Saturday, 31 July 2010

Walking the Dog

Eliza and Rowan enjoying a stroll by the river

Well, here's a short version of how we got our new lovely, lovable English Cocker Spaniel, Rowan (see soulful photo below)

Here at Sampsons Farm Hotel, as well as cooked English Breakfast, out in the garden we also serve teas and coffees and cakes, and scones and jam and yummy Devon Clotted Cream....well, you get the picture....and we have a group of local dog walkers who walk along the meadows of the River Teign here every day and come back to Sampsons for a coffee at elevenses time.

A couple of months ago, Ann and Alan, who have two cocker spaniels, suddenly turned up with three. Three and a half years ago their girl dog had a litter of puppies, and the new third dog had been one of them. His owner had recently returned him to Ann and Alan after three years, saying that the husband was allergic to him and they couldn't keep him any longer. They were looking for a good home for him.

Every day I would go out to say hello, and every day , Paul, one of the other dogwalkers in the group would make a joke about me meeting my future dog. "Ha ha" , I would say. "But I'm not a dog person."

This went on for several weeks, Paul insisting that this was the perfect dog for us, and that Sampsons was the perfect home for the dog.

As the days went by I did start to consider what life would be like with a dog. And begin to think that it could work. And then I would just as quickly talk myself out of it again. (We do have rather a chaotic lifestyle here.) I had several long distance telephone conversations with my mum about why we simply couldn't have a dog. But that he was lovely. If we had in the position to have a dog, he would be perfect.

Every day Alan would smile in his quiet way, and occasionally ask whether we had made a decision yet. I wasn't quite aware that I'd said I'd even think about it.
But I had been thinking about it . A lot. I had a hundred reasons not to have a dog. So why was I constantly thinking about it?

And after two weeks of telling most of the people I knew about this lovely, rejected dog who was coming to the farm every day, and why we couldn't have him, I found myself asking Ann and Alan if we could try having him for a week. (????!)

Ann came with him a couple of days later with a bag of his home from home goodies: feed bowls, cushions, dog bed, Bonio biscuits, a tooth brush and
poultry flavoured toothpaste
After a quick scout around the house, he settled down by my feet as I worked at my desk, and he hasn't been much further away from me in the two months since then.

He is totally gorgeous, and we love him to bits.

I can't say he's the most expressive dog ever: it's a bit like he's had an over the top Celebrity Botox Job and can't move his forehead. He has just one look, and it's a constant unblinking gaze. He could win a stare-you- out competition anytime. But check out that tail. All the expression is going into the tail: it never stops wagging. And when we go for a walk that little dog bottom skips along with this waggy tail and he looks
very, very happy. And so are we....

And whilst we're on the subject of dogs, here's a pic of some American Cocker Spaniel puppies who came to stay at Sampsons with their owner a few weeks ago. Have you ever seen anything like them?! They look like they've been designed by Walt Disney, they are so cute. If I hadn't seen them with my own eyes I wouldn't have believed they were real.

And here's the lady who is their proud owner. Hope she brings them to visit again soon.

And on another subject entirely, below is a photo of a very tiny portion of of a vast amount Somerset strawberries I bought to make jam with a few weeks ago.

Making vats of the stuff I was, the week before we went on holiday to France. I'd bought a whole crate of punnets of strawberries to make jam for the
cream teas at Sampsons.

I was Total Earth Mother, complete with my 50's apron, listening to Radio 4, with three collossal Kilner Jars at the ready, as well as twenty odd small mismatched jam pots that I'd saved up over the year, boiling up strawberry jam in just about every bucket sized pan I could find. I used special jam making sugar with added pectin, which you only have to boil for five minutes before bottling. It sets amazingly quickly. I used it last year and it worked a treat

Only this year it didn't bloody set.

And I didn't have time to re-boil it before I went on holiday. My lovely mother in law Hazel, got the three huge Kilners out whilst we were gone, bless her, and boiled it up again for me with a bottle of pectin to get it to the right consistency. So the Sampsons Devon Cream Teas are no longer in jeopardy in the near future, I'm pleased to say.

But my own twenty odd mismatched jars of extremely sloppy jam are still sitting on the kitchen worktop (yes, that same worktop that is not meant to be a storage area) staring at me balefully every time I enter the kitchen, and it's already a month since I made it.

I keep avoiding its eye, and hopefully some good elf will turn up in the middle of the night whilst we are all asleep and empty it all out, sterilise all the pots, boil it all to setting perfection, and repot it all without getting half a kilo of hot jam smeared over every part of the kitchen as well as over the outside of every pot. Oh, and if he could label it too, that would be even better...........

Come and pop over again soon for tea and scones and strawberry.....soup....

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