Belgium, it’s not my favourite country. When we went to Brussels last year, they made us feel as welcome as a bacon sarnie at a bar mitzvah. No one actually refused us entry, but you could tell they didn’t want a handsome dog like me in the place, or perhaps they were just wary of the big fella.
This time we were staying in Antwerp, a lovely old city, cobbled streets and plenty of architecture, which will be wasted on him. But to be honest, if there is a pole for me to have a wee on, I’m a happy hound.
So we flew with Brussels Air, it didn’t start too well as they said they hadn’t booked me a spare seat. I thought the Guvnor was going to go proper Samuel L Jackson on them- as they stumbled and bumbled about until eventually, a supervisor was called who pointed out the “X” next to the Big Fellas seat was for me.
Short flight, lovely, no bother at passport control- there never is in Belgium. The first time we went, he handed over my passport and the officer asked what it was for. So I got to lay about in a conference room for a day before we hit up Antwerp old town. I can honestly say, what a top city, everyone made us feel welcome. Guv reckons the food was all top notch, they even brought me out a chicken breast at the restaurant, which gets five stars from me.
The town has a nice relaxed atmosphere and we ended up in a bar called ‘The Gollum’, it had 30 beers on draft and 300 in the bottle, and two beers brewed specifically for dogs, Antwerp is my sort of town. The big fella got nicely relaxed and off to the hotel.
We thought we would try something different on the way back and give the Eurostar a go. What a palava. We went to the so-called fast track and knew early on that was not going to go well. All the documents were there but the poor girl didn’t seem to understand, eventually we were let through and ready to board the train.
Serious bit here- there are folk with guns everywhere in Brussels, can’t decide whether it makes me feel safer or more nervous. We arrived back into London on the day of the Westminster attack and the next day, there was a foiled attempt in the road outside our hotel in Antwerp. Our thoughts go out to all those affected, the world is becoming a scarier place but we all have to keep putting our best paw forward and proving we won’t be beaten.
Right, back to Eurostar. They let us on the train, or to be more exact, they let everyone except us on the train. Evidently, London hadn’t given us the go ahead to re-enter the country. I keep wagging and being positive but the Guvnor has the face of a bulldog licking wee off a nettle and I think he is about to cause a diplomatic incident. Bad move with all the lads with shooters about. Luckily, we get the go ahead, but then they have the bloody cheek to ask if we are prepared to run as the train needs to depart on time. I don’t quite get the Guvnors full response, but it had something to do with sex and travel.
We’re on board- I love the Eurostar, there’s plenty of room to lay starfish style. Guv says the seat is comfortable, plenty of legroom and then they rock up with a spot of lunch. Guv says this is how air travel used to be, very civilised.
At London, a 12-year-old lad who claims to be an immigration official meets us, he checks the paperwork and just has to scan my chip. What follows is like a hybrid of ‘It’s A Knockout’ and ‘Crystal Maze’ as he struggles to put either of the two scanners together- the clipping in of a 9v battery is more complex than open heart surgery it would seem. He drops and breaks one of the scanners. The other one doesn’t work so we will have to go to the centre for him to find a 3rd.
It is fair to say the mood of the Big Fella has gone dark again, he is muttering something about, “Now I know how Jim Henson must have felt, he spent his life dealing with The Muppets and I seem to have the same problem.” At this point the sighty lad travelling with us notices the scanner that doesn’t work has come on and PING! I am scanned and we are free to go.
So, this has been my 11th trip abroad, and it’s fair to say it seldom runs smoothly. We get there in the end but often folk don’t seem to know what to do when a guide dog rocks up. In Ireland, something different happens every time. I was once sent to agriculture and when the Guv pointed out that I was not a cow, we all had a good laugh and they just let me through.
The Heathrow people are proper bloody jobsworths and if you haven’t emailed them in advance then “expect long delays” as they say.
I still love the travel, a good night out in Dublin is something every Guide Dog should experience so have a word with your owner and take to the skies!
Gunner International Dog of Mystery.