Twelve of the Clock

We were on terrible choral form tonight, singing the descants from the congregation. On the other hand, the chap beside us was clearly singing the tenor line from the congregation, so clearly the choristers of St Thomas’s accept that this is a thing erstwhile choristers do. We’re running with it.

The thing you have to understand is that there are some hymns, like Hark the Herald we can only sing harmony on. We’d have to think far harder about how the melody of verse three goes than if we belted the descant. Ditto the Sing choirs of angels bit in O Come, All Yea Faithful. That’s a bit different though, because years as a specifically British chorister conditioned us to sing Cantet nunc io, cantent agnelorum. We don’t know what it is about Canadian Anglicans that they eschew a good Latin carol when it’s handed to them like that. But ah, well. No one’s hit us on the nose for our congregational descants yet, so we’ll cut them some slack. Tis the season, and that.

We tell you all this because we’ve just squeaked back from midnight mass. It’s supposed to be the Snowstorm of the Century, and for our money the year we had the ice quakes was worse. Okay, so It’s -10 feeling colder out, but the snow has stopped and that first year we moved back it stuck stubbornly at -30 all December. In fact, we walked home from Mass in -30 that year. It wasn’t ideal.

But all that aside, we’re thawing to a late-night cup of Sugerplum Fairy. You’re thinking this is a herbal plum tea, aren’t you? So were we. But it’s pears. Yes, yes, we know. Sugarplum but flavoured with pear. Look, we just report the facts. We don’t try to explain the logic of the eponymous David. Quite honestly, he feels weirdly God-like when we write this blog, in an Old Testament sort of way. A bit whimsical, a bit judgmental, and prone to totally inexplicable decisions. Like naming a tea centred around pears after the Sugarplum Fairy. You think they’d at least pick the dance of the dancing pears from The Nutcracker for this, yes?

  There’s a hint of Christmas spices here, but it’s predominantly a sweet tea. We think it could be a really lovely green tea – the tannin would balance out the sweetness nicely.

Speaking of, that’s 24 days of no green tea. We did discover over breakfast, when we drank Santa’s Secret properly, that it was a green-black hybrid, but we’re not sure that counts. Talk about bizarre decisions.

But you know what they didn’t do this year? They didn’t do that awful coffee-tea hybrid thing we always end up ranting about. You didn’t notice, did you? We never once had to lecture David and Co on how coffee isn’t tea and never the twain shall meet. Is it possible someone reads this blog?

In case they do, we’d better end with something sensible. We know tonight’s tea has a Nutcracker theme, but Thomas Hardy is our tradition. Besides, no one writes a better Christmas Eve poem. We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again. So, enjoy The Oxen.

The Oxen
Thomas Hardy

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel,

“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

Doesn’t he do the loveliest and most unexpected things with wordplay? It’s in the books too, but gets obscured by the sheer agony of, say, Tess. You can pay more attention to linguistic playfulness in Hardy’s poetry because he’s not always battering your heart into fine pieces. Look at the rhymes, too. He’s got a rare gift for true rhyme, and some of them are not obvious.

But enough of that. No oxen kneeling here, but Dachshunds sleeping. That’s this chorister’s cue. Happy Christmas from the Dawlish Dachshunds, the Marscahllin- Cat and the resident Chorister at Home.

Go forth and make a joyful noise, with or without descants. And drink a cup of Christmas tea for us.

With Apologies to Rocky

We nearly didn’t have today’s tea. Santa’s Secret is a black tea, and if we’ve learned anything over the years, it’s that we cannot have black tea when we have cramp. Not for the first 48 hours, anyway.

There’s a whole list in this vein, but that’s up at the top. But we feel mostly human at the moment, so we are drinking an extremely weak cup.

It shares a lot of DNA with Candy Cane Crush, but we think this does the same job better. For one thing, that awful candy cane film doesn’t feature. THere’s candy cane in the tea, but for whatever reason, you can brew Santa’s Secret without having to scrub everything furiously afterwards to get the melted sugar off.

