I WENT to the pub, an entirely rational decision based on the state of the country these days. I do not know if you have ever been to a pub, but it is a building full of men who drink ludicrous quantities of liquid and fail to wash their hands after going to the toilet.
Nevertheless, I thought a quiet pint would be in order. Perhaps I could read a book undisturbed. “Who’s that over there?” people might ask, indicating over their shoulders with their thumbs. “We call him The Professor,” the rosy-cheeked barmaid would say, “on account of his glasses and his book.”
I settled down at a table, put down my drink, and exhaled. I could hear the ticking of a clock that was not there. Yes, we might have recently chosen to break up the United Kingdom and plunge the country into recession just because we did not like people speaking foreign in Tesco, but the sun was shining outside, and it was quiet and cool in the pub.
I nodded at the two women sitting opposite, hoping it was enough to appear friendly while heading off any attempts at conversation. I am not a rude person but I was up to a good bit.
As I looked across at them I noticed something unusual about the bosom of the woman on the left. In it was nestling the tiniest dog I have ever seen.
It is hard to overstate how small this dog was. If dogs had pets and turned up with this dog on a lead, other dogs would laugh at how small their dog was. It would have to look up to address a sausage dog. I have seen more imposing hamsters.
I turned to my book and tried to put the size of this dog out of my mind, when one of the women addressed me. “We’re going out for a smoke, could you watch our shopping for us?”
I nodded, and they disappeared off to hasten their deaths along with Tiny The Smallest Dog In The World. Responsibility for their shopping weighed heavily on me. I closed my book and kept a watchful eye on the bags. Ah, well, I thought. At least it was quiet.
Five minutes later, the women had not returned. I started to worry that I had been pranked, or worse, that this was some sort of terrorist incident. Where were they?
Two men clattered in, accompanied by a normal-sized dog. It was starting to feel like Crufts. They pulled up chairs and switched on the television to watch the football, and began talking loudly and doing banter to each other. It was the logical extension of manspreading, that tendency of a certain type of man to sit with legs at ten to two on public transport, while people on either side are cramped.
The peace was shattered and so I continued to monitor the shopping bags. A third man joined the party carrying drinks and bringing some extra banter. They plonked one of them on the women’s table.
“Watch our shopping”, the women had said. That was my remit. I felt like a UN peacekeeper watching one country making an incursion on another, but with no direct orders to prevent it.
Why did they have to give me this level of responsibility, I thought? I only wanted a pint and a sit-down. I did not want to get involved in a demarcation dispute. I decided that if one more drink appeared on the women’s table I would step in.
The women returned. One of them shot me a look which clearly said, “You were supposed to be watching our table.” I shot one back which said, “Shopping, you clearly stated.”
The women explained to the men that it was their table and all five of them looked at me as if I had disappointed everybody. The new dog sniffed my crotch. I would have complained, but I had lost all moral authority. My nerves were jangling.
The dog then turned its attention to Tiny, regarding it as you or I would regard a jelly baby, an insubstantial but tasty snack appealing to our cannibalistic tendencies. It sniffed the tiny dog and licked its chops.
The stress was too great. I just wanted a pint, not to see a little dog gobbled up. I sank my drink and scarpered, preferring to take my chances in the chaos of Brexit Britain. It may be a dog-eat-dog world nowadays, but I don’t need to watch it.