Monday, 31 October 2011

R.I.P. Charlie Dog

Today is Hallowe’en, 'All Hallows' Eve' or the ‘Day of the Dead’. This time last year we were in Slovakia, walking round a cemetery at dusk, discussing how the hundreds of lit candles made such an evocative sight and how the atmosphere was peaceful and contemplative rather than sad. It seems a fitting day to post about our travelling companion, Charlie, the ‘dog who came too’.

Charlie at Happisburgh - one of our favourite camping places

Just one week after moving into our new home in Cambridgeshire, we had to say goodbye to our lovely old chap. He had accompanied us on our travels around Europe, viewing the journey from his very own seat, on one occasion causing much annoyance to a Romanian peasant woman who couldn’t understand why our mini-bus wouldn’t stop for her, but had a dog as a passenger.

Before the ‘big trip’ we knew Charlie had a lump growing on his leg. We discussed it with the vet, and although we didn’t know for sure what it was, we came to the conclusion that an operation would be invasive and risky for an elderly dog and that quality of life was far better than quantity. Over the year away it grew larger, so that by the time we reached Greece and Italy it was quite a talking point and Rob had to learn the vocabulary to debate it with interested passers-by.

The lump didn’t bother Charlie at all. He was lively, loved his food and his walks, was the most loving of dogs towards us and his usual cantankerous old self to the occasional dog who didn’t take his fancy. However, it continued to grow, and a couple of days before we moved he somehow grazed it, and the graze soon turned into a nasty wound.

We dressed it, but dogs just won’t leave bandages alone. We put a large conical collar on him, and took him to the emergency vet as soon as we moved into our new house. This led then to a specialist clinic near Newmarket, where the worst was diagnosed. Poor old Charlie dog did indeed have cancer and although we looked at all the choices, there was little prospect of a happy outcome.

We could not put our old chum through that, and with the wound clearly not going to heal we took the hard choice of euthanasia for our beloved pet. We hugged him to the end and though making the decision was truly awful we know we did what was best for our lovely dog.

Charlie at the Cregennan Lakes, North Wales, another of our favourite places.

Monday, 10 October 2011

On the move….to a new house

We’re on the move again, but it’s not a trip in the van this time. On Friday 26th August we moved house from Narborough near Leicester, to a small village south of Cambridge.

Narborough views

We moved to Leicester in 1986, and soon after to Narborough. I remember us saying at the time that we’d probably stay for a ‘couple of years’, which eventually turned into 25. Narborough was a nice place to live, and Leicester has many good things and places that I grew quite fond of over the years, but we had a strong feeling that now, after our big trip last year and all the breaks with routine that that represented, was the right time to move on.

Leicester - clock tower

 Leicester - Turkey Cafe

As the house went on the market I (Rob) got myself out and about in Leicester through the summer, taking photos - a mix of common and less-common views of the city. We also began our search for a house further south. Something which could take our furniture and which we could afford.

Leicester – riverside walk, Victoria Park and the market

We chose south Cambridgeshire as it was closer, just 20 miles away, from family (better than the 90 miles from Leicester), and Cambridge sounded like as interesting a place as any to base a new life around. The move went through quicker and more smoothly than we could have imagined at the start, and despite major attacks of last-minute doubts, the 26th saw us looking out of our window at the crack of dawn for a large S.J.Sharpe removals van.

The move begins

I have to say our hearts sank when we saw a small Luton bearing their logo drive past, but thankfully it just contained the extra guys they brought along for an hour and a half of intensive loading, and soon the massive truck was parked outside our house and the floors were being covered with protective matting. The removal chaps knew their stuff and it seemed like the house was cleared in no time. If you are looking for a good removal firm we’d recommend them (

Leicester up close – but do you know where?

Unpacking at the other end went smoothly too, though took a bit longer with a team of three guys. We had no breakages, but were at a loss where to put it all. We were meant to be downsizing and as the boxes began to stack against walls we knew we hadn’t made a good job of that aspect of the move.


Living in Cambridgeshire is going to be different. Houses cost more here than in Leicestershire, so what we have got for our money is smaller than what we had. You would think that after 11½ months living in what is basically a delivery van with windows, any house would feel spacious to us, but as the boxes continued to pile up – and up – and up – it felt like we were cramming a quart into a pint pot. Now, a couple of months in, it all feels more homely, but unpacked boxes still fill the peripheral rooms and taunt us to find a proper place for their contents. One good thing about this house is that the drive is big enough for the van and our cars, so when Rob returns from working in Coventry during the week, he can bring his current living accommodation with him. Ah, but that's another van tale!