Last night’s walk contained quite a lot of drama – a low-key Chekhovian, rather than Wagnerian, drama, but drama all the same.
It was complicated from the start by my extravagant limp. I acquired a hip injury playing cricket, and it seems that there is no way to stifle a limp that begins at the hip. On the contrary, I looked like someone deliberately exaggerating a limp, or playing a one-legged man on the stage. And then there was a philosophical issue. I was taking my dog on a walk, to buy dog food, for the same dog. And I couldn’t decide if this involved a futile circularity, like someone tickling themselves just for the pleasure of scratching, or the sign that reads ‘Do Not Throw Stones At This Sign’, or if it was in fact a fantastically efficient way to organise things. I think the problem was that the vague thematic symmetry, or echoing, made me strive to find a structural unity that wasn’t really there. Anyway, I bought the dog food, and, almost accidentally, some tiramisu (special offer at Waitrose). I didn’t want to splash out 5p on a bag, so I put the dogfood in my pocket, and carried the tiramisu almost ceremonially before me, like Balthazar with his myrrh (or whatever his gift was).
Just around the corner from our flat, I limped towards a group of giggling young women in their finery, waiting for a cab, their hair huge and glittery in the streetlight. At that moment – and one might think that he had carefully calculated and schemed to maximise my embarrassment – Monty decided it was time to unload. The girls fell reverently silent, while Monty was about his business. Now I had the problem of bagging it up, while holding the tiramisu in one hand and Monty in the other, and still greatly discommoded by my shattered hip. I tried bending and scooping in one movement, single handed, but nearly toppled. Should I pass the tiramisu to one of the young women? Or perhaps they could hold Monty? There was a wall next to the girls. I decided to put the tiramisu on it.
‘Tiramisu,’ one said, and they all burst into good natured laughter.
I suppose, with my limp, and scruffy little dog, I looked like a sad and lonely bachelor, about to enjoy his one treat – his Saturday night tiramisu. ‘Reduced,’ I muttered. And then added, ‘for my daughter.’ The young women were quite nice, really, and I felt more pitied than mocked, which I don’t mind.
So the next thing was two men walking towards me, hand in hand. One was a near-giant – a huge white guy at least 6 foot 6. His friend was a very small, very round man, from South Asia. He was wearing a pair of shorty shorts, although he looked quite middle aged. It was a delightful and charming sight – I mean the unselfconscious way they were holding hands. I began to form a smile, but then I became worried that smiling at two men just because they’re holding hands might seem patronising. So I carefully removed the smile. But then I feared that perhaps, in my efforts not to smile, I was looking stern and disapproving, like some American Nazi at a Pride march. This would have turned the whole walk into a disaster, but then the little round man said, ‘Nice doggy,’ and so I could have one of those friendly ten second interactions with strangers which are one of the joys of dog ownership.
So it all ended a bit better than the Chekhov, and a lot better than the Wagner. Marriage of Figaro, really.