When I first left Sri Lanka, I was a bit concerned as to where I might go with two Sri Lankan mutts. My wonderful friend Holly had always said to me that if ever I needed a place to go, then I could go and stay with them in Brittany. I phoned Holly from Sri Lanka to see if this was still possible and being the generous person she is, she said yes. So arrangements were made. I had very little money and started puzzling as to how I could get these dogs out of Sri Lanka and into France, taking animals on planes does not come cheap. I spoke to my friend Brenda who is the queen of fundraising and off she went and just got it all sorted! She did all manner of things as did a few other friends, I am indebted to you all, thank you. It meant I could get them out of there and on that plane with me. The plane ride was surprisingly good, I went to my pre-booked seat to find a man sitting in it, after consulting with the hostess she cheerily told me that the plane was over booked and there were no seats left, the dogs of course were boarded in the hold so there was no way I was getting off that plane without them. She bustled off and returned a few minutes later full of apology, no seat available but if I did not mind I could go into business class…. I have never flown business class before but completely got into the swing of it, I had about four whiskey and cokes, then a couple of glasses of champagne, ate some food, asked the air hostess every 10mins if the dogs were OK, then passed out for the rest of the journey.
I arrived in Paris on a cold winters morning in February of 2012, complete with unsuitable footwear, no coat and everything I could carry from the last 2 years of my life. Not to mention of course, two dogs in a cage. I was told the dogs would be bought to the baggage area so I stood there for eternity with a terrified look on my face expecting the poor things to come out on the carousel. After a long wait I found someone who I could converse with who told me the dogs would have been taken to a cargo bay on the outskirts of the airport. My friend David had offered to drive all the way over from the UK to collect me and take me and the dogs to Brittany and his friend Martin had offered to share the journey with him so I knew a lift was coming but the lift had not yet arrived and I needed to get to the dogs, also the lift was coming to the airport and the dogs were not there…. I did quite a lot of panicking at this time. I had a mobile phone which did not work and no euros, only dollars. I managed to change some money and find a taxi who seemed to know the place I should go. He was the most miserable taxi driver in the world and was clearly not happy at having to take this suntanned scared looking bag lady on a journey that would only take 10mins. He just dumped me and my worldly goods on a pavement in a seemingly deserted industrial estate and charged me 30 euro.
All the buildings looked shut, it was a Sunday morning after all and Sunday in France at that time meant everything closed. I ended up frantically banging on warehouse doors and finally heard someone from inside respond. By this time I was a little on the emotional side, full of terror that I would never find the dogs and nobody knew where I was, I did not know where I was! All I could say to this warehouse man was “Deux chien, deux chien” whilst doing quite a lot of unattractive snivelling. He just smiled and said “Oui, ici” and gestured to a side door which was unlocked. Inside was a surprising hub of activity and I managed to converse with a helpful man who confirmed the dogs were there and that all I needed to do was go back across town and get the paperwork stamped by customs. The only problem was, he told me, was it was a Sunday and customs were closed so could I come back tomorrow? The snivelling fear returned. The dogs by this time had been in the cage for 20 hours and must be terrified and in desperate need of the loo. I begged and pleaded and insisted there must be some way for this to happen today. He finally worked out a place I could go and gave me the address. I managed to use the phone to call David and give him the address of where I was and he arrived within 15mins, I have never been so grateful to see a familiar face in my whole life. Before we left for the customs office I asked if I could see the dogs, I did not even know if they had survived the journey, I was told not until I had the paperwork but my begging and crying clearly got through and they bought them out for me to see, on a forklift truck. I was not allowed to get them out of the cage but they were alive, shouting and screaming and as pleased to see me as I was them.
Off to find the customs office which was amazingly straightforward and we were back to collect the dogs who were carried out and dumped on the grass by the warehouse men, I think they were quite pleased to get rid of the barking noise from their normally peaceful Sunday as well as the snivelly begging woman. I had to find a knife to cut the plastic straps on the cage but they were out, 21 hours and the cage was dry, they both did the biggest wee in the world. The cage would not fit in the car so we dumped it on the warehouse steps and jumped in the car and set off for Brittany. It was a much longer journey than expected and a few stops along the way we encountered snow, a bit of a shock for the dogs who had only ever known heat and rain and more heat. Thankfully Martin had bought a sleeping bag for us so the dogs and I spent the whole journey under a sleeping bag on the back seat toasty warm. After what seemed an eternity we arrived in Brittany. Holly and her partner Cha were away for the winter but had left keys, a sack of dog biscuit and some bits and bobs of long life stuff so we and the dogs could finally eat something. It was such a relief to finally get somewhere that was familiar and that felt safe and warm, thank you Holly and Cha, you gave us refuge and I hope you know just how grateful I am for that. David (I know you are reading this floating about on a cloud somewhere) and Martin, you were fabulous, thank you xxx
So our new life had begun, here we were, the dogs and I, in the middle of rural Brittany with 200 dollars to my name, a roof over our heads but no idea how on earth we were going to survive. The first thing I did was get some shopping, wine in Sri Lanka was ridiculously expensive and I had been craving a lovely glass of red for a long time. I had not changed much money but I managed to get a sack of potatoes, some veg and a box of red. That first glass of wine was wonderful, I had three in total but then realised quite how drunk I was and had to crawl up the stairs to bed, what a lightweight, two years of not drinking wine had lowered my resistance somewhat! I have got better since then you will be pleased to know.
These blogs are just short excerpts of much bigger chapters! I am currently working on getting a book publiished about our journey so far in order to assist funding for the Earthkin project. If you would like to be informed when the book is available, please subscribe to our newsletter, thank you.