I moved to London about eight years ago. It was a peculiar exodus from a village in Suffolk County, about two hours north, to the biggest city I have ever lived in. I dragged two suitcases once or twice a week onto the train out of Cambridge. A logistical effort to march south that boggled the mind. A final frenzy with a box van (small moving truck) and I was here. Lacking only my beloved Labrador companion as I waited for the new dog friendly flat to come available. Bless her little cotton socks, the day I last went up with a suitcase, I turned to fill it and she had climbed in with a few of her toys. Who needs waterboarding? I’d have given up the nuclear launch codes immediately.
She was blissfully unaware of the agony of finding a landlord willing to accomodate one perfectly behaved, sedate lady Labrador, as I was marketing her. I had taken to calling round the estate agents making enquiries so regularly that they didn’t much bother covering the receiver of the telephone when the shouted over their shoulders, “Its the dog lady again! Anything new?”
Finally something did open up, and the circus was relocated to London. When the sweet old girl finally grew tired and left us last year, there were a few months spent heartbroken and dogless. It was not natural to me somehow. Somewhat like that unsettled feeling when you’re sat in an awkward chair and you keep shifting to get into some reasonably comfortable position.
I did not feel like myself. I missed my usual tours around neighborhoods and parks. I missed standing around in the cold, waiting for the dog for the love of all that is good and holy to pee! I missed strangely meaningful chats with all sorts of random people. From the homeless man, to a fellow who seemed to be in charge of rather a lot of yachts. There is something incredibly equalising about talking to someone while you hold a poo bag in your hand. You cannot be superior about yourself while holding poo. It is impossible. I had even chatted with Bill Nighy one afternoon when we were both ostensibly eating alone at Cecconi’s, but his food arrived first and my Labrador put her head on his knee. She was a bit flirty when it came to food. Now I see him moseying in that way he does around the neighborhood every few weeks, and I smile.
I was, however, able to breeze out the door with no other concern than myself. Stay out as long as I liked. Anything was possible! But I felt like I was missing something. People often couldn’t quite place me when I asked for a table outdoors at the usual places. “I’m the one who used to bring the yellow dog.” I would say helpfully. “Oh yes!” they would brighten, “But where is it?” I explained. They made the sad face. I would slink to my table.
Finally I could stand it no more, and a new puppy was brought down on the train from Sheffield to pee on the carpets, chew on the chairs and snuggle with when watching tv. Luckily Maggie is adorable and uproariously funny, and there are moments I look at her with murder in my eye. But I love it. I even loved standing in Grosvenor Square last month, hopping up and down to keep my feet from going numb so she could wear herself out enough for me to get something done when I went home. Like shower. You cannot take your eyes off of them for a minute. If they are quiet and you can’t see them, don’t assume they are sleeping, as they are no doubt somewhere chewing on something precious to you. She has had some standout comedic moments though, I must say. Escaping and running over to jump into a wedding photo session for instance. Usually bride + white chiffon + muddy puppy would equal murdered puppy. Inexplicably the bride just laughed. Relief. Conversely, when I was doubled over giggling as Maggie went round eating all of the carrot noses out of the snowmen in the park last month, people’s children had quite a sense of humor failure and I had to go home for more carrots.
In any case I finally put together this restaurant / dog relationship a few weeks ago. As they checked my information was correct in the computer at my new place for a cheeseburger and jazz, 34, I discovered that noted down was “lives in neighborhood, has nice dog.” Or something to that effect. I was surprised and have to paraphrase. You would think that the dog was making the bookings. Across the street at the Audley Pub, there is a photo of Maggie posted in the kitchen. I know this because they were excited and took another photo for me for proof. At my favorite steak restaurant, Goodman, there was a note saying that I was allowed to bring the puppy in when I ate. (Though there were a few sneaky visits at the beginning, in fairness I did feel I obligated to disclose that the dog now weighs 42 pounds instead of 10 and was still growing. Unlikely I could wedge her into a grocery sack at this point.) We particularly like to visit the Coach and Horses. Last time there was even an impromptu dog sitting service when David, the publican, took Maggie up to play with his very lovely children. (They also do a nice meat pie, which can be very useful if you have a hangover.)
