We’re just back from a mini-holiday on the Isle of Arran. It was a holiday packed with drama and unexpected events, and the excitement started even before we got on the ferry.
We were booked on the last sailing of the day, which is always a bit of a concern as there’s no second chance if you miss the check-in or the ferry itself is cancelled. We arrived at the terminal in plenty of time, but the place was deserted; the ticket booth was unoccupied, and there were no other passengers parked in the queuing lanes. This immediately set me wondering if the ferry had been cancelled. In due course we were joined by four other vehicles, but this was still an unusually low number for such a popular ferry. We let Beanie & Biggles out of their travel crates as we waited, and they helped pass the time by ramming their bums, paws and noses into our faces as they tried to get comfortable on our laps. Last check-in time came and went without anybody coming to inspect our tickets. Ever the impatient little madam, Beanie beeped the horn with her bottom but still no-one came. As the sailing time rapidly approached the ferry remained conspicuous by its absence. Eventually I checked the ferry website on my phone and discovered that all was well; the ferry had been delayed some fifty minutes minutes on the Arran side due to an unusually low tide, but it was still on.
When the ferry eventually appeared both Beanie and Biggles sat up excitedly to watch the proceedings, but things were still moving desperately slowly; there seemed to be some confusion as to where the ferry should dock to unload its current cargo of vehicles, and it began a very lengthy and precise turning maneuver. Biggles vented his frustration by verbally abusing the ferry staff – they were all sporting high vis jackets and hard-hats, both of which are clear violations of the Beagle dress code. Five minutes later the ferry was still turning, and Biggles was all woofed out; when the front end of the ship lifted up on its hydraulics he was out cold on the floor of the van between our seats. All that waiting, and he still missed the Thunderbirds moment!
It was close to sunset when we finally boarded the ferry, and very very cold. We spent only the briefest time checking the external seating areas (no dropped chips or other edible debris were found) before retreating to the pet-friendly lounge. Ordinarily this is a no-go area for us; the chances of seeing another dog are high, and the resulting woofing from our two would likely get us thrown off the ship. Fortunately there were so few passengers that we got the lounge to ourselves. Unfortunately the crossing was quite rough, and more than once I wondered if I’d be cleaning Beagle vomit – or my own – off the decks before we made it to Arran.
In the end no lunches were lost and we reached our first destination – the car park below Corbett-class hill “Caisteal Abhail” – just as darkness was falling. This was a completely new hill to us and given that it’s rated grade 4 on the Walkhighlands site, I decided it would be best to try it solo this time around. At 2am I dragged myself out of the van, leaving Susan and the pups snuggling in bed.
The ascent went very smoothly and I found Caisteal Abhail to be both Beagle-able and visually spectacular, however on the way down my adrenaline ran out and lack of sleep started to take its toll. As I trudged down the steeper sections – fighting to keep my eyes open – the emergency shelter pack that was hanging from my camera bag really started to bug me. It was bouncing around, banging into my legs and unbalancing me every few steps just like.. well, like an excited Beagle. In fact it was so Beagle-like in its behavior that I named it “Biggles” and began telling it off, first in my head and then verbally in order to stave off the fatigue. Although he never stopped being naughty, little windproof nylon Biggles got me safely back to the van where I received an enthusiastic welcome from Beanie, and the real Biggles.. well he just hogged the back seat and demanded a blanky.
Yeah Dad, I know you’ve been up a mountain and have had barely one hour of sleep, but I’m trying to get some quality nap time here, so keep the noise down OK?
We now headed to a campsite – our base for the next two nights. In between catnaps I walked the pups, helped erect our tent, and drank my way through half a box of instant cappuccino sachets. By the time we drove out to Machrie Moor to see the ancient standing stones, I was back to being mostly functional.
It looks like a giant foot Beanie! Imagine getting hold of one the socks that fits that thing!
