Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Article excerpt

My brother, a big, tough, rugby-playing, judograppling, incorruptible police sergeant, was whimpering down the phone. His back had gone again, he said, this time completely. He was lying on his side on his bedroom floor, he said, the only place and position which afforded him the slightest relief. 'Ah! Oh! Ee!'

he said. I'd never heard my brother whimper like that. Sounds bad, I said. When he could speak coherently again, he said it was cramp in the leg that had rendered him speechless that time, not his bad back. He'd been lying in that position since last night, he said. (It was now nine o'clock in the morning. ) He was passing the time by making a minute study of one of the brass handles on the chest of drawers.

What could I do for him, I said? Walk his dogs, for instance? My brother breeds Border terriers. He has four: three bitches and a dog, handsome devils, all of them. He enters them in Kennel Club-sponsored shows. Now that I mentioned it, he said, he'd entered Taz and Roxy in a show to take place that very day.

He'd prepaid the entrance fees, too, so it would be a shame if the money went to waste.

Which is how, one hour later, I turned up at ring number six at the dog show, breathless and hot, with five minutes to spare, with two Border terriers straining at their leads in the one hand, and a portable, collapsible dog cage in the other, and a toolbox containing dogshow paraphernalia tucked under my arm.

The other competitors watched my spectacular last-minute entrance as though the only thing missing from it was a colourful little toy car whose doors fell off when it backfired, and tipsy trombone music.

'Is this the terrier ring?' I gasped to this tweedy, equestrian-type woman. 'Your dog, ' she said imperiously, 'is doing a poo.' I looked down. Indeed he was. Either that or it was the start of a new transatlantic cable from ring six to New York. 'You haven't got a bag, have you?' she stated. 'No, ' I said, abjectly. With a flourish, she produced a clear plastic bag from her sleeve like a magician producing a silk handkerchief, presented me with it, and I fell on my knees before her. Wearing the bag like a glove, I got most of it up off the floor and into my palm. The bag she gave me felt gossamer thin on my hand; the stool incredibly warm. …

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