Odd crochet dog

Petsitting is one of my joys. The first time we petsit Billy, Barney and Betsy was glorious. The weather was fine and those dogs are just such a joy to be with. So my time was basically divided into dog walking, playing with the tireless dogs, dog petting, and crochet.

dog Billy and the other dogs

During that petsit I made the cat potholders, but I also wanted to leave a special gift to the lovely homeowners, so I crocheted their dog Billy. Well, let’s say it was an attempt to depict him in crochet:

This is Billy:

dog Billy

This is the crocheted result:

dog Billy crocheted

I realise the colour scheme is not quite Billy, but I had to make do with the available wool. All in all I thought it was a nice result, because I was doing it by heart.

Places to eat in Hay on Wye

the Granary Hay on WhyIt was Sunday and I went for a bite to eat in Hay on Wye. There are some very nice places for food to choose from. I have been many times to the Granary. It’s a lovely place to go for soup or tea and cake or breakfast. Why? It’s just the ambiance. I’m not the only one who thinks so, there are always plenty of customers there. No wonder, there is a nice open log fire and a cat who has its own little white fluffy rug on the window sill, right next to a central heating element. He is ever so cuddly. It gives the place such a homely feel. They usually do 2 or 3 different soups with a roll. You can help yourself to it and pay at the till where you also order your drink. Very friendly staff and if downstairs is too crowded, no worries because there is plenty of space upstairs where you can sit quietly and spend as long as you like. The Granary is a lovely place and the other day I had a slice of their lemon meringue for the first time… It was just heavenly.

Oscar's bistro, Hay on WhyContrary to my habit I did not go to the Granary yesterday, I felt it was time to try Oscar’s bistro. While wandering through Hay the other day I had walked past it. It’s opposite the Oxfam shop in High Town (odd street name). At first I thought it was a tea room so I did not go in because I’d just had lunch. So in I went yesterday. Oscar’s is also a real nice place ambiance-wise. A nice old wooden floor. Wooden tables and in the corner a bookshelf with second hand books for sale. Loos are upstairs and on going there I noticed that there is plenty more seating upstairs and also a very nice second hand book arsenal. Well, it is Hay of course, but still to find the love for books extends to eateries is a big plus to me. After a few days of not heaving eaten all that well, I decided I needed some veggies. So I chose the veggie meal of the day which was a coconut and vegetable curry with a choice of salad or rice or chips. I ordered the rice. It was simple and nourishing and nice. I liked it a lot. I had not noticed but it was help yourself to cutlery and stuff, however the friendly waitress did not mind at all getting cutlery for me.
Oscar's bistro, Hay on Why
While eating I noticed there was music playing in the background. Not very loudly I am happy to say. However this particular song I knew very well. It was Mississippi by a group named Pussycat. Now you probably do not even know this song, let alone the group, but I did because this happens to be a Dutch group and the song had been a smashing hit in the seventies and had gone to number one in many countries even in the UK! So I said to ‘Oscar’ who happened to clean some tables nearby that I appreciated his music choice. Oscar said he thought the lead singer should have gone solo to get a big career. I told him she probably did not do that because the other girls were her sisters. However I looked it up later and she did have a solo career later as well. After lunch Oscar (whose name wasn’t Oscar) showed me the cd:
the Dutch group Pussycat
He told me he really liked their music and we had a nice chat about it. He said he actually had to pay in order to play music in his cafe to 2 different organisations. He said that should he have over 5 persons working for him in his kitchen and play music he would also have to pay for that. How weird a world is it we are living in?

Getting used to rural life

I’m from a small town under the smoke of Amsterdam. Compared to that city we could call my town a village, specifically since our house is on the edge of a nature reserve and so it is quiet and green. But compared to the village to which Twin Cottage belongs my village is definitely a small town. Twin Cottage (please note that all names of the people and their house and pets are fictional, since I want to respect their privacy) is really in the countryside. Where I live in Koog aan de Zaan there are a few things missing: darkness and silence. Both are overwhelmingly present in Twin Cottage. Whether day or night it is so quiet here. Just lovely. No aircraft passing over the house every 5 minutes. Just rural sounds: horses passing the house on the winding lane, hoofs clattering leisurely on their way to the woods. Fancy hearing horses right beside your house instead of cars and trains! Then this morning upon opening the bedroom curtains I noticed that the farmer next door had brought some sheep to his barn with little lambs, only just born. A joy. At night dusk turns the surrounding trees in displays of filigree against a mysterious sky. As if pregnant with all kinds the human eye cannot see. Soon it is pitch black outside. No city lights to light up the evening sky. Just darkness. A completely dark bedroom. When I wake up in the night I must feel my way to the bathroom. I love it. No noises because at night the countryside is asleep. For the first time in over 20 years I can sleep without ear plugs in. Just amazing. To wake in the morning because your body is done sleeping, instead of the sounds of neighbours or aircraft. A yawn, a listen: the lambs bleating with tiny little voices their mums responding in darker tones. The birds twittering. And the tiny meow of the cat who actually has the softest meow rather sounding like a mouse, maybe she is a devious little one, trying to trick the mouses into believing the coast is clear. She already brought in 1 dead mouse, 1 deceased mole and 1 living dormouse.

