Saturday, 30 October 2010

Saturday 30 October 2010

And so another payday grinds around for my partner and I.  We allow ourselves a special treat each month, come payday.  She treats herself to a pizza for her dinner (Sainsbury's Thin 'n' crispy Roasted Vegetable this month) and a packet of treats for me.  If there is spare cash, then a nice piece of unusual cheese may be procured for us to taste.

This leads me on to Ewan, the pea-brained dog who shares my office space.  Ewan is a dog who would struggle to comprehend the pricing structure at The Pound Shop.  Most likely due to some unspecified occurrence during his birth or puppyhood, Ewan's head is almost entirely empty.  He is, however, one of the sweetest-natured, most generous and friendly fellows one could ever chance upon.  If you have previously encountered him on these pages you will know of his bizarre and delusional obsession with cheese in all its forms.

As we sat in the yard enjoying some autumnal sunshine, I shared with Ewan a nugget of trivia which I knew would appeal to my friend.
"Ewan, did you know that France alone has over 359 different types of cheese?  Some people think there might be nearer to 1,000!"
"Ooooooo....!" gasped Ewan, wistfully.  He closed his big brown eyes and I could tell that he was imagining himself floating through clouds of all kinds of cheeses - every now and then he stretched out his neck and head and snapped his jaws open and shut; sampling random mouthfuls of the dream-cheeses.  "Ooooo..." he sighed again.  "That's, like, loads...!  Jasper, that's... that's..." Ewan struggled to find a way to verbalise his wonderment.  He leaned in closer to me and whispered "That's... more than six!"
I grinned at him and nodded.  "Is it, Jazz?" he asked, "Is it more than six?"
"Many, many more than six, Ewan." I replied.  Ewan leapt to his paws and scampered off to tell his basket-mate, Fizzy (who was hunting for weasels in the woodpile), of his new-found fact.  He wasn't gone for long, and soon returned to sit down beside me again.
"Jasper," he asked, "If you was a cheese -"
"If I were a cheese, Ewan." I corrected him.
"Oh, right. Brilliant, yes.  If you was were a cheese, what cheese would you be?"

I smiled as I considered my friend's question.
"Probably a nice, strong, mature true English Cheddar." I decided.  Traditional, loyal and flavoursome.
"What about Fizzy?  What cheese is Fizzy?"  giggled Ewan.

I thought about the feisty, sparky little black Labrador bitch.  She was not reknowned for her patience, but she was obviously deeply fond of Ewan and had done a vast deal to calm him and limit the extent of his excitable mania.  One could almost say that she had tamed him.  Back in the pre-Fizzy days, Ewan would bark, whine and yelp to himself constantly.  That stopped within a few short weeks of Fizzy's arrival and Ewan went from a hopeless basket-case to a well-behaved, presentable, dog who did his best with what nature had bestowed on him.  It really was a most remarkable change.

"Parmesan." I announced.  Ewan laughed and squealed in delight.  "Fizzy is Parmesan." I went on. "She is very rough and hard to start with, but she is quick to melt and she adds so much flavour and enjoyment to the simplest of dishes."
"Yes! Yes! Yes!" yipped Ewan, jumping up and down in high glee.

"And me, Jazz?!" barked Ewan, once he had calmed himself a little.  "What cheese is Ewan?!"
I had anticipated the question, but not yet formulated an answer.  How to describe Ewan in cheese-form?  At length, it came to me in a flash of inspiration.
"Ewan, my friend," I said, solemnly.  "You are Emmental - or possibly a nice piece of Jarlsberg.  Full of holes in the most random of places - and so many holes that one wonders how the whole cheese works.  And yet it DOES work, with a warm, mild and entirely comforting texture - a bizarre but ultimately sweet and delicious unique cheese."

Ewan was rendered barkless.  He beamed from ear to ear and looked actually quite moved.  Fizzy ambled up, having abandoned her weasel-hunt.
"Fizzy!" yelped Ewan, as he jumped up to kiss his beloved lady, "Jasper says I'm a holy cheese!  I'm a cheese priest!"

Shaking my head, I grinned and winked at Fizzy, who returned my smile as Ewan slobbered all over her.

Good old Ewan.

But - hey! - It's Saturday night after payday!!  And so you get TWO Ewans for the price of one!  There's an unexpected bargain for you, eh?!  Yes - my partner's brother and sister-in-law and their delightful children, six-year-old Ewan and one-year-old Carys came for an unexpected visit, and my partner and I were thrilled to see them.  Little (human) Ewan is anything BUT dim, and his baby sister is equally charming - she is my particular favourite, I'll admit - but then I always do tend to get along better with lovely ladies...

