Further conversations with a boat cat….

“Artemis, you’ll have to move in a minute, You are lying on an old piece of towel which I need for something else”.

‘No, I am a goddess and this is my day bed, I am lying here.’

“But you’ve been lying there for three hours. Wouldn’t you like a bit of exercise, maybe a stretch and a bite to eat?”

I repeat – I need my rest. I have a lot of prowling to do later tonight.”

“Look – I’ll swap that bit of old towel for one of my best comfy cushions with Greek embroidery on…”

‘I’ll think about it….. dont rush me. It took me ages to get settled and now you want me to move. That’s not a very nice way to treat your cat goddess, is it?’

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“And also you are blocking the locker door where your boat daddy keeps his tools, he needs something in a minute….”

‘Why are you treating me so badly? I’ll report you to the animal cruelty society…..’ Yawns lazily and changes position.

“Come on, let me lift you onto this cushion……..”

Loud screech and claws extended. ‘Don’t touch me, I’ve spend hours cleaning my gorgeous white fur…..’

“How about some early dinner? You can have chicken pate or seafood chunks.”

‘What about some of that gourmet stuff they advertise on TV? How about you feed it to me by hand in small pieces then I won’t have to get off this cushion?’

Male boat human arrives, opens locker door, sending a furry feline flying. Cat slopes off and settles down on  the female’s best fleecy top…….

The “Stuffocation” theory….. do you agree?

There’s a new book being promoted at the moment, called “Stuffocation” by James Wallman. Although I haven’t yet read the whole book, it describes how people just have too much ‘stuff’ in their lives. Too many possessions. Buying things they thing they want, but don’t really need.
It’s true, isnt it? Kids have too many toys, we all have too many clothes, our homes are filled with kit we don’t use or need – just think of your kitchen cupboards, for example!
The author describes how we should get rid of all these unnecessary items, we all have more stuff than we could ever need, and we soon get bored with it. We’re not any happier just because we have everything we want, in fact it’s making us stressed, it’s bad for the planet, and we are being ‘stuffocated’. This has really struck a chord with me, and I am in total agreement!

As some of you may know, I live in Greece on a boat. I have done so for the past five years, although recently I’ve been back to the UK for some months over the winter to see family and my lovely grandchildren. But I don’t have a house I can live in, or call home. I used to have a home, a very nice home that I loved dearly, which was full of my possessions. I’m used to moving house, in fact I have lived in 38 different places, many of them abroad, including 21 homes before the age of 20! So I know the angst of having to sort through possessions, pack everything up, and cart it somewhere else. But it did get less, each time, and you get used to being ruthless and chuck out that horrid lamp that you never liked, or the suitcase of clothes that will never again fit you. But I’ve never been one of these people who can leave one place with just a suitcase, how is it possible to do that? There’s certain things you just have to keep with you. But now, living on a boat, you come to realise that you don’t need most of the stuff that you have.

Crunch time came first in March 2008 and I left my own home for a short lived job in Greece, where I was going to live in a furnished flat. I decided to rent out my UK house, never to live there again, so I was ruthless and gave away virtually all my furniture, kitchen appliances, clothes, soft furnishings, lamps, TVs, garden equipment. Who needs all this stuff if they’re going to be living in the Greek sunshine? A certain amount of belongings I just couldn’t part with, and about ten large packing boxes of winter clothes, books and special possessions went into storage, which I claimed back when I returned to the UK a year later. But as the “Stuffocation” theory suggests, I didn’t need most of it, and it still ended up being disposed of later!

The next turning point came in July 2010 when my soon-to-be new husband Tim and I decided to buy a sailing yacht and live aboard. This time, almost everything had to go, there’s simply not that much room on a boat! I vividly remembering taking at least seven trips to the charity shop, mostly clothes and shoes that I never wore, and would never need again. To tell you that I only took thirteen pairs of shoes with me when I moved aboard Fandancer, gives you some idea of my Imelda Marcos shoe and boot fetish! Presently I think I have about six pairs on board – flipflops, crocs, deck shoes, walking sandals, sailing boots, plimsolls, one pair of best sandals. Oh, that’s seven…. How do men live with only one pair? I could never choose just one pair!

