Thirty years of living with Mr No Passport have brought about a gradual change, though, and yesterday she drove us – she, me, and our dog, Kez – down to Sidmouth, a favourite haunt she first discovered with her elderly friend, Terry P, more than a decade ago. It has the twin attractions of a beach that allows dogs in the summertime and some first-class artisanal ice cream from Taste in the old town.
The weather gloomed over as we left, but as we slid around Exeter and dashed across the pebble heathland towards the coast - Lo! – the clouds parted. We parked in a restricted zone at the West end of the town and went to negotiate the shingle at Jacob’s Ladder beach. Both of us went in for a swim. In fact several. C was a little disappointed at how weak she was, that she did not manage more than a couple of dozen strokes, but was and remains thrilled that we did it.
After successfully wriggling out of her swimsuit under her dress while sitting on the pebbles, C needed my help in getting to her feet. I stood in front of her, legs a little apart and feet planted further down the slope. We linked forearms, and, on the count of tree, I lifted her up: or, at least, that was the idea. Instead, C was propelled forward, surfing slowly down on her backside until she bumped against my legs. This gentle impact, combined with the feeling of the shingle shifting slightly beneath my feet, led me to fold gently over the top of her to brace myself on the slope behind. As my glasses and various other pertinent items cascaded out of my top pocket and C began to howl with laughter, I was moved to inquire if anyone in the vicinity had the number of Laurel and Hardy’s scriptwriters.
I had, though underestimated the power of the Prankster to summon up a punchline. With that keen canine intelligence that is so much a hallmark of his personality, Kez deconstructed the chaos unfolding before him and immediately came up with an applicable action: he wrapped his front legs around C’s shoulder and, lipstick waggling wildly, started shagging her arm.