So the dog was doing his business as usual on the grass between the beach road and the shingle barrier, I was pretending as usual not to notice, when an alarmingly fit sergeant-majorish type in late middle-age wearing only shorts and hiking boots breezed past, muscles akimbo, yomping half-naked to Port Stanley, and threw over his shoulder in that ‘It Ain’t ‘Arf Hot Mum!’ Welsh accent Windsor Davies used to put on, “I ‘ope you’re going to clear that up (‘Luvly boy’… not quite)! Kiddies play on this beach!”
He had me bang to rights. What can you say? I blustered something about having forgotten to bring a bag, which was quite true, I have forgotten every day for several months now, but at least there is a roll of sanitised, fragranced doggybags forgotten in the kitchen drawer, it wasn’t entirely a lie. And at least the dog hadn’t crapped on the path, or the beach, he never does. A faint ‘That’s no excuse!’ drifted back from old blood-and-sand vanishing into the middle distance.
The French have a phrase, ‘l’ésprit d’escalier’, for all the clever things that go through your mind that you could have said but didn’t think of until you were on the stairs, heading down. I think what I wanted to tell him was yes, I knew perfectly well that I was failing dismally to live up to my civic responsibilities and fully prepared to accept blame for blinding half the children of Wales (who have a habit of rubbing dogshit into their eyes to watch the eggs hatch) with Toxocara canis; that I am perfectly capable of taking my own moral stance against almost everything I do, without public assistance; that I didn’t want to hear it from some officious, self-appointed public guardian with his bullet-head so far up his arse he wouldn’t notice if the sun was shining.
Fortunately he was already three miles ahead by the time I thought of it, so, burning with shame, the dog and I skulked off home. I’ll keep the bags in the car from now on, Sarge. Honest.
What am I like? Corner…
So, the next day I put the roll of fragranced bags in the car. We drove to our walk. Off we set into the teeth of the rain-lashed gale. After half a mile the dog hunkered down beside the path, and… damn, I forgot the bags in the car. I’m not fit to be let out.