I can’t sleep. The house fire will burn me. So instead of fretting, I thought I’d do some writing and let you all know what’s going on.
It’s a funny thing: I don’t think of the house fire that often anymore, and for someone who is as risk-averse as I usually am, the fact I’ve compartmentalised that minor trauma is quite something. You’re talking, after all, about a man who butters his crumpets the wrong way up because he once read an article a decade since in which someone described the prion-ravaged brain as being a sponge of tiny holes and couldn’t shake the image afterwards. But still, my irrationalities bubble like aspirin in a glass of water , and so I find myself wide awake at 2am writing because someone nearby had a bonfire in their garden and the smell of it lingering on the night air freaked me out.
Now, I can lie there telling myself that there’s nothing in the garden that could burn. I can reassure myself that we have four connected smoke alarms and if the dog does so much as a hot fart, it’ll sound like a prison escape. I can run over the various scenarios where the smoke is something totally innocuous like a garden fire or a BBQ or Paul’s thighs chafing as he brushes his teeth before bed. But it does no good: I need to get up, prowl around my house in my knickers and (new one, this) run the sprinkler for a few minutes to make sure everything is soaked.
Such an indulgence wouldn’t necessarily have me up more than ten minutes, but see, as previously mentioned, our living situation has changed somewhat in the last week. See, not content with having one saucer-eyed bumble who stares at me adoringly as I serve his dinner up, I decided to break the promise I made in book two, give in, and get Paul a dog: Goomba. He’s called that because he’ll be the first thing I accidentally step on when I start a new morning. Because of Goomba, any trip into the living room past 1am becomes a bewilderingly loud and exciting moment for the dog, and he takes a while to settle back down.
Here he is, ‘helping out’
It’s absolutely Paul’s dog, of course. I’m entirely non-plussed about him. He might be the cutest Springer Spaniel puppy that you’ll ever meet, but I wouldn’t know, because I’m terribly stoic and unfazed about it all. Sure, there might be videos of me rolling around on the floor laughing whilst he chews every part of my face he can get his tic-tac-teeth onto. There’s almost certainly a good hundred photos of me cradling him like a baby and blowing raspberries on his belly and fussing him with a level of adoration that I’ve never afforded to my poor put-upon husband in the fifteen years we’ve been together. But it’s all a sham, I swear it.
See, Paul has wanted a dog ever since we’ve been together, but I’ve always been rational about it. We needed to be able to be around during the day to look after him and we needed to be financially comfortable in case of any emergencies. That’s me being sensible. Paul, forever penny wise but pound foolish, didn’t care for that, and it’s always been a sticking point. Why, for example, can I spend £3 on name-brand toothpaste, if he couldn’t have a dog that’ll need feeding twice a day for fifteen years? Many discussions were had and I always promised that when the time was right, I’d give in. That time is now. Naturally, I martyred myself terribly when the time came and I am absolutely keeping ‘getting Goomba’ in the bank for the next time I want to do something expensive and reckless. Which will probably be tomorrow morning knowing me, although it is getting late.
It really has been a week, though. We picked him up on Sunday, with me ever-so-slightly out of sorts after a breath-taking week away visiting friends. He’s been raised with seven other puppies and was already toilet trained and anxiety free. His beautiful mum saw him off, with me trying not to feel freaked out by her giant dog nipples. Look, I know it’s perfectly natural and all part of the areola of life but it gave me a flashback to the pre-Paul whorishness days where I once had an encounter with a big hairy bloke who took his t-shirt off to reveal nipples that looked like burnt runner beans and who then implored me to ‘suck Daddy’s tits’. I didn’t so much suckle as dry-heave and sob into his belly-button.
Anyway, I digress. We got him home (the dog, not the daddy) and honestly, he’s been as good as gold. He’s eating well, only peed on the carpet once (and that was Paul’s fault for daring to do some work) and is responding well to training. Indeed, the only struggle has been nights. In a wild change from my youth where, much like Adrian Mole’s Dog/New Dog, our dog used to sleep in the coal cellar, we’ve decided to crate Goomba overnight. For the dogless, this simply means popping him in a giant crate at bedtime with his favourite blanket, a load of toys and treats, and placing a blanket over the top like one might do with a cussing parrot. After a slight adjustment, the dog becomes used to sleeping in the crate and the owners can sleep safe in the knowledge that he’s not chewing his way through the electrics or watching Crufts After Dark on the forbidden Sky channels.
The thing is, you have to be firm here when crating the dog: if the puppy learns that crying will bring his owners back he will do it endlessly, whereas a bit of tough love will yield rewards untold and a dog who is happy to go into his crate for a vet visit or an overnight in the kennels.
Like butter wouldn’t melt.
So it was, on the first night, that I spent a good fifteen minutes lecturing Paul that he had to be cruel to be kind and that, although the medicine is harsh, the patient requires it. I even backcombed my beard and put on some pearls for that line. Paul’s as soft as starjelly whereas traditionally, I’m the hard-faced cow in the relationship, so I thought it would be no bother. We popped the light off and settled down to sleep.
Well, that determination lasted two minutes. Goomba, despite having plenty of experience sleeping through in a crate overnight at his birth home, was having none of this chicanery, and started howling and wailing and crying and barking and yapping the very moment our heads touched the pillow. He doesn’t strike me as a spiteful dog but I’m fairly sure that if his paws could operate a rotary dial, he’d have been calling us on our mobiles at 3am to sob dramatically down the line from the living room.
