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Teeth smiled at me from the centre of the room. Teeth pleased with themselves. Teeth wrapped around a small circle of carpet. My first thought was one of complete panic. Our dog had somehow managed to rip out a one-foot diameter circle of carpet which she was now devouring. My God, was anything safe!
But I couldn’t see a hole in the carpet – one foot or any other diameter. I looked. I peered. Where the hell had it come from? And then came the realisation. Our log basket! We'd left it in the inglenook fireplace. Our wicker log basket with the one-foot diameter circle of carpet at the bottom to catch all the mess and bark and dirt and wet leaves and all manner of hideous things that clung to damp logs in the winter. Except now they were all clinging to our freshly cleaned carpet. Spread and ground-in from wall to wall. Gypsy was nothing if not thorough.
Twelve hours to go and I screamed.
Wednesday morning dawned to find us lying under a horse rug on our lounge floor. All our furniture was gone, a gale was rattling our windows and Gypsy's feet were digging into my back.
"Do you think Rhiannon will load OK?" asked Shelagh.
I'd almost forgotten about that.
Rhiannon, our six-year-old Arab mare, had a thing about horseboxes. Once inside the trailer, she was fine. Coming out, she was fine. But going in? She either dug in her heels and refused to move, or moved far too much, becoming the kind of wild horse that other wild horses couldn’t drag anywhere near a trailer ramp.
We'd hired a horsebox a month earlier to wean her of her phobia and I'd almost been killed. Well, not exactly killed, but if you've ever been behind a horse when it suddenly leaps backwards and kicks out at you with both hooves flying either side of your ears, you get a distinct foretaste of the afterlife.
And we were going to have to try again in about an hour.
"At least we only have to do it once."
But how long would that take? Even with practice it still took anywhere from thirty minutes to an hour to load her. We'd warned the transporters but what if they didn't believe us? If the box was late or she took more than an hour to load we'd miss the ferry.
I went through the itinerary again. The horsebox was due to arrive at eight. So we had to be packed and ready by then, with the animals fed, watered, relieved and begged for their best behaviour – always a tricky negotiation.
And I had to ring Jan, my sister, to make sure she was still available to sign the house purchase agreement for us and collect the keys to the new house. And remind her that Pickfords said they'd have our belongings at the house about nine o'clock, Thursday, not to forget to unload the electric fencing first and we'd ring again when we had a firm time for our arrival.
It was fortuitous that my sister and brother-in-law had moved to France a month earlier. It meant they could sign the Acte for us and we could transport their animals – one of the horses and one of the cats were theirs.
Eight o'clock arrived with every animal present, correct and stuffed full of bribes.
But no horsebox.
By 8:25 we were in danger of wearing out the extraordinarily clean carpet between the window and the telephone. Is that a lorry? No it isn't. Was that the phone? No it's not.
Then we heard it.
A rumble down the drive and there was the lorry. At last!
Our joy lasted barely a minute. According to Sue, our driver, there might be a problem at Portsmouth. She was waiting for a phone call from the ferry company. In the meantime we'd have to wait.