Sunday, 28 October 2012

Homecoming teen

'Morning, darling.' Thanks to the clocks going back, Lily has managed to surface before 10am. She gives me a weak smile and brushes past my open arms to take up her place at the breakfast table.

'You must have missed your cuddles over the last two weeks, darling...' I say with my Cora Crawley, Countess of Granthamish look of empathetic concern.

Lily grins and shakes her head as she scrapes the Onken yogurt pot.  

'Don't spare my feelings, darling. You can tell me the truth.'

She grins again and shakes her head more vigorously. 'What's this doing on the table this morning?' She points to the Moroccan salt and pepper holder.

'It didn't get cleared up last night.'

'You were the one clearing the table,' she retorts.

'Feel free to clear it away.'

'Feel free to eat with your mouth shut.'

Lily is back.

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Dolly and Me

The wretched dog is bordering on Marley and Me territory. Last night, banished to the utility room, she found nothing of interest to destroy. What a sweet girl she is, I thought today. And so, when I went out this evening, I forgot about her scavenging instincts and left the chocolate brownies I made for Lily's half-term homecoming cooling on a rack on the worktop.

This is what is left of the chocolate brownies. Which were made from Chocolat Patissier Menier with 70% cocoa and half a pack of butter, I may add.

Here is the model of self-abasement. Or perhaps it's the model of a dog who is about to die of chocolate poisoning.

Oh God. Had better call the emergency vet. 

'She's had a whole plate of chocolate brownies with 100g of really good French chocolate - 70% cocoa,' I tell him.

'Mmm, sounds delicious,' he says. 'What else was in them?'

'Half a pack of butter, 4oz sugar, 2oz self-raising flour - it should have been plain, but I didn't have any - and then I forgot the baking powder, so they weren't as brownie-ish as usual, more cakey.'

'Mmm, they still sound delicious. Did she eat them all?'

'Yes, wretched dog.'

'Shame. I was going to say bring her in, and bring what's left of the brownies...' 

He checks the toxicity levels of 100g of chocolate in a dog of 15kg and says the risk is low to moderate.

'You could give her charcoal which absorbs the toxins and may also induce vomiting,' he advises.

You see, if we'd been housesitting in the country, everyone has coal and logs, but here we only have fancy ceramic fake logs. 'So do I need to go down to the local petrol station and buy some barbecue charcoal?' I ask.

'No. Charcoal tablets from an all-night pharmacy or vet.'

Ah. We decide, however, that since she's not showing any signs of distress, I should stay in and just monitor her heart rate every 15 minutes.

'You'll probably want to make it a late night tonight,' he adds. 'Keep checking on her till about 1am. Oh and since you've got a scavenger on your hands, I should take out insurance.'


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Third night of destruction

Dolly has surpassed herself this evening. While I am out at a thrilling musical about Boy George, Taboo, recapturing memories of my white pirate-shirted youth, Dolly is scouring Sophia's house, seeking out items that she can destroy for maximum impact.

Her girlish fancy seems to have lighted, for the nonce, on Poppy's bejewelled flipflops. Plus, horror of horrors, an intricately carved sandalwood elephant, which is now reduced to a gnawed lump of wood on legs. Well, only one thing for it. Into the bin with them. The family will have forgotten they exist by the time they come back from Vincent's midlife crisis gap year.

Magpie goes mad on mescalin

On the bus back from a marvellous evening at the Shoreditch House Literary Salon, I read my emails. Dan has sent a jolly one about Dolly's nocturnal wanderings. 

"I love the idea that she wanders around at night, finds something and thinks 'ooh that's nice' and then trots excitedly back to her basket with it only to find it wasn't quite what she really needed. Off again... Just imagine what she'd be like at clothes shopping - buy buy buy and never taking anything back."

Ah, I think fondly as I walk through the front gate, she is a funny little thing. I open the door and am nearly knocked off my feet by a large jumping bean with a flipflop in its mouth. I turn on the light to find a scene of mayhem.

Sophia's youngest son George's bicycle helmet seems to have borne the brunt. It can no longer conform to British safety standards, now that the polystyrene protection lies in blobs all over the floor. I follow the trail to Dolly's den. Oh Dolly! Not my ironic flat cap! And Sophia's fur-trimmed leather glove! Oh, and there are her daughter Poppy's strap-on heelies. And her Moroccan hat. And, honestly, I was going to use that Sainsbury's bag since I've run out of poo bags.


