Dear Irish Terrier Friends,
Summer is swinging by much too quickly. How we love the long light days and I do wonder why the winter months seem to move so much more slowly.
It was raining this morning and Libby was appalled. She hates to be wet and even a heavy dew has her walking on tiptoe and lifting her feet like a dancing bear. It has of course been very hot and dry and we have been tempted to have few daring ‘swims’ over the sea wall – nothing as mind blowing as paws off the ground but water over her shoulders and well up over my knees. I have some fearsome rubber shoes (bought in France) which at least assuage my anxiety about my feet tangling with a giant squid or a crab attaching itself to a toe. Doubtless, extremely rare circumstances in the shallows, but real enough in my imagination. There’s nothing more likely to put one off swimming in the Solent than a holiday swimming in the Mediterranean, which is so blissfully warm. I had a wonderful 2 weeks doing just that…this wading in murky waters with trousers rolled and a tentative Mick at my side doesn’t really measure up at all.
We’ve had our much adored Tessie to stay and she will barely get even her feet wet. She is my granddaughter Imogen’s dog (someone has suggested a cast list for these letters), and spent a lot of time as a puppy with us in London. She was Zuli and Beegie’s ‘baby’ and they were like 2 very indulgent old aunts, who spoiled her rotten. We used to say, ‘Tessie, oh Tessie, you are such a pestie, you always get your own way,’ and she always has – and she’s now twelve. I mentioned in a previous letter, the slight scare we had with her when the vet seemed to think her liver was not signalling the right count. I’m delighted to say, after an injection and mysterious pills, she has recovered and seems absolutely fine. We had some wonderful walks chasing the rabbits on the salt marshes and stones on the beach. She’s such a loving dog and likes to be cuddled for as long as time provides. She’s really very like Beegie, who was her great love, and not at all like Liberty Belle, who disapproves of hugging and turns her face away if you try to kiss her on the nose (unless she’s almost asleep). She’s very loving however in her own way, but still so playful and energetic and she really prefers a crowd with jolly things happening. We say she’s not a ‘smoocher’ – not yet anyway, but is so kind hearted and funny.
An old friend and her daughter came to stay last week. We were at school together in Africa during the war and there was a good deal of talking to be done. Libby loved them both and did her best to keep us entertained. We went across to the Isle of Wight on the ferry and Libbs knew from a previous trip exactly how to manage it leading the way up to the top deck, where we sat out in the sunshine and watched the mainland receding. We had a lovely day, gently wandering round Yarmouth (Libby out in front) and along the river to the bridge. We laughed when I remembered how Beegie, years ago, had walked across the breakwater to consume vast quantities of white bread, which someone had thrown over the bridge for the ducks. Out of reach and out of hearing she pursued her quest with total concentration ignoring my shouts of fury. She eventually arrived back and had to be heaved up onto the bank looking like a blow-up version of herself but suffered nothing that a good night’s sleep couldn’t cure. Our beloved princess Beega (yes, that’s Beegie) was the greediest dog I’ve ever known. She loved food and eating was a hobby, or perhaps consuming passion. She was rather solemn, which made her quite unintentionally incredibly funny. Always slightly in Zuli’s shadow – no-one could have kept up with Zuli’s quicksilver mind – she had, however, a wonderful warmth and instinctive understanding. Her kindness to us all when my husband Ian died was extraordinary – no fuss, but a warm steady presence. How I absolutely adored her. It is interesting that our Micks have been so different and individual – each one a gem of a character not to be wasted and never to be forgotten.
Liberty Belle startled us the other day by discovering a muntjac deer in a neighbour’s garden. We were chattering at the gate and Libbs was doing the traditional house and garden inspection, and disappeared into a shrubbery. To our astonishment a small deer, not much bigger than Libby, leapt out and rushed around with Libbs on its heels. They chased down the lane and disappeared into another garden, but the most awful thing was the terrible screaming – I thought one of them was injured and had no idea whether it was Libby or the deer. I ran in their direction but when the noise stopped I surely expected to find at least one dead body. It was very alarming indeed and I was shaking like a leaf but found Libby standing up on her hind legs trying to look over a garden wall. She was ecstatic, wagging her tail very pleased with herself – a real terrier at last! My very charming neighbour said, ‘Well done Libby, that deer has been eating my irises,’ but I marched her home with a ‘right flea in her ear’. I feared it would end like those ghastly nature films on the television which always finish with someone being murdered or dismembered – whether a polar bear, dolphin, buffalo, zebra or, what a horror, a tarantula versus a scorpion. We’ve seen them all and I’m not quite ready to add an unfortunate muntjac to the list. I’ve subsequently heard that muntjac are notorious for the terrifying noises they make.
We’ve had visits from some of our favourite doggy friends – not least James, who we all know from the iconic picture of the Mick in the field of poppies. He is such a charmer and quite the elder statesman. Libby was very taken with his housemate Freddie, whom Inga brought home from Tuscany. He was a stray and much in need of a good home. He and Libby had some wild chases along the sea wall. We’re putting a piece about James on the features page so do look out for it.
Little Tilly, the Yorkshire Terrier, who lived in Brenda’s house in London, came for the day. She lives with an ‘aunt’ in Hampshire now, and Libby searches for her whenever we’re in London. They were so thrilled to see each other and were very sweet together, pressing noses and running around. Lisa is sad to leave her in the country, but everyone feels it is a far better life for her in the New Forest – and I suppose it is a doggy heaven.
I went to see the beloved Bella J before they all went off to France. She’s 14 and there’s always a lingering sadness that it may be the last hug. She’s a lovely and still beautiful old lady and one that has crept into my soul. It seems that she is enjoying the hols.
We’re in London again, Libbs playing the part of co-hostess to perfection for Brenda’s birthday party. We laughed to see her receiving everyone in the hall, doing the rounds of the tables (being very grateful for any titbits) and best of all running about with the innumerable grandchildren. We know she’s the ultimate party girl but this was the ‘Irish’ conviviality at its best. Someone dubbed her ‘that Libby with the laughing face’ and she was there beside Brenda to see everyone out at the end of the party. The one annoyance is that she does not like me to dance, particularly too energetically. I feel that Libbs (in translation) would call it unseemly behaviour. We had a few anxious interventions as I went flying round the floor. Interesting really as she feels that teaching a movement class is appropriate enough, perhaps it’s the partner which makes dancing unsuitable! Anyway, she had to be distracted by a walk in the garden with the children.
Home tomorrow and no bad thing…we’re not sure anymore whether we’re on holiday in London or in Lymington…or could it be both?
Let’s all pray for an Indian summer.
With many greetings and my love to the dogs,