Monthly Archives: July 2012

The doghouse – Simon and Huck

I am being self-indulgent and it will probably end in tears.  I don’t often look back.  If times were bad, why relive them?  And if times were better, then it causes regrets.  But some of my happiest childhood memories, now I think about them, are about the dogs and I’m going to let myself take out my mental snapshots, however it makes me feel.

The dogs loved to go for walks, especially on a lead, because it was a great treat.  However, although legs were lifted on every lamppost and tree, they would never lose their dignity by defaecating where anyone could see them.  I can’t possibly use the modern parlance “do a poo” because it would be completely unsuitable.  I never saw Simon, nor Huck past puppyhood, do such a thing.  It was done in private in the shrubbery and then buried.

There was no question of walking to heel.  They led, I followed.  Simon hated cats with a passion and would yank me over if he saw one while being walked.  But the fun started at the end of the evening when it was time to come in.  If they didn’t want to, they didn’t come, and we never left them outside for the night.  I had to catch them.  It was a game.  I’d chase, they’d run – much faster than me, of course – and I had to try to outwit them.  I still remember a time when Huck disappeared into the opposite neighbour’s garden and I correctly deduced that he would skim along the hedge on top of a low brick wall and reappear at the corner.  I hid, his face popped out, I grabbed his collar – and I still remember the look of surprise, it was brilliant!  I had no chance of ever catching him again the same way of course.

When we had seven dogs (yes, there are quite a lot of stories to come) I couldn’t manage them all on leads at the same time, so three ran free and I walked the other four.  Most of the day, they ran free in the garden of course, with Simon and Huck being able to get out and go wherever they wanted.

I’ve mentioned Simon’s prowess as a womaniser … erm, *bitcheniser*?  Hmm, I think not.  He was regularly arrested and we received calls from the police station.  “Simon was found assaulting a bicycle” was a memorable message.  Another time, I picked up the phone – “do you have a Pyrenean Mountain Dog, by any chance?” I said we did not.  “Pity, one’s just been brought in and we thought of you.”  Half the pups in the area must have been created by him.

We had Dutch au pairs, first Cobie and then her sister Joepie, and later a Finnish girl, Malle.  They used to take English classes at the local college and also visited friends they made there, travelling by bus.  Simon soon learned that if he followed at a discreet distance, he could hop on the bus and go several miles without effort, find a few new girlfriends and then walk home.  He could always find his way.

The house had big sash windows and the side ones were used by the dogs.  It was so much easier than going to a door.  We never locked doors or windows in those days, but it would have been a brave burglar who tried to break in.  Once, very good friends offered to call in to pick something up that we’d forgotten on the way to a party.  The dogs knew them of course, they were totally loving and friendly.  Yet, when they opened the front door they were met by hostile eyes.  They greeted the dogs by name, but they would have none of it.  One step over the threshold and the dogs’ hackles rose.  Our friends backed off and reported failure.  Next time they met, of course the dogs were all friendliness.

I must tell you next time about Simon’s prowess with languages.  Not that he spoke them of course.  He was a dog.  But his understanding was remarkable.

Toby a Gardner

At last I can stop pacing the floor.  Congratulations to the Gardner family on the birth of a new son, brother, grandson and nephew.  And probably cousin and all the other relations that apply in most families as well.  Anyway, Lisa and Phil are lovely people and jolly good friends too.  Welcome Toby, whose every move and motion will be documented in Mulled Whines.

The doghouse – Kipper Catchpole

Huckleberry’s brother went to live next door.  He was a big, jolly dog with a rough coat and a boisterous manner, as unlike Huck as you could imagine in a brother.  His family was in the fishing business and yes, their surname was Catchpole.  We’re still friends with the family, by the way.

Kipper adored my mother and spent a lot of time at our place.  He spent a lot of time going all over the village too – I’m talking about the 1960s, it was not at all unusual for dogs to wander about freely.  In fact, when I’m in other countries I still often see dogs out and about on their own, although it is generally frowned upon here nowadays, certainly in towns.

He was very strong.  When I was a child, I used to take a sack out on to the lawn to sit on so that he could pull me about on it.  There’s a photo somewhere, though I haven’t come across it for years.  He was incredibly good-natured and let me sit on his back or play tug-of war with a bone – my hand, his mouth in case you were wondering.  Come to think of it, this was a game all the dogs enjoyed playing. One of us would try to take the bone and the dog holding it would clench his jaws and growl.  We’d end up eyeball to eyeball, both growling, each pulling as hard as we could until one of us let the grip slip.  However loud and fierce the growling, there was no anger or danger in it, it was a pretend fight and everyone knew it.  I was more dog than child, the main difference being that I spent my spare time reading.  And there’s the opposable thumbs, of course.

