Just at the moment Hoover and I seem to race from place to place. At the start of the week we leap onto the train and head off to Manchester.
Here life is different to home. Cats glare at her from elevated points. Otto quickly realised that Hoover was no threat to life as he plays it. If she has gone to sleep he stalks her tail and at the first hint of movement pounces on it and is amazed that Hoover objects. Seconds later he has forgotten and is on the prowl again. Atta is a different kettle of fish. It has taken him ages to emerge from under the bed and now he checks out each room before he struts past, tail held high in disdain of the woolly monster who has been permitted to breath in his house. Mostly he just peers at her through the banisters and shoots black looks at her. Hoover remains blissfully unaware.
Part of Hoover’s general state of bliss in Manchester is that she and I share a room at night. We started with Hoover having a cushion on which she could sleep, but I woke in the morning to find that she had crept onto my bed during the night. Now there is no pretence. She lurks as I prepare for bed and bounds onto the duvet as soon as I pull it over me. There is then a period of negotiation.
“You go over there,” I say firmly. She settles down on a corner that gives me plenty of space to stretch out. Then she extends out a leg. And then another. And just rests her head gently on my thigh…
At some stage of the night I usually wake to find that she has spread herself magnificently across the centre of the bed and I am clinging to the edge. After a period of shoving and shunting, Hoover is removed to ‘her corner’ and I am reinstated centre stage. By full light I find myself once again on the precipice with Hoover neatly curled into the crook of my legs, the duvet pinned firmly between us and little remaining to protect a chilly shoulder. How I long for Jay’s calm and stable presence. I am wondering what will happen next time Jay comes with us. A cushion will have to be found and insisted upon. I will report later…
Walks in Manchester are different, too. Pavements are filled with exotic smells that have to be investigated. Bits of food linger enticingly where they have been dropped by passing strangers who clearly have a mind to leave them for curious dogs. Hoover now knows the way to the park, turning left smartly on leaving the front door and heading off at a brisk pace past the shops. Once there she bounces through the gate, checking out which of her friends is waiting for her already – Josie the Cairn terrier who will not come back to her owner; the frenetic beagle puppy who runs and runs and runs, until even Hoover falls behind exhausted; the hairy cross something whose human has a better throwing ability than I. And all those abandoned and lost balls that Hoover discovers afresh each day. Heaven!
But no matter how much Hoover loves her grey walks, I still long for the green walks of home and on Thursday mornings we head back into the hills. The rising sun breaks through the low cloud, promising a fine day as the wind tugs at our ears and hair. Who needs a ball to throw when there is a scent of deer on the wind?