Still, I think it shows a certain flair to have such catholic tastes at such a young age.

Monday, 22 October 2012


Found this morning in Dolly's nest after her nocturnal scavenging session:

1 slipper
1 telescopic umbrella
1 snorkel mask
1 flipflop
1 jumper
1 lead
1 collar
2 balls
1 rope frisbee
1 poi
1 soft toy dog (Dolly's Dolly)
1 remains of sole of croc

Sunday, 21 October 2012

A night of mishaps

Apparently you're not supposed to use matches with the no-mess gas log fire, although there's absolutely nothing on it to tell you and, honestly, it's lucky Lily's away at school because it could have been a lot worse.

It's all remote-controlled and self-igniting, says Sophia when she calls in to find out if everything is OK and I tell her everything is fine except for a yellowy patch on the seagrass matting where I've treated a poo stain with bleach and the fact that the no-mess gas log fire has blown up.

'The thing is,' I explain, 'I was dying of hypothermia and I'd spent about half an hour pointing the remote at it and pressing the buttons, but it didn't self-ignite. So I just thought I'd give it a little helping hand with a lit match - and honestly, there ought to be a warning, because I nearly lost my little helping hand in the process. Not to mention my eyebrows and what's left of my eyelashes.'

'Eliza,' warns Sophia in her calm-but-gritted-teeth way. 'Have you read the instruction sheet I left you?'

Hmmm. What instruction sheet would that be?

Well honestly, we don't have gas in the country. People don't seem to realise that when you've lived out of town for two years it takes a while to get back into the fast pace of city life. These people with their push-button urban ways. She's lucky I didn't have any firelighters.

The thing is, it was late and wet and cold and I'd just been standing on a street corner followed by a Sex and The City moment. Not what you're thinking. In fact I'd been at a thrilling 50th birthday party in an underground bar full of beautiful people, except I couldn't hear what anybody said and they couldn't hear me either, which wasn't surprising since I'd gone hoarse in the time it took me to drink the complimentary cocktail.

A woman spotted me clutching my throat and beckoned me up to street level, where dozens of non-smokers were huddled under an awning with the smokers, having conversations.

'I went up to the DJ and complained,' said the woman, clutching my arm. 'I said, you're playing all the wrong music and it's too loud. We're in our 40s and 50s here! We want Fleetwood Mac! We want ELO!'

I'd smiled supportively and backed away, just as a taxi was whizzing through a puddle.

Honestly, London!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Epic fail


Dun housesittin' in the country, back to housesittin' in Chelsea. Much as I love pulling up beetroots and carrots that someone else has planted, and can tolerate toing and froing with dead pheasants that Betty is determined to lay at my feet and I am determined to sling from the garden, this is more like it. The no-mess gas log fire, the wall-to-wall seagrass matting, the gloss white kitchen of the London terraced house. Have tapped effortlessly into my old book club, have read the Stephen King memoir (I know, who chose that?!) and am hosting tonight's bash at Sophia's place. 


Scented candles are lit (I'm sure Sophia won't mind - all in the cause of keeping the house smelling fresh and fragrant), wine is chilling (I'm sure Vincent won't mind - it looks a bit of a scabby old bottle anyway with the label half-peeled off, Puligny Mont-something), Tesco's Finest Mature Cheddar and Onion crisps and Marinated Greek Olive Selection are opened, the ladies are on their way!


Allegedly. Half the bowl of crisps and two glasses of wine (rather delicious actually) later, I text the book club ringleader, Fiona. Hi, are you on your way? Any idea who's coming? 

Nothing back. 

Send the same text to Gilly. Ching! by return. I'm at work! Have a great evening! GXX  

Hmmm. Better text everyone else before I open the other bag of crisps.


Ching! Text from Nancy: Can't make it tonight. See you next time. Nx


Ching! Text from Jane: In bed with streaming cold. Sorry about the book choice. It was crap, wasn't it?

Epic fail, as Lily would say. I blow out the candles and put the olives in the fridge. Roll on Tanzania.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Raleigh triumph!

I've been offered the role of Communications Officer in Tanzania, September 2013! Woh! Feedback all positive. Am really marvellous.

Now what to do with Lily and Dolly? Oh no!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

I was only plucking pheasants...

