(Preamble is the bit that goes in the front of a story in case you don't know what's happening, It sort of explains things in case you need a little extra help)
I was beating myself up, recently, over the fact that I have not written a word for myself over the last week or so. Maybe it’s because I have been too busy with other matters.
But last night I was looking through some old files on my computer and discovered a story that I had written about my dog, Dulcie.
Dulcie, if you have been paying any attention whatsoever, is one of a rare and esoteric breed, the Norbury Mudhound. I had written this story for a friend of mine who is really very rich. It was her birthday, and what do you give a person who has everything?
Well, with Marie, who adored my Dulcie, I thought a story involving both of them, and also a person she really found charming (apart from myself, of course) would be a perfect gift. So a story it was; written as for a child, but with adult characters.
Marie owned a restaurant, ‘Primates’, which was as much a business as a hobby for my friend, an elegant and beautiful lady. ‘Primate’ which served the ‘Modern British’ cuisine was well known and respected for its excellent food in Camden, a fashionable and exciting part of North London.
Whenever I went to Marie’s restaurant, ‘Primates’; at the end of the meal, when the paying customers had left, Marie would say to me, “Is Dulcie with you?” and if she was, Marie would take my car keys and go and bring Dulcie in. But instead of coming into the restaurant proper, Dulcie would go straight down the stairs; push her way into the kitchen and make for the huge walk-in refrigerator, where she knew the Garlic Lamb Shanks were kept. Marie , who would have accompanied her, would choose the best two Lamb Shanks and bring them upstairs to the restaurant and proceed to feed Dulcie by hand.
Two beautiful ladies with but a single thought. Marie’s love of Dulcie. Dulcie’s love of Marie (and Garlic Lamb Shanks).
Dulcie wasn’t exactly angry, and she wasn’t exactly worried. How can you be worried or angry when you have The Man to contend with day by day?
She just didn’t feel that she had her finger on the pulse of life. In Dulcie’s opinion, it is very important for a young dog to have her finger on the pulse of life, and for once her finger seemed to have slipped off for a moment.
“Or is it Paw?” she thought,
"Having one’s paw on the pulse of life" sounds reasonable, but it does lose a little in translation. She just had a niggling feeling that everything wasn’t quite as it should be.
You see, she knew that The Man had had an invitation to a Special Birthday Party.
Dogs are clever, and they don’t need to be told certain things. They just KNOW things intuitively.
Dulcie KNEW that The Man had been invited to a Special Birthday Party.
She asked Derek
And just to make sure that her intuition was still working, she had asked Derek.
It was true!
Derek said he had heard of it.
There WAS going to be a Special Birthday Party.
In fact, Derek had admitted that he also had had an invitation.
And then, when she had pressed him on the subject, Derek had also admitted to Dulcie that the Special Birthday Party was for Marie.
“She’s almost related to me,” thought Dulcie, “My Auntie Marie”.
And she smiled to herself.
“My Auntie Marie won’t let me down!”
Of course, if she waited long enough, she would be bound to get an invitation to The Party.
“It will be at ‘Primates’ my favourite restaurant,” thought the little dog.
“I go there lots and lots; and I can honestly say that I’m the only person who goes there who isn’t a Primate. And that must make me a little bit special.”
"Derek will know."
But although she waited and waited, no invitation came through the door.
Dulcie began to panic.
What should she do?
“Derek will know,” she thought to herself; and the next time The Man went to Derek’s house, Dulcie went with him.
She watched Derek as he prepared a meal. It was something with feta cheese, Italian tomatoes and green peppers.
“Looks a bit like something I’ve seen at ‘Primates’,” said Dulcie, “Have I told you that I’m going to have Garlic Lamb Shanks at Marie’s Birthday Party?” she asked her friend.
“I always have Lamb Shanks when I go there. They’re wonderful”.
But still there was that niggling feeling that perhaps she wouldn’t receive her invitation.
When Derek had finished preparing the meal, she took him aside and shared her problem with him.
She asked him in a confidential voice if he knew whether she would be going to The Party.
Derek just shrugged his shoulders and admitted that he didn’t know.
She felt quite depressed by now.
“If I hear anything, I’ll let you know,” he said.
The day of the party arrived
Eventually the day of The Party arrived.
