Saying goodbye to Brave Boo
Last week we had to say goodbye to our faithful old poodle Boo. At the age of almost twelve he became seriously unwell and we made the difficult decision to ask the vet to help him along on his final journey. He had suffered for at least four years with a very painful arthritic condition and when this final illness hit we knew that we couldn’t prolong things any further.
So we are in that strange place where we are sad because his cheeky presence is gone from the house and we really miss him yet, to be really honest, we are relieved too. He had been on the maximum pain relieving drugs three times a day for several years and we were constantly aware that this decision was on the horizon.
Life at home and on our travels will look very different now. Some decisions about when and where will be easier because we were hesitating to make plans for trips that might make his pain worse. Long journeys in the van were no longer a pleasure for him and we were often discussing how to manage touring with him.
Poppy the reluctant top dog
Poppy was confused and sad for several days. She went looking for him in the woods and on the golf course, sniffing his favourite pee stops and lifting her head to sniff the air, trying to scent him out. She would look at us with her big brown eyes and we could almost see her puzzlement.
Poppy has an entirely different temperament to Boo. She is much quieter and less reactive. We no longer get the loud barks of alarm and outrage when someone walks past our window or a crow has the audacity to fly by. Poppy lifts one eyelid and occasionally huffs but otherwise stays calm. Long may it last.
Boo used to tell her when she could eat and she would obey, looking at her food longingly yet waiting for the invisible (to us) signal that she could now have her dinner. It used to infuriate us because we couldn’t get her to eat until this secret code had passed between them. He on the other hand would wolf his down in a most un-poodle-like way and belch appreciatively while she waited. Sometimes, if we weren’t quick enough, he would go and start eating hers too. Poodles are often fussy eaters who don’t care much for their food, hence their very slender appearance. In middle age Boo developed a love affair with all things edible whilst using his power as top dog to keep Poppy from hers until he gave his permission. We are told this is normal behaviour in the pack but we never got used to it and tried repeatedly to get her to know that we were in fact the providers of food and we wanted her to eat it. She steadfastly ignored us. Sadly Poppy has known nothing else and after he was gone just looked at her dinner and waited. We have solved this by putting a sprinkling of parmesan on the top. She can’t resist it. Never underestimate the power of cheese!
Another difference in life around here is that Poppy has moved into our bedroom. She was lonely at night and we are big softies. Fortunately she never attempts to get into bed with us but sleeps contentedly by the radiator. She does snore softly but as we can both outdo her with our own nocturnal nasal noises it doesn’t bother us at all. The only thing that will take us a little time to get used to is her insistence on staying close by when we get up to use the loo in the night. The first night, in pitch darkness, I nearly died of fright when I felt something soft and furry lean against my legs when I was sitting on the loo.
We’re tentatively making plans! This feels huge because it has been so long since we went over the channel. If all goes well we expect to cross via the Eurotunnel at the end of January. I’ve applied for my passport to be renewed and – I hate to admit this – had my medical for my over 70s C1 license renewal. In January 2022 I will reach the not so magic age when driving a big vehicle over 3.5 tons is only allowed if you are checked out first. DVLA are very slow at the moment so I was determined to get the application in well before time.
The Saga of the Medical
The C1 medical has to be arranged privately as it isn’t part of the normal NHS services. I booked mine with one of the big companies who do pop up clinics in the main centres around the country. In our case this meant Edinburgh. I was booked for 1.15 on a Friday afternoon and we got on a train from the Borders in plenty of time. I had done my homework and got all the necessary bits of paper ready for the event including a record of three previous blood pressure readings, my optical prescription and all the forms that are needed for the application. I had also put in the name of the centre on Google Maps and worked out the way from the train to the centre. Feeling thoroughly pleased with myself for finding the long lost bit of myself that used to be a good organiser we got off the train in Edinburgh, looked at the sunshine and decided to walk. We strolled along, dodging crowds on Princes Street and traffic on Lothian Road and arrived at the Edinburgh International Conference Centre in plenty of time. We were stopped at the door by security and informed that this was not the right place. I didn’t believe him but he wouldn’t let us in so we had no choice but to step outside and check the details on my phone. He was correct. It wasn’t the right place. We were supposed to be at the Edinburgh Training & Conference Centre which was over a mile away and we only had 8 minutes to get there. The email from the Medical people warned that if I was late I would probably not be seen and my fee would be lost. We set off at a trot with me alternately swearing and whimpering and Shirley looking for a taxi. Eventually with 3 minutes to spare we found one and the driver took in the situation immediately, swung out into the traffic and deposited us where we were meant to be. We were now 10 minutes late and I was panting and sweating with a thundering noise in my ears. I rang the bell. No reply. I rang it again for longer. Still no reply. Two women came up behind me and put in the entry code and I fell into the place looking like a wild thing wearing a yellow mask with red spots on it. To my horror a sign said “Reception on 2nd