Tears in Rain

I’ve seen things that (some of) you people wouldn’t believe. I’ve seen the sun rise in Sydney and set on the mountains of British Columbia.

I’ve watched dolphins play and baby turtles make their first steps into the Indian Ocean.

I’ve swum in an offshoot of the Amazon and willingly jumped out of planes.

I’ve watched eagles fly overhead in the middle of a city and watched bears from the safety of horseback.

I’ve had trials for a national sporting team, fought in bouts in three fighting disciplines and written a book and graphic novel.

I’ve been to mountain tops and deep caverns, rooftop champagne bars and cellar dives.

And it’s still not enough.

I’ve swum in the sea during a monsoon and dared the gods to kill me while the lightning flashed across the sky.

I’ve visited ancient temples, gone drinking with a god and seen the modern embodiment of Blade Runner in the stormy skies of Kuala Lumpur.

I’ve been on more flights than I can remember and told an Indian Army sergeant to fuck off at the very door of a plane back to London.

I’ve debauched my way across the world and had times and experiences that I couldn’t imagine as a working class kid growing up in Hackney.

And it’s still not enough.

I’ve had my heart restarted five times, watched on a monitor as a surgeon burned a tiny scar into it from within to cure a problem and had my bicep tendon reattached ( all within a year)

I’ve seen the Taj Mahal at first hand, along with Sydney Opera House, the Golden Gate Bridge, The Brandenburg Gate and walked amongst pushy tiny people in Kowloon.

I’m massively content with things at the moment, I have a lovely house, more land than I could ever have imagined, a dog that adores me and a great work/life balance.

Autumn and winter this year will be spent outside as much as possible getting my land into shape and I’ll also be working 5 days a week as normal.

And I’ve started looking for another dog so that Milo the Mountain Lion can have a friend.

And it’s still not enough.

Other people that I know of my age have started downsizing and begun their early retirement. I can’t. I won’t.

There’s so much to see and do, so many places still to visit, so many experiences to have.

This is it. It’s the only life we have. And it scares me to watch so many people allow their lives to be more and more regulated to keep us ‘safe’

It’ll all be over before you know it. Get up. Get off your knees. Enjoy life while you can. We. Are. All. Going. To. Die.

The result is predetermined. The journey is what matters.

The Big Sleep

Featured

the last good photo of Arthur before he died

And just like that it’s all over.

Probably

For the whole story, start with https://smallthunderdog.blog/2020/12/12/true-detective/

Three years ago and a whole lifetime away in some ways, thousands of miles driven, hundreds of hours spent on trying to resolve each issue as it came and it’s going to end with a small victory, which is all we could hope for.

This all started 16 months before I even got to see Milo for the first time and he’ll have been with me for two years next month.

So much time, so many changes, jobs, relationships, houses, cars, the fucking lockdowns. all of it.

and not a happy ending as such, but it is at least a proper ending. Which, at some stages; I never thought we’d see.

So:

a few reminders of who’s who in this mess.

The Main Players

Arthur Hodge – was my uncle, a kind and gentle man who never took a drink, had any real vices and never hurt anybody in his whole life.

Susan Auckland – the luckiest thief I’ve ever heard of. I have open fraud cases with North Yorkshire Police, Cambridge Police and Action Fraud (there’s a name that belies their true ineptitude) – I have proven fraud against her when she stole £900 from Arthur via a ‘refund’ from a hotel and where she used Arthur’s cheques to pay a private doctor in Cambridge. For those concerned about libel, I can prove everything I’ve written and have supporting evidence.

She ‘befriended’ Arthur while he lived in the Frinton area and convinced him that he should move to Yorkshire and buy a house with her mother and:

Shirley Hodge, Arthur’s wife, another simple soul, massively arthritic and mostly housebound.

Supporting Players

Lionel Bowden of Linton in Cambridgeshire – Lionel trades as LB cabs and was instrumental in the bank (see blog posts) putting restrictions on Arthur’s account in 2018 with some cheques made out to him that were not written by Arthur. Lionel also drove the car in July 2018 when they all disappeared for a while.

Arthur died convinced that Lionel owed him money from loans and independent witnesses in Cambridge saw evidence of this.

Lionel runs through this whole story from start to finish and was instrumental in helping Susan transport Arthur and Shirley around and in finding accommodation for Susan in Cambridgeshire (which Arthur paid for) until the money finally ran out.

‘Nobby’ the local cab driver in Yorkshire. or Andrew Philip Wise. He’s just driven Susan to Scotland, so she’ll need another helper up there as she can’t drive.

North Yorkshire Social Services – screwed this whole thing up from the start and then to cap it all, gave Arthur Capacity. Not a doctor or health professional. A Social Worker. Within two weeks of that, Arthur’s bank accounts were raided time and again until nothing was left.

Nick Timmings – solicitor in Cambridge representing “Arthur”, Nick was very supportive of Arthur and lobbied both NatWest bank (to get Arthur access to his money) and Social Services to get them to leave Arthur alone after yet another case was opened after they moved there at the end of 2018.

North Yorkshire Police. just simply fantastic – thank you

‘Our’ solicitors – wrote wills for Arthur and Shirley (money to each other and the remainder to Battersea Dog’s Home) and did a great job on a very complicated conveyancing task to ensure that fair play was done.

NatWest Bank Safeguarding Team – amazing people doing a great service, sadly hamstrung by the Capacity issue.

Friends who supported us through all stages and kind people who helped when they could from the sidelines, neighbours and people who had fleeting contact.

And So:

The Good News

The house is finally sold, to people who genuinely want to live there, who have met the neighbours already and who will bring the closure that the neighbours need so badly.

I now have enough money to pay for Shirley’s care for two and a half years before we need to talk to social services again and Shirley is in a place where they actually care for her. Where there’s no:

  • mental coercion
  • no physical coercion such as being sat on or thrown across the room
  • no strictly enforced toilet rota where she was 4th out of 4 with no thought or care as to whether she’d actually make it in time
  • sudden disappearance of her personal belongings
  • leaving her alone all day for days on end

More Good News.

Shirley’s share of the house is her money, she can spend it on what she likes for all I care and more importantly.

NOBODY ELSE GETS THE MONEY.

Nobody, I still don’t know if others were involved, but Susan doesn’t get penny one from our side of the sale.

And Susan has gone to Scotland, presumably for ever now, she can’t drive and will soon eat through her share of the money while she turns somewhere else into an uninhabitable shithole.

The Bad News

Everybody gets away with it, Arthur had close to £50k stolen overall and apart from North Yorkshire Police, all we ever got were platitudes and excuses. Arthur and Shirley were dragged all over the country by Susan and driven by people who should have known better. Arthur never did see much of his family again and never saw his brother face-to-face.

That’s it though, a small victory as I said.

Never before revealed details P1

I now know pretty much all of the story, who they lived with while in Cambridge, how they got there and what they did while away from Yorkshire, some of the details came from an unexpected source, the solicitor that I mentioned earlier. This is the final part of my correspondence with him, I’m not accusing him of anything at all by the way. The pack mentioned is a pack that we obtained under GDPR when Arthur realised that he didn’t really know why Nick was his solicitor – or what for, so we jointly wrote a letter.

