Story 17: The doodles go on holiday
As the first glimmers of light crept through the curtains, DeDe woke up thinking it really has been a funny year, “I can’t remember when we last had anything to look forward to”. She flipped through the pages in her diary only to find grooming appointments and Dante’s birthday stretching between now and Christmas. It depressed her to think there were no day trips or parties on the horizon. She forced herself into a positive mood by saying to herself “I’m luckier than so many, I really must put on a smile and carry on”.
When she got downstairs Dante was already in the garden doing his routine security checks. She muttered, “I could set my watch by his routine”. As she finished her breakfast another wave of ‘poor me’ feelings swept over her. The combination of nothing to look forward to and Dante’s military lifestyle filled her with dismay.
As usual, Dante wasn’t ready to leave to catch the train and as usual DeDe had to remind him to hurry up. Walking down the hill she knew exactly where he’d stop to sniff and which passers-by he would say a bright ‘good morning’ to and the others he preferred to hurry on by.
Once they’d settled on Billy train and said hello to Phoebe, DeDe went quiet. So quiet in fact even Dante realized something was wrong. Tentatively he asked what the matter was, but he could see she was not keen to talk. “Never mind” he thought, “Lily-Poo will be at the beach and I know they tell each other their secrets, so perhaps she will feel better by lunch time”.
When they got to the beach Harley was knee deep in a hole. He was concentrating so hard he hadn’t noticed them approaching, so when they all said, “Hello” at the same time, he jumped into the air in surprise.
As normal, Phoebe, Harley and Dante went down to the sea for a paddle, leaving Lily-Poo and DeDe in the dunes. Once they were out of sight DeDe turned to Lily-Poo and with a sigh and said, “Do you really think this is all there is to life? Coming to the beach and doing the same things every day?”
DeDe went on “Dante, doesn’t ever question his lot, he’s happy in whatever he’s doing, but I’d like a bit more from life”. Before she could say more the others were dashing back and were in earshot. Once they’d shaken the salty water from their fur, Lily-Poo thought it time she broached the subject on DeDe’s behalf. “Has anyone got anything exciting planned?”
The group went quiet before Dante perked up. “We have everything right here in Camber, why would we want to go anywhere else? In fact only yesterday I received a positive thought from my brother BooBoo asking if we’d all like to go and visit him at his holiday villa near Barcelona. As much as I’d love to see him, I didn’t have to think twice, because I knew none of us would want to go all that way, with the hot weather and all that foreign food. Anyway we can see him in London or Camber whenever we want to, so I messaged him back with a polite ‘No Thank You’”
When Dante finished an awkward silence fell over them all. DeDe took a slow deep breath before quietly, but determinedly saying, “Are you telling us Dante, we’ve been invited to Spain and you’ve said, ‘No Thank You” on our behalf?”
Dante knows when DeDe’s being serious because her lip curls to the left when she’s talking. Right now her lip was curling more than it had done in a long while. Not wanting to look directly at her he whispered, “Yes, that’s about the top and bottom of it”.
“Hmmm”, said Lily-Poo, “I’m not sure you’ve made the right collective decision there, Dante. I , for one, would love a week in Spain right now, and I know DeDe would too”. Not wanting Dante to feel worse, but needing their voice to be heard, Harley and Phoebe added that they would have liked to have been asked before he’d replied on their behalf.
By the time everyone had finished talking Dante felt alone and a little vulnerable. He hadn’t wanted to upset anyone, he’d simply thought they were as happy as he was in Camber. Never liking tension, he agreed to message BooBoo saying he’d made a mistake in his last thought. Where he’d sent “No’ Thank you”, he’d meant to say, “Thank you very much, we’d all love to come!”
In a flash BooBoo replied “Great, looking forward to seeing everyone soon!”
DeDe turned to Lily-Poo with a huge smile and said, “It’s funny how things turn out, isn’t it?”
The rest of the day was spent booking flights, cancelling grooming appointments and checking what time Billy Train went to the airport.
The flight was the day after tomorrow, something Dante found difficult to grasp. Like a true friend Harley agreed to let him know when ‘the day after tomorrow’ turned into today, so he didn’t miss the flight.
DeDe and Lily-Poo spent most of that evening deciding which outfits they were going to take, while the others knew they’d take whatever was clean.
