Dear, oh dear. I always thought that the run-up to Christmas-tide was a time for great joy and celebrations? Not for your humble, put-upon author, it would seem.
The week started well, with a fair amount of jollity. Two of my partner's colleagues had been kind enough to procure a decorated Christmas tree for her (and I) to enjoy:
Hmmm... "It's the thought that counts", I believe the human saying goes. I have a thought that can count - but unfortunately it isn't one that I care to repeat on a public-facing blog...
The next item of interest is that the house adjacent to ours now stands dark and empty. Yes: our unsociable neighbour has left the building. He didn't say a word to anyone (although the rumour-mill on my patch is more communicative than he was, so we knew he was probably going) and, today, he was off. The big white van outside his house in the morning today and yesterday must have been the removers. We even spoke to the man two days ago and he didn't say goodbye or anything. As I departed with my partner for work this morning, I noted that Honey, the stripey-ginger cat from opposite, had secured herself a comfortable place, from which to sit and watch the proceedings. "How nosy." I thought to myself. I cannot abide folk who have nothing better to do than watch and pass comment on their neighbours.
We shall not mourn the departure of this neighbour. The first words he ever spoke to my partner on seeing her (watching, I might add, as she struggled alone to carry a heavy box from our Little Green Corsa RIP (Rust in Pieces) to the house) were "I don't like dogs." Well, I didn't like him either - but I politely kept that sentiment to myself. The rude git. We certainly shall not miss his late-night electric guitar sessions, his foul-mouthed unprovoked rants at small children and pets in the street, his smoke-alarm going off every time he attempted to cook something - or the scary night-time banging and dragging sounds. My partner says I should not rejoice too much - we may get something worse in exchange. Time will tell.
And so - inevitably - to Ewan. The hapless, feeble-brained, cheese-obsessed (but good-natured and relentlessly optimistic) dog. This week has seen him go a-wooing. Regular readers of this blog will glean enough from this seemingly innocuous statement to develop a deep sense of foreboding. And rightly so.
Ewan, Fizzy (petite but feisty black Labrador bitch, Ewan's basket-mate) and I were enjoying a lunchtime game of football, when Fizzy suddenly left the fray during a particularly complex set-piece tackle. Putting the ball down, Ewan and I stared after her. She had gone to the edge of the woods and was exchanging friendly preliminaries with a larger (and, dare I bark it, younger and somewhat slimmer) black Labrador bitch. Her name was Rosie and she was unquestionably in season.
"Look over there, Jazz!" yapped Ewan, indicating towards the bridleway behind us. I turned and looked - there was nothing there - and when I turned back it was to see Ewan's rapidly-departing rump as he dashed after the new young lady.
Classic distractionary tactic - and I'd fallen for it! Dammit!!!
I capered hastily after him, but stopped in my tracks at what I witnessed. Ewan, without so much as a word to the young lady, grasped her around the neck and shoulders, clambered on, and began what can only be respectably described as "love motions". Fizzy stamped off in disgust.
"Ewan! No! NOOO!" cried my partner and I, in unison. My partner apologised profusely to the bitch's owner (who, fortunately, was good-natured. He shouldn't have been walking with an in-season bitch off the lead, anyway. Bark about ASKING for trouble...) whilst I shoved the enamoured Ewan into the work-yard for an urgent dog-to-dog 'chat'.
"What, in the name of Cerberus, were you THINKING, mate?!" I demanded angrily. Ewan looked puzzled.
"What d'you mean, Jazz?" asked Ewan, in genuine (bless him) ignorance. "That's how you do it!"
"Yes," I conceded, "But - Ewan - you need to BARK to them first. At least make friends! Let them know that they are pretty and special. You know - erm - prepare the ground before you plant the parsnip... yes?"
Ewan adopted a sulky expression.
"That's not what Fizzy says." he muttered.
"When we... you know..."
"YES!!!" I interjected, hurriedly, "I get it! Thank you, Ewan!!"
"Yeah. She says she doesn't want me to bark ANYTHING. Actually, she says she prefers it if I don't bark at all."
"Hmmm." I postulated, pretending to sound surprised. "Well - generally - I would suggest that you at least strike up a conversation BEFORE... well... you know... the Deed of Darkness."
"Oh. Right. Brilliant. Yes." The merest moment of silence. "What should I say?"
"Errr...." I muttered, pawing at straws while Ewan looked expectantly at me. "Um.... well. Just be your nice, honest, self Ewan."
"Yeah, but what should I SAY, Jazz?"
Why? Why me? I mean - did I do something bad in a former life? Why do these things ALWAYS fall to ME?
"OK, Ewan." I sighed. "Ladies like a bit of flattery and chat -" My young protégée interrupted me with scornful snorts of derisive laughter. I sighed and shook my head. "Regrettably, it's true. Trust me on this one, Ewan. Experience has proved me right."
My simple friend became more serious.
"Oh." he said, soberly. "What should I say? I wouldn't know how to start. How do I talk before it?"
I thought for a moment.
"Ewan," I replied, "Just be yourself. You are sweet and endearing enough. But don't make things difficult for yourself. Stick to subjects that you, yourself, are comfortable with."
"Um.... well, er, like... cheese! How about cheese, Ewan? You're definitely on safe ground there."
"Oh yes." grinned Ewan, wagging his big mad tail. "I like cheese. Do you know what my favourite cheese is?"
"You might have mentioned it once or twice." I replied wryly. "Anyway. How about saying to a lady 'Hello. You look pretty. My name is Ewan. What's your name?' Then, after she has replied, you can say something like 'Do you like cheese? I have a great fondness for cheese, myself.' Then she will reply and you're away! A nice, polite conversation, which you can take in any direction you want after that."
Ewan jumped up and down excitedly, his tail swinging from side to side.
"Genius!" he squealed. "Genius!!! How do you do it, Jazz?!"
"It's a complete mystery." I replied, modestly. I then spent the rest of the day helping Ewan to practise his new opening gambit of 'Hello. My name is Ewan. What is yours? I like cheese." By going-home time, he had just about mastered it.
The following day afforded me an early opportunity for watching my pupil in action. As we were heading back for afternoon naps following another happy game in the woods, the fair Labrador Rosie appeared once again - still svelte, bewitchingly attractive - and still on heat. Ewan yelped with delight and flung himself at her. In a single, rushed, breath he blurted out:
"Hello! My name is cheese! What are you? I like Ewan!" before grabbing and mounting the poor, bemused bitch once again.
With a despairing sigh, I trudged past the couple, biting down on Ewan's tail and pulling him off the unfortunate woman for the second time in as many days.
And yet he wonders why, this afternoon, Fizzy grabbed his football and smacked him across the face with it.
Dear, oh dear.