I am trying to convince Phil that Macaulay needs a shower before he goes to reside with my sister for a week.
Macaulay does not like baths. He stands in baleful reproach up to his elbows in suds, punishing us telepathically, sending out searing thought waves.
We have discovered he is not opposed to the odd shower. He still looks miserable and victimised, but the thought warfare is a little less nuclear.
Phil says, “He smells fine. He doesn’t need a shower.”
I say: “Rub him with your hand and then smell it. Go on. Then tell me he doesn’t need a shower.”
Phil does so. His Oscar-winning I-Smell-Nothing acting skills come into play. “No, he says, “he just smells of dog. He’s fine.”
Time to rope in Maddie and a little artless truth. “Maddie”, I say, “give the dog a stroke and then smell your hand.”
She does, and as her hand reaches her nose her face screws up, prune like, and she exclaims in horrified delight: “Dad, he smells like a barnyard!”
The conversation meanders away as I wax lyrical about microbiology and the tiny civilisations which accompany smells, and various members of the family stampede to wash their hands.
Phil mentions casually that he might shower the dog after all.
Macaulay will be away for more than a week. It is the longest he has ever spent outside our orbit. My sister is taking him to the New Forest where he can bother ponies and chase squirrels.
We will be packing up the old dented bus and heading off down to our shabby chic retreat on the Kent coast, where there is a view to die for and a jacuzzi on the deck, and over a cup of tea we can watch the tankers jousting in the English Channel.
Tonight the dog sleeps in a different kitchen as we watch the lights of France blinking gallically across the water.
Typically, while we leave at eleven, it is seven and I have not packed so much as a sock.
We have four cases to pack before our departure, each with seven sets of smalls and enough kit to steer us through the coming week.
We have a motley assortment of receptacles, cadged from charity shops and the kindness of friends.
Felix’s is the most respectable. He sports a wheelie Spiderman case which he steered round Charles De Gaulle like a Formula One racing driver. It’s small-ish; the seven pairs of shorts and seven t shirts will fit in, just: but when we open the suitcase again the clothes acquire a rocket-assisted quality, and shoot out, relieving some of that potential energy within the case.
Mad has a big blue army surplus holdall. She never complains. It holds not only clothes, but her parliament of cuddly owls and the little make up case with her transparent mascara and seventeen varieties of lip gloss.
Phil has a posh case I once pounced on in a charity shop. It’s a weekend case, with all the brevity of a British bowler hat, and I bought it for him for £2, especially for overnight work stays. But he’s going for seven days, you remind me: how will he fit enough clothes in?
Simple: he packs enough for two days and washes stuff nightly when we get down there.
I have an old Marks and Spencer’s Gladstone bag, a Mary Poppins special. While I can’t fit the hatstand in, it does incorporate an outrageous amount of paraphernalia.
I could really do with one of those old-fashioned trunks.
Ah, the stuff of stories: the trunk was a box which might be up to one and a half metres wide, made of pine and covered in leather. Later it might be fashioned from metal. But what a chest filled with hope!
It would fit on a carriage as it flew across the moors towards Thornfield, or down to Bath for the season, or away from Miss Pinkerton’s academy towards a new life, or it might be even free of a carriage, sailing on a boat across the wide Sargasso Sea.
One might even push truth a little and say that a certain undead gentleman made his way from Transylvania to England using something not dissimilar.
The Ancient Chinese used trunks, and as I walk round my beloved Dover Castle in the coming week I shall see reconstructions of an ancient king’s luggage, each piece a splendid many-coloured chest which can be filled with treasure and carted round on progress.
The motor car and the aeroplane rendered a suitcase, made of lightweight fabric, a much more practical option. But I would wager that mothers, as they packed for their families, eyed the departure of that voluminous trunk wistfully.
One could fit the kitchen sink in there.
Image source here