The Bean is a well travelled dog. Her mileage by road and air (and a little by rail) is boggling for such a small canine. To facilitate her cross-border maraudings she has to abide by rules and she holds a European Pet Passport which logs her necessary vaccinations and rabies shots and, if she wants to visit the country of her birth, it registers the worming tablet demanded by the British to be administered not less than 24 hours and not more than 120 before travel by a certified veterinarian. To partake of this delight, we toddle chez le veterinaire in our nearest town and the vet jokes with her that it is just a little French sweetie (she is bored with the joke, has been since the first time when she discovered the depth of the lie) and with me that it is ironic that he, a Frenchman, takes money (35€) from me, an Englishwoman to allow my British dog to travel to our own country. I smile my beatific smile and nod and wonder why it is necessary at all and count my blessings that I don’t have to be wormed as well.
Yesterday, we pottered into the ‘Cabinet Veterinaire’ a little after 9 and were greeted warmly and asked to take a seat. The newly upgraded surgery is bright and cheerful with a row of radiant yellow alternating with dazzling orange plastic chairs and a vast and jubilant tub of plastic plants in the centre. I sat remembering the last time The Bean and I were in that spot in August. A frail old man, driven by his strapping hard muscled from hard work 30-something grandson struggled to carry his best friend, a sheepdog once bursting with energy now simply desiccated with age, into the surgery. They were expected and were ushered silently straight into the treatment rooms. I waited a while and then took The Beligerent Bean in for her vile pill which she spat out a few times to keep the vet on his toes, as is her custom, whilst he made his joke about the irony of it all and I attempted to be beatific but achieved instead a handsome grimace. Afterwards I stepped back into the reception to pay my bill and there was the old man his grandson standing sentinel next to him as he pulled his chequebook out to pay for the demise of his best friend. Cheque written, the lovely lady who presides cheerfully and appropriately over her domain began to explain what would happen to the dog and the old fellow shook his head and signalled his young protector to take the details. He simply couldn’t and wouldn’t take in any more. I caught his eye and said ‘I am sorry for your loss’. He crouched on his creaking haunches and caressed The Bean, told her she was beautiful and such a goooood girl in cracked gutteral Auvergnat French which takes years to tune into accurately even if you are a Parisien. He looked up, the depth of sorrow in his eyes so cavernous that I could not hope to reach the bottom and he thanked me. Thanked ME. The grace of ordinary humans never ceases to astound me. Never.
Just ahead of us yesterday was an old lady. Immaculately turned out in her best coat and shoes, shoes that have seen service for as many decades as I have taken breath, I would vouch, mended, remended, polished and serviceable, a scarf draped at the neck she was as pale as moonlight in midwinter. She had arrived in a taxi driven by a young woman of similar age to the grandson in summer. In the interests of lightening this sombre piece I will tell you that our local taxi firm is magnificently named ‘Taxi Willy’ which obviously makes a girl born in England quiver like an ill-set jelly as I stifle my inevitable sniggers. The driver was deferential and warm as she looked after her passenger who was as stiff as a board not in hostility but in the way of someone holding herself together because she must. I surmise that this young woman drives the lady often. Taxis (Willy’s taxis) are the only means of transport for a woman widowed who doesn’t drive and lives probably some miles from town. It’s the nature of rural life when bus services cease to operate because we all have at least one car. All of us that matter. It’s the nature of being left behind in the place that you have always lived as it sheds it’s young to the cities and quietly erodes around you. She was nestling her cat when they went in to see the vet. When they came out some 10 minutes later there was no cat. The vet, a lady explained to the woman the different options for cremation (the French word is ‘Incineration’ which to English speaking ears is jarring and rather unfeeling) …. she listened, she acknowledged, she fumbled in her handbag for her purse and the driver gently helped her find the money to pay. She walked to the taxi and she climbed stiffly into the backseat and as they drove away I was struck by the enormity of her holding herself together. I imagined the young woman seeing her into her silent home. Making sure she was comfortable, offering to drop in and see her later. And I imagined her, coatless and tiny walking to her chair as the taxi drove away, allowing herself to shed the tears that no man nor woman outside of her house must ever see. And I thought of us all preparing for the holidays, the hubub of excitement, the coiled spring of anticipation of the gluttonous festivities, the plethora of brilliant sparkling lights lifting our spirits high, the overspending and the overeating and the overdrinking and the overmerrying. And I thought how dreadfully sad it is to be on your own with your companion about to be incinerated and your life spent. And I thought of the dignity of the old man, the ramrod buttoned up stoicism of the old woman and the kindness paid back by the muscular vital grandson and the paid taxi driver. Nothing will make up for losing those best friends, I can hope that new best friends arrive to comfort them but life trickles away and it is so easy in this time of overindulgence to forget. So I care to remember.
