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Land ahoy shipmates. I haven’t the foggiest idea why I wrote that, but it felt like a good opener. Maybe because my beautiful Croatian holiday in the glorious Mediterranean has been beached, and I’ve been landlubbed—or whatever the term is.
It’s been a week of stress and problems. I’m sick of talking about my head condition, but this one isn’t going to be all sweet candy canes and Truly Scrumptious niceties, either. We’ve had a week of unrest me hearties—there I go again. Maybe it’s the eye patch.
I would like a parrot. Now one thing I don’t like is being made to feel stupid. It happens a lot, trust me. No, really. I can’t believe it, either. Me, stupid, who’d a thunk it? A few weeks ago eldest son lost his African Grey. Poor old Mac was out for five days and had us all out scouring town looking for what amounted to a needle in a haystack. The fact that she talks saved her life. After five days on the lamb, a man was going to work and heard a raucous voice coming from underneath his car.
‘Hello. Who’s there?’
By this point, the man was as scared as Mac. He picked up his skirt, grabbed his balls and found the courage to bend down and look under the car.
Poor Mac was terrified—but got home safely.
The point of this story is that while she was lost, I advertised her predicament on Facebook a lot. Since then, I’ve had a wave of daily parrot clips to watch, and I adore them. They lift my mood and brighten my day.
My favourite is a sulphur-crested cockatoo. He is lifting his foot and running it over the family dog, who is giving the bird the side-eye.
‘Pet the dog,’ says the parrot.
‘Pet the dog.’
‘Pet the dog.’
Every time he’s told no, he strokes the dog again, but what makes it hilarious is that with each telling off, his voice gets louder and more rebellious.
I was talking to the Hubster.
‘They say parrots only repeat phrases they’ve been taught without context—but that isn’t true.’ I went on to relay the story about petting the dog.
Hubby looked at me as if I’d just landed in a spaceship from Mars.
‘Darling, they’re fake,’
Pet the Dog isn’t real, like Santa and the fairies? No. It can’t be. My world crumbled into little shards of glass around me.
That’s that illusion shattered, ta mate.
You know how you know Santa isn’t real, but there are those grey-area years where you keep hold of the myth—just in case you don’t get any presents? That’s where I am with Pet the Dog.
While the rest of the world is clued-up, don’t worry, white bird. I believe in you.
Head condition—better—still bad—stress this week hasn’t helped—there, done.
I have been gearing up for my promised holiday in Split, Croatia. We were going the last two weeks of September, but he can’t get those weeks off work. I was cool about it. No biggie. Dip-lo-mat. I am a diplomat. I can do compromising, but only because I had no choice.
‘That’s okay, love. The first two weeks of October are fine.’
This week he surprised me. He bought me a camper van.
That monstrosity is no more for me than his lift and separate boxer shorts or the seventy-third guitar he bought this year. We only have seven, but never let that fact get in the way of a good story.
I admit, it looked good from the outside—small—but good. BBE world, be proud of me. I grabbed my smile and forced it to stay on my face when he opened the side doors. It wasn’t easy.
He was enthusiastic and gushed, like the little girl who rescued a lost lamb from the side of the field and expected to keep it. Guilty.
‘And this does this. And that drops down there and fits in there like that.’
‘I can’t stand up.’
‘No, it’s a VWT5.’
Like that’s supposed to mean anything. It explains it all, apparently.
He’s had a lot to cope with dealing with Sparky, and we’ve both had to come to terms with it and learn how to deal with the condition. It was delightful to see him so ramped up and excited about something. But then he always is. It’s one of the things I love about him. He rarely gets annoyed and is always upbeat and glass half full. However, this was to the max.
‘I’m getting a pop-up roof.’
‘What like a pop-up toaster?’
All I could think was, well, it’s great if it makes you happy—but bang goes my holiday to Croatia. But that’s not to go into here. It was more the broken promise.
He went on to spin me his dream. Campsites, camaraderie with like-minded strangers. The dogs playing happily around the awning—it comes with a bloody great canvas thing that I hope he doesn’t expect me to put up.
‘Just imagine it, darling.’
‘Oh, I am.’
This week he has ridden his wave, and I have surfed on the top of it. He’s spent like Scrooge on the day of his awakening. Never has buying a bottle of washing-up liquid been so exciting. We bought everything in miniature. Little washing-up liquid, little handwash, little tea, coffee, sugar canisters—twice the price of normal-sized ones. We’ve bought torches, seat covers and outdoor seating. Dinky tables for two and throws for if the air gets chilly at night.
‘Look. I’ve bought a bottle of port. You can’t beat a drop of port around the campfire. It warms the cockles.’ He holds the bottle with a finger on the top and bottom and grins like Fagin.