Possibly the two loveliest human children in existence.

One of young Ewan's current passions is for cars of various types.  Seated alongside my partner the other evening, the lad was extolling the virtues of the new vehicle belonging to one of his school-friend (Adam)'s father.  My partner keenly enquired as to the make and model of this new carriage.  The reply, I'll admit, left me somewhat startled. 

It was, apparently, a "Toyota Enema".

Apparently it has sliding doors.  Well, that would be a useful feature, I daresay.  Not, however, a chariot I shall be looking to ride in anytime soon.

Mind you - consider the humble "Vauxhall Nova".  In Spanish 'no va' means "doesn't go".  And in Japanese 'Coca-Cola' means "bite the wax tadpole".  So think on, my friends.

Think on.


Only a few short days after the previously-described fight with the Alsatian, I was ushered into the young lady’s car for an outing. I must admit that I DID like this part of my new existence – whilst in the rescue kennels I had missed the regular trips in a vehicle. ‘Twas true that the new carriage was not of my favourite kind – a white work-van – but was a nicely-compact green Vauxhall Corsa.

In actual fact, the young woman who became my partner never DID fully understand why I always used to dash enthusiastically towards white vans. It took several years to get that out of my system. I believe she suspected that it had something to do with my former life – but she had not yet learned to comprehend my language and therefore my explanations that the white work-van rides were the happiest times of my pre-rescue shelter days.

I digress. I enjoyed my rides in the car. Right up until the point that I jumped out at a destination which did not please me.

It was a deeply rural location, in which the scent of horses, donkeys and dogs was rife. We emerged from our vehicle (the young lady and I) into a muddy and sodden field, to be greeted by a somewhat unique lady with whom my partner had made a prior appointment. There followed an hour of utter misery. I was hauled here and there in the lead, whilst being “educated” in concepts and ideals which I had grasped whilst still a puppy.

The odd lady pronounced me to be an acceptable pupil and off we went. I thought I’d seen the last of her – but no. Oh no.

The following Wednesday evening, I was just settling down for the evening when I was unceremoniously hauled off my beanbag and encouraged into the Little Green Corsa. Anticipating some unexpected treat or social occasion, I was keenly compliant. HA! If only I had known…

We proceeded to a local village hall, some three miles away. Entering the hall, I passed a number of young pups and marginally-older canine infants on the way out. This was Dog Training School – and I was enrolled as an “adult beginner”. Oh, the humiliation…

I was registered with the odd lady we’d met the other day, and her equally-odd female compatriot, and invited to take my place in a circle of dogs and owners currently taking form in the hall. One or two of the pups remained with their owners at the edges of the hall, watching. Probably because they had older housemates in the “adult beginners” class and had to wait for them to finish before they could leave. The little pups giggled ceaselessly.

I took a position in front of a placid spaniel and behind a large Alsation bitch, who turned and winked at me with a grin. She seemed to belong to someone who was a friend of my young lady.

“Alright?!” she smiled. “This is my third time repeating this class. I keep getting chucked out for being naughty!”

Now this was MY kind of woman!

“My name’s Tiki.”

“Captain, er… Jasper.” I replied.

“Jasper’s better.” said my new friend. OK then, I thought. Jasper it is, from now on.

The training was a bit of an eye-opener, though not in a tail-wagging way. The setting was totally inappropriate. For a start, there were far too many dogs in the class, so how anyone learned anything was beyond me. Quite apart from that, the heating was on full blast, with no open door or windows – so it wasn’t long before the majority of dogs either started to nod off to sleep or became increasingly irritable. I positively HATED having to walk round and round in stupid circles.

As a diversion, I began to nip and fuss at Tiki’s tail, eventually gripping onto it and being dragged around the circle by her. The little pups at the side hooted with laughter, which spurred us on to greater and cheekier antics. After only a couple of sessions, Tiki and I were forcibly separated and forbidden to stand with each other in the circle.

Eventually, my young lady seemed to tumble to the fact that I was making a mockery of the training. When we moved onto the “lie down” instruction, I would loudly pretend to fall asleep and snore (which my puppy audience really loved) and then not wake up when told and having to be dragged around the once-again-moving circle on my belly. That very night, the young lady glared at me after putting me into my car seat.

“You’re basically just taking the p*ss, aren’t you, Jasper?” she accused. The gleam in my eye betrayed me. “You know how to do all this stuff, don’t you?”

I couldn’t deny it.

The upshot was that that was the last-ever time I had to go to a dog-training class. The regrettable downside was that I was forced to develop new, more inventive, and increasingly-harsher strategies for punishing this evil girl who had stolen me from my happy rescue-shelter security…

Good night.
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