Like most Scottish islands Arran has a big sheep population, and a good number of them stood between the car park and the stones. Two things however were in our favor: firstly, the sheep seemed remarkably calm around dogs, and secondly, they’d covered the ground with some of the finest tasting poop in the UK. I usually do my best to prevent our pups munching on poop (especially when I’m due to clean their teeth later the same day) but on this occasion it seemed the lesser of two evils; at least they couldn’t bay while they were gulping down the brown stuff. Still, they both consumed an awful lot, and an alarm bell was ringing somewhere at the back of my sleep-deprived brain.
That night I stumbled through my final chores: feed the pups, take them for a final loo visit, brush their teeth, brush my teeth and finally collapse onto the bed. I had hopes of getting a full night’s sleep, but it didn’t happen; in the very early hours of the next morning, Biggles came into our bed and seemed very restless – the kind of restless that is usually only resolved by a trip to the outside loo. I absolutely did not want to leave the bed; I tried to talk Susan into handling it, but she was still recovering a from a gym session and wasn’t budging. In the end, I went for the half-arsed solution. I crawled out of bed and onto the drivers seat, opening the door just enough to let His Biggleship out on his lead. This had a low probability of success because both our Beagles are very particular about finding the “right spot”; still, if he was desperate enough, Biggles might just be happy to pee on the front tyre. I couldn’t see what was happening out there, but I waited for what I thought was a reasonable length of time and called him back in, instructing him to settle down. And so he did, albeit in our bed, along with Beanie. I went back to bed myself and just as I was starting to nod off, Biggles’ rear-end released the most noxious fart I have ever experienced. It was like those new Doritos “Heatburst” nachos that hit you with one flavor first, then follow up with a second, hotter and more intense taste as you crunch down on ’em. Only when the worst of the stench had dissipated could I finally get back to sleep. However, it wasn’t long before Biggles was requesting another trip to the outside loo.
I knew the half-arsed solution wouldn’t cut it this time, so grumbling and cursing, I dressed and took him out for a proper toilet walk. My eyes were barely open as Biggles tugged me into the lane by the campsite, but still I half-noticed that something seemed to be smeared on his bum and the base of his upright tail. My brain wasn’t sufficiently awake to ponder on this, so I just did my best to concentrate on the task in hand.
Biggles found his spot quickly and squatted. As I swayed in the breeze waiting for him to finish, my gaze landed on a council dog-fouling notice stuck on a telegraph pole. This was different from the ones I’d seen on the Ayrshire mainland – its main slogan was “leave only paw prints”. I quite liked the sound of that, and took pride in the fact that I’m never without a healthy supply of poo bags. Speaking of which, Biggles had just finished his business. I looked down at it, and instantly saw that it wasn’t normal; this was poo Jim, but not as we know it. For one thing the quantity was way higher than normal (multi-bag scenario), and though conventionally shaped, this poo was dark green in color and very slick. Regardless, I bagged it and binned it, then headed back to the van.
As I climbed back into the van my higher brain functions came back online and began to deal with the backlog of visual information I’d collected on the poo walk. The image of the smearing on Biggles bum and tail sprang back into focus, and with a sense of dread I made the connection between it and the otherworldly poo he’d just done.
“Er Sue, I think Biggles has done a poo somewhere in the van” I said, quickly checking the likely places: the foot-well by the side door, the space between the two front seats. But all was as it should be.
“Don’t worry about it, we can clean it up later” mumbled Susan.
Usually I prefer to deal with such things straight away, but on this occasion I was still so tired that procrastination seemed like a good idea. I shed my clothes and pulled back the covers as I prepared to climb back into bed. And there, on the bed sheet, I saw it.
I guess I could describe it as a “skid mark”, but that wouldn’t entirely do it justice. “Skid mark left by a rally car drifting at high speed round a particularly muddy corner” would be closer to the truth, but that’s a heck of a long description.
Instead I’ll just go for “monster-truck skid mark”; that involves a bit of exaggeration, but then let’s remember that this particular monster-truck skid mark wasn’t rubber, or mud, it was sheep poo that had been reprocessed and deposited by a little Beagle boy in our bed, while we were in it.
Leave only paw prints? Big fail on that one, Mr Biggles.