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The horses were a bit wary of the buildings at first. The entrance to the stables was low, narrow and dark. And only the Great Horse God knew what dwelt beyond.

But we pushed them through, the pony leading the way. And once inside they were out of the wind. And into another age. It looked superb – to lovers of the authentic – low beamed ceilings, uneven dirt floor, lots of wood and leather.

And the horses seemed to like it. Once their eyes had acclimatised to the darkness and they could verify the total dearth of demons dwelling in any of the shadows.

The rugs were next to be unloaded; along with hay nets and lunge ropes and reins and buckets. Horses never travel light.

And then off to the hotel. Following another set of directions – right at the first roundabout, then a left…

Wimereux was a traditional seaside resort – row upon row of small hotels stretched like a ribbon along the coast, all brightly painted in their summer colours, the bars and the pizzerias and the cafes now mostly deserted. And there, close to the promenade was our hotel. It really did exist.

We thanked Sue for all she'd done. The trip hadn't been easy for any of us and hers wasn't over yet – she had to drive the horsebox back to England. We made use of her mobile for one last call – Shelagh wanted to make sure we hadn't been abandoned and someone had noted down both the name of the hotel and its telephone number. Plus, was there an update on the relief horsebox? There wasn't, but not to worry, someone would contact us soon.

By this time we were a sorry sight. Stood on the pavement with assorted bags and animals, we looked like refugees from some Eastern European conflagration. Yugoslavia, most likely. Shelagh’s often mistaken for a Slav. At least, when she worked in Germany, she was; her long dark hair and lack of German, being taken as proof positive of her Slavic roots. Whereas I had the dubious pleasure of once being mistaken for a Transylvanian. I was walking through the streets of York one night, in the days when I had a great profusion of long ginger hair and a big bushy beard, when I overheard a passer-by whisper to her friend, “and you said you never believed in werewolves?”

So, there we were, standing outside the hotel, a balding werewolf fallen upon hard times and forced to migrate west with Elvira, his gypsy violinist wife. Not to mention the Transylvanian menagerie of were-pets.

But we did have a hotel room. And a bath.

The room was even paid for. All part of the relocation service. The hotel rooms, the lairage fees – everything except for breakfast on the ferry – which I had still not forgiven Shelagh for. How these companies made any money during the winter I did not know. It must be a nightmare of cancelled ferries, diverted horseboxes, last-minute bookings and alterations. And Sue had been contracted to collect other horses after us for a return journey so presumably someone else would have to be diverted to fulfil that obligation.

All that was left before we said goodbye was one final walk round the interior of the horsebox to check we hadn't left anything behind – the odd horse or two that might have snuck back on. But no horses – just a Hoover.

We were still arguing over who should have left the vacuum cleaner at the stables when the receptionist arrived to book us in. We filled in the usual cards and presented our passports and did our best to make ourselves understood.

Which was difficult as neither of us was fluent. Shelagh had a grade ‘E’ French 'O' level, one step up from the failure grade of ‘F’, and I had a grade ‘X’. Not many people have a grade ‘X’. I'd secured mine by holidaying in the Lake District when I should have been attending the orals. Whether there are different grades for other holiday resorts, I don't know. But I'd like to think there were.

Anyway, most of our efforts were directed to making sure they understood we might not stay the night. But the receptionist didn't seem to mind how long we stayed for. After all, the room had been paid for. She was more interested in whether we'd be staying for dinner. I said yes, Shelagh said no.

Another argument ensued. Shelagh was adamant we couldn't leave Gypsy in the room by herself and equally that we couldn't inflict her on other guests. Why not? You know why not. No, I don't. Yes, you do.

The receptionist left to fetch the keys while Shelagh made up my mind. I looked longingly past the lobby into the dining room. People were eating. Normal people unshackled by animals. I was about to start drooling when our keys arrived. We were on the second floor.

I picked up the Hoover and had just started to mount the stairs when a woman burst out of the dining room and ran up to me.

Non! Non! Pas nécessaire,” cried the landlady, and various other words to the effect that the room was already clean.

I looked at the Hoover in my hand and the dog and the cats and the assorted luggage strewn over the lobby and tried to think of a short and concise way to explain everything. I couldn't. My schoolboy French had deserted me – probably for the Lake District.