‘Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.’
I have been fixated on dogs and my book since I left home more than two months ago.
- Not your knee?
Yes, and my knee too, but I was trying not to bring that up. Let me tell you about the dogs I’ve travelled halfway around the world to fall in love with. There are spaniels in Cornwall, a terrier in Kent, Yorkies around the corner from Kew Gardens in London, a terrier in a thatched cottage in the village where they film Midsomer Murders and a black bear of a dog in Switzerland. My heart is filled with doggy love.
And it’s not just the dogs I’ve minded who have made an impact. I’ve met some corkers along the way. I think travelling alone has turned me into more dog than human. We see each other, dogs and I, and we stop, have a scratch and a sniff and a chat. Very short-term but nevertheless nourishing when you’re pouring stuff into your book.
- I knew this book would rear its head sooner or later. How come – when you’re talking book – you’re talking in the third person?
I don’t know, to create some distance. Don’t judge me. It’s exhilarating and scary to withdraw so much from the world and just write.
- And cuddle dogs. And travel. Stop trying to make it sound as if you’re some kind of tortured artiste.
Well, yes, that’s true – cuddle dogs and travel, as well. In Portugal, a lovely dog came in off the street to chat to me in a café, just walked right on in and sat under my table while I fed him half my dinner.
I met market dogs; always a treat.
I met a dog making a quick get-away from a cafe with a bread roll in his mouth.
I met a lovely dog at the station at Great Missenden where Roald Dahl used to catch the train to see his publisher.
In Geneva, I met two lovely fellas wandering about at each end of a rope with a backpack in between who…
- Now you’ve got my attention – the rest was just list-making.
One of the dogs decided he’d had enough waiting and so he was heading off to find their person. Except by virtue of the rope and a few handy knots, he couldn’t go alone. The other dog thought it was best to just stay put and so showed some resistance to the idea. It became quite the tug of war with the luggage in the middle. Everyone could see this happening but no one was doing anything and these dogs were so confused, I thought I should take charge.
- Oh, this’ll be good – you saving the day again. Spare me.
You’re the one being dramatic here. I just gathered them, and the back pack up, and took them to a statue and told them to las suspension. I thought their person might be able to see them if I parked them under a statue. They actually both looked quite relieved to have someone take charge of them.
- So you’re not actually a hero…
Leave me alone. Do you want to hear about the dog in the village where they filmed Four Weddings and A Funeral?
- Tell me it to me first and then I’ll let you know.
You do realise it doesn’t quite work like that. So there’s this dog who just sits at the bar for an entire evening’s worth of entertainment and…
- What was that?
- The entire evening’s entertainment. Who was playing? Someone I know, anyone I’ve heard of?
Well, the dog provided the entertainment for me. He sat on his haunches as though he was begging for something but he wasn’t. And he sat there for ages.
- Sounds uncomfortable. Like lions being led around on leashes or chimpanzees wearing nappies and posing for photos or elephants being ridden by …
I get it. Stop. I don’t feel it was like that. I think the dog just felt comfortable on his haunches. I don’t know. Look, thanks for ruining that for me.
Let’s just say, I’ve met any number of lovely dogs in pubs. And cafes. I’m almost always covered in a sheen of dog feathers.
- You mean fur.
Stop being so pedantic. I say feathers, you say potato. Anyway the book has legs of its own and I’m now 40,000 words in.
- And the knee? Let’s get that over and done with, shall we?
Look, if I’d known how much trouble it was going to give me I would have cried a lot more and a lot harder when I broke it. Some things we’re just better off not knowing at the time.
- That your philosophy on life?
Nup, that’s my philosophy on broken knees.