The Interview

The post is written in response to a prompt from Genre Scribes: Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #29 — Interview.


Of course I was nervous, who wouldn’t be. The weeks of waiting now boiled down to the next couple of hours.

I closed my eyes, focused my breathing, and thought of the conversations I’d had to prepare for today. Most people had said the same things; ‘I was the right man for the job, no way they could trip me up, no questions I couldn’t answer. Be confident.’

I was ready. Just as I had been. I was the right man for the job, I was confident of that, and the questions they would ask would confirm it. I could feel my pulse slow, my mind calming. ‘You are ready’ said the voice in my head, ‘be confident’. It almost sounded convincing.

Just then the door creaked open, and a voice said “General Tibbets, they’re ready for you Sir”.

As I followed the Private, I saw he was more nervous than I was, his clenched fists visibly shaking. A child to have lived through such events.

The interview went as expected. I answered their questions; Yes, I captained the flight of Enola Gay on the 6th August 1945. Yes, I gave the command to drop the bomb. Yes, I felt remorse but I was following orders.

I remained calm, stoic, and resolute. Even when someone suggested it was all, ultimately, my fault I remained confident.

And then, just like that, it was over,

The same quivering private accompanied me back to my cell.

The door clanged behind me, and I finally broke down. Sobbing long and hard over the death and chaos I had unleashed on the world.

Happy 4th Birthday

Another year has passed and wow what a year you’ve had!

OK, so I’d best mention your Mummy and Daddy getting married first, I guess, as it was a pretty big day in their life and I know how happy they were to have you there (don’t tell your Mum but I think you might have been the prettiest girl that day!). It was a wonderful day of celebration, but my best memories were of you dancing with your Mum and Dad, a tiny moment in a day full of laughter and love, and there you were, the three of you all smiling and laughing.

It was quite a year for you all round, not only did your Mummy and Daddy get married and you got to wear a beautiful dress, but you also started dancing class and in no time at all there you were, performing on stage all on your own, utterly fearless and full of confidence. For all your quiet shy moments of the past, you seem to have an inner strength to you and don’t often seem to get fazed by things, long may this continue! I know you are just turning four today, but the longer you can hold on to these traits the better your life will be (I’ll do my best to remind of you this as you grow older of course but I already get the feeling that won’t really be needed).

As your personality grows, we are finding out that you are quite the little performer, not to mention a bossy chatterbox at times.

Now, I do have a couple of bones to pick with you. We’ve spent a little more time together this past year and, whilst I really enjoyed my time with you at the park one day, I’m not sure your constant commands of where I could and couldn’t go were all that necessary, especially when any digression on my part ended up with me covered in boiling hot lava! OH NO!

And then there was the evening that Auntie Becca and I took you to Xscape and you thought it would be hilarious to throw snowballs at me, not your Auntie Becca, ONLY ME! I have to admit I felt a little bit picked on, but seeing how happy it made you and how hard you were laughing, perhaps I did egg you on a little too.

What a beautiful sound it is, that little giggle you have, that bursts forth so often as you continue to learn and explore the world around you with such a lovely perspective – apparently one day when your Mummy’s tummy was rumbling after she’d had some ice cream, you thought it was maybe just that her “tummy was saying thank you”! – what a kind hearted little soul you are. We already knew this but it was further highlighted a few days later…

We got a message from your Mummy, apparently you had gotten a sticker at nursery for a ‘random act of kindness’: “Lucy’s friend Elizabeth has spina bifida, she is unable to walk unaided. They were playing a game where the kids chase each other round in a circle. Lucy was being chased by Elizabeth but knowing she can’t run Lucy immediately started crawling instead… She wasn’t asked, told or had this happen before, she just knew in her head she had to go slower for Elizabeth to catch her.”

Your personality is growing but it’s clear you have a good heart to go with that cheeky smile, something that will stand you in good stead as you grow older, the world needs love more than ever these days.

Christmas was even more fun this year, now you are fully aware of everything that is going on. Hopefully you weren’t spoiled too much, and it was nice to spend a few hours with you on Christmas Day, made all the better by receiving an impromptu hug as you left. Auntie Becca and I were delighted and both agree that was the best Christmas present we got!

