Nightwatch: The dog's dinner
I am on what I have been lead to believe, is a 'mini-jaunt'. The Boyfriend and I are headed to the countryside to stay with his aunt and uncle. I have obviously packed accordingly. In my head. In real life, I grab a pair of jeans, a cashmere cardi and a dress -- just in case -- and hope for the best.
On the train, the Boyfriend and I run over the finer details of our overnight stay.
"So, she's your dad's sister, yes?" I ascertain.
"Yep," says he.
"Do they have any kids?" I further query.
"No," he responds, before looking to one side and continuing, "but they have loads of dogs."
"Loads," I cut in, "define 'loads'.'
He mumbles, then points at a tree through the train window, in the World's Worst Attempt At Changing The Subject.
"Boyfriend, dear. Define 'loads'."
"Ten," he replies.
"TEN?," I answer, in perhaps too shrill a fashion. "TEN! What type of dogs?"
"Big ones," he says, before gesturing to yet another Fascinating Tree.
This will be fine. I love dogs. Dogs love me. We will have a grand old time, these 10 large dogs and I. I'll be like Dr Dolittle in a pair of Keds, and this aunt and uncle will find me even more charming than ever. I hope.
The Aunt picks us up from the train station, and we hop into the car. Or at least we would, if the back seat weren't taken up by two Shar Pei.
"Just shove them across," she calls out cheerily. "They're used to it." I gingerly push the mutts across, and endure their withering stares the whole ride back to the house.
Exiting the car, my ears immediately hear a symphony of barks. Well, I muse, I've already met two of the dogs, and they weren't that big. I can deal with this.
I enter the house and follow the Aunt and the Boyfriend to the kitchen. Whereby I am assaulted by eight LARGE dogs. Circled by four Mastiffs and four Rotties, I am boshed about, licked, and snuffled.
"They're just saying hello!" say Aunt and Boyfriend. "Don't mind them!" I try very hard not to mind them. They are exceedingly difficult to not mind.
The Uncle appears, and greets me loudly. He motions that we might now go for dinner. Yes! Covered in hair and spit, I plonk myself in the back seat of the car. The others arrive, with the dogs in tow.
"Are we going for a walk first?" I ask, confused.
"No," replies the Uncle, "they're coming too."
We motor through the winding streets, with three large canine heads in the boot bobbing above mine, and an impervious Shar Pei occupying the middle seat between myself and Boyfriend. I focus on looking out the window, silently bemoaning the slobber that is dripping on my cashmere cardigan from the Mastiff's jaw.
The dogs sit beneath our table in the pub, being admirably well behaved.
Now, I feel, is time for me to turn my charm-o-meter to the max.
"I just love animals," I open. "I have a dog myself." This piques interest from Aunt and Uncle.
"Do you?' they reply, "what type?"
"He's a Border Terrier. His name is George," I answer. "And he loves cuddles. And when I have a party, I put a waistcoat on him."
Oh dear. They don't hold much truck with waistcoats on animals. Bad move, Malone.
We leave early the next morning. On the train home, I ask Boyfriend how he felt the evening went.
"Well," he answers, "I think that it went, well, OK, I'm sure they liked you and -- oh look at that tree."
Brilliant. Grace Kelly can keep her country jaunts, they're not made for the likes of me. If it's going to involve spit and large animals, then I'll take the city any day.