Captain Midnight here, reporting from Stalag Luft III.
There’s a lot to be learned from P.O.W. films, in our present circumstances. If you haven’t seen The Great Escape, then a) what I’m about to tell you might not make much sense, and b) you should… especially the bits featuring my personal hero Steve McQueen as Captain Virgil Hilts.
Anyway, back to Stalag Luft III (otherwise known as Folly Cottage) where Himself and I are currently incarcerated, pending the cessation of hostilities. It’s a pretty comfortable billet but that’s not the point; there’s a war on and we’re living in lockdown.
True to form, while Himself sits around planning concert parties, making models out of old bully beef tins, and waiting for Waitrose to deliver the next Red Cross parcel, I’ve been thinking of ways to get out of here. After much planning and abortive digging of tunnels in the garden (which Himself complained damaged the blackcurrant canes and had to stop) I decided that I would bide my time until I could make a break for it.
For several weeks, I lulled the guards into a false sense of security, by romping around and returning to heel on command when we took our daily exercise in the surrounding fields. ‘You can trust me,’ my behaviour said. ‘I’m a bit of a joker, but I know my place.’ It worked so well that they started unclipping the lead as soon as we got off-road.
Two days ago, crossing a strip of woodland between two open fields, I saw my chance. A bunch of pheasants started up and I chased after them in my usual jolly, inept fashion. But this time, I just kept on going and going, running alongside the fence until I got up enough speed to jump over it and disappear among the trees. I thought I could trust Himself to create a diversion or at least keep his mouth shut while I got away, but he panicked and started shouting.
‘Come back, here!’
‘Come back, you stupid mutt!’
He ran after me, shouting and waving his arms like a demented windmill. I thought the whole thing was quite funny, but Himself was clearly having a major sense of humour failure.
‘Ted. Ted, where the hell are you?’
‘Wait until I get you home, you little bastard.’
I ignored his frantic demands to give myself up and kept on running. Soon, we were both miles off the footpath, crashing through the pheasant hatchery. Unfortunately, this attracted the attention of the local landowner, who charged up the track in his armoured Personnel Carrier, screeched to a halt, leapt out and demanded to know what was going on. Himself, by this time dripping with sweat, and very red in the face, apologised profusely. He explained that his dog had run away, and that he was trying to get it back.
That’s right, he actually called me ‘it’.
They had me in a pincer movement, so I amused myself by chasing the pheasants towards them. Himself jumped on me as I ran past (I had no idea he was so athletic) and reattached the lead to my collar.
Captured. Game over.
Himself had to promise the landowner that he’d keep me on the lead in future. He marched me back to Stalag Luft III and used the hosepipe in the garden to clean the mud off my paws. No warm bath and sitting in front of the fire to get dry. The atmosphere was distinctly frosty. I was like Steve McQueen at the end of the movie: back in the slammer, plotting my next bid to escape.
But without the catcher’s mitt, obviously.