Nick, 
thank you for the pack – it was most enlightening and in some cases darkly amusing. 
Despite the redactions I can put names to most individuals including Social Services, etc. 
I note your repeated assertions about Arthur’s obvious capacity and his lovely anecdote of 29.08 when he talked about his father and Kimberley Clark and the missing toilet rolls. My Grandfather was a Blacksmith his whole working life. 
The 29.08 also states that Arthur had been tested by a Doctor for capacity – this did not occur and as you are aware, the final assessment was carried out by a social worker. 
The notation of the 27.09 states that there were no issues in Frinton. There was a social services case that lasted 10 months that was raised by a concerned member of the public while the property sales went on and Shirley (redacted) was in hospital. 
in your notation of the 20.12 – it is asserted by a redacted name that Arthur couldn’t pay your whole fee in one payment – on that date, he had £16,476 in the Natwest account  – down by £21,000 from 3rd September 2018. £5,000 was withdrawn in cash in September and £4,000 in 4 minutes on October 8th. 
Special Branch never attended the house. Nor did police investigate any withdrawal of £10,000 as this never happened. 
You have repeated notations that Arthur couldn’t remember spending the money – did you ever consider that another party may have access to his debit card?
In the week of 19.12 ‘he’ spent £316 in Aldi, £630 in a garden centre and £208 in John Lewis. 
Arthur paid his landlady (redacted) by cheque – every payment to her was via him. £750 a month. 
‘They’ left the place uninhabitable as was the case with a previous landlord (redacted) (who evicted them and also contacted Social Services and Arthur’s Leyburn Solicitor with his concerns) I have since paid for a professional clean of the house. 
Lionel Bowden (redacted) is the cab driver who introduced both X (redacted) and Y (redacted) to Susan (redacted) as somebody in need of help. He is also the friend in Linton that they stayed with but Arthur despite having’ full capacity’ couldn’t remember the address.  Lionel trades as LB Cabs and uses the name Lionel G Brown, he is a multiple bankrupt and an independent witness says that Arthur gave him a loan of ‘ a thousand or two thousand pounds’ via cheque to pay for an operation. Arthur states repeatedly that Lionel (whose surname he can’t remember) owes him money. A cheque to Lionel that was clearly not written or signed by Arthur in January 2018 (three months before my Aunt died and my involvement) triggered the bank actions by their safeguarding team (redacted) 
Marvin Zulu (redacted) from Cambridgeshire contacted me via North Yorkshire early this year due to new concerns about Arthur. He was told by Susan (redacted) that the landlady had a fierce dog and wouldn’t allow anybody access – this is untrue, as are the statements about electric gates and controlling the heating ( I have been to the property as part of tracking where Arthur’s money had gone) 
In total, there were / are, four social services cases, three police investigations at various points and safeguarding concerns raised at every level. The North Yorkshire case being raised by me and a policeman separately after I visited the property in April last year to talk to Arthur about my Aunt’s funeral and Susan calling the police and saying that I was trying to break in…. 
I’m not quite sure where I’m going next with this, Arthur and Shirley are safe, I have got his Kimberley Clark pension reinstated (they like everybody else were not given a change of address notification and couldn’t contact him).  I want to sell the property to get Arthur’s share safely away (a reminder that his will does not now pay out to anybody but Shirley and Battersea Dog’s home) and ensure that their final years are spent away from emotional and physical abuse.
But
I’m keeping my options open, a number of institutions have failed Arthur here and allowed his physical and financial wellbeing to suffer. 
Thanks again for the comprehensive pack 

I got a pretty much ‘yeah. your mum’ reply from this where it was noted rather snidely that Arthur had enough capacity to appoint me as his financial Power of Attorney .

Never before revealed details P2

so I took another step and complained to the SRA – the text is below and I sent over thirty pages of backing data. The investigation stalled and was closed as I had no time to respond to the same questions time and time again.

In December 2017, my uncle Arthur Hodge and his wife disappeared from their Frinton
(Essex) home and left no forwarding address. They bought a house in Middleham, North
Yorkshire with Susan Auckland.
In April 2018, Arthur’s sister died and we tracked him down via the conveyancer and I went
to visit him (after being refused the address via Susan who had the only phone) . I was
denied entrance and in fact, Susan called the police saying that I was trying to break in.
As a result of the visit, I raised a social services safeguarding concern – as did an attending
policeman.
My aunt’s funeral was in May 2018 and Arthur didn’t attend, a sworn statement was sent to
Police and Social Services by an ex-policeman who had engaged Arthur in conversation on
the day of the funeral in which he said that Susan Auckland had told him not to attend.
Over time, I found that there were existing cases in Essex and Cambridgeshire and that
NatWest bank were concerned enough about activity on the account that they put my uncle
on special measures.
On 12th July last year,
Susan Auckland took my uncle to Petersfields LLP (after leaving
Yorkshire without notifying social services the week before)
They told Mr Timmings a tale of evil family members and draconian banks and Mr Timmings
then set about working to get my uncle’s accounts unfrozen. Discussions were also held
regarding giving Susan Power of Attorney, putting her in a will and potentially giving her the
house. It was noted at this point that my uncle had @£36,000 in his NatWest account.
Mr Timmings decided on the evidence of a couple of meetings that capacity wasn’t an issue
and that this situation was an unconventional living arrangement.
Over the next few weeks Mr Timmings liaised with social services as he was of the mistaken
belief that they had advised the bank to freeze my uncle’s accounts. On the 26 th July social
services explained the position and once again, Mr Timmings decided that my uncle was of
sound mind and that he needn’t c
ooperate with SS if he didn’t want to.
On 29th August, Mr Timmings and my uncle visited the Fitzroy Street branch of NatWest and
found that the safeguarding team of the bank had put my uncle on special measures.
This is of particular interest to me as the file that I obtained on behalf of my uncle under
GDPR from Petersfields includes a copy of a letter that I sent to my uncle on the 15 th August
after a series of strange phone calls in which I reference the safeguarding case and the
name of the person in the NatWest Safeguarding Team along with explicit statements
regarding coercion and control.

On the 30th August, Mr Timmings had a phone conversation with Susan Auckland in which it
appears that she has stated once again that I wanted my uncle’s money. Mr Timmings
seems to have accepted this at face value.
Another phone conversation occurred on the 6 th September with Susan Auckland in which it
is noted that the Yorkshire Building Society had put my uncle on special measures – this is
blamed on a social worker and is again taken at face value. Discussions were held
regarding legal action against the bank.
On the 10th September it is noted in another call with Susan that my uncle had withdrawn
£3,000, since ‘Friday’. (At that point, there was just over £37,000 in my uncle’s main
account)

It is noted that YBS were still not allowing withdrawals.
Mr Timmings mentioned to Susan that the legal costs were now due
On the 19th September, Susan states that cheques written to a 3 rd party were bounced by the
bank – Nick states that nothing can be done until the bill is paid.
A slew of activity on the 26 th and 27 th September includes a mention of a complaint to the
banking ombudsman and another call with Susan and Arthur in which ‘the nephew’ is quoted
as saying that he would get all of Arthur’s money and that ‘they didn’t have any trouble in
Frinton’
A Note here, the sale of my Uncle’s house in Frinton was delayed by 10 months at the
instigation of the Estate Agent handling the sale who reported the situation to Social
Services
On the 3rd October, a call fro
m Susan notes that Social Services gave my uncle ‘capacity’
and that Mr Timmings would assist with letting the bank know.
It is again stated by Susan that a will and power of attorney document needs to be arranged
On the 6th November it is noted that my uncle has full access to his NatWest account and
that he agrees to making a complaint to the Ombudsman.
On the 20th December, in another call, it is noted that Cambridgeshire social services wanted
to see my uncle and that he couldn’t afford to pay his whole bill in one payment.

On the 8th January 2019, Mr Timmings notes his concerns that the money had gone down so
quickly from over £30,000 in September to an unspecified amount.

On the 6th February, a call from Susan notes that social services are trying to get into the
property in Cambridge that my uncle was paying for. It’s alleged that the ‘nephew’ is
harassing them as he is trying to get ‘their’ money.
On the 21st February it is noted that my uncle was admitted to Addenbrookes for diabetes
issues.

