We near the darkest day, here in England.
We walk in twilight: I arrive at work in the dark, and leave in the dark. We dream of the Summer gifted to the other side of the globe.
We have just discovered a mansion nearby, and today I wanted to use the little daylight we have to walk from my front door to its drive. And when I suggested it to Phil he was unusually enthusiastic.
And the reason was this: the route to the old place was through the forest, and we would be able to take Macaulay back to a scene of incredible ignominy: a scene set in the gentle dog days of Summer, when a small dog messed with a much smaller, but rather powerful, enemy.
It was Maddie’s first day at senior school, and Phil had taken the day off to go with her. This done, he returned to Bracknell and took the dog on an unusual route.
There is a whole complex of land which used to belong to the Marquis of Downshire; on this particular late Summer day, it was on Mac’s itinerary. These days it is many things: a park, a golf course, a crematorium, a school; and all this must be overseen by a caretaker, who lives by the gate and who has a small white highland terrier.
Macaulay? Walk by the terrier’s gate when there was opportunity for altercation? Not likely.
The dog gave the Highlander his gatling-gun retort just as if Mac were the resident, and Scottie an interloper. And then he turned to leave.
At which point a sleepy Autumn wasp flew out of the hedge and stung him on the bottom.
And quite understandably, the dog began leaping about maniacally.
Were I a wasp who had got out of bed the wrong side – were I feeling grouchy and wanted someone to suffer – I would not choose a dog’s bottom as my target. There must be far sweeter smelling, more conducive locations for an elderly sadist with wings to choose than this one.
But the wasp seemed quite definite. So much so, indeed, that it stayed attached like some bucking bronco, as Macaulay yelped and leapt and protested. It cannot be nice being stung on the bottom. Phil located the offending insect and knocked it off, and brought the dog home for a fairly miserable day of convalescence.
A year and three months later: and wasps were just a distant bad dream. They don’t do December. As we walked, and talked, it became evident Phil was most keen to find out whether the dog would show any sign of remembering his ordeal.
The tension mounted as we walked along the road past the park. Would Macaulay’s body language change? How long would his memory prove to be? Could it stretch to three months?
“Look,” Phil said.”Look, his tail is going down. he’s remembering.”
It seemed to be quite high and jaunty to me, as he passed the little white dog’s gate. The resident hound was probably curled up inside its owner’s cottage, in front of a warm fire in the hearth. There was no-one for Macaulay to bark at, in the gloomy twilight of a December Saturday afternoon.
All the way through this scene of his shame, the dog wagged his tail and sniffed and investigated. It was clear there was no residual memory whatsoever.
I’m glad, really. It’s best not to dwell on painful incidents in the past. Better to live for the moment, in the sights and sounds and sensations of Now. Trials happen: but Macaulay handles them, and then forgets them.
There must be a lesson there, somewhere.