Soon the day after tomorrow did turn into today and Harley made sure Dante was up bright and early. DeDe suggested Dante didn’t have a big breakfast as there would probably be a snack on the plane, and in any case if there was turbulence he wouldn’t want a full tummy.
The airport was packed with over-excited furless two legs in long lines. Lily-Poo, who had flown before, explained they needed to find their check-in desk, so they could hand over their suitcases and make their way to the departure lounge.
They all found it difficult to find the letters “Barcelona” on the departure board, luckily Phoebe saw it first shouting, “We need to go to Desk D13”.
Desk D13 had the longest queue. There were hundreds of furless two legs in floppy sun hats and tight shorts. In what should have been a stage whisper, Phoebe said, “I think he’s put a few pounds since buying those!” When they realized some furless two legs had heard her, they looked the other way pretending not to know her.
Eventually it was their turn and the stewardess efficiently tagged their suitcases and gave them their boarding passes. Once safely through security and passport control they settled down to wait for their flight to be called.
“That’s the trouble with these budget airlines” said Lily-Poo, “We’re herded around like farm animals and you’re never completely sure the plane will leave on time”.
Thankfully, it was not long before their flight was called and they were in yet another queue crawling towards the plane. After what seemed ages they settled into their seats. Dante took the window seat, even though it should have been Phoebe’s. Phoebe preferred to sit away from the window because she didn’t want to see how far off the ground she was.
The flight was uneventful and to be honest a little dull. DeDe read an article in her lifestyle magazine suggesting sarongs were the ideal garment for poolside lounging, while Lily-Poo napped for most of the way. Dante, Harley and Phoebe watched a film called ‘what to see and where to eat in Barcelona.
Suddenly there was a ping-pong sound and the pilot announced they were starting their descent into Barcelona. None of them liked the loud noise the breaks made to slow the plane down, and everyone was relieved when the plane bumped back on the ground. As they walked off the plane the warm air engulfed them, “Hurrah, we’re on holiday” said Harley with a huge smile on his face.
It didn’t take long to collect their luggage, as they walked through the sliding doors marked ‘EXIT’ BooBoo was waiting with a big sign saying ‘TAXI FOR THE CAMBERDOODLES”
After much ‘Hello’ dancing and helicopter wagging tails, they made their way out to the taxi. BooBoo took the front seat so he could easily give the driver directions, while the others piled in the back. They were not used to the dazzling Spanish sunshine, and one by one they found their sun glasses and started to admire the spectacular views. Soon the taxi had left the city behind them and headed towards the foothills of the Pyrenees.
BooBoo’s villa is on the outskirts of a little village in the foothills of the mountains. The house sits in the middle of a big square plot carved away from the hill. A row of ancient olive trees form a natural wall between the patio and the swimming pool, while in the distance is a vegetable patch full of red peppers, tomatoes and aubergines, all ripening in the Mediterranean sunshine.
"We're so lucky to have family with a villa in Spain" thought DeDe
With glee they surveyed BooBoo’s luxury holiday home and the magnificent countryside beyond. Before going to her room DeDe counted the sun loungers by the pool just to make sure there was one for each of them. Thankfully there was, so she wouldn’t have to leave a towel to mark her spot and quickly followed the others into the house.
Dante was pleased to see his bedroom was tucked at the back of the house, so hopefully nobody would be disturbed by his snoring. DeDe and Lily-Poo were thrilled to be sharing a bathroom and quickly laid out their lotions and creams on every available surface.
BooBoo, as the perfect host, had arranged a first night barbecue by the pool and soon the air was filled with the smell of sausages, chicken thighs and burgers. “This is heaven” thought DeDe, “we’re so lucky to have family with a villa in Spain!”
As they ate dinner the air cooled and talk turned to how they’d spend the holiday. It didn’t take long before they’d agreed that tomorrow would be a day by the pool and the day after they’d go sightseeing to Barcelona.
After licking the last of the chicken from their plates, sleep swept over them all. It had been an exciting day but now they just wanted their beds.
