LIFE IN THE SLOW LANE
Friday, Mar. 11, 2022
It would give the wrong impression were I to suggest that we conducted our morning shamble around the New Outanback Track religiously. Occasionally with incantations, yes, and imprecations, certainly; but never with piety. It’s around 2,800 metres, longer than the original Outanback in Bali, but flatter. Around here, I’ve decided, a mountain must be defined as a natural eminence taller than a gum tree. There are no mountains, not even on that scale. We do the round in under forty minutes even on hangover days.
Of course, we’re still relatively new to the area – it will be two years in May – and we’re still finding our feet, so to speak. Further, we’re just getting up to nodding status with some of the other regular walkers (there aren’t many, since exercise is apparently Not A Thing to so many among the multitude). If I’ve remembered to adjust my hearing aids for cancel culture – in this case, cancelling wind noise – I sometimes even hear the bikes approaching from the rear. Now and then, you spot a little peloton out for a spin, all sweaty in their clingy Lycra and sometimes chatty among themselves. Never with the peons that they sweep by with regal distain and a perspiratory air. The walkers and gawkers are only spectators in their Tour de Farce, after all. But mostly our bicyclists are solitary souls, and properly silent with it. Up with that I can put, as Yoda might say.
The most interesting creatures we see on our walks are the dogs. Though some of their humans are a sight. At one point on the morning trudge, we often see Leaper and Bounder – our names for them; we haven’t been formally introduced – who are respectively black and chocolate poodles. They are full size French sheep-worriers, but well behaved off the leash, off the leash being a condition of canine freedom that is permissible where signed in our little city. Bounder is quickest after the ball, when one of the two humans in his party throws it. Leaper, by contrast, seems to sight the ball, then leap, and then remember – always too late, alas – that he’s supposed to chase and catch the bloody thing before that bounder, Bounder, grabs it.
Further along in our daily route there are other dogs, kept to their yards by council ordinance. They’re not happy about that, or so it often seems. They bark as we pass. I don’t speak dog, but I do wonder if they’re asking why we’re not driving by like everyone else. There’s one black thing whose heritage plainly includes pug and possibly pig dog, and whose maternal great-great-grandma might have been part Labrador. He races out and snarls at the fence and then looks very hurt when we giggle at him. His neighbour is a huge hound, all clumsy legs and oversize elevation. He sometimes thinks he should come out and bark at us too. He could just walk over the fence if he wanted, but he never does, and anyway, like all big dogs, he’s a total softie and might lick you to death. Further on still there’s a yapper who, like another miniature something or other in a house in our street that we pass at the start of our morning marathon, shuts up, possibly in confusion, when I yell, “Quiet, Baskerville!”
We have a favourite dog. He lives at a house with a shady front garden and is often there in the dappled morning sun, happily silent, perhaps contemplating what his humans might offer him as his morning amuse-bouche. He never barks, unless one of his neighbours does, and then he quickly remembers that he really shouldn’t, and stops and looks embarrassed. Like most well mannered dogs, he appreciates a smile and a wave and a soft “hello.” He rather reminds me of Evelyn, the poor cultured hound in a cartoon I saw once. In the cartoon, Evelyn is on the phone in his apartment, pleading with the dog rescue service. He’s saying he’s called them hundreds of times and when are they going to come and rescue him. “I’m a pedigree, for pity’s sake,” he’s telling them. “I like to eat well and listen to Mozart sotto voce. My people eat pizza and play banjos.” (I’m sure our cultured friend is perfectly suited to his accommodations, by the way.)
Telling this little tale also gives me the opportunity to post the photo here. I took it a year or so ago now, on a perambulation in another part of our pleasant little seaside city. It gave me a giggle.