You know that you’ve had more than enough to drink when your dogs start to recite poetry at you on New Year’s Eve.
I was just finishing some rather lovely bourbon when Milo – it’s always him, he’s the deep thinker of the two. Cairo is more of a Special Forces doglet, she’s sweet and intelligent, a natural born killer, but he’s the deep one.
He looked up and just stared in that way that he does, the fire roaring behind him, the rain and the wind battering the house.
‘So then, New Year…will we all be ok ?’
Cairo’s ears perked up, it’s Year Zero for her, this is all new.
I waited for a while before answering.
‘Probably. That’s the best I can say really. I hope so and I’ll do my best to make sure’
Cairo sat next to him, I now had two sets of glowing eyes to contend with.
‘Does that mean that you’ll take us back to the sad place?’
She looked so distraught, I could feel myself welling up.
‘No. That’ll never happen whatever the future holds, that will never happen. I’ve made arrangements and you’d never want for anything- either of you’
Then it was Milo. They were teaming up.
‘What if it’s us, will you be there? You won’t leave us will you ?
Cairo nudged closer to him
I was at a loss… and then. And then.
You’ve been listening to poetry again haven’t you ? who is it this time?
And in unison, which is pretty fucking creepy when dogs do it, they recited, the fire going dimmer behind them.
‘Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.’
I laughed. Thank fuck for that.
‘Yeats. You’ve been listening to Yeats. He’d just had a kid. That was at least the third woman that he’d proposed to. ‘
They kept staring.
‘I’m not going anywhere. Nor are you – at least not over New Year. None of us.’
They kept staring.
‘Do you promise’
‘ I promise to stay with you for as long as we all live – good enough? ‘
They ran to the back door and patrolled the grounds. I had another quick drink.
This may be a bit of a rambling post, let’s see how it goes.
I have a white shadow with me almost every hour of every day that I’m at home.
The shadow is always there and is currently sat on the sofa in my office. The shadow is watching me type right now.
In a while, the shadow will sleep, dozing quietly and contentedly in the sun while music plays and I talk to people across the world in conference calls.
I’ve been looking back on life and pondering the choices that brought me here.
‘If I’d done that thing instead of this, where would I be? Would anything at all be the same?’
It’s the sort of mental exercise that could leave you second-guessing your whole life.
The Vikings believed that much of our fate was predetermined, but not all of it.
The imagery most often used in Viking myth and literature to depict fate — three sisters, sitting at the base of the World Tree where they weave the fates of all men and gods on their looms shows that the Vikings believed our fates are an evolving, ever changing pattern that is constantly being created
So, was I always destined to be here, in this place, at this time, with a sleeping shadow opposite me?
I met an old flame for dinner in London a few weeks ago, we hadn’t seen each other for at least ten years and we spent the first hour tentatively catching up. She now has two kids and a dog, has moved house and job and seems happy. I’ve moved house more than a few times, still have no kids but have two dogs.
We then proceeded to get drunk and probe some old wounds.
Then we got drunker, went dancing til three and I put her safely into a pre-paid black cab back home.
We’ll likely go out again in a few weeks, we’re definitely in the friend zone now, but once… it could have all been different. A different thread leading to a different strand altogether.
The shadow is now asleep as I type and won’t move until I do in a few hours. It’s a very peaceful time of the day (09:30) – no calls and not a lot of work to do today.
Although I have to go to a funeral.
It’ll be a nice funeral, it’s for an old neighbour, she lived to be 95 and was fit and healthy towards the end, I’ll catch up with some old neighbours and will then move on to see my old landlord / next door neighbour and have a cup of tea.
He had a heart attack last year and has decided to make a ton of changes to his life, including selling his businesses and starting to consolidate a large property empire.
He’s also bought a Ferrari.
I’m genuinely looking forward to seeing him again, I loved living next door to him and Milo would happily follow him around the workshop all day – as long as sandwich sharing was involved.
And there’s another thread.
I’ve written too many words about him really, but suffice to say that I love the little maniac more than I ever thought I could and that he’s shaped the past few years in many ways. One of the reasons that I bought this house was the nearly two acres of land and trees that came with it. It’s a playground for dogs as well as having views across the Shropshire Hills.
My office is a new addition and sits just behind the orchard. I’m looking out at the Wrekin as I type, (the shadow is still asleep)
But a few years ago, it was massively different.
When I started This story I lived around the corner to the lady whose funeral I’ll attend later. This was two houses ago for me and I worked for an entirely different company.
In fact I hated my job and that came to a close during the Arthur and Shirley saga too, leading into a short but painful period of unemployment and then an offer for three months contract work that turned into a full time job that’s taken me back out to Malaysia and Australia and given me something very rare for me.
Actual friends in the workplace.
The last time that happened was 10 years ago or so and I’m glad to say that they’re still friends, still in touch and even joined my birthday drinks in Nottingham a few weeks ago.
Speaking of the Arthur and Shirley Saga, that came to an end as a story earlier this year https://smallthunderdog.blog/2022/03/20/put-your-lights-on and I’m happy to say that Shirley is still doing well and is being regularly visited by the family that she’d lost touch with after Susan threw away her address books. Here she is yesterday (December 20th) with photos of Cairo on the wall behind her along with a new ‘memories’ photo frame from her family.
That’s a thread that I’m glad that I took, it gave me some new friends that I hadn’t previously known in real life and showed me just how good people can be in the face of true, low level, vapid evil.
It took me to some strange places, showed me the best and worst of people and stripped away some of the things that I had been before. I’m not necessarily a better person now – in fact, I’m far from ‘good’, but I can’t ignore random chance anymore or pretend that I can’t see people in need when I can help.
My grandfather was a blacksmith and I’m not sure if my love of all things sharp and shiny comes from him or some other place deep in my ancestry, but I’m taking the opportunity in February to use a few days leave and take a three day Damascus knife-making course.
And there’s another thread.. a complete coincidence. probably ( I said this may be rambling) but on the second night of my course, I’ll be attending a black-tie award ceremony for something I kicked off here. https://smallthunderdog.blog/2022/07/12/hopeful-hound/ and it’s just ten miles down the road, just one of the many coincidences that seem to happen when you make a decision.
Is it fate? Is it all predetermined?
I have no idea.
My shadow has moved to the bed under my desk and has been joined by Milo in the office.
It’s been such a short time really, but she’s become so attached to me and I to her that it’s hard to remember life without her.
But without the decision to take Milo, fuelled by my love of another person’s dog and the need to have my own companion, triggering a seemingly random and unstoppable series of events, neither of us would be in this place at this time.
Like I said, it’s rambling, it can play with your mind a bit.