I arrived here on the 18th of January. Edward and Laura were to set off really early in the morning and so I arrived for lunch and the afternoon was spent showing the ins and outs of the house. Heating, woodburner, what to feed the pets and where to walk the dog. Laura prepared a nice meal and we celebrated the event with a bottle of Champagne in front of the fire. We had a lovely evening. The next morning we said our au revoirs and off were Ed and Laura. A long journey ahead of them all the way down under. It was 7 am and now suddenly the house was mine. A nice feeling. I adapt very quickly and have no feelings of homesickness nor do I attach specifically to places. So whether in a hotel, a b&b, a tent on a campsite, at home or at friends, I feel comfy mostly everywhere. However, Twin Cottage is exceptionally lovely. It reminds me of a holiday cottage we once stayed a night at which was called Little Pudding. Although Little Pudding was smaller, it was also very cute. And the same goes for this brilliant house. It even has a room which I can use as a workshop for my painting, since Laura is a very creative person herself and has a lovely workspace which she was happy to have me use.

After having a shower and having some breakfast I gave Jock a big cuddle and he bit me in the face. He did not mean to hurt me I am sure, but he caught my lip and so I burst out crying. It did not really hurt that much, but I think I was just a wee bit emotional. So there I was with a thick lip. I realised that Jock and I needed to get to know each other and that the way I showed him my affections was a way he was yet to get familiar with. We went for a nice walk together. The weather was lovely and Jock was splendid. That dog is so well behaved and listens perfectly to my commands. I was a little cautious at first since the narrow country lanes do have farmers in Landrovers driving like mad at times and so I needed to be on my guard. However I soon learned that I need not worry. Jock hears the cars long before I do and whenever he hears one he halts and stand to the side of the lane. He is so well trained. Just perfect. To think the poor thing is a rescue dog and had a tough youth is heart breaking. To me it is unthinkable to be mean to animals, they depend on us, we have a responsibility to be good to them. Unfortunately where he was born they merely saw him as either a good working sheepdog or a good for nothing. Since in his case they decided he was the latter, he was kept in a barn for 5 years on a chain. He therefore is somewhat traumatised and definitely is wary of men. He does not hurt them or anything like that but he sometimes barks at them. Just plain fear. So understandable.

When I first got here I had to discover the surroundings and was walking along the paths that Edward and Laura had pointed out to me. There is one path with leads along a footpath crossing a farm. Laura told me that the people owned a few dogs there, one of which was not too keen on Jock. She said it would be a good idea to bring a few dog biscuits to divert the attention of any fighting moods they might get into. Strange how just a warning like that puts one on ones guard and I found I could not walk in that direction without being wary of bumping into that particular dog.

One day as I walked past the house next to that farm, the window opened and a lady looked out: ‘I say, is that your dog? Please keep him of my lawn in the future!’ I must confess I was somewhat surprised. First of all because she did not recognise Jock and second of all because she had 4 dogs running over her ‘lawn’ already. Whatever. It takes all kinds. The odd thing was that Jock only walked on the grass which she called lawn which was just directly next to the footpath, he did not even wee there. Oh well.

Another day the nasty dog came running out of nowhere showing his teeth. Jock did not take friendly to this aggression and they barked and growled at each other. I felt frightened. I take my responsibility for the pet sit very seriously and I would rather be wounded myself than have anything happen to Jock. Fortunately a woman who was leading a horse to a field called the nasty dog back and told me not to worry because it was ‘all noise’. Hmm, I wasn’t too sure, but at least the dog listened real well to her command and backed off. After that I tried to find other routes to walk with Jock, just in order to avoid any altercations in the future.

IMG-20150221-WA0048After a few weeks I had discovered lovely places to go and ventured in all kinds of lanes, fields, footpaths, woods, along brooks and hills. The absolutely amazing experience for me being that I literally walked hours on end each and every day wandering here and there and only very very rarely encountering other walkers. Hardly ever on the walks in the surrounding area. The only times I would encounter other nature lovers and walkers would be when driving the car to land in the care of the National Trust. I would go there mostly with a friend during the weekends and in those particularly beautiful places there were some other walkers, but definitely not many and because the land is so huge and wide, with so many different paths and hills, you would never be in each others way. What a huge difference with my home country. I know I should not compare apples with pears, but whenever I go out for a walk around the park and land adjacent to my house, it’s a parade of people walking their dogs, cyclists, joggers, nordic walkers, roller skaters, all sorts. It’s just a tiny country with lots of people in. No wonder I love Wales. I just needed the space, the fresh pure air, the feel of expansion and freedom. Just walking. Simply being. Breathing in deeply, feeling my muscles because of the ascents, feeling so very much alive. What greater joy? I cannot think of anything better.