And my picture, offered in response to the Photo Challenge titled ‘Anticipation’ is The Greedy Bean anticipating cheese when we were picnicing on a hike last winter. Pulling tongues, she assumes is cute and she always stands on her hind legs when anticipating these delectable morsels prompting me to almost title this piece ‘Stand Up, stand Up for Cheeses’ as a nod to the Sally Army and their wonderful work at this time of the year. Her anticipation, by the way, is always gratified just as the shadow of a sheepdog and the cherished cat were. She, like they, is a good best friend. You can indulge in all the other dandy entries to the gallery here.
PS: Two Brains remarked after yesterday’s poignant encounter that it is so easy to be a little scornful and supercillious of people’s relationship to their animals but that the sad vignette finely illustrates the enormous importance that our domestic pets have in the lives of others and of us. Later, wading through an enormous 5-course lunch including wine and coffee for the princely sum of 13€ each, the door of the Auberge burst open with the force of a hurricane but accompanied by no bitter wind and the light seemed to briefly dim as a leviathan with shaven head, sporting khaki t-shirt to expose his magnificent tatoo-adorned muscular arms and hunting trousers with a pair of positively combatitive laced boots and hefty leather and chrome belt to stash his beefing blades strode in and over to his fragrant, coiffed and chicly attired wife waiting decorously for him. In the arms of this middle-aged goliath snuggled the tiniest Yorkshire Terrier, born with such tenderness and passed to his spouse with a care normally reserved for a scrunched up new-born and the identical kiss to the teeny canine forehead bestowed before he let his precious bundle go. Comic and touching all in one we found it hard not to stare like a pair of uncouth Pinnochios.
And because it’s Christmas and the title has no relevance whatsoever, being, as it is, stolen from Frank N Furter in Richard O’Brien’s now legendary ‘The Rocky Horror Picture Show’ as he makes his raucous entrance to the unfettered alarm of the stranded Brad and Janet, here is Tim Curry to play us out as I wish you the Happiest Holidays, le plus bon fête de Noël or the Merriest Christmas depending on where in the world you are. ‘I see you shiver with antici…..pation!’
I love how you feel about these old folks’ feelings . Yes Ma’am, so sad, so deep, so us all .
Why does incinération shock English ears ?
Rocky Horror and Easy Rider are the two movies I shall keep for life .
I keep trying to find a moment for Easy Rider to make an appearance …. stay tuned – it is only a matter of time! And thank you 😊
Comic and touching indeed. Your skillfully drawn portraits of French country characters alongside the ‘Taxi Willy’ had in me in two types of tears. I shall raise a glass to the Bean’s travels and hope that she is graced with long life and a well-stamped passport. Happy Christmas to you all! xx
Thank you so much …. I consider yours high praise indeed since you are well rehearsed in the ways of Frenchness and no slouch as a damned fine writer yourself! The Bean graciously accepts your toast and hopes that your Frenchies are prepared for a très bon fête de Noël something she considers to be any dogs basic canine right!
A beautiful story, wonderfully narrated and perfect for this time of year. I hope you, the Bean and the multi-brained one survive your fight with the immigration authorities and enjoy a wonderful Christmas in the land of your birth. Looking forward to reading much more from you in 2017 😊🎅
Clive, we wish you a wonderful festive season and I want to thank you for all your support since our blogs collided. You are genuinely one of the loveliest finds of the year for me and I look forward to much more in 2017 😊
That’s lovely of you, thank you so much. The same is true of you – your writing is fantastic and I’m so pleased to have found you and your blog. See you on the other side 😊
Amusing but poignant at the same time. How sad for those people that they had to lose their pets just before Christmas. There is never a good time, but right now seems so cruel. What quiet dignity both those people displayed in the face of their private sorrow. And beautifully put into words by you.
