Sunday, 31 October 2010

A Dog With No Name


The naming of a dog round here is a dangerous business. Because, firstly, the Oundle community takes a very active interest in new local dogs. Secondly, our puppy (hereafter known as 'Dogface') isn't even a proper dog yet. How are we to know what will suit? Over the last few days I've heard endless dog names. Plenty are catastrophic. Turns out many monstrous beasts are called things like 'Snuggles', because the proud puppy-owners spoke too soon.

A trivial issue, you'd think. 

One day, pre-puppy, MD popped round to see Dogface's original family and take him to visit his future home and meet our cat Spikey. On MD's return, Mrs Dog-Owner asked MD what she was thinking of calling young Dogface. MD, poor fool, flippantly told Mrs Dog-Owner some of our thoughts. The puppy is an Irish Terrier, so most of our ideas were names like 'Paddy', 'Seamus' and … 'Beckett'. But of course. Mrs Dog-Owner nodded vaguely:

'It's very important to have a name early, you know - vital for training.'
'Oh yes, well we'll think of something soon,' laughed dogless MD, 'but at the moment he's just little Dogface.'
Mrs Dog-Owner (instantly insane): 'How can you insult him like that? I knew you weren't dog people! He doesn't deserve it - it's just appalling. I've a good mind not to let you have our little baby now.'
MD (sheltering from spit and clods of dog-poo that Mrs Dog-Owner secretes in her jeans to throw at the inept dogless): 'Ah, OK. Sorry, er. Bye. Bye Dogface.'
MD Flees, as motherdog of Dogface chomps her ankles vengefully.

Happily, Mr Dog-Owner later tranquillised Mrs Dog-Owner, and we took young Dogface while she slept.

Poor Nameless Dogface

My contribution to the Name Game was 'Baldrick'. I, uniquely, find it an endearing and dog-friendly name. MD not so sure. I'm told it's supposed to be the ugliest word in the English language. Soon after we took Dogface home, I snuck the name 'Baldrick' onto the Vet's records and tried to convince MD that Dogface looked so much like a 'Baldrick' that the Vet had just guessed this was his name. She wasn't fooled. 

As we trotted through the Market Place yesterday, Dogface and I, he was the most admired chap in the village. Top Dog. Little old couples stopped us to enquire after his health. We were nearly home when we were stopped by a Smiling Elderly Lady.

SEL: Oh what a beautiful little chap. Ahh. What's he called then?
Kate in the Countryside (still convinced by 'Baldrick'): He's called Baldrick.
SEL: Sorry dear?
KitC: Baldrick.
SEL (loudly): What?? (Angrily, to Dogface - who is, recall, a dog) What are they doing to you? How could they call you that? You're a beautiful dog. 
Dogface: er.
KitC: er.
SEL (to me again, voice raised): What a horrible thing to say. He's a nice dog - how could you do that to him? What a disgusting thing to call him. (Lunging forward grabbing me hard by the wrist) Don't you dare call him that. (To Dogface again) If I were you I'd run away.
KitC: OK, sorry. Have a nice day. Bye then.

We managed to outrun her, but it was a close thing. So that's the end of Baldrick. Poor Nameless Dogface. How long until schizophrenia sets in?

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Paradise and Pigs (Kate not in the Countryside)

Just tucking in to my burger

Daddy Mason (DM) lives on Paradise Island in the Bahamas. Excellent choice, you’d think. Chaps – the name is a con. Unless Paradise is a giant orange package hotel called ‘Atlantis’ with adjoining yacht park, packed out with obese Oompa-Loompa-like Americans gorging themselves silly on fluorescent burgers. The place used to be called ‘Hog Island’ anyway. Prescient.

So for the weekend DM excitedly booked a flight across to Staniel Cay, in search of ... The Swimming Pigs. Suppressing my fear that sun and solitude had driven him crazy, I packed for the weekend.

Staniel Cay, the island of sea-faring pork, is about half an hour away from Paradise via DEATH-plane. Not that I was nervous about it you understand, but most of DM’s favourite anecdotes involve near-death experiences in planes smaller than his suitcase, with no seats apart from the pilot’s, from which passengers merely hang, swinging from side to side to help with navigation etc etc. But it was mostly fine. Except when it rained on the way back in and I got wet. Bit of a shock that.

