En-ROUTE the Euro Velo 1 bicycle route, I spent a night with French friends in a village in the heart of Brittany.

My host was mourning the impending loss of their GP (who ran a surgery each morning and spent the afternoon on home visits) to who he has turned for more than 25 years. His doctor had, by all accounts, been hanging on in the hope he would find a replacement: but eventually, and reluctantly, has decided the time has come when he must hang up his stethoscope. Their nearest practice will now necessitate a 30-mile round trip – the UK is not the only country to have a GP crisis.

These friends have two boys. The eldest (nine) is very calm with animals. The youngest (seven) who in all other respects is delightful, has perfected the art of ‘speaking’ to dogs with strange sounds and gestures. Poppy, the Pug x JRT with who I travel is rather a law unto herself (I blame the Jack Russel half) and, upon our arrival, was hugely unimpressed by the first raspberry with which Jimmy greeted her as he came bounding towards her.

These friends happen to have two cats. One might have hoped the child would have intuitively interpreted Poppy’s terrier-eyes focussed on him like gimlets and her body tensed with muscles rippling as she geared up to pounce at him – just as cats might to a mouse. But no. I slapped my hand over her muzzle as Jimmy let a second raspberry rip. Maybe he mistook her grumblings for purring?!

He was preparing a third fruity-greeting... “Calm” I said as his lips puckered “she’s getting all anxious.” He cheerfully backed off while I let out a sigh of relief.

It’s not always easy travelling with an indignant terrier. We hired a rowing boat that sunny afternoon and pottered up and down the canal while the boys learnt to row: much crashing into canal banks and hilarity. The dog installed herself at the prow of the boat. I was impressed – she’d never been on a boat before.

Queen of all she surveyed she was having the time of her life when, unexpectedly, Jimmy’s oar jumped out of its rowlock and he fell backwards nearly knocking Poppy off her perch with a flailing hand. My heart stopped lest she nip him. But, hats off, she merely looked upon him with a benign sort of surprise and did nothing... Boy and dog seemed to have arrived at some sort of understanding.

Oh! And just space to recount the night a visitor dropped by outside the tent. Thankfully, this year, not an amiable drunk, but a hedgehog. I suspect sometimes Poppy spills a morsel or two of dog food as she eats which then attracts them.

When I woke in the early hours to snuffly noises within a few inches of my head I immediately felt in the dark for the dog (one doesn’t want fellow campers disturbed by her barking). With one hand round her writhing body (she was desperate to be let loose on the intruder) and the other hand round her muzzle (trying to quash her erupting snorts) we lay there until the prickly visitor wandered off. It seemed like eternity...

I sometimes think cycle touring in France is a bit like Swallows and Amazons for adults: like being a teenager again, with glorious weeks of summer holidays ahead of me.

Time just seems to stand still...