Today we went amongst country folk for a barbecue. The Huntsman, having strong South African connections, knows a thing or two about how and, more importantly, how not to do the fire. There the barbecue is known as a ‘braai’ or ‘braaivleis’ – literally ‘grill’ or ‘meat grill’ and is done properly and with skill. The English tend not to do so and to watch someone immolate good chops is always an alarming and dispiriting experience.

Fortunately with the help of a friend we rescued them and they were duly despatched by a disparate group of hungry lawyers, Judges, gamekeepers, farmers and other assorted real people (The Huntsman is always irritated by politicians who make clever-dicky remarks about ‘out of touch’ Judges and Lawyers: most of those he knows are far more down to earth and know more about the real world and the nature and condition of those who occupy it than any high and mighty member of our political elite does or ever will). Along with a thoroughly lubricious Navarre red, a healthy dose of cholesterol-rich red meat improved an otherwise rather grey day.

Gypsy, the foundling beagle, was present, but because of her potential to go on a major peregrination was confined to a large dog-proof pen. First up she did two exhaustive tours of the yard to see how she was going to get out of it and then then found the only possible route of escape (this is a hound that has escaped from both a locked car and a locked training cage, so the reader will at once be aware that we are dealing with a Hound Houdini here) which was a small chink of space between a gate and a gate post. Fortunately my host has a keen eye and spotted this before the escape was effected. She put a piece of strong red baler twine round the post and the gate, tying it very firmly.

Now comes the proof that this is one very smart, switched on Hound. Gypsy lay down and looked at the post and the twine for about half a minute, then she trotted up and immediately seized the baler twine in her teeth and tried to pull it off. Now that is very very bright and involves a high degree of cognition. The Huntsman was absolutely stunned at just how ‘on the money’ this bright little Hound actually is. She knew the game had changed and that the twine was now her first challenge: it had to be removed before she could get back to working at the chink of space. Fortunately she could not get sufficient purchase on it and was thwarted.

Labradors are The Huntsman’s other love. They have many virtues but they definitely don’t do cognition. Faced with the same scenario your average Lab would simply lie down and await events with a degree of indolence and insouciance that is both lovable and infuriating in the same moment. Beagles, on the other hand, have to be outsmarted from dawn to dusk. This makes them very rewarding but sometimes demanding companions.

As The Huntsman writes she is at his feet, curled into a tight ball, snoring. But any thought that she is in fact well away with the fairies is tempered by the eye which blinks open at the slightest movement that suggests to her that The Huntsman is of to, well, hunt…..which prompts her mentally to prepare to hunt with him.

There are truly no flies on Gypsy, this brightest of buttons.

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