to a site
called Top Lodge, which is between Stamford and Corby. It belongs to
the Forestry Commission – we like the Forestry Commission a lot because
it gives Daff a bit of money to grow trees on the Patch. The site’s in
a clearing in Rockingham Forest, and I must admit it was a good place
for a holiday as there were loads of grey squirrels and rabbits, but not
as nice as the Patch as we weren’t allowed off the lead so we couldn’t
chase them. Daff said she chose Top Lodge because the girls who used to
live in the big house there were friends of hers at school, and also
because she wanted to see how a real wood was managed. In that
respect, the trip was a success, because Daff now knows she’s being much
too tidy at the Patch and that to run a wood properly she should be
leaving piles of branches and leaves and logs about, which suits me as
it will help the hedgehogs. I like turning hedgehogs over to see what’s
underneath them, and I’ve got so good at it I hardly ever get
prickled. d fleas last summer and I think they might have come from the
hedgehogs, but what the heck! I passed them onto Sally, and she was
We had lots of lovely,
long walks every day in the big wood, all in different directions, and
slept so well at night that none of us hounds wanted to get up for a
wee, so that pleased the grown-ups, as when we do while we’re away, they
have to get dressed to take us out and that doesn’t please them at all,
though I don’t understand why.
Anyway, to cut a long
story short, on the day I’m talking about, which started off really warm
and sunny, John and Daff decided to explore an area of the wood we’d
never been to. Now, if we’d been left to our own devices, we’d have had
no trouble in finding our way home, but grown-ups insist on relying on
things like signposts, and every self-respecting dog knows you can’t
rely on them (except the area round the bottom of them, that is).
The first part of the
walk was really good for a poor crippled chap like me, because the
Forestry Commission had provided lots of seats. Coincidentally, most of
these were at the top of hills, and I think Daff was making me an excuse
when we stopped at nearly all of them. Daff’s lived for so long below
sea level she’s forgotten what it’s like to walk up gentle slopes. Mind
you, she’d got the Twins on leads, and Bluebell was being the oik she
usually is, forgetting she wasn’t loose and hurling herself after
everything that moved, which I suppose could have been quite tiring for
the person at the other end. John was the lucky one, because he’d got
us boys, and our behaviour is always exemplary; and Sally, who usually
pulls like a fiend but had just got a new, fleece-lined harness (naff,
or what?) so, for once, wasn’t pulling at all.
By mid-morning, the
sun had disappeared and a few spots of rain started to fall. We were
quite pleased when John and Daff decided to return to the caravan, cos
we’re not fond of getting wet. I really enjoy a hot shower, and Sally
swims in the sea when she gets the chance, but getting wet is
different. Then it began to rain harder, so Daff said we ought to take a
short cut home.
The grown-ups said
that if the sun hadn’t gone in, there’d have been no problem, as they’d
have known which way we were walking, but – can you imagine it – they’d
come out without maps or anything else they could have found the way
back with, because they said the routes were well signed.
Well, they were, but
all the routes were signed in both directions, so we couldn’t tell
whether we were coming or going! Daff kept saying she recognised this
tree stump or that log pile, but they all looked the same. I could
have told her she was wrong as they all smelled different.
By this time it was
raining really hard and we were all soaked. It was well past midday
and the grown-ups hadn’t a clue by this time where we were. Daff said
as long as she could hear the A43 she knew which way we were walking,
and Bluebell said, never mind that, let’s chase squirrels, so between
them we were in a right pickle. John suggested we made for lighter sky,
which took us to the edge of the wood, and we plodded along the edge of
a muddy field for miles, which got us nowhere, so the grown-ups took us
back into the wood to walk along the edge of a derelict railway line
which Daff said went along the back of the caravan site – but in which
Then real disaster
struck. Bluebell took off after a squirrel; Daff, trying to hang onto
her lead (Bluebell’s really strong, in spite of her affliction) sprained
her knee and was, she said, in agony. My foot was hurting, too, by this
time, and I was walking on three legs, so I reckon I was much worse than
her. There was no chance of stopping, so we all struggled along, and
eventually found a public footpath that led somewhere at
least. I wasn’t too keen on going down it because there was a lot of
banging and shouting in the distance and I thought it might be people
out to shoot dogs, like Daff’s friend threatened to do to us in Lincoln,
but Daff said it was only a Shoot, and unless we were pheasants we’d be
It was turned three
o’clock now and getting gloomy. Daff thought we’d be spending the night
in the wood, but at last we came to a farmyard by a proper road. John
insisted it was the road back up to Top Lodge, Daff said it was nothing
like it, but, as you know, male grown-ups are never wrong, so we set off
in the direction John said would take us back.
We walked for ages.
Daff said it couldn’t be the right road, because we’d be back by now,
and there was too much traffic – our road was a dead end for motor
cars. The tarmac hurt my poorly foot, and Daff said the pain in her
knee was so bad she didn’t know how much further she could go, then they
spotted a board at the side of the road which showed we were walking
towards Kings Cliffe, which was nowhere where we wanted to be.
