Dog Training in Redcar
I was right; Steve didn’t turn up for that pint.
In other news my stars for September read well. Apparently I’m going to be moving house, and as long as the Ottermobile’s wheels turn round that’ll be true. They also say I’m coming into money, so I guess that translates as a few quid to buy a new bucket to shit in. If I’m lucky.
After two days in Saltburn I wanted a long walk, so I packed a lunch and set off down the sands to Redcar. It would be another tick, another postcard for the mosaic and another lungful of fresh sea air. It’s a fair old trek and by the time I got to Redcar I was gasping, so decided to get a bottle of water in a cafe.
It was a bustling little place and as I queued for my beverage I noted one of the ladies serving had two black eyes. There was obviously a story here, but I dare even the most intrepid reporter to ask how she got them. Well, the Otter is the most intrepid reporter.
“You’ve been in the wars,” I said.
“That’ll be a pound,” she said, unsmilingly, of the water. As I coughed up, knowing I wouldn’t get any change out of her, I left the cafe and found a bench seat on the prom, known locally as The Stray. As I sipped my water and rolled a ciggy, mulling over the possible story behind the woman’s black eyes, I was joined by a man of about forty, dressed not unlike me in combats and T-shirt.
Bidding me good afternoon, he asked if I minded him joining me for a smoke. I wasn’t apt to say no and, though I was a little nervous at first, we soon got into conversation and I mentioned the woman with black eyes.
“Yea I’ve seen her,” he said, “Looks like there’s an husband handy with his fists.”
“I thought the same,” I said, “but when I asked I got nothing.”
“You asked her?!”
Confirming, with a touch of shame, I explained I’m writing a blog and needed stories.
“You’re a writer?” he said, “Well if you want a story I’m your man.”
It always amazes me that when someone learns you’re a writer they want to give you material. Like if a comedian reveals his profession, the listener wants to tell him a joke. So how come it’s not the same with other professions? For example would a carpenter be offered a piece of planed four-by-two?
But I digress. My new friend did indeed give me his story, which I’ll condense here. Hailing from Doncaster, he’d never married but for many years lived with his girlfriend and two sons, he thought happily, until the day she told him to move out. He’d suspected for some time that she’d got someone else, then found a text on her phone to prove it. She confessed and said it was over. He had a job at the time but spiralled into drink and drugs. One day he went into work and they smelled alcohol, sacking him on the spot.
“I pleaded innocence,” he said, “told ’em what had gone on and asked for compassionate leave. They said no. Even Human Resources turn their back.”
“Human Resources are only as resourceful as the humans in charge of it,” I said.
“I said exactly the same,” he said, unconvincingly.
I confess that while I listened with interest, I couldn’t do so entirely because throughout, there was a bogey hanging off his nose. This had happened to me before and I remember not knowing what to do. Does the intrepid reporter tell the person? Does he try not to look and find it impossible? Or does he just wait for it to drop off of its own volition? Anyway, his story went on, bogey or no bogey, and I was moved to hear he’d fallen into debt and was now just drifting.
“Are you homeless?” I asked.
“No. I live in my van.”
I was amazed – at last I’d met someone very much in the same boat as me. Or at least the same van. Shaking my hand, he said exactly what I was thinking; that it’s nice to know you’re not alone, it’s nice to know there’s some normality to this, and it’s reassuring to know you’re not completely barking mad. Plunged into this newfound camaraderie, I opened my packed lunch and offered to share.
“Just cheese and bread,” I said.
“You’re a gent,” he replied, “I’ll return the favour some day.” But I knew that wouldn’t happen.
So there we were, a couple of strays, a couple of tramps, he the Estragon to my Vladimir or vice versa, it didn’t matter. What mattered was that we’d each found a kindred spirit, someone to bounce ideas and story off, someone in whom to confide the bouts of loneliness, depression, laughter and hope that there’d be more to life than this. And amid the shared lunch and halved optimism, the bogey finally dropped into his lap and bounced away, to where I’ll never know. I could only hope it missed the sandwiches.
He was a nice guy David, as I learned was his name, and we swapped numbers. Like Steve the night before, I wasn’t entirely sure this would happen, but you never know. David was certainly genuinely grateful for a bite to eat with me. And he was genuine when he said I was a nice bloke and I’d be OK.
When we parted, I returned to the cafe and sat outside to write up my notes, and saw that the lady with two black eyes was still working, and now smiling. I only hoped that David and I were wrong about the violent husband handy with his fists – perhaps the door she’d walked into was real.
As I sat, thinking about a couple of strays on The Stray, a couple of women began a demo of how to train dogs. I watched, fascinated, thinking how wonderful an animal it is. I’d never been a doggy person but had met a few on my travels and even wondered if I should consider a canine companion. How obedient they were, how responsive, loyal.
“This one was a stray,” said the lady. “She was starving when we found her. We fattened her up and trained her. She’s very happy now aren’t you, Lucky?”
“Woof,” said Lucky.