We arrived at Gatwick Airport and Andy took a taxi to meet us so he could drive our rental car back. We didn't want to try driving for the first time on the opposite side of the road at an airport in the dark, so he agreed to come. But, the rental car agency wasn't at the airport. We had to wait about half an hour for a bus to the rental car place in the Crowne Plaza hotel. Easirent was anything but. I had booked the car on line, 18 days for $324, about 250 pounds. But when we arrived, they wanted to charge an extra 10 pounds per day if we added a driver, Earl instead of me, and since we were from the U.S., we would need to pay double the cost for insurance. Not to mention the 1200 pound deposit on our credit card. I didn't mind the deposit, because I didn't plan to wreck the car, but doubling the price with insurance seemed outrageous. $750 for a two-week car rental.
In spite of the fact that I felt guilty, I canceled the car rental and said we would walk or get taxis where we needed to go during the housesit. I worried that Andy would judge me, but $750 is a lot of money, so I jutted out my chin and stuck to my guns. That meant Andy needed to call his wife Jane who drove to pick us up at the Crowne Plaza.
What an inauspicious start.
The house was beautiful, the dogs enthusiastic, and a chicken and leek pie baked in the oven when we arrived.
We settled into the orangery and ate dinner, drank wine and got to know each other. We told them about our first housesit in the disgustingly dirty place and they urged us to contact Trusted Housesitters, which is just up the road from here. And, of course, they worried that their house might be dirty, as people generally do when I tell the story about the filth, but then I showed Jane the picture of the flystrip with hundreds of flies and she felt better.
The dogs get up at 7, so I was ready to follow Jane down to get instructions on the morning routine. Oops, one of the dog went to the bathroom in her pen. Now Jane was embarrassed and hoped nothing else would go wrong.
I went upstairs and found that one of the dogs had gone through my suitcase, scattering my emergency playing cards and dirty clothes all over the floor. Luckily, I didn't have any food or medicine in my suitcase.
We ran errands, doing some grocery shopping since we wouldn't have a car after they left, and then returned home for a vigorous walk through the lovely countryside.
Minnow did not seem bothered by it, but certainly did not like the make-shift bandage on her ear.
That afternoon, our hosts left and we settled down to normalcy with the dogs.
I went for a run the next morning, learning that the closest pub was only half a mile away and downtown Reigate was only a mile by a bumpy unpaved road that led to the main road. I knew we could survive, in spite of the cold they predicted.
Snow covered the path the next morning as we walked the dogs. We only took Minnow and Spud, who is a 6-month-old wire-haired dachshund with bundles of energy. Our hosts asked us to keep Minnow on her leash because she is deaf and they were afraid she might not know to come to us, but Spud was free to run about, coming when we whistled for him and gave him a treat.
We climbed a nearby hill NorthDowns for a spectacular view
and ran into a couple walking. We must have chatted for a good 15-20 minutes and by the time we finished, we were cold. We decided to head down the closest path, which is how we got lost.
We ended up in another part of the trail and Spud, off leash, made a dash under the fence to sniff around a tree. He lifted his head victoriously to show a dead, frozen squirrel, stiff in his mouth like a stuffed animal.
But that didn't solve our lost problems. We come out a road with a similar name and walked down a long hill. I stopped and asked two men working on the road if they knew where our Lane was, but I couldn't understand their answer and they kept working. We were in England, right? Speaking English?
We caught up with a woman walking her dogs and she told us to climb the hill we had just walked down, to go through the woods where Spud had found the squirrel, and to turn left at the field. After about 90 minutes, we found our way back. We were so glad that we hadn't taken the older dachshund who would have been worn out.
Snuggling in front of a fire helps relieve stress over dog foibles and getting lost. A comfortable bed at night and a giant bathtub in front of a picture window. We had no complaints.
Today is Saturday. We planned to take the dogs for a walk then to walk uptown for a coffee, maybe take our laptops along and write in the company of a crowd, but our housesit had something else in mind.
I fed the dogs then slid on boots to open the outside gate, that's when I saw water spurting from an outside pipe in a beautiful arc of spray.
Calling upstairs to Earl, I quickly filled some pots with water, knowing he would turn off the water main. And he did. Now, we're sitting here, trying to get an appointment with the company that insures their pipes. We called and waited in the queue for about half an hour, before I scheduled an appointment online. I put in our phone number, thinking they'd call about the appointment, but apparently they send an email -- I put in the homeowner's email and I can't rouse them on the other side of the world. I've messaged and called. I've called their son in London, thinking he probably knows his mother's password so he could hack into it and let us know if the plumbers are coming.
I'm on hold again with the company, hoping to speak with a real person to learn if we'll have water today or not.
So, our life here is an adventure every moment. Some of them thrilling (see my Hamilton post) and some of them a challenge (see that picture of Spud with the squirrel in his mouth).
Either way, it's entertaining.