A shaggy dog story

A sky so blue it makes your heart ache. The distant sea glistening. Pools of sapphire water framed like jewels by the ochre sand.

Skylarks trill their enchanting song as they rise up out of sight. Swallows skim the rippled sand catching the low-flying bugs that dance over the piles of seaweed abandoned by the tide.

It’s early still, just a few, quiet, dog walkers out for their walks. Vari-coloured, indistinct blobs, like moving dots on a map.

The beach stretches on – and on.

To the south, North Wales is a ghostly, distant grey.Looking towards north Wales

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Zooming in on Blackpool

To the north is a faint profile of Lake District hills, barely visible beyond Blackpool and its tower.P1010883

Teresa is on her way out with her two stocky golden Labradors. The one with curly-hair was attacked – and now fears other dogs, gets frightened when they come up close and thinks they’re trying to bite her.

Teresa slips a treat out of her bag, breaks it in half and gives it to the wary one, curled at our feet.

She woke up chilled to the marrow this morning. Could barely move her joints. Put on her thermals as usual and is now looking pink – and not because of the breeze. No, it’s because she’s wearing a woolly polo-neck, a body-warmer and a furry necked parka over her thermals.

She laughs a chesty laugh and looks around now and again to check on the dogs.

Originally from the Isle of Man, Teresa worked for a while in London at the Elephant and Castle. Hated London. Hated the unfriendly world as it seemed to her in her bed-sit where none of the neighbours spoke. Where a crush on the tube left her shoeless and walking to work barefoot.

Liverpool – now that she likes. Friendly people.

Doesn’t like the district of Southport where she first lived – snobby, she says, wrinkling her nose.

Twenty minutes later, we’ve learned where the best places to walk are, learned how many dogs she has had, learned she has lost her husband.

The names are flung out with abandon as if we know each one – her husband, her neighbours, her friend Jean. Just like a small child who assumes you know all the people he or she knows. We nod and smile and listen.

Teresa has had a stroke, has had back surgery, relies on a wooden NHS stick. Her hair is short, her eyes betray some ill-health but her face is one big smile as we chat.

By the time we part we’ve been officially introduced – and we know we’ll see her again. Perhaps down the hidden, sheltered path behind the dunes, ‘you can even take a picnic’. Perhaps around the distant point, with the high dunes and shining white sand.

There’s a man walking what look like huskies. Nods are exchanged and an, ‘aren’t they lovely’ with a proud acknowledgment of a smile. He’s wearing a hat tied up at both sides. Looks like someone who’d like to be a park ranger somewhere in the Rockies.

When we finally make it back to the car he’s parked beside us. The two beauties are in the back.

One of the girls is in heat, the other neutered. He has another back home – a Siberian husky different from these two.

He’s worried that people will think he ill-treats the young Siberian one – its looks are taller and skinnier than Mika and Miko.

The husky man comes here once a week, on a Friday, from Wigan, sometimes spending four hours exercising his beauties. He pulls out an expensive SLR camera and finds pictures for us – Thor is a very pretty dog and noticeably thinner.

As we’re opening our car doors he carries on chatting. Thor, it seems, has a brother who lives not far from him. Thor’s brother is called Zeus.

Zeus has green eyes. Thor has blue.

One day, he reckons, the two will, inevitably, meet.

Thunderbolts, d’you reckon?

The weather is changing now, but the day feels good. The world is still our world, the world of friendly, caring, ordinary people.

There was a general election yesterday.

Today, it feels good, that reminder, that reassurance that beneath the sound and fury we’re all still the same.

Even if … well, never mind.

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4 thoughts on “A shaggy dog story

  1. Your beach walk-dog owner story had a lovely simplicity and happy ending… I love besotted dog owners. But I’m hopeless, I have to remind myself there’s a person attached to the other end of the leash that I should have a conversation with not just
    And the other back story may have for this chapter at least a shaggy dog ending but we know there is more to come and endings can be re-written, even if happily ever after seems as far of as North Wales appeared from your beach vantage point.

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    1. Thanks Elladee – I really appreciate the sympathy/empathy – we were so downcast by the result – it would not have been so bad if we had not all been expecting a close run contest and much wrangling behind the scenes afterwards. Ho hum, pick myself up etc. So, you’re a seriously doggy person? I am not a doggy person, but can see the appeal, appreciate beauties like those huskies and love Jack Russells!

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      1. I’m seriously a doggy person. I usually come away covered in dog fur & spit. And I’m allergic to dog spit! I’m also allergic to cats. I love cats 🙂

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