by Dixon James
I grew up in a place called Sittingbourne, on a road called ‘Staplehurst’, at the end of which stood a pub called ‘The Shire’. At the back of this pub (a pub where my dad’s bike was stolen, then replaced in exactly the same spot two days later), at the top of a set of winding, steel steps, was a cage. Inside the cage, barking, snarling, barking, were two Rottweilers, black, shiny, and mean. I walked past them, every morning, en route to school, and their eyes followed my every movement. Terrified, I watched them too, ever fearful that they would one day break free from their prison and descend those steps. Would I be able to get back to my house before they caught up with me? I consider this one day, twenty-odd years later, sitting at a desk, composing a blog post. Those dogs must be dead by now, I think, but I’m here, un-savaged, yet not un-scathed.
And another memory, also canine-based, shunts out thoughts of caged Rottweilers, and I say, to no-one in particular:
“I was nine or ten. Same street. Same house. Our back garden was small, but my dad had still managed to grow some tomatoes at the end of it, by the concrete shed he built back in ’76 (the same year he built a gigantic pit in the garden during a drought, convinced that if it ever rained again, he would be able to live like a King by selling the water. It rained. The ‘pool’ overflowed and started to flood the house, and my dad was forced to come down at 3am, naked, and destroy his masterpiece, the torrential rain making sodden the mass of hair on his chest and back). I didn’t like tomatoes, and still don’t, but I was tasked with going to pick some. Our next door neighbours had a dog called Tyson, and it liked nothing more than squeezing itself under our flimsy fence and running riot in our garden. I knew of this, and yet still I went. To pick those tomatoes. By the concrete shed. That my dad built in ’76. And I still don’t trust dogs.”