Monday, 23 January 2012


© Lindsey Chapman


I’ve just stood, barefoot, on one of Kevin’s dog biscuits. He’s got this habit of shoving his nose right into the centre of his bowl and flicking all the dry sawdust balls onto the floor. He’s after what the packet describes as, ‘moist meaty chunks’. I lift my foot and watch as a purple spot spreads to the size of a pea. Okay, it’s not a big bruise, but it bloody well hurts. Limping in dramatic Movie Diva fashion, I head to the front door. I’m met by the usual pile of leaflets and brown envelopes. I’m just wondering if the offer of a case of wine is enough of an incentive to take out life cover, when Kevin drops his bedraggled teddy at my feet. He’s developed a rather unnatural relationship with that teddy. It gets a bit embarrassing when we’ve got visitors. Why can’t he be a normal dog and hump legs. Doris nearly choked on her chocolate biscuit yesterday, when Kevin grabbed teddy and gave it a good seeing to. She’s led a sheltered life; poor soul. Anyway, he’s obviously worked out we’re going away and he wants to make sure the love of his life doesn’t get left behind. 

“Elsie, are you ready yet?” yells Hubby.

Of course I’m not ready; I’ve only had a week to pack. Warm jumpers, jeans, my best dress, bikini top, stilettos and wellies are just the bare essentials. I admit, I never get to wear the dress and stilettos. 

An hour later we’re sitting in the car thundering down the motorway. 

“In 200 yards, take the exit onto the A5, Darling,” purrs Joanna Lumley. It’s a good job she can’t hear the abuse he’s hurling at her.

“Elsie! Switch that bloody thing off!” Up until now hubby's been ignore the directions from the satnav.

I think he’s gone off Joanna. Maybe now he’ll stop watching DVD’s of the Avengers. Hey, I've cracked it, I’ve got ‘the other woman’ out of our lives. Success!

“Shit! Elsie, Kevin‘s just thrown up on the back seat.” says hubby.

I do my best. Balancing over the back of the seat, I set to work with a loo roll and a plastic bag. 

“For god’s sake, Elsie, sit down. There’s a police car.”

It’s a bit of a struggle, but I manage to be facing the right way as we pass them. I raise the bag to show the officer its contents, whilst miming that the dog’s just thrown up. He shakes his head, but he doesn’t turn on the ‘blues and twos’, so no problem.

Things are going smoothly now. I relax with a nice can of cola and a cigarette. I can see the turn off to the moorings coming up; I can also see that Joanna wants us to continue for another three miles to the next junction. I reach over and accidentally knock the Sat Nav into the foot-well before Hubby notices. Good job I succumbed to that sexy young salesman‘s offer of extended cover. You know, I got quite excited until I realised all he wanted to cover was the sat nav. 

We pass fields full of wheat and barley, the pungent smell of rapeseed flowers makes my eyes run. 

“Have you got the hay fever tablets?” I snuffle.

“There might be some in the glove box.” Hubby stretches over to press the button and the flap drops down hitting me on the knee. The car suddenly swerves and there is a scraping noise down the side of my door, as the car briefly comes into contact with the hedge. 

“Stupid bloody birds!”

“What the hell are you doing!” I screech, mopping up cola from my lap.

“Sodding pheasants! I‘ve scratched the bloody car now.”

“Well at least you didn’t hit it. Though I think I‘ve got a nice recipe for pheasant.” 

He gives me one of those looks. He would be mortified if he’d hit the bird, and my suggestion that we eat one hasn’t gone down well. 

We’ve arrived. Perfect peace, the countryside of rolling hills gently slops down to the canal. At this time of year the private road that leads to the moorings is dusty rather than muddy, which is a relief. The welcome sound of birds twittering away in the trees drowns out the sound of the distant traffic.

While I’m scrabbling about getting stuff out of the boot, Kevin is ambling along with his teddy in his mouth, no doubt looking for the most exposed spot to show his affections. Despite the moorings being private, each having it’s own gated garden, it’s still possible for someone walking along the other side of canal, on the towpath, to get an eyeful of Kevin’s promiscuity.

