Edinburgh Fringe and Puppy Training

Thursday 14 August Diary, I can’t deny it. I’ve neglected you again. Woefully. Unforgivably. But you won’t believe how many excuses I have. (No, I’m serious, you really won’t believe how many excuses I have. Even I don’t.) Far too many to go into now. And if I did, how would I list them? Alphabetically? Chronologically? Arbitrarily? You see? Sometimes it’s better just to forgive and forget, as I am in the habit of telling Mr Young. Although it doesn’t necessarily work both ways, as I am also in the habit of telling him. There are so many things I am in the habit of telling him that perhaps I should devise a system, perhaps along the lines of the Dewey Decimal Categorisation. I could then use this for my list of excuses. I’ll need a new card index box, though. Probably two.

Friday 15 August We’re on our way to the Edinburgh Fringe again. Or, as those of us who are hip and cool call it, The Fringe. The four of us – myself, Mr Young, my sister Rachel, and her husband Joe – are travelling first class on the train. First class. With proper seats that recline and free sandwiches and drinks. If we’d paid full price, we’d have had to re-mortgage the house, but fortunately Mr Young had free travel vouchers courtesy of all the sales travelling he does.

This is somewhat reassuring, incidentally, as I have long held a suspicion that Mr Young doesn’t actually go on sales trips at all; instead, he just hides in the Holiday Inn round the corner for a night or two when he’s had enough of me politely reminding him to change a light bulb/empty the dishwasher/cut back the ivy. Which, incidentally, is not nagging, as I am in the habit of telling him (see above – still to be categorised). I do not “urge him persistently and annoyingly to do something”, and I am also in the habit of telling him that he should go and look up the word nagging in a dictionary so that he can discover for himself that I am merely reminding him in a very polite manner.

There aren’t any celebrities in first class, and the arm of my seat has something sticky on it, which is slightly disappointing, as is the fact that the toilet doesn’t flush properly, but at least there is free coffee, and free newspapers, and the sandwiches are actually very good.

We go straight off to watch Paul Merton when we arrive, and then find a free late night show; many of the free Fringe shows are held in dingy pub basements with makeshift seating and an aspiring comedian sweating through his/her routine in front of a bit of old curtain held up with Blu-Tac. Some of them are surprisingly good and some are unsurprisingly bad. This one was the latter. But hey! It was free! So a good day, what with all the free coffee, sandwiches and entertainment. You can’t ask for more than that, can you? (NB: this, incidentally, is probably one of the most flawed clichés in common usage because yes, you can, actually.)

Saturday 16 August We’re still at the Fringe and Joe wants to go shopping. He likes shopping. Handily, there is a large John Lewis in Edinburgh, so we head for the menswear department because he is looking for jeans. There is a huge and diverse selection of brands and prices but, oddly, the jeans themselves only seem to vary in hue, and whether the fly is button or zip. Poor old men. What dull shopping trips they must have. “Mate – what do you think? Zip or button? Dark denim? Not quite so dark denim? Oh sod it, I’ll get the same as last time then we can get a beer and watch football.”

Joe takes five pairs of jeans into the changing room and we wait. For quite a long time. Rachel and I are getting restless and even Mr Young tires of looking at the handkerchiefs after a while (he is flirting with the idea of investing in a natty silk pocket square for his tweed jacket. Bless.). Then Joe comes out in a bottom-hugging pair that we all agree are very flattering. Joe goes back to the changing room and comes out in another pair. “Oh no!” we shriek. “Those are awful! They’re all baggy round the backside!” “These are mine,” Joe says huffily. We laugh at this. A lot. It’s comedy gold. Even the assistant gives an involuntary snort of laughter. Rachel suggests setting up our own free Fringe show, which could star Joe and his Jeans, but we regretfully agree that it would be a bit low on material and no, that wasn’t a pun I made at the time although obviously I wish I could claim otherwise.

Sunday 17 August We manage to cram in four shows today – a Showcase comedy club at lunchtime, followed by Dane Baptiste, Ola and then Showstoppers which finishes just before midnight. All amazingly funny and clever.

