Favourites [2007]


25 years I’ve been doing this. Twenty-five years ago, as General Galtieri prepared to invade the Falklands, Britney Spears was being potty-trained and Dustin Hoffman wore a frock, Madame Editor plied me with Southern Comfort and extracted the drunken promise of a single article explaining, for the benefit of civilians, the awful realities of dog-breeding. This, my first-born, was eventually printed as “The Mating of Alice”, and if anyone else assures me that I never again wrote anything as good, I will rip his head off and shove it down his neck.

Heaven knows I’ve tried. For years I strove, despite my total aversion to all things canine, to keep my contributions at least marginally dog related, until it came to me that dog-freaks don’t read my stuff. Dog-freaks rarely even read dog stuff, unless it’s about their own dogs. (Have you ever listened to two of them having a conversation? It’s actually two monologues only delivered in alternating chunks because of the inconvenient necessity of pausing for breath.) So eventually I decided to use this column as a sort of therapy, wherein I would share my various life experiences and, hopefully, achieve some sort of catharsis. Or, at least, get Madame Editor off my back.

So I was able to spread my net wider, taking in place-names (Wyre Piddle and Lickey End are two of my favourites, not forgetting the German town of Wankum. Last week in Munich I came upon, I give you my word, a restaurant called “Weinkehr”.), dog names (in this house the Papillons are all named after aircraft. One, which has just been sold as I write, was named Arf n’ Arf, after a P-51 Mustang. The reason I am particularly glad to see the back of him is that the Dragon Lady will no longer embarrass me in front of the neighbour by shouting “Arf! Arf!” when she’s calling him from the garden. People are beginning to talk and point her out in the village.

But the other thing that has been a huge boon has been the arrival of the internet. (That’s another thing that didn’t exist twenty-five years ago. Twenty-five years ago “internet” was something they did to women’s knickers in Clery’s sale. No, wait, that was “interlock”. Sorry. But as we’re on the subject, what are interlock knickers? Chastity belts? Assembly kits? What?). The internet enables me to harvest all sorts of goodies without the need to exert the cerebellum at all. And this I do every chance I get.

Because, let’s be honest, there is nothing remotely funny about dogs. Think noisy, demanding, destructive and smelly. And that’s just the owners. The animals themselves are things with a bark at one end and a wag at the other, and, in the middle, a complex apparatus for converting expensive dog-food to unpleasant booby-traps on pavements. And just when you have realised this, they put their head on your lap and look lovingly up at you, and you go all soft and gooey. I hate when that happens.

I was considering all this in a German hotel swimming pool last week, as I floated around supported by one of these six-foot pink foam sausage things you find in some pools. I had noticed this one being used by another elderly gentleman who looked mighty pleased with himself, relaxing back, eyes dreamily closed, head supported by the surplus pink sausage sticking up behind his head like a fat snorkel. So I lurked close to him and, when he finally got out, grabbed the device for myself. It was the work of a moment to manoeuvre it beneath me, lay back, relax, and think deep thoughts as above.

It was a few minutes before I became aware of a strange lapse in the poolside conversation, punctuated by the odd giggle. Curious I opened my eyes to discover that my pink sausage instead extending up behind my head, was thrusting proudly and pinkly up from between my thighs.

I want you, Dear Reader, to consider the chances of a dignified exit strategy from this situation. None. Zero. Never has a changing-room seemed so far away or, later, a dining-room so unreasonably well-lit.