After opening a range of presents this, my seventy first birthday, morning I went on a long walk with Matthew and Oddie. Elizabeth and Louisa at different points telephoned with greetings, so I was a little distracted from guiding Matthew on the walk. The result was that we walked up to Stoney Cross where a gentleman asked for directions to Emery Down. Not being exactly sure whether he could drive to Forest Road without going onto the A31, and subsequently finding he couldn’t, I decided we would try to find a route that I felt sure must exist. Walking through three five-barred gates and passing directly in front of Little Chef, we did indeed find the way, and walked along the road to Lyndhurst before turning left onto the bridleway which joined the bridle path with which I am familiar; then on down to the first ford and back to the bottle bank by Minstead Hall.
There are lovely meadow flowers blooming alongside the A31 in the vicinity of Little Chef. Another driver, seeking directions to that eating place went on ahead of us along the rough tracks through the gateways. He and his teenaged passengers had been decanted into the restaurant by the time we arrived there.
It was along Forest Road that our brave little Oddie began to remind us that he is the equivalent in dog years of a 98 year old human. He flagged a bit, and was clearly thirsty. So was I actually, but I wasn’t going to drink the water I led him to. If desperate, I might have tried the clear water from the ford for which I was aiming, but certainly not the muddy, midge spawning pool we came across en route. Oddie was happy though. And, in the ford, he had a second supply.
Matthew had to carry him pretty much the rest of the way, otherwise watching him limping stiffly along was much too painful. This reminded me of a dog at the other end of life also struggling on the roads. Like Oddie, our Newark pet, Paddy, was also a rescue dog. Paddy, ostensibly Sam’s collie/labrador cross, was really Jessica’s familiar. She was rescued from the rescue centre’s necessary cull of puppies not chosen for adoption, by the family selection committee. When she was just a few weeks old, we took her for a walk in Stapleford Woods. After a while she began whimpering and we realised that her baby paws had not been toughened enough for tarmac.
When we eventually arrived at the bottle bank today we should have had another eighteen minutes or so to go. However, I knew Jackie planned a drive down to this refuse dump; Oddie couldn’t walk any more; Matthew was a bit tired of carrying him; I, of course, was fighting fit and raring to go, but thinking it might be quite nice for the others to have a lift back in the car, I rang Jackie and suggested she brought the bottles down and took us home in the car. I can hear you pointing out that I could have walked back on my own, had I wanted to, but that would have been rather churlish, wouldn’t it?
Matthew had predicted that Oddie would collapse when we got back, and have a good sleep. He omitted to mention the obvious, which was where the little terrier would lie. Where else, but in my chair?
Between Matthew’s departure and the arrival of Becky, Flo, and Ian, Jackie and I watched history being made on the tennis court. Andy Murray defeated Novak Djokovic of Serbia to become the first male British player to win Wimbledon since Fred Perry in 1936.
This evening Ian took us all out to a restaurant of my choice. It had to be the recently discovered Plough at Tiptoe. Three of us had crispy haddock, chips, and peas. Becky enjoyed the tagliatelle as much as Jackie had done a couple of days ago; and Ian rated his roast beef, lamb, and chicken dinner the best he had eaten. Ian and I ploughed through enormous bowls of excellent apple and raspberry crumble with custard, and the others scoffed delicious berry creme brulees. Doom Bar, Fosters, Kronenberg, Diet Coke, Becks, and Apple juice were drunk. all in all, a splendid event.