On the 6th March, it is noted that social services have again tried to gain access to the
Cambridge rented property. It is also noted that there is an intent to transfer the ownership
of the jointly owned house in Middleham to Susan with a life interest being held by my uncle.
It is also noted on the 6th March that Social Services are contacted by Petersfields with talk
of harassment and Social Services being told to ‘behave themselves’
On the 9th April, Mr Timmings meets my uncle on his own, it is discussed that there is now
around £2,000 in the bank account, my uncle could not account for the spend. A will is again
discussed with Susan as a beneficiary – Mr Timmings notes once again that my uncle is not
the sort of person who can be unduly influenced.
On the 25th April it is noted that my uncle and aunt were taken into care. Mr Timmings makes
the assumption that the family may have got involved again.
On the 4th May, a conversation with North Yorkshire Police notes that Police and Social
Services were called to the Middleham property and that he was in ‘ a terrible state with
soiled clothing’
On the 26th July it is note
d that Mr Timmings had a call from Yorkshire Social Services
informing him that I would be granted a financial Lasting Power of Attorney. He states that
he is concerned and needed to speak with my uncle.

On the 31 st July and 27 th August 2019, Mr Timmings consults with SRA ethics regarding his
concerns
On the 27 th August a notation is made that Mr Timmings now has concerns as my uncle
couldn’t remember meeting him and the LPA to myself.
On 16 th September this year, I contacted Mr Timmings as part of tracking where my uncle’s
money had gone. (£37k in September, overdrawn by Easter) and have since had a pack
sent to me under GDPR in my uncle’s name (with a letter signed by my uncle and me).
My uncle now has a will (as does my aunt) that leaves their property to each other and
Battersea Dog and Cat’s home.

I have open fraud cases lodged in both Cambridgeshire and North Yorkshire where I have
been able to prove fraudulent use of my uncle’s debit card and chequebook.

In summary – Mr Timmings has appeared to chase the money and the fees and only
contacted North Yorkshire Police after my uncle was taken into care despite my letter to my
Uncle of August 2018.
He has chosen to believe a story of evil relatives and greedy nephews and has wilfully
ignored the facts at the time or any possible alternative theory – in this case, a long-term
coercion of a vulnerable pensioner that has resulted in my uncle losing all of his money
(over £58,000 in total from his NatWest accounts alone) to an unscrupulous 3 rd party.

I don’t want any compensation or even an apology, but this sort of thing CANNOT be
allowed to continue.

AND THAT’S ALL THERE IS REALLY

To be honest, I have so much backing information, so many contacts and little stories around all this that I could write another hundred pages, but.. Life Is Short.

I know that Susan has seen some of the previous blogs and I took them down while it looked like something may happen legally, but it never did. She (Hi Susan) knows who I am, she has a few solicitors that she’s used in the past, if they’re still talking to her… I have copies of cheques, sworn statements and actual evidence of when she actually did take money in her own name.

Bring it on if you like, you motherfuckers. I’m more than happy

Small Dogs

Many years ago, for two different employers, I spent a lot of time offshore (I’ve blogged about the second major stint in India a fair amount and they’re on here somewhere) .

Wherever I went – Europe, the Far East, Australia, I was always proud that I came from England. The country that gave the languages and social structures to many of these places.

I was even gladder to come home as they were never quite ‘right’ by the standards that we lived to.

Apologies for what will now be two longish recollections of India, but I’m reminded very much of them today.

India 2007, I was running an offshore finance centre and had to visit at least once a quarter. It may sound good but it isn’t. Club flights and nice hotels don’t make up for the crashing boredom and the fact that ALL the bars including hotel bars shut at 10pm in Bangalore. – and if they didn’t. Well, the cops would come in with nightsticks.

There had been a run of well reported rapes of local females working for outsourcers – in a number of incidents, they were pulled from their work-supplied bus late at night.

I visited the team to be asked what WE were going to do as a female was the last person to leave the bus that we supplied. (Yes, I know, there’s an obvious answer, but…)

So, I went to see our head of security, the gloriously named Captain Shamsheer. He was a good guy and very professional. We chatted for a while and I asked if we could supply security guards on the buses.

He stared at me for a few minutes, had a brainwave and called somebody through the door.

One of our security guards. 8 stone soaking wet. Shamsheer asked him a few questions and I watched the guard as he struggled to find answers. After a few minutes, he was dismissed.

Shamsheer looked at me again.

‘The thing is, that security guards are mostly like that. illiterate, badly trained and not fit for much else than guarding a door’.

He paused for dramatic effect.

‘If we put guards on the buses, I GUARANTEE that somebody will be raped. By a guard. I suggest that we talk to your team and tell one of them to grow up and be the last person off.’

We did this – nothing ever happened but the team were happy that we’d taken it seriously

India 2008

The worst trip I ever did. I went out there to sack somebody who was on the equivalent of £250,000 a year – IN 2007. This meant that I had to stay for an extended period and cover part of his job while we recruited. (He left of his own accord when I presented evidence if his massive stupidity and gross misconduct on my PC screen to him)

It’s fair to say that it wasn’t a great trip and I had to fly back via Mumbai. So an internal flight then all the drama at the airport that came with flying out of India. It went like this, not a word is a lie.

Airport – outside the doors. Security Guard.

‘Ticket plis’

This was a new one on me and I scrabbled around for my ticket, accidentally giving him the outbound one. He scrutinised it carefully, looking at it from all angles, including upside down. Then he smiled and gave it back to me. Happy with my valid (outbound from the UK ticket).

Once inside, it was time to put the luggage through an x-ray and have it sealed. Only a few questions and the complete emptying of one bag. Not bad at all.

Then to passport control, just me and my backpack.

Passport control was fine, professional and with the requisite tech to validate your passport. Lovely

Two steps beyond that, an apparent teenager in a leather jacket on a chair, demanding to see my passport and ticket again. Hey ho.

Ten yards later. The gates to check for metal etc. They didn’t work, so you had to stand on a box and have a wand waved around at you. Ho Hum.

Ten yards later, a ticket and baggage check. Sigh

Thirty yards later, stand on a box and have a wand waved. Ticket check.

Ten yards later. Ticket AND Passport check. Thank Fuck the bar is next.

BA Club Lounge. Too full for entry – delayed flights. Fine

BA First Lounge – the same, people had the same idea as me.

Never mind. I knew of a third lounge open to all airlines. A casual saunter down to keep the rage at bay, wander in, show my ticket and sit down – you can’t get your own beer obviously,

And then.

‘Sorry sir, you have to go to the BA lounge.’

‘Can’t’

‘But you have a BA Ticket’

‘Yes. The lounges are too full, they’re not allowing anybody in’

‘You can’t come in here’

“Why?’

‘Er this isn’t for BA Passengers.’

At this point, I should probably mention that a lounge that could take sixty people was empty.

‘Who IS it for then? It says ALL airlines on the door?’

‘Er’

At this point I walked to the fridge and got a beer and just ignored him.

Ten minutes later, a splendid Indian Moustache.

‘Sir I am the manager, you aren’t allowed in here’

Sigh

‘Right, here’s my club BA ticket, I suggest that you call them and make space for me or I’m not leaving. I also refuse to talk to you or any of your team any further, if you’re that bothered, call the General Manager and HE can call security’

‘OK sir, you can stay on this occasion’

*drinks beer*

The time came to leave the lounge and I gave the lad a large tip, it wasn’t his fault that his whole structure was ridiculous.

To the Gate. YAY

Passport check, ticket check, baggage check, all is right with teh world.

Time to board

Walk through the door.

Luggage check again. They’re taking the piss now/

Wand Check again. On the ramp to the plane.

Another luggage and ticket check. Never mind there’s the plane and booze. I can see the stewardess.