‘I think my cockles are okay, thanks. I don’t like port.’
He has his dream. It doesn’t involve breaking down on the A1 with the dogs going ballistic.
He sees us zooming down the English equivalent of Route 66 with happy dogs and Heidi (the name we’ve given the camper) chugging out steam in time to a cheery little Chitty-Chitty Bang-Bang song.
Here’s my view of the same scenario. (This is Teagan, I don’t have a pic of Echo yet. Borrowed image further on.)
We set off, forget a million things, and go back half a dozen times. The dogs are impatient and whine to be let out. Tenmen farts every three minutes. At least they can’t strangle themselves now, as we’ve bought them new harnesses to attach them to something in the van so that if we have an accident, they don’t hurtle from the back to the front and entangle their bones and brain matter with ours. I’ll leave you for a second with that image.
We arrive at the campsite far later than expected after getting lost three times. Hubby flatly refuses to use a GPS because he has inbuilt directional intuition. It’s getting dark. The dogs have been cooped up since the last services. They traumatised several young children and a couple of grannies with their enthusiastic hello. Tempers aren’t frayed yet, there’s no unravelling, but you see that stitch there? It’s just a little bit lose and could go at any minute.
The dogs need to pee, but we’ve packed the torches and can’t find them in the dark—£24.99 for two—however, they are chargeable and come in a case. £1.99 in B&M for bog standard torches. Teagan’s whine is piercing, and if Tenmen doesn’t get out of this can soon, he’s going to crap right there. He’s learned not to poo where he shouldn’t most of the time—but he hasn’t learned patience and to hold it for ‘Just a little minute.’
Oh, oh, somebody has just walked past the van. Both dogs are window and sound-reactive. Teagan has the bark equivalent to a cannon firing. But she will bark to warn of terrible impending danger and can be told it’s okay and to please shut up. The Jack Russell will bark for three hours solid. Tenmen will yap for hours. I am the queen of exaggeration. If I say something took an hour, it was five minutes—but in this case, there is no bigging it up.
The children that were asleep in all of those other tents and campers are awake and screaming. Lights are going on all over the campsite. We’ll be hooked up to electricity, but we have a hanging backup for the awning—£30.99. Hubby needs to pee and goes behind a tree. I have no idea at this point where the toilet block is. I resent his tom-catting and tell him that as I have to wait, he should too. In reality, I’m only jealous.
Yes, he did almost get arrested and locked up recently in Ireland.
No, not now. That’s a different story.
So we get the kids (Dogs) settled and somehow make some kind of bed. I can only imagine sleeping in a small can, on a small bed that may yet be damned un-comfy, with two dogs reacting to every noise within a three-mile radius. We don’t sleep—but somehow manage to Make it Through the Night. Thank you, Gladys Knight—and many others. Tempers are still kind of there—but lips are tight, and words are terse.
We have breakfast, using our little stove, with our new little kettle and our metal mugs and little utensils in a black carry case £37.99—but there’s a chopping board with it. We sit on our new garden chairs. At this point, I don’t know what the dogs are doing. I’m not letting my imagination go that far. I assume they are tied up to something because they can’t run free, can they? I’m not even thinking about the frustration that will cause them.
We uncurl our unnaturally twisted bodies. Stretch out our past middle-aged limbs and wonder what the hell we were thinking. And we set off for a long walk. The kids have a great time in every inch of water they can find, from puddles to lakes to rivers. It’s a hoot. They are wet—and dirty—and smelly.
That’s okay. We can all sit in idyllic bliss back at camp and enjoy camping life.
It’s 3pm on the second day, and the heavens open. We haven’t eaten since breakfast and have worked up an appetite. No, we will not give in and find a dog-friendly restaurant. We are hardened campers. We’ve got this.
And so we’re trapped in a can with no escape in a thunderstorm. Tenmen doesn’t like thunder. He yaps—and farts like Chernobyl. Teagan—a huge, long-haired German Shepherd—is wet and takes up 90 per cent of any available space. She can take up to eight hours to dry. Wet dog smell.
Here endeth my hell.
So we were all geared up for our first expedition to Whitby this weekend. We have the traveller’s spirit and the mountaineer’s grit.
Hubby has put Heidi into a garage for a complete internal refit. Everything is to be ripped out, rebuilt and replaced with new. Several thousands of pounds worth of exciting homey stuff. She’s having a new bed, storage cupboards and a posh living area and kitchen. There will be a plate on the double passenger seat to swivel it around to make more seating in the living room. She is going to be kitted-out fit for Thumbelina and Tom Thumb. We were told we could have her back for this weekend when at least the bedframe will be built to put a Lilo on it and raise us off the ground and away from the dogs. Ha-ha, like they’re going to listen to ‘get down.’
