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L'Esprit de L'Escalier

You might imagine that my ramblings all over the Cotswolds would be hassle free? You'd be very wrong. Just as in air travel, walking has its fair share of nuts eager to vent their anger on all and sundry.

Vengeance is mine...

Early last year I was taking my dogs for their usual long walk over Cleeve Common when I got into an altercation with an extremely unpleasant and very angry professional dog-walker.

This was what I wrote at the time-

"One of my favourite stories in recent years was the case of Heather Cho, the Korean Air "executive" (and also, quite coincidentally, the daughter of the Chairman). She has been sent to prison for a year for demanding that a flight be turned back because she was served nuts in a bag and not on a plate.

Ms Cho supposedly "lost it" and started whacking stewardi with a copy of the service manual. This was clearly a case of a spoilt little rich girl thinking she was on some private jet service. Air travel however, does seem to bring out the worst in people. Hardly a week goes by without hearing of some celeb tipping over a drinks trolley, urinating in the galley or threatening to fight every passenger on the plane.

Personally I've always found air travel incredibly relaxing - apart from the occasion when I had to sit next to Piers Morgan and he insisted on discussing who would make the front page, he or I, should the plane crash.

At the time I felt confident that I would win and might just have made a reasonably sized fifth page story-


Nowadays, as I've retired to the countryside to take up a quiet world of rambling and tractor baiting- I'd have to cede headline defeat. His demise would definitely make big news, although not all negative I'd imagine.

You might imagine that my ramblings all over the Cotswolds would be hassle free? You'd be very wrong. Just as in air travel, walking has its fair share of nuts eager to vent their anger on all and sundry.

Just last week, I was wandering over the beautiful Cleeve Common, high above Cheltenham, with my three dogs while listening to an audio version of Antony Beevor's majestic "Second World War." All was right with the world.

Up ahead, one of my dogs had wandered over to another dog and they were sniffing each other's bottoms, as dogs are wont to do. My dog returned and I carried on. Five minutes later and he went for a second bottom sniff with the same dog. Again he returned with no incident. At the top of the next hill, there was the other dogs' owner. I took a headphone off and greeted her with a cheery hello.

She replied with a volley of colourful invective.

This was one fantastically angry woman.

What was the problem I asked her?

"Your dog is harassing mine and I shouted at you to call him back but you ignored me."

I apologized and pointed out that I was wearing headphones and thus had not heard her. She exploded.

"Headphones! You're wearing headphones while in charge of a dog. That's totally irresponsible. I bet you wear them when you're driving as well? You shouldn't be allowed to keep dogs. People like you make me sick..."

I checked to see if something terrible had happened between our dogs that I hadn't noticed?

"No, but something could have happened. That's the point you moron..."

I couldn't help laughing which only infuriated the volcano lady more.

She stormed off shouting, "You are an irresponsible moron."

I couldn't resist shouting a warning about the potential dangers of being hit by lightning...

I guess Rambler Rage is not as sexy an issue for newsgatherers, but it exists..."

I only ever saw this harridan once again. I was playing golf on Cleeve Hill golf course and I spotted her getting into her van in the car park. The van had details of her dog-walking business on the side and that is how I knew what she did. Being in the profession that I am, loads of amusing revenge scenarios ran through my head. Unfortunately, my better half expressly forbade it and told me to "be the bigger man." With much disappointment I threw away the number of her business and the various plans that I had to amuse myself over the next month or so. Revenge, it seemed would never be mine.

It reminded me of my late father and one of the biggest disappointments of his life. It was the early 1970s and he was attempting to herd five of us children across a busy road next to the rather appropriately named Promenade Des Anglais in Nice. He had us in crocodile formation and the French traffic had been forced to halt while we crossed.

An irate French lady honked her horn repeatedly and leaned out of her window to shout- "Ce n'est pas pour les chèvres ici..." My dad was speechless and hurried us across the road as the woman zoomed off.

For days he would tell this story aghast that he had nothing to shout in reply. Finally one of his best friends, an Oxford-educated Corsican gave him the answer. "You should have replied- Ni pour les vaches madame..." It was perfect and my dad spent the rest of his life bemoaning the fact that he 'd never had the opportunity to deal this killer blow.

Everything changed last week however. I am filming my new show and this leads me to hang out in the strangest of places. For reasons too complicated to go into, my team and I found ourselves hiding under a large bush just below the highest point in the Cotswolds which is on the Cleeve Hill golf course. The joke we were playing involved a lot of patience and we were sitting around waiting to strike. Suddenly I spotted the angry dog-walker, accompanied by four dogs walking in our direction. All her dogs were off the lead. As she approached us a couple of her canine charges roared towards us in a friendly manner. I didn't hesitate. I started screaming and groaning and shouting-

"Help, I'm being attacked, these dogs are out of control, I'm scared..."

The dog walker, who had not recognized me, went into her default attack mode.

"Don't be ridiculous, they are fine, this is a Common. My dogs don't need to be on a lead." She walked on imperiously. I stood up.

"That's not what you told me when it was my dogs..."

There was a pause from over the bush. We stared at each other.

"Oh it's YOU."

"Yup, it's me."

Our eyes locked but she knew and I knew that I had won.

Suddenly she turned on her heels and walked off fast without saying anything further. I clenched my fist in victory and sat down next to my confused crew.

It wasn't big, it wasn't clever, it didn't have the grace of the "ni pour les vaches" retort but by God it felt good...

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