And then.

And then.

A soldier appears, couple of stripes on his arm, sidearm, baton.

‘Passport. Ticket.’

He holds his hand out.

I have my foot inside the plane.

I smile sweetly, lean in and say. ‘FUCK OFF’ and then very quickly to the smiling stewardess ‘ I am in international airspace now right?’

‘Yes sir, champagne or juice?’

It was booze obviously and I ended a very grim trip by getting drunk for thirteen hours.

That’s it. Anecdotes over.

What has this got to do with today?

Sadly, it’s a lot. One of the things that I was always proudest of when abroad was our openness and freedom. We could go where we liked, pretty much say and do what we liked and our pubs and bars were open when we wanted with no curfews or dubious ‘rules’ applied.

I went shopping this morning at 7am, the (huge) supermarket was empty, it has wide aisles and loads of space. And yet, a jumped up man-baby in a mask and hi-viz took delight in telling an octogenarian couple that one of them had to go back to the car. ‘It’s the RULES’.

He actually enjoyed it. I could see it from where I was, that tiny bit of power to a man who may not have had it before had turned him into a third-world box-ticker.

It’s the rules, it’s the job, we’re keeping people safe by sending them to a dark, wet and cold car park.

I was ashamed of what I saw and made sure that he heard me call him a pathetic cunt as I walked past, knowing that he somehow would ignore THAT breach of rules and etiquette, possibly because I’m not over 80 yet and I was wearing my most friendly mask.

We need to start looking carefully at ourselves and how we let the rules be enforced around us. I’ve never been a tinfoil hat wearer or an alarmist. But another year of this and we may as well be India, because we won’t be England anymore.

True Detective

Spoiler Alert

This story is nearly over, my uncle died peacefully in a care home. We buried him with dignity and surrounded by love.

His wife is still in the care home, I saw her today and told her that in a few weeks, she’ll have access to roughly £130,000. I also gave her Christmas cards and presents and a particularly lovely calendar that I’ve had made of Milo.

She loves dogs and, in truth, the money doesn’t mean anything to her but it’s way better than the way that this story was MEANT to play out.

I’m publishing this whole series again.

This time, the perpetrators will be named, good people will remain anonymous.

Come for me if you like, Susan, Ian and co.

I’d love it.

Let’s go back to 2018.

Welcome

Are you sitting comfortably? I have a story to tell.

It’s only a few days old and it’s still developing.

Every single word is true, I wish that they weren’t, just some names have been changed for now.

My Uncle

Is four years older than my dad and is the oldest of three siblings, followed by his sister and then my Dad. He’s one of the nicest men I’ve ever met. In truth he’s a simple soul who has lived a life free of complications for 83 of his 84 years.

He married his best friend’s widow, as it was ‘the right thing to do’ and they’ve been married for well over 50 years. I used to see a lot of him as a kid as he was a lorry driver who did regular runs to the coast and the Anglian countryside and he’d take me along as a treat and a day out.

He bought my Nan’s house after my Grandad died and lived there until he retired. The house was in Leytonstone, so he sold it for a reasonable profit and moved to a small town near Clacton in Essex.

Although we’re not a massively close family, my Dad would call him once a week or so, just to catch up and make sure that all was well. Occasionally one of my brothers would drop in to see him on the way to another town on the coast.

A Strange Event

That meant little at the time occurred when my Brother dropped in and found that my uncle had gone out to give ‘two women a lift somewhere’. My Aunt wasn’t sure when he was due back as he’d been gone for two weeks.

This was roughly 18 months ago in 2016.

Dropping off the Radar

Around 8 months ago, my Uncle stopped answering his phone, my dad left a series of messages until the system stopped answering. After a few weeks of this, we made physical contact and he called my Dad to say that the answerphone had filled up.

Then he disappeared. No phone calls, nothing.

An Empty House

Another visit found that the house was empty, with mail piling up and a ‘for sale’ sign outside. There was no forwarding address and he had no mobile phone.

He was gone – so was his wife and another person who had appeared on the electoral role that year. Nobody in the family had ever heard of her, but a search has since revealed that she’d lived in two houses in the same town previously – at some point with her husband and then ‘alone’.

And that was it for a while.

Web searches showed nothing – no variations of a search helped at all.

Follow the Money

My Uncle’s house was sold in December 2017 and that enabled to make initial contact with his solicitor, who confirmed that my uncle was alive and that he would ask him to get in touch.

but nothing changed until last week.

My Aunt, their sister died in hospital on Wednesday night and I told my Dad that I’d drive him to the funeral as it’s around a 100 miles from where he lives.

Funeral Arrangements

I drove to see my Dad on Sunday this week (the 13th of May) to check that he was OK and to see if there was any news about the funeral.

We chatted for a while and it was clear that he was worried about whether my Uncle would attend. He’d still not managed to talk to him, but the solicitor had promised to go and see him personally and ask him to call. My Dad was beginning to believe that my Uncle had no interest at all and was both angry and upset. I took the Solicitor’s number and tracked it to Leyburn in North Yorkshire, a move of over 270 miles for a man of 84, who as far as we knew had never been to that area, even on holiday.

I said that I’d try to track my Uncle down, gave my Dad a hug and drove home.

An Unexpected Set of Events

Three hours later, my phone rang as I pulled onto the drive, it was my Dad and he was very concerned. My Uncle had finally called (from an unknown mobile number) and came out with a long rambling story.

In summary though:

  • He didn’t know or wouldn’t say his full address – just the house number and not even a town.
  • His driving licence had been revoked by the Police – he didn’t know why
  • Social Services may have visited and said that he shouldn’t live alone. Although he clearly didn’t – there were three women in the house with him, his wife and two others.
  • His bank account might have been frozen and he had no money and no car
  • He would send his details to my Dad – by post – at some point.

I took the mobile number and rang it.

An old lady answered it – I didn’t recognise her voice, but asked to speak to my Uncle, who was apparently in the garden.

She called for him five or six times and I could hear another, younger, sharper voice demanding to know who was on the call and took the phone from her.

I asked her name and she replied that it was Susan Auckland.

I asked to speak to my Uncle and here’s the conversation.

‘He’s too busy in the garden to speak to you’.

‘OK, can you let me know the address there please?’

No, I’m too busy right now’.

‘You don’t want to give me your address?’

No, I’m too busy, we told your father that we will write to him’.

‘I’m sorry, but we don’t know when the funeral will be and that doesn’t help us at all’.

‘Well, I’m too busy to talk to you and we will have to get back to you’

‘You know that this sounds strange now? If you won’t give me the address. I’ll have to contact the Police as I’m now concerned about this’.

I don’t appreciate being threatened like this’.

‘Sadly, it’s not a threat, just a next step’

*CLICK*

Thirty minutes later, my Dad rang to say that Susan had called and stated that we could pick my Uncle up from the Black Bull if he wanted to go to the funeral and that neither she nor my Aunt appreciated visitors. He then told her to Fuck Off and she hung up.

That was it really, I had to commit to my Dad that I’d go to Leyburn and find my Uncle.

The Search Begins

The Black Bull isn’t in Leyburn, Susan had narrowed the search down to a much smaller town called Middleham.

I packed a bag in case I had to stay for a few days, packed my work laptop and checked out hotel availability just in case..

I then sent a text to Susan. Something about this whole thing was worrying me and going formal seemed best.

This is the text word for word.

Good evening, following my call earlier, please furnish me with details of my uncle’s property by return text. If this does not occur, I will be at Leyburn Police station by 830 am tomorrow to ask for their assistance. Thanks in advance.

I had a quick meal, sat and brooded over a gin and went to bed, setting an alarm for 4am.