Wretched dogs! First of all Dolly returns from Cass’s with a limp, cause unidentified, then Betty springs a matching limp. I find a small gash in her leg, no doubt sustained while jumping over that fence yesterday, and bandage it up. Within minutes she’s licked the bandage off. I re-bandage and tape the leg and we go for a walk, for, despite their injuries, the walking wounded are champing at the bit to go out.

As soon as they’re let loose, limp forgotten, Betty goes haring off into the hedgerows. She emerges with no bandage and a young hen pheasant in her mouth.

‘Come here, Betty!’

She bounds over and stands proudly with her stunned trophy drooping from her mouth.


After a bit of resistance she drops it, allowing Hoagy the terrier to pile in. 

'Hoagy! Leave it!'

I manage to lasso both dogs with their rope leads and haul them off. The poor pheasant waddles and flaps back into the hedgerow.

I keep the dogs on the leads until the next field but the minute I remove their nooses, they’re off again. Once more there’s a terrible clucking and squawking as pheasants scramble from the hedges. In the distance Betty appears with another bird in her mouth, with Hoagy bowling along in pursuit like a little ball of tumbleweed. Betty races towards me and presents her prize, this time a young cock pheasant, who’s looking resigned to his fate.

‘Drop!’ I cry.

Betty drops, the bird scuttles and flaps, and so Betty grabs it again.

‘Betty, drop!’

Betty wags her tail and holds on.


She drops and Hoagy pounces, plucking mouthfuls of tail feathers in an instant.

‘Hoagy! Drop!’ But terriers don’t understand commands. I manage to lasso the dogs again and pull them off. The pheasant lies there, scrawny-bummed, breathing heavily. As I drag the dogs away, the pheasant flaps to its feet and limps off across the field.

A bad day for the pheasant and canine community.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

I'm an Apprentice... Get Me Out Of Here!


Lift up your hearts and rejoice! I am a Raleigh convert! A Raleigh evangelist! Yay! Or, as we Raleigh alumni say, Woh! Yes, I know what you’re thinking. A group of people going, ‘Woh!’ at every opportunity is not a group I wish to be a member of. I thought the same at the beginning. I continued to think the same when we had to introduce ourselves with a distinctive little dance move (I was the funky chicken), as an ice-breaker-cum-aide-memoire. But such bagatelles soon paled into insignificance as we undertook a practically non-stop series of challenges over the next 28 hours.

Unfortunately, as a signed-up Raleigh convert and evangelist, I can’t actually tell you what these challenges were. I know! How irritating is that?! Particularly when my preferred role, should I be favourably assessed, is in communications, given that blogging is practically the only string to my bow (excellence in the art of throwing parties as long as one has staff or arranging the placement cuts little ice in the world of Raleigh, while mixing cocktails is strictly verboten, since Raleigh is a no-alcohol zone. I know!).

What I can say is that a) my knees were the least of my worries; b) so was my backpack; c) so was 'sleeping' in a tent on a freezing night in October. They became irrelevances as we pitted our wits and girded our loins against the mighty challenges before us.

Raleigh is all about learning through experience, using your own brains and common sense, not through being told what to do. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a brawny triathlete or a weedy desk-worker. There’s no A team racing on ahead and B team (losers!) bringing up the rear. No, at Raleigh, all beings are equal. You’re a team on a level playing field. You move together and work things out together. And the amazing thing is, because I wasn’t cast in the role of loser/ignoramus, I faced my fears and overcame them! Yay! I mean, Woh! No longer an inferior incompetent but a valuable member of a team! Am marvellous!

Though, of course, if we’d been there longer than one night, and/or if it had rained, I’d be going, ‘Waa!’ But let us not be negative. Let us keep the faith! Let us get some sleep! But first, let us drive like the clappers to see my little darling perform on the saxophone at the school Harvest Festival. Aah. When I tell her of my triumphs over adversity, she’ll be so proud of me!  


Reach The Manor just before Lily is due to play. As she spots me slipping into a pew, she glares and mouths the words, ‘I want to stay in tonight!’

Back to reality.

As we file out of the chapel, Lily hisses, ‘Mu-um! We were going to watch The Hunger Games tonight!’

I tell her she can watch the X Factor results if she comes back with me, and she can see The Hunger Games another time. I win by a whisker. Yes! Eliza Gray, Team Raleigh, meeting challenges, working out strategies, overcoming adversity! Woh!

