Tag Archives: dogs

The Wrong Trousers

27 Dec

As the sun was setting on Christmas Day, Bunty and I took the long drive through the hills to his mother’s cottage. It is always a beautiful journey, and this was no exception. The twilight allowed us to still see the darkening mountains and forests, but enhanced the fairy lights on the eaves and trees of houses that we passed.

There was no snow, but it had been raining solidly, and what had once been fields were now lochs. A stream had broken free of its bank and plunged across the long winding lane that was the last leg of our journey, and we forded it with difficulty. A deer watched us from the woods, its eyes glowing in the headlights.

The cottage windows were all lit up, a beacon in the wilderness. We could hear Pipkin the haggis hound barking her welcome as we got out of the car. The combination of smooth grass over a sheet of rainwater had created a skating rink effect, and as I slammed my door shut I careened forward across the lawn then fell backward into a pool. My lovely Christmas clothes were drenched.

I had to peel off several layers, and hang them up to dry. Bunty’s mother handed me an old pair of tracksuit bottoms to cover my legs, and sat us by the fire with mince pies and hot mugs of tea. Pipkin and her cat Mewla immediately cosied up to me, because they know I am a soft touch. Pipkin is normally as terrified of the fire as she is of sheep, but she overcame it for the sake of my company; this flattered me.

Flambeau is not scared of the fire at all. He spent the evening sprawled in front of it.

He made sure the flames heated him evenly all over, holding his various poses for five or six minutes at a time.

Mewla was not so tolerant of the heat, and after a while she retired to her favourite shelf to cool down.

After the exchanging of gifts, the pulling of crackers and wearing of paper crowns over a roast dinner, and drinks, and warm conversation with Bunty’s mother and brother, my Christmas clothes were dry. But not before all of the photos of me had been taken, in the wrong trousers.

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Cutting My Leg Off

15 Aug

“This is real camel bone,” said the Berber, placing a light, rounded phial in my hand to examine. He pulled out the stopper, showing me the bone applicator inside.

“For putting the black on the eye,” he explained. He picked up a dagger and stroked its sheath.

“Real skin from snake. And this…” he held out an agate pendant set in metal and something I didn’t recognise… “horn of gazelle”.

His smile was captivating.

“Here’s the thing,” I said, finding I was somehow already beside him on the ground, with his blanket of wares spread before us. “I love animals; I don’t want them to die. So what have you got that’s not made from an animal?”

He picked up costume jewellery: semi-precious stones, colored beads, metal hands of Fatima.

“I’ll give you special price.”

It was special, all right. Still unused to the conversion rates, I eventually handed over the equivalent of 50 Euros for two plastic necklaces, and thought I’d got a good deal. I was a bit shocked when Bunty told me what I had just done. The Berber, with some embarrassment, handed me back my money and we fell to haggling again. I had never haggled before. We spent twenty minutes, alternating between grinning and acting insulted, while Bunty waited awkwardly to pay.

“You’re cutting my leg off!” he cried, chopping at his leg with the side of his hand.

We were standing by this time, facing each other down.

“You’re cutting my leg off!” I retorted.

He burst out laughing. I paid him 50 Dirhams for one necklace, which I think was still a good deal for him.

It was drawing towards sunset, when everyone would be able to break their Ramadan fast. Fruits and breads were being sold from stalls all up and down the main street of Mirleft, and dogs hung round in the shade, perhaps waiting for scraps, perhaps just hanging around.

People parked their vehicles anywhere. This van had been left in the middle of the street, causing cars and bikes and donkey carts to weave around it. Nobody seemed to mind.

Feeling drained after our intense bout of social contact, Bunty and I retired to our hostel by the edge of the sea. It’s run by a woman from Lancashire. She knows the Berber, and laughed when I told her how much money I had nearly given him.

“Larbi probably thought it was Christmas!” she said.

Or Muslim equivalent…