At Christmas, Oundle is riddled with festivities. I trekked back to my Kate in the Countryside homestead on a snowy eve, dug out some glittery clothing (first outfit Mother Dearest vetoed 'not Christmassy enough') and scurried out.
Dogface has not had much of a time over the festive period. In such demand is MD that she's been attending bashes by the dozen. I'm told that Dogface is not an eligible enough escort, so has been left at home with only our Angry Cat (whom he fears) for company.
The first bash we discover, too late, is dog-friendly. A competitor to Dogface's village mascot status skips jauntily about the room, reaping adorers, young Dogface all but forgotten. Moments in, this pretender is defined 'the loveliest dog ever' by some ill-informed enthusiast. At this point, the little chap chose to relieve himself in the corner, dance excitedly at the sight of so many witnesses, then pass out (from booze?) beside his stool. Now I know that house-training isn't competitive, but still....
Later that week, over a glutton of meat joints (MD's vegetarianism fortunately forgotten), small-town tensions surface.
MD - making polite dog conversation - finds herself thronged by wronged locals. Scandalously, a local dog-training venue has been shut down by the council. It has asbestos. They say.
Paul the Trainer isn't so sure. He has the dogs' best interests at heart. He smells conspiracy:
'They say it's because of (inverted commas) "health and safety". Health and Safety gone mad, I say. The dogs don't care do they, eh ... eh, they don't care about forms do they? (Reflective pause.) They're dogs.
(Wisely, the room is unwilling to offer an opinion. Paul seems encouraged.)
'My dad was the head trainer of the queen's dogs. Of the corgis, yes. So I do know what I'm talking about actually. All I want (mournfully) is to be able to train dogs. I know what they're up to ... (whispers) The Council ... they're gonna sell it off. Make a mint.'
In the facing corner is a man who will fight for the council: for the right of authority to form whatever toxic material-based decisions it deems fit. Cracking knuckles, shifting, frowning, rubbing his brow: this is a man suffering from all the pangs of righteous indignation. For he is on the council. Or knows someone who was once on the council, same thing. Point is - he has the inside track. How dare this dog-trainer's son cast aspersions?
He interrupts (stiffly). And treats us to an extended and deeply boring monologue about the benefits of health and safety and the trauma and soul-searching each and every member of the council went through before deciding to close down the training and so forth. And so on. Strictly speaking. He uses such phrases to imply a wealth of knowledge behind his words that we would struggle to properly understand. We're enthralled. Such a showdown has not been seen in Oundle since the great pub quiz debate of 2001.
Sun-reading superstar Paul submits with unprecedented speed. Deferring to pomposity with feudal inevitability - 'But hey what do I know? You know all about it mate - of course.' - he returns to his meat.
The Council celebrates 'HAWhawhaw' and order in Oundle is preserved.