Friday, 5 October 2012

Things that go CLUNK in the night


Clunk. Aagh! What was that? I turn on my light. The latch on my bedroom door has jumped out of the catch and the door is slowly opening. Aaagh! I’ve been here six nights and the door’s never spontaneously opened before. True, the wind is raging outside, but the windows are hermetically sealed and I can feel no draught.

I stomp out of bed, shut the door and flump back into bed, pulling the covers up over my ears. Think of nice thoughts. I’m all alone in the house. The church is right next door. The tower reminds me a bit of the one in The Omen… not that I’ve ever seen or want to see The Omen. But somehow I have a mental picture of a priest outside a church tower. Clunk. Aagh! It’s done it again. 

I lie there, frozen for a moment, then jump out of bed and shut the door again, firmly pushing down the latch. My ability to be spooked in other people’s houses when I’m on my own has reached epic proportions. Think of nice things. With a lurch I recall that there was a funeral at the church yesterday. 

ClunkBastard door! Bloody house! I turn the light on, shut the door and reach for How to Lose Friends and Alienate People. My eyelids are dropping, my eyes stinging, but I have to keep reading to stave off the spooky thoughts.

Pip-pip-pip…   For God's sake, what’s that? A high-pitched beep is coming from the little door at the end of my room. I throw back the bedcovers once more, pad over to the door and… pull it open. PIP-PIP-PIP…! It’s coming from above. I find the stair light and go gingerly up to the loft. The blaring beeping emanates from a smoke alarm, but there’s no smoke. However, there is a fluorescent tube light ablaze. I didn’t turn it on. Why is that light on? I find the switch and turn it off. Miraculously, the alarm emits a few dying pip-pip-pips and then goes quiet. I head down once more and shut the little door behind me. Back to bed with my book.

Clunk. AAGH! BUGGERING DOOR! I glare at it and turn over. Now there’s nothing between me and … what? The rest of the house?

Still, every stormcloud has a silver lining. I lie there rigid, thinking, I’d rather be in a tent in the windswept wilds of East Grinstead with (live) bodies nearby than lying here alone. With dead bodies a stone's throw away.


Here goes. Lights out.


Aagh! Have overslept. Or, technically, have underslept. But am late for the dogs. Stumble down and open the utility room door. Am greeted by three leaping dogs and the most chokingly gagworthy stench. Dolly – for I presume 'tis her – has laid a gigantic chocolate moussy turd on the mat by the back door. The dogs are desperate to go out, but if I open the door, I’ll spread the mousse all over the floor. Usher them through the forbidden regions of the house to the front door and shoo them out.

Time for my Alexander Technique. Well, isn't that perfect? My back aches, my knees ache, my head aches and I can barely see out of my pasta-shell eyes. Could I be any iller prepared for this Raleigh jaunt?

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Could somebody please shoot the messenger

Lily is browsing the detritus on the kitchen table.

‘What’s this?’ she says, brandishing the Raleigh email print-out. As I reach for it, she darts round the other side of the table. She stands like a Shakespearean messenger preparing to read from a scroll. A sneer forms on her lips as she prepares to mock.

‘“By living” is the answer to the first question. “Not very well” is the answer to the second one. “In a home in London doing absolutely nothing except blogging and looking after the dog” is the answer to the third one. Simple.’

Honestly, it’s like having a mean older sister instead of a devoted daughter.

Doodle doddle?


Honestly, the country! I'm just enjoying the early autumn sunshine on top of the grassy ramparts of the Iron Age fort when I hear the yelping of a pack of dogs. Oh God. I rein in my three in the nick of time. Thundering hooves, blaring horns, a baleful wail from the huntsman. As I hasten out of the way, I skid in some sheep poo and go flying. Well, that puts paid to my carefully structured training regime. My knees are now knackered.


Have realised I must treat myself like a marathon runner and rest now until the big day. I'm sitting with my feet up, browsing the emails from Raleigh to see if there's anything I've missed. Oh God. In the small print of the most recent one (after the bit about putting our lives at risk and personal accident and liability cover), it says:

Pre-weekend task! We ask that you spend 10 minutes preparing a ‘doodle’. The 3 questions that we need answering… are:

1) How have you reached where you are in life today?
2) How you see yourself and life on expedition?
3) Where do you see yourself in the future, after your expedition?