It’s been so much fun seeing you find your own place in the world as you grow, seeing how much you like your Auntie Becca, and how much you are interacting with everyone around you. I think that’s because of the love and support your parents give, not to mention the rest of your family, love and support that will always be there.

I’m so very proud of you,

As always, love and hugs and high fives,

Unky Gee

Aims not goals

I’ve already stated that my main resolution for 2020 is to be more mindful when I use social media. My reasoning is that I want to waste less time aimlessly scrolling, to give me more time to do other things that I get more personal value from, things that I know are good for me but which get pushed aside far too easily.

Which begs the question, what are these things I want to do more of? Well, broadly speaking there are three areas I want to focus on, all of which will make me a happier me. So, in the name of accountability, they are (in no particular order):

  1. Writing
  2. Meditating
  3. Exercising

I’m trying to be sensible about this, so I’m setting myself one primary aim for each of these areas whilst allowing for a couple of additional hopes as well; activities I’m hoping to pick up (or do more of) with the time I’m ‘getting back’ by spending less time on social media.

I’m also being very deliberate with my language here, these are not goals I’m setting with specific targets that I may not achieve, these are things I’m aiming to do (with some level of accountability) and which I hope to build new habits for along the way. It also means I’m not being too prescriptive as I want these things to find a natural place in my life, and I’m willing to concede that there will be changes along the way but ultimately the end point should be the same.

The use of language is a subtle but important difference and I’m hoping it reduces/removes my fear of failure.

Writing

Primary aim: Write in my journal every day.
I’m not bothered about the volume of what I write, it doesn’t have to be much, it just has to happen every day*. It’s been useful to me in the past as a way to process thoughts and emotions, and also (more often) as a way of remembering the good things that happened.

Additional hopes:

  • Write two blog posts a week. One fiction (from weekly prompts), plus one other on any topic. This sort of happens already but every time I sit down to write I want to focus on it properly.
  • Write/read/edit the novel I have in progress at least once a week just to keep it alive. Some days I’ll get an idea and sit and write for a couple of hours, others I’ll re-read and edit, move things around. I’m sure there is a finished novel in there somewhere.

Meditating

Primary goal: Meditate for 10 mins every day.
I pay for an app called Calm for this exact reason but the habit fell away in December as varying work hours/holidays kicked in and I didn’t dedicate the time to it.

I got into meditation a couple of years ago, attending some meditation classes after work with my good friend Andi, and it’s stuck with me it just doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. I always feel better, lighter, calmer, and more aware of living in the present, when I meditate no matter how long for. I’d like to feel like that more often.

Additional hope:

  • Attend some more meditation classes again, it’s a different experience and I think Andi and I would benefit from making it a regular thing!

Exercising

First things first, I can’t really get moving on the longer goal (be able to run a 5K again**) until I get my crappy knee sorted, but there is plenty I could do until then, but I’m going back to some basics.

Primary aim: Stretch every day.
My intention is to build a morning habit to increase my lower back/hip flexibility. 7-10 mins each more, and I’ll incorporate whatever physio exercises I need to do as well. I sit at a desk most of the day and in the last couple of years, specifically since I stopped going to the gym 3 days a week, I’ve really noticed the difference, feeling much stiffer and sorer than I used to (plus, I’m getting old!).

Additional hope:

  • Walk Dave and listen to podcasts. I’ve stopped listening to Podcasts as I don’t really have an hour to dedicate to them so I’m invariably left part way through and don’t revisit them. So I’ll double up on this one and listen to them whilst walking Dave which is always a good way to get a little exercise!

So there you have it, three areas, some gentle achievable aims and some additional hopes.

The next trick is to make these things habits, time will tell if I succeed.


Caveats
* I’m presuming I’ll be able to hit the primary aims every day but I know that won’t hold true. Life will get in the way at times and that’s ok, I’m just going to go with the flow and see what happens.
** My long-term aim to run 5KM is just that, long-term, it may take me all year, or it might not happen until 2021. I am not putting a time scale on it, but it is where I want to get back to in time.

Damage

The post is written in response to a prompt from Genre Scribes: Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #28 — Damage.