“Those bloody pigeons!” With that I see Hubby disappearing into the pigeon poo covered narrow boat. He comes out armed with the catapult and a bag of hazelnuts. The first shot cannons off the tree trunk and smacks Kevin right up the bum. Kevin gives Hubby the ‘Kevin Death Stare’, and then belts across the mooring, teddy still held firmly in his mouth, and dives into the safety of the boat.

I set to work with a watering can and a soft brush. If he thinks for one minute, I‘m going to do this all on my own he’s got another think coming. Halfway through cleaning the first side, looking up irritably, I see Hubby sitting under the tree, with a murderous look in his eyes. Luckily it’s not aimed at me; nor is the catapult.


The pigeon’s aim is good, a direct hit on Hubby's sleeve.


Hubby’s aim's improving. The pigeon flaps to a branch nearer the boat.


“You little bugger! I’ve just cleaned that,” I wail.

I choose a weapon of my own … my Iphone. I shuffle through the icons looking for the Bird Identification app. It’s got bird calls on it. Scrolling down, I get to the wood pigeon listing. I stare in dismay; it doesn’t have a bloody alarm call.


Oh, now that’s just taking the pee; it’s aiming at me now. Right you’re for it, you bugger. I point the phone up into the tree. 

“Ke Ke Ke Ke” 

I shoot with the call of the sparrowhawk. Silence. No frantic flapping of wings. I think he’s hiding. Probably thinks if he keeps quiet he’ll be ok. I bring out the big guns. The haunting call of the buzzard fills the air. The pigeon loses control of its bowels completely before taking off.

*Twang* another volley from hubby.

*Ke Ke Ke Ke*

I’m puzzled for a moment and look at my phone; no, that sparrowhawk call didn‘t come from there. Feathers rain down on my head. I look up to see a sparrowhawk, talons full of big, fat, lifeless pigeon hurtling vertically in my direction. With a wet thud, sparrow hawk and pigeon land on my head. The blow knocks me off balance and I stagger three steps backwards. Unfortunately, there is only room to take two steps backwards. 

The splash I make hitting the water alerts Kevin, who forsakes the love of his life and comes charging off the boat. Barking like mad, he makes a bee-line for the grounded sparrowhawk. The sparrowhawk wisely decides to look for dinner elsewhere and makes a swift exit. Kevin snatches up the dead pigeon and legs it back into the boat with Hubby in hot pursuit. I’m left to haul myself out of the green water.

I stand dripping, and hoping for some sympathy.

Hubby re-emerges a few moments later holding a carrier bag at arms length, like some brave hunter bringing meat home to the tribe. In his other hand he’s got my cookery book.

“No way! Not a chance!” He can’t possibly want me to cook the bloody thing.

I watch as he walks over to the dustbin and deposits both my cookery book and the remains of the dead pigeon into it. 

“He’s eaten some of it.” Hubby’s matter-of-fact tone is betrayed by the ashen colour of his cheeks.

I tentatively poke my head through the doorway and try to assess the mess Kevin has made with the pigeon. There is a trail of blood and feathers leading up to a rather dejected looking teddy. I close my eyes and edge my way past the mess.

By the time I have finished cleaning up me and the boat it’s well past dinner time. 

“So much for having a break.”

“Get your glad rags on, Elsie.”

Half an hour later I’ve managed to convince Kevin that Teddy will be faithful until we get back and I’m tottering down the towpath, wearing totally inappropriate footwear, in the direction of the pub. Hubby’s walking behind chuckling.

There's a sign, dogs are allowed only in the garden. The pub garden is idyllic, ducks gently dabbling, swans gliding up and down. Mothers stand with children, feeding the ducks stale bits of bread. Young lovers whisper sweet nothings to each other across tables that are heaving under the weight of empty glasses, plates and overflowing ashtrays. I grab the menu from the table. I’m contented; my mouth’s watering at the thought of a juicy steak and chocolate gateau to follow.

“What do you want to eat? I need to go to the loo, so I’ll go up and order.” 

After a quick visit to the Ladies, I teeter up the stairs to the bar and place our order.

“Where are you sitting?” asks the hunk behind the bar. 

“In the garden,” I reply, in the silkiest voice I can muster.

“We’re a bit short staffed; you wouldn’t mind waiting and taking it down with you, would you?” 