For another, it’s a better balance of tea to sweetness. There’s just a hint of candy cane here. It’s less like drinking an after eight and more like drinking lightly flavoured black tea. We should be clear; We quite like the after eight taste of Candy Cane Crush, but it’s not for everyone. If you want a Christmassy black tea that you can serve to anyone, this is the better bet.

There’s not a lot to regale you with today. Supposedly it’s the snowstorm of the century. We spent most of it lying on the floor and Rocky Dachshund spent it climbing the walls. Buffy and hte Maschallin Cat, still the world’s oddest Accidental Double Act, spent it blissfully asleep.

We promised Rocky we would make it up to him by including a poem in tribute. The cat got one early on but all poor Mr Rocky has had is his reputation maligned. He only eats those coasters because no one else does, honest, guv. If it wasn’t necessary he’d eat something else instead, like carpets or cushions or maybe the Cat. But the cat keeps hitting his nose, so coasters it is.

Anyway, here’s a poem for Rocky about the joys of being a dog.

If Feeling Isn’t In It
John Brehm

You can take it away, as far as I’m concerned—I’d rather spend the afternoon with a nice dog. I’m not kidding. Dogs have what a lot of poems lack: excitements and responses, a sense of play the ability to impart warmth, elation . . . .  
                                                                                   Howard Moss

Dogs will also lick your face if you let them.
Their bodies will shiver with happiness.
A simple walk in the park is just about
the height of contentment for them, followed
by a bowl of food, a bowl of water,
a place to curl up and sleep. Someone
to scratch them where they can’t reach
and smooth their foreheads and talk to them.
Dogs also have a natural dislike of mailmen
and other bringers of bad news and will
bite them on your behalf. Dogs can smell
fear and also love with perfect accuracy.
There is no use pretending with them.
Nor do they pretend. If a dog is happy
or sad or nervous or bored or ashamed
or sunk in contemplation, everybody knows it.
They make no secret of themselves.
You can even tell what they’re dreaming about
by the way their legs jerk and try to run
on the slippery ground of sleep.
Nor are they given to pretentious self-importance.
They don’t try to impress you with how serious
or sensitive they are. They just feel everything
full blast. Everything is off the charts
with them. More than once I’ve seen a dog
waiting for its owner outside a café
practically implode with worry. “Oh, God,
what if she doesn’t come back this time?
What will I do? Who will take care of me?
I loved her so much and now she’s gone
and I’m tied to a post surrounded by people
who don’t look or smell or sound like her at all.”
And when she does come, what a flurry
of commotion, what a chorus of yelping
and cooing and leaps straight up into the air!
It’s almost unbearable, this sudden
fullness after such total loss, to see
the world made whole again by a hand
on the shoulder and a voice like no other.

About Harbours, As Promised

When we resumed the blog this Advent, we introduced you to Rocky the Dachshund. Rocky is a tan Dachshund with a lovely white stripe down his front, and he is extremely charming. He is, in fact, Rockingham Napier, Charmer of WRENS. Alias: The Coaster Eater.

We can hear you already: Rocky would never! He is Extremely Cute! The friend in the Civil Service got there first and was more vocal.

Here’s the thing about Rocky Dachshund: He’s extremely cute and he could get away with murder. See further the coasters. What happens is that every morning, someone has their coffee. And because someone in this scenario has the memory of a goldfish, they leave the coaster on the coffee table. And along comes this very charming, very cute Coaster Eater, whose name rhymes with, let’s say Docky, and munches the cosater

Not a lot, you know. Just a little. A bite off the corner. A munch along the edges. It gives them unique shape, like. So, anyway, Docky-Maybe-Rocky munched the first coaster into pieces. We salvaged the second one. We’ve mostly been diligent about coasters three through six until this evening. Whereat the Coaster Eater cannibalised a whole coaster.