SatNavs are SkyNet’s Advance Guard

Let’s be clear, SatNavs want to kill us all. I programmed in Leyburn and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was a 10 mile shorter journey than Google Maps had said.

This might be because of this…

30 miles of narrow, winding, blind bends and steep inclines. Straight into the rising sun, making me half blind for a lot of the journey and terrified for the best part of an hour.

I’ve never had a more stressful drive in my life.

Screen Shot 2018-05-16 at 14.18.44

Anyway

I arrived in Leyburn just after 8am and managed to find a small cafe for breakfast. I’d decided to go to the Solicitor’s office first and see if he’d be willing to help. Breakfast was a good idea and I was nicely calm again after bacon, eggs, sausages, black pudding and tea..

And at 845, I wandered into the solicitor’s office. I’d prepared for the day by wearing a nice blue suit, with a tasteful and low key slightly pink shirt and had a stack of business cards with me.

Conversational Chess

Inside the office, I saw a set of larger private offices and caught the eye of the gentleman in the office nearest me.

‘Can I help you?’

‘I’m looking for Mr Smith’

‘Ah, there’s two of us, I’m John Smith’.

‘It’s you I’m looking for, my name is Small ThunderDog’ – he raised his eyebrows quizzically. ‘No, I’m his son, I understand that he’s been in contact with you, can we chat?’

He waved me into his office and closed the door.

I started by raising my concerns regarding my Uncle’s wellbeing following the calls the night before and my main concern that he didn’t even know where he lived.

Well, I spoke to him last week and he’s up to date on current affairs, Brexit and the Government, but if you were to ask him why he took £50 from the bank, he may not be able to tell you. But he would know if he’d split a meal bill.’

I reiterated my worry that he didn’t seem to know his address and the issues around his bank account and driving licence. He looked at me for a while before answering.

Well, I can tell you that he does know his address and that his bank accounts aren’t frozen, although he probably has lost his licence – you’re aware of what he did for a living?’

‘Yes, Lorry Driver, I used to go on trips with him, the issue is that I need to make sure that he’s OK, I’m very worried that if he does know his address, why wouldn’t he let his brother know it and why would a woman that we’ve never heard of be acting as his gatekeeper and telling us that we can only pick him up from the Black Bull for his own sister’s funeral?’

‘Was that a suggestion?’

‘No, Susan stated that this was her final word on the subject to my father, you can see my concern here, that there may be coercion.’

‘She doesn’t help herself sometimes I’m afraid, but I don’t think I can give you the address, I’m sorry.’

I looked at him without speaking for a minute, letting the silence build while I thought about what he might not be saying.

‘I appreciate your position, but you have to know that I will find him today, the Black Bull is in Middleham and if he doesn’t have a car and they’re taking taxis everywhere, I’ll start with the taxi firms and work it from there, I know the house number, if I have to check every number 11 in the town, I will’.

We looked at each other.

‘Would I be correct in saying that one of your father’s sons has had a run-in with the police in the past?’

‘No, it’s two actually, but I’m not either of them’

I passed over a business card, he looked at it for a long while before answering.

‘You understand where I’m coming from? I have to check this’

I pondered the strangeness of his question and looked at him for a while again.

‘Well I think so, but you have to understand that nobody in the family is interested in whatever money he has or doesn’t have and I’m interested that you even know that detail about my brother or why it’s relevant. To be as blunt as I can here, nobody cares what he’s up to, if he’s in a weird 4 way relationship and is taking Viagra 16 hours a day…’

‘I.

Don’t.

Care.’

‘When I find him and if he tells me he’s OK and that he has no interest in the funeral or the family, then I’ll walk away and let my Dad know what the answer is.’

I sat and watched him for a while.

‘I’m sorry, but I still can’t tell you the address, however, as you stated, he is in Middleham, there is no car, they’re all very late risers and there aren’t many number 11’s in the town. In fact, the first estate is on the left hand side of the town’.

We shook hands and I drove to Middleham.

A walk in the Sunshine

I actually found the house on the first pass but couldn’t be 100% sure so parked up in town and wandered around for a while looking for other possible number 11s – none of them fit, but the town is a very pretty little place with a number of racing stables and a large equine business base.

I walked through the churchyard and smiled at a woman and made a small fuss of her dog as they walked past, eventually going back to the town and getting a coffee before driving back to the house.

Snooper

I walked up the drive and was struck by a large amount of household rubbish that more or less blocked it, along with offcuts of wood. The curtains were all closed, even though it was 10am but one of the windows had a large number of small dog figurines that I recognised from my childhood.

I’d found them. I was sure of it.

It had taken less than two hours.

I heard a voice.

Hello, are you looking for somebody?’

It was the lady from the churchyard.

A Sunny Day Becomes Slightly Darker

We chatted and she immediately confirmed that one older man and three women lived in the house but that the two older women were more or less bed-bound. She apologised but said that they were all rather strange, that they had moved in just before Christmas but had then all left in a taxi and disappeared for four months and had only been back for three weeks.

The council had been called as the food they’d been dumping in the back garden had attracted rats…

I drove back to town and did a property search while I drank yet more coffee.

Keep Following the Money

The house had been bought in December 2017 and was paid for in cash. Three people are on the deeds.

  • My Uncle
  • His Wife
  • The mysterious Susan

My Uncle sold his house for £81,000 less than the purchase price of the current house, leaving a question as to whether Petulia had contributed or he had taken £81k from his account to pay for the balance – potentially answering the question as to why his bank account may have been frozen – maybe.

I hung around until just after 11 , drove back and rang the doorbell.

Repetitive actions

No answer, I rang again.

And again.

And again. And again. And again.

And again. And again. And again.

I knocked loudly.

And again.

Still no answer.

I walked away and a voice came from the garden below.

‘Not answering?’

I shook my head.

Fancy a brew?’

I jumped at the chance and met another set of neighbours and their dog who decided that I was a potential chew toy.

Rats, Pharmacy Deliveries and Ambulance Rescue

Here’s the thing, if my Uncle had moved in the normal fashion, he couldn’t have asked for nicer neighbours, but the same story came out.

Move in at Xmas, disappearing for months and particularly scathing comments about Susan – who had called the neighbourhood a hellhole.

The rats that the other lady had mentioned had been spilling into this couple’s garden as the house in on a very steep slope, with the gardens being around 2 metres different in height. Nobody could understand why they’d moved there. Town was too far for them to walk, there are only two buses a day and there’s only one small shop.

The neighbours had spotted a pharmacy delivery service making multiple attempts to deliver over a period of weeks, delaying prescription medicines getting through.

The house was full of boxes and junk and Susan had apparently rung the vendor to complain that he hadn’t left the fridge as promised. it was behind a pile of boxes that they’d never moved.

And.

My Uncle had fallen off the edge of his garden, through the hedge into the neighbour’s garden. An ambulance was called and he had to be rescued by being lifted out with a rope. He’d dislocated his shoulder and was taken to hospital.

As with the other lady, I left my number with them and asked that they call me if they had any concerns going forward.

I then went back to the house.

Repetitive actions in a Repetitive Stylee

I rang the doorbell

No answer, I rang again.

And again.

And again. And again. And again.

And again. And again. And again.

I knocked loudly.

And again.

And again. And again. And again.

And again. And again. And again.

I rang Susan’s number – it was switched off

I tried again

and again.

And then she answered.

‘Hello is this Susan ? This is Small ThunderDog, we spoke yesterday’

‘I don’t know who you are’

‘I’m Arthur Hodge’s nephew and I’m on the doorstep, can you answer the door please?’

‘Wait there’

*CLICK*

I didn’t like the sound of that.. and so… two minutes later

Woop-woop! That’s the sound of da Police

A van pulled up and a policeman walked towards me.

I put on my best helpful face and walked out to meet him, getting my driving licence out as I walked.