“Look at you, with your designer pant suit, that flashy watch, and just look at your new £200 hairdo, aren’t you just so fuckin trendy! Put down that Starbucks cup and take a proper look at yourself, you blinkered idiot. Where do you think those limited edition sneakers were made? How many people worked in treacherous conditions for that handbag, and don’t even get me started on the smartphone that’s constantly plastered to your face.

And it’s not about the obscene amount of money you spend it’s the frivolous way you do it, no consideration, no wider thought to the damage your actions are inflicting on others, children on the other side of the world are being beaten, living in shacks, earning pennies, just so your brand label jeans have the right amount of pre-scuffing to match whatever bullshit fashion trend you need to follow today.

Don’t you see, it’s all just a way to keep you in your place? Buy more, consume more, throw it all away and start over every month. A new trend, a new must-have, keep up with the fuckin Kardashians. Ignore the rest of the planet as it burns, as the waste mountains grow, as the air clogs up with the shreds of the dollars you don’t even realise you’ve set on fire!”

She screams, slamming her hand down on the counter. Her breathing ragged, her glare fierce. She lowers her head.

Pause.

She looks up and whispers.

“You are so damaged you can’t even recognise it.”

She watches a single tear roll down the face in the mirror.

Same hae meat

Welcome to the year 2020! A new year has arrived and with it a new resolve is found and plans are forged; a time of personal goals and improvements, a time to re-invent, to start over, to become a better you!

To help you in your quest you’ll be pleased to find there are many new methods and approaches that will happily take your money to help you achieve (or at least make a start on) your goals, get that shiny new day planner, or a sumptuous new journal, or perhaps take a look at the myriad of apps to help you better yourself, all for the low low price of a tiny piece of your soul! BUY NOW!

Ohh hark at me, on my high horse already. I apologise, I don’t mean to be so pessimistic but it’s hard to avoid the onslaught of such things, with nary every advert that pops up on every website and in every social media feed proclaiming how you truly are only a 6-step plan away from your new perfection! Sign up now and download our app (only £5.99 per month (billable at a discount of only £70.20 per year!)).

And, of course, I really shouldn’t rant and rave against such things, it’s more than a little hypocritical of me given I’ve already, recently, shared my own resolutions for the year.

I am nothing if not inconsistent.

Yet with all that said and done there does seem to be a subtle shift in the focus of these things, it certainly seems like I’m seeing more goals prompting a focus on mental health, alongside the general view that we need more positivity throughout our lives, and I believe this is very much a good thing.

Regardless of what science tells me (a new year is just another revolution of our little planet around the Sun), it still feels particularly prevalent to focus on messages of love, of self-care, of moderation and tolerance in the month of January as so many people are setting themselves up for new challenges, new goals, new words to live by, and it’s easy to get swept along by the volume of people stating they are trying to change.

So much the better, what does it matter if it’s an arbitrary date change that helps give people a push to try something new? I sincerely hope that if you have made any resolutions this year that you are successful with them, and if you aren’t, I hope that you learn and maybe grow a little because of the experience, just don’t give up, you can try again any time you want!

These days January is no longer only about new gym goers, but is also the haven for those going dry, or vegan (Veganuary) both of which are laudable goals, and one of which I’m already part way into myself.

Last year, around late November, I watched the documentary “The Game Changers”. It’s largely about proving whether or not a plant based diet is a good thing and the bulk of the content focuses on elite athletes (the documentary is also backed by Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lewis Hamilton and others) and how the ‘eat meat to get protein to build muscle’ is a myth.

Now, I know you are all more than capable of googling facts about the documentary, some of which supports the evidence shown, some of which doesn’t, and for the most part it was just an interesting watch. I found myself watching it with a sense that, sure, if you are an elite athlete and that is your life then adjusting to a plant based diet is just one facet of what you do every day so is certainly more achievable (and measurable). For the rest of us mere mortals, the ones who work in offices and don’t exercise twice a day (twice a week?) just how applicable is it?

Those were the thoughts in my head while I watched, after all this is a production backed by people who likely have some vested interest in furthering a particular view?

And then it got to the section with the New York Firefighters.

Here was a group of 40-something men, mostly over weight, who have a high stress, physical jobs. What would eating a plant-based diet do for them? Measurements were taken at the start of a week long test, and again at the end and one set stood out. Each man who had switched to a plant-based diet lowered their blood pressure, fairly dramatically, in one week.