He’s got such a gorgeous sexy smile. The thought of spending fifteen minutes being chatted up rather appeals, so I say yes and order a drink. The hunk strides off into the kitchen with my order. I knew this dress and the stilettos were a must bring outfit. I might be a bit overdressed, but there are a few people in their Sunday best. These canal side pubs attract a wide variety of people, some are wearing suit and tie, accompanied by women in posh dresses, whilst others are in jeans and T-shirts. I’ve just made myself comfortable and am giving my best sexy pout, when this hussy, in a skirt that looks more like a belt, enters the bars.

“Jason,” she shouts “some bloody idiot’s let their dog off in the garden. It’s walking round with a duck in its gob. For Christ Sake, go and tell them to piss off!”

I slide less than gracefully off my stool. Before I have the chance to make my getaway, a black and white missile hurtles into the bar.

With his tail wagging so hard it knocks a full pint glass from a table, Kevin skids to halt in front of me. His face looks the picture of innocence, only betrayed by the duck held gently but securely in his mouth. The duck is quacking and flapping furiously.


Kevin gives his, ‘what’s the matter, Mum’, look and releases the duck. The duck is seriously unhappy, it starts beating its wings and flying around the room. In the commotion glasses are knocked over, spilling beer, and an assortment of other cooling beverages, over the shocked drinkers. At least two plates of Duck a l'Orange end up in diner's laps.

The ‘Belt for a Skirt Hussy’ starts shrieking. The hunk from behind the bar leaps into action, causing the duck to get even more upset. They’re going to have a hard time getting that out of the carpet.

In my haste to reach the garden, I jump down the last four steps. The stilettos give up any pretence of wanting to hold my weight and the left heel snaps off.

When I reach the garden, Hubby nearly knocks me to the ground in his rush through the gate. Kevin, his tail wagging, jumps up and plants a big wet dog kiss on Hubby’s shocked face.

“Why did you let him off!”

“I didn’t. He’s been on his lead the whole time.”

“So how the hell did he catch a duck!”

“The stupid bloody thing came waddling right up to him. It happened so quickly. I had to let go of the lead to try and get him to drop the duck.”

We both turn and look up as the duck sails over our heads, followed by a stream of bad language, and lands with a splash on the canal. Quacking indignantly it sets to work rearranging its feathers, before tucking into a sandwich dropped by a child who started screaming when she saw the duck being bundled out of the upstairs window.

It’s a relief to arrive back at the boat, I am hungry and thirsty.

“Elsie. I’m glad you’re back. Did you enjoy your walk?” Harriett from the next mooring waves over the fence. “I saw you arrive, but I was busy cooking. I’ve done enough food for four. Come and have supper and a drink with us?”

“That’s really kind of you, Harriett, but I don’t want to leave Kevin on his own.”

“Not a problem, bring him with you, we can sit outside and eat.” 

“I’ll just go and change my shoes. Snapped the heel off. I’ll feed Kevin before we come too.”

Harriett gives me a knowing smile, “You will make sure he doesn’t bring his teddy though, won’t you?” 

The smells drifting from her boat tell me it’s going to be a feast. I can even detect the aroma of chocolate pudding.

The wine flows freely. Two empty bottles are standing on the table when Harriet carries out plates, laden with new potatoes, fresh vegetables and homemade pie.

“Harriett, this is delicious. What’s in it? Can I have the recipe?”

“Of course you can. It’s Grannie’s Game Pie. It‘s got duck, pigeon and pheasant in it.”

Hubby starts coughing and spluttering. 

“I wish you had told me that before I started eating it,” he said with tears streaming down his face. “I’d have asked for a bigger helping.”

I stare at Hubby in disbelief. Harriett’s stern voice stops me from launching into a tirade. I take in what she’s saying, and look in horror towards the grass in front of her boat.

“Kevin, stop that!” 

He has his jaws clamped firmly into Harriett’s best flock covered cushions, being utterly unfaithful to teddy.

I grab Kevin by the collar and drag him back to our boat. 

Totally unfazed by the whole day, he thrusts his nose into his bowl throwing sawdust balls all over the galley floor. I kick my shoes off and head for the bedroom. Yep, you’re right. I put my foot on a dog biscuit. I’m too tired and irritable to do my Diva act; I just want to go to bed. I throw my clothes on the end of the bed and snuggle under the quilt. My foot brushes against something wet and feathery.