Go west to happy dogs and misty mornings

Moving on from Milton Keynes, our next stop was in a place with a much more typical, evolutionary development over many centuries, Bath. We were really lucky to secure a three week house sit here, minding a well-loved Edwardian terrace house and it’s doggie occupant, Sasha.

This would be our second house sit with a dog in occupation. To be honest, I was a little apprehensive after our earlier stay in Yorkshire with a dog, proved to be a difficult one. You can read about all that drama in Teresa’s post, here.

We were faced with somewhat of an immediate challenge, even before we arrived in Bath.

Teresa didn’t enjoy her time in Milton Keynes. One of the reasons behind this was the fact that she is a very social person. Having hardly worked for six months she felt very removed from the social connections that she needs to thrive. We had some important conversations about this while we were still in MK and Teresa decided to put out feelers for work in London.

Well of course you should be careful what you ask the Universe for, because no sooner had she put her personality out there for hire, she was offered a position – and they wanted her to start the Monday following our arrival in Bath!

Suddenly we were faced with the prospect of being booked in Bath for three weeks, but Teresa having the opportunity to get her foot on the job ladder in London. We talked over this and made the decision that the London work opportunity was really something she couldn’t turn down.

So mission number one when we arrived in Bath was telling the owner that they would be down to one house sitter (me). Mission number two was finding Teresa somewhere to live in London for three weeks (I’ll leave Teresa to describe that journey).

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The Bell, a very cool pub in Bath. Saved by the patrons who came up with the whopping sum of £750,000 to buy it and prevent demolition.

Getting to Bath I decided to bring my navigation skills into the present century and employ GPS on my cellphone. Hundreds of previous miles had been negotiated via paper and pen. I would scout the route beforehand and then write out the major transitions. It worked pretty well, albeit that I went through a lot of paper and the car was full of pens in every conceivable crevice. So our first venture into GPS took us on a spectacular drive through the countryside leading into Bath. I’m still not convinced it was the quickest route, but given that we were having to get across the city in rush hour, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.

Our home owner in Bath turned out to be obliging with our change of plans. Our revised Bath house sit thus consisted of me looking after the house and walking Sasha, while Teresa would head into London during the week, returning to Bath on the weekends. Being the introverted type, I was reasonably happy to hang out by myself for the week. It was a gorgeous house, very handy to the centre of Bath. Sasha turned out to be the dog that would win every obedience test you could ever imagine. I was also getting close to completing my book, so I saw the opportunity to have this time alone as very useful and decided that it would also be a good time to build a web site from the which the book could be sold. The finished web site and book can be viewed here: www.mywellingtonplace.co.nz

So I had exploring Bath to look forward to, with dog in tow, always a good excuse to get yourself lost down some country lane.

I made my first error on morning walk #1. I forgot to take the poo bags. I had everything else though. Leash, spare leash in case first leash breaks, treats, alternative treats in case first treats prove unacceptable, ball to chase, other chasing things in case ball is not chased, and on it goes. Except for the most important thing, poo bags.  Sasha was to make sure I didn’t forget a second time. She decided to crap right outside the convenience store. I pulled off a fairly convincing, side-of-the-shoe-shuffle, managing to get most of the offending item into the gutter. I’m sure Sasha had a big doggie grin on for the rest of the walk.

Apart from that small indiscretion, Sasha proved to be the best walking companion ever. Not great at conversation but happy to go wherever I wanted and at my pace. I spent an evening searching online for somewhere to take Sasha for a longer, off-leash run where I could enjoy the countryside too. I found the perfect place at Bannerdown Common, a largish area of open grass with forested edges, about 25 minutes drive north east of home. If you got here at the right time of the day (normally early to avoid other dog walkers and especially the paid ones with multiple dogs), you could have the whole place to yourself. Dog walking bliss!

And bliss it was. We were well into the autumn months and the mornings were cool and crisp. I ventured up to Bannerdown Common most mornings with Sasha and many of those mornings were windless, with fog so thick I lost Sasha in the murk if she got more than fifty feet ahead. But for a dose of serenity, away from the crowds and surrounded by nature, it was unbeatable. The open fields held the slight apprehension that a fog monster (well, another dog) would appear at any moment, but the forested areas were a joy to wander through, thick droplets of water on every branch and glimpses through the trees over lower fields and to distant villages. This was definitely the England that I had come looking for.

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misty morning walks with Sasha
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more mistiness through trees

Living alone those few weeks while Teresa was working in London, and being the introverted type, I had to remind myself to make the effort to meet other people. One of the easiest ways of doing this when you’re new to a city is via Meetup. I joined a couple of local groups and the one that appealed to me most was dedicated to trying out the various coffee shops in Bath.

Now I should say that being an introvert doesn’t actually stop me from going out and meeting new people. It’s just finding the right environment. It helps that you’re very likely to find other people attending who are also ‘virgins’ to these groups, so at least you start on the same level. Other than that though it’s the same hit-and-miss you get with any event. I just consider it a success if I meet one person who I find interesting and they find me interesting enough to talk to too. This coffee meetup proved very successful as I met two people who I’ve stayed in contact with – not bad for a first date, so to speak!

Teresa was back on the weekends and we took one of these weekend days to travel to Bristol, to meet the owner of a potential housesit over Christmas and New Year. Sat Nav Lady took us on another interesting, elongated journey, although I had by this time transcended into Zen mode with this way of travelling, actually enjoying and often having a good laugh at the weird and wonderful lanes that she desired to take us down. Teresa will attest to the fact that ‘Zen mode’ for me is quite the achievement, given that I am prone to be very stressed when taking a wrong turn, faced with multiple lane options, or just becoming completely lost.

Kate, the Bristol owner and her seven month old kitten Elsa turned out to be lovely people (and cat) and we shook hands on the deal which would see us staying in this very nice, three storey Edwardian terrace from December 18th to January 8th.  Christmas sorted! You can read all about our time in Bristol in Teresa’s recent post.

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The golden glow of Bath

I enjoyed Bath. It didn’t really feel like a city. It’s just not that big. You can probably walk across the central area in 10 minutes. But for a smallish place to have that many tourists, it did make it unbearable during peak tourist hours. It’s pretty and probably just a little too pretty. We were yet to experience Bristol but the differences were glaringly obvious once we landed there in mid December. But credit where it’s due, Bath did win me over with its beautiful rolling countryside, and my faith in our four legged friends was restored here too.

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