Friday, 18 February 2011

The dog on the train

Posted by Tania Kindersley.


I did not actually intend to start with that sentence. I was going to tell you about my night out with my friend The Playwright, and my lunch with the Man of Letters. (Two literary fellows in one day; I practically WAS Dotty Parker and the Round Table, except with slightly less bathtub gin.) I was going to tell you about the Roman restaurant with the unbelievably handsome chefs, and recklessly drinking Grey Goose on the rocks with a little lemon twist, and eating a plate of prawn risotto the colour of coral which was so subtle and nuanced that the Playwright and I just looked at each other and frowned and said, in unison, 'Saffron? Or Vermouth? Or both?'. I'm afraid there are times when the insufferable foodie in me comes out and that was one of those times.

I would quite like to tell you that in Fashion Week the entire Groucho turns into a zoo, with hundreds of tall, thin people cramming into the bars and shouting at each other, some whilst wearing hats, and that you cannot find a single place to sit down unless you rely on sheer animal cunning, which luckily we turned out to have in spades. Also I would like to discuss the mystery of how the Playwright grows younger and more handsome each time I see him, and that if I did not know better I might suspect he was going to Switzerland to have injections of goat placenta or some such. (I suppose it could be virtue and clean living, but I find this highly improbable.)

But I can't say any of that because THERE IS A DOG ON THE TRAIN. Despite being besotted by my own elegant ladies, I do not indiscriminately admire all canines. I am not much for toy dogs or fluffy dogs or fighting dogs. I really mostly like sleek black dogs who look as if they were bred to work. I have no idea why this is. Might be something to do with being brought up on a farm. Or just sheer aesthetics. Anyway. The point is that, at Peterborough, of all unlikely places, a gentleman got on the train with a most charming black spaniel. It is very handsome, highly polite and exceptionally obedient. It lies quietly next to the man's seat, with its water bowl in front of it, and wags its tail at the guard when he comes to get the tickets. Everyone in the carriage keeps shooting it happy little looks and then smiling and laughing to themselves. I never saw anything add so quickly and simply to the gaiety of nations.

I think: damn it, I should bring MY dogs on the train. Imagine how much love and joy they would spread. Then I start to worry about logistics. I'm not sure that they would manage to go for eight hours without a pee. In the old days, when the gentry would take their gun dogs up to Scotland for the glorious twelfth, the train would specially stop at Crewe so that the dogs could do their business. (Poor human users of the platform; it can't have been much fun for them, especially since the popper scooper had not been invented.) So it may have to stay a pipe dream. But I do have a happy picture in my head of an entire carriage of people gazing in rapt adoration at the D and the P, as they surely must. Anyway, it turns out that a dog on the train is, as my garrulous taxi driver would have said, like a jewel in a sad world. And that is my happy home-going thought.

PS. Talking of the canines: I call my mother, who is looking after them.

It is not a terribly good line. My mother shouts: 'We are BRUSHING the dogs.' She sounds slightly defensive, as if I might have been calling to accuse her of neglect. 'We know what time the train gets in,' she yells, 'but the important thing is that WE ARE BRUSHING THE DOGS.'

'Are you using the special implement?' I say.

'YES,' shouts my mother. 'We are using the special implement.'

This is what happens when I go away. It makes me laugh a lot.

PPS. We are now approaching Prestonpans. I add that simply because I wanted to write the word 'Prestonpans'. It is one of the most splendid of the Scottish place names.

And now I am going to stop.


  1. I cant quite believe you with the Prestonpans word!!

  2. I'm so glad that your trip has been completed by the very pleasing dog. On your way to Peterborough, you passed my flat. Indeed, could have seen in the window if on the right side and moving slowly.
    Prestonpans is almost as good a placename as Kirtlebridge. Enjoy the rest of your journey home, and your reunion with the Duchess and the Pigeon.

  3. There is a dog on the train? Good Lord. This is like 'bring your dog to work day' - do any employers still do that? I used to work at a publishers where there was a dog in residence all the time. His name was Wilbur and it was a happy office as a result. I am sure your pups will have missed you terribly, especially after the use of the special implement. Lou x

  4. Dear Tania, your week sounds brilliant.

    The Groucho is hideous now, it's gone down hill since it was taken over and they started letting anyone in. It's still passable at lunchtime but in the evening it's mental.

    Loved the spaniel story and your mum made me laugh.

    Have a wonderful weekend xx

  5. We take our CATS on the train. Brum to Plymouth. Have done the journey, there and back, twice a year for the last 10 or so years. Tabby gets out of the box and curls up with Mr B. So cute.
    Popped over from Odd Socks, (Alex), and have realised that I bought your book in Plymouth! (Yet to read it tho'! In for a treat...)
    Z xx

  6. Prestonpans is a pretty good place name, but I think Wee Waa (here in Oz) takes some beating. Looking forward to seeing how spring is coming along in your beautiful garden and beyond.

  7. Implement! I love that word. It is the most English of words. No-one in America says Implement, and they are worse for it.

    Love, Miss W

  8. I love dogs on trains. There's a woman who has two whippets whom I often see, and one of them curls up on her lap into a little round ball in that inexplicable way leggy whippets can.

    I've spent so much time admiring them I think she's worried I'm going to rob them.


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