It was very difficult to part with everything – how can you throw away framed photos that children have given you? Or jewellery bought as presents that you know you will never be wearing on a boat? Or little ornaments or souvenirs I had collected over the years? Or books I really liked? I had to be ruthless, and I did shed a tear when things were packed up, ready to give away.

But living on a boat makes you realise that you don’t need much “stuff”. I know I’ve still got things on board that I never use and should dispose of. Imagine the empty locker space available that we would have if I had another clear out. But my husband would only fill up the spare space with his tools, paint, spare parts and other boat ‘stuff’ that I’m sure we don’t need, so I think I’ll guard my things for just a bit longer…..

Beggar be quick!

While my marvellous man is working hard on our boat, and has convinced me several times that I can’t be of any help at the moment, I am staying in a little Greek studio apartment some distance away from the boatyard, in a coastal village of Nikiana, south of Lefkas town. This morning I took a trip to Lidl, on the outskirts of Lefkas. The car park was practically empty, and a lot of the customers in the store were British!

Sitting on the ground outside the main entrance to the store, was a beggar. It’s typical to see beggars hanging round supermarkets here, in the hope that customers will give them some small change, or some food when they leave, and often small children of beggars hang around to ask if they can take your trolley back for you, and keep the euro you put in to release it. Normally I just ignore these beggars, as they are not usually local people, but are gypsies from places like Albania, Romania or Poland, and some times can be aggressive or intimidating. But this morning’s beggar was different. She was about 15 or 16, and was holding a tiny baby. She seemed to be Greek, and was speaking Greek, and was a smiley, pleasant person, under the circumstances, saying good morning, and how are you? to the customers entering the store.

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Now, I’m not known for being a very charitable person. I rarely make donations to charity, I don’t buy Big Issue magazines and I don’t give to beggars.  My view is that if I want to donate, I will, but I dislike being forced to do so. But this morning something struck a chord and I couldn’t help thinking about this unfortunate girl and her baby as I walked round filling my trolley. Yes, she probably made a mistake in having a baby at such an early age having no money to support herself, but it wasn’t the baby’s fault, so I decided to give her some food when I left, as I had seen other people doing.

So while I was walking round, I was trying to decide what would be the best small items to give to the beggar girl. She’s probably not going to appreciate a fancy box of chocolates or a jar of gherkins. Should I buy milk for the baby? Would she like fresh bread? After much thought, I added an extra carton of fruit juice to my basket, and a bunch of bananas. I was careful to make sure they went last onto the belt at the checkout, so I would have them easily to hand when I got outside.
After paying for my shopping, I pushed my trolley out of the store and headed for the car, with my extra items in my hand, ready to hand over.   I felt very righteous and was looking forward to carrying out my act of kindness.    But the girl and her baby were gone! Nowhere to be seen. I looked up and down the road, but no sign of her. I wonder if she had been brought there in a car and left in a car. Perhaps she would be back later. So my proposed good deed for the day backfired……

It’s souvlaki time again – plus kalamari, moussaka and ouzo……

Well, I guess all the painful travel arrangements were worth it – we arrived back on Greek soil in brilliant sunshine at about 1015am Greek time yesterday, having left our temporary winter home in the UK at 1830 the previous evening. Artemis, The Luckiest Cat in Greece – was returned to her place of birth after spending a very long time in her cat carrier, and telling everyone around how mean and cruel we were to her, by yowling at the top of her voice for almost the whole journey. I think she was mostly complaining that she hadn’t been fed for 12 hours!

We picked up a hire car at the very tiny Ionnina airport (only two flights a day, from Athens) and drove two hours south to Lefkas Island – the only island in Greece that is joined to the mainland by a very small lifting bridge, to allow boats to pass through the tiny channel. Hiring a car in Greece is so much simpler than in the UK – if you don’t have the right documents they just shrug their shoulders as if to say “no problem”, or ask you to bring it later. We didn’t have the original booking voucher, and didn’t have a credit card, only a debit card, but that was fine.