John suggested we
went back to the farm where we’d come off the footpath to ask for the
quickest way back. In the farmyard was a grumpy old man cleaning mud
off the concrete who said the only way without getting lost again was to
go back to Kings Cliffe and pick up the forest road which led straight
to Top lodge.
So off we trudged
again, back the way we’d just come. It was now nearly dark and Daff’s
knee looked like a football; my bad foot was bright red and the rain was
coming down in stair rods (whatever they might be). Daff said she
didn’t think she could do another two miles to the village, so John
suggested he left us behind and walked into Kings Cliffe and back
through the wood to Top Lodge to get the car. Daff didn’t think much of
this idea as John didn’t know the area at all and she thought he was
unlikely to find the road through the wood as some days he can hardly
find his way across the garden (she said that, not me), but we must have
walked miles that day already; Sally kept sitting down drinking muddy
puddles, and my foot was killing me, so there was nothing else for it.
John left us under an oak tree with big blobs of rain falling on us and
set off with the Twins, who were still full of energy, but then, they’ve
got ADHD, so that’s only to be expected.
It was then that I
knew for certain that Mr Paddidog is definitely the numbskull I’ve
always thought him to be, as, neck well lubricated with rain, he managed
to slip his collar and went belting off up the lane. It was nearly
dark by this time, and there was a lot of traffic – Mr P has no road
sense (well, no sense at all, really) and he was wandering amongst all
the cars and school buses, despite the fact that you could hardly see
him – even I couldn’t, and I have brilliant eyesight.
Daff went limping off
after him, dragging us with her, and she’d just caught up with him when
he shot across the verge, through the hedge, and into the field where
we’d heard all the bangs earlier. I thought, if he doesn’t get run
over, he’ll surely get shot. Daff was in tears of pain by this time,
and I knew just what she felt, cos if I weren’t a big brave boy, I’d
have howled, too.
We’d just all decided
that if he got lost or shot, that was his own business, when he
reappeared some way up the road, and stood in front of a Mini. Luckily
the driver had chance to stop, Daff struggled up to meet him, grabbed
hold of Mr P’s neck (how he swore!) and reapplied his collar, so tightly
his eyes popped out on stalks. He was limping, and his back feet were
all bloody, but nobody had any sympathy for him because we knew that in
a time of crisis like this, running off is no help to anyone.
It was really dark
now, although I don’t think it was much more than four-thirty. We all
decided after this latest incident we weren’t going any further. Daff
leaned on a metal gate to take the weight off her knee and tied us to
the bars so there were no more chances of escaping (not that we’d have
been able to by now).
We could still have
been there now when a dirty truck pulled up and the driver asked if we
were all right (did we look all right, I muttered under my breath).
Daff explained what had happened, and she and the driver, who turned out
to be a local gamekeeper just returning from the shoot we heard earlier,
decided that in the interests of all concerned, the best thing was to
take us back to the caravan and sort things out from there.
Wow, that was so
exciting, cos I’ve never ridden in the back of an open truck before –
you can see so much and the wind whistles round your ears ever so
loudly. Sally and Mr P sat down all the way back but I wanted to enjoy
the experience as much as possible, although I think Daff thought I’d
fall out as she kept looking round at me. The truck floor was covered
with feathers which smelled promising, but they weren’t attached to any
birds and we were all glad to see the caravan again.
But the ordeal wasn’t
over even then. Earlier in the day, Daff, who had had the door key in
her coat pocket, got warm when she was tackling those little inclines
she thinks of as hills, took her coat off and gave John the key to put
in his pocket for safe keeping. Of course, he still had it.
So we were all locked
out. The gamekeeper spoke to the site warden and told her that John was
somewhere in the wood between there and Kings Cliffe, so it was decided
to give him another half hour, then send out a search party. A
neighbour in the caravan opposite gave Daff a cup of tea and took her
into the warm, but there was nowhere for us to go, so she tied us to the
draw bar of our caravan and abandoned us. We were too stressed to feel
cold, but we looked, and felt, miserable.
Then a miracle
happened. Just on the half-hour, as Daff was summoning the search
party, John arrived back. So we were inside at last, immediately warm
and cosy because the heating was on. And even then, the Twins were full
of the joys of spring – where do they get all their energy from, I ask
myself? As for Sally, Mr P and me – we certainly weren’t; we went to
sleep immediately and didn’t wake up till nine o’ clock the following
morning. We didn’t even want anything to eat – the priority was a good
long rest. Next day we opted for a car ride; any walks were short and
to the point.
Now, I’m going to tell
you a very funny thing. Daff was convinced John would never find his
way. He told us he had no problem at all, because when he got to the
village, he recognised where he was and after asking someone where the
entrance to the forest road was, he found it immediately. Nothing odd
in that, you may think, except John had never been there before…………………..
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