Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life: Jeremy Clarke

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life: Jeremy Clarke

Article excerpt

Six months ago Sally was living in a third floor flat in Glasgow. Then she was thrown into the back of a car, drugged, and driven down to Provence. Since then I had watched with interest how she has adapted herself from life in a Scottish city to the heat, light and alien smells of deepest Provence.

Sally is a small to medium sized chocolate brown mongrel with the grey hairs of old age showing on her muzzle. Her brown eyes are calm and intelligent. What she is comprised of is hard to say. Her head, jaw and teeth are from some sort of terrier; her deep chest suggests that she has some whippet in her. She is a compact, evenly proportioned dog, and sprightly for her age, which is 11. Her nature is unobtrusive, quiet and polite. Modest, you might say. She never asks for food. She has a self contained air and doesn't bestow affection easily. You only have to whisper the word 'off' and she'll smartly vacate the chair for you. She never bears a grudge.

If I have a complaint against her soul, it is that it is overly sensitive. She notices rising irritation in a human voice or footstep long before the human does and flags it up with a waving, unhappy tail and a pleading look. Living with Sally is like living with a tender and perceptive Buddhist nun. Her sensitivity to sudden loud noises is also irritating. Any loud noise -- an abrupt sneeze, the spit of a burning pine log, a slammed drawer -- sends her into an anxious depression. Thunderstorms drive her cowering and shivering under the nearest bit of furniture. And now that the boar hunting season is in full swing, she has gun shots to contend with. Last Saturday morning the rate of gunfire in the surrounding vineyards sounded like the fatal collision, in 1914, between the unsuspecting right wing of the German First Army and the British Expeditionary Force drawn up behind the Mons Conde canal with presented arms. Poor Sally was under the sideboard in a hell of a state.

One couldn't help feeling sorry for the poor boars, too. With no idea that the immunity from persecution they were enjoying through the balmy summer months was state sanctioned and about to cease, they've bred like mice. I was driving home pissed a few weeks ago and almost ploughed in to a herd of at least 20 of them -- young, old, adolescent -- wandering down the lane as if they owned it. …

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