The Met Office cautiously opined that yesterday the weather would be quite nice, so we decided that, after a great deal of being cooped up, we would have an excursion. The sun was shining as we tootled off in the general direction of Deeside: the Professor had spent a pleasant few hours last summer in Ballater, which boasts a decent bookshop, and suggested this as furthest point of travel. We decided to take Miss Best Friend, and this, unfortunately, was not a success. Some time back, we swopped our ageing Clio for a Vauxhall Corsa, which the garage-man swore up and down was effectively identical. He was, as we discovered subsequently, undergoing a mid life crisis at the time. The Corsa is in some crucial respects, not like a Clio: it has ‘town runabout/school run’ written all over it, and one aspect of this is that the back seat is significantly narrower than the front (assuming, quite clearly, that most passengers would be children). It is too narrow to allow a large labrador to lie down in comfort when the car is moving, though of course, she can sit up and look out of the window, which most dogs love. After the first hour or so, we were starting to get the ‘mump, mump’ which means ‘Don’t think much of this’. There were little remarks about ‘mean economy’, and ‘unsuited to the dignity of the Family’. By the time we stopped for lunch, she was sulking so furiously that when we bought her a shortbread biscuit, she refused to eat it. We thought she’d like a day out with her people, but she made it absolutely clear that she would rather have had a day in bed (preferably our bed) with her toys. When we got back, there was an ecstatic half hour of galumphing round the house with her playthings, then she put them in a row on the edge of her bed, got into it, and stared at them. Thus assigned to our proper place in the old animal’s value system, we have promised her that Days Out are not compulsory. Humans, meanwhile, had a jolly time. The Ballater bookshop produced some useful stuff, the Professor has bought a rather good coat of hard, green, farmers’ tweed, an oldfashioned jeweller’s produced and fitted the new watch strap I was in need of, and the sun was shining bright on Deeside, which was a pleasant change. Both the sun, you understand, and Deeside itself.