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We returned to the hotel, wondering if we should try a laxative. Or would that present fate with too tempting a target? Just how quick can you run downstairs carrying an incontinent puppy?

Back in the room the phone rang. I'd reached such a low ebb by that time that I half-expected to hear that a freak tornado had whisked the new horsebox away to Cuba, but no, it was on its way and expected to arrive at the lairage between 1:00 am and 2:00 am. The driver would phone us at the hotel as soon as he arrived.

If we lasted that long.

But an unexpected chain of events was gathering in the ether. Minnie started mewling for no apparent reason, which set Guinny off, which in turn signalled to Gypsy that it was probably time to chew something human. I objected and in the ensuing excitement Gypsy's intestinal abstinence came to a sudden and, some might add, spectacular end in the bathroom shower tray.

I have never seen anyone so pleased to clean up after a dog before.


By nine o'clock that evening, life was becoming almost pleasant. We were warm, comfortable, bathed and dry. The animals were curled up and if not actually asleep, quiet.

I didn't even mind my second day of cheese sandwiches. Shelagh had packed half a loaf of them. Along with everything else we couldn't eat or pack into boxes during our last few days at the farm. Which gave us an assortment of chocolate bars, apples and cheesy biscuits. All thrown into a bag at the last minute. And somewhat beyond their best.

But I didn't mind. The prospect of eating in the hotel had lost much of its allure after the events of the day.

Then we had another phone call. Could we wait for the horsebox at the lairage? This was starting to take one of those worrying turns – what had happened to the original plan? I liked that one. We stayed in the warm, watching TV until someone came to fetch us.

But now, doubt was being cast. The horsebox was on the ferry – which was good news – but the driver’s mobile phone didn't work outside the UK. Which was bad news. There was no way of contacting the driver. There were also doubts about what he'd been told to do. He might ring the hotel but then again he might not. And he might know where the hotel was and then again...

But, at least he knew where the lairage was – everyone agreed on that part of the story.

The confusion stemmed from the fact that Wendy, the woman who was organising our move, didn't actually own any transport – she hired the work out. And because the sub-contractor, Sue's boss, didn't have a spare horsebox to send out, he'd sub-contracted the work to someone else again. I think.

The result of which was that no one was quite sure who had said what to whom, when or how.

I still liked the original plan.

We lay there, heads awash with permutations – none of them good. Could we find our way back to the lairage? Would we want to? It must be two miles away. Did we really want to hang about all night on the top of a storm-battered cliff on the off chance we met a passing lorry? What if it didn't come? What if it went straight to the hotel?

But if we didn't?

We were in a small hotel in a town full of small hotels. Would the lorry driver know how to find it? Had anyone told him where we were? And what about the hotel switchboard – would it be closed when they rang? Was there even a night porter to answer the door?

I went downstairs.

There was a night porter – from what I could understand – who came on duty at ten. Perhaps. The receptionist might have said anything, I was now filling in entire sentences with what I wanted to hear. As for there being a night switchboard, my question was met with a lot of pointing at a telephone hanging on the wall. Which may, or may not, have been good news.

I went back to our room.

Had she been trying to tell me that the phone on the wall was a night phone? Or was she just pointing to the nearest telephone?

We tossed and turned through ten and eleven o'clock. By midnight I was hanging around the top of the stairs straining my ears for any sound of ringing. By one o'clock we were wrecked. Not another minute could we wait – even if it meant marching up and down the cliffs for the next three hours, we had to do something.

So we took Gypsy for a walk.

Retracing our steps as best we could, we headed out of Wimereux and up the hill towards the stables, our heads and bodies bent against the wind and the gradient. Never again. A silent vow was made that night that wherever the horses ended up at the end of this coming day they were never moving again. We'd buy the house next door.