I have high blood pressure. I’ve been on medication for it for about 10 years. One of the drugs will, eventually, start to damage my liver (so I’m on a second drug to counteract that). It’s been my reality for long enough now that I stopped thinking about it and just accept it’s part of who I am and I’ve let my focus be more around losing weight/fat as that’s what the doctor – when he’s not banging on about leptins – keeps telling me would be the best thing to do; lose weight and lower the dosage of the drugs I take to give my liver a chance.

Watching that section of the documentary made me realise that, whilst I’ve never really been one for diets in a ‘lose weight’ sense, I’ve long known how to eat a balanced diet but I’d never considered it as a specific way to tackle my high blood pressure. It really was a light bulb moment for me.

I live with a vegetarian, she’s been one for a while now and she has a lot of working knowledge on the topic, so we discussed it, and what challenges it might throw up and the next day I decided to give it a shot.

That was 6 weeks ago and, despite the festive season of over-indulgence being slap bang in the middle of that period, I’m happy to say I’ve stuck with it throughout.

My weight has fluctuated a bit, mostly because for the first few weeks I was very focussed on what I was eating and also cut out a lot of snacking, no more sneaky KitKats for me, and so it wasn’t a massive surprise that I also lost weight. That said, I wasn’t really doing much more than that, I was still eating loads, and I was starting to feel the benefit, starting to feel less bogged down and sluggish each day.

More importantly my blood pressure has dropped. Because I’m on medication I take my blood pressure every month and, on average over the past year it’s around the 138/96 mark. After four weeks of eating a mostly plant-based diet it had dropped to 116/84. In other words, it’s dropped from being in the upper regions Mild High Blood Pressure range (and remember this is WITH medication), to the mid regions of the High-Normal range. In less than a month.

A few other things on this then.

  1. I don’t think I’d be vegan. I have switched from cows milk to oat or soya milk, but I still eat eggs occasionally, and have butter on toast most weekends. I’ve never been a big cheese eater anyway so the occasional chunk is about all I’d have anyway.

  2. I take a supplement to make sure I’m getting some of the basic vitamins I might be missing (B12 being the main one) but I did that when I was hitting the gym and lifting weights so that’s not a big deal.

  3. No, I’m not a vegetarian. At least I’m not in my head, it’s more that I’m just unlikely to eat meat again any time soon but I’m doing it primarily for health reasons, not because I think meat is murder. It’s very rare that I buy into one thing so utterly and completely that it becomes canon and I don’t see this being any different.

  4. I don’t like bell peppers (the big red/green/orange/yellow ones). If you don’t either, be sure to check what you are buying if the food is already prepared, they get shoved in a dishes they have no place being.

  5. I am exercising as well, mostly dog walks at the moment (physio on my knee commences tomorrow!) but that has been fairly constant through the last few months so I’m putting the lower blood pressure and weight loss down to the change of eating habits.

I understand this is a hot topic for many people – some people oppose meat eating due to the impact that cattle farming has on the environment (that is part of my thinking as well), others follow the meat is murder mantra – but for me it’s a personal choice, and not something I’ll be crowing about, or nagging anyone else about (yes, I realise I’m writing a post about it).

And, for the complete avoidance of doubt, no I was not made vegetarian by my partner, far from it! She still forgets I’m not eating meat at the moment and points out tasty things in the supermarket or on a menu for me, “Ohhh that chorizo dish looks tasty… oh wait!”

I guess the clearest way to state what I’m currently doing is that I’m making a conscientious decision to eat less meat and have a mostly plant-based diet, with the aim of reducing my biologically high blood pressure enough that I can lower my potentially liver damaging medication intake.

But I guess saying, hey I’m vegetarian at the moment, is a bit simpler.


And for those wondering, post title courtesy of The Selkirk Grace by Robert Burns.

Some hae meat and canna eat,
And some wad eat that want it,
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be Thankit!

Creepy trees

Village

The post is written in response to a prompt from Genre Scribes: Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #27 — Literature.


The breeze rustled through straw rooftops as it gently buffeted its way through the village.

Adam rose from the table, walked over to the stove and lifted the lid from the bubbling pot. He inhaled deeply then stirred the thick stew, lifting the spoon to his mouth. ‘Aye, that’ll do’, he thought.

