Monday, 6 March 2017



So far, each day since the accident has been dominated by the necessity upon awaking of plunging a hypodermic needle into my stomach in order to stave off thrombosis and by the difficulty of taking a shower, (lots of Cling film involved here.....), without slipping on the wet floor and doing permanent damage to sundry other body parts. However the good news this week is that I hopped (sic.) along to the Orthopaedic surgeon for an update and got permission to flex the broken foot, wiggle the toes and most importantly, allow it to touch the ground. This latter, you must understand, is worth every penny the insurance company is going to have to pay him because it will make ALL the difference to my balance (more especially after even a tiny glass of whatever). Furthermore I sweet-talked him into saying that, having seen some horse riders near his Place in the Country the other weekend, he agrees with me (clearly understanding nothing about horses, except that one of them tried to kick his car to bits when he passed too close...), that by the end of the month, just sitting on a horse and going for a gentle walk through the woods couldn't possibly harm the excellent work he had done of nailing me back together. There remains the psychological block of hoisting oneself into the saddle from the wrong side (broken foot being the left one,) and the necessity of explaining to said horse that this is what I will be doing in the immediate future. So get over it. I do hope this is not too technical for my non-horsey readers.
 Thinking it over though, I did wonder whether perhaps the permission to get back in the saddle might just be his personal vendetta against riders in general and horses-that-kick-his-car in particular?

Needless to say a surgical boot and a pair of crutches hasn’t kept me too far away from all things four-legged, and I was up at the stables a couple of times last week receiving sympathy from the cats, admiring the latest rescued puppies, and keeping a safe distance from iron clad hooves intent upon kicking those crutches from under me.

But all this hobbling around suddenly reminded me of Beagle’s latter days.

We had just ended our time at the London Embassy and were back in Rome, learning to drive like Italians again, and trying not to attract the attention of the ever present Carabinieri intent upon asking embarrassing questions as to why I was driving a Japanese car with Russian number plates whilst in possession of a British driver’s licence. Something like that. We were none of us getting any younger and the days when I could twist Italian Carabinieri round my little finger were sadly long past. Luckily Beagle would always defend the car if anyone in uniform approached and would throw a complete panic attack whilst simultaneously trying to rip their balls off, and how was anyone but me to know she was deaf, toothless and wouldn't really hurt a pussy cat? As a result they would usually lose all interest in inspecting my papers, for which Beagle was regularly awarded an extra dollop of yummy horse droppings the minute we reached the stables. Perhaps I should have mentioned that this week’s column is not for the over-fastidious, but I guess it’s too late now.

Anyway, weirdly I took up kickboxing – it had seemed like a good idea at the time, though somewhat of a strain on the hips when one got carried away, and it was not without its repercussions at dog walking time. Beagle was 16 years old by this stage and had arthritis. I had Kickbox Syndrome. She limped to the left, I favoured the right. Each to her own. We would hobble round the park and sink onto the nearest bench and read the Sundays in our copious free time. Occasionally we would go upmarket and stroll along the Via Veneto, taking it in turns to check out the shoe shops and the lampposts. I didn’t particularly need another pair of shoes and most certainly not the sort of shoes I might come across on that particular boulevard, but I liked to think it was an educational experience for Beagle. One gets a better class of smell off a Via Veneto lamppost.
Beagle was totally unfazed. Her preferred aroma was, of course, that of a nicely mature muck heap.
Later, hoping to cheer her up in her last few months, we would issue invitations to some of her friends to come round for lunch. “Beagle and her owner wish to extend their warmest greetings to Oscar and Fido and to invite them over on Friday around 1pm. Ikea smoked salmon will be purchased in bulk (so that we don't actually need to cook) and snippets will be provided at dog level. Beagle hasn't actually eaten anything at all for 48 hours now, despite still managing to evacuate from both ends about three times daily, mostly over the carpets which is why you will find there are no more carpets in the house. Sorry about that but do hope you can all come regardless.”
The latest disaster had taken place just as I was showered, hair washed, made-up and dressed ready to go to a Knights of Malta bash and I inadvertently put my (naked) foot into a huge pile of dog shit just at the moment of leaving, late as usual, for the party, bearing my killer heels in one hand and 13 kgs of half-asleep granddaughter on the opposite hip. The latter had somehow got left behind in the general rush by the rest of the family to get back home (where there was a television) in time to watch The Match. (*)
All of which was more information than was needed, I thought, so I left it at the carpets.

We both missed London. Despite the frenetic social life when we had been posted to the Embassy, I had always made time to walk her through Hyde Park each day. We needed the exercise and to escape from our exalted surroundings. If I was obliged to go away for a weekend or longer, she would be picked up by a girlfriend, taken down to Kent on a train and kept in the luxury to which she had always aspired, pinching pony nuts from the horses, chasing the chickens, pigeons and the other three dogs mercilessly when not falling into the swimming pool and having to be fished out ignominiously on the end of a boat hook. One of the dogs was, I feel sure you would wish to know, one of those crossbreeds which have become so popular. Labradoodles, for example. This particular one was a cross between a Shitsu and a Poodle. I think I can leave you to work it out by yourselves.

So in answer to one of my followers on this blog, even if I’m not tripping over her physically, Beagle is still very much a presence around here. Despite those new puppies.

Back next Monday. Hopefully trotting.

(*) Ok, so here’s another weird thing for your collection. We do not possess a television. Never had one, though good luck with trying to convince both the BBC licencing dept. and their Italian equivalent of that little snippet of information.)
More Beagle and undiplomatic episodes by the s***-load, of course, in
“Sorting the Priorities – Ambassadress and Beagle survive Diplomacy” at