At our house, the dogs ruled, but it was a benign dictatorship.  My father generally managed to hold on to his place, but the rest of us usually ended up sitting on the floor while the dogs took over the sofas and armchairs.  If we did keep our place, it was with a dog sitting on us.  Kipper always sat on my mother’s lap.  He was, as I said, a big dog, labrador-sized, and there wasn’t much chance of her doing anything else while he was on her lap.

And here he is, bone in mouth, cuddled up to my mother – a typical Kipper pose.

The doghouse – Huckleberry

Huck was the sweetest-natured dog I have ever known.  There was something special about this time in our lives, I’m going to have to dwell on it a bit once I’ve introduced all the characters – the dog characters, that is.

Simon was the leader and that was fine with Huckleberry.  He loved everybody and everything except birds.  If you offered him a piece of dry bread in the house, he’d curl his lip and not touch it, but if you threw crusts out for the birds he’d rush out and gobble them up.  My mother stuck a half-loaf in the crook of a tree and he sat barking every time a bird came near to peck it.  I don’t remember that he ever caught one, he just didn’t want them fed.

His father Simon was always out looking for a bitch in heat.  He’d go outside in the morning and sniff the air to see which direction to take off.  Huck was sexless.  Totally uninterested.  He was affectionate though and loved to be stroked, he was quite vain – a very good-looking dog and he knew it.

He was a very fast runner.  We did not demand obedience from our dogs.  When we went out in the car, they expected to come too, but they didn’t just get in.  They wanted a race first.  They’d follow the car to a long, straight road and race it the half-mile to the end.  Then the driver would turn and drive back, 5 mph slower.  Then back and forth until the dog, Simon or Huckleberry, would indicate he’d had enough and get in.  Simon could reach 35 mph but Huck would get to 40.

His best friend was the roadsweeper.  He’d go off in the morning and be by his side all day, sharing his lunchtime sandwiches.

His mucky habit was an affection for sordid smells and tastes.  You had to watch out with the dirty linen basket or he’d empty it, sniffing luxuriantly.  He used to wade into garden ponds, coming out covered in smelly mud and spend the next hour or two licking himself clean until his lovely golden hair was silky again.

Our drawing room had a doorknob on the right hand side as you went out, and the dining room door’s knob was on the left.  Conveniently, Simon was right-pawed and Huck left-pawed, so one of them could open each door – coming into the room from the hall, they only had to push, of course.

Disobedient isn’t quite the word.  I mean, would you call yourself obedient?  Good-natured, biddable, co-operative perhaps, but jumping to the word of command isn’t quite what is expected of an adult person, except in a few situations or jobs.  That was how it was with Simon and Huck.  “Would you like to come over here, please?” might get a positive result, but “Here, boy” would be met with a raised eyebrow and the command ignored.  An offer to shake hands would be greeted with enthusiasm, however, as long as a treat was the result.

He was a keen jumper and climber.  There was a five-foot chain link fence against the road – there were two gates and a drive in between in front of the house.  Huck could scale it, paw over paw.  There was a white picket fence between the drive and the kitchen garden and Huck jumped it daily.  He was particularly fond of raspberries and used to pick them off the canes delicately between his lips.  Once, I was in my parents’ bedroom ( a lovely room, we spent a lot of time there) and heard a terrible screaming.  I looked out and Huck had misjudged the jump and landed with his back legs between the uprights of the fence and couldn’t get out.  We rushed out and released him, he could barely reach the ground with his front paws and must have been in great pain.  He was quite careful after that.

Here is Huckleberry.  He was quite perfect.  I love him still and my hand remembers the shape of his head as I stroked it and the softness of his ears.  I miss him to this day.

HobbsZown Choice

I removed the Olympic (am I allowed to say the word or will I be sued by the sponsors?) commemorative cover from today’s paper and looked at the front page.  “Hang on,” I said aloud, ‘She’s wearing my dress.”

It was true.  Katie Kambridge was wearing the dress I bought for Tim’s party.  But I wore it twelve days before she did, so I didn’t copy.  I like my deep rose pink belt better than her white one.  And I wore my pale pink stilettos that I had re-heeled specially.  I also wore a necklace of rubies and sapphires (not good ones, darlings) that I bought in India on my first visit there.  It was slightly fussy for the dress but I rarely have a chance to wear it and I’m very fond of it.

I’m back on another committee.  I know, I know, sorry darlings, but needs must.  Two Trustees are leaving the area and, whilst one of them is an ex-officio position, the other must be filled, and I used to be a Trustee, so I’m the obvious person.  Only two meetings a year – admittedly I’ll be the secretary, but it’ll take 6 or 8 hours a year, tops.  Of course, I’ve got a lot of reading to do before the first meeting to find out what’s been going on, but that meeting is in December, so it’ll be fine.  Fine, honestly.  Bum.

