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The Moores on the Moors with Gorgeous George

House sitting a dying cat with the distinct possibility we may have to take him to the vet to be put to sleep did not seem our most promising house and cat sitting assignment but nonetheless we took it, as otherwise George's owner would have had to cancel her long-awaited, long-planned holiday. Selfishly, it gave us a chance to revisit Lynn's county of birth, Lancashire, plus spend time with my youngest brother's family who live in Altrincham, and play tennis at their stunning tennis club in Boden in the height of Summer when its 8 grass courts are in perfect condition. Grass courts are perfect if you like a volley, which I do as it means less running around and they are much easier on the knees than hard courts, though the extreme low bounce is not so good for a bloke who can't touch his toes. Our host, Boden Lawn Tennis Club, is the epitome of everything good in British tennis. Well run and well maintained by an army of volunteers, superb junior tennis programme and coaching, friendly and welcoming members, plus a well-stocked bar where we could order any, and as many, drinks as we wished and put them on my brother's tab. Happy days!!!

Anyway, back to cat sitting George... Poor old George had been so ill, his vet recommended euthanasia but his lady owner wanted her son to have the chance to say goodbye to George, so took George home to await the son's return from London. Nursing George and trying to persuade him to eat, caused a lifetime's routine of boring dried cat food to be replaced by slices of roast chicken, hand-torn into bite sized chunks, supplemented with juicy titbits of steamed fresh salmon. Faced with a regular supply of his favourite gourmet foods, Gorgeous George decided departing this mortal coil just now may be a touch premature and, as his appetite returned, so did his strength. Clearly, his nine lives haven't all been used up and George had staged a miraculous recovery by the time we arrived for house sitting and cat sitting duties.

Rather than being faced with the cat equivalent of Monty Python's Dead Parrot sketch, we were faced with a lively, chatty, beautiful cat who looked even more gorgeous than before, as his illness had caused his previously black fur to turn a deep chocolate brown. Cat sitting is, of course, far easier than dog sitting, so it was easy to forgive his vocal demands for chicken and salmon for breakfast, lunch and dinner. After dinner, George would settle himself on Lynn's lap, his favourite place for stroking and being brushed, so with barely concealed ill-grace I was forced to shift myself and sit elsewhere.

The house was perched on the edge of the moors, so lots of good walks, especially round reservoirs which were in extraordinarily, plentiful supply, mainly due to the fact that it rained for part of, or all of, every single day for 3 weeks despite it being 'Summer' up North. I imagine anyone up North who watched the film 'Noah' would have wondered what all the fuss was about, as the 'deluge' must have seemed fairly normal to them. With the constant rain and daily temperatures between 3 and 5 degrees colder than down South, I am happy to acknowledge that truly I am a fully fledged 'Southern Softie'.

On the plus side, everything up North is cheap. Honestly, it is! Everything is 'cheap as chips'. In fact, even chips are cheap! A nearby pub, The Dressers Arms at Wheelton, not only offers great beers, friendly staff, beautiful location and authentic pub decor but also a massive Carvery Sunday Lunch with 3 meats - Beef, Lamb and Chicken (not 1 meat like down South, all 3 meats served to everyone) plus roasties, potatoe gratin, cauliflower cheese, cabbage, carrots, broccoli, broad beans, Yorkshire pudding and gravy for £6.95. Not impressed??? Well, how about their weekday special of a Steak Dinner for two with a full bottle of house wine for £14.95? Two steak dinners and a bottle of wine for less than £15. On Fridays, it's two fish suppers and a bottle of wine for £14.95. Heck, both times, I was so impressed, I left them the 5p change for a tip.

In conclusion, George's owner had a great holiday exploring the West Coast of the USA. We got to see a resurgent George chasing neighbouring cats from the garden, seemingly fully recovered. Between showers, we had some great tennis at Bowden and some great reservoir walks as Lynn doesn't like hills. We will miss Gorgeous George but heading South, windswept and damp, feeling like Hertfordshire's own 'light' version of Bear Grylls and Ben Fogle, it did become noticeably drier and warmer as we neared Watford Gap services. By Milton Keynes, the sun was shining and we were quickly back in shorts and t-shirt once we got to Hitchin, so popped to the pub for a pint and glass of wine for Lynn. 'That'll be £11.80', says the barman. 'Tha' wat'? says I. 'Bloody daylight robbery that is!' 'By 'eck lad, Thee cun get 2 steak dinners and a whole bottle of wine fa tha' price oop t'North!' Who said it was good to be back???

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