Mark went to pick her up last night, ready to set off, and disaster struck. Nothing has been done. Nada. Not a thing.
‘Sorry, mate, I’ve had some rush jobs on.’
And that’s our problem, how? To be fair to Mr Garage, we didn’t realise it was a bank holiday. We scoured the length and breadth of the Northwest for a dog-friendly campsite with availability and came up blank.
We are going nowhere.
Moral of the story; Don’t tease the hubster.Especially when you’re almost as into it as he is.
So reading the last few pages of my idea of camping with the dogs in tow, you might get the idea that I’m not exactly keen—right?
It’s all bluff. Okay, so yes, I’m gutted at not getting my holiday abroad and annoyed about another broken promise. But, one word crept into my head mid-week. Festivals. We can do the festivals next year—without the dogs. I can’t wait.
Being grounded this weekend is awful. I’m gutted. I was really looking forward to it. I know you wouldn’t think so. I have a writer’s imagination—and I write horror. But inside, I was pleased for him and happy for us to get out and do coupley things again. I was excited about it.
I can’t wait to get out on the open road with Heidi. Sitting in our camp chairs, him with his port and me with a vodka. The kids play happily beside us with a tug-rope. Some neighbours come over to say hi, and we invite them in for a drink. They are musicians, so they get out their guitars. I’m on percussion with my tambourine and maracas. Our friend Jacquie always says I can’t play them, but don’t listen to her—this is my dream. Some other people come over and join in. They bring beer, and some are banging pots and pans. One girl has a mouth organ, and oh bliss, there’s a fella with a sax. We light a fire and make burgers and Smores (now there’s a thing), and the jam sesh sing-song goes on until the early hours.
I swear that I had never heard the word Smores until about two weeks ago. And then it came up two days running on American TV shows. I had no idea what it was until some reality UK show described them. Two weeks ago, they were unknown to me—they didn’t exist. Now they are selling Smores makers in Aldi. What the hell?
No, we didn’t buy one—he went for the stock pot instead at £20.00. It’s green, ceramic, and nice. We have a top shelf full of stock pots. Seriously we have Dutch ovens, tagines, one-pots, the lot. But no, the green one went with our new little green kettle and our green throws.
We aren’t well off. All this has come from a part-pay-out from his father’s estate. Money has been left separately for his kids—and if this is what makes him happy and what he want’s to spend his money on. I’m all for it. I want him to have everything that he wants. I like playing and winding him up with the nightmare scenario thing—but I’m excited about the future and getting away in Heidi.
In other news, we’ve had big changes in the BBE Facebook group this week. We lost two of our highly valued admins—half of them. And we’ve brought out a new incentive initiative. It has been a couple of weeks of turmoil and indecision. The group is only a tiny part of what I do, and this week it’s taken, on average, five hours of my time every day.
We’ve resettled. Brought out the new Feature, and I’m looking to calmer times and a more positive and happy outlook. The group has brought new clients into the serious side of BBE. However, the commissions come in from all sources, and I’m expecting less from the group after raising our prices to make a living from it after two years of set-up. Last year, after all the freelancers were paid and all the business overheads were covered, I came out with a profit of nine thousand pounds. Most of that is ploughed back into the business. These aren’t my personal living expenses, just the business ones. So many times, I couldn’t foot my share of the household bills, and Hubby has had to subsidise me. We’ve done two years, and things were well on the up. Five months on the bounce, I had work coming out of our ears.
And then disaster hit. Sparky came to play. I have a brain condition caused by stress and too many hours looking at the computer screen. It’s thrown the company and its future into jeopardy. We’ve had to raise our prices to make any kind of living. It’s going to mean losing a lot of our existing clients. I understand that. But whereas before, Best Book Editors and making it a success was my life, now, if the work comes in, I’ll take it—if it doesn’t, I’ll get an external job.
It’s a tragedy and a disaster when we were doing so well and building a strong name and reputation. However, it’s also a blessing. The frenetic energy and nervous exhaustion are gone. Of course, I still care. It’s my business, my baby, and I did it. Most new set-up businesses don’t make a profit in the first three years. I made nine thousand in my second. And if BBE joins the two-thirds of companies that go to the wall within three years, it’s down to illness—not failure. And that’s okay—if it all goes to rat crap now, it’s not the end of the world.
We have a camper, and there’s a whole exciting world outside this office.
That’s all folks!
Born in South Shields, Tyne & Weir, Katherine Black lives on the tip of the beautiful British Lake District. She lives with her partner, father-in-law and 4 dysfunctional but co-mingling pets. She is mother, grandmother and secret keeper of all. She is Best Book Editors’ principal editor.