Picked up by golf-cart from the airport, we trundled straight to the beach and borrowed a pair of kayaks. Very into sport is DM. I’m quite keen on it too, if it comes to that, but rowing-based physical activity is sadly not my thing.

Then we went for a walk.

Then swimming.

He then suggested a bike ride, which was when I observed the heat of the day, the numerousness of the mosquitoes and the danger of calf-strain when cycling.

Instead, to cut to the chase with this pig thing, I suggested we head out to find them. Seated comfortably in a non-Mason-powered boat (at last), we rounded the bay into a cove of clich├ęd seclusion. And there they were. My first thought was ‘Blimey, they do exist.’ Closely followed by, ‘Oh God, they’re giants.’ Perhaps this would be less surprising, say, on a farm, but to see beasts larger and infinitely less suited to swimming than Atlantis’ Americans was disconcerting.

We’d brought scraps to feed them. Piggish as they are, they co-ordinated the implausible skill of swimming with the – frankly absurd – ability to tread water while lunging for food. Their nonchalant swimming action was the same as their walking motion. It was as if they had just forgotten to stop when they reached the shore. But, at the arrival of scraps, things turned barbaric. It was like watching porcine waterpolo. Each pig found itself submerged in turn by its fellows to act as a launch-pad. They were nearly in our boat.

‘Fancy a swim?’ asked my dad. Obviously.

I hesitated.

‘I’ll race you.’

I can’t believe I still fall for this. Without another word, I plunged into the water beside the marauding super-pigs and started for the shore. Did I win the race? No chance.

(DM had a head-start don’t forget.)

Once on shore, we found Swimming Piglets. But no – these were Non-swimming Swimming Piglets. How disappointing for their talented ancestry, I thought. But then a Piglet made for the sea. Immediately the largest Pig, squeaking and snapping, drove it back ashore.

Racing DM unsuccessfully back to the boat, I empathised with the youngsters. Covetous of their talents, these old Piggies.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

Litigants Anonymous

Occasionally life in Oundle is so amusingly old-school that you wonder if you’ve inadvertently arrived on the set of Miss Marple. The Bev-encounter Bash is an example. (Was tempted to imply attendance at two Oundle-based parties, but knew few would be fooled.)

Paragon of stability
Since the shindig was to be outside and was being organised by a group of eager Oundle residents, a rain-shelter was deemed necessary. Not any old Ikea-or-Argos bought rain shelter. No, this was to be a plinth of epic proportions. A Pisa-like plinth. 

Its slant, we were told, was structural – to allow rain to drip off. Stretched across three ladders of differing lengths, the hand-painted ribbons and holey tarpaulin wobbled unhappily, as did the wall, to which the thing was hitched. Said wall is in the process of falling down.

I know this because the party was held next to MD’s future home. Happily it did not rain (though it was damn cold). But as we wandered over to the festivities my precociously litigious boyfriend (PLB) observed that if the (weighty and unbalanced) structure were to fall on any of Oundle’s oldies she, as land owner, would be responsible. Screwed. He didn’t say ‘screwed’ because, quite frankly, it’s not the sort of word you use in front of Mother Dearest, but I think she got the gist.

Despite this, MD survived the bash admirably. She flinched only a little when children started scaling our 12-foot high gates (no matter – their fall was adequately cushioned by nettles and gravel). Indeed, when someone’s father started throwing children around and one boy seized a carving knife, she barely noticed. All senses were focussed on the rain-plinth.

Eventually, these youthful distractions were put to bed. Alas, by seven o’clock (of this lunchtime do), the Oundle Undesirables were settling in for the night. Not for them the lure of warmth or bed-time. They were sloshed.

‘Bloody hell ...’ (Undesirable 1 – grabbing for bottle on booze table) ‘what cheap-skate brought Lambrini, eh?’
Beat. Embarrassment all round.
Undesirable 2 (quietly, pink-cheeked): ‘Mate, I think it was you actually.’
U1 (with an air of celebration): ‘I’m so cheap!’

Lambrini in Oundle? Yes it was cold, and she had work in the morning, and we’d talked about leaving for a bit, but it was the Lambrini that clinched it. We left - MD now hoping the shelter would fall. We’d take the consequences. Justice has a price.

Next Episode: Kate in the Countryside on Holiday.

Are you a habitual Undesirable? Tell me about it. Do you love Lambrini? Comment if you like, but keep it to yourself.