Argh! Feel like CJ in The Fall and Rise of Reginald Perrin: ‘I didn’t get where I am today by doing doodles about how I reached where I am today!’ But I suppose that’s not what they’re after.

How did I reach where I am in life today? Via a series of poor choices and lack of ambition? Through supreme distractibility and lack of focus? Hmmm. Must try and put positive spin on where I am in life today. Through an unquenchable thirst for exploring the world! Which is why I’m homeless, jobless, penniless and looking after an old dear’s cottage in the middle of nowhere? Hmmm…

Let’s try Question 2. Ah, that’s easy. I see myself lounging on a bed at field base, gazing at the tropical sunsets of Tanzania or Costa Rica through the gauzy haze of my mosquito net, sipping on a rum punch or whatever the local tipple may be. Oh, but I’ll be grafting too, plotting the expeditions like a WAAF officer, headphones on and twiddling knobs like Radar in M*A*S*H*, taking pride in typing important documents for my handsome boss like Millie in Thoroughly Modern Millie. A dash of Out of Africa, a pinch of Australia, mixed up with It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and a splash of The Year of Living Dangerously. It’ll be thrilling and fulfilling.

Question 3. Hmmm. Married to my boss? Married to the Tanzanian house boy? Again, probably not what they're after. I know. Manager of Gray’s Tours, an upmarket adventure tour company for the over 50s!

Question 4. How do I put all that into a doodle?

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

I’m A 50-Year-Old... Get Me Out Of Here!

It gets worse. I’m hiking up an Iron Age fort with my rucksack on my back and three dogs scooting back and forth, noses to the ground, when a loud bark makes me jump. I spin round, but there are no other dogs in sight. Woof! There it is again, really close. In fact... it's coming from my pocket. Lily, wretched child, meddling with my phone again! 

It’s Rose, reminding me that her son Augustus did a Raleigh International expedition to Borneo in his gap year. ‘I’ve got him right here,’ she says. There’s a muffled grunt as she hands the phone over.   

‘Hi Augustus,’ I puff. ‘So, tell me.'

'Borneo was cool.'

'But did you have to do an assessment weekend in East Grinstead?’

‘Oh yeah.'

'How was that?'


I stop in my tracks. ‘Why?’

‘We had to make our own like, basher?’


‘It’s like, a sort of tent and a hammock thing? We had to cut down these like, branches? And build these like, shelters? So you have like, a pole, which is basically a branch, and like, a tarp over the top? It was like, winter, and it was pouring with rain and like, freezing?’

Oh God. Worse than my worst fears. 

‘But Borneo was cool,’ he adds. ‘Apart from these like, leeches? There’s nothing you can do about them. One girl wore like, plastic bags on her feet? But they still got in. But they don’t hurt. Just take lots of like, plasters?’

Oh God. If it’s not ticks it’s leeches. Strike Borneo off the list.

I trek back to the cottage, and am just sipping a nice cup of mint tea, when my pocket starts barking again. It's Rose’s cousin whose father was a friend of John Blashford-Snell who set up Operation Raleigh which grew into Raleigh International.

‘Rose tells me you want to know all about Operation Raleigh.’

‘Well…’ I stutter.

‘With all your touring and trekking experience, you’ll be fine. Presume you’re an old hand at bivvying...’

What? All my trekking experience amounts to one Himalayan trek about 20 years ago, with a full team of sherpas. And I’ve never knowingly bivvied, whatever that may mean.

‘They’ll have a few surprises in store for you,' he continues, 'but nothing someone adventurous like you can’t handle. My favourite is the nine-foot python. They ask you to weigh it.’

Oh God.

‘And then they present you with some bathroom scales, so of course you have to drape the python round your neck and weigh yourself with it…’

Honestly! This is beyond a joke. I thought I was volunteering for a gentle admin post at field base to augment my tourleading skills, not for I’m A Celebrity... Get Me Out Of Here!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Bird claws, spirit levels and Dr Hauschka

I am branching out in my volunteer role as housesitter. I have temporarily vacated Sophia and Vincent’s sophisticated Chelsea house in favour of Lily’s friend’s Esme’s grandmother’s dilapidated cottage and two dogs. It's ten minutes from The Manor, thus giving me a chance to spend more quality time with my darling daughter. Except that my darling daughter would rather spend more quality time with her schoolfriends. We are in negotiations. I think I have secured her presence tonight.