No one noticed. He popped up nice and surreptitious on one of the chairs, where he seized on the neglected coaster. Then he tok it back to his bed and ate it into a shadow of its former self. He did this nice and quietly, so no one heard him. The mess was spectacular. The Coaster Eater was extremely happy. Some, unreasonable human, might say unlawfully happy.

We now have two and three quarter coasters in this pattern, if you want to know.

It’s a nice pattern though, of the St Andrews harbour. We know the view well. Now we know it even better, because the plot twist of the evening was that we spent two hours chasing down the origins of this coaster set. And yes, yes, we have others. But everyone loves these ones. And the scenery makes them sentimental.

(And sometimes, we go to ridiculous lengths, as for instance, that time we hunted down a replacement valerian dolphin for the cat on a German-only website despite not speaking German.)

Finally, though, we found them and tried to order them. Whereat the site declared our cart empty. Three attempts later, we decided it was a fault with our tablet, so hopped over to the laptop where we type this blog. Here a new wrinkle; The algorithm refused to display the item we wanted. Round and round we went, which is how finding these coasters, no name, only keywords, took hours.

We did eventually find and replace them. Call that a satisfying end to this story. And you’d better believe we bought the things in triplicate. Do we need twelve coasters of St Andrews? No. Will the Coaster Eater gobble at least two? Almost certainly. And candidly, we can’t face a repetition of tonight. It doesn’t matter how cute Rocky, er sorry, Docky, is. It’s the next bus to Shelbourne if he tries that again.

After all that, here’s a poem about harbours. Maybe it will sell you on why someone would forgive a Dachshund like Docky his crimes. Since, you know, Rocky is much too cute to commit any.

Harbour Dawn
L.M. Montgomery

There’s a hush and stillness calm and deep,
For the waves have wooed all the winds to sleep
In the shadow of headlands bold and steep;
But some gracious spirit has taken the cup
Of the crystal sky and filled it up
With rosy wine, and in it afar
Has dissolved the pearl of the morning star.

The girdling hills with the night-mist cold
In purple raiment are hooded and stoled
And smit on the brows with fire and gold;
And in the distance the wide, white sea
Is a thing of glamor and wizardry,
With its wild heart lulled to a passing rest,
And the sunrise cradled upon its breast.

With the first red sunlight on mast and spar
A ship is sailing beyond the bar,
Bound to a land that is fair and far;
And those who wait and those who go
Are brave and hopeful, for well they know
Fortune and favor the ship shall win
That crosses the bar when the dawn comes in.

The tea? Oh, right. Let’s tell you about the tea. It’s called Tinsel Today, and we went looking for info on it to tell you what was in it. None came up, so we’re gambling and saying that it’s new this year. We’ve certainly never had it before.

It’s quite a nice herbal tea. There’s a bit of ginger in there to give it life, and what looks like the suggestion of rooibos leaves. There aren’t enough to give it the robustness of a normal rooibos, but it’s still a warm tea for a winter evening. And it comes highly recommended by your favourite Chorister at Home.

A Dachshund Major General

We’re not sure how to do this. To be honest, we never thought we’d have to do this. Not for years, and years. And in those years the Dawlish dachshunds were going to have all kinds of adventures patrolling our garden, and the new cottage. They would walk in the ravine and dig up lots of sunlight for later and Augie Doggie was going to finally catch that squirrel.

Except Augie Doggie caught something in November. We felt incredibly stupid going to the vet about it because his primary symptoms were chronic sneezing and a sudden apathy for his three o’clock walk. Augie Doggie loved his three o’clock walk. He would trott into the hallway and stand there. If we were in the kitchen he put his head around the doorframe and looked expectant. And if I was upstairs he barked blue murder.

This was appropriate, Augie being a braw, blue dachshund.

And we would go out and catch squirrels (well Augie tried to, us girls weren’t fussed about the squirrel thing) and run around dachshund highways, and generally I was glad if my arm stayed in its socket.