The sound of Goomba’s plaintive cries elicited emotions I never knew I had: compassion, empathy, love, protectiveness. It was Paul who had to hold me back from rushing into the living room scattering apologies before dashing to the 24-hour garage to get Goomba a box of Celebrations to make up for my frankly appalling behaviour. I fell asleep with my fist in my mouth that night. Since that night he’s been getting better each time – a bit of crying when he first goes in and then accepting the position (and frankly, that’s a routine I get a lot when it comes to bedroom activity) – and a solid sleep through can’t be too far away. We’re taking it in turns to get up at 4am to make sure he can go out for a wee. We’re good like that.
So, the nights are long, I’m not sleeping very well and each day I look more and more like I’ve been fucked hard and put away damp. I am full of admiration for all those people who thought having a baby was a good idea, I truly am. I know there’s endless love on offer at the end of this but see there’s endless love in my dreams and it normally comes in the form of a bearded plumber whose wife doesn’t touch him since the kids came on the scene. Wrestling myself out of bed at 4am to watch a puppy curl out a poo that defies the rules of physics (how does a 6kg puppy who eats 150g of puppy food a day manage to crap out a shite that looks like one of those draught excluders my nana used to put behind her front door?) isn’t even in the top ninety reasons I’d get out of bed for. Hell, going back to the house fire for a moment, even that night I had to make a conscious decision whether to save the cats, wake Paul and run out or to turn over and hope it burned out of its own accord like a forest fire. I think I made the right choice.
But that’s honestly the only wrinkle and easily overcome and entirely expected, so we can’t complain. In fact, I’ll let you in on the most obvious of secrets: I absolutely adore him. He’s only been at Chubby Towers seven days and already I can’t imagine him not being here. There are times when I walk into the living room and can’t see the floor because it looks like someone ramraided Pets at Home and brought all the toys home, taking care to slobber on the most garish ones. But that angst is countered by how inutterably happy he is to see me, wagging his tail like he’s trying to put out an oil fire because he’s so overjoyed that I’ve returned from brushing my teeth. Sometimes I realise (with a touch of sadness) that the simple act of going out for a night-time drive has been nixed because we’ll need to find someone to look after him, but then that’s all forgotten thanks to the sight of him taking exception to a grey shoe and growling furiously at it for ten minutes. Even now, as I type this with my eyes falling shut, he’s sat on both my feet ever so quietly snoring and kicking his legs at some imagined foe. Which is handy: he’s keeping my feet warm and saves me having to put the heating on – I’d only fret about it bursting into flame in the loft.
Oh, actually, no: the best thing is far more simple: the look of utter contentment on Paul’s face. The man is giddy, and I’m all for it. For all that I tease and mock my husband on here, he deserves the world for all that he does for me, and this little (pretend) acquiescence on my side is but a tiny thank you.
Look at the time: he’s gonna be fussy in the morning. Goomba too.
Mushy now, and the hour is late: I’ll wrap up, with one final yarn.
We had our first trip to the vets earlier today, which was an exercise in who’s-a-good-boy behaviour (the dog, Paul), the most careful driving I’ve ever done in my life (me, kept it to a modest 87mph) and downright arseholery (the vet receptionist). Visiting the vets is always going to be slightly traumatic for all involved, but holy-hell was this visit made all the worse by the attitude of the young lady on the front desk. After explaining to me in a tone that suggested we’d never be friends that only one person was allowed into the waiting room at any given moment and perhaps I could sit outside (the perhaps seemed as optional as breathing), she then took severe umbrage at me doing exactly that – sitting outside the room – and yelled that ‘did I not understand her instruction‘ and that I must leave the building at once.
Now, forgive my conceit for a moment, but I praise myself on two things: a keen ability to follow instruction (when mental faculties are not impaired) and an endless desire to be polite to anyone in a customer facing role. I bit my tongue almost clean in half holding back a sarcastic reply (it was only concern for Goomba that did that, mind) and went outside. Perhaps if this particularly special dolt used her head for something other than somewhere to rest her teeth, she would have thought to pop a sign on the door.
Even then, you can almost guarantee it would be a design disaster: a Publisher poster in size 32 Comic Sans with a dog-bone border around it with ‘Apologise for any inconvenience’ at the bottom.
Can you tell I’m still sore about it? Between that and paying £45 for the dog to get a load of drugs blown up his nose (I’m being doubly ripped off), it wasn’t a fun experience. I will be changing vets to our local surgery in the morning: they at least have the good grace to smile and make pleasant chit-chat as you fork over your house deeds in payment for them sticking a finger up your cat’s bum. Which, in retrospect, seems a little peculiar given Sola was only in having her teeth cleaned.
Anyway. I will say goodnight, and I hope you’re all keeping well. I promise that normal twochubbycubs behaviour will resume shortly. We have recipes and messages to reply to and things to post, but at the moment, it’s finding the time between prising Lego out of Goomba’s gums and eating fast food fast to stop him snaffling it.
It is, you may say, a dog’s life.
PS: he has his own Instagram account. Because of course we’re that type of couple. Follow here.