The Bean, being a seasoned traveller, will take the trip in her stride, no doubt. Long may she continue to be a faithful friend – if a greedy one, as they all are!
Thank you …. I found it unbearably sad that their loss was so close to Christmas. The Bean, like me is loading up far too heartily this festive season so she will be put on a regime alongside us when we get back to France next week!
Sensitive, insightful, observation and writing.
Thank you so much, Derrick
So good to hear your voice again and your story touched all of my emotions, sadness, nostalgia, ironic laughter. Thank you my friend and I wish you and yours (Bean included) a Christmas filled with peace and joy.
Bernadette, thank you so much. I am flattered that my words struck you so thoroughly. In turn I wish you and all your loved ones a peaceful and joyous festive season and I so look forward to blogging alongside you next year.
The stoicism is the last service they can render to the friend they are losing….and what good would self indulgent hysterics do anyway…
Oh dear, though…Taxi Willy!
Whatever you do, do not put it into the minds of EU authorities to worm all Britons exiting the continent post Brexit…it is just the sort of thing they would relish…imagine the tone of the appropriate EU Directive…
Mark you, no doubt their British equivalents would be reassured to have everyone entering the country duly wormed…
Have a lovely Christmas with your family and make a point of standing up for cheeses…(that one will stick with me for quite a time!)
Thank you Helen …. I’ll remain schtum on the idea of worming people … I certainly don’t want to go there! Of course it’s all a nonsense (not the rabies by the way – that is essential, of course) but the petty officials in their faceless corridors must at least believe they are of some use, I suppose. Of course you are right about the stoicism vs hysteria … the latter has no point at all. Many could learn from the dignity displayed, I feel. I am now going to walk across the green to the Church and sing Stand Up for Cheeses and see if I can get arrested!
I cried when I read about the old man and his dog. I think our pets are more than just coincidence, every single one I’ve had have taught me something, and funny thing is that they always seem to enter our lives at the exact right time. …now the departure is something completely different..
Your little friend is lovely!
The Bean has helped me in my darkest time and I am devoted to her. I agree that pets seem to fall into our lives at the right time (she did and quite by accident) – their parting is always painful. A child once said that animals live shorter lives because they already know the important things and don’t need to spend decades learning like we humans. I tend to agree. I want to wish you and your daughter and all your loved ones a peaceful and joyous festive season. You are one of the great gifts in my life and I thank you for being a friend 🙏🏼
Namaste my friend. A very Merry Christmas to you <3
There will come a day when my Vinny has to make the last walk to the vet. When that day comes part of my heart will be cremated along with him, placed in a fitting urn and carried with me on all sailing adventures just as I told him I would. I’m sure I will have a new “Friend” but this friend will be eternal.
Nothing will replace Vinnie. Nothing ever could. A new friend will be a whole different relationship when the time comes. And he will be with you always, tucked in his corner of your heart. I can’t bear to think of life without The Bean …. I know it will come one day but for now I just cherish her as the biggest spirit in a tiny body and my stoic protector.
This story stopped me in my tracks and nearly brought me to tears (I’m constantly at the edge of tearing up these days). Beautifully told and reminiscent of James Herriot’s stories which I adore. I really, really loved this post. x
A great read as always. Happy holidays to you and yours and best wishes for a very happy and healthy New Year.
Thank you Andrew. I wish you and yours the most peaceful and joyous of festive seasons and the best of all things yet to come in 2017.
Good posts, beautiful blog.
Welcome to see my creations:
Thank you. That is most kind. I will be taking some time out at the beginning of the new year to read new blogs. I make a point of setting time aside so that I can explore properly and I very much look forward to foraging through yours.
thank you, and you’r welcome dear friend 😉
Osyth you have a most wonderful way with words (I may have told you that before, but I repeat is because it is true). I cried gentle tears for their loss of love. I smiled at your wonderful descriptions. I was amused by your description of the man in the PS. I was filled with anticipation from the start because I knew where this title must lead at some stage, one of my favourite film moments (yes, I have a very limited film palette) as I never cease to admire the wonderful way Tim Curry portrayed that character – deliciously sinful, wicked and hedonistic.
Wishing you and yours a wonderful Christmas time.