So here I am again. Here WE are again. The dog lady trailing along behind her dog. What can I say? Life can be short, so take your friends with you when you can. And if it is all about who you know, then I’m in luck, because the dog seems to know all the best people…
Are you absolutely serious? Perhaps a bit of festive decor advice should be taken on board before the next holiday season. On the eve of Thanksgiving in America, the only worse image that comes to mind other than this, is that of Sarah Palin cheerfully addressing the cameras whilst standing in front of some sort of turkey guillotine while turkeys were drained of their blood during a perky speech turned horrifyingly macabre. (Sarah Palin Thanksgiving Massacre)
I suppose this sounds naive and absurd, but I don’t litter. Except on the occasional moment when a gust of wind steals napkins off my table, or the very important piece of paper I was supposed to read or sign blows down a tunnel in the tube. Except for that, I just don’t. Oddly, I also tend to assume everyone else knows that they are supposed to put their rubbish in a bin. Imagine my surprise when I was driving down the road at 50 miles an hour about 12 years ago in Suffolk, and as my colleague finished her Burger King meal she squashed up the bag, rolled the window down and casually hurled the whole mess onto the road. I almost swerved off a corner in shock, and she thought I was mad for caring.
I can’t help it. I do care. I think the person who throws their garbage onto the lovely surfaces of this planet and expects that some other poor sap is going to come and dutifully tidy up behind them, is an ass. I stand by that. We were in a car. Surely we could have managed to move this massive burden, these few ounces of greasy paper, to a bin. And if you have an empty coffee cup, consider that you were able to carry it around for half an hour while it was full, so surely now that it is the weight of a feather, you should manage to hang onto it until you reach a bin. Your arms aren’t broken. I know this because I SAW you drinking the coffee!
This is the thing. It makes me feel like a cranky 80 year old woman to be shouting at teenagers to bus their crisp packets the extra 10 feet to the trash can. (That is where I probably start to look psychotic – when the can is within an arm’s length or two from the lazy idiot who is busily dropping all manner of wrappers on the floor as they shove food into their pie hole.) Is there an equivalent of the term ‘road rage’ for infuriated pedestrians? Can someone tell me what it is called when you suddenly feel moved to violence, but you’re on foot? A term besides ‘violent criminal’ I mean. I worry I will develop an anger management problem just from watching ill-mannered people interacting with their environment.
My friends are fairly convinced I will eventually be stabbed by someone when I demand they pick up their crap. Sometimes I just heave a sigh and move it to the bin myself, in front of the offenders, hoping to cause shame. If I was trying to surreptitiously get rid of half a sandwich, and someone pointed it out to me, I would be mortified. Not so with these people. They just stare dully at me, or glare scornfully as I demean myself.
I am undecided which is worse. The girl in Hammersmith who chucked her french fry carton over her shoulder and hit me in the forhead with it, or the woman outside my house a few months ago. She had stepped out of the office next door and lit a cigarette. Fine. Then the packet fell to the pavement. I actually am moronic enough to think that she just dropped it on accident, so I picked it up and held it out to her politely. “It’s empty,” came the surly reply, no eye contact. Furious now, I asked sarcastically, “Oh, I’m sorry to trouble you, shall I throw this away for you then?” “Yeah, that’d be great,” she countered with the charm of a longshoreman.
This is the sort of attitude that really gets on my nerves. London is a big city. I don’t mess it up for other people, and it would be lovely to have the same consideration in return. Sadly, it makes me secretly feel like an elderly old harpy. Instead of morphing, Hulk-like, into an irate, uptight, miserable old bag, I sometimes wish I didn’t care. Or I wish people would stop behaving like wild animals and leaving garbage everywhere* so that I can continue to pretend I am a young, carefree and delightful person when I am out and about.
* A blanket apology to wild animals everywhere. None of whom, I’m sure, leave fast food wrappers laying about the forests and fields.
* Also, an apology to any longshoremen - many of whom may be perfectly charming, and/or amongst my readers.
Explode? Really? Ok, when I bought these shoes I was thinking more along the lines of: walk, mosey, stride, scuttle, shift impatiently, tap toe REALLY impatiently, dash and possibly the occasional trot. Maybe a sashay thrown in for good measure. I can see that others among us might need to jump, plant, cut and run. Even though I may be unlikely to manage it. But to explode? Of course I’m not an imbecile, and I have a reasonable grasp of our fine language (despite various disagreements on the pronunciation of Aluminum. See? No extra ‘i’.)
But I live in reasonable confidence that I will have no need to explode whilst wearing my shoes. If the meaning is in the sense of my having a psychotic break, I assure you that the shoes won’t help. If I am likely to explode in the traditional incendiary sort of way, I think the trainers will provide meager protection – for any of us.
So I will be taking the tag off my new Nike shoe that says ‘Explode’ on it BEFORE I go through my intimate search ritual at the airport. I find they can be a bit touchy on the topic of exploding footwear. And pants. The topic of exploding pants is just a comedian’s Christmas present, isn’t it? I had enough trouble getting through last time with a 1930′s lemon juicer and a pepper grinder. (Neither of which had been squirreled away in my pants.) I thought I might have to bribe the flight crew to put in a good word for me if I promised to marinate whatever ghastly fish selection awaited us on board. I’m not even going to say what other odd things I’ll have in the luggage this time. We’ll see how it goes!