Temperatures are plummeting and the mice are coming in – not least at my parents’ house. I visit them with the littlest MacNaughty, Rummie. He knows he will get spoiled there as they save up all the bits of leftover meat.
This time, though, he is more interested in a corner of the kitchen. It is an old house and there is a pine table with a selection of cooking utensils underneath. He stands and waits, tail erect, nose twitching.
He will do this for hours. For Rummie the Norfolk is on Mouse Watch. Which drives my mother mad. ‘But we don’t have mice!’ she says crossly. I tell her everyone has mice, even those who live in clean houses. Which is not strictly true. Unlike the much-maligned spider who likes to live in dirt-free conditions, vermin tends to go where there are dropped crumbs.
I also comfort her with the fact that the smell of a dog will put off potential pests – should they, heaven forbid, be there in the first place. Yet behind all those pots and pans there must be something. Rummie is glued to the spot. His tail is ramrod straight.
When I can eventually drag him away from sentry duty, we go for our afternoon walk. Which is interesting for him. We live in the countryside and there he runs in fields and lanes. He is used to grass and soil. Now we walk on tarmac in the suburbs and pavements and lamp posts offer very different diversions.
Other dogs have cheekily left their mark on garden walls and hedges and he spends time trying to rectify that. Gateposts are a source of endless fascination. A large crack in the concrete must be closely examined. A lone kerbside weed is sniffed and carefully judged. Rummie could be very happy as a town dog.
Back at home there is an unfortunate lack of hot water. The chief is on an economy drive and appears to be limiting use of the immersion. Heaven help that anyone should be too comfortable in the house.
On the plus side, they are fitting a new wood burner in the hall. This long-awaited item promises to fill the place with heat. It will be like living in Spain. Or, at the very least, it will stop it being colder inside than it is outside.
To keep everyone warm I make copious cups of coffee. The fitters, meanwhile, slip the MacNaughties bits of biscuit. These heat experts are on their hands and knees as they install the various bits and pieces. The terrier and the spaniel reciprocate by licking their faces.
Stove sales are booming. Unlike a fire that needs watching, you can leave a wood burner to quietly smolder. Unlike a fire, most of the heat does not go up the chimney. The new addition to the house blazes away and the dogs take their rightful place in front of it. Then my mother rings. She has found mouse droppings…