And maybe later we would have the TV Cuddle and Buffy would wash him with the kind of obsessive-compulsiveness Catholics say hail Marys. We can say this having said our share of obsessive-compulsive Hail Marys. Mostly for sick dachshunds.

Anyway, the sneezing didn’t let up and neither did the not walking and it spawned a laundry list of other symptoms. It turns out, if you were wondering (we were not) there is no veterinary equivalent to House, MD. But the people we had were lovely and tried really bloody hard.

So did Augie. But it is hard to be a blue dachshund who chases squirrels when your magnificent belly shrinks and your appetite goes away and everything is wrong internally.

Still, we thought he would be okay right up until Monday, when they couldn’t run further tests because his little doxie blood pressure dropped mid-test. And the tests they did run came back with lots and lots and lots of clots in his little blue system.

So, now the Dawlish Dachshunds are singular. And there’s this squirrel that froze and is languishing on a snow mound near our house, and we feel bad for it, but mostly because we knew the loveliest blue Auge who would have had such fun eating his squirrel at last. And who would have been sad when no one let him eat it, but would have accepted cuddles as an alternative.

His nemesis was next door’s Archie and in no particular order he loved food, Buffy, cuddles, ravine walks and Buffy. And food. And more food.

He was, in fact, the very model of a dachshund major general, and he ate flowers in the garden both perennial and annual. But that isn’t actually Augie’s song. All our animals have one, and we rewrote lots for the Dachshund duo. But this is Augie’s.

No, Augie’s son was completely, utterly bonkers. As was he.

Vale, little blue Augie. The world should have been so lucky as to know you were in it. Here’s to sun, Fabulous Orange Ball, and finally catching that squirrel.

The Dog

We decorated the tree today. A bit late, seeing as we’re into double figures on the calendar, but December is one of those months that goes at full cant.

So, we were late getting to our tea today. Midway through the TV cuddle with Dachshuds it dawned on us we hadn’t poured out, so we stopped and put the kettle on.

Today’s tea is Peppermint Amour. Taste-wise there’s not a lot to say about this one. It’s mint all the way through, which won’t work for everyone but works for us. It’s a bit like drinking an After Eight. It tastes of summer evenings when we drank Mint tea at the lake, less because we liked it and more because a friend had brought it back from Egypt.

Of course, mint tea is at its best cold, because its more refreshing that way. We could even have made it that way today – it was unseasonably warm. Bizarre, but the Dachshunds were delighted. We all forewent coats and had a distinctly unseasonable ravine ramble. Augie Doggie barked at a few squirrels, Miss Buffy was all dainty about the mud and her feet and did her best three-legged run. (Yes, we know she does it. It’s luxating patella, there’s no point operating and if one more well-intentioned stranger asks…)

They were so delighted we thought we’d better finally deliver on that poem they promised them. We’re almost halfway through December and the cat is well ahead of them in the poem dedication stakes. These things matter when you are a Dachshund of atypically delicate feelings.

There’s a lot of good dog poetry out there, but this one is top of our list of favourites. It’s short, sweet and definitely counts as more light verse.

The Dog
Ogden Nash

The truth I do not stretch or shove
When I state that the dog is full of love.
I’ve also found, by actual test,
A wet dog is the lovingest.

But of course cuddles are best when they’re wet! That way, you too can be nice and soggy, they dry off, and the charming long-nosed ones get a cuddle for their trouble.

The Fashion in Dogs

Today was an almond-themed day as both Advent calendars yielded almond-based teas. From DavidsTea there was Chocolate Covered Almond. It’s a rich black tea that no matter how long you steep it tastes primarily of chocolate. The poor almonds never stood a chance, and it’s a shame because we love a good almond-flavoured tea. About 10-15 minutes in we thought the almonds were starting to come through, and perhaps they would have more fully with a bit of milk.

Chocolate teas are funny that way; sometimes the creamier you make them the subtler they become. Regrettably we didn’t think of this until towards the end of our second cup. That said, it stood up quite nicely even without the milk. It’s rich and probably another dessert-type blend, but we had it for elevenses with chocolate shortbread. (This may be partially why we couldn’t taste the almonds.)