She knew that it was The Party day because there was a lot of activity and she also noticed that The Man had ironed his black silk shirt.
“He thinks he looks hot in that shirt,” she said to herself, “He’s bound to wear that to The Party”.
“How I can persuade him to take me with him?" she asked herself.
But The Man seemed to be too busy to notice the little dog.
There was the sound of letters dropping through the letter-box in the front door.
“My invitation,” thought Dulcie, and she ran to the door to collect her mail. But there was nothing for her, only a Readers’ Digest offer to win an island in the middle of the Atlantic and a final reminder to pay the Water Rates.
“That’s it,” she thought bitterly, "My invitation has been lost in the postal system.”
She went out into the garden to think. Zoki and Harry were out there already. She thought of talking to them about The Party. But what was the point? Zoki and Harry were only eleven months old and so they were far too young to go to parties. Dulcie was two and three-quarters and so she was certainly old enough to go to Special Birthday Parties.
But it doesn’t help much if you are two and three-quarters and your Invitation hasn’t arrived!
After a while Harry and Zoki went indoors and Dulcie was left alone in the garden. She seemed to have been out there for ages.
It was such a lovely day.
The sun hung low in the sky. The leaves were golden on the trees. It was a glorious day.
“Autumnal,” thought Dulcie, and she decided that she would go in and tell The Man how lovely she thought it all was. She loved, sharing beautiful things.
But when she tried to get into the house, she was horrified to discover that the kitchen door was closed. Harry and Zoki were in the kitchen looking out at her.
“He’s gone!” she thought, “The Man’s gone without me!”
The kitchen door was locked, so she couldn’t get in. Even the windows were locked.
So she shouted as loudly as she could. But did The Man come downstairs and open the door?
She shouted even more loudly. (It’s amazing how much noise she could make if she really put her mind to it.)
Zoki and Harry shouted back. Between the three of them, they made and awful lot of noise.
But still, The Man didn’t come down to let her in.
One thought burned into Dulcie’s mind.
The Man had gone to The Party without her!
How could he have forgotten her? How could he?
Even at ordinary times he had taken her with him when he went to ‘Primates’.
And here it was, Marie’s birthday party, and he had gone without her.
What should she do?
She was certain she wasn’t going to stay in the garden while all the fun was going on.
Dulcie had only been to one Birthday Party in her life, and that had been her own. The party had taken place at her mother’s home and there had been Daniel, Scarlett and Vaugan, (two of her brothers and her sister).
It had taken place somewhere near Streatham Common, and there had been balloons and lots of interesting people.
There had been a cake that Daniel had eaten all by himself, and then been wonderfully sick.
It had been a superb party.
It had taken place in the day time, and so Dulcie assumed that Marie’s party would also be in the day time.
This is Plan B,” thought Dulcie, “Something tells me that Marie might not have her party on Streatham Common, but I can’t be sure.
“Streatham Common is on the way to ‘Primates’ and I feel that I should look in there first.
“Just in case!!”
“But I still feel,” (and her canine intuition came to the fore at this stage) “that The Party is going to be at ‘Primates’, and I have a rough idea of how to get there”.
But first, Streatham Common.
The back door was closed, and she was, so to speak, imprisoned in the back garden. But Dulcie was a good jumper, and could have jumped the fence with ease.
So she did!
She had never needed to leave the garden before, and so she had never attempted to escape.
The fence was high.
The neighbours were grumpy.
But if you are a small dog who thinks that the world is passing you by and that you are missing a wonderful Party, what does it matter how high a fence may be?
So Dulcie, in the face of great danger, jumped and jumped, and then she was over the fence and making straight for Streatham Common.
But when she got there, was there a party in full swing?
Were there balloons and lots of interesting people?
Was there a cake?
But all of these paled into insignificance when she realized the terrible fact:
Was Marie there? ...or The Man?
“I was right,” thought Dulcie. “All right. It’s Plan A”.
There’s no point hanging around Streatham Common, unless you have something to do there, so Dulcie sat down and thought of how she could put Plan A into practice.
“First of all,” she thought, “I’ve got to cross the river”.
And then almost as if Fate were determined that the little dog should attend The Party, a voice fell on her ear.
“You lost?” said the voice.
"You lost?" said the voice.
