‘I hope you and your hairy black mate are having a good time in the UK,’ emails a friend.
It’s actually been a very hectic week packed with meetings and appointments. But despite the fact that we have been up and down more motorways in the past seven days than he has had hot mince and basmati rice dinners, my hairy black mate is as laid-back and easy-going as ever.
He even managed to stay calm when my car started to make a strange rattling noise on the M54, and we were forced to pull over on the hard shoulder while I called emergency services.
'Leave your dog in the car and stand well back from the motorway,' advised the kindly man from emergency services as lorries thundered by.
Leave Biff alone in the car? No chance. Sensing my reluctance, the voice of emergency services advised me that it was only a mile and a half to the next exit and that, if possible, I should leave the motorway and wait in a lay-by for the RAC to arrive.
The strange rattling noise eventually turned out to be nothing more than the noise of my tyres on the motorway surface. But the charming man from the RAC - who arrived within five minutes to rescue us - managed to deliver this verdict with a straight face.
‘Well, I’m really embarrassed to have wasted your time,’ I said, after he had declared the tyres sound, checked underneath the car and driven up and down one junction of the motorway with us in order to hear the (now non-existant) rattling noise.
‘Oh no,’ he replied, with an admirable degree of sincerity. ‘You did the right thing by calling us. It’s better to be safe than sorry.’
Car problems aside, it’s been a struggle finding dog-friendly places to stay. My friend Travis put us up in London, and was a very kind and genial host, giving Biff the run of his house, but I fear that even he looked a little traumatised by the time we left. (One night of our company, I have realised, is more than enough for most people; especially since Biff dug a large hole in his garden.)
The highlight of our trip was the Malmaison hotel in Birmingham. Several of my friends - who have stayed at this boutique hotel chain for romantic weekends -had spoken very highly of it. I was attracted by its dog-friendly policy.
As we entered the dimly-lit lobby with pulsating music, after a hair-raising circumvention of spaghetti junction, Biff looked visibly impressed.
He sat down politely as we entered the lobby - so as to make sure that everyone could see him - and slowly surveyed his surroundings, as if to say 'I've arrived! I'd like a martini please.'
And so thrilled was I to arrive in this dog-friendly haven, that I was even prepared to overlook the less-than-pristine bathroom and the £18 overnight car park fee (parking in Birmingham being even more draconian than London.)