Preparations are well under way for tomorrow’s wedding, the marquee is up on the field and all.  I took sandwiches to the bride’s father, who was waiting for a generator to arrive.  The bar turned up, not instead but as a bonus. I’ve had my hair cut and I’m contemplating which dress to wear.  I’m well turned out for dresses at present, I’ve got a choice of three.  I’ll probably choose the shoes first and the dress after.

I’ll write a post about darling Huckleberry later, I expect, because I won’t write tomorrow.  I might set it to publish tomorrow, but it’ll turn up in feed readers at once, so there’s not a lot of point.

This evening, to the pub.  I probably won’t stay long enough to watch the opening ceremony there but, rather to my surprise, I find I rather do want to see it.  

The doghouse – Bess

Bess was the only pedigree dog we ever had when I was a girl.  She was a black labrador, bred as a gundog – but she was terrified of loud noises.  Gunshy, they call it.  She’d have been put down as a failure, yet she was a beautiful, healthy dog.  My mother took her in.

She didn’t live in the house,  She had been born and brought up in a kennel and it took quite some time before she would enter the house at all.  It makes me wonder how harshly she had been treated.  After a while, she would come in during the day, but that was all.  Accommodation had to be built for her outside.

A while after she came to us, in the summer holidays, my mother came to me and told me that Bess had to stay in her run for a while.  “Don’t let her out,” she said.  Her godson Pearson, who spent several weeks during the summer with us for a number of years, was there too.  And a day or two later, we were outside the kennel looking at Bess.  So was Simon.  The two of them were running up and down, desperate to be together.  I don’t know which of us said it, but it was quite logical.  My mother said we weren’t to let Bess out, so we didn’t.  But there seemed to be no good reason not to let Simon in……….

After watching what went on, we were quite anxious, so went to tell my mother.

Look, darlings, we were children.  No one had told us anything.  How were we to know?

There were seven puppies, two blond boys and the rest black, a mixture of dogs and bitches.  The two blonds were Huckleberry and Kipper, and Huck will have his own chapter … no, Kipper must have his too, although he was given to our next-door neighbours.  Bess was an excellent, if slightly over-anxious mother.  I remember an occasion when the puppies were brought indoors – they didn’t live in the kennel, I think they were in the conservatory, which was outside the dining room.  I remember the plumbago and the nectarine tree which were in there for years (I could write reams about my childhood home, too). Bess watched, proud yet anxious.  One of the puppies made a mess on the dining room carpet.  Bess was horrified and embarrassed.  My mother went for paper and a cloth.  Bess looked wildly around – and licked up the little turd.  No, the literal little turd, darlings, she cleared it up.

She had the saddest of ends.  She absolutely adored my mother, who had shown her the first kindness and love she had ever known.  She was a big, powerful dog, very well trained although her love sometimes literally overwhelmed, she could knock my mother over without meaning to.  We went on holiday and Bess was sent to kennels … I don’t think that Simon and Huckleberry were, perhaps Bess was too difficult to look after and besides, she was used to a kennel.  However, she was frantic to return home.  She was shut up and escaped, she was tied up and escaped.  She was chained up.  The next morning, she was found dead.  She had turned round and round until the chain had strangled her.  Miss Coppithorne, the kennel owner, was distraught and apologetic, but no dog of ours has ever been sent to a kennel since then.

This is the only photo I have of Bess.  I’m with her, as if you didn’t recognise me.

The doghouse – Simon

I’ve never known a dog like Simon.  More character in his little claw than in the whole of any other dog.  But I’ll start at the beginning.

His owners took him as a puppy, but they couldn’t cope with him.  He chewed everything, he couldn’t be kept in, he was one jump ahead at every turn.  I think he was about 13 weeks old when he came to us.  I’m quite sure he was fully housetrained, he had more dignity than most people and wouldn’t deign to make a puddle.  He was black and tan, with some white, a thorough mongrel, it was impossible to pick out any breed for certain.  Oulton Broad Terrier, we called it.

He chewed, especially towels.  Most of our towels had a hole chewed out of its centre and patched, when I was a child.  Nothing was safe from him.  My parents had a four poster bed and he took refuge underneath and took anything he found there.  In later years, it was called ‘The Club’ because it was where the male dogs hung out.

He came to us in the Spring, which I know because we were going away for three weeks over the Easter holiday.  I suppose our gardener looked after him or maybe a friend moved in – I was only five, I didn’t know the arrangements.  I remember an incident that summer though, when he fell into the Broad (it’s where the river opens into a lake, Oulton Broad is the only Norfolk Broad in Suffolk and the part where we lived is probably the most formalised, with most of it surrounded by quay heading rather than riverbank).  Someone managed to haul him out and he was rushed up to the house, not before he had been quite sick with river water.  I remember seeing him lolling on the sofa, being fed brandy and milk from a spoon.  He lay on his back, a soppy smile on his face, drunk as a skunk, between Cobie our Dutch au pair and my mother.