Another time in Greece, in Lefkas town, after paying the princely sum of 14 euro to hire a small car for the day, no deposit required, the car hire office told us when returning the car later, to park it some distance from the office and put the keys through their letter box! We were very tempted to substitute a toy pedal car for the actual car, or remove some of its fixtures and fittings, as they had no proof of who we actually were when we took the car in the morning! And once on Mykonos, due to parking problems, the office man actually gave us a photo of the car we had hired, showing its colour and number plate, as he didn’t have time to take us to the car park and handover the car! We returned it to the same spot and returned the keys, and they never checked it at all, again, no deposit needed.

Back to Ionnina airport – I misheard the very nice car rental lady – I thought she said –  “You have a very lovely car….” – and I got all excited as I thought she was going to give us the latest prestige BMW automatic with all the luxury extras, but it turned out that she actually said – “you have a very lovely CAT…..”  – so we ended up with a scruffy Fiat Panda……it’s most endearing feature being that when engaging reverse gear, the knob and the spring underneath at the top of the gear stick eject themselves fiercely, and end up on the floor under your feet, so you have to scrabble around to find them, before moving on. This happened twice, even before leaving the car park…..

So it was back to Fandancer today, the first time we have seen her for over six months. She has been out of the water at the Ionion Marine yard in Preveza., where there are hundreds of boats stored for the winter. I think Tim was secretly very excited at seeing her again, and couldn’t wait to get aboard, jumping out of the car before I turned off the engine, and even stealing someone else’s ladder before ours was delivered.  When we left her in October, it was the worst weather ever, with torrential rain and wind, not ideal conditions for tying down tarpaulins and keeping everything dry. So our first job was to undo hundreds of pieces of string, rope and tape that secured several tarpaulins over her cockpit and wheelhouse.

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Down below, everything was just as we had left it, no apparent leaks, and just one small minor damp problem which had attacked Tim’s leather belt, an old tee shirt and his working shorts stored in a closed locker. Everything else was bone dry – all the bedding, pillows, upholstery, towels etc, nothing smelt of damp, all fresh as a daisy. The first job was to check the batteries – we bought them new five years ago, expensive heavy duty ones, with a separate one for starting the engine. We didn’t expect a problem, so it was a bit of a surprise when Tim reported they were not showing any charge at all! After a bite to eat and time to mull things over, Tim realised that he had omitted to include the starter battery on his test, so the circuit was incomplete, hence no charge showing. Once this was rectified, the batteries displayed the correct voltage and he declared them healthy and good to go!

We have exactly two weeks to get Fandancer ready for re-launch, and as well as general engine maintenance, the main job will be to work on the outside of the hull – new anti-fouling paint on her bottom, and a good clean and scrub-up on her white topsides. There is plenty of work also needed down below, but lots of these jobs can wait until after we are afloat, and we will probably stay another week on Preveza quay or in the marina, getting her ready to sail and start this year’s adventures….

Mixed emotions……

This time next week we’ll be back at our yacht Fandancer, in Greece.    All three of us.    Husband Tim, me, and Artemis – the luckiest cat in Greece.     We’ve been in the UK since mid-October last year, staying mostly in a holiday cottage in Hampshire, but the last two weeks we have been staying with a good friend in Winchester until we fly back to Greece.

 

So I need to get back in the Greek Groove.    I need to psych myself up for the next six months of boat living, in the glorious Greek sunshine.     But this is very difficult for me, as I’ve decided I love being back in England, with friends, family and especially my wonderful grandchildren nearby.   But I know I must return to Greece.     It’s not possible for me to stay in the UK.   I’ve had my six months of family time, now it’s Tim’s turn to return to his beloved boat and mess about on the water in that Bohemian lifestyle that he loves.    I love the sunshine too.   And Greece!

 

You notice that I don’t say ‘our’ boat.    I’ve always thought of it as Tim’s boat.    When we bought her five years ago, I was the complete beginner, never having lived on a boat before, only ever been on holidays on sailing yachts, I knew nothing very much about boats or sailing, and didn’t appreciate all the hard work involved in the upkeep of a boat.   Tim was, and still is, in charge.    He chose the boat, completely renovated her single handed, I had very little say in any decisions, and still feel this way.    I’m happy to follow orders, but all the important decisions about everything are Tim’s.

