Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Article excerpt

My brother's three Borders are called Roxy, Ruby and Taz. My one ambition in life is to own a terrier again, or rather three terrier bitches, just so that I can call them Tray, Blanch and Sweetheart. (Lear, mad on the heath: 'The little dogs and all, Tray, Blanch and Sweetheart, see, they bark at me.') I ask my brother for the latest news of his dogs.

He says he recently took Ruby up to Yorkshire, to be served by a well-known pedigree Border stud dog. My brother is a regular customer there. It's a ten-hour round trip. The moment he draws up in his car, he says, the dog's owner comes out into the yard and unrolls his 'mating mat' and lays it down, and his stud dog goes ballistic with joy, knowing what's in store. Then my brother gets Ruby out of the car and sets her on the mat, and the owner releases the dog, who is across that yard like an arrow and starts the job without so much as a 'how-do-you-do'.

When the dogs have tied, the dog's owner invites my brother into his kitchen and puts the kettle on. Here they have the same conversation that they have every time my brother goes up there. It's about a Hoopoe. This man loves birds, and the annual visit of our most exotic visitor to his garden is the highlight of his year.

The man has a thick, dialect-rich Yorkshire accent, and my brother is a wonderful mimic.

And my brother has me in paroxysms with his rendition of the man's excited account of the comings and goings of 'Th'oopoe', while the dogs are coupling on the mat in the yard.

Then we talk football. Or more specifically football chants. Yesterday he emailed over a Daily Mirror chart of the top ten best chants from the past decade. We discuss it. I argue that the Manchester United fans singing to Luis Suarez: 'Your teeth are offside, your teeth are offside, Luis Suarez your teeth are offside' is the funniest song, in spite of being undeservedly well down the list. My brother says that the Mirror illustrated the article with a photograph of Luis Suarez's teeth. Not his face, just the teeth caught at a goofy moment. And then my brother sticks out his upper front teeth as far as they will go, and looks at me, and he looks so ridiculous (bearing in mind that he spends most of his week as a big, incorruptible policeman, who, on an uncompromising point of principle, nicks anyone who calls him a pig, or who even makes a sotto voce noise like a pig as he passes by in the high street) that I laugh at him until he dissolves in my tears. …

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