Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Tuesday 29 June 2010

Livid.  Indescribably livid.  And on my 250th blog posting as well.

I refer, of course, to England's humiliating 4-1 (or 4-2, had a competent match official been present) World Cup football defeat at the paws of Germany.

My national team's performance throughout the tournament has been inept and embarrassing to an unacceptable degree.  My partner's nephew Ewan is a more talented footballer than those randomly collected together for their South African holiday - and he is but six years old.

The only reasonable course of action at this point, I believe, is to resurrect the practise from former times of judicious beheading and the placing of the severed heads on spikes at the entrance to the Tower, as a warning against future miscreants.  Some - perhaps - could be excused this fate; James, Lampard, Crouch, Defoe - at a pinch...

As this outcome is unlikely, I do seriously think that the nature of football in England has to be re-examined.  How can young, home-based, talent EVER be encouraged to succeed when clubs part with their wealth to lure foreign players to populate their teams?  Look at our glory years of football.  According to The Sunday Times, the average players' wage in 1966 was (in 2010 terms) £100 per week. Today's premier players average around £21,000 per week.  And reports suggest that supposedly 'top-flight' players such as Spud-boy Rooney and John "adultery" Terry receive over six times that amount.  Are those players REALLY kidding themselves that they are better than Bobby Moore, Geoff Hurst, Duncan Edwards, the Charlton brothers, etc...?

They should be bl**dy-well ashamed of themselves.  Perhaps a few can truly be classed as great.  Despite the hype, Beckham is genuinely good.  And, given the dexterity with which he leapt from beside Capello on the managers' bench to berate the players after one of many near-misses during the Algeria game, I have to bark: why isn't he still playing for the national team?!

Oh dear - this all sounds terribly bitter, doesn't it?  'Tis only a game, after all, but I have been annoyed recently by the excessive heat and humidity and the pink cross that faintly lingers on my back.  I am also concerned about my dear friend Angie.  I have the joy of my partner's company this week, as she has taken a short holiday, and today we did a little gardening and painting - but I fear that all is not entirely perfect with the Divine Mrs. M.  Keep smiling Angie - we love you.

Reports suggest that the weather will be cooler - thankfully - on the morrow; so my partner and I may tackle some lower-level window cleaning.  However - and this is the true beauty of having time to one's and one's partner's selves - we shall see what we feel like in the morning!



PART TWENTY-SIX

At length, it seemed the paperwork was complete.  Dave rounded the reception desk and, bending down, gave me a huge hug.
"Good luck, mate.  Have a great life." he grinned, ruffling my ears.  As I was trying to work out what he meant, the kennel maids crowded around, pawing at me.  Most of them were alternately smiling and weeping.  The last to hold me (with a firm hug and copious tears) was Sarah - the seeming leader of the kennel maids and the one who had closed the gate when Dave first brought me to the shelter.
"Oh dear," said the young woman holding the other end of the lead that was clipped to my collar.  "Now I feel really bad for taking him away from you..."
"Oh, it's OK." sniffled Sarah, managing a watery smile.  "It's just that he's been here for such a long time and he's really the general favourite.  But we wouldn't deny him a good home for anything.  We're just going to miss him.  Take care of him - give him a good life.  He's such a sweetie."

The young girl looked down at me and smiled, with slightly raised eyebrows.  I sensed scepticism, and looked away.

Clutching her sheaf of papers, and thanking Dave and his team for all they had done for me, the young lady, her mother and Miss Smart escorted me to a car, which was waiting on the gravel drive.  I was overjoyed at the prospect of a car-ride and leapt onto the back seat (relieved, I might add, that I was being permitted a ride without being secured in a cage first).  The young girl got in beside me, her mother sat in the driving seat and Miss Smart settled into the front passenger seat.  The girl opened her window so that I could poke my head out - yesss!!! - and I turned to see Dave closing the gate behind us and waving as we moved off.

