Picking up pet/house sits via the forum, on which, to my great surprise at being asked, I had become a member of the moderating team, we were quickly ‘booked’ by a number of pet/house owners across France! In fact, when Tom and I left Sue and Rick’s house in Montpon-Ménestérol, family and I were separated for several weeks from then, throughout July and August 2009. Two of us remained at Sue and Rick’s house to care for their pets, including two super dogs, a charismatic chook called Beaky, due to her twisted beak, and kind-hearted Fritz, their cat! Tom returned to the Aveyron to care for Skye’s little cat, Slinky, and two more cats that had arrived from the UK. I travelled across the Dordogne to Diane and Brian’s home on the outskirts of Les Eyzies, where I looked after their two brilliant dogs, Leah and Suzy, Tinker, the cat with human traits, and a large number of fascinating tortoises!
When we eventually got back together, family and I headed to a camping site in the Deux-Sevres, owned and run by the busiest British family we have met in France! Janet and Mark, and their two teen-aged sons, still run the camping site, in addition to working in their very busy, individual vocations. Every time we return to Janet and Mark’s tranquil camping site, enhanced by gently undulating farmlands and meadowland between Melle and Chef-Boutonne, we feel so warmly welcome, as if we were family returning to the fold.
From Deux-Sevres, we moved south again, back to the Mediterranean sun, sea and sand, where a dog stole our food and his owner may well have saved our lives! We arrived back on the Manjastre camping site, in the Var, in beautiful, hot sunshine. We were warmly welcomed back by the owners, and we enjoyed meeting many of the regular visitors, of several nationalities, who had been going to Manjastre for years. We made the most of being on that wonderful coastline during the following three weeks, and we spent a lot of the time sight-seeing as cheaply as we could. During our fourth and last week there, we returned from a day spent on the beach in Bormes-les-Mimosas, to find the contents of our tent had been wrecked; bread, (melted) butter, long-life yoghurt, UHT milk and cheese, cooked ham, it had all been taken! But, there was a paper trail, we followed it to a dog’s kennel located on the boundary of the owners’ garden and the camping pitches. There lay a gorgeous Golden Retriever, cleaning his front paws after devouring products that must surely have given him a very sore stomach before nightfall! That was our thief!
I had to let the owner know, we were so worried that the dog might have been poisoned by rancid butter and such-like! But, he was more concerned about our losses! As I explained to him, we needed to accept those losses every day, due to the heat of the day, it was an occupational hazard for us. The dog’s health was our immediate concern.
Two nights later, a huge Atlantic storm blew in, only our bodyweight kept the tent on the ground during that night. The winds were horrendously strong, and the trees all around us were virtually bent double. Throughout the night, we listened to the wind and the cracking branches, the tent was almost drowned in leaves, twigs and small branches by the time we ventured outside just after 6am the following morning. Later that day, the camping site owner came to see us, he asked us to go into one of the site’s static caravans that night, he was worried about the weather forecast, a second storm was expected. We thanked him, and we said we would pay for the night’s accommodation, but he wouldn’t hear of it. He said he still felt embarrassed by his dog stealing our food, we all laughed and told him we were happy the dog had not suffered any nasty effects.
That night, we slept in the caravan that was sited at the top of the camping site, after packing away our tent and possessions. Through the night, the wind howled, and the rain absolutely hammered down, it was a continuous torrent for hours. The following morning, we discovered that our previous tenting pitch had been washed down the steeply sloping hillside in a mudslide. If we had been in our tent through that night, we would have ended up at the bottom of the hill under tons of mud and branches.
It seems to us that we are destined to continue our fight to the bitter end!