Monday, 18 June 2012

Meeting Her Majesty (kind of....)....

All this happened in the frenzy of the Jubilee by the way, so forgive the delay. The piccie is of Tam and Isla (a.k.a Kate Middleton and a small Princess) on the beautiful boat The Fairmile (a.k.a. their personal Royal Barge) as part of the Dartmouth Jubilee procession. Very nice it was too.....


There are a great many benefits of having a dog. One of the main ones of course is that you are absolutely and unconditionally adored. This unfettered loyalty and relentless enthusiasm for pretty much anything you do is unbending.  Go out for ten minutes, and you’ll return to find the dog pogo’ing in delight in the hallway, surrounded by a scene that says “You went out, and I didn’t think you were ever, ever, ever, ever coming back. So I panicked and ate the sofa.” It’s hard to stay annoyed though - many’s the time I’ve been putting up a wonky shelf or cooking one of my famously inept meals only to glance round and see Reubs staring at me with that look that says “That is simply the greatest thing I’ve ever seen, you are a talent beyond measure and I respect, admire and love you for it.” This is diametrically opposed to cats by the way, who would look at you doing the same thing with an expression that unequivocally says “Call that a shelf? Jesus, what an incompetent prat” before stalking off to find small mammals to murder. 

One of the other great peripheral benefits of the dog thing is that you are forced to go out at least twice a day. Reubs is the size of a respectably plump timber wolf, and would not look kindly on me sitting at home watching the world go by when there are squirrels to be chased and large expanses of ocean to be barked at. Having a dog certainly keeps you fit, and so one of the real pleasures for me and big hairy fella is running along the path that leads from the house, winding its way along the coast through many an echoing cove and ancient wood.

My runs nowadays are fairly calculated affairs. Gone are the days of the pronking gazelle of youth, to be replaced by the gut-shot buffalo of middle age – I wheeze and stumble along, puce of face, heart vibrating like a bag of jam left on top of a spin-dryer, all the while leaving vapour trails of shining spittle in my wake. It’s not a good look, and I’m always keen to find reasons to stop. So as I ran along a quiet lane towards Dartmouth Castle, I needed no excuse to skid to a halt next to house tucked away in a shady hollow.

The image that had caught my attention was a really quite substantial picture of the Queen on the front door of the house. This wasn’t a photo that had been cut out of a magazine and casually stuck to the panelling, it was colossal – in fact it was pretty much life size. For one faintly panicky moment – as I blinked away the sweat that had streamed into my eyes - I thought it actually WAS the Queen. This would have been one of those classically awkward social situations, particularly as Reubs – untroubled it seemed by the presence of royalty - took the opportunity for a quick toilet stop. Suffice to say that he’s a very large dog indeed, so this is invariably a flamboyant affair involving apocalyptic smells, the occasional deafening noise, and a pile that can reach knee height. The fact that he was doing this directly in front of Her Majesty filled me – as I trust it would any stout hearted Englishman – with horror. Happily a closer look at the door revealed that it was HRH in 2D, and not the 3D version which would have seen me marched off to the Tower to be beaten senseless by furious Beefeaters. 

Having cleaned up (one of the other joys of dog ownership) I carried on running to the castle to finally stand on a grass bank that led down to the seashore, the green slope before me alive with primroses and bluebells. The cove below us shone in the morning sunshine, the waves rustling and chuckling into the loose stones of the beach after their journey across a wide sea. The castle was built to keep out the invaders from beyond the horizon, and stands as a monument to a time when being a Royalist could mean the difference between life and death. Such sentiments are of course long gone, but it seems to me that coastal communities – the front line for invasion in days of yore - always had to rely on an established Monarchy at their back as they faced such uncertainty to their front.  

We duly stumbled home, with me tugging a respectful forelock as we passed the door on the return journey. I know we all have mixed views on the Monarchy, but I reckon the Jubilee was a pretty good thing as it got us all buntingly-flutteringly happy for a wee while, before the spectre of double dip recessions and free-falling Euro's reappeared. Yep, I enjoyed the Jubilee. Let's do another one soon..... 

Sunday, 10 June 2012

The Man Cave.....