He turned to the door, pulling it open to the cool autumn air, looking for their lights at the edge of the forest beyond the grand wall. Hoping they would return soon.

Nothing yet.

He cast his eye around the nearby houses, knowing that the same scene was playing out inside all of them, fathers and sons tending to their homes, waiting on the mothers and daughters to return.

He can remember a day when he would be the one going past the grand wall, exploring the lands around their homestead.

He can remember the day it all changed and how quickly it happened. They’d spotted a herd wandering nearby, a bounty for such lean times, and were almost ready with their traps when that noise, that horrible noise started…

His reveries are broken. Cries in the distance, coming from the trees beyond the wall.

Doors are flung open, a young boy tries to bolt outside but is hauled back. Adam can sense the fear descending, eyes straining in the gloom, desperate to know what is happening.

There! The first signs of movement in the trees, bushes pushed aside, a rising panic, and again that noise, that terrifying noise chasing towards them.

The screaming starts.

It was happening again.

2020

A new decade lies before us.

And I have a resolution for this coming year (and goals for the next three).

Let’s start with that resolution: I resolve to limit my time on social media.

I acknowledge that I won’t ever be fully off-line but I’m determined to step away from the mindless scrolling and refreshing of feeds that have become a bad habit. It has a time and place, but for me it’s starting to feel like a waste and I can quickly go from a ‘quick check’ to 30 mins of idle nothingness. I know this is exactly what these apps are designed to do, they are built and engineered to keep me locked in, and they are very good at it, so I need to develop some ways of combating that.

I am not against idle nothingness of course, it most certainly has a time and place of its own and I think more people could do with learning how to be idle, or perhaps even bored. It just seems that my own instinct that kicks in to counter those thoughts and emotions, that knee-jerk reaction to reach for my phone has become the norm and that’s what I’m trying to break.

There are plenty of other things I can do with that time and I’ve already proven that they are more beneficial to me;

  • Rather than scrolling through my Twitter feed, I could meditate for 10 mins.
  • Rather than scrolling and reacting to my Facebook feed, I could play the piano for 20 mins.
  • Rather than liking post after post on Instagram, I could do some much needed stretching to better prepare my ailing, stiff, body for going out in the beautiful places in the world so I can take my own photos (to post on Instagram… I realise that one might be a bit self-fulfilling).

I have already experimented with a few gentle barriers, I don’t have any social media icons on the home screen of my iPhone, and both Facebook and Twitter have time limits set against them (a handy iOS feature). Neither of these are insurmountable blockers of course but hopefully they will provide enough friction to at least make me pause and consider what I’m doing.

So what else could I do with my time?

For starters I’m part of a book club, I’ve always enjoyed reading and a couple of years ago I was fully invested, reading 40+ books a year but now I can barely manage half that, and that’s me making an effort! I’d wonder what happened, what was keeping me away from reading books whilst watching yet another Facebook video of people pranking their friends, or dogs falling asleep in funny positions.

And it’s not all about the amount of time I spend on social media. In the week running up to the General Election I largely stayed off Facebook, knowing that the increasingly negative tone that would dominate my feed was something that would impact my own mental health so I opted out.

I also know I get more personal value from spending my time doing something that is absorbing, something that demands my attention, that pulls me towards it, rather than the constant noise that social media offers. There are many good things about Facebook and Twitter and I do find things there that capture my interest but, more often than not, I can spend 20 mins not doing much of anything and I’m increasingly finding that to be a negative experience.

I’ll still be around of course, and those who need to contact me can do so, and I admit it will be interesting to see how my ‘social’ interactions change as my visibility on social media diminishes. Be that what it will.

And yes, I know that the New Year is arbitrary and truth be told I’d already started to cut down on such things over the past few months. I can already see that Instagram will be my preferred ‘feed’ as it provides beauty and connection in a way that Facebook and Twitter don’t, and I’m genuinely curious as to how this year will progress, if I will hold true to my resolution and, if so, what that might mean for my online persona.

Only time will tell.

Literature

The post is written in response to a prompt from Genre Scribes: Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #26 — Literature.


“Please, just give it a quick read.”

“Look, I’ve told you before it’s not going to happen, how many times do we have to tell you?”

