Smudge is a cute mutt but getting her to pose for a photo is like plaiting fog. She will not sit still, insists on wriggling like an eel and looks in any direction except the one required. We had a family outing, and found ourselves in a country park, in the wilds of Nottinghamshire. I think I need to send her to modelling school.
Eventually, we bit the bullet and opted for the interior insulation option for our home. You may recall this necessitates removal of picture rails, skirting boards, window ledges, carpets, radiators and electrical sockets from all exterior walls, to faciliate fixing of foam backed plaster board, followed by a skim of wet plaster.
Dave, our local friendly plasterer, skims to perfection. I cannot fault his skimming skills. Elsewhere, he falls short of good customer care and quality work. The mess was unbelieveable. The rubble swept under furniture was a nasty surprise.
I wondered why the reaffixed skirting boards were half an inch higher than those undisturbed. A little investigation showed that Dave had reseated the skirting boards on top of the carpet gripper rods.
The bathroom ceiling was one of the first to be skimmed but was the last to dry, by more than a week. A closer examination revealled that the ceiling was no lower (easy to see against the tile grout). Dave had not fitted any foam backed board but had merely skimmed over the existing ceiling. The bathroom ceiling, not surprisingly, was where we suffered the worst condensation problem, prompting the dry-lining option in the first place. I find it difficult to believe that this was a geniune mistake on Dave’s part.
Last week, I found Dave trying to cut up a new window sill on my front door step, so I offered to open up my garage to give him access to my work-bench. Dave placed the window sill on the bench and started cutting. “You’re not going to saw holes in my bench are you Dave?” I pointed out that there were piles of scrap wood, a vice, clamps, everything he could need to do the job properly and left him to it. On Christmas Eve I went into the garage to find some wine for dinner. My bench looks like it’s had an argument with a mad axe man.
The house looks like someone picked it up and shook it. There’s dust in places you wouldn’t think dust could get to. I’ve tried to start redecorating but it’s not easy. It seems I’m waiting for Dave on every front. Never mind: we will get through it and Smudge still loves me.
Smudge and I are taking a walk around the recreation ground. There’s lots of mobile fencing, with signs threatening prosecution and big fines for allowing your dog to foul the rugby pitch, spread about. I don’t think it’s very clear where we’re supposed to walk but I’m not unduly worried: Smudge is only interested in playing ball. A stocky middle-aged bloke springs out from behind the shed where the mowers are stored and yells at me “Get your dog off my field”. Now, I know it isn’t his field. I’m guessing he’s a rugby player and the rugby team rent the pitch off the local council, but the field is definitely public access common. “It’s not your field” I reply. He’s not listening but yelling some more and getting very red in the face “We’re sick of playing in dog shit you bastards have left behind. You’re not allowed on here any more.” I’m trying to stay calm: he looks a bit beefy and I don’t want this to degenerate into a brawl. “My dog hasn’t left any shit on this field today or any other day. We use bags.” And I pull some out of my pocket as evidence. “Yes, you all say that but we’re still playing in shit and we’ve had enough. How would you like it if we came and shit in your house?” I struggle not to laugh at this. I think I’d better try a different tack. “Are you worried about the paedophile ring they’re investigating in North Wales?” He doesn’t understand this: I hoped he wouldn’t, so I continue “I was thinking rugby’s very popular in Wales, so there’s a good chance, if they catch a load of paedophiles, there’s bound to be a rugby player amongst them, isn’t there?” His face is now a twisted mess of confusion and anger “What the fuck are you talking about? Are you calling me a paedophile?” “No, no, not at all. I’m merely saying, if we apply your logic, we only need to establish that there is one law breaker in any identifiable group to justify persecuting all of them. Dog walkers, rugby players, if one is bad, we punish the lot.” He understands now but he’s not giving up just yet “Dog walkers are all the same”. His conviction is wavering. I walk past him and throw Smudge’s ball “You know that’s nonsense.”
I’ve applied for a job in Mumbai. I don’t suppose I shall get it. But I saw it advertised on our intranet, it’s in my field of expertise, and I couldn’t resist. Maeve was remarkably positive, considering how much she hates flying. Smudge didn’t seem perturbed, though the climate could be a problem for her. I don’t think she’s really considered the implications. Wait and see!
My collie is called Smudge. She’s mostly black, but has white paws, chest, chin, neck, belly and the tiniest dab on top of her head, as if she’s brushed against some wet paint: hence the name. I didn’t want another dog, but after eight months of my wife mourning our previous collie Molly, I capitulated and bought Smudge. She was a little charmer right from the start. If you held her against your chest, she would snuggle into your neck whilst issuing groans of pleasure and sweet puppy smells.
There were a few surprises along the way. Smudge had huge paws for a puppy. Everyone who saw her said she was going to be a big dog. Eight years on, she’s actually very small for a collie but she still has big paws. As is common with collies, Smudge was desperate to be trained from a very early age. Although she seemed keen to please, she was either too giddy or just didn’t understand what we wanted. The first eighteen months were a nightmare: trashed carpets, furniture, wallpaper, shit everywhere. We even had to buy a cage for her: we were at our wits end. Then, almost overnight, everything just clicked into place, and she was well behaved. Now she can learn quite complex games and commands in next to no time.
Although Smudge is ostensibly Maeve’s dog and it’s Maeve who walks, grooms and feeds her, Smudge is definitely mine. When we come home, Smudge shoves Maeve out of the way to get to me. Although Smudge is obedient when she’s with Maeve, when we’re together she demands a second opinion on any Maeve instruction. Maeve can find this rather frustrating on occasion.
What really sets Smudge apart from other dogs I’ve owned or known is her sweet nature. She really is a joy to be with and never fails to brighten my day.