Hmm; no sooner do I take to the blog again than I am knocked almost hors de combat by a virus that has been unpleasantly similar to the one that arrived last September and took nine months to shift. And I don't mean a computer virus. This time, however, I have taken homeopathic action sooner rather than later and, three weeks on, I think the virus has got the message.
So where were we? A month ago - the last time I posted - I was about to fly to Madeira, courtesy of the Grown-Up Children, which I did. It was a delightful, happy week, with the sort of temperatures I love (35 degrees Celsius or thereabouts), and much swimming, a huge amount of reading, and generally relaxing in the sunshine. It was just what we all needed.
We did a memorably unenjoyable all-day mountain trek; unenjoyable owing to the weather (it was the one bad day, rain and mist, so no views) and a rather strange guide, who made us listen (more than once) to his birdcall impersonations in the pouring rain, and who told off-colour jokes. We knew the experience would eventually turn into a family joke, as these things tend to, but at the time . . .
When I left Funchal, I was still warm and glowing from the sun; I arrived at Bristol Airport in the middle of the night, to be greeted by howling winds and torrential rain. Oh, British weather, what would we do without you to take the shine off things?
As a result, I have been doing only the essentials, that is, walking the dogs twice a a day and trying to remember to keep up my intake of fluid. It was while I was sitting around doing not very much that I found myself missing my dear old cat, Mr C. I didn't write about it at the time but he died of heart failure in March of last year and I still miss him, not least because this has been almost the first time in my life that I have not had a cat or three as part of the family. I thought how comforting it would have been, when I was at my most under the weather, to have had Mr C sitting on my lap, purring away. He was the most affectionate of cats.
I was very taken with the resident hotel cat in Madeira - a tabby, like Mr C. He (or she) was very popular with the guests on the sun terrace, overlooking the sea where the Walnuts (a term coined by the Son-in-Law) could be found stretched out on loungers every day. (I was with the Walnuts; the Grown-Up Children preferred the more exotic palm tree shaded Garden Pool area.) Hotel Cat was very savvy and absolutely knew how to work a sun terrace. Every evening, one of his (or her) band of devoted admirers would appear with a dainty dish of sardines. Hotel Cat would scoff the lot, lick his paws, then execute a rather fine curl of the tail and stroll off.
At least there were two very special dogs waiting for me when I got back to England; I never under-estimate their importance in my life. As all my viral symptoms have been better in the fresh air and even better by the coast, we have done plenty of walking and, for a few days, when the sun shone last week, we even managed long walks by the seashore.
These days, only one of my dogs, Miss P, does long walks. The Edinburgh Boy is now the Venerable Old Edinburgh Gent and he is 13 today. He is taking it easy, as befits a very elderly Labrador, but there have been a few extra treats. He spends many, many hours asleep and I often see him doing that doggy dreaming thing, his paws moving as if he is running, accompanied by a series of quiet, breathy 'woofs'. Perhaps he is remembering what life was like when he was in his prime and he too could run along a shoreline and race in and out of the waves. He is the very dearest of dear old boys and I love him more than words can say.