‘Morning officer, here’s my details, my uncle lives in that house and I’m trying to get to see him to see if he’s OK and to discuss his sister’s funeral’

‘Over here sir, let’s have a chat, we’ve had a report from the owner that you’ve been trying to force entry – where are the others?’

I looked blankly at him.

‘I’m alone, that’s my empty car across the road, you can check if you like’

He called his control and asked for a check on me. I don’t have any sort of criminal record, so just stood there and tried to look as unthreatening as possible, that was probably wise as another van with two more policemen swooped up. ‘My’ policeman signalled them that I wasn’t a threat and they waited while he did the check.

Once he’d confirmed who I was, I then showed them my property search on my phone showing my Uncle as owner of the property. I also showed them my text to Susan from the night before saying that I would go to the police.

I explained my concerns about the two older women being bed-ridden, the rubbish, the rats and the state of things inside.

Things calmed down nicely and the two new policemen went to the door to see what they could do.

We waited and chatted.

Hello Stranger

Eventually, my Uncle appeared at the side of the house and his face lit up as he saw me, a huge, slightly confused smile on his face.

‘You’ve put on weight’ – I’m both taller and broader than my dad, but we look reasonably alike.

‘Well, I am 55 now’

55 how can that…’ – he looked confused.

‘I’m your brother’s son, we have the same name’

His son, he doesn’t have a son with that name, my sister has a son with that name, but not him I think’

His eyes were watery and a bit lost, he was so shrunken, but he’d gripped my hand and wouldn’t let go.

‘No, he does, it’s me, don’t you remember, I used to go to Cromer with you in the lorry, we used to go for breakfast at..’

‘Mrs Brown’s place, yes, I remember, but.. he doesn’t have a son with that name does he?’

I wanted to cry. There was no way that this man was fully in control of his self, his clothes were covered with bits of food and he was so very confused.

‘Anyway, I wanted to talk to you about your sister’s funeral’

‘I don’t think I’ll go, it’s er.. .’

I looked at him, he was still gripping my hand.

‘Don’t you think you should? She’s your only sister..’

‘Could you pick me up and drop me home again?’

‘Yes, of course’

Ok then, It’s a shame it’s come to this’

‘Come to what? That I had to drive for three hours to find you after you moved house and didn’t tell anybody that you’d gone? That you haven’t rung your own brother?’

Well I’m sorry that it’s come to this’

‘Why did you move here? This is such a long way from Clacton, and this house seems not quite right for you, it’s miles from anywhere.’

‘I don’t know, it might have been a mistake’

We talked for around 10 minutes, his memory was hit and miss and he was vague on a lot of things – but I agreed that I’d drive him to Norfolk for the funeral if he wanted and he slipped away from view.

A Small and Very Strange Coven

I then spoke to the policemen again, they’d moved their view a long way from 30 minutes before and were very solicitous.

But, they also told me that the three women in the house, including my aunt, who I’ve known all my life, was present through a lot of my childhood and was a guest at my wedding stated that I wasn’t allowed in the house under any circumstances and that I’d have to collect him from the pub on the day of the funeral.

An Unexpected Outcome.

The two other policemen left and ‘my’ policeman, to my surprise and gratitude, said that he had a few worries and would run them past social services, I said that I’d be raising a safeguarding concern as soon as possible. We shook hands and drove off.

I Need a DRINK..It’s only been 24 Hours So Far…

I went home, grabbed a bit of food and had a couple of beers before sinking into a strange and disturbed sleep.

A Call to The Council

To continue my run of positive things, I had a 45 minute conversation with a lovely lady from Yorkshire Council, I referenced ‘my policeman’ and the job number and that he mentioned that he might raise a case. There was nothing in the system at that point, but she was incredibly supportive and raised a safeguarding case with:

My Uncle, his wife and Barbara- (who it turns out is Susan’s mum) – as the victims

And

Susan as the perpetrator….

I emailed ‘my’ policeman to both say thanks and to let him know that a case had been opened and he may get a call.

Synchronicity, Like Wow. Just WOW Man.

Less than a minute after I sent it, the phone rang and it was ‘my’ policeman. He was calling me to tell me that he’d opened a safeguarding case directly with the local team and that they were likely to call me.

He’d done some digging in his own time, had found that there had been some earlier social services contact and had interviewed the estate agent who sold the property to find out his views.

The estate agent had confirmed that my Uncle was making noises about the house being ‘wrong’ and that he wasn’t sure why they’d bought it.

As I’d guessed, my whole conversation with my Uncle had been closely monitored and the look of joy on my Uncle’s face when he saw his ‘brother’ had convinced ‘my’ policeman that something was wrong with the whole story.

So that meant that as of yesterday morning, two separate investigations had been launched into a situation that nobody was aware of on Monday morning.

An Unexpected Update

I was at work this morning and received a call from one of the neighbours.

The Police and Social Services turned up yesterday and managed to get in while my Uncle and Susan were out.

They then called for environmental service support and a skip was delivered and boxes and rubbish removed from the house.

Today they went back, with two police cars and more social workers but couldn’t get access. There was a lot of shouting and talk of warrants.

And That’s It For Now

I don’t know what happens next – I’m waiting for a call from social services to update me, but I guess that a warrant is going to be needed. The next thing for me once I hear is to try to find out more about his finances and how the house was funded.

And

Whether he has a will and what it says.

Apart From:

This isn’t over by a long way. I don’t care about my Uncle’s money, I do care that it’s looking increasingly like he’s a victim.

The only question is how many people are involved.

It doesn’t matter, I’m taking this all the way.

A lot has happened and..

This is continued in Chinatown

Sleeping dogs

This will be a short post.

Today has been a very strange day, I received two phone calls within a minute of each other.

Milo -my little warrior, The People’s Tripe Princess had recovered from his knee surgery and was being enough of a pain for the vets to want to release him as soon as possible.

I felt a sudden burst of heart warming joy, hung up the phone and got the news almost straight away that my Uncle had died. If anybody remembers the nightmare of his disappearance, the story never really ended.

Fraud was proven but the systems don’t work and two Police cases went to Action Fraud – an organisation that makes the NHS look efficient.

But.

My Uncle died peacefully in a place that he was cared for. He’ll be buried next to his parents and the wider family will be able to grieve and recover and not be wondering what happened to him. He can rest easy knowing that he was a good man and was loved.

I’ll never be able to repay those who helped us in some truly dark days, but they know I’ll always have their back now.

Milo is happy to be home and has eaten and taken his meds- he was refusing in the kennel. The veterinary nurse said that he was immediately a different dog when I turned up.

It’s a bittersweet day, but I’ve done my best for both of them. I’ll arrange the funeral, sort finances and sleep on the floor for a few days so that I don’t have to cage Milo while he recovers.

It’s not much.

But it’s enough for now.

Deistic Dog

The dog nudged my hand away from the keyboard as I was trying to edit a work document so that it made a bit more sense. I patted his head and he nudged my hand again so that I had to look at him.

He was gazing at me steadily and seriously; his huge amber eyes unwavering as he stared.

Outside the windows, yet another storm was driving rain into the house at 50mph and I paused my work for a while.

‘What?’

‘That’s my question. What?’

‘You’re being deliberately difficult aren’t you…’

‘No. It’s just such a big question. What happens after we die ?’

I sat back and looked at him for a few moments.

‘Where did that come from? Are you worried about dying ?’ We’d been at the vet a few hours before and I wondered if that had triggered this.

‘No. I’m not worried. But I just wondered what happens when we go away. Are any of those people that have been here and then gone away dead ? ‘

‘No. What makes you think that?. I know they’re still out there as I see them online.

‘Online ? So you can’t see or hear them for real? You’re taking it on faith then ? Are we in the Matrix?’

