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Dreadful Nonsense

"I've read your blog. it's really funny. you should write a column." - Jon Ronson

Whenever we go on one of our jolly jaunts, taking an outdoor constitutional in order to avoid the pull of the public house for that little bit longer, myself and He Who Only… have developed the terrible habit of gambling on anything and everything that might come up. For example, through trial and error over the last few months, we have come up with the perfect recipe on which to pass an enjoyable couple of hours while taking some hard-needed exercise. It goes as follows:

We each choose a number, depending on how many dogs we think we might see while out on our walk. So, for example, I wager we’ll see 9 dogs, and He Who Only… guesses we’ll see 13 dogs. By our Official Rules, that means that if we see 8, 9 or 10 dogs, I’ll win. If we see 12, 13 or 14 dogs, He Who Only… is the victor. If we see less than or up to 7 dogs, nobody wins. If we see 11 dogs, nobody wins. If we see over 14 dogs, nobody wins.

If it is the case that we’re both wrong, we have a tiebreaker, which is to play pooh-sticks half way through the walk, standing on a bridge that crosses over the canal. We play best of three (or, as on one memorably occasion, best of seven if we keep drawing or one of us is deemed to have cheated in the stick release).

Over the course of the last few months, Official Rules have emerged. We have developed two clearly allocated points, the first of which is where the Dog Count officially begins, and the second at which the Dog Count officially ends. The Official Rules of which sightings count are also quite strict. Rule One: if we think we might have seen (and counted) the dog before, the dog doesn’t count. Rule Two: if the dog is so far away in the distance that we couldn’t guess the breed, the dog doesn’t count. Rule Three: if you see a dog out of the corner of your eye, but you’re very close to going bust, and the other person doesn’t see the dog, and you don’t point it out, the dog doesn’t count.

I am well in the lead in terms of our yearlong gambling competition, of which the results of the Dog Count are counted towards. This is mainly because I am very good at the pooh-sticks part, and we usually both go bust in terms of dogs. It’s very difficult to guess how many dogs we’re going to see. A lot of the time you don’t see any dogs at all at any point and then you get to the bit where you’ve walked through the forest and you’re heading for the bridge and suddenly there are a billion dogs everywhere, walking around in massive packs with actual numbers floating above their heads so that you can’t help but count them all. I usually win at pooh-sticks because my arms are shorter than He Who Only…’s, and when we stretch our arms out over the edge of the bridge in order to release the sticks (strictly after the count of three and certainly not before), mine hits the water slightly closer to the bridge than He Who Only…’s through no fault of my own. But sssssh, don’t tell him.

I’m telling you all of this because, on our last walk, I was for triumphantly beating him on the Dog Count side. We had picked numbers that meant there was no dead middle ground, and we were sitting squarely on my exact prediction. I’m not usually one to crow about my triumph, being as a rule very modest in success, but on this occasion I was being particularly smug. Since we had already passed the point at which we usually don’t see any more dogs, I felt I was on safe ground to start metaphorically rubbing it all over He Who Only…’s face, since there was no way I could lose.

Just after I’d performed my victory dance for what I think was the third time, we spotted a fat black Labrador carrying a bottle in his mouth. I stopped dancing. This meant, of course, that one more dog would put me over the top and straight slap bang onto He Who Only…’s winning numbers. I was very quiet for the next five minutes, pausing only occasionally to shake my fists in front of me in an attempt, I told He Who Only…, to ward off any future dogs that may be lurking just around the corner.

My fist waving seemed to work. Heading towards the bridge that marks the end point of the Dog Count, it all seemed to be wrapped up in a large bow for me. I was ecstatic. I think I may even have broken into another victory dance. Winning this round of the Dog Count would put me two ahead in the overall score for 2006, and a two-point lead at this late stage of the year left me in a fairly comfortable position.

I noticed a dog out of the corner of my eye that was a little too far away to see, but heading in our direction. I increased my pace, hoping that I could rely on Rule Three (That I Made Up Myself And Probably Isn’t An Official Rule) of the Dog Count, and started virtually running towards the bridge.

“Oh well,” He Who Only… sighed, as it looked like I’d be breaking out once again into the victory dance. I raised my hands in the air, in the first step of victory dance, as he stepped under the bridge and I followed behind him, inhaling so as to begin signing my victory song.

At that very moment, at the absolute final moment on which there could appear a dog to ruin my score, a small brown mongrel sauntered past us. There was no owner. There was no sign of a lead. The dog seemed to appear as if from nowhere. It seemed, I pointed out with great suspicion, to have been released especially. The victory song died on my lips.

He Who Only… didn’t stop doing his victory dance for about ten minutes. He paused only for one moment, and that was just to shout “Blog that! BLOG THAT!” at me.

Bloomin’ dogs.

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