Plan A Takes Shape
Dulcie turned. A tall young man with extremely short hair, wearing faded blue, ragged denims and more ear-rings and nose rings than Dulcie thought in really good taste, stood behind her.
He looked hard.
“You lost?” asked the young man, and although his words were clipped, his voice had a warmth and kindness that Dulcie found reassuring.
She explained to him that she needed to get to the other side of the river, and she attempted to explain the approximate area where 'Primates’ was situated.
“You need Camden,” said the young man. ‘‘Come with me, ‘‘and he led the way to a battered old red Ford Cortina.
“Hop in Doggie,” he said, “I’m not going that far, but I can take you as far as Brixton; and the Underground runs from there. I’m sure somebody will help you from there on”.
While they drove together through Streatham, the young man chatted to Dulcie, and they found they had many things in common.
“I love Streatham Common,” said the young man, “especially at this time of the year”.
But when the young man wanted to share half a Mars Bar with her, she refused politely.
“I’m going to my friend Marie’s Birthday Party. I’m going to have Garlic Lamb Shanks when I get to The Party,” Dulcie explained, “I always have Lamb Shanks at ‘Primates’."
At Brixton Underground Station they said, “Goodbye” to each other and the young man drove off, trying to look hard again.
“He doesn’t fool me,” thought Dulcie, “He’s a softie, really”.
In Brixton, Dulcie began to regret having decided to travel by herself. She had never seen so many people in one place, except when she had gone to Oxford Street with The Man; and then she had felt safe, because she had been with the person she trusted and relied on most in the whole world.
But here, nobody seemed to be interested in a little dog, and she was worried in case anybody trod on her by accident.
If only she had a friend.
She sat on the floor in the corner, near the ticket office, and wondered how she was going to attempt the next stage of Plan A.
It was then that she saw an old lady also sitting on the floor quite near her. She was surrounded by plastic bags.
‘‘Ullo, Darlin’” said the old lady, “Where are you goin’?”
“That’s easy,” said the old lady.
“Easy for you,” thought Dulcie, “but I’m a dog, and you’re a lady”.
Plan A - the next step
The old lady seemed to understand Dulcie’s fears.
“Stick with me,” said the old lady, “I’ll get you to Camden. Dogs travel free on the Underground, Darlin'” and she winked at the little dog. “Come on,” she continued, and gathering up her plastic bags she strode off towards the ticket barrier with Dulcie beside her.
How she managed to get through, Dulcie didn’t know, as she didn’t seem to have a ticket, but Dulcie wasn’t watching really carefully. Her mind was more concerned with her destination in Camden.
They boarded the Underground Train and soon they were travelling at great speed through the Tube system.
As they rattled along, Dulcie and the old lady engaged in deep and meaningful conversation together. Soon several people in the carriage joined them in their discussions.
They all listened carefully to the old lady as she expounded her ideas on the Meaning of Life.
“So that’s what it’s all about,” thought Dulcie.
She became so engrossed that she hardly noticed the time flying by.
“This is us,” said the old lady, as she gathered her bags together, “I’m getting out here, but you have to change”.
“Change?” thought Dulcie, quite startled, “Where? How?”
The old lady pointed to a sign.
“There you are Darlin’; go down there,” and she indicated the direction that Dulcie must follow.
“Before you go, Love,” said the old lady, “do you want something to eat?” and she started to rummage in one of her plastic bags, “I’ve got some nice sandwiches here. ...Salt Beef, Coronation Chicken, Avocado... and...”
“No thank you,” said Dulcie, politely, “But I’m having Lamb Shanks at The Party; Garlic Lamb Shanks. Thank you all the same”.
And the two parted, each going her own way.
Dulcie watched with care as one stop succeeded another, until at last the train pulled into Camden Town Underground Station.
This was all new territory to her and she felt really apprehensive in case she wouldn’t be able to find the restaurant. After her long trip, and having got this far it would have been awful if she had to find her way home again.
And how? It had been difficult enough getting there; and she had been lucky with the people who had met and helped her.
Would she be as lucky on the return trip?
But Dulcie was an optimist, and she felt that the restaurant, and Marie, were just around the next corner.
A combination of luck, basic canine instinct and some directions from an elderly cat she met sunning himself on a doorstep, and she soon found herself in Royal College Street.
“I’m almost there? I can feel it!” said Dulcie, and she could feel the excitement welling up inside her.