My head was starting to hurt at this stage. He had a point. People had come and gone in our lives and as far as he was concerned, they’d ceased to exist.

‘No. We’re not in the Matrix – probably anyway. And you’re right. I have to trust that what I see online and in chats is real. And that’s why your question is so tough.’

He looked at me, I swear that his eyes are backlit sometimes .. Outside, the rain and wind got stronger and it was hard to see the tree-line.

‘Every religion has a view of what’s next and how you get there. Including Atheists who believe that there’s nothing. The problem with religion though is that it’s all tied in with behavioural controls and rule sets. I’m not sure that any of it applies to dogs.’

‘Rules?’

‘Yes. Rules. Thou shalt? Thou shalt not.. etc. ‘

‘You don’t sound convinced’

‘’No. some of it is common sense tied into the time it was written down. Not eating pork in the Middle East before they knew how to cure or had chillers was sensible- now….’

I tailed off. This was a tough conversation with anybody. With a dog though …

He was still staring at me

‘OK. But what do YOU think happens? ‘

‘I don’t know. I’m what’s called an agnostic, I’m not arrogant enough to think that I know and I’m not easily led so I can’t get on board with religion – what do you think? Do dogs have any insight?’

He grinned

‘No of course not’

He looked up at me and put his paw on my arm.

‘ I can tell you what I hope though.’

It was my turn to look at him keenly.

‘ I hope that in many years to come, I’ll fall asleep and wake up in the garden. I’ll be surrounded by my toys and all my friends will be near. Then I’ll hear the music come on and you’ll walk round the corner with one of my squeaky toys and we’ll play games while the barbecue cooks. Then all your friends will arrive and we’ll go for walks and play more games and…’

‘And when the day is over, I’ll fall asleep on your lap and then….’

He looked up at me, his huge eyes glowing .

‘And then we’ll wake up and do it all again. How does that sound?’

I smiled at him.

‘It sounds like you just started a religion. I’m in…’

Ghost Dog

The dog woke up from his dream-filled sleep just a few miles before we reached Corley Services on a trip back from Essex to visit my dad again.

It had been a pleasant trip and I’d done some more clearance of the old house and had a car full of bags of..

‘What’s that stuff in the back of the car then? There’s a lot of it and it smells….. dry.’

I smiled, smells and food were the main drivers in his life, apart from when he’d sit in the garden and obsessively watch the ponies next door for hours on end. He still hasn’t told me why.

‘It’s books, hundreds of them, I’m going to give them to a charity shop.’

His nose wrinkled in question.

‘It’s a shop that sells mostly second hand things that people donate and they use the money for good causes.’

One ear flopped back down again as he pondered this point.

‘And you’ve finished with these books?’

‘Yes I’ve read them all, some a few times and I don’t want to throw them away, I’d like somebody else to read them.’

He was silent for a while, his huge amber eyes gazing up at me me from his little bed on the seat next to me.

‘Do you think that you could teach me to read?’

I looked carefully at him, both ears were up and he looked serious.

‘ I don’t know, maybe. Trouble is that you can’t turn a page or power up a Kindle, so it won’t help a lot. Why do you want to do that?’

‘Well. First of all, I’d like to be able to look at the signs on the road and read the speed of the car, because I’m not sure that you can actually read those things yourself.’

I smiled, he had me there. ‘And what else?’

‘What else? Everything else. I listen to you talking on your conference calls and when we go out and I can hear the hesitation and the lies in some of those voices and I just KNOW that they haven’t understood anything. And I want to understand. I want to know the truth about things. It’s not that I don’t believe you, but……’

His nose wrinkled in the expression that I’ve come to call ‘Cartoon Dog’, a multitude of complex emotions passed across his face and I waited for him to finish.

‘But… I just want to be able to make my own mind up about things and I’m surprised at how many humans can’t or don’t. It’s scary for me because they could decide that dogs are bad just because somebody said so.’

He had a point, people were becoming easily swayed by emotional arguments that bore no logic or relationship to the real world at all.

‘I still don’t think that I can teach you to read what you want to. How about if I read to you occasionally and we can have a think about what it is that we’ve read and heard?’

Both ears were now fully up and he regarded me carefully.

‘Promise? Can we start with the little book that you take into the garden sometimes?’

‘The Hagakure? Yes I don’t see why not, it’s a sort of philosophy and instruction manual all in one. It’s probably a good place to start.’

The amber eyes glowed for a second

‘Will it help me sort those ponies out?’

And with that, he curled up and went back to sleep.

And I murmured some remembered words from the book to him while he dozed

‘The extent of one’s courage or cowardice cannot be measured in ordinary times. All is revealed when something happens.’

Demonstrative Dog

I was sitting in the garden, chilling out and quietly sipping a beer while listening to some gentle Motorhead tracks when the dog lifted his head from where he’d been sunbathing and looked intently at me. I turned the music down a bit as he ambled over next to me.

After a suitable pause for him to yawn and stretch, he finally got round to the point.

‘You know, I was quite surprised by you yesterday.’

‘Why? What did I do? Cook your steak exactly the way you like it? Keep the walking pace steady? Fill your water bowl as if I were a head waiter in a top restaurant?’

He made a dismissive motion with a paw and made a little jump to get in the chair next to me.

‘No, none of that, although the steak was pretty good I suppose. No it was the protesters, I was quite impressed that you seem to have got over your recent bout of Tourette’s and that you managed to speak to them without swearing.’

He grinned at me to show that he might be joking and continued on.

‘To tell the truth, you were very polite, you asked them a couple of questions that seemed to confuse them and you wished them luck. I thought that you didn’t have any time for those ‘Black Lives Matter’ people. Actually, I seem to remember you calling them a number of names, many of them quite profane and some that may even be illegal in some places.’

I took a couple of sips of beer while I considered my answer. I was impressed at his hearing to be honest, I’d left him on the other side of the square with a friend while I wandered over to have a chat.

‘Well, the thing is that they were quite nice really, they seem to think that they’re helping somebody or other and it’s quite a brave thing for only two people to try to do in a small town. They weren’t getting in the way and they were polite.’

He wrinkled his face in the expression that I’ve started to call ‘Cartoon Dog’, he’s got quite expressive over the past few months and it’s nice to watch the emotions dance over what was once a very closed little face.

‘I sense a ‘but’ here….’

‘But…. they’re misguided and are treating a massively complicated issue as if it’s a one sided thing that says all black people are victims, all white people apart from themselves and their allies are evil racists and that a movement with Marxist aims and shadowy backers will somehow make everything right.’

He laid his head on his paws and waited for me to continue.

‘And so, I went over to talk to them. They’d made some little placards and one of them had a list of names that presumably were victims of some injustice or other including Mark Duggan. Twice. I asked why he was on there twice with different spellings and the answer was that they had written all the names themselves. So.. a mistake. I didn’t bother asking if they knew anymore about him than his name. He had been a murder suspect himself before he was shot by the cops.’

The dog wrinkled his nose in query.

‘It was a strange story, but although I’m not always a fan of the police, I think that it was done in good faith. I also never saw anybody riot or burn down parts of their own town when the cops shot Harry Stanley for having a table leg in a carrier bag.’

He wrinkled his nose again.

‘Don’t worry about that today, the point is that bad things happen to all sorts of people. Situations get out of control and people make mistakes. But to try to make out that that the police are institutionally racist is just stupid…’

I paused for more beer while he looked at me through drowsy eyes.

‘So I asked them if they’d be putting Kriss Donald or Ross Parker on their list. They confessed that they’d never heard of them and I suspect that they’d had to google all of the names that were actually there – or take them from a list published by BLM. I asked them to google the names when they had 5 minutes and then wished them luck with their protest.’

