There are many things I wish for in this world. Some of them are more attainable than others. World peace? Yeah, the only thing that’s going to bring that about is a total absence of human beings. Love? I have that, thank you. Go find your own, I don’t do needy. Beauty? On a personal level, that’s simply never going to happen. Lots of money, then; there’s a certain beauty in money. There must be, look at all those fit birds who marry wrinkly millionaires who look like Moleman off of the Simpsons. Even Jeremy Clarkson is married, and David Cameron and William Hague are both married to a pair of right top-drawer MILFs. These are two presumably intelligent and really rather attractive women who looked at Cameron and Hague and thought “Ooh, isn’t he lovely!” Go figure. Mind you, there’s a part of my brain (the bit that suffers from Oppositional Defiance Disorder) that would like nothing more than to have a threesome with Katie Hopkins and Sarah Palin. Sometimes I mistrust myself profoundly, although it could be considered a public service if I found some way to keep their mouths occupied for even a few minutes. As Xander once said of Cordelia in Buffy the Vampire Slayer: “Cordy, your mouth is open; sounds are coming out. This is never good.” The same applies to Hopkins and Palin. Obviously it applies to Donald Trump as well, but I have my standards…
But at the level of what’s reasonable, what’s attainable, what resolutions might I have for 2016? To drink more, there’s one. I’ve been off my game recently, but have joined a pleasant bunch of people who play guitars in pubs, mostly of a Thursday night. I found after five pints that my fingers don’t work properly, and I made a right hash of Deep River Blues the other night. By ten pints there’d be thalidomide victims out there who could play guitar better than me. So that’s resolution one. I’ve thought about starting smoking again, but I can’t afford it, and I’d have to start buying marijuana again, which is a bit of a faff. Number 3, buy more guitars. Yes, that’s a given. There’s a very pleasant Martin in the local music shop in Dumfries, and they’re lovely people in there. It costs about the same as 100 packets of Marlboro Reds, so if I can get that with only a couple of months’ fag money, it seems silly to start smoking again. Resolutions 4 through 8 concern being kinder to my wife and daughter in any number of ways, which leaves resolution number 9, which is simply to be nicer to my dogs.
I have three of the wretched little shit-machines, and I hate them all in varying degrees. The Finns have an excellent expression, Mulkvisti. Where we would say sweetheart or darling, where the French would say ma cherie and the Italians cara mia, the Finns say Mulkvisti. Loosely translated it means “The one I don’t hate as much as all the others.” I think I would get on very well in Finland. They drink a lot, too. So my canine mulkvisti is a lurcher called Poppy. She is large, shaggy and thick as pigshit. We bought her from Belshill, near Glasgow, home also to Sheena Easton. Any similarity ends there, of course. Poppy is a lovely dog; kind, even-tempered and good-natured. But the trouble is that twice a year she goes into season, which makes her just as irritating as a bastard. She howls like a wolf at the moon for no apparent reason, and sits in front of me whimpering for days on end when I’m trying to watch Celebrity Big Brother.
“Fuck off, Pops, there’s a dear.”
“I said fuck off.”
“I’ll cut you…”
Days on end, it goes on for. There’s a dog from a farm nearby who heard her once and came round one evening with a bent daffodil and a half-chewed Ferrero Rocher. According to the tag on his collar, his name was Chester. Poppy was only two at the time, so we called him Chester the Molester and told him to fuck off as well.
I phoned the vet last time she was in season. He told me they only operate mid-season, so we’d have to wait three months.
Three fucking months. I said I’d do the operation myself with a fence mallet, an apple-corer and a good strong arm if the vet would tell me where to hit, but my wife and daughter pulled me away and cuddled the dog and sat with her in between them with a box of Thornton’s Continental Assortment and a Hugh Grant film. I believe all three of them had communists in the funhouse, I’ve heard that women in closed circumstances tend to coincide their periodic cycles. Given the situation I retired to the pub with my guitar, where I discovered I’d become crap at drinking.
I hate Jack Russell terriers. I loathe the nasty little bastards. They yap and screech and they have a certain demeanour about them. If Jack Russells were human they’d read the Daily Mail and complain about immigrants and vote for Nigel Farage. They’d have mouths like cats’ arses and they’d basically be miserable. Jack Russells are born old, too. They’d sit on buses and enjoy coach holidays. They’d have white hair in tight perms and wear beige polyester and moan about everything. Basically, Jack Russells are ten pounds of shit in a five pound bag. All of them. When I was young I had a paper round. Mostly this was fine, but one farmer had a particularly vicious little fucker of a Jack Russell. Every time I walked to the front door to put a paper though, it would come running from some out-building or other, yapping its foolish head off and take a small chunk from my calf before running off in triumph with bits of my tattered flesh hanging from its jaws. I still have scars from that dog.
Anyway, one day the farmer backed over it in his tractor without noticing, squashing it quite flat with the thick back tyre. The dog became enmeshed in the tyre’s tread and the farmer unwittingly stencilled it up the high street one fine summer’s afternoon, until some fainting, screaming schoolgirls made him stop. Whereupon they peeled it off the wheel and used it as a Frisbee. No, I’m joking, but that dog was about as dead as a really fucking dead thing, and I was very pleased. I whistled as I delivered the farmer’s paper, humming a pleasant tune (probably by Black Sabbath, I was like that back then) and dawdling. Until one day he bought another bastard Jack Russell which immediately began doing the same thing. I started leaving the paper in the farmer’s outer gate, rammed between the upright and the latch, which was fine until it rained, whereupon the farmer complained to the paper-man and I got sacked for telling the farmer to shove his fucking paper up his fucking arse.
