I’d forgotten the nightmare of puppy walking. Arfa-Pants is a drunken lolloper, flinging himself at traffic, or trying to flatten Dora (who’s not amused), or star-gazing and tripping over his own silly feet.
He’s half German pointer, and half English, and both of his parents are elegant and beautiful. Hard to imagine Arfa ever untangling his limbs to become the same.
We walk down the Banbury Road with me holding my arms out wide, the dogs practically hanging from their collars either side. If I relax for a moment, Arfa jumps joyfully on Dora and then we all fall over. A silver Range-Rover creeps past and I nod regally, as if I look perfectly normal. I can see blossom from my peripheral vision, but I daredn’t stop for a good gawp.
At the edge of Dave’s wheat, I take both dogs off their leads, then shriek my head off when Pants does a U-turn towards the road. He careers back into the field and hares off up the green ride, ignoring my handful of dog treats, full of sunshine and irrepressible naughty-puppy life.
My phone beeps a text: How long? Stevie, coping with two daughters, crackers with excitement about May Day dancing. Jessica is to be May Queen, and her best shoes have gone AWOL. Bloody hell, says text.
I pocket my phone and start jogging, no dogs in sight. I whistle and whistle and finally Dora shoots out of the stream, streaking up the field like a stout, furry rocket. She’s closely followed by the Pants, whose back legs overtake his front legs. He skids past me, ears flapping. I pounce before he can get up, clipping his lead back on. He doesn’t realise, and tries to take off again.
Eventually, we reach Emma’s bottom meadow, and it looks so beautiful in the early sun that I forget I’m in a hurry. I walk to the middle of the field and release Arfa, hoping all that space will buy me at least five minutes gazing time. He tears around in ever-increasing circles.
The grass is deeply green, and studded with thousands of practically stalk-less yellow-orange dandelions. The overall effect, especially with the dotted white cloud-bursts of blackthorn, is like a pointillist painting. It makes me think of Wordsworth, and the hour of splendour in the grass, glory in the flower. Which, on reflection, sounds like someone having a jolly bonk.
Someone’s walking down the upper field towards the meadow, and I gather up the dogs, towing them towards the Wroxton Road. I wave an arm as if to make up for the rudeness of obviously legging it.
I’ve almost made it home when I bump into a handsome neighbour on his tractor. We shout good mornings, and then he calls that he’s pulling over. My heart sinks. I don’t like talking to handsome neighbours with no make-up on and my hair scrunched in a pineapple up-do. I hear all about the Chelsea Flower Show as I try to subtly pull the elastic band from my hair.
But then Legs of Horley comes out to join us, and I admit defeat. ‘I’ve not done my face,’ I say.
‘Me neither,’ chorus Handsome Neighbour and Legs of Horley.
I very nearly joke about us all being naked, but know that Stevie and I have a shocking reputation as it is, and Handsome Neighbour and Legs are coming for supper next weekend.
We all avert our eyes as Dora wantonly stretches on her back for Ted the Labradoodle, who looks surprised.
‘Neither Martha nor Arthur,’ says Legs, and then we’re all giggling and the sun is shining and we talk about Bank Holiday plans and more Chelsea. I say I’d love to see photos and Legs tells me about her wire cockerel.
My phone rings. Stevie: Bloody hell. Bloody hell ARE YOU?
Sorry! So sorry, I say. Got distracted.