Thursday, December 16, 2004


"Not been writing that blog much, Adam?" said an old friend last night on the train. We were heading to Clapham Junction, for a dinner party in the sought-after part of town, where 20-somethings cluster around exotic markets and over-priced bars, exchange telephone numbers and sexual fluids, discuss the city or legal jobs they do so well, remember the university days and all those parties, remark on the smallness of the world bumping into old School pals, or offer to show them the photos from their gap-year mucking in for charity, or from their sponsored 10km run last summer. Lives lived as they should be: your teacher says these are your best subject, your parents say do this at uni, your careers advisor says this will earn you most money, and heh presto. Lovely life just falls into place.

"Writing bits and bobs," I answered. "Got a few unfinished entries. I hate posting anything I'm not happy with. Hate it. Don't know why."

"You shouldn't. It's only a blog. So what's been happening? You never even told the world, or all three of your readers at least, that you shaved off your beard."

"True. But who wants to know about that? Dull story: I decided to keep it, bought some clippers to trim it into shape, and started hacking at it this way and that, that way and thot. And then ten minutes later, an uneven mess stared at me from the mirror, while strands of hair settled on surfaces all over the bathroom.

"Shaving is easier. And now, what to do with the clippers I don't need? Skimp on the hair-dresser and go for a short hair-cut, or be naughty and break them and return them and ask for my money back?"

"Keep your hair long while it lasts," my friend replied, peering at my hair-line, and its slight - slight - retreat from my temple. The train was packed: I noticed a black woman, crammed facing the doors, newspaper held at her side, no space to read it, smiling at our conversation. In a nice way, I thought to myself, in a nice way.

"You know what I'm having trouble describing at the moment? I told you about the dog?"


"I keep getting bitten by a dog on the way to work. Happened twice now - yesterday and the day before."

"You're kidding?"

"About the dog? Or describing it?"

"The dog, Adam, the dog."

"No. You know my street ends at a right-angle, like an L-shape, into an alley? Well, the day before yesterday, I turned into the alley and walked into this dog. I jumped back, swearing, and the vicious thing sprinted forward, then sprung up at my leg. Gnashing, furious, claws out. Razor-sharp teeth, gleaming. Biting, attacking. Up, up it leapt - about as high as my knee, I suppose."

"About as high as your knee?"

"Yes... that was about as high as the evil thing's little legs could get him. I suppose it wasn't much bigger than a guinea pig, really." The black woman is laughing by now under her breath.

"And the same thing happened the next day? What did the woman say?"

"Same thing next day - almost exactly the same. I swore a lot at her. Jesus Fucking Christ mainly, I think. Then, she asked me to listen to her explanation. Apparently she and her husband have been away on holiday for a couple of weeks, so the poor little thing has been in kennels - sorta hotels for pets. He was a bit upset by it, and isn't normally like that at all, she said. In fact, he's more scared of me than I am by him! Or something."

"And what do you say?"

"Well, I could have said (all hurt and vulnerable) that I've had nightmares about dogs ever since I was a kid, but given that the mutt was no bigger than moderately-sized rodent, I didn't. I could have said (all sarcastic and clever) that if the poor little creature had been traumatized by a holiday, then by all means it has the right to bite me. In fact, why not aim higher? What are my privates compared to your dog's peace of mind? I could have said (all superior and moralising) that I have the right to walk to work without getting bitten, and what if I'd been a little kid or baby? And that if a dog bites someone it's a criminal offence and he can be put down by law - and so I'm calling the cops."

"And what did you say?"

"Jesus Fucking Christ. Can't you keep it on a tighter leash. That, I think.

"I suppose at least I said something, even if it was blurted, uncontrolled, rushed, embarrasing, ridiculous - but something. Although she wasn't there this morning." And on we traveled, amused, a few chuckles about us, to a night of photo-albums and chatter about politics and sport, and delicious chicken wrapped in bacon, cooked according to fine recipee, dictated by some distant and successful TV chef in a luscious, solid, hard-backed book.