Finding a new normal

Another overdue post, as this one relates to last weekend again, but events of this week have taken over somewhat.

After our spontaneous overnighter on Saturday we both felt a bit weird after coming home Sunday. Partially because I hadn’t got beyond planning for Saturday’s bake sale in my mental to-do list, and partially because Milly’s absence felt pretty loud. Other than a sharp-elbowed trip round Tesco, the usual Sunday chores held little appeal. As the clocks had changed and it was a fine day, we decided to take a little trip out in the van.

The van is a recent purchase (in the last month) by Matt. Not his most recent notable purchase I might add. He has already added vehicles 5 (Audi A6) and 6 (Mazda Mx5 Mk1) to his fleet (or 6 and 7 if you count his Suzuki Bandit motorbike). No – before you assume he is a car dealer or a car collector – he is neither of these. He is just Matt. And buying / fixing / scrapping / selling / changing cars is just what he does. A lot. Everyone knows it and everyone loves him for it. He seems to go through cars like I change handbags. But that’s fine. As long as he is happy and leaves a space for my precious Audi on the drive. (And I can carry on changing handbags!)

Anyhow. It’s not always musical cars. The van is a keeper (apparently!).

Years ago, before I met him, Matt had a VW Type 25 air cooled camper named Kangchenjunga that saw his young family through a number of memorable holidays. Since then he has always wanted a replacement. Like for most people, life generally gets in the way of “nice to haves”, but finally he has bought his van – a 2004 VW T5 Transporter LWB Window Van (for those who know what that means) – and is planning to fulfil his dream.

Way back in 2009 I somehow came by a VW T25. It was basically a rolling shell and, under Matt’s watchful eye, I was planning to swap the engine and gearbox, fully fit it out, and get it on the road. Sadly in 2010 we lost all of the bits of disassembled camper in a fire at the family workshop, and it was decided that trying to replace all those bits was too big a task. My camper rolled off to the scrappy on a flatbed trailer. With hindsight, although I had buckets of motivation and Matt had buckets of expertise, I had probably bitten off more than I could chew. But at the time, I was adamant that it was going to happen, and this I told the RSPCA home checker when she visited on a Sunday in late October 2009.

I specifically remember the day, because the clocks had changed, and the home checker arrived an hour early by mistake.  This threw me off, as I was frantically trying to tidy up a bit ready to receive her. I also remember feeling incredible nervous because this lady – this total stranger – was standing between us and Milly.
The visit went fine and she gave us the green light.  Amongst the other standard checklist items, our 6 foot fences were already installed and the garden fully secure. We did have a hole in the garden (not from treasure hunting, but from Matt trying to locate a join in the underground waste pipe) and we were advised that we needed to fill it in because Milly could fall into it…. We didn’t get round to doing that before she arrived – our bad – but turns out that Milly found it useful for safely stashing bones so it didn’t seem to matter that we hadn’t.

Although clearly not a risk to doggies, Matt fell backwards into it once, thankfully not hurt, sadly no photographic evidence.

I recall very clearly that the home checker wrote in her report that “dog will be very happy with this family, and enjoy holidaying in their camper van”. So she had faith in my camper plan being a success, even if I didn’t!

Back to last weekend. Sunday. At about 3pm we set off in the van, bound for Climping Beach near Littlehampton, with a flask of hot coffee, our special new mugs, and a packet of white chocolate mice left over from Christmas.

Having taken the scenic route through Henfield and along the coast from Shoreham, we arrived at Climping but were disappointed to find the car park had slightly changed and you could no longer park up and stare out to sea. Never one to give up, I still found a creative way of enjoying the view.

Perfect Sunday afternoon activity right? Perfectly enjoyable and perfectly normal… or not. It is something that we have always wanted to do (although by regular car not van!) and would have enjoyed, but it just wouldn’t have worked for Milly, and we couldn’t possibly justify bimbling off and leaving her at home. Sunday afternoon “coffee with a view” has therefore always been hosted in the kitchen at home, with coffee, but no view. But with a relaxed and contented Milly, which was always the most important thing.

Depending on how well you know us, or how much of this blog you have read so far, you might be slightly bemused as to why we wouldn’t take our dog on a day trip? And to the beach!?! Why what fun that should be! Dogs loves the beach!!
And herein lies the problem.
Other Dogs.

Milly’s dog issues were so severe that taking her places was pretty difficult. Not only did she bark in the car but she couldn’t relax in a new environment, and as a result, neither could we. We couldn’t easily go anywhere where we might “see” another dog. Too stressful for her, too stressful for us. It just wasn’t worth it. Over the years we did try a few different places, but the risk of an uncontrolled interaction with an offlead dog was too great and just made it more of an episode than an adventure. Nobody needs episodes, so we stopped seeking them out.

On Sunday we saw just one dog – beautifully behaved on the lead a very long way away – possibly further now than Milly’s eyesight would have seen. So maybe we could have taken her. In fact, maybe we could have taken her a year ago, or two years ago, because she had improved so much. Maybe it wouldn’t have been an episode. Maybe we could have had some great adventures afterall. Maybe it’s far too late for maybes….

All in, Sunday was a day of conflicting emotions.
We had a really nice time. Felt so good just being together with nowhere else we needed to be. But tinged with sadness because Milly was missing…. only we knew that had Milly not been missing we wouldn’t have considered going. Like we rarely considered going anywhere just for meaningless pleasure. Ever.

because Milly…

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