Meanwhile, now I’m in the wilds, the Raleigh-training opportunities are coming at me thick and fast. Dolly greets me at the breakfast table with a bird’s claw that has either been rejected by the cat or sent by the local witch doctor. Gingerly, I pick it up, expecting it to be firm and claw-like. It is soft and limp. AAGH! I drop it, Dolly grabs it, exits and sprints round the garden before I can induce her to drop it so that I can flip it over the hedge with the poo spade.

Now to tackle my bed and the disappearing bedcovers. The problem is, the floor lists at an angle of practically 45 degrees. As I deliver the painter his morning cup of tea, I notice he has a spirit level.

‘Ooh, could I borrow this to check the level of my bed?’ I enquire.

‘You in that room up thur?’ He nods towards the room above the front door.


‘Don’t surproise me. Whole floor’s tippin’.’

‘Exactly!’ I say, taking the spirit level and fetching some blocks of wood from the log store. I throw back the eiderdown and blankets and place the spirit level on the floral polycotton sheets. Just as I thought. The bubble’s practically off the scale. I kneel down and lift. Argh, this bed’s heavy! With a lot of hauling and heaving, I manage to shift two bed legs on to three inch blocks. I flop down on the bed. Totally horizontal! I really am a DIY expert manqué! Except a DIY expert would probably have a handy jack or a hoist or something instead of doing their back in.

I return to the kitchen. While stroking Esme’s granny’s old lurcher, Betty, I detect a little black lump on her chest. I part the hairs and find a tick in all its leg-wriggling splendour. I pinch it between my fingers and pull, but it won’t give. I twist it anti-clockwise like a corkscrew as I was told to do by someone in Mistlebourne, but it remains steadfast. I wrestle and wrench, but still it won’t pull free. Unlike Betty, who backs away and retires to her bed. Presumably the tick’s head is now well and truly submerged in her flesh and I’ve probably hastened her demise.

Google remove tick dog. ‘Do not yank or twist the tick while attempting to pull it out.’ Oh God. ‘Avoid breaking its head off inside skin to avoid infection.’ Oh bugger. Now what? Maybe go back to step one. ‘Soak a cotton ball in olive oil and place it over the tick’s body.’ Olive oil. I scan the kitchen worktops. Olive oil. I throw open all the cupboards. Honestly, you wouldn’t think there was a household left in Britain without olive oil, would you? Not even sunflower or vegetable oil! I soak some kitchen roll in Mary Berry’s Light Salad Dressing and hold it over the spot. Nope. The blighter’s still in there. I go out to ask the painter if he has any ideas.

‘Don’t try and pull it out whatever you do,’ he warns.

‘Too late,’ I say, showing him the black spot under Betty’s skin.

‘Best thing to do,’ he says, ‘soak some cotton wool in nail varnish remover and press it on. That’ll kill it and it’ll drop off of its own accord.’

The thing is, who brings nail varnish remover to a country housesit? Call Dan. He’ll know what to do.

‘If you were Crocodile Dundee,’ he begins, ‘you’d sedate the dog by throwing a tin of sweetcorn at its head and then suck out the venom.’

‘And if I’m not Crocodile Dundee…?’

‘Well, if it were my dog, as indeed it has been in the past when I’ve made a horlicks of pulling out the tick, I’d pat him on the head and say, ‘Good boy,’ and go off and do something else.

‘And three days later, when the infection has set in…?’

‘Well then I’d be stroking him and notice a bit of a lump and think, oh, that’s a nasty scab, and then I’d pat him on the head and say, “Good boy,” and go off and do something else.’

Honestly, these country folk! I scan Esme’s granny’s list of telephone numbers. Ah. The vet.

‘Oh, I shouldn’t worry,’ she reassures. ‘Just put some Vaseline on it and the tick will suffocate and drop off. Keep an eye on the dog in case there’s an infection, but usually they’re fine.’

I ransack the bathrooms and kitchen drawers but is there a pot of Vaseline in the house? No there is not. Honestly, how do people live without olive oil and Vaseline? I scrape off some precious Dr Hauschka Lip Care Stick with my fingernail, roll it to a squidgy Vaseline consistency, apply it to the tick and give Betty a pat on the head. ‘Good girl,’ I say, and go off and do something else.