header image
Home arrow Hell and Horseboxes
Article Index
Hell and Horseboxes
Page 2
Page 3
Page 4
Page 5
Page 6
Page 7
Page 8

And the darts room wasn't too bad. It was small, just big enough for a sofa and a few chairs but it could have been a hell of a lot worse. There was even a bathroom next door with a shower.

By the evening there was still no sign of the promised window. If anything the wind was stronger. Sue suggested a meal at the nearby pub and we looked at Gypsy and then at each other and tried to forget the last time we'd taken one of our dogs to a pub for a quiet drink.

Zaphod had been our first dog – a whippet lurcher – and, generally, well-behaved. Except when provoked – usually by cats or loud noises or someone doing something unexpected, or wearing strange clothes, or looking at him funny, or walking within ten yards of a bone or anything else he claimed title to. In other words he was a normal, well-adjusted dog.

We took him into a pub in Hungerford – The Bear, I think it was – for a quiet drink and a ploughman's lunch. Something relaxing to complete a pleasant morning's drive.

I went to the bar, a fiver in my hand, pleasant thoughts wafting brain-side. And then all hell broke out behind me – overturned tables, spilt drinks, screams. And in the middle of it all – Zaphod – dragging Shelagh through a table. I turned, folded the fiver back into my pocket and slowly walked towards the exit. I have never seen these people before in my life – especially the little brown and white one with the terrier in its mouth.

Shelagh tells a different story. One with Zaphod as the innocent party. The two of them were merely walking towards an empty table when a small dog – the aforementioned terrier – who had been sitting under an adjoining table, loomed into view. I have never been too convinced about this part of the story – the thought of a very small terrier looming does not strike me as that credible. Zaphod, in a state of justifiable shock at the proximity of another dog and in fear of an imminent attack upon his mistress, naturally had no other recourse other than to leap under the table and attempt to eat the terrier. In the process he happened to drag Shelagh after him. She kept hold of the lead, which immediately went under the table; Shelagh’s arm followed but her shoulders couldn't. So goodbye table and goodbye drinks. And hello adjoining table and adjoining table's former collection of drinks.

The staggering conclusion to this affair was that the owners of the terrier admitted full responsibility. I still can't understand why. The only explanation that stands even a modicum of scrutiny is that the terrier had a criminal record and the owners knew they couldn't afford another brush with the law.

Which, understandably, was why we weren't too keen on taking Gypsy to a pub. After all, what were the chances of finding another dog with form? Better to find an empty box, well away from any horses, and see if we could leave Gypsy there for a few hours.

Which is what we did. The grooms at the lairage said they didn't mind us using one of their boxes at the far end. And they didn't object to working to the accompaniment of a howling puppy.

We left before they could change their minds.


It was our last evening in an English pub. We had £10 left – everything else was in Francs. We sat sipping our real ale and draught cider surrounded by beams and antique brasses.

And watched the 9:25 weather forecast on TV. You could hardly make out the English Channel beneath all the isobars. And it was getting worse. The forecasts for Thursday and Friday were horrendous.

Walking back to the lairage, we expected to hear a cacophony of barks and screams but it was strangely quiet. Could everyone be dead?

No. Gypsy was asleep in her stall, curled up in the straw and looking angelic. And there was news about the window – it was expected around eight o'clock the next morning. But only for a few hours. And the vet inspection had been booked for 5:30.

What vet inspection?

We shouldn't have asked.

Apparently all our paperwork for the move was now obsolete. The embarkation port had changed, as had the date. And our vet inspection – which had to take place no more than twenty-four hours before embarkation – had now lapsed. Which meant we had to start again. Luckily the lairage was used to this and had all the forms and their own vet on stand-by.

We performed our final check on the animals, cleaned out the litter trays, changed the water, replenished the food, mucked out Gypsy's box and said goodnight to the horses.

And then went to bed.