I began to actually look forward to my nice day out.  I enjoyed looking out of the window and watching the world whizzing past.  We passed the vets' and carried on until we halted at a smart-looking Edwardian terraced house.  Exiting the car and climbing the steps to the front door, we were greeted by a volley of barks.  Once inside, we found Miss Smart's sisters, with whom she lived (Miss Smart and... erm... Miss Smart), a cat and three dogs - a rather haughty and painfully shy Shi-Tzu called Dan, an enormous but gentle and friendly white German Shepherd named Joe, and the youngest of the three dogs, another Shi-Tzu - a charming and sparky little bitch who introduced herself as 'Ellie' (she would, in time, become one of my wives - see http://jasper-thedogsblog.blogspot.com/2008/10/saturday-30-august-2008.html for a picture of her on Miss Smart's sofa).  All three dogs had been previous 'inmates' of the rescue shelter, but before my own time there.

The house itself was fascinating and an utter delight.  It was stuffed from floor to ceiling with antique clocks, fine paintings, old tapestries and splendid examples of decorative china.  The stairs (up which the cat swiftly retreated) had their lovely original wooden balustrades.  The kitchen was light and airy, with huge windows and cool terracotta floor tiles.  The garden to the rear was gently terraced and beautifully laid-out.  We all settled ourselves in the sweet little withdrawing room, which was crammed with pretty and elegant treasures.  I had never seen beauty like this before - I hadn't realised that humans were capable of creating such lovely things.  On one shelf stood a series of black-and-white photographs.  From each one stared a handsome face.  They were incredibly old pictures (just about pre-Titanic-era, I suspect).  A fine-looking gentleman with a moustache and kindly, jovial twinkling eyes; women in exquisite gowns with their thick, dark, wavy hair piled up on their heads... Utterly entrancing.  I looked up at the young woman still clutching the end of my lead.  Her hair was thick, dark and wavy too...  In fact, the same likeness between her and the Miss Smarts appeared in these aged snapshots as well.  Only her nose and smaller stature was different - although, looking at the young lady's mother, it didn't take a genius to conclude from whence they had been inherited.

The Miss Smarts persuaded their great-niece (for that was their relationship, on - as I had guessed - her father's side) to unclip my lead and Joe and Ellie invited me to join them on a tour of the garden, Dan electing to remain at his usual station on the lap of the eldest Miss Smart. As we three dogs trotted through the house to the garden, there came a sound like the tinkling of a thousand tiny bells.  The movement through the rooms of the vast Joe (he wasn't fat, just naturally enormous) made all the ornamental china pieces vibrate and gently tap against each other.  It was actually rather melodious and not a little bit comical.
"He's never broken or knocked over a single one!" giggled Ellie as we capered up some stone steps into the garden.  Joe was truly a gentle giant.

We returned to the withdrawing room as a light lunch arrived on a truly exquisite bone china tea-service.  There were dainty sandwiches, some with cold sliced roasted ham, some with cucumber, some with tuna, and light little cakes, along with cups of fresh-brewed tea.  Most elegant - and we dogs ended up eating more than any of the Miss Smarts!  I was almost overwhelmed to have been suddenly propelled into such a refined setting.

As the crockery was cleared away, Joe and Ellie curled up on the rug and prepared for a snooze.  I was just making up my mind to join them when, for the second time that day, my intention to nap was rent asunder.

I began to protest as the lead was reapplied to my collar and I was hauled out of the nice, comfortable room.  Joe and Ellie began to say their farewells almost straight away.  All three Miss Smarts were remaining with them - only the young woman, her mother and I were heading down the steps and back to the car.  I said goodbye politely to them all - I would have said goodbye to Dan as well, but he was hiding somewhere in the house - and they all stood, smiling broadly and waving, as I got back into the car.  The young lady got into the back beside me and her mother resumed her place in the driving seat.

We waved and smiled until they were out of sight.  And then we continued on our journey - except that we seemed to be heading back to the rescue shelter...



Good night.
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