Dog exhibitors are gluttons for punishment. Saturday night I did a “pub quiz” where the meal was bœuf bourguignon – always good, and it seemed churlish for the four of us not to finish the bowl on our table. I didn't wake properly when the alarm went off so we didn't set off until about 06:30.

The first hour and a half of this journey is on local roads but there was little traffic – still too dark for the hunters who are the only other people who want to be out on a chilly November Sunday morning. By the time I was on the A 65 motorway heading towards Pau the sky was light, if full of clouds, and I had the road virtually to myself. I stopped at a services for coffee and there were just three cars in the carpark, and four other customers in the restaurant. As I continued south I saw the cloud formations change, and thought some were a rather odd shape. It wasn’t until the sun rose and lightened them that I realised what I thought were clouds were in fact the Pyrenees, and it was the snow on them that made them look a bit like clouds. I reached the Tarbes show halls at 10:00, but the main car parks were full. A security man said “park over the road”. Plenty of space, but the entrance was a long way from the show ground entrance and the car park is surrounded by a wall about 2 feet high. I thought the best idea would be to get the crate and trolley over the wall and then go back for the dogs. The same security man helped and then stood by the crate while I got the dogs.

Once inside the ground I realised I’d left the plan of the halls and the rings in the car. It was by then nearly 10:15 and my first class was due to start at 10:30. I also had to collect my catalogue and ring numbers. Luckily the second hall I tried was the correct one and I collected my catalogue and, SO sensible, there was a list of all the breeds and their rings just inside the door. When I found our ring the judge was a bit behind schedule so I had a bit of extra time. Nathalie G, who I haven’t seen for a while, said “put your crate next to mine and calm down!” I then got myself organised, gave the dogs a good brush and polish with a silk cloth. Nathalie’s Blenheim dog won his class and the CAC, and her Blenheim puppy bitch won the puppy class. I said I hadn’t had breakfast so must soon find something to eat. Nathalie’s eyes widened “Here!” she said, and gave me a pack of three sweet biscuits. “I’ve got a whole box” They were very welcome.

It wasn’t until I came out of the ring with Hula (she won the CAC) that I saw Sylvie: twice this year Sylvie and I have been at a show and her tricolour dog Onitsha’s I am Always There has been Best of Breed and Hula Best Opposite Sex. She also has Tibetan spaniels and they had a breed specialty so she was flitting between rings to check the progress of the judging. I Am Always There won the CAC. She whispered “With the others here I don’t think he’ll get the CACIB today”. In the challenge for the dog CACIB there were also two champions who have had very successful year – Marlene Mouillon’s Blenheim Ch. Just My Imagination des Précieuses Pierres who’s currently top Cavalier in France, and the ruby Ch. James Brown of Sevijean’s, who is No 2 top Cavalier. I think he is just super. Brownie took the CACIB and Just my Imagination the reserve. My own Hula won the bitch CACIB, and Brownie was BOB.

At this show all CACIB winners were required to stay for the group, announced into the ring as the best dog and bitch of each breed, and then the best of breeds would stay and the best opposite sex would be presented with their cups as they left the ring. This was to give a good spectacle for the general public, and there were a lot! At least a dozen people asked me about buying a Cavalier puppy, as well as plenty who just wanted to stroke or cuddle the dogs. Nathalie too was busy with enquiries; it seemed people wanted either a Blenheim or a black and tan: few were interested in tricolours, which are usually the most popular, or rubies. Some people with King Charles at the show told me they have a litter of tricolour King Charles unsold: everyone wants black and tans.

At about 17:00 I phoned Fréderic, my kind neighbour who lets the dogs out for me when I’m out all day. “Where are you?” he asked. I said “Tarbes” and he asked “Still there? Why? Is there a problem?” I told him the reason and he laughed. I then asked if he’d mind feeding the dogs “No problem!”

There had been a lot of Spanish exhibitors, as Tarbes is not far from Pau from where there is a tunnel through the Pyrenees; the “lorry” route to Saragossa. Quite a few people had left so I asked the security man if I could bring my car in closer to the halls, and was able to park really near my hall.

In the collecting ring the judge came round and looked at all the dogs: this often happens and you can often get an idea of which they like before the dogs go in the ring. I followed Brownie’s handler into the main ring and the announcer just said “Les Cavalier King Charles!” I’d hoped he’d mention the colours as it’s not often that both are wholecolours. After we’d left the ring I went back to watch the rest of the group and Brownie was shortlisted; this time the commentator did say that Cavaliers come in four colours. Sadly, Brownie didn’t get in the last three.

Ten minutes after I set off for home it started to rain. The day had been dry, sunny and quite warm. Driving in unfamiliar places in the dark in the rain with quite heavy traffic is not my idea of fun, but once I was on the motorway it was a bit better. After a couple of hours the rain stopped and the last part of the journey was OK, but it was nearly 10:30 before I got home.

I went up to Frederic’s this morning with a bottle of decent wine as a thank you for him and Christine. He said it had been fine and sunny all day Sunday, no rain at all. He also said that when he went to feed the dogs Cedric went into his cage, almost showing him where he usually ate! Not subtle, my dog.

Early night, I think!

Jane