House sitting in Cotswolds or Wales?

A while ago I subscribed to a website which advertises housesits. Every now and then I visited the site and spent a pleasurable moment viewing house sitting opportunities in various countries. There were so many options to choose from. During the Christmas holidays, for instance, there are lots of choices. However most of them are for shorter periods of time, varying from only a couple of days to two to three weeks. Although it would have been fairly easy to find a housesit then, I was going home for Xmas. At some point I suddenly noticed a little line on the website saying: looking for a longer housesit? Somehow I had overlooked that section up till now. Upon clicking it I found a few longer term options. One was a two month housesit in the Cotswolds, another was a two month housesit in Wales, near Hay on Wye. Both started around the 19th of January 2015. It was just before Xmas when I dropped them both a line. The very next day I got an email back from the Hay housesit. Edward and Laura were looking for someone to sit at theirs while they were off to see family in Australia. They needed a pet sitter for their cat and collie. They had never used a house sitter before and were a little nervous about the concept. They asked me to visit them so we could get acquainted and see if we were right for each other. The next day I got an email from the Cotswold housesit asking whether I had a phone number they could call me and when they rang we also got along great. This lady was looking for someone to take care of her elderly cat while she was off to South Africa. I told her I would first go meet the people near Hay because they had contacted me first. So one Sunday morning I drove up to Wales and met Edward, Laura, their cat Minnie and collie Jock. I immediately fell for Jock. He reminded me of my own dog which I got in France years ago. Whereas my dog had been a mixture of nature turned out looking like a collie, Jock was a true one, slender and fit. I had missed having a dog all these years so I took an instant liking for him. Minnie was a beautiful tortoise shell cat. Like any cat she was self contained, friendly when she felt like it, very much independent with fur as soft as silk. Edward and Laura seemed to want no further ado: they liked the look of me and happily offered me the housesit. They had only heard of the website one day before my response to their ad. And they were astonished at the rapidity with which they had found a house/pet sitter. They had been looking for a person in their own village and among their friends, but found no one willing. The one person who was offering to take the dog was found unsuitable because they lived in an apartment on the second floor. Edward and Laura were chuffed to bits with the website. So now all I needed to do was inform the lady in the Cotswolds that unfortunately I had obligations elsewhere and that was that. Now I had an agreement to housesit from the 19th of January to the 19th of March. Perfect opportunity for writing and painting and walking miles in the lovely Welsh countryside with a wonderful dog. I was pleased as punch.

I had done some housesitting before. In the Netherlands I had sit with a cat. Very nice. A cat is obviously easy. They are independent, you don’t have to walk them and so you have lots of time for yourself. Another sit I had done in the south of France. That was not so much a sit as an elderly lady wanted someone to help her out with clearing out stuff which she had accumulated over the years. We had spoken on the phone and she was friendly enough. She said I could stay as long as I liked if we got on well. Sounded good. However it turned out to be not a succes at all. The lady had issues. She was very wealthy having built a fortune in America. She owned houses and apartments in 7 countries, yet she was lonely and not very fit. She was also very suspicious and worried that people wanted to take advantage of her and the first thing she said upon collecting me at the bus station in Cannes was: ‘We agreed you would not get payment, correct?’ Even before saying hello! I set her mind at ease and we drove to the house. It was not in Cannes but very near it in an even more luxurious seaside village. Her house was absolutely magnificent overlooking the Mediterranean and of course there was a pool in the garden. She asked me to help her with watering the plants, clearing out her stuff and keeping her company. She would provide food and lodging. The lodging was an independent studio in the garden. I was to live there, it was small but had a kitchen and a bathroom. She said, upon arriving, ‘The little studio needs cleaning first, and I thought you might want to do it yourself the way you like it, so you cannot live there right now. You will get a room in the house for the time being. The room she gave me was fine. It had an entire wall which was a wardrobe which was closed with padlocks. One day she needed something in there and she showed me what was inside: five meters of wardrobe filled with designer clothes, shoes and handbags! It was worth a fortune. She said: ‘I keep it padlocked because you never know what temptation may do to people’. I thought this a very rude remark, but kept silent.

