Dearest reader, I thank you from the bottom of my heart (or the heart of my bottom, if you prefer...) for all your birthday good wishes. I appreciated them all most sincerely, as well as the gifts (all edible this year, I am delighted to report!). Alas some of the time betwixt those celebrations and this very moment have been somewhat less jolly.
I rise from my bed of pain and misery to write to you now. I have been suffering all manner of torments since the weekend. Only now is my misery beginning to abate. Perhaps you will be kind enough to indulge me whilst I explain...
Saturday morning (29 October) was turning out to be a truly exquisite day. One of those beautifully perfect autumnal ones, with the trees at their rich, russet and gold, best - the scent of bonfires in the air and that hint of a chill, which sharpens and heightens all the scents to be sensed. After a morning of grocery shopping, my partner took me to Chawton Woods (opposite Jane Austen's House) - one of my favourite local spots for a stroll. I felt better and more energised than I had for several weeks! Around and about I capered, through the fallen leaves and conkers, glorying in simply being alive on such a delightful day. And then, I saw her. A vision of loveliness through the trees - a young spaniel, female and precisely formed in the way that I like. As she spotted me, I uttered a silent prayer of thanks that I was looking my most handsome best. Autumn always sets me off to the finest advantage - if, indeed, such a thing can be barked to be true. In fact, when the inestimable Keats wrote his ode To Autumn, I cannot fathom out why - after the line "Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness" - he chose to strike out the intended following line "And impossibly handsome dogs in flawlessly perfect natural lighting". I digress. The comely maiden bounded over to me and gave me the time-honoured sniff-over.
"Hello!" she enthused, with fluttering eyelashes and wagging tail. "I'm Ellie! Who are you?!"
"Good morning, my dear!" I replied, offering up my most winning smile, "I am Jasper. And what a pleasure it is to meet one so charming as you on this loveliest of days!"
My new acquaintance giggled coquettishly, piquing my interest (fear not, dear reader, my pretty neighbour Rosie never takes her exercise this far East. I shall not be detected...).
"D'you want to play hide'n'sniff with me?!" she yipped, "It's my favouritest game EVER!"
"Why, what an uncanny coincidence!" I replied (smooth at all times, Jasper, smoooooth, hehehe...), "That is my favourite game as well! Who could have believed that two such intertwined souls should meet in one place?!"
The pretty young spaniel giggled, calling "Me first, then!" as she dashed off into the woods. Of course, I pretended to shield my eyes - but she was young and inexperienced at the game and didn't notice that I was watching her - I saw where she had concealed herself and didn't have to use my snout at all (something of a relief, for those who know my recent snout-based history). After a few exhilarating rounds (all of which I could have won without effort - but which I allowed the deliciously pert young beauty to win. Didn't want to scupper my chances, after all...), we decided to play "chase-tag". After being "tagged" (tapped on the flank) by the fair maid ('tis only fair to give the Lady first victory), I sped off in hot pursuit of her enticing rear, enjoying the chase but not forgetting to keep my eyes on "the prize", hehehehe...
Oh, reader, do not underestimate me. I still have strength in my body as well as in my mind - and, yes, still where it matters most to a man. Rejoicing in my ability to keep up with the pretty lass, I ran, ran, and RAN. Alas, my eyes were focussed on the quarry and not the path. Laughing and barking as I chased her -
- ** - SMACK!!!! - ** -
- I ran into a tree that wasn't there before! It hurt. A LOT.
I managed to make an hasty retreat whilst still retaining my dignity. I won't lie to you - this one REALLY HURT. I had the black eye to countenance all other black eyes throughout history and the swelling - oh, Dear Lord, the swelling. My head looked like a football. The right-paw snout passage and eye-surround, already tender because of previously-described tumourous activity, blew up like a balloon. I was able to conceal it from my erstwhile new lady. Not, alas, from my partner. All evening, she stared at me in a most unsettling "there's something not quite right about you, but I cannot put my dewclaw on it"-type manner.
Come Sunday, it was beyond my control. I was in agony and unable to eat or even drink beyond a few cooling sips, and my partner was in hysterics.
The very next day, my folly was revealed. "This is an impact injury, not a tumour growth!!" bleated the traitorous surgeon. I was despatched home, tail between legs, with medications that - even now - are proving the (female) veterinarian correct. I am being a good boy, and am taking them without fuss.
But even my partner, I suspect, is only partially convinced of my integrity.
Be a love, dear reader, and don't enlighten her. 'T would only baffle and distress her... I thank you.
Next time - Ewan (dog); kittens; and the mystery of fatherhood. Oh, for goodness' sake....