So I told my wife and daughter, I said: “you can have any dog you want, as long as it’s not a Jack Russell terrier.” So, our Jack Russell is called Doris, and I hate her. She’s an absolutely lovely little dog. Friendly, good natured and full of character, and I hate her very much. She has a habit of sitting on my chest and ramming her head against my face when I’m trying to watch Ex on the Beach. She makes happy little grunting noises like a piglet and goes to sleep on me with her eyes closed and her pretty, trusting face on my shoulder. God how I loathe the little bastard. She is no trouble at all, she’s intelligent enough not to piss in the bed, she knows when it’s teatime and she can recognise neighbours by the sounds their cars make. In fact she came from one of the neighbours—a kind, animal-loving woman with two achingly beautiful daughters and an entire menagerie of cats, dogs, reptiles, birds and rodents. She’s a lovely woman, but she knows how to dump a puppy. She sent her beautiful daughters round with a tiny little Jack Russell puppy. “No,” I said. “Yes” my wife said. I didn’t want another dog; my wife wanted another dog. So we compromised and got another dog. It would have been stupid of me to even think that all my stories of being bitten, all my childhood traumas, lost jobs, terriers that cost me a career in journalism and so forth could have forestalled the inevitable. None of it made any difference at all. So now we have a Jack Russell Terrier, and that was the end of that.
Except it wasn’t. There I was with two dogs, neither of which I wanted, both of which I quickly discovered I had to walk, feed, play with, wipe up after, pay the vet bills for, and so on. So I said to my wife and daughter “Listen, the two of you. You are very lucky to have me, for I am a tolerant person, I am kind and even-tempered. I am a good father and a wonderful husband. But we now have two dogs, and I will not, under any imaginable circumstances, ever, in any situation whatsoever, countenance the idea of any more dogs.” Our third dog, Dexter, would quite possibly have died. Now, don’t get me wrong, that would have been fine by me, but my wife and daughter are moulded from softer clay. We found Dexter in a pile of puppies in a shed in winter up at a stable owned by some transient pikeys who were offering my daughter riding lessons. Dexter’s mother was a terrier in a metal cage. You could see her ribs. Dexter’s father had sensibly fucked off into the wild blue yonder, never to be heard from again. Dexter was brown, he was four weeks old and he had been separated from his mother and force-weaned onto solids using the good old-fashioned eat-or-starve approach.
He was about six inches long when I first met him, and he went to sleep in my hand, closing his eyes in delight at the sudden and unexpected warmth and human contact. I hated him on sight. He was an ugly little fucker and he had a name that was not a word. Not his actual name, but his breed. We were told he was a Jackawawa. I said “This is not a word, he is not a proper dog, and we are not having him.” And I was right about two of those things. He is not a proper dog and it wasn’t a word, even if when spelled properly, Jackahuahua. Yes, he is half Jack Russell and half Chihuahua. I now have one and a half Jack Russells. Dexter is another breed of yappy-type dog – the sort of dog you kick instinctively, not out of any innate sense of cruelty, but just to see how far you can make him go. 2.3 metres is my current record. But jackawawas are for the sort of people who enjoy a BBQ on a summer’s afternoon, and not for the likes of you and me.
“Can we have him?” My daughter asked.
“No,” I said.
“Yes,” my wife said.
So once again we compromised and got him. To be fair, I quite like Dexter. He’s a boy, so he blunders around all over the place knocking stuff over, he pisses on your shoes and sicks up on the carpet, and he actually smiles. He bares his little teeth and wags his tail and he is always utterly overjoyed to see me. Christ knows why; no one else ever is.
But there are limits. The other week it snowed quite deeply. Poppy jumped around. Doris sneered at it as if it was some kind of left-wing plot and asked us if we couldn’t ban it or something. Dexter went charging off. He’d never seen anything like it, the dear little chap. But Dexter is a boy, and a small and rather low-slung boy at that. So where the girl dogs left paw prints in the snow, Dexter left four paw prints with a solid unbroken line running between them. Just the wrong height, that snow was. So, long story short, he came in with a great clump of ice hanging off his bell-end. My wife gave a squeal of alarm.
“Oh, poor boy, quick, pull it off.”
“I don’t like him that much,” I said, “You pull it off.”
So she got the dogs’ special towel and rubbed his parts a little too roughly, and he squealed.
“Rub it gently,” I urged her.
“I don’t like him that much,” she answered. “Get a hair dryer.”
And so, while children outside built snowmen and lovers walked hand-in-hand through the white landscape, we spent a snowy winter’s morning blow-drying a dog’s genitals (“Not too near, you’ll scorch it”). The dogs then curled up into one massive pile of dog and went to sleep.
So I have three dogs, all of which I hate to varying degrees, bless their hearts. I also have a cat and a lizard. The lizard is my favourite pet because it is undemanding and utterly devoid of character or personality. It sits motionless most of the time, blinking on a calendar basis. I like to hand-feed him living locusts and listen as he crunches those bad boys right up. So for this year I have chosen as my New Year’s Resolution the simple idea of being nicer to my dogs. If that fails, I will take up smoking again. Given the lifespan of small yappy-type dogs, it’ll mean the little bastards will probably outlive me.