the dog and the postman

The postman thinks that the dog hates him. This is true but only up to a point. What the dog really hates is the intrusion of post into his house – or, as we say these days, into his space. But he is not stupid and he has worked out that the appearance of the postman is anterior to the intrusion of the post and furthermore that the distant glimpse of an orange vest is likely to precede the arrival of a postman.

So he behaves as if the postman is his enemy, and indeed once had his trousers off him, a circumstance that the postman treated with Christian forbearance. It’s not the trousers that I mind, he told me: I thought he was my friend.

To make things worse, the dog regards it as his role in life, the thing that gives meaning to his existence in our mews, to keep it free of post. Every morning – except of course Sunday – he is early awake and alert and watching the gate to the main road. He is alive to subtleties such as the second post. Only when that has been delivered will he settle to his day’s rest.

Sometimes events conspire to defeat him. One of the subtleties to which he is alive is the postman’s habit of bringing his sack into our mews and leaving it. The postman props the sack up by the shed in the entrance to the mews and goes off. Maybe this is to deliver post elsewhere in the street without the burden of the sack on his shoulders. Or maybe he goes off for a fag which decency prevents his enjoying in the mews itself. Anyway, he returns and then he delivers the post to the houses in the mews.

Recently, since it was a Friday, the day on which the refuse collectors take our rubbish from the same shed in the entrance to the mews, the postman left his sack and a dustman took it and put it into his lorry. We guessed quite quickly what had happened and phoned the Council to ask that the postman’s sack be removed from their refuse lorry and returned to the august bailment of the Royal Mail, but they said no, citing health and safety.

The refuse lorry, incidentally, would rather not be a refuse lorry but would prefer to be a recycling lorry. It says so on the side. I’m not entirely clear on the difference, since our bins are colour-coded and presumably their contents are treated with discrimination so that they can go on to fructify our planet in their different ways.

Anyway, on that occasion it recycled the postman’s sack. We had a day free of encouraging letters from British Gas and little offerings from Amazon and the dog stalked around the house frustrated and unfulfilled. Just as Elric’s hell-blade, the name of which I forget, in the great novels by Michael Moorcock, gets tetchy and dangerous if, unsheathed, it does not taste blood, so the dog, having got out of bed but been deprived of the opportunity of slavering over and sinking his teeth into the post, the letter box and preferably the postman’s hand, returned to his basket thoroughly out of sorts, and did not sleep for some minutes.

Being slavered over and chewed adds something to the encouraging letters from British Gas but detracts from the little offerings from Amazon, and when we expect the latter we have to devise strategies to keep the dog from the door. The other day I was fairly certain that a two-CD set of string quartets by Haydn would arrive. It was the six quartets that comprise Opus 64, played by the Buchberger Quartet. I had found it on Amazon for the amazing price of £1.25 + P&P and was feeling quite pleased with myself. The postman had left his bag by the shed and gone off, and I reckoned that if I took the dog for a walk around the block the post would have been delivered by the time we got back.

So it had. There was a clutch of encouraging letters from various organisations that thought that my money was better off with them, all pristine and free of tooth-marks. I took the dog’s lead off him, confident of a job well done. Of course I had reckoned without the second post, which on this occasion followed immediately on the heels, as it were, of the first. There was a sudden flurry of legs, a gobbet of spit struck my hand and the dog sank what remains of his teeth into the letter box and its contents. There was a whimper though the door but I don’t think that he had encountered flesh. He shook Opus 64 vigorously from side to side so as to break its neck and then allowed me to take it from him.

My first inspection of the packaging suggested that all was well, but when I opened the case it was clear that one tooth (like the single bullet that so often dashes premature hopes in war films) had got through. The surface of the CD was bruised but not broken. I played it. It’s fine except that the slow movement of the second quartet sounds like something written by Frank Zappa at his most obtuse.

I was furious: two hours of sublime music (and the Buchbergers’ accounts of the Haydn string quartets are entirely wonderful and I think underrated: fresh, fast and free of early-Classical hair-tossing) spoiled by one slow movement with an idiot dog’s tooth through it. What are you supposed to do: programme the CD player to leave out the slow movement? And of course it was no longer available for £1.25 + P&P.

I reprimanded the dog severely.

Ha, ha, I hate string quartets, he said, quite irrelevantly, all swoopy violins and dramatic pauses. I only like Shostakovich, of the classical masters.

You’re quite wrong, I replied, getting drawn into the wrong argument despite myself. The Buchbergers play without vibrato or unnecessary rubato and with great urgency and dramatic intensity.

And besides, I added, even if it was the Aeolian bloody Quartet you shouldn’t put your teeth through the slow movement.

And I hate that Jessica Ennis, he said as he scuttled out of the room before I could throw something at him.

He kept away from me – in shame I thought; but later I heard him intoning this truculent little verse in the next room. It was to the tune of Steve Miller’s The Joker:

Oh I’m a pisser
And a shitter
I’m a slow-movement splitter
Take my music on the run….

Cocky sod: something will have to be done.

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