No sooner was I gone than I was back
“Who are ya? Who ARE YA?” The female voice stabbed each syllable into the early evening air, louder with every rasping breath. Dressed in a scruffy black anorak she jabbed her finger into the chest of a lanky young male. He was leaning towards her, swaying unsteadily on his feet. Nearby two men were rucking on the ground. My friend Kathleen and I hurried to cross the road, moving away from the gathering crowd. I looked up the high street we’d just arrived at and wished I was home in France. Why on earth was I in an unfamiliar town in England, on a Friday night?
I am not a keen traveller. Not without having Michel and the dogs with me. My desire to stay home has strengthened in recent years. Sometimes I think I could merrily never go more than a few miles from home ever again and I’d be perfectly happy. It’s a challenge for me to travel back to the UK, something I did last weekend. While I love catching up with family and friends and miss them when apart, I don’t like leaving home.
Then, the day before I was due to drive six hundred miles north to get the ferry across the English Channel, the car developed a problem. It needed fixing, and fast. Nothing happens fast here. After a four hour round trip to the only garage in the area which might potentially fix it – they couldn’t – I had to rejig my plans. As a reluctant traveller, it takes very little to trigger more reluctance. I don’t rise to challenges like it, I grumble my way through. We worked out a temporary solution. I still drove a lot of miles – without incident – and the car is in the garage next week.
We’re still waiting for the camper van to be fixed from the storm damage in June. The original plan for this trip was for us all to be in England, in the van, enjoying a holiday together. Plans change. My dislike of leaving the dogs, Michel and home doesn’t.
Things got much better after stumbling across the rumpus in the street I’m pleased to say. Kathleen and I found a great pizza restaurant around the corner from the brawling. It was a welcome haven which served delicious stone baked pizza and a rich Rioja. We quickly relaxed, glad to be together. We toasted the dogs who over the years we’ve loved and lost and all those yet to come. And looked forward to what we were there for: representing Schnauzerfest the charity at one of the largest events of its kind, Paws in the Park.
The next day Kathleen and I joined the small team on the stall. The two days we spent talking to people who came to the show flew by. Days like this are long and tiring, almost exhausting. But paradoxically, energising. It’s encouraging meeting people who know little, or nothing about puppy farming when they arrive at the stall, to go away a lot wiser. Hopefully doing their bit to tell others how to avoid falling into the insidious traps laid by those peddling the puppy trade. Supporters with dogs who now live as they should, not as someone’s puppy producing ‘stock’ did a great job illustrating how important it is that education is done by us all, whenever, wherever we get the chance.
Seeing people engage, not casually, but seriously, with the work the charity does to help rescues is greatly rewarding. In a world that’s frequently cynical and selfish, to witness generosity and kindness in real time is humbling and heartening in equal measure. The charity relies entirely on donations and volunteers for everything it does. All my reluctance to leave home instantly fades the moment I’m in the company of those who make possible the work of the charity. Every supporter, donor and volunteer makes the charity what it is. And my friends who are always there behind the scenes, offering moral as well as practical support. Who listen to me moaning about inconsequential matters like not wanting to be away from home for long.
It felt like no sooner had I left on Thursday than I was home again. Which is where I’ll be staying, until the next time.