Claudette, thank you. You are a treasured follower and I am grateful for your thoughtful and kind comments. So glad you enjoyed the bonus … I wondered who would know instantly from the title! Have a peaceful and joyous festive season filled with love and laughter and I wish you the best of all things yet to come in 2017
You weave magic with your words!
Thank you so much and how lovely to ‘see’ you 😊
Very nice Osyth! The Bean is one lucky dog! 🙂
She doesn’t feel she is lucky enough 😉
“The grace of ordinary humans never ceases to astound me. Never.”
I am touched by the tenderness and compassion I experience in your holding of the old man and woman as they transition through the loss of their beloved best friends.
The grace in those moments of your witnessing and finding the poetic expression to share with us.
Thank you …. life’s experiences are all a privilege – if I can convey that a little then I am glad. Namaste 🙏🏼
What a beautiful moving post. I know only too well about travelling with dogs and the dreaded tape worm tablet, oh the stories I could tell you about trying to fly a dog out of Florida during the summer months and the dreade heat embargo; but that’s another story over a bottle of wine! The story in the vets brought tears to my eyes and I could picture the scenario exactly, we must all remember and we must all also think if there is anyone we know who might be alone, someone who might appreciate a helping hand, a friendly voice, an invite for an apero. We were in a nearby town last week, there was a homeless man sitting making things out of old soda cans. Gigi asked me for some money and she went up to him and gave him a few euros. He was so grateful. She talked about it all the way home, because she said she felt so good, she felt as if she had actually helped someone, it was quite moving for a 10 year old. We always bake cookies for the old people’s home in the village and the children all take them together a couple of days before Christmas. Our little offering.
I look forward to the chat over a bottle … I think it may last several weeks! Well done GiGi – if we let them, our children learn good lessons young … I am unsurprised that yours are and have. Xx
Beautiful read as always!! Osyth wishing you and your family a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Thank you so much …. I wish you and your loved ones a peaceful and joyous festive season and the best of all things yet to come in 2017. I have much enjoyed blogging along with you this year and look forward to more as the New Year unfolds 😊
Thanks a lot Osyth. And enjoyed blogging with you too. Looking for more amazing posts from you.
Sad and sweet simultaneously. For me a bit sensitive after the deaths of three most loved dogs within the space of 8 weeks. Yet I found it comforting O because hitherto I felt that to mourn the death of an animal was not something “done” over here in France and I’ve been doing the Brit’s stiff upper lip stuff. I hope the two people you met at the vet’s find worthy replacements for their love and company.
My dear, I am so so sorry to read this. Losing our animals is dreadfully sad and hard singly but to lose 3 must be unbearable. I don’t think you should be stiff upper lipped at all. I am certain that your French neighbours and friends will fully understand your grief. Certainly there is a dignity implied in what I witnessed but not at all an expectation that there is no place for a proper grieving. My heartfelt condolences to you – I send you love ❤️
Thank you sweetie – hope you, 2Brain and the indomitable Bean have a great holiday break and come back with lots of lovely stories for us in the NY.
Oh, Osyth. Those poor old people, my eyes have filled with tears. Imagine their Christmas day with their missing companion. We are missing two this Christmas but still have our baby and Katniss so are most fortunate. Bean is adorable and our cats also love cheese but in particular Asiago cheese triangles. Pourquoi?? Joyeux Noel to you, 2brains and Bean.
It doesn’t seem fair but death doesn’t tend to tread carefully …. enjoy your festivities – your little lost kitties will be there in spirit begging for a cheese triangle! Xx
What a lovely memory! K x
Just wanted to say a quick thank YOU, Osyth, for all the lovely, insightful and encouraging words you have sent my way this year. Wishing you a very Happy Christmas and a joyful New Year, wherever in the world you spend it!xx
There is no need for thanks but I am extraordinarily touched that you have taken the time out of what must be a reasonably busy time (!) to say it. I so look forward to the next year of blogging along together – you are one of the great finds of this year for me. I wish you a peaceful and joyous festive season and the best of all things yet to come in the New Year. X
ONe of the reasons we haven’t replaced our Chika girl….still to painful….I still look for her when there is a loud bang…..the urge to soothe her is still there…..love your writing…and The Bean is adorable with her little tongue poked out…..give her all the cheese she wants please….LOL Happy holidays…xxxxxkat
Fear not … she is being spoiled rotten – she is staying with my mum as we are renting a cottage that doesn’t allow dogs. This is her dream state – Granny is a first class feeder and my youngest daughter reported that The Bean is lying recumbent like the Queen of Sheba being fed everything but dog food!!! The pain of losing our animals is hard to bear and it saddens me that people often don’t realise it is just as acute as losing a human friend – more so in many cases. Xx
your cottage sounds divine….glad you soaking up the girls..can’t wiat to see my kids….nothing like a little spoiling to set the holidays right….LOL Bet your mum loves having Bean to dote on…..xxx
She prefers dogs to humans so it works very well LOL! Xx
I am not generally known as a dog-lover, but your words remind me as to how important pets might be to the elderly. I actually had tears running down my eyes as I read your post. Keep up the wonderful writing. I’m selfishly looking forward to more in the New Year.