We had a large garden, but it was impossible to keep him in it.  He was slim and slight and could find his way through the smallest space in a fence or hedge.  If there was no other option, he’d jump in the water and swim round to a neighbouring slipway.  You remember three-quarter lights in cars?  If you don’t, the front side windows used to be rectangular, and there was a small triangular window which opened out sideways.  It was very small.  One day, my mother drove our gardener into Lowestoft, with Simon in the back of the car.  They went to do their shopping and on their return the car was empty and the 3/4 light surround twisted.  Simon had squeezed out, we couldn’t work out how, and ruined the window while he was about it.  He turned up a few hours later, having spent the intervening time pleasuring a bitch or two, no doubt.  Because he was quite the randiest dog we ever knew.

And I’ll have to come back to Tales of Simon, because now we get on to an embarrassing tale – embarrassing to me, that is.  Or rather, we will in the next post, because that will be about Bess, the gun-shy gundog.

And here is his picture –

Dignified, indeed.

Z boasts, but not about myself

Just a quickie, the post about Simon is coming up later.  I can’t resist showing you this –

This may give some explanation of why I have such a commitment to the school.  It’s worth it.  Blotchy editing, sorry.  My tool is a bit rudimentary.

BTW, I’m not a Sir, the letter was received by the Head.  I’ve scanned it in and sent it on to the governors.

The doghouse – Bobby

Bobby was my mother’s dog.  She had him before she was married.  She always said that she took to her marriage a dog and her grandmother’s grand piano – which had a wooden frame, went out of tune constantly and eventually was broken up because she couldn’t bear to get rid of it, nor to have my father  putting a load of papers and stuff on it for another minute.

In due course, Bobby was joined, at the hotel in Weymouth, by Shulie (I don’t know how it was spelt) and Goggy (named because the small Wink couldn’t say doggy).  Shulie was a bull terrier and all I know about her is an anecdote about the time my mother heard a tiny Z voice crying “Give it back! Give it back!” and went into the room to find me, aged two or three, trying to pull open her jaws and retrieve the biscuit she had stolen.  Ever greedy, you see, no wonder I struggle with my weight (lost all I put on in Corfu and another two pounds mind you, hah!).  Goggy was a smallish black mongrel terrier.  When my parents left Weymouth, they bought their much-loved and respected pastry-cook, Mr Dyke, a guesthouse in appreciation of his years of service, and gave him Goggy as well.  We always stayed there when we visited my grandfather.

So, we brought Bobby to Oulton Broad.  He was very old and feeble by that time.  He was a wire-haired fox terrier and had been a great rabbiter in his early days.  Sadly, he came a cropper through running about on the cliff-top chasing bunnies, because he twice had dreadful mishaps and lost the sight in both eyes.  One was scratched by brambles, I’m not sure about the other.  Did a rabbit fight back?  I can’t remember what I was told – Wink, are you reading this?  My parents married in 1947 and he died in 1959, less than a year after we moved house – I think he was about 15 years old, maybe more.

And here he is in his younger days.  He was very much my mother’s dog, she adored him.  I don’t remember him taking much notice of me.  When he died, we were due to go on holiday within weeks and my parents decided to get another dog on their return.  However, the silence was soon too much for them, they rang the RSPCA and they heard of a puppy whose elderly owners were struggling to cope and who wanted him rehomed.  Their name was Mr & Mrs Bagshaw and they lived at 19, Moyes Road.

I know, darlings, what a memory.  Ree-markable.

Z is going to reminisce about dogs, but hasn’t yet

Sorry that yesterday’s post didn’t happen.  I spent so long planning it that I forgot to write it.  I shall tell you all the same, that my latest whim is to tell you about all the dogs in my life.  Not in a daily series, but an ongoing one.  I shall start tomorrow, with all that I know (not a lot) about Bobby, aka Robert John, the dog after whom our leopard was called.

Things are not going swimmingly at the Zedery at present, I’m afraid.  I’ve just discovered that my husband (I’m afraid that I’m going to have to find a new name to him, because Sage is now quite wrong) has had a whole lot of speeding tickets (that he never mentioned to me) and, as a result, is going to be off-road for a bit, as well as out of favour.  It may be a while before I’m able to talk about things, and I may be asking for some kind thoughts to come this way.

Cheery-pip, darlings.  You’ve got to keep carrying on, n’est-ce-pas? – or innit? as we say at the Zedery.