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Hell and Horseboxes
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We had to find another way. Which led us to the horsebox. It was one of those rare moments in our move when everything suddenly came together. We knew we had to hire someone to transport the horses, could they take the dog and cats as well? They could? Excellent! Could they take us? Even better. And to prove there really was a deity they even reduced the price on the proviso that we doubled as grooms for the journey.

I didn't dream that night. A force field of contentment kept the demons at bay. I didn't have to drive; I didn't have to knock on hotel doors in the middle of the night covered in scratches and dog slobber. Bliss.

A word that could not be used to describe the weather. The storm hadn’t arrived yet but the wind was picking up; playful gusts were turning meaner, clouds were looking busier. The one silver lining was that it hadn’t started to rain yet. At least our possessions were being loaded into the back of the removal lorry in the dry.

We had thought our last day on the farm was going to be a quiet one – a day to say goodbye to our home of six years and walk the fields for the last time. But no, it's a day of constant interruption and visits – electric and water meters being read, removal men walking in and out, boxes being packed, furniture loaded, inventories filled in, telephone calls, vet inspections. The latter taking two whole hours as every whorl and marking of the horses had to be scrutinised and faithfully recorded on their travel documents.

Did I mention the cleaning?

We'd thought our house reasonably clean – for a farm – for a farm in a muddy winter overrun by cats and a dog with big feet. But, as soon as the rooms were cleared, bright islands appeared on our carpets where the furniture had been. Were the carpets really that colour when we bought them?

Which brings us to the dog, Gypsy, a four-month-old lurcher. For anyone unfamiliar with the breed, the lurcher is the one that fills the gap between the Irish Wolf Hound and the crocodile. She was immense. And her favourite game was dragging her favourite toy across the floor. Sad to say, her favourite toy was my leg. What can I say? I have highly desirable ankles.

Which can be a problem when you’re rushing to clean a carpet ... and your dog decides it’s playtime. Note to all husbands: being dragged across the floor by one’s ankle is not a credible defence when your wife is under stress and expecting help with the carpet cleaning.

"Stop playing with the dog!" shouted Shelagh, trying to make herself heard over the sound of the vacuum cleaner. "You’re supposed to be helping."

People who’ve never had their ankle between a canine’s canines cannot appreciate the pain. It’s a cross between having your funny bone tapped with a hammer and a tooth drilled. And it activates a nerve that has fast track access to the part of your brain (the Little-Girlie Thalamus) responsible for making your eyes water and raising your voice two whole octaves.

As I said, no defence.

Shelagh gave up Hoovering and resorted to bartering, trying to swap me for a biscuit – not the first time in our marriage she'd attempted this. Gypsy held out for two custard creams before unclamping her jaws. Which gave us time to lay a trail of biscuits leading to the lounge door, open the door, throw a biscuit through and ... goodbye hellhound. One point to the limping Homo sapiens team.

It took a lot of scrubbing but eventually the bright islands receded and out came a passable example of the carpet we'd bought.

On to the next room.

This time we tricked Gypsy without having to resort to biscuits or displaying a provocative ankle. We opened the door, let her bound through, then slipped past her in the excitement, slamming the door shut behind us. An hour later, we'd shampooed, scrubbed and vacuumed the living room carpet back to acceptability.

Then I returned to the lounge to fetch Gypsy.

And stepped into an alternative universe – something that rarely happens in Devon. I was in the lounge. But the carpet wasn't the same freshly cleaned carpet I'd left an hour earlier. It was a different carpet. A much darker, dirtier carpet.