 

I was in awe of a sailing friend once, when we were talking to her about their boat, and she said ‘my radar’ and ‘my anchor’ , and said she was off to buy herself some new engine parts.    I never ever think of things on the boat as mine, because I don’t know enough about them, and don’t feel I have ownership of anything.    Except maybe the galley stuff.    I ferociously guard my best knives, chopping boards, pans etc, as though I’m  trying to protect the one tiny space on the boat that I can call my own.

 

So, that’s the way it is.   I don’t feel like I’m going ‘home’ to the boat.    A few years ago, I desperately wanted it to feel like my home, and tried really hard, but I always had those feelings of homesickness for my family, who were so far away.      But for Tim’s sake, I mustn’t turn into Mrs Grumpy.    I’m trying to be upbeat, and trying to look forward to the next six months.   I’ll treat it as an extended holiday.     I’ll take lots of photos and wrote more blogs.    I love the sunshine and being afloat, but of course there’s some things I find hard, living aboard in a relative small space in a foreign country.    But hey, not everyone gets the chance to do what we do, so I must appreciate this and make the most of it……

Houses, boats and cats…….

I named this blog AquaHolic as I wanted it to be a journal of our adventures on our yacht Fandancer.    However, we left Fandancer in Greece for the winter and we came back to the UK for a while to see families and friends.    So I’m afraid so far it hasn’t  been very boaty, or travel related, or contain any fabulous photos of our Greek islands adventure….

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What has been happening while we have been in England is that firstly, I have been renovating and redecorating my house in Romsey, Hampshire, which is soon to have new tenants.

We have also been looking after Artemis, the cat that we rescued in Greece and brought back to UK with us.   She is a delight, and has been very adaptable living in different places, and hopefully she is looking forward to returning to her native Greece quite soon.      Some complicated travel arrangements have been put in place on her behalf – I hope she appreciates the trouble we have gone to!

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Thirdly, I have continued with my magazine writing, with some success, I had yet another piece published in the current issue of Practical Boat Owner!

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So in two weeks and five days we will be back in the boatyard with Artemis, and Fandancer.  I’m sure the time will go really quickly, unfortunately, as I’ve loved being back in the UK over the winder, especially being close to my three adorable grandchildren who I will miss very much…… Sob sob.

Update on my Romsey house……

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Although I had 15 viewings over two months, with two couples having three viewings each, I didn’t get any offers to buy my house, suggesting estate agent overvalued it in the first place. I need to make as much money from the sale as I can, so I can eventually a afford to buy somewhere very small outright, elsewhere. I have to pay mortgage and council tax each month, and now I’m running out of money, so the best thing financially is to rent it out again, although I would rather not have tenants, as they never look after it like it is their own.

Anyway, I decided to rent it out last week and after much research, I chose a local agent specialising in Lettings that are supposed to be the number 1 agent in Romsey. On the phone he assured me he had a queue of people wanting to rent a house like mine in Romsey, and last week they put a house on the market like mine, and the next day six couples saw it and all wanted to rent it immediately. One of the disappointed couples is relocating to Romsey for work and desperate for somewhere, and on being told about my house and seeing the photos on RightMove, she wanted to rent the house without even seeing it for real and before it was on the market! Goody, I thought, big smiles, this sounds fantastic!
The Lettings agent knew I was nervous about renting out my house again so suggested we meet them at the property on Saturday so we could see if we liked the couple and get to know a bit about them and if they were the sort of people we wanted.
We arrived at the house, and the agent and couple arrived soon after. I could tell instantly from her body language she wasn’t going to take it! They were there about two minutes, asked no questions, no eye contact, didn’t have a conversation with us. I was also really cross because the wretched agent brought them in the back door, as I suggested, then proceeded to show them round, firstly marching them into the least appealing feature of the house, the downstairs bathroom!
I nearly screamed at him to stop, but couldn’t. You don’t show someone the worst thing first, he should have walked them through the lovely kitchen, through the sunny dining room and into the wonderful sitting room with feature fireplace and log burning stove! What an idiot!

