French feline farce

For some reason I decided that it would be a good idea to take the cats on holiday with me to Brittany. Actually, I know it’s because I like their company and I thought they would like staying in the cottage at Bodelzi with access to the interesting French countryside. But as they do not care being holed up overnight on a ferry and going via the preferred Eurotunnel was a detour to far, I decided we would take the fast crossing from Portsmouth to Cherbourg. All fine in theory but in practice 10 hours in the car, overnight in a hotel and then another 4 hours in France. Too far to be cooped up in a cat basket so I made an arrangement for them to sit on the back seat on the conditions that they wore their harnesses and I provided a water dish and a litter tray. We started well with everyone in their appointed place, all calm like. But then Agnes was bored and climbed on to the parcel shelf so she could shout at passing lorries; then she got out of the harness and so the journey progressed slowly and noisily. I had trouble finding a pet-friendly hotel that doesn’t just mean dogs but eventually found a somewhat dilapidated place by the old dock yard in the middle of Portsmouth. We were all unloaded, in the room (very hot, can’t open windows wide as they’ll go exploring) and relatively settled; Bob serene on the bed, Agnes cross and patrolling.

I retuned the telly so I could watch the exciting Mont Ventoux stage of the Tour de France while having my tea and a beer. Then all was quiet, no shouting or thudding but where was she? In my initial check of the room I had noticed that the ‘en suite’ was an ancient bath and the loo had an integral macerator with a wee gap beside it … I searched the room, under the bed (don’t go there) behind furniture, in cupboards, then the bathroom – elle avait disparu! I became convinced, partly because there was a distant, plaintive miaow, that she had squeezed herself behind the loo and thence under the bath. I managed to remove the fibreglass panel and was dismayed to see a large hole under the bath … @£$%^&! A fraught hour passed as I tried sticking my arm through the hole, calling her, then being calm and trying to eat my tea in the hope she would just reappear. In the end, I thought I’d better go and confess to the nice chap on reception … he advised calmness and patience – there was nowhere else she could get to and she would come back herself (good theory but this was Agnes, queen of pantomime). I went for out for a walk and to assess the back of the building in case there were holes in the wall (yes I can be that neurotic). Back to the room, no cat, have coffee, watch telly, be calm. Then a thud and a louder miaow – tada, madam has returned, somewhat dusty and still cross. Porter at reception advised that cat is back; bathroom door firmly shut for the night. The next morning I was running the bath when in she came suggesting that she show me her trick. It was quite simple – the wash hand basin was set in to a long piece of kitchen worktop (no expense spared on furbishing the room) and there was an equally long panel underneath. What I had failed to notice in my cat-proof check was the gap in the partition; when I stuck my head  an entirely contained channel in which an inquisitive cat could hide was revealed. Agnes had been in the bathroom all the time … I didn’t tell reception when I went for breakfast and we then hurried off to the catamaran.

Thankfully, the week in France was relaxing with good weather and some great outings. Wilf and Gelise came down from Belgium to join Lynda and me for some meals out, a trip to a vide grenier (posh, over-priced jumble sale) and even a day at the seaside – Gelise and I had a swim, Wilf doesn’t do water. The return journey was less eventful, despite Agnes’s best efforts, and the hotel a better choice both for comfort and breakfast. Definitely worth the effort, not least for the excellent wine bargains and other food items. For added holiday entertainment value, one should always travel with a feline companion and a sense of humour.

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