The dog was almost asleep in the sun at this point, his paws beginning to twitch.

‘Why did you do that?’

‘Because they’re still brave for doing a small protest in a town that mostly ignored them. Because abuse won’t help and maybe they’ll be curious enough to look for some more sources than whatever they’re reading now. Because…..’

I trailed off. He was fully asleep now and chasing squirrels in his sleep. I moved quietly to the kitchen in search of more beers.

Dog Tired

I had just finished a conference call when the dog did his little trick of putting his nose under my hand and guiding it to the top of his head so that I could stroke him. He looked at me with his enormous eyes and asked a question.

‘What’s Moral Authority then?’

I was surprised at the question, it wasn’t like his normal ‘where’s dinner’ ? Why won’t you play catch with me right NOW?’ sort of thing and it was a moment or two before I realised that I’d used the phrase earlier in the week.

‘It’s a good question but it’s a bit hard to answer. Let me think for a second so that you can see what I mean by it.’

He stared at me intently, waiting for the answer to what was obviously a burning question for him.

‘Right…. you know when you have one of your very infrequent little accidents because I’m too dead to the world to hear you in the middle of the night?’

He raised a paw in assent and I continued.

‘Did you ever notice that I don’t get angry and that I just clean it up and give you a little pat to reassure you?’

He lifted the paw again and looked at me even more intently.

‘Well, I’ve had my fair share of accidents myself, including accidents in broad daylight that aren’t drink related and some even worse and more public ones when I’ve been slightly drunk.’

He cocked his head and looked at me as if to show that he understood, then asked the question anyway.

‘When you say accidents, you mean poo and vomit?’

‘Yes. Afraid so. I’ve had some embarrassing moments, but then most of us have. So that’s why I don’t get upset. It’s not your fault and I can’t blame you for an upset tummy or catching a bug…. although, you do bring some of it on yourself with that fucking lamb-bone that you keep burying and digging up.’

He grinned at me and I continued.

‘So. In this case, Moral Authority means that I don’t feel that I have a case to be upset with you for things that I’ve done. And I’ve done some bad things. I once pissed on the driver door handles of over a dozen police cars in a police car park after I’d got drunk at a wedding reception in a police station bar.’

He was now sitting and looking intently at me.

‘And now I think about it, I’ve got more of those types of incidents in my past than I really care to mention right now. I’m not ashamed of any of them but I’m not overly proud either. And some of them were very funny at the time.’

‘But the trouble is that some people want to tell us all how to live our lives and they’re very happy to tell US what to do and why we should do it. Whether it’s obeying increasingly arbitrary Lockdown rules or why WE should slavishly follow a set of laws that others seem to be exempt from.’

I paused as I was trying to keep the tone of my voice calm, he’s prone to taking me too literally sometimes and I don’t want to stress him if I can’t help it.

‘Anyway. This week has been very strange. The government has seen fit to publish new rules on the lockdown that make even less sense than before and thousands of people across the country have started marching and rioting because somebody died over 3000 miles away. To add insult to injury, politicians, the police and other useful idiots have supported this and have been taking the knee in support. ‘

His ears pricked up and pointed forward.

‘They did WHAT? Why did they do that? Has the country been conquered?’

‘Sadly, no. The Leader of the Opposition, who has kept silent about antisemitism in his own party for years despite having a Jewish wife posted a picture of himself doing it. Loads of others have and they’ve effectively lost the right to lead us. The government has either got a very cunning plan or they’ve fucked this up as statues are being torn down, TV shows are being deleted from memory like some Stalinist purge and they’ve let that ridiculous dwarf Khan board Churchill’s statue up in case some mental defectives try to tear it down.’

He sighed and laid his head on his paws.

‘So, this Moral Authority thing?’

‘I decided a few weeks ago that I would take whatever risks that I wanted to in order to have some form of real life again. This has just pushed it further and accelerated it. These people have lost the authority to govern. The law applies or it doesn’t.’

‘It doesn’t make a lot of difference to us living here or the quiet lifestyle that we have, but it just means that we’ll see who we want to. Go out. Have friends round, have fun.’

He raised an ear.

‘We can always call it a protest. DOGLIVESMATTER Motherfuckers’

I nodded and dialled into my next conference call.

Road Dogs

The dog looked up from his basket in the car where he’d been sleeping next to me . ‘Are we there yet?’ He asked.

I was surprised, his timing was pretty close, we had about twenty minutes left to drive before we would get home.

‘I see you’re still listening to that German stuff, the whistle at the start of the track woke me up…. Again.’

His left ear raised up accusingly for a second before flopping back down again into the usual position just above his eye.

‘Yes, don’t you like it?’

‘It’s ok. All a bit vague sometimes though, what’s all that shark business about?’

I was surprised again. I didn’t know that he understood any German and pondered my reply for a moment.

‘Anyway. While you’re thinking about that, do you want to talk about the last few days ?’

His ear raised itself up again as he asked and I understood that this was the real question here.

‘OK, what do you want to know? ‘

‘All of it. Why did we leave? Where did you disappear to for half a day? Are we going home now? Will there be sossidges?’

I thought about this for a second while he hummed along to the chorus of ‘Engel’ , baring his teeth to the line ‘Gott weiß, ich will kein Engel sein’

There was no chance of that for either of us, so I grinned back at him and started speaking.

‘Well, we’ve been locked down for quite some time now and I’ve been looking at the stats and judging those carefully against my own interpretation of where we are… and I decided a week or so ago that it was time to see my Dad again.’

The ear lifted in silent question, so I carried on.

‘You’ve never seen him, but I may take you next time, not that you’ll see much either. Anyway, he lives 230 miles from me and I last saw him a week before the Lockdown kicked in and he hasn’t left his little flat since. We’re lucky that we can still go and hide out in the other house so that we didn’t have to do it all in one day.’

His eyebrows lifted. Three hours in the car was more than enough for him, even with my tuneful singing-along to Germanic rock music. ‘So why did you go? Is he sick ? Are you sick? Why? Why now? ‘

I sighed.

‘No. No. Nobody’s sick, not me. Not him. Nobody. It was just time to do it.’

‘Did you miss him that much then? ‘

‘No. Not really. I speak to him quite often. He just hasn’t been able to leave his flat for sixty days and there’s not much of a view for him. Or his cat.

Both ears pricked up now and he looked around quickly… I smiled at his reaction and carried on driving through the roadworks on the M6

‘There’s no cat here. Idiot. My dad has a cat that never manages to get out of the flat either, although i suspect she’d like to, I can’t imagine that it’s much fun being locked up with him 24×7.’

His left ear flopped again and he rested his head onto the centre console and gazed up at me with his huge amber eyes. I smiled fondly at him and stroked one of his velvety ears as I continued driving.

‘Anyway. I made the judgement call around a week ago that we’d make the trip and that I’d accept the risks for me.’

‘Risks?’ The ear raised briefly again and he continued looking up at me.

‘Risks of me catching the virus – that was acceptable, there was no risk to my dad as I stood outside his window. Risks of having an accident, risks of getting stuck if lockdown increased. That sort of thing… And… all of those risks were acceptable.’

‘If he’d been ill, would you still have gone?’

‘Yes… Much earlier, there’s the rules and there’s what’s right. The rules change all the time and it’s for each of us to work out what we can live with and more importantly what we can’t. I wanted to go this time to show my Dad that we’re still out here and we care. Everybody else has to make their own minds up, but they’re not my concern. We do what’s right for us in the moments that we have and we live with those decisions and their outcomes – for good or bad. We can’t go back or second guess. We keep moving forward…’

The ear lifted again.

‘Sort of like that German shark then?’

I smiled

He dozed off again, leaving me to concentrate on driving.

Fin