Soon, ever so soon, she would see Marie and she would be at The Party.
And then, almost as if by magic, she was on the pavement outside ‘Primates’.
Then the bitter truth!
The restaurant was closed!
There were no lights!
There was no Marie!
A huge wave of depression swept over Dulcie. Now what should she do? She sat down to think. She always did her best thinking in a sitting position.
"It's closed," said a voice.
“It’s closed!” said a voice.
Dulcie looked up to see a man sitting on the bonnet of a car quite near to her.
“That restaurant is closed, Dog.
I’ve come all this way, and that restaurant is closed”.
Dulcie looked closely
The accent seemed strange, yet the man’s face seemed familiar.
“Hi, Dog’ said the man, and Dulcie recognised the accent as being American.
She smiled at him and wagged her tail, trying to recall where she had seen his face before.
Then, having scrutinised the little dog carefully, the man said, “Excuse me, I don’t think I’m wrong, but, are you Dulcie Dog, widely famed in literature?”
“I am,” said Dulcie, and then, at last recognising the very presentable American before her, “And you, are you the equally famous Tommy Lee Jones, star of stage and screen?”
“The very same,” said the man.
At once the two were friends.
Dulcie explained that she had come to ‘Primates’ to help celebrate her favourite (honorary) Aunt’s birthday, and had been dismayed to discover that the restaurant was closed.
Tommy Lee Jones explained that he had travelled half across the civilised world to try the highly celebrated cuisine at ‘Primates’, only to discover that the restaurant was closed.
“Allow me, Miss Dog, to offer you a meal at least,” said the man, “I have heard that there is a quite reasonable restaurant in Wandsworth, and I would be proud if you would accompany me there”.
“Ah! Harvey’s,” said Dulcie to herself, and then aloud ‘‘Thank you, Mr. Jones, but no, I’ve heard that it’s quite good, but I really want to see my friend Marie, and frankly, I don’t think that Harvey’s could better the Garlic Lamb Shanks that…”
She would have continued, but there was the sound of a car drawing up.
A car drew up. Who could it be?
“At last, we’ve been looking for you everywhere.” said a voice.
It was Derek, and he was trying to sound cross, but really, he just sounded very relieved.
Dulcie jumped for Derek, to show that she was glad to see him.
“I had an idea you would have come here,” he said, “We've been looking everywhere, and You-Know-Who is almost out of his mind with worry. You know how he gets! But that’s enough about you and him, let’s talk about ME,” said Derek.
At this, Dulcie smiled secretly to herself. Derek was only happy when he was thinking about himself and talking about himself.
“I want to get to The Party as soon as possible, because Marie has heard that you have gone AWOL, and she’s worried too; but mainly, I am missing The Party myself”.
It was then that Derek noticed the Famous Actor.
Dulcie introduced them, and then a thought struck her.
The Famous Actor had travelled half across the civilised world to eat at ‘Primates’; at least he could meet Marie before he had to return to America, and in that way, at least, he would discover and experience some of the hospitality that the restaurant was famous for.
“Mr. Jones,” said Dulcie, “you offered me a meal, and I refused; but please, would you accept my invitation, and be my partner at Marie’s party?”
“I accept,” said the Famous Actor.
“Are you two ready?’ said Derek.
Within minutes Derek, Dulcie and Tommy Lee Jones were speeding in Derek’s car through the streets of North London.
The car pulled up outside an elegant facade, and the three stepped out onto the pavement.
There, awaiting them, were Marie, The Man and lots of interesting people.
Dulcie jumped for The Man, to show that she was sorry for causing him distress.
“I was upstairs in the bath when you started shouting at the kitchen door," said The Man. “You should have known I wouldn’t have gone without you. Marie wanted you here. You were on my invitation”.
Then Dulcie jumped for Marie, to show her how much she loved her.
Then Dulcie introduced Tommy Lee Jones to Marie.
Marie thought he was very nice.
Dulcie watched Marie and the Famous Actor chatting so happily.
She saw The Man and Derek chatting together, and looking so happy again, after having thought that Dulcie had really gone missing.
Her eyes caught Marie’s eyes, and for a brief second there was that wonderful smile that Marie had.
Dulcie felt a lump in her throat; but it wasn't Garlic Lamb Shanks.