Floor” Old Edinburgh buildings are very tall and stairs are steep. By now I was exhausted and dragged myself up to the second floor only to find no reception desk. Maybe I was still on the first? Up another flight of stairs I went and found a person who told me I was on the third floor and that I should go downstairs. On my way down two things happened, first of all my glasses suddenly and dramatically steamed up in response to the sweating and my jaunty red and yellow, triple layer mask and, because I could no longer see where I was going, I missed my footing on the second to last step and ending up still upright but bent at the knees whilst finding myself unable to stop the forward momentum. I must have looked strange because a voice behind me asked if I was ok but in that slightly alarmed tone that suggested that she thought I was having some kind of seizure. I pulled myself up to standing position and confessed that I wasn’t ok. I was here for a medical and I was either going to lose my fee or fail the damned thing, She was kind. She led me to the right place and sat me outside the door to recover. From here I could see the doctor in his room, sitting in his scrubs eating a large messy sandwich. After several minutes he invited me in and I saw that he was probably still in high school. He had a smudge of mayonnaise on his top lip but he was kind and suggested that I sit down and relax before he took my blood pressure. “How was your journey?” he asked kindly. “Dreadful”, I said managing to hold in all the expletives that were still spinning in my head. He was a nice young man and he took my blood pressure twice and said “You’ve passed that bit but its high. My advice is to get that sorted out with your GP.” No surprise there then. He then tested my eyesight, asked lots of questions before filling in the form with a flourish and telling me I was fine to keep driving. Just as I was putting on my coat he spoke again, “In the interest of full disclosure, I have to tell you that I got some mustard on your form.” We both laughed and I went outside to find Shirley. She had been walking up and down the street looking for a coffee shop only to realise that her purse was in my handbag. “Take me home,” I said, “I’m not safe to be let out.”
Good friends have since advised me that putting the post code rather than the name into Google Maps gives more accurate results. If, like me, you had begun to believe that Mr Google is all knowing and all seeing, be warned, he makes massive assumptions and neglecting to double check his suggestions may lead to a series of very unfortunate events.
The Passport Photo
We’re in the 21st Century and we can now renew our passports online. Yippee! But wait, they wanted a new picture. Fair enough as I’ve changed quite a lot since the last one was taken, I now see my mother when I look in the mirror. You have a choice. You can go to a machine that is up to date enough to send you the picture by email or you can take your own with your laptop and send it with the application. I needed a printed photo for the aforementioned licence application and also an online one for the passport so I wasn’t sure how to proceed. Eventually I discovered, via the previously maligned Mr Google, that Asda will accept your photo taken from your laptop and return it printed in a format suitable for your driving licence. Fast forward half an hour and you will find me standing against a light coloured wall being photographed by Shirley using my laptop. Straight face, eyes open, mouth closed … no wait! I can see the screen with the picture and she is holding up the laptop so she can’t see whether she has it pointed at me. “You’ve cut off my head, no, too high now I have no chin. No wait, I can’t keep a straight face.” Eventually click and the picture is taken and sent off to Asda. It didn’t look too bad on the screen, although I did have the look of a startled convict. Three days later when the printed copies arrived I was horrified. I looked about 105. “Is that what I look like?” I asked pathetically. “I wouldn’t recognise you from that”, Shirley replied kindly, so we binned them and set off to Tesco to see if their photo booth did the clever emailing thing. It was Saturday afternoon and the place was heaving. I settled myself into the booth, flashed my debit card at the machine and entered all my details. All this is done on a keyboard on a screen so it takes a little time. The machine began the process and I was both impressed and frustrated. It takes your picture and then tells you why it’s no good. Fail! You appear to be smiling. Fail! Your eyes are closed. Fail! You looked away at the wrong moment. Fail! Your mouth appears to be open. (Yes it was because I was explaining to Shirley why it was taking so long.) Eventually it said “That looks good. Shall I print it?” and then “Put in your email address and we will email it to you.” And it did. This nifty service cost £7. So, the sum total of getting a driving licence application and a passport application ready to post had taken two days and approximately £160. If you weren’t sure you wanted to travel, you would definitely have changed your mind by now.
Where is Heidi?
It’s been a strange few months. When we bought Heidi the Hymer we knew that we would be spending some money on her to make her exactly right for us. What we didn’t expect was how complicated it would be. Parts are slow to arrive due to import and transport issues, companies are busy because it has been a big year for motorhome ownership and we have had to cancel some arrangements because of various medical appointments and other unexpected issues. Heidi is currently in Glasgow waiting for the arrival of a new fridge that is somewhere between Germany and here, we’re guessing at Folkestone waiting for transport. This week we suddenly got frustrated. We want to get out and about and enjoy the van before the very worst of winter hits. Hopefully we’ll be back before long to report on some proper motorhome touring. In the meantime we are enjoying the banks of the River Tweed with all its beautiful autumn colours and teaching Poppy the cockapoo how to be a solo dog.