Arising out of Obscurity
by Bruin Fisher
I was walking the dog, an innocent enough activity, you would think. It should have been half an hour along the canal towpath and then over the bridge and back along the other side, getting home, towelling Tardy down if he’d been in the water and then a doze on the cane sofa in the conservatory with a nice caramel latte out of the machine. That was the plan.
Tardy is my Springer Spaniel bitch and I adore her, although today’s escapade will take me a while to forgive. She is the daughter of Bonny, the dog I grew up with, the last of a litter of five, which is why we called her Tardy, or Tard for short. She’s not yet two years old, hardly more than a puppy, and she’s excitable and mischievous and adorable. Since I’ve been single again she’s my companion and she loves me unconditionally and what more could you ask of a dog? Well, a bit of common sense might come in handy…
We set off on our walk, Tardy pulling at the lead in her excitement to get going, and made it down to the canal without incident apart from the lead getting tangled round my legs a few times as she ran rings around me. Down on the towpath she calmed down a little, she loves to sniff around, checking on the badger paths and the holes of the water rats. Occasionally we see an otter, and she gets almost as excited as me. I’m fascinated by wildlife, which is why I always take my binoculars with me when we walk the canal. Anyway, on this particular day we’d gone maybe half a mile to the point where the towpath narrows and runs under a road bridge. You have to duck as you walk the path through the tunnel because the bridge curves down leaving less headroom than you’d like.
When we got to the bridge, with the main road into Guildford running over it, we were both interested to see that some repair work was in progress. There was a big mechanical digger on the opposite bank, with its grab partly extended and resting on our side of the canal. Work had clearly stalled, there was no-one around, and we paused in our walk to take in the evidence of weed-clearing. Along the opposite towpath were regular piles of slimy-looking green stalks, pulled from the bed of the canal by the long tines of the digger’s grab. It was a long-overdue bit of maintenance; the water beyond where the digger had reached was clogged with lily pads and bulrushes, and the water was green and opaque. Where the digger had been the water was running more swiftly and you could see through it down to the bed, and even the occasional little fish swimming against the current. A big improvement.
We should have continued our walk, but at this point I decided I needed a pee. The stone wall of the bridge runs up the steep bank above the canal path, and there’s a massive thicket of brambles covering the bank, but there’s a small gap between the bridge and the thicket, enough to slide into, and it gives cover so that you can relieve yourself without being overlooked unless someone up on the bridge were to lean right out over the parapet. I’ve used it before.
So, there I was, with my tracksuit bottoms and undies around my knees, my binoculars in one hand and my other, er, directing proceedings. Tardy was sniffing around on the towpath and I ignored her, the lead is not quite long enough for her to get to the water from where I was so she couldn’t get into trouble that way. Tardy has never had any difficulty getting into trouble, though, when she wants to.
Absorbed in what I was doing, watering the stonework, I was only slightly irritated when my hand was tugged away from its duty by the loop of lead around my wrist, causing my stream to swing wildly, including a splash on my shoes. I gave the lead a tug to remind her who’s boss, which didn’t feel right – there was no ‘give’ in the lead, and after that everything happened very fast.
My arm was pulled vertically upwards, caught by the loop of dog lead. If I’d thought fast enough I might have wriggled my wrist free of it, but I was taken so much by surprise that I didn’t think of that and by the time I realised what was happening I was lifted off my feet and rose ten, twenty, thirty feet in the air, above the parapet of the bridge and into full view of passing motorists and pedestrians alike, my trousers and pants around my knees and my t-shirt hiked well up my torso. I was wriggling around desperately trying to reach with my untethered hand down to the waistband of my jogging bottoms, without dropping my valuable binoculars in the process. All I achieved was to draw attention to myself.
An excited barking from above caused me to look up, to see Tardy looking down at me from the safety of the inside of the digger’s grab, one of the metal rings of her lead caught around a tine of the grab. Hoist by my own pet, Tard!
It took very little time for the digger driver, who’d returned to work without checking to see that there was no crazy dog sitting in his grab, to realise what had happened and lower me back down to the towpath, where I pulled up my trousers, massaged my sore wrist and slunk off without, to my shame, apologising. But I’m home now, and I don’t know how long it’ll be before I dare show my face in public again. I’m certainly never going to show any other part of me in public again. I wonder whether Tardy actually knows today’s April 1st?
© Bruin Fisher March 2012