The Dog/Cat Thing


7 May We are entertaining yet again! Mr Young and I are a couple of culinary whirling dervishes at the moment, cooking left, right and centre, our spoons, whisks, casserole dishes and garlic press a blur of against a backdrop of steam, sauce-stained cookery books and clouds of icing sugar.

There are three good reasons for this gastronomic frenzy; (a) it enables us to see friends and catch up on gossip (b) we can eat four-course meals (as opposed to four coarse meals) and drink far too much wine without all the expense of going to a restaurant and (c) it means that I am forced to finally do some housework. Obviously, there is no reason why Mr Young cannot wave a vacuum cleaner over a carpet and spray Mr Sheen around a room just as skilfully as I can, but it makes me feel so damn virtuous when the house is not quite as dusty and there are no longer dog hairs stuck to the side of the toaster.

(No, I’m just joking about the last bit. They were on the kettle.)

10 May The Dentist. He has to have capital letters because a visit to The Dentist sounds, and usually is, a bit like one of those horror movies with just two words; The Thing, The Shining, The Birds, The Exorcist (and my own private home horror movie, The Bit Down The Side Of The Oven You Can Never Quite Reach But Is Always Dark And Filled With Unidentifiable Bits – okay, it’s far more than two words, but it’s my diary so I’m allowed).

I’m actually six months overdue for this appointment; I missed my last one due to a migraine and have been too cowardly to make another. So I sidle into his surgery, deliberately not smiling because in spite of brushing and gargling three times this morning, my teeth still feel as green and furry as if I’d been living in a skip and eating roadkill for the last six months. The poor man has to put on some sort of industrial face mask – yes, exactly like a welder – in order to inspect my mouth properly. I can see the dental nurse recoiling in horror.

Of course, this is all in my head (did you spot the pun? Did you? Did you?) because my teeth are, apparently, absolutely fine. Although the F word is mentioned. I do not floss enough. I have a little box of dental floss on my bathroom windowsill, collecting dust and all the dog hairs left over the kettle, but, as I confess to The Dentist, I am still not entirely sure how to floss properly. Kindly, and somewhat wearily, he demonstrates. Yet again. I floss like mad when I get home. It’s not a pretty sight. My gums bleed so much that I really do resemble a horror movie victim. (Probably the idiotic one who dies first because she fails to turn the lights on, even though the violins and horns have been building up to an eerie crescendo for the last five minutes and she really should know better.)

12 May It’s my first visit to Book Club, which Mrs L#2 (inconveniently, some of my friends have the same initials so I am having to number them) has recently and bravely set up. There are ten of us altogether – I know no one apart from Mrs L#2 – and everyone seems to have a lot to say. I would have a lot to say, as I have made copious notes, but unfortunately I can’t read my writing. Nor can I actually remember much about the book itself, so I spend a lot of time making that noise that implies vague yet vehement agreement and do a great deal of head nodding. When I get home, me and Archie (Mr Young is away, pretending to be on an exhausting sales trip; I’m pretty sure he is actually watching football and drinking beer) lie on the sofa and watch Question Time. I do a bit more head nodding, although I seem to be agreeing with every single member of the panel, and so eventually have to accept that I clearly have no mind of my own at all. I go to bed feeling quite exhausted. It’s hard work being intellectual.

13 May My parents are back from their cruise round the Mediterranean with healthy tans and stories about the interesting places they’ve visited. To celebrate their homecoming, I make them a fish pie and a pavlova (whether they like it or not) and me and Mr Young drive over to force my offerings on them for an early supper. They have a rescue cat called Jake, an exotic Burmese who looks arrogant and is, well, arrogant. This is not surprising because it’s quite clear that Jake is King of the House and my parent are but lowly minions, living in his house on sufferance, only tolerated because they take care of his every need. His needs this evening apparently include sitting at the table with us and eating scraps of my fish pie. (I assure myself that this is because they spoil him and not because they don’t like my fish pie.) But this sort of situation is typical of the general Cat Thing, I’ve noticed. Cats are usually in charge and do what they like, whereas the Dog Thing is just the opposite. Dogs follow you around, believing you’re great, hanging on your every word and (almost always) doing exactly what you say. On the way home, Mr Young and I discuss the Cat/Dog Thing and indulge in a little comic fantasy which involves picturing Archie behaving in the same way as Jake.

A seven pound, dainty Burmese sitting primly at the table and nibbling on scraps of smoked haddock is very different from a five stone, farting, dribbling Bull Terrier clumsily trying to balance his bulk on one of our dining chairs. Now that would be a horror movie. The Dog.

14 May Another long overdue visit.

The Hairdresser. “It needs a good cut, doesn’t it?” I say weakly. He lifts up a lifeless hank of hair and looks at me reproachfully. “Been cutting it yourself again?” he asks me. There is no point in denying it.

Two hours later, minus grey roots and four inches of split ends, I step out onto the mean streets of Peterborough. Ahead of me, I watch two girls walking towards Queensgate. I say walking; only one of them is in fact walking. The other is grimly clutching onto her friend’s arm and staggering like a sitcom drunk. It’s all because of her shoes, as I can see as I catch up to them. These shoes are things of beauty, certainly; black patent, with four inch platforms and eight inch heels. The sort of shoes that would have me gaping open-mouthed through a shop window. But – as we shoe aficionados know – this sort of footwear has been designed purely for the most frivolous of occasions. Not for an afternoon shopping trip. As I get nearer, I can see the red weals on the back of her heels where the shoes have been cruelly rubbing her skin. She’s making a brave attempt to laugh the whole thing off, but I can see tears in her eyes. Now this is definitely a horror movie in the making. The Shoes. Give me The Dentist any time.

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