Hi All,

So sorry that it's been a while since I last posted. I've been charging about like a man possessed, Isla tucked under one arm, keys for the boat, the house, the car, the safe, and the shop all lost or mislaid at one time or another, my boxer shorts on backwards and wearing odd socks. Blimey. But I have had a little refuge, somewhere I can go to re-connect with my basest self, so I thought I'd write about that as I'm assuming everyone has such a place.

Our house looks fairly standard from the outside. Perhaps the presence of a small baby and large dog means that there is slightly more rubbish than usual out front (we’re trying to adhere to the massively complex recycling rules of modern life as best we can, the result being ninety seven bins of varying shades containing the detritus of our existence). But generally we have the veneer of pretty much the standard home. Walk inside and there is – just like any other place - a certain level of bedlam. You’ll probably step on a squeaky toy as you pass over the threshold. Reuben will bark ferociously, every inch the timber wolf defending the pack, until you scratch him behind one ear at which point he’ll roll over and gaze at you adoringly whilst waggling his legs in the air. If only the moose in the Klondike knew this about wolves, their lives would be considerably lengthened I imagine. Baby Isla will be sitting on the floor, drooling like an escaped maniac and trying very hard to eat a cushion, and Tam will be multi-tasking in that sort of “playing a vigorous solo on a one man band outfit” manner that is the new mum preparing for the day ahead.

Walk through the chaos, side-stepping bags and babies, all the while being followed slavishly by Reuben, and you’ll come to a door under the stairs. A non-descript door, just like any other, and yet behind it lurks the very essence of my manhood. Turn the handle, and there’s every chance you’ll be overwhelmed by the musky whiff of testosterone that emerges as the door swings ajar. For this is a portal to that essential of modern life - my man-cave.

As your eyes adjust to the gloom you’ll be able to make out the murky shapes of spear guns, diving equipment, tools (oh yes, lots and lots of tools), and crouched in the corner like some hormonal silverback, me. As you enter I may well glance up with a primal grunt. In my more exuberantly masculine moments I may even stand and vigorously pummel my own chest. I have even been known to mock charge those who enter the man-cave, as Tam whispers in the background “Just stay calm, don’t run, and whatever you do don’t look him in the eye. He’s sees it as a challenge you know.” After a few moments I’ll return to whatever I’m doing, which involves a variety of different tools but always, always a very large hammer.

Here's a piccie. To get the full effect whilst viewing this image you need to go and get a whiff of a stag in the midst of the rut, or a bull elephant in musth. But I'm sure you get the general idea.....

I’ve heard it said that modern society is noting the gradual eradication of that peculiar creature that is a man. The thinking goes that the difference between the sexes has become blurred as we become an androgynous monoculture – you only have to stand Orlando Bloom next to Fatima Whitbread to see that this argument has merit. The days of the hunter are behind us, which neatly removes that particular daily test of virility. If you were the chap who thundered first down the hill ahead of the tribe, waggling your pitiful sharp twig at a lavishly tusked mammoth, you were held in high esteem. Or you were messily and immediately dead (which also means that the buffoons were invariably removed from the gene pool by the way, which is something that is again lamentably in the distant past).

May I say on behalf of at least half of the world’s population that it’s not easy being a modern chap. The normal tests of man-dom have been removed by the march of civilisation, and now we have to convince our respective partners that we could – if the chips were down – wrestle a sabre tooth tiger into submission, but the modern life means that we have this discussion whilst taking out a pink recycling bin. I know that society today applauds the delicate, sensitive man, and so it should. But inside, deep inside, I’m sure there’s a tiny voice in every woman that is saying “I wonder if my man could wrestle a sabre-tooth tiger into submission? Yeah, I bet he could…..”

Glance across at your man now, and you’re looking at the greatest predator that has ever walked planet earth, a magnificent uber-animal that can run all day and bring home the bacon. The passage of time, pasties and pies may have taken their toll, but inside there’s a snake hipped Apache warrior (possibly two now I think about some of my more generously upholstered mates).

And so let’s celebrate the man-cave, the shed, the garage, the study, the den and the fug. It’s here that your man can convince himself that he’s still got it, that he could still flit across the Kalahari in the shimmering heat, that he can kick a lion in the family jewels, and stare down a grizzly. The fact that from the within his cave he’ll occasionally bellow “Darling, could I have a cup of tea please? Not too strong. Oh, and with my sweetners please, not sugar. Oh, and with soya milk too, you know that dairy makes me a tad gassy….” should be quietly, and benevolently, forgiven.