“Because the sign on the door says ‘Purveyors of fine literature’, and what is this if not that?!”

“You think this is fine literature? This? Ha! This is nothing but a collection of words!” he stifles a laugh before throwing my bundled parchment down dismissively.

I pictured my beloved Anne sitting at home, the two brutes there with her, the ones that had shaken me awake a few weeks ago.

“You don’t understand, please please read it.”

“I’ve read things from you before, why would I think this will be any better? You are a hack, I’ve seen better writing in a shopping list, seriously, Bill, give it up and go home”.

I look at the bound parchment lying on the desk in front of him, how can he mock my words so openly, so carelessly. If only he knew what was at stake. Yet I know he only cares about money, of which I have none.

For me this piece is everything; it’s my precious Anne with tears streaming down her face, as the ropes bind her tight to her chair, with the large silent man standing behind her, his blade bright in candlelight. It is my best work.

“Please, just read it, it won’t take you long. Please. I’m begging you.”

He glances down at the stack of bound papers.

“What kind of title is ‘The Two Gentlemen of Verona’ anyway?”

Charity

The post is written in response to a prompt from Genre Scribes: Friday Fiction Writing Challenge #25 — Charity.


I had a good life, a steady job, family, kids, a nice home.

No-one tells you how it’ll be, how the cold invades and never leaves, the background thrum from your gnawingly empty stomach.

No-one tells you what it feels like to be invisible.

You don’t care about that, you don’t care about my story, to you I’m just another person to step around and ignore as you busy about your day.

I know it because I used to be you.

When the bailiffs took our house, my partner took the kids and I quickly ran out of friendly beds.

I know no-one wants me around but I’m too chicken to kill myself.

So here I sit, begging for your charity.

For a while I targeted nightclub queues, hoping the drunken ramble would be a bit freer with their cash. Some were, but most only laughed and mocked; others spit, push, punch, and more. I’ll spare you the details.

I know you don’t really want to know.

Now I look to the morning office workers. On a good day someone will buy me a hot drink, maybe something to eat.

I used to love sitting in my kitchen on a cold morning, steaming coffee, hot buttered bagels.

I used to do that.

Me.

This lump of dirty clothes sitting here on the ground.

The one you walked around again, without even glancing at me.

I know not everyone will be nice but I’m still here, still human.

Aren’t I?

Don’t you want to hear my story?


Whilst this is fiction, the reality is that every day as I commute to and from work I see rising numbers of homeless people, begging in the street. I occasionally buy hot drinks or soups as I don’t carry change very often. I ask their names, I take a few minutes from my day. I don’t do it often enough, sometimes not for weeks.

If, like me, you want to do more, one way is to donate to a charity that focuses on people living on the streets; Social Bite – Buy a homeless person a Christmas Dinner which asks for a £5 donation.

Walking Dave

Picture the scene.

I’m sitting on the sofa watching TV. There is a small brindle dog lying next to me, gently snoring. At my feet a small black dog lies on a rug, knawing on a chew toy. He stops, stands up, and turns around to face me. He whines pathetically, his bottom lip petted. He needs out.

“OK then,” I say as I stand up, “let’s go”. He steps back and then follows me out into the hall.

I slip on my shoes, pull on my jacket, check I have my keys and some poo bags, and reach for his harness and lead.

He does not like putting his harness on. Honestly you’d think it was full of spikes or something; the second you lift it off the hook, he turns and heads back to the living room only to remembers he needs out, upon which he turns round and walks back into the hall, stopping a few feet away from where I stand.

I beckon him forward. He takes one more step forward and waits.

I reach down and slide the harness over his head, click both fasteners closed, wait for him to do his usual circle around me (no idea why) and open the front door.

All the while, the snoring from the living room continues.

Dave and I step out and head for our first stop. It’s not far, he needs to pee after all, but he’s pulling on the lead. I can sympathise, we’ve all had that feeling when the cool air hits you, so I pick up my pace. After checking there is no-one around, no other dogs at least, I unclip the lead from his harness. He quickly heads off to find a spot and once he has he leans forward, head held aloft, striking a very regal pose for a most unregal activity.

Don’t worry, this is not a post about taking my dog out for a pee.

But it is about the simple joy of being outside, rain or shine, with a faithful companion.

