Do you remember the Ian Dury song which provides the title for this post? I loved it, back in the day.
So I am going to take a series of blogs to celebrate the things that are helping me look to this day and today I am going to start with a dog.
A couple of weeks ago my son and daughter in law with their new baby daughter set off for a few weeks in Australia, visiting Katie's sister who has herself just had a new baby. The sisters wanted to spend a little time together while their babies were small. So Flora the black labrador came to stay up here for a month or so. She has been many times before, both on her own and with Chris and Katie, so she knows the ropes and quickly settles down.
I love her quiet, calm agreeableness. Lie here, wait there, eat it, don't eat it, come, go? Certainly she seems to say as with a wag of the tail and a quick upward look to check what you want she settles right to it. Yet she retains all the joyousness which characterises the happy dog. When I come downstairs each morning she is all happy wagging. Going out to the field for a run and a toilet trip first thing in the morning is a new joy every day. Every dish of food, the same old food which comes out morning and night, receives the same focussed and delighted attention. If you leave it a bit late to feed her in the evening she sits quite close to you, staring at you with sad eyes, willing you to remember.
And every walk is wonderful, whether it is the regular walk from the door down the track to the river in the bottom of the valley or a new and exciting scramble up Moel Famau with younger daughter and her own lovely labrador. Meeting Maddy is always a cause for joy, playing with Maddy's dog Bess is as giddily exciting today as it was yesterday.
It is harder to worry about the future (and my father is in my mind every day) when the dog tugs me back to the day. And she is never gloomy or irritable. She is always ready for a game of frisbee in the field or a tummy tickling session by the fire. But there is something going on here which is more complex than the way a dog lives in the moment. A couple of days after my mother died I went to stay the night with Chris and Katie. I was not visibly upset but I was still barely keeping my head above water. I needed to do a phone call before I sat down with them to eat. Most unusually Flora came with me and lay at my feet while I talked to Ian, just quietly watching me or resting her head on my foot or leaning her warm body gently against my leg. I could understand what felt like an animal form of empathy if she were my dog but it seemed extraordinary to me from a dog which wasn't even mine. Men and dogs have lived together for thousands of years. What a strange relationship. What a sustaining relationship.
And oh the pleasures of a really big stick.