February 2015

Dear Irish Terrier Friends,

It snowed this morning, almost unknown in Lymington and Libby was mystified. Snow on the ground she may have seen before, but floating silently down must have been a first for her. She peered through the front door looking back at me to check at the possibility of some new calamity from above. We were caught out on the marshes recently when a freak hail storm broke over our heads. Nonny was staying at the time and ‘we three’ packed ourselves under the prickly gorse jostling to perch on the driest spot. The hail stones were huge – the size of large marbles (the ones we used to call gungs) and hit my unfortunate umbrella with increasingly loud thumps. We crouched beneath it likes gnomes under a mushroom and no-one was amused!

At least they didn’t blame me, which was always Zuli’s take on any discomforts lage or small. She could trace it directly at either my incompetence or warped sense of humour. She’d give me a withering look if a police car sped by, or a door banged, or I dropped the bag of apples on the step. Whenever I reversed the car she’d stand up and glare at me in the rear view mirror, ‘backwards is not the way to drive – silly.’ We fell out badly only twice in 15 years but she never gave an inch. I learned to avoid a battle of wills. We adored each other but I knew my place. She was neat, gentle, charming and extraordinarily clever, but what a steel butterfly – how I miss her still.

Anyway, Libbs loved the snow once she’d discovered it was weightless and not wet. She even stopped flapping her ears to shake it off her nose. She went out with her friends, and ‘Cat walks dogs’ has taken some lovely pictures of the gang playing in the snow.

We’ve had a busy week in London and it is strange the way we both slip back into life in St John’s Wood without a blink. My dear friend Brenda is so kind to put up with us and of course Libbs, whose devotion to her friends never flags, has charmed her into submission. She doesn’t even chase the four cats any longer, but sits demurely, packed up and tidy following their every move with her eyes alone – just in case.

She loves Tilly, the housekeepers little Yorkie. They play together and I really think she enjoys Brenda’s house more than her own. But life is always a blast for Libby and she lives every minute.

I had the great pleasure of lunching with Ursula and John Merrington last week. They have been devoted Irish Terrier people for as long as I can remember and great supporters of the breed clubs. They’ve bred some beautiful puppies – it’s the Seirios line – and their own dogs have all been memorable and completely charming. Ursula was a huge encouragement to me to keep writing about our ‘best beloveds’. She learnt very early on to use the computer and I was astonished at the ease with which she turned my fairly undisciplined jotttings into pretty cards and the first calendars we did. Their present dog, Gracie, is a dear girl, still full of life at 12 and so welcoming. Ursula is one of those immaculate people and her dogs always have a snow white rug on which they sit in the back of the car. I used to compare my travelling circus and park as far away as possible!

‘Our Jane’, who has been the mainstay of the website for many years, and such a good friend to us all, has had a great sadness. Her beloved Weimaraner, Meisha, was put to sleep yesterday, and she is understandably inconsolable. I saw them both last week and Meisha seemed in good form considering her 13 years. But these things happen quickly and anyone who has loved and lost a dog knows the terrible moment when a sensible decision has to be made. We never learn from the warning,

‘Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware

Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.’

There is no consolation except the joy they gave and Meisha lit up the world for Jane.

I went to say goodbye to Juno’s 4 gorgeous puppies – not that they’re going very far as all have homes almost within walking distance. They were heaven. Juno is so proud of them, but the big mothering is over and although she plays with them so happily she likes her own bed at night and loves her walks with her friends. They’re lovely pups and so much loved and cared for by the whole family. My admiration is unlimited. I was enchanted watching 4 year old Florence rolling about on the floor with the puppies climbing all over her. It seems the 3 little girls have bossed the one and only boy, Rudy, who though much bigger, is far less assertive. They all have those little angel faces, but are already moving round with that typical Irish Terrier look which says ‘here I come’.

The website, as managed from the computer here, is up and running. It will take a little longer to have the whole data base system more easy to manage, but there is a copier and a scanner – yes, yes, I know you all understand these things but to me they seem as wondrous as the latest probe which has landed on Mars.

Louise, who comes to deal with these marvels, is patient and efficient and, like Jane, adores dogs. Libby is delighted and knows her well as she frequently walks with Cat who walks Libbs twice a week.

There is no reason for us to miss Jane as she still has an eye on things and will always be there to answer your emails if necessary and we’re doing the letter together this evening. Her help has been invaluable but her own workload has become ever more demanding and it has been difficult to find the time for extras.

I am away a fair amount but with Louise on the home computer no-one will even notice that I’m gallivanting here and there.

My sons, Boo and Jamie, give me frequent earnest lectures about taking care and perhaps they have a point. I have to confess to a priceless mishap on the marshes recently. We’d had buckets of rain and the ponds were overflowing. Libby and I were squelching around the side of one, edging our way on a narrow path between the gorse bushes and the water. She skipped ahead but the bank suddenly crumbled away under my right boot and I found myself, or my right leg, in 3 feet of water and firmly anchored in sticky mud. I went into a weird slow motion attempt to extricate myself – not easy with my left leg and an over excited dog still on the bank. I was weighed down too by my best fur lined raincoat. It was all to no avail and I keeled over onto my right side very slowly like a large sail boat. There was no vulgar struggling, no shouts for help, just a rather bemused gentle floating with my right arm up to my armpit under water and my left hand still holding my umbrella aloft – both boots by now stuck firmly in the mud. It required some considerable manoeuvring and cursing to eventually clamber up onto the bank, empty my boots and head back to the car with chattering teeth. I do hope Zuli wasn’t looking down at me.

The worst embarrassment was fending off the helpful dog walkers, all as ancient as I am and very upset for me. I kept calling out, ‘Don’t come anywhere near me. I smell dreadful.’

Ah well, perhaps my sons have a point to make.

This morning two boxes arrived and to my surprise (because I’d almost forgotten about them) and joy, 2 red ceramic poppies were carefully unwrapped. They seem bigger and more solid than I’d imagined having seen them set around the Tower of London. We had some trouble fitting them onto their rusty stems but they’re standing now amongst the lavender. They will remind me forever of the beautiful sight they made and the moving representation of the fallen.

Who on earth should worry about falling into a ditch – not I, nor my Liberty Belle!

With many greetings, and my love to the dogs,


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