I went to see the bloke in the next village who makes dog cages. Not that I wanted a dog cage as such. What I wanted was a mesh gate for the back of the van. My idea was to have the tailgate open at night in fine weather, so me and Mia the German Shepherd could stay cool while sleeping but remain safe inside. If Mia saw a rabbit outside she would probably be out of the van chasing it in a flash. I would probably be the same if a good-looking bird passed by. The mesh gate would give us both time to consider our actions. Thereby preventing Mia the GS from having an accident and me avoiding a night in the police cells!
“How much would it cost to make and fit a mesh gate to the back of my van?” I asked the dog cage maker.
“They are £255,” he said, then, probably noting the look of shock on my handsome, remarkably youthful face added, “My prices are much better value than…” and he reeled off the names of several other dog cage makers worldwide.
“I can’t afford it now,” I told him, and then lying through my teeth said I would come back when I had saved up some money.
“Yes, money is a problem for everyone these days,” he said, and began to tell me the story of how his wife had taken nearly everything he had worked for all his life. “She came home one day and said she didn’t love me anymore,” he told me, “She told me I had to move out. I said there is no way I am moving out. She said I had to sleep in the spare room. I said I’m not sleeping in the spare room. I told her we have got a big bed and we could easily still sleep in it together if we kept to our own sides. In the end she moved out. Left me with the kids. I have brought them up on my own. It hasn’t been easy.” He looked at me through sad eyes and paused to catch his breath.
I took the opportunity to commiserate with him. “Women,” I said, they can be a bleedin’ nightmare, can’t they?”
He didn’t like me saying that at all. “She was a good woman,” he bristled indignantly, “She had a hell of a lot to put up with. I kept being made redundant from jobs. What woman is going to put up with that?”
“Anyway,” I said, “I hope things are going all right for you now?” At this I got into my van and started the engine.
He leaned through the window, “how much was you expecting to pay for the gate?”
To be honest I was thinking it would cost about fifty quid, but I didn’t want to embarrass myself, so I said, “Oh, about £150.”
“Wait there a minute,” he said, and went into his workshop. He reappeared with a piece of mesh. “Here, you can have this. I am sure you can make something out of it?”
“That’s very kind of you,” I said, “how much do you want for it?”
“You can have it,” he said, adding, “just let me measure the back of the van. He took some quick measurements and went into the workshop again. I saw the spark and heard the crackle of a MIG welder. He came out with a metal frame. “Careful with this,” he said, “it’s hot.” He then went into the workshop again and came out with two pieces of metal. “You can make some brackets out of this,”
“You must let me give you something,” I said.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said.
I offered him a £20 note and he reluctantly accepted it. I got into my van and started the engine.
“Wait,” he said, “I have had an idea.” He went into his workshop and reappeared a few minutes later with a short piece of metal. “Here you are,” he said, “with this you can have your tailgate open but locked at the same time.” He demonstrated how it worked. “Nice meeting you,” he said, “but now I must get on and do some work. See you later.”
I came home and cut the mesh to fit the frame he had made and joined all the bits together with cable ties. I bent the bits of metal and made two brackets that fitted into some conveniently situated holes in the bodywork. ‘Voila!’ I now have a mesh safety gate. From £255 to twenty quid. Amazing!
Voila? Yes, I parley French. Bonnet le douche!