After they left, the agent said he would have a chat with the couple and get back to us with feedback. We waited at the property for an hour with no contact from him, then gave up and left.  Complete waste of our time being there.   A phone message from him a little later told us that the woman thought the rent too high, despite knowing what it was before she came, and also had seen something else she preferred more. So much for her desperately wanting it the day before! Bl*ody agent – I’m sure he had made all this up! Luckily we hadn’t signed anything with him, and I’ve now decided to look for a different agent who I am meeting on Monday.
Over the years, so far THREE local agents have p*ssed me off and I won’t use them again. I’m running out of agents! Returning to Greece in less than a month – I want a nice tenant in there and some rent paid before we leave. And don’t get me started on the extortionate fees the agents charge before someone even moves in…….

Not a peaceful night…….

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3.21am. I’m fast asleep. The next minute I am subject to a surprise cat Ninja strike  –  all four paws landing heavily on my stomach after a single leap from floor. “Open the door! Quick, open the door! I’ve got to go outside right now!”
This isn’t a plea for a toilet break. She has a litter tray in the bathroom which she regularly uses.
At my peril I ignore the ninja activity, I turn over and try to go back to sleep.

3,22am. What sounds like someone running their nails down a blackboard, registers in my brain. The cat has this crazy method of signalling she wants to go out by alternately scraping both her front claws down the glass on the balcony door, very rapidly.

“Are you sure? It’s starting to rain and the wind is blowing hard…..” I know her trick. She just wants to look outside then will come straight back in.

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“Let me out. NOW, I have to go out and hunt for enemy mice. If I don’t, the world will be overrun with them…”
3.23am. I clamber sleepily out of bed, and open the balcony door. A force ten gale almost knocks me off my feet. The cat pokes her nose out gingerly. I encourage her to go out, using my foot. The internal bedroom door then bangs shut with the force of the wind. The cat assures me she needs it open as she has to have permanent access to her food and litter tray. I wedge the internal door open with a stuffed toy and a leopardskin furry slipper. I climb back into bed. It’s like sleeping in a wind tunnel! Husband is still asleep and oblivious to all this…..

3.23 and 20 seconds. Cat returns.
3.24am. I get out of bed, shut the balcony door.
3.25am. Cat decides to ask to be let out again, but uses a different approach. She stealthily climbs up on the bed, approaching from the side of my pillow, and proceeds to make herself comfortable by sitting on my head. I am lying on my side so she settles down on my head with one paw draped over my right eye, and her little furry chin on my neck. I can feel her cold nose and her breath. She is purring very loudly. I cannot move. I pretend to be asleep, but she knows I’m not.

3.30am. Cat decides she wants a drink so she climbs over my head and onto my bedside table and helps herself to my glass of water. I can hear her raspy tongue slapping against the water. I may as well put her name on the glass, she does this almost every night…

3.35am. She wanders back to the closed balcony door, and finding it closed, does a second ninja leap onto my thigh, her pointy legs walking all over me like I’m being massaged by wooden spoon handles. She then return to the door and starts making noises, mewing in a very grumpy, cross, grumbly sort of way, that only a cat owner would understand….
Husband gets up and proceeds to open the door for her.
Don’t bother, I tell him, she’ll only come back in, in ten seconds.
Door is opened.
Cat returns in ten seconds…….

4.59am. I have to get up for the loo. Cat wakes from a deep coma and turns into a furry rocket in a nanosecond. She races me to the kitchen.
“I’m so hungry! I need food! Why don’t you ever feed me?”

“You had a whole bowl at bedtime. How could you possibly need more? Can’t you wait until we get up for breakfast?”
“Feed me NOW! Can’t you see how skinny I am? I might die of starvation!

5.01am. Cat gets fed. I stumble about in the dark and open a new bag of Go-Cat beef and chicken……
7.45am. I wake up with a dead leg due to cat sleeping on my knee.

How was your night?

I’m going on a journey…..

Hello everyone, it’s Artemis here, or TLCIG as my keepers call me. The Luckiest Cat in Greece. And I’m going to be returning to Greece! As you know, I have been living in luxury on a sailing yacht since I was rescued. Then the humans decided to leave the boat in Greece and bring me back to England for the winter. Why they wanted to come back to somewhere that is colder and rainier than Greece is beyond me. I think it was something to do with that cute blonde mini-person they call Ted, who visits me sometimes.