To say the studio was untidy was the understatement of the century. In truth it was stacked with stuff or rather it was bursting with it. Besides it was plain filthy the kitchen and bathrobe seemed to have been used for years without cleaning. The whole place needed thorough clearing out and cleaning. I soon became aware of the issues of the lady: she did not want to throw anything away. She turned out to be a hoarder. She said: ‘O no, better not part with that, it may come in handy one day. Better hang on to that, I don’t like to throw good stuff away’. But in fact she did not even want me to throw out empty cartons, empty washing liquid bottles, plastic bags, thrash. It was awful, she hang on to everything. Then she had a wardrobe in the studio which she opened and which was filled with stuff. She said that it would be good to take everything out and stack it elsewhere. Then she needed to see to some issue with the poolmanager. In the meantime I decided to shut the doors of the wardrobe, I would ask her what to do with the content later. But reader, as soon as I pushed the doors the entire wardrobe came apart and fell over me. The door hit the huge old television set which then fell on my leg. I was trying to hold the wardrobe back, because I was afraid to get crushed under it and also did not want to let it fall because all the content of crockery and whatnot would get broken. So I screamed as hard as I could for help. ‘Au Secours! Au Secours!’ I yelled. But they were at the pool and could not hear me. One of the doors gave way and fell on my leg. I was nearly at the point of giving up, because it was way too heavy. Imagine one of those huge wooden French cupboard! Luckily just at that moment the pool guy ran in and  pushed the wardrobe back. I fell on the floor and cried my eyes out. My leg was throbbing. I feared it was broken. The old lady said: ‘That was not my fault, you cannot sue me.’ I was appalled she should say such a thing at that moment. She clearly was devoid of any feelings and in this American frame of mind where everyone tries to get rich by suing others. She did not even come to look at the leg. I could not walk so the poolman helped me to my room. My leg was in a sorry state, blood was running full length and it was terribly bruised. The poolman said: we had better go to the hospital, I will take you. However the old lady did not want me to go. She eyed me suspiciously.  I told them I would try to clean the leg first and would decide afterwards. I wanted to be left alone. I felt so awful. Fortunately I had Arnica pills with me and Calendula spray to clean the wounds. The swelling and the bruises were really bad, but I figured no doctor could do anything about it. It needed healing. I decided I would wait and give it a little time first. The next two days I could not walk. I hopped around a little and did not do any cleaning. I was surprised to find the old lady never once asked me how my leg was nor how I felt. She did not show any solicitude nor concern. Let alone feelings of guilt. Furthermore, whenever I was in the kitchen of her house with her she commented om my cooking. She herself ate very unhealthily, huge pieces of meat and chicken with chips or crisps on a plate in front of the telly. I am an non-meat eater and so I usually made some salad. It was the end of June and the weather was lovely. The lady did nothing but commenting on everything. ‘I can see how you are so slim, you eat nothing but rabbit food.’  She had bought some lovely cherries which she ate all by herself not sharing any of them with me. She said: I paid those four euros so please do not touch them.

Yet she was clearly a millionaire. It was the time when Francois Hollande was about to win the elections. She was in front of the telly watching the political developments closely, all the while cursing the socialists and saying she would have to think about a strategy because if that man got chosen he would impose a tax on large fortunes and she would have to pay 40% tax on this her second house and her apartments in Cannes and Nice. She was horrified by the idea. I told her that surely it would not hit her too hard since apparently she seemed wealthy enough, but she said how could I, ordinary person, understand anything about money. Since she was 70 I never commented on her rude remarks. However it became very clear to me that we were not going to get on. I considered that I had taken on this house/company sit for fun, and until now I had had zero fun. Instead I was being insulted and treated in a way I would never ever treat a person. As she kept saying negative things about me even after I sat down with her and told her she should be a little more respectful, I told her I would leave. I booked a cheap hotel in Cannes and told her I would ask the gardener to give me a lift. But this she did not want. I think she was afraid of what I might say to him. First she tried to make me stay by saying she apologised. Saying she was planning on taking me to Italy for the day and so on. I did not fall into that trap, it was all words. I left. I went to the hotel. The manager asked me if I needed a doctor since I was still not walking properly. I told him I would see how I would feel after a good nights sleep. The old lady drove off in her expensive car. I felt sorry for her. She was lonely and rich. She had heart problems and her children did not want anything to do with her. How is all that money ever going to make up for that?

Another house sit was in an apartment in Brussels. It was a peculiar type in the sense that I was to be a counsellor to the owner a couple of hours a day. In exchange for board and lodging I was his private counsellor. It was a very nice arrangement. As a trained counsellor and coach this was a nice arrangement and the apartment I stayed in had just been refurbished so it was brand-new. Overlooking a nice little park in a lovely area of Brussels. Three weeks in the apartment was simply lovely. No pets to take care of this time. Brussels is a lovely city and I enjoyed working on an illustration project there.

House sitting is to me a very nice way of discovering areas while not having to bother about hotels.