From Germany was a herbal or fruit tea, Gebrantne Mandel, which our imperfect German made ‘toasted almonds’ (the internet tried to tell us they were burnt but that seemed unlikely). A brief chat with the calendar-maker revealed the name to be caramelised almonds, which made still more sense. She adds a drop of milk probably wouldn’t hurt this tea either, but we didn’t try it. The flavours were just so delicate, and we were enjoying them so much that we didn’t like to risk it. Also, it pours out a lovely pink colour and we didn’t want to spoil that, either.

You do have to let the Gebrannte Mandel steep quite a while, though; the instructions say 5-10 minutes and we really did give it 5 minutes, but it looked unhappy with life and anaemic. It tasted and smelled fabulous, though. There’s apple and hibiscus (hence the pink) in with the almonds and the result is a gloriously sweet-smelling blend that tastes as good as it smells. And 15 minutes later we got a much more substantial cup. Patience is a virtue with this one, and we just don’t have it in spades when it comes to tea. We’re working on it though. Especially when it gets you results like this.

Also on the roster was a walk with the Dachshunds. They’re currently sure excuse to get out of the house, which is no small thing. They were also beloved of E.B.White, better known to the world for his children’s books. Here’s what he has to say on the magnificent Dachshund…and other dogs. But mostly the dachshund.

The Fashion in Dogs
E.B.White

An Airedale, erect beside the chauffeur of a Rolls-Royce,
Often gives you the impression he’s there from choice.

In town, the Great Dane
Is kept by the insane.

Today the Boxer
Is fashionable and snappy;
But I never saw a Boxer
Who looked thoroughly happy.

The Scotty’s a stoic,
He’s gay and he’s mad;
His pace is a snail trot,
His harness is plaid.
I once had a bitch,
Semi-invalid, crazy:
There ne’er was a Scotch girl
Quite like Daisy.

Pekes
Are biological freaks.
They have no snout
And their eyes come out.
Ladies choose ’m
To clutch to their bosom.
A Pekinese would gladly fight a wolf or a cougar
But is usually owned by a Mrs. Applegate Krueger.
Cockers are perfect for Elizabeth Barrett Browning,
Or to carry home a package from the A&P without clowning.

The wire-haired fox
Is hard on socks
With or without clocks.
The smooth-haired variety
Has practically vanished from nice society,
And it certainly does irk us
That you never see one except when you go to the circus.

The dachshund’s affectionate,
He wants to wed with you:
Lie down to sleep,
And he’s in bed with you.
Sit in a chair,
He’s there.
Depart,
You break his heart.

My Christmas will be a whole lot wetter and merrier
If somebody sends me a six-weeks-old Boston terrier.

Sealyhams have square sterns and cute faces
Like toy dogs you see at Macy’s.
But the Sealyham, while droll in appearance,
Has no clearance.

Chows come in black, and chows come in red;
They could come in bright green, I wouldn’t turn my head.
The roof of their mouth is supposed to be blue,
Which is one of those things that might easily be true.

To us it has never seemed exactly pleasant
To see a beautiful setter on East Fifty-seventh Street looking for a woodcock or a pheasant.

German shepherds are useful for leading the blind,
And for biting burglars and Consolidated Edison men in the behind.

Lots of people have a rug.
Very few have a pug.

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 N.B. The Dachshunds of Dawlish would like it on record that they too would tussle with a burglar if one ever came calling. Honest, they would. And they’d eat the pheasant too. Feathers and all. They’re very economical that way. No wonder E.B. White loved them!

Tea and Whimsy

We opened the German-made calendar this morning to Sommer Darjeeling. Following the directions on the accompanying Christmas card we poured it over a sugar cube and added some milk.

N.B. We haven’t taken sugar in tea since university when we befriended Brits who only put sugar in baking. But tea traditions should be followed at all times, so we followed this one. (For best result we’ve been told to use sugar crystals but suspect those of hiding behind another Advent door. Until then we improvise.)