We are lucky that we live where there are a few small parks dotted around nearby. In less than 10 mins we can be in leafy green area where Dave can be let off the lead (after checking we are mostly alone of course) to roam and wander and explore. We also have a larger park near us, big enough to host a Parkrun (5km weekend run), where I occasionally take Dave and, once he realises where we are heading he knows that a tennis ball will feature soon and, once that wonderous yellow orb has made an appearance, it’s all he cares about. I’ve yet to see him distracted for more than a few seconds when there is a tennis ball involved.

But mostly his walks are around the local neighbourhood.

He is well trained and loves loves LOVES being on a walk. He is handsome, has a glossy coat and a ready smile for passers-by and sometimes, if you are lucky, he’ll want to stop and say hello but mostly he is DOING A WALK and can be very single-minded on this so let’s be clear, unless you have treats, he may not care that you think he’s a good boy, or that he’s handsome, or a ‘wee cracker’, because he is DOING A WALK. It’s nothing personal but he ain’t stopping, he has places to go, smells to seek out and who knows, maybe a squirrel friend to make!

You get pretty good at reading the body language of other people when you are walking a dog. I know not everyone likes dogs (aka weirdos) and so if I see someone we are approaching trying to eek out every centimetre of the pavement, hugging the kerb, then I’ll make it obvious that Dave is not able to get anywhere near them. He’s also a very good boy at STOPPING and WAITING if that’s what is gonna be less hassle for everyone else.

There are several places where he gets let off to roam. These parts of the walk are the best and the worst. They are the best as it’s clear Dave loves exploring all the wonderful smells, and they are the worst because I’m constantly scanning around for any possible distractions or anything that might cause an issue – a jogger, another dog, a squirrel (!) – whilst keeping an eye on Dave as he meanders around, following his nose.

All of these places are reasonably enclosed, small parks or areas of grass, and Dave will happily roam around and follow commands if he wanders off too far. He loves to chase birds and squirrels, because he wants to be friends with them, and occasionally that can take him a little too close to a gate or road for comfort. My heart races as I holler his name in the right tone, the one that (so far!) has made him stop dead and turn round.

He really is a good boy.

It’s something I tell him often whilst we are out walking, rain or shine, as he walks on with a dogged determination to get where he is going even if that means sometimes we will both have different ideas of where that is when we get to a particular corner or a crossing, and so you may see me standing with a small black dog leaning all his weight in one direction, whilst I stand pointing in the other direction and suggesting that ‘No Dave, we are going this way’. Some days I let him win, it’s his walk as much as mine.

Dave and I will chat most of the time when we are out on a walk, and whilst it’s a pretty one way conversation – not because he’s rude or anything but he is DOING A WALK and just doesn’t have time for idle chit-chat – I always come home feeling good about myself.

Perhaps it’s because there is such a singular purpose to taking him for a walk, a focus and purity to the activity that I don’t get elsewhere. There is me and Dave and the walk. Nothing else really matters, as long as I keep him safe and he has fun then I’m happy, and somewhere along the way my own mind clears and some days I find myself taking a longer route home just to enjoy my time with him.

Considering he’s only been in my life for about a year it’s safe to say that we’ve bonded pretty well, and whilst the old adage likely holds true – you are only as good as your last walk – and I have to battle for his affections with our dog walker, I still look forward to taking him out.

It also makes me appreciate our corner of this beautiful city we live in all the more, and how many small green places it has, some hidden away in odd corners or dead ends, and on the days the sun is shining and the plants are in full bloom it is utterly glorious. Just me, the fresh air, nature all around us, a small furry black dog who sometimes turns to look at you with the biggest smile you’ve ever seen.

It’s quite simply the best therapy I’ve ever experienced.

We finally get home, and as soon as the door is unlocked and opened Sasha sprints through from the living room to greet us with her usual frantic abandon. She runs in circles, tail wagging madly as I unclip the harness and let Dave wander off to get a drink and rub up and down the sofa to get the feeling of that horrible, terrifying harness off of him.

I’ll grab a glass of water and sit down myself. Sasha will rush over and promptly sit on my lap (to make sure I don’t leave again), and I’ll sit there a while, telling her she’s a good girl whilst I rub her tummy.