Planes, trains and automobiles. John is an enthusiast of all things fast and roaring. That must be why he loves me so much! Ok ok, I’m not that fast, but I do roar a lot when I’m trying to get my point across, as I explained to the handsome black labrodor on the platform at Bluebell Railway the other day. He said his name was Marmeduke but his friends call him Dukie (not Duckie apparently)! Dukie was there with his owner, a strong young man covered in axel grease we had seen earlier working on an some kind of engine as part of a vintage car rally just by Horsted Keynes station. I told Dukie how impressed I was with his patience and generally angelic behaviour, given that the last dog I met was a mad yappy thing that arrived at my house one day, got majorly on my nerves and never came back! Dukie on the other hand was composed, dignified and rather fetching for a canine. He chuckled and explained that he was as much of a train buff as his owner and could spend hours watching the trains come and go and enjoying the cultured atmosphere.
The attention to detail at the Bluebell Railway makes it easy to transport yourself through time to the 18th century when someone called Tobias Hornblower would have tipped a station employee to carry his leather studded trunk boxes on to the sleeper car while he escorted his lady friend Ellsepeth Humfray to the dining car for a meal of mutton with thyme, marrow-bone hash and oatmeal pudding (eeww)! The working model train in the station museum was so meticulously made that it had an operational junction box, sign-writing on the passenger carriages and freight wagons, and even different expressions on the train guards’ faces.
Dukie and I wandered around talking about the polished veneer carriages and the intricate engine parts that required many hours of human labour to be maintained. We admired the volunteers who gave up their time to preserve this unique bit of English heritage and agreed that the whistles, chuffs, puffs and sighs of the steam engines were delightful to hear. He showed me how he can sniff out a dining car at over 100 paces and I showed him the most effective strategy for acquiring a meaty snack from the kitchen assistants. Then I showed him the best spot for a nap inside the station master’s cabin and he shared his water bowl with me. We had a lovely time.
Born and bred in leafy Sussex by the sea, I love the ocean and I have an affinity with water. Just to clarify, I don’t actually like getting wet but I enjoy dipping my paws in a puddle and flicking it or watch the starlings in the garden splashing around in the bird bath. The only cats that don’t mind getting wet are tigers that will go for a dip to cool off in the summer sun or catch fish in a fast flowing river in Sumatra. Personally I am far too fastidious about my fur to risk getting it wet, although I’m always happy to laugh at another cat that does!
I remember one time I was at my friend Muffin’s house and we both sat looking out through the patio door when grey clouds covered the sky and rain started to lash down in the garden. Suddenly the cat flap clattered and her sister Tiffin appeared in the kitchen absolutely drenched. It was as though she had shrunk in the wash and her skin was showing under the wet black fur that was stuck to her sopping body. Clearly embarrassed, she quivered to shake the water off (I call this a body-wobble) until her owner wrapped her up in a towel and she was restored to her usual dry cottony self.
Another thing I admire about water is its power. It is said to have mystical powers of healing and relaxation and indeed I have seen John enjoy many a calming hot tub in his time. I’m still in therapy! But I’m talking about the force of nature, like the massive waterfalls of Yosemite Park in California or the spouting hot springs of the volcanic Geysers in Iceland. A little closer to home is the sound of waves crashing against the shore and pulling the pebbles across the beach as the swell rolls back and forth. This was the sound that greeted John and I over the weekend as we took one of our leisurely Sunday strolls along the seafront. We had a suspicion that the kite surfers would be out given the strong winds so we headed to one of our favourite spots along the prom to find out.
I love taking shots of the kite surfers in action, the muscle tension in their bodies as they manoeuvre the kiteboard into the wind and the ferocity of the thundering waves that break on to the shore. John and I are now friends with the surfers, having been here a few times before to take pictures, so they gave us a thumbs-up as we watched the forces of nature propel them across the water. I also made an unexpected friend in the form of a chocolate brown and white spaniel trotting happily across the shingle. As he came towards me I sat resolutely and fixed him with one of my looks of grandeur, but as he came closer my nose twitched and my lip curled under another force of nature, the musty smell of a damp dog! Despite my displeasure at the pong of salty wet woofer, he made me laugh running backward and forwards in front of me, wagging his tail and generally being a buffoon.
The recent wet and windy weather has sadly wreaked havoc for many people across the country. I can’t imagine what it must feel like to see your home flooded with water and lose your most treasured possessions, like those photos and trinkets that have sentimental value and are irreplaceable. John and I have been quite fortunate and although there has been some localised flooding and roads blocked, we have not had evacuations, power loss or injuries in the area. But like many things in life, there are two sides to every story, and we witnessed the fun side of the unsettled weather the other day when we stopped on the sea-front to watch the guys and gals I their wetsuits riding the waves. They looked so happy out there, pushing their bodies to the limit to harness nature’s powers just for the challenge of it, smiling and waving to us while the strong winds drove salty rain-drops into their faces.
Suddenly I picked up a powerful smell in the air and turned to see a pretty blonde canine whose enthusiasm for the outdoors bordered on bonkers! Despite the pungent smell of wet dog (bet you thought I was getting a whiff of something else!), I chuckled to myself as I watched her bounding across the damp sand and shingle to the water’s edge to fetch a stick and go running happily back to her master for another go. Dogs seem to get such a thrill from pleasing their loved ones and demonstrating their loyalty and dependence. I think it’s important to point out here that cats are devoted too, and depend on humans for care and nourishment, but they show it in their own unique ways. I like to surprise everyone after dinner with a mad sprint across the house, leaping into the air to land deftly on a piece of fluff in the carpet, hurtling up to John with my ears back, rubbing my cheeks lovingly against his leg, biting his toe, and then diving into my bed in front of the fire for a nice nap with a sweet innocent look on my face!
We got chatting with some of the onlookers watching the surfers, mostly friends and family members who had come to cheer them on. They told us that the surfers were very serious about their sport and there was friendly rivalry between the kite-surfers and the wind-surfers, but it was all in good taste and part of the merriment.