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Dog Walkers, by Carol Rowlands





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Ongoing troubles on the M25


Charging along the tarmac path at the edge of the recreation ground, I catch sight of the redoubtable Gordon. Thirty yards ahead. With him are the mighty, ageing German shepherd, Maximus, and the excitable border terrier, Dolly.

He’s talking to an elderly lady.

If I just keep up this sprightly pace I can, without any hint of rudeness, call a cheery, “Hiya, Gordon!” as I whisk past, bristling with energy and purpose.

I notice the woman’s carrier bag is planted firmly on the ground beside her. He’s bound to continue holding her attention for the next ten seconds, at least.

Oh – she’s picking up her carrier bag.

She’s moving off.


I’m very fond of Gordon. He’s utterly good-hearted, funny, well-informed and only very occasionally bigoted. The thing about Gordon is that he simply has no idea of time. Neither does he seem to understand the basic concept of drawing breath at some point during human discourse. My subtle changes of weight from foot to foot, furtive glances at my watch and limp little calls of, ”Rosie, hurry up, we’re off now …” quite pass him by.

Discussions on house building, bird tables, car exhausts and local restaurants segue seamlessly into the ongoing troubles on the M25, his dazzling variety of alternative routes, useful petrol stations located thereon, and of course, American politics. Not forgetting his auntie’s back garden, his other auntie’s heart trouble and the wonders of the wildlife in this region.

“Gordon, hi!”

“Hello, there. Hello Rosie, come and say hello.” He’s lovely with my dog. I greet the enthusiastic Dolly, firmly lowering her front paws back down on to the ground, and call hello to big, shy Maximus.

“I don’t know if Max will ever take to me,” I murmur, glancing upwards at Gordon’s lugubrious face. He’s a tall fellow. I wonder what topics he’s going to regale me with today. I’m starting to feel wearily resigned to my schedule running late as from this moment, when I spot a tartan scarf wound round his neck. On a whim, I jump in first.

“Great scarf, Gordon. Reminds me of my Orkney holiday last summer.” Best line of defence, and all that …

Oh god, he’s called Gordon – maybe he has an old uncle on Orkney. I plough on, ten to the dozen.

“Yes, it’s really one of the most extraordinary places I’ve ever been to. I was up there for over a week. I don’t think I mentioned it to you.”

“Err …”

“We flew from Glasgow on this tiny little aircraft, rattling around, it was quite an experience. Nerve wracking, actually. Ha!”


“We flew in to Kirkwall. Of course, there’s a famous cathedral there, St Magnus. We actually went to a concert, ever so atmospheric.”


“But the landscape is very bleak, you know, very flat, unlike the rest of Scotland. I found it rather disconcerting, I must say.”

I’m on a roll, now. “Of course, my favourite day was when we went to see the Italian Chapel. What a marvellous place. Created by prisoners of war, you know, out of a Nissen hut. Beautiful paintings on the walls. …”

Is Gordon looking distractedly at his pair of dog leads?

“…but most famous of all is the Neolithic remains. You know, Skara Brae and all that. The Standing Stones. What a history, that place! …”

I just can’t stop myself …

“ … and I felt we’d only just scratched the surface when the week was drawing to a …”

Gordon yawns. He yawns.

“Dolly… goodness… ooh, d’you know, I’ve just remembered Dolly’s got a vet’s appointment this morning. Better not get on the wrong side of them …”


I scratch my head and look down at Rosie. This just isn’t like me.

Then again, what about those amazing Standing Stones? …


© Carol Rowlands 2009





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