We have drunk far too much beer and eaten far too much food, none of which is nutritionally necessary even though we have walked what seems like miles and miles around the cobbled streets of Edinburgh.

My face is in a permanent rictus from laughing almost continuously. I worry that I shall be scaring small children on the streets of Peterborough when I get home. “Mummy, what’s wrong with that old lady’s face?”

Naturally, I can’t remember a single joke from all the hours and hours of comedy I’ve listened to. Which is probably just as well, as my delivery is very poor and I can never get the timing right. Rather like DHL, in fact. Now that, ladies and gentleman, is a first-rate pun. Oh, come on!

Wednesday 20 August Today….drum roll….is the day that we collect Ruby. Out of all my many, many excuses, the saddest one, using any categorisation system you like, is the fact that Archie died last November. I only hope that he managed to make it into that great kennel in the sky because he really was far too young and they probably weren’t expecting him. He has been missed by us all more than I ever imagined possible.

It’s taken Mr Young and myself a long time to reach a decision, but we really don’t want to be dogless anymore and I miss the endless vacuuming, dog walking, mess clearing-up, noise, smells, inappropriate humping of guests’ legs. Sure, Mr Young does his best to fill the void, but it’s not the same.

So we have chosen Ruby, who is tiny and sweet with immaculately white paws. Mr Young and I have bought the entire canine section of Pets at Home and it is difficult to negotiate a path through the kitchen now, what with the immense puppy playpen and the mountain of toys at home. Things are also slightly complicated because we are temporary owners of Mouse and Murphy, as Tom and Julia are away in Japan for three months and have entrusted us with their cats. (Tom and Julia’s wedding last September is the happiest excuse on my list, incidentally.)

At home, her true tininess becomes apparent. She is smaller than a lot of the toys we have bought for her, and the puppy treats we have invested in for house training are individually larger than her head. She’s a feisty little thing, though (don’t you just love the word feisty? I like to think that someone, somewhere, at some time, has called me feisty. Probably not Mr Young. His favourite descriptive words for me appear to be ‘nagging’ and ‘aggressive’).

The cats saunter into the kitchen as usual, sniff the air, and retreat instantly to the bottom of the garden, where we can see them glaring at us reproachfully from under the pergola.

We have already planned that Mr Young will spend the first night downstairs, sleeping in the television room next to the kitchen so that he will be on call should Ruby need to be let out. As plans go, I think this is an excellent one.

Thursday 21 August Haggard. That’s how Mr Young looks this morning. Haggard and ashen. I ask him how the night went.

“Not good,” he croaks, slumped against the bedroom doorframe. “I’m exhausted.” Apparently, the tiny yet feisty Ruby has the lungs and stamina of a much larger dog. I spend the morning Googling puppy whining/house training puppies/noisy puppies/crying puppies/husband whining.

On the plus side, Ruby is settling in very well. She is now strutting about with her tail up rather than slinking under the table with her tail between her legs. House training is a bit hit and miss, though. Literally. It’s exactly like potty training, I remember. Although Smarties aren’t going to work with Ruby because: a) chocolate is poisonous to dogs b) a Smartie is bigger than her head.

Friday 22 August I have slept very well again. Mr Young’s eyes are bloodshot and he almost falls asleep at the breakfast table – I just manage to catch him before he head-butts his scrambled eggs. I do a lot more googling and we work out another plan that involves keeping a diary, using trigger words, taking her outside at set times, leaving the radio on at night. Mr Young is also wearing an old t-shirt today that he intends to sweat in as much as possible so that he can leave this in her bed overnight, giving her something reassuring to cuddle up to. How very different humans are to dogs.

Saturday 23 August Our plan has worked! A virtually silent night. Mr Young’s t-shirt has saved the day – I sincerely hope that it was the reassuring part that did the trick. There is a chance that she was temporarily paralysed by the intoxicating pheromone fumes, but she seemed to be just as bouncy this morning so I think she’ll live to feist another day.

Right now, Mr Young and Ruby are watching an Arsenal game. Apparently, he’s going to buy her a teeny-tiny Arsenal shirt.

No. He’s not.