Thank you so much Arby – you are always so thoughtful and kind in your remarks. I hope I will be able to justify them some more in the New Year 🙂
I appreciate animals and how they brighten lonely people and fill our lives with their tail wagging, their mewing, ruff ruffing and nuzzling our hands like horses and farm pets do. . .
You showed us simple versions of Love in this post, Fiona. <3
We are really blessed to have human arms, hands, kisses and hugs in our lives. . . Hope you had warmth, cozy moments and fun!! at Christmas, dear friend. May your 2017 be even better, no falls or hurts just Joy! <3 xo
Love is very simple – the issue is that humans tend to over complicate it! Xx
A beautiful post–thank you. Personally, I keep my dogs’ memories alive by singing about them in the shower every morning–possibly Too Much Information, but it seemed relevant.
I spell it “anticip…pation.” 🙂
Not too much information at all … I find this very relevant! I toyed with your spelling and was torn but eventually opted for mine but I may feel the need to stand corrected! Happy New Year to you and yours …. may it be full of joy and laughter, peace and content and of course love.
Beanie has got it ‘in the bag’.. she knows exactly how to wrap Ms O round her cute little ‘tongue’!!
Although my mum had dementia, her little dog kept her going and I’m just so grateful that we were able to keep them together nearly to mum’s end.. Strangely and unexpectedly her dog died just a few weeks before mum and I’m sure it was ‘meant to be’.. 2 soul mates meeting back up on the other side of the pearly gates! That’s how I like to think of it anyway…
A lovely post Osyth….
Wendy, your recanting of your mum’s tale has tears in my eyes. I am certain her little dog went ahead to check things out and be there to greet her. Dementia is an evil beast and having a dog to guide you through seems to bring something decent to the feast.
Ahhh – thanks Osyth.. Dogs truly are a ‘man’s best friend’ – they give (and take.. haha) so much and just want love and food in return for the love they give! Dementia is so hard to live through and yet in many respects it gave me determination to spend time with my mum that otherwise I probably wouldn’t.. strange how life works! We were fortunate that although she lost her short term memory, she didn’t lose her marbles and continued to give me good and sound advice to the end… which I miss! Thanks Osyth for reminding me of some special moments! xx
Well done for finding the value in the way things were. It must be heartbreaking to watch your parent decline into dementia and yet you speak of the good things that it provoked. You might like to read ‘Elizabeth is Missing’ by Emma Healey if you havent already. A stunning debut novel, the author was less than 30 when she wrote it. xx
Thanks so much Osyth – yes incredibly difficult to see a strong and very smart lady change so much… and as you say though, it brought opportunities to connect very differently which was also beautiful! I haven’t read that novel and will certainly be doing so now so thanks for the recommend – very much appreciated! xx
I do hope you enjoy it as much as I did 😊 xx
I’ll let you know! x
Sad and happy… happy and sad!
Life and death… death and life!
We live in antici….pation… of what?
Our own demise…
or our rebirth via our children and grandchildren…
sad life, happy death…
Thanks again for a special tale!
I hope your festivities were great
May your New Year be filled with love and joy!
Peace… happiness and lots of memories,
Happy, warm and sweet!
Like everyone I have moments, many moments when I question what it’s al about. I don’t have answers but it turns out that I’m most content when I stop asking! As I turn to my New Year’s card on the brink of February my only wish is a little less frantic, a little more contemplative, a little more time to stand and stare …. peace it seems is the most illusive of things.
Thank you so much for the link to my post – I humbly appreciate it 😊