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The other day I was sleeping peacefully on the bed in the sunshine, when Ted barges in and proceeds to tempt me to play with all the cat toys he can find. He throws plastic jingly balls at me, tries to make me catch a toy bird on an elastic string, and dangles a toy mouse in front of me. Come on Ted – I’ve been hunting mice all night, I need to sleep! I have a nice stretch and slowly extend a friendly paw towards him, which makes him scream as he seems to have an aversion to my claws and thinks I’m going to eat him, but I’m too lazy to do that today.

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Anyway, the humans found my folding cat travel basket and were measuring it. They were muttering something about me being too fat to get in it, I can’t think what they mean.     They told me I will be going on a journey consisting of two plane flights and a two-hour car hour journey to get back to the boat. As long as I can sleeeeeeeep and get given the occasional cat treat, that’s ok with me………..

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A special birthday….

Hello Ketch Kitten fans!

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Today is my Purrrrthday! February 1. Well, that’s my official birthday, not my actual birthday. No-one knows exactly when I was born, but I’m officially one year old! And what a year it’s been. I’ve been to 13 different Greek Islands, and three other countries apart from Greece. As well as my yacht that I live on, I’ve been on two planes, a car ferry, and had lots of car rides. I’ve stayed in the cat hotel twice, and am now living in Hampshire for the winter.

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I was most likely born in the little Greek town of Limni, on the island of Evia. I wonder how many brothers and sisters I had? I was found inside the engine of a Toyota 4×4 truck, so maybe I travelled in the truck from somewhere else! I’m very feisty and adventurous, so maybe I got separated from my mummy cat and couldn’t find her, so hid in the truck for safety. I was yowling my tiny head off for simply ages, until I was rescued by the humans. They certainly took their time – they walked away and left me to start with, then the guilt kicked in and they came back a few hours later to rescue me, quite right too! They took me to their yacht, Fandancer, moored in the harbour. I was unceremoniously dumped in the galley sink and washed with detergent twice – no-one knew what colour I actually was, as I was covered in engine oil and dirt.

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Several trips to the Greek vet’s later, where I was de-fleaed (so undignified!), wormed and vaccinated, I blossomed into a beautiful Greek kitten, mostly white with tabby patches, a tabby head and tail. They called me Artemis, after the Greek goddess of hunting, and the moon. Lean and slinky, I’m the epitome of an authentic Aegean cat, a recognised Mediterranean breed. I’m very vocal, loyal to those who care for me, and I love water! My first proper meal was a tin of tuna, then the humans fed me some of their pork dinner, after which I progressed to proper cat food. I’m very fussy though. One day I go crazy for a particular brand and type of food, then then another day you can give me the exact same food and I won’t touch it. Well, I am a goddess, and can do what I like!

I’ve had so many adventures while living on the boat – during the day when we are sailing I sleep in the corner of the cockpit on a cushion, or in a box in the wheelhouse shelter. In the evening when it gets dark, I like to run like crazy all over the boat, from bow to stern, on the sun canopy, and jump onto the sail covers. I like hunting for moths and cicadas. As soon as we get into a harbour, I want to go and explore! We often moor stern-to, and once I jumped off the stern too early as I misjudged the distance. I belly-flopped into the water – most undignified! If we are at anchor, I can’t go ashore, and get very cross when the humans go off in their dinghy without me. I yowl loudly at them and lean right off the swim platform so they think I’m going to fall in. Sometimes thimagee male human feels sorry for me and takes me ashore in the dinghy so I can have a run about on a beach or rocky shore. I’m very clever and will come back when I’m called.

I’ve had a few narrow escapes – once I climbed too far up a tree and I was VERY scared. Lots of people stood round the tree, scratching their heads and making suggestions. When they went away, I came down by myself, very cautiously, and ran back to the boat as if nothing had happened. Another time, in Zakynthos harbour, I went ashore just as it was getting dark, and stayed out ALL night! The humans were getting terribly worried and spent half the night looking for me, and all the next morning. They feared the worst, but I was fine, I sauntered on board at midday and slept for a very long time! No one knows my secret of what I got up to that night….

Well, as it’s my birthday, I’m looking forward to being pampered for the whole day today. I’d like to be hand fed some poached fish, or steamed chicken. I shall lie on the humans’ favourite chairs all day, then run around and want to play just as they go off to bed…….