As planned they spent the first day of the holiday lounging by the pool, taking it in turns to fix barbecues for breakfast, lunch and supper. Harley and Dante spent their time throwing a giant ball around in the pool and every time it hit the water a big splash drenched whoever was sunbathing nearby. The first few times everyone thought it funny, but after a while they considered Dante and Harley to be ‘really irritating’. Thankfully a gust of wind carried the ball off down to the vegetable plot, where it stayed for the remainder of the afternoon.
That evening, after dinner, BooBoo brought out the guidebooks and they started to plan their sightseeing for the next day.
“I’d like to visit that funny building I’ve read all about” said Phoebe. Dante looked at her vaguely wondering which famous piece of Spanish architecture he might have to spend hours traipsing around.
“Which building is that Phoebe?” he asked,
“The one with the antlers growing out of the front of it” she said. BooBoo scratched his head, wondering what she was talking about, but luckily before he had to say anything more Phoebe pointed at a photo in the guidebook, saying, “This one, here’s the building we should visit” BooBoo recognized the photo as La Sagrada Familia and explained this would certainly be on the tour. Harley said he would like to visit the Olympic stadium and Lily-Poo voted for tapas on Las Ramblas.
Early the next morning, they climbed into a taxi and headed to the city. By the time the taxi dropped them off it was already proving to be a hot day, so before going anywhere, they agreed a cool drink in Las Ramblas would set them up for sightseeing.
They found a sweet little cafe in a side street, just off Las Ramblas. They ordered a mixture of ice creams and iced yoghurt, washed down with bottled Pyrenean water. Dante was happy with the water but not keen on the ice cream, it didn’t taste like the ice cream from the cafe at Camber. He asked if they imported ice cream from Camber Sands, but unfortunately the waiter couldn’t understand what he was saying. He gave up when DeDe interrupted, encouraging him to embrace new things. Dante sighed, “I know what I like and it’s not this foreign ice cream”
When they’d finished and had apologized to the waiter for Dante’s poor behaviour, they retraced their way back to the hustle and bustle of the main streets.
“There are two types of people” thought Dante, “those that enjoy seeing new things and those who are very happy with the familiar. I’d choose Camber over Barcelona every day!”
Soon they were all standing in front of La Sagrada Familia in all its grandeur. For a doodle with average size legs this building is very big, bigger than anything they know in Camber. Harley, who prefers buildings to be proportioned and symmetrical, noticed, on looking at this church, he had a headache coming on. Lily-Poo and DeDe on the other hand gasped in awe of its ‘beauty and splendour’.
DeDe told the others this monumental basilica is known in Spanish as "el Templo Expiatorio de La Sagrada Familia", which literally translates to the "Expiatory Temple of the Sacred Family".The style of this exquisite shrine is Gothic Modernism, or Noucentisme to the Catalans, otherwise known as Art Nouveau.
“It’s just a shame they didn’t have a spirit level handy” said Harley as they made their way up the steps to the huge front doors.
“Why isn’t it finished?” Asked Phoebe as she looked up at the cranes swinging around above her.
Luckily Lily-Poo knew the answer and quickly beat DeDe by saying, “ The first piece of ground was dug in 1882, however the first brick was not laid until the following August. It is planned to be finished no later than 2026. This means the building will have taken a total of 144 years to complete, which is longer than any of the Egyptian pyramids!”
Once inside Dante and Harley found a quiet place to sit while the others took the guided tour. Dante and Harley did occasionally look up to admire the ornate ceiling or glance at a stained glass window, but soon their eyelids felt heavy and they dozed off.
More than two hours later DeDe embarrassingly nudged Dante to wake up, ashamed how he could possibly have fallen asleep when there were such magnificent treasures to see.
As they made their way to the exit Phoebe and Lily-Poo popped some coins in a very grand water feature, while quickly telling Dante it was not a doodle drinking bowl. Once outside it took a little while to get used to the sunlight, but soon they were discussing what they might do next.
“I think we should find another cafe and have a Magdalena to perk us up” said Phoebe. Nobody disagreed and soon they were sitting under an umbrella munching sweet cake and sipping a bubbly orange drink.
Dante and Harley were keen to visit the Olympic park, while DeDe and Lily-Poo preferred to go shopping. Phoebe was unsure what to do, but eventually decided on joining the boys at the stadium. As they paid the cafe ‘la cuenta’, remembering to leave a tip, DeDe gave the boys clear instructions to be at the Taxi rank no later than 6:30pm. This gave them over two hours to see the stadium. It also gave her and Lily-Poo plenty of time to check out the handbag shops, which they’d heard were famous in Barcelona.