And okay…we cheated a little. But it was only a little! We took the merest sip of Sommer Darjeeling black just to see what it would taste of. The instructions are there for a reason. The milk gives it a creaminess it doesn’t have on its own, while the sugar helps bring some of the more subtle tea notes to the surface. It’s a bold, bracing tea and it was exactly what we needed to wake up. Darjeeling is always the queen of black teas and this is no exception.

At the complete other end of the spectrum is DavidsTea’s Organic Cinnamon Rooibos Chai. That’s a name that’s a mouthful! But it lives up to it. Because we think of rooibos as warming-up tea, we made it after walking the Dawlish Dachshunds in the ravine.

It still looks like Narnia, as you see. But at least a white Christmas is a good omen. Or, well, we guess it’s a white Advent about which the old grannies say…um…nothing, as it turns out. Ah well.

Anyway, Cinnamon Rooibos Chai is perfect warming-up tea. Rooibos naturally has a kind of inbuilt spice that would lead the proverbial grannies above to say it would stick to your ribs. It dovetails beautifully with the cinnamon for a cup that tastes a bit like mulled wine but without the alcohol or a particularly satisfying musical cadence. But it’s desserty too; you would drink this for breakfast.

Instead, if like the Dawlish Dachshunds you have vowed to stay by the fire until the sun comes back, enjoy this with a nice helping of crumble. And for everything else, there’s Sommer Darjeeling.

To tide you over until then, and in keeping with yesterday’s optimistic note, we move from the sublime to the ridiculous. It wouldn’t be the first time we’ve used a parodic bit of hymnody as a poem though, and we miss singing. Besides, this gave us the best laugh we’ve had all year. Enjoy – but don’t read it over tea!

Ode to the Dachshund

It was all things Dachshund today thanks to a surprise parcel from a friend across the water. Specifically, she billed it the Delightful Dachshund Parcel.

 

Miss Marschallin Cat is guarding it now, lest Dachshunds get any ideas about their place in the hierarchy. (They are minions.) Still, we thought we’d try and find a poem for them, if we could.

But just before that, a bit about the tea. It’s white and called Pomograteful, because some ill-advised person let the marketing people, or the naming people, or whatever people get to name these things, have it away with the puns. Calendar, you are a lovely Advent Calendar but leave the terrible puns to our unsuspecting relatives, will you?

Anyway, if you hadn’t put it together, it’s a pomegranate and white tea  blend that makes for a low-affine, sweet desert tea. The sort we’d save up for Lent when we’ve sworn off sweet things but still want a bit more after supper. The pomegranate gives the tea a spectacular colour and also zest – and it smells divine. What’s not to love?

We’re being purred at and waltzed on and gently bunted, which is typically our cue to go do the Boring Lying Down Thing from Miss Marchallin. You know the one; you burrow under lots of lovely blankies and lie perfectly still while the cat sits on you. It also means we’ve nattered too long about something other than Herself. But we live dangerously here at Chorister at Home, so before we go, have a poem about Dachshunds. And you thought we’d never find one didn’t you? Well, we did  – but we wouldn’t want Her Nibs to find out. So this is between us, the blog and some metaphorical bedpost, yeah?

The Dachshund Speaks 
Morgan Dennis, 1947

Because I waddle when I walk,
Should this give rise to silly talk
That I’m ungainly?  What’s ungainly?
I’m really rather graceful – mainly.
The experts have been known to state
That there’s a twinkle in our gait.
One said “They have a clumsy grace,”
Which after all is no disgrace.

My funny features may abound;
Short legs, long body, low-to-ground,
But I’m about the perfect pal,
For man or woman, boy or gal.
I’m gentle, very playful, kind,
I housebreak fast, ’cause I’m refined.
I’m smart but never sly or foxy –
No, do not underrate the dachsie!

