Friday, May 16, 2014

In which my son asks for a dog for his birthday and I say No, and my name is now mud

Going through a slight ‘Dad is a bastard’ phase here in Powell Towers, because I have vetoed the suggestion that my son should be allowed to have a dog for his 15th birthday. I am, when push comes to shove, pretty much of a softy when it comes to my children, but in this instance I think I’ll be standing my just don’t think it would be a very good idea at all, even though I rather like dogs.

Previously, about four years ago, my son developed an enthusiasm for playing the drums. So he had drum lessons and got a secondhand set from his cousin, which though not cheap at £70 was a damn sight cheaper than getting a new set. Carried
on with his lessons, and would often call me through to his room to admire the latest technique he had mastered (although at the still simple level he was playing I wonder whether the word ‘technique’ is rather overstating it).

But bit by bit I noticed his playing sessions were shorter and shorter and shorter until he wasn’t playing at all. I did mention this to him and he admitted he had lost interest. I told him that many a lad (or even lass) who was still enthusiastic but without a drum set would give his or her eye teeth (‘eyeteeth’, ‘eye-teeth’? Suggestions, please, on the usual postcard addressed to: Pedant’s Corner, Powell Towers, Middle of Nowhere, Cornwall, Great Britain) for a set like his and why didn’t he sell them on? But he wasn’t keen. And, to be honest, nor was I because I was hoping, and still rather forlornly hope, that his enthusiasm will be rekindled.

The acid test is quite simple: if you are interested, you play, if you aren’t you don’t. I have played guitar, not outstandingly well, it has to be said, although lately I am finally - finally - putting a bit more effort in by learning different scales, since I was about his age. I bought my first guitar when I was 22. Until then I would, at school,
You wish. Yeah, for about ten minutes
play whatever guitar was knocking around in someone’s study, and then at college, the flat I lived in for several years had a - bloody awful - guitar. That did me fine for many years. Then I bought an electric guitar, and when that was stolen in a burglary, another.

More recently I bought myself what I’ve discovered is called a ‘parlour’ guitar, and I also have a bass guitar. My point is that I have willingly and enthusiastically played guitar for close on 150 years, and never had to force my self to pick one up. Indeed, I can be one of those bores who will pick up and play a guitar if I ever come across one in someone’s house, although in more recent years I have curtailed that, rather bad, habit, as not everyone is that keen.

The there was my son’s enthusiasm for playing the ukulele. He got it into his head that he wanted to learn and asked for one for Christmas and I also went to the effort of googling ukulele chords, printing some out and laminating them. And he did play it, for about a week and a half. Since then he hasn’t touched it. He says he has wanted a dog for years, and that is true, but I have pointed out to him that a dog is a living being, not just another possession. His cousins who live in the farm on the other side of the lane have a small mutt called Oscar and he and his cousin regularly take Oscar for a walk. I tell him he should try to satisfy his ‘love of dogs’ or whatever it is with Oscar.

As we live in the depths of the countryside, there would be no danger of the mutt being cooped up in the house for hours on end, only to be let out to have a crap, the results of which are then carefully scooped up and slipped into a pocket (which is

What happens after about ten minutes - and goes on for the next 12 years
what folk have to do in towns and cities). Here, he or she would be able to shit where the bloody hell he likes, though quite how my wife would square that with her rancid dislike of local cats who have the temerity to beard her and shit in our garden I really don’t know. The think is that I actually like dogs.

Our cottage is not big and my wife is - was - talking about getting a puppy, but I don’t think she realises quite how boisterous and destructive puppies can be until they grow up, mature and settle into dull complacency like the rest of us. Nor do I want to get lumbered with a daily duty of taking the dog for a walk.

My daughter is 18 in August and off to college in September, and my son will, I trust, be off to college in three years. But dogs tend to live a lot longer than that. When the idea was first mooted a few years ago, I suggested we could compromise and get a cat.

Cats are far less hassle. Cats don’t have to be taken for walks. Cats don’t mooch around sulking if you don’t ‘play’ with them’. Cats need to be fed and have access to the outside world for pooing and peeing and that kind of thing. Cats really are a lot less hassle. But my wife doesn’t like cats, although why I don’t know.

So there you have it. Yesterday I put my foot down and said there would be no dog in this house and ever since my name has been mud and my presence barely tolerated.

My suspicion is that I shall be overruled and that either next Wednesday night or the following Wednesday night when I roll in home from London (his birthday is on Sunday, May 25), I shall find some bloody cute bundle of puppiness lying in a basket next to the Rayburn. If so I shall take it like a man. I shan’t make a fuss and accept a fait accompli. But what I shall not be doing is taking the bloody think for walks or paying a penny in vets’ bills. Forgot to mention those, didn’t I. Ever wondered why vets drive around in spanking new sports cars with gold bumpers and seats covered in calfskin while you and I have to put up with a secondhand bicycle? So have I.

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