The Mulberry of Doggie Bags
What is this I see before me?
Jane and the photographer have been out, leaving me locked in the hall of a very posh hotel room, and now Jane is unwrapping something from tinfoil and waving it tantalisingly in front of my eyes.
I snap at it and make a grab – it’s good stuff. A succulent cut of meat, the juiciest I’ve ever tasted. More!
‘He likes it,’ the photographer said. ‘And at £60 a pop, so he should.’
Jane offers me another cut and I’m told that I’m feasting on something called chateaubriand, the finest and most tender cut of beef there is.
Jane is always bringing me home doggie bags, as she calls them, but they’re usually strands of cold spaghetti or some measly moussaka or lumps of grey scampi. Sometimes she opens the tinfoil to reveal nothing more than two straggly old chips.
But this – this chateaubriand stuff – this is the Mulberry of doggie bags.
We’ll come here again.
Jane, the photographer and me are staying in a hotel called Maison Talbooth in a Victorian rectory in Essex, with grounds that are spot lit, perfect for sniffing out the trails of the fox pests and rabbit pests which live in the bordering woods.
It’s not just the nosh that is posh – the room is too. I stuck my snout in the bathroom – I have to check everywhere out; it’s my job – and was shocked by the gleam coming from the marble floor. And the huge bath – no way was I going anywhere near that.
On the terrace outside our room was another bath, a tall wooden one, with a lid on it. When Jane pulled the lid off and pushed some buttons all sorts of spurts of water and bubbles emerged.
Get away Attlee – this hot tub, as Jane calls it, does not appear to be a friend to dogs. Not with all this hissing and bubbling and spurting going on…
Then to bed – but what a bed. Big enough for five people and 20 dogs at least, more if the dogs were silly little Chihuahua things like Winston from the park.
As my readers will know, I am not easily intimidated. But then, being a dog, I’m not used to posh hotels. A lot of posh hotels won’t have us canines as guests, which is evil of them. So I wasn’t used to huge beds like this, with a hundred and fifty pillows and cushions – too many for even a sharp-toothed little fellow like me to chomp through – and it was a bit intimidating.
So instead of kipping in the bed, which might have swallowed me up whole in the night, I made my crib next to it, on a huge brown fur throw that had fallen there. The fur was fake but, if I squeezed my nostrils tightly together for a few seconds so I couldn’t smell its fakeness, I could pretend that I was lying on the hide of a great brown bear I’d killed with my own bare gnashers in a forest.
The next morning, after Jane had snaffled my sausages and bacon from breakfast, we went off on a big walk, through somewhere called Dedham Vale, to a place called Flatford. It was lovely because the skies were big and the fields smelled of outdoor things but I wasn’t allowed off the lead because there were hoof-pawed cows and sheeps around. And horrible smug think-they’re-better-than-everyone-else swans – I can’t stand swans.
In Flatford, there was a river with a big barn on one side and, on the other, a white painted cottage. Jane spent a lot of time trying to take a photograph of me in front of the cottage. She said it was the exact spot where a very famous picture called The Haywain was painted and, that if I stood still, I could be in The Haywain too.
So here I am, in The Haywain.
A very fine dog I am, feasting on chateaubriand by night and appearing in the one of the world’s most famous paintings by day.
Now that’s something to tell Gizmo and Winston and Plum and Tess back in the park. But they won’t believe me when I inform them of my travels – they never do. They say I’m a show-off.
Phileas Fact Box: Maison Tolbooth and Dedham Vale
- Maison Talbooth, Stratford Road, Dedham, Colchester, Essex, CO7 6HN. Tel: 01206 322367. Website: www.milsomhotels.com; prices start at £245 for a superior room Sunday to Thursday nights, incl. breakfast.
- John Constable’s Haywain was painted in the village of Flatford in Dedham Vale. For more information, log on to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/flatford-bridge-cottage
We have received a postcard from a Phileas Dogg reader, Tyson, a one-year-old Staffie in Manningtree, Essex, who wants to share his local pub with us.
Hi, my name is Tyson and here is a photo of me. The Crown, on Manningtree High Street, is just three miles walk through marshes and alongside the River Stour from Flatford, scene of The Haywain, so the perfect place for wet noses to have a drop of the wet stuff after a Haywain hike.
After a lovely walk along side the river I like nothing better than stopping off at the Crown for a Bonio or a chewy stick. There is even a dog menu – sausages, chicken, turkey, ham or beef – just for us.
The landlady, Julie Bain, told me: ‘I’ve owned dogs for 30 years – everything from Dobermans to the Yorkshire Terrier Poodle cross I have now – so I always welcome dogs in my pub.’
Hope to see you at the Crown soon, Phileas and Phriends.
Yours faithfully, Tyson
Here is Tyson’s photograph of The Crown. Note the water bowl in the garden and the sign saying dogs are welcome to stay overnight.
The Crown Hotel, 51 High Street, Manningtree, Essex, CO11 1AH Tel: 01206 396333; www.thecrownhotel-manningtree.co.uk Prices start at £50 a room per night.