Before I go into what’s done and dusted, let me share with you a few images from this past week or so. It has been rather splendid; temperatures in the high teens (today should to top 20°C briefly) and lots of clear skies and sunshine.
All this will end today, according to Météo France, but daytime highs are still projected to reach double figures every day until the beginning of December. What that means to me, in practical terms, is that I shan’t need to change to the winter tyres on our Twingo for at least another week.
On to the main story. As you will recall, the purpose of National Novel Writing Month is to write a novel of not less than 50000 words, which equates to about 130 pages in paperback (according to Scrivener). The rules are simple: it must be a work of prose fiction and it should be started from scratch. I may have cheated a little, in that I didn’t exactly start with an empty screen. The beginning of my story, Knight & Deigh, is a re-telling of part of my other yarn, The Orphans, but told from the viewpoint of one of its supporting characters. It then branches off to tell its own tale.
I have to admit that I really enjoyed building this book, so much so that I had completed the required word count and reached the end of the story by 18 November. The challenge is, in one way, reminiscent of formal examinations, in that the time allowed is thirty days, but if you complete early, you can hand your work in and leave the room. The software that the organisers use to verify word count and announce success (they call it ‘winning’, but as there is no prize beyond the right to display a badge and wear a t-shirt, and as everyone who passes the 50000-word mark before midnight on 30 December is declared a ‘winner’, the term may be misleading) isn’t available until 20 November, so I spent a couple of days refining and in-filling before submitting my words for counting. I think there is still room for more content within the book; more sub-plots and side-adventures, perhaps; but that will wait until it goes into phase 2 – revision and editing.
My plan is to put Knight & Deigh to one side, and go back to The Orphans, driving that book to completion. It will then rest, like a roasted joint of meat, while I revise and edit Knight & Deigh, and so on, until I am happy that both volumes are fit for release into the wild.
During the writing of the novel, I took a couple of days out so we could return Gypsy and Shitsu to Tania and Romain. That was, for us, something of a worry. Let me explain why.
Three days after I collected them from Romain, Gypsy started coughing. It didn’t affect her appetite or her level of activity, and it didn’t seem to be at all debilitating or distressing; not for her, at least. It was very distressing for us. Our first thought was that it was caused by a change of diet – Trevor and Ulysse have sardines in oil a couple of times each week, and we had, naturally, given some to Gypsy and Shitsu, too. When the cough appeared, if not to be getting worse, certainly not to be easing, we turned our attention to possible environmental causes. We frantically went around the house, vacuuming and dusting, and removing anything that could possibly represent an irritant. A couple of days after that, Gypsy’s cough subsided, and we thought we had found and eliminated the cause. Sighs of relief all round. We just had to wait for her cough to clear; in the meantime we were giving her the occasional taste of honey to ease any damage the cough was doing to her throat.
Then Gypsy’s very good friend and constant companion, Trevor, started coughing. As with Gypsy, the only effect on him was the cough. Apart from that, he was the same Trevor we have known for the past five years. Like Gypsy, Trevor is basically strong, healthy and fit, and our expectation, that he would shrug this off within a few days, was not thwarted. However, just as he was improving, both Ulysse and Shitsu started coughing.
Trevor and Gypsy spend a lot of time together, in very close proximity to each other, as the following short clip, taken when Trevor was recovering nicely and the other two had not yet started in earnest, shows
We were not at all surprised to see Gypsy’s cough pass to Trevor. However, when Ulysse, now approaching twelve years old, and Shitsu caught it – and it seemed to be affecting Shitsu more than it had any of the others – we made a visit to the vet. We left Gypsy and Trevor behind, as they seemed to be recovering well. The vet examined Ulysse and Shitsu thoroughly, and pronounced her diagnosis of suspected kennel cough. Treatment was straightforward enough. They were both injected with cortisone to ease their throats, and with their first dose of antibiotic to prevent further infection. The vet explained that kennel cough is something most dogs readily get over, but some develop complications. She gave us a course of antibiotics for the two dogs we took, and for Trevor. Based on the dates we gave her, she didn’t feel that Gypsy needed any medication. The main thing, though, was an instruction to keep them away from other dogs, as this ailment is highly contagious. When we told her that Gypsy and Shitsu had come from Paris only three days before Gypsy displayed symptoms, and that they were regularly walked in the Bois de Boulogne in company with other dogs, she nodded knowingly and said, “Ah oui, un cadeau de Paris” (ah yes, a present from Paris).
Three days after the consultation, we were to take Gypsy and Shitsu back to Tania and Romain. The question was, knowing how they both feel about their dogs, how were we to tell them that their puppy had infected the other three? As I was explaining to Tania the symptoms and events, she said, “Probably kennel cough. There’s a lot of it in the woods.”
Why do we worry so?
We drove up to Paris quite early on Sunday morning (which explains the lack of a post on this blog last week), and spent the afternoon with some of Romain’s family at his father’s home.
Sunday lunch was never like this, not anywhere I have been before, anyway. The best description I can give would be of a large Italian meal with a large Italian family. Spread over several courses, the meal and relaxation afterwards lasted for about two and a half hours. The hospitality we received was exemplary – we were treated as family, not as visitors. We both knew Tania and Romain, of course, and I had met Romain’s father on one occasion, some considerable time earlier, but the rest of the family were strangers to us, and we to them. That isn’t the impression you would have drawn from the afternoon, though.
What is most exciting about that episode, is that we are planning to do it all again, with knobs on, on Christmas Day, when there will be about twenty people sat around the table; We can’t wait.
Oh. One thing.
Whilst we were there…
À la prochaine