October 06 [2006]

We last saw our hero in the middle of a Saxon forest surrounded by dog freaks. I just know you’re panting to find out what happened next.

~Well, of course, not much. I suppose the raw excitement of the contest for reserve CACIB is enough for anybody. Anyhow, it was now Monday, and the Dragon was set to judge the Finnish Pap Club Show the following weekend, so we motored gently west to Amsterdam from where we would fly to Finland on the Friday morning.

Thursday, the story about the transatlantic terrorism plot broke.

Now, my beloved is a person of great courage (some would say merciless ferocity), red in tooth and claw, but she has two great phobias – Islamic fundamentalism and flying, and this hit both of them. Industrial quantities of brandy administered that night assured a few hours’ sleep, but only my assurances that terrorists only target US flights got her out of bed and to the airport where

1. torrential rain and storm-force winds crashed against the windows and

2. we found that, due to code-sharing arrangements, our SAS flight had a United Airlines number.

The European brandy lake having been further depleted, I finally got her to the departure lounge, at which point the thunder and lightning started. Claire Anne fortunately had her eyes closed in prayer when our aircraft arrived at the gate, a DC-9, one of the smallest jets in service with the major airlines. In the gusting wind it was shuddering noticeably, almost as much in fact, as the reluctant passenger I dragged to our seats down the back.

And there we sat for an hour and five minutes, going nowhere. What could be wrong, I wondered. (As opposed to the Dragon Lady, who knew what was wrong. Everything.) And then, I give you my word, the door opened and in walked eight dark figures, yashmaks, Fatah scarves, everything.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a middle-aged woman of generous proportions trying to crawl down the back of an aeroplane seat, but I have. Now.

Of course, in fact these were merely two perfectly ordinary families in their normal clothes taking a routine flight. Given the day that was in it, they had probably been strip-searched to within an inch of their lives (which probably explains the delay), and so paid little attention to the gibbering wreck of a woman in the seat beside them. (Actually, that’s unfair, as their arrival was such a perfect punch-line to the day that she started to giggle).

From Helsinki we took the express train north. An express train in Finland, is one that doesn’t stop at every single poxy station on the way, but only at every single poxy station bar two. At last we arrived at our destination, a chalet in yet another forest beside yet another lake where the Pap people of Finland gather for their Club Show. And I have to say that, even for a dognostic, it had a lot going for it, not least the Pap race at which a man with a stop-watch blows a whistle and an owner comes hurtling out of the gate, whistling and yelling wild cries of encouragement while his dog either races after him or, frequently, trots off embarrassed in the other direction.

On the other hand there was the non-stop all-day ear-splitting karaoke from an adjoining herd of hearty Finns whose amazing enthusiasm for musical carnage was unequalled in my experience. You do not know the true meaning of suffering until you have heard ‘Amarillo’sung in Finnish by a fat spotty woman from Kristiinankaupunki

A few days later we returned home to find that a blind man in the UK had been arrested for dangerous driving. I didn’t think this could be bettered until I read, a couple of weeks later, that he had received a suspended sentence and was banned from driving for three years, after which he would have to take a full driving test.

You couldn’t make this stuff up. But it brought irresistibly to mind the following news item from China.

Woman Crashes When Teaching Dog to Drive

By Associated Press


BEIJING - A woman in Hohhot, the capital of north China's Inner Mongolia region, crashed her car while giving her dog a driving lesson, the official Xinhua News Agency said Monday.

No injuries were reported although both vehicles were slightly damaged, it said.

The woman, identified only be her surname, Li, said her dog "was fond of crouching on the steering wheel and often watched her drive," according to Xinhua.

"She thought she would let the dog 'have a try' while she operated the accelerator and brake, "the report said. "They did not make it far before crashing into an oncoming car."

Xinhua did not say what kind of dog or vehicles were involved but Li paid for repairs

Then there is this, from the Evening Herald of 29th September But, when all is said and done,