When it’s something they want to do, Harley and Dante do their research, so unlike La Sagrada Familia, they’d read a lot about the Estadi Olimpic Luis Companys stadium. They knew it was a quick tram ride away from the centre and that it had originally been built for the 1929 International Exposition. It was renovated in 1989 to be the main stadium for the 1992 Summer Olympics. Although now used as an amateur football pitch, the outer race track is still there.
It took minutes for the tram to arrive at the stadium and soon they were standing in front of the magnificent building looking at the tall iron gates. Unfortunately, hanging on one of the gate was a sign saying: ABIERTO POR LAS MANANAS, which Phoebe said meant OPEN IN THE MORNINGS. Dante sat down on the hot Spanish pavement and felt he was about to cry.
“The one thing I wanted to see on this holiday is closed, why did I agree to visit that Church when we should have been here? I suppose we will have to go back without seeing the stadium” said Dante.
Harley and Phoebe were also disappointed, but could see that Dante was sadder. Trying to cheer him up Phoebe said, “We’ve got time to wander around the outside”.
They walked away from the iron gates following the high walls of the stadium. The mixture of pale bricks and arched windows seemed to go on for ever, but all of a sudden they were in front of another set of iron gates. These gates were also locked with the same sign about mornings only openings, but this time Harley noticed one of the bottom grilles was missing and perhaps the gap was large enough for them to slide through.
Being the smallest Phoebe went first. She crouched down and slid herself gently under the gate. Harley went next, and although he did feel the squeeze he also managed to slide in. Dante knew he’d put on a few pounds lately so was worried to be the last one left on the outside. He lowered himself gingerly to the ground, spreading his back legs behind him so his belly was as flat as possible. He could feel the tarmac grate his belly and the grilles tighten along his back. Gently he edged deeper under the gate. When he thought he was nearly clear he noticed he was pushing but not moving. Fear spread through his body when he realized he was stuck! Thankfully, Phoebe and Harley came to the rescue by grabbing his paws and pulled him clear of the gate. They were in the Stadium and what’s more they had it all to themselves!
Dante shook the dust off his coat and gazed at the vastness of the place, he forgot about the others and it didn’t take long before he was hearing the cheer of the crowd in his head. He was coming out to run the race of his life - the final 400 metres for Olympic gold. Majestically he walked to the starting blocks and placed his paws ready to hear the starter’s pistol fire.
In a flash he was off, and the roar of the crowd filled his ears as he gained speed for the first 100 metres. The competition was tough, his arch rival was matching him stride for stride, and as they hit the final 100 metres marker Dante knew it was now or never. This was his chance to go for gold. Somewhere deep in his psyche he found the reserves and sprinted over the line a fraction of a second in front.
Dante had won the gold medal, he was Olympic champion 1992! He looked up at the adoring crowd and started his lap of honour. Midway around the stadium he heard a voice jolting him back to reality. “I think we better leave now if we’re going to meet the others on time” said Harley
Dante didn’t worry about getting under the gates this time. He’d ‘won his gold medal’ and that’s all that mattered. In any case he’d managed to get in the stadium so surely he would be able to get out? He let the others go first just in case he needed a pull, but the race must have used up a few calories because he slid under with ease this time.
When they arrived back in the city, DeDe and Lily-Poo were waiting patiently at the taxi rank with their shopping. When asked if he’d enjoyed the trip, Dante grinned and said, “It was the best!”
That evening, after supper, Dante, slid back into his thoughts, reliving the 400 metres and the roar of the crowd, while the others made plans for tomorrow. There were other days out during their holiday, one to the lakes higher in the mountains and another to a taverna to eat big thick beef steaks, but nothing, in Dante’s eyes beat the day he ran his race of a lifetime.
As with all holidays, soon it was time to say good bye to BooBoo, thank him for his generous hospitality and make their way back to the airport and home to Camber.
Perhaps, thought Dante, DeDe might be right. Perhaps the change of scenery had done him good. He knew his heart would always be in Camber, but perhaps just a little was lost to the stadium in Barcelona………..
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