 

Ungainly? Never! We give you the very model of dachshunds major generals…who may just have missed that memo about housebreaking fast. But who’s keeping track? Anyway, they are very definitely, absolutely, completely and utterly refined.

 

 

See? Seriously refined. Okay, look, maybe the jury’s out on that too. Maybe. But there is no contesting the loveability of a Dachshund. Trust us – we’d know.

Advent III: the Jocundity of Dachshunds

As if in proof to yesterday’s declaration that it’s not spices in tea, really, we swear on a bible, that we take objection to, today’s selection was called Gingerbread. Straight and to the point. It’s a robins packed chock full of ginger, and it smells and tastes like gingerbread in a cup. So much so that we investigated the ingredients for traces of molasses. We found none. Low on caffeine and richly flavoured, it’s a perfect evening tea. This is how you do spiced teas properly.

In other news, it’s Advent III, the Sunday when the rose vestments come out and we relax whatever Advent discipline we have going. We always think that if ever there was a day we could let the blog slip, it’s this one. But we enjoy the blog, and Gaudete Sunday happens to be our favourite. Even if we still haven’t sung Hills of the North Rejoice this season.

In perpetual embodiment of jubilation though, are the Dachshunds of Dawlish. We owe them a poem, not least because Miss Marschallin has had two this season to their none. But also, no one does unbridled joy like a Dachshund leaping around your knees. We don’t even have to do anything for it. If we look vaguely in the direction of the kitchen from three o’clock onwards, they leap in jocund fashion at the prospect of food. If you go into the kitchen any time after half three, they run in giddy circles. Open the gate to the family room and they race to see who can crush the sofa cushions fastest. It’s like being perpetually bombarded with optimism, and it’s contagious. So here’s a poem to the Dachshunds, with love and affection. We really are sorry we insisted on bathing them earlier today.

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Lost and Found

Ron Padgett

Man has lost his gods.
If he loses his dignity,
it’s all over.

I said that.

What did I mean?
First, that the belief
in divinity has almost
disappeared.

By dignity
I meant mutual
self-respect, the sense
that we have some right
to be here and that
there is value in it.
(Values are where
the gods went
when they died.)

My dog Susie doesn’t seem
to have any values, but she does
have Pat and me, gods
she gets to play with and bark at.

The Dachshunds have many values, if you’re curious. Fabulous Orange Ball is high on the list. It’s narrowly outranked by Food. Sun is crucial, and warm. We’re sort of in disgrace until the warm weather comes. But they bark anyway, because apparently part of being perpetually optimistic about the universe involves making a joyful noise unto the Lord at every possible occasion.

On which note, we’ll end with Hills of the North, just so someone sings it this year. The important thing to note here is that there are two sets of lyrics, and ours are right. Well, we think so. The people who sing the other ones probably disagree. Both are quite good in their own way though.

Returning to Sayers

This week the Dachshunds of Dawlish join us in finally getting to grips with Busman’s Honeymoon. We here confess to having never read it before, though there’s no good reason why we should not have, considering our love of Dorothy Sayers. Our hardback folios make for awkward travelling companions, is at least part of the trouble. Equally though, the ending of Gaudy Night has always felt so balanced and resolved that we’ve never read further. (That’s not strictly true either; two years ago, we picked up Thrones, Dominations but though we liked it, we never know how much to count it.)

If you’ve never tried it, reading with Dachshunds is not to be undertaken lightly. In fact, we find these reading companions exhausting. They want to run around at a great speed, and we need quiet to read.  If we do settle them, we are then pinned to the chair while they sleep —we are of course, the human pillow in this instance. There hasn’t been much sleeping on their part though, because we’re still only 30 pages in and it’s Wednesday.

What we’re really doing, we’ve decided, is savouring this particular Sayers. We love Harriet’s company, and are reluctant to give it up completely. Once the whirl of the holidays is over we suppose we’ll read it in earnest in spite of the Dachshunds, because after so much people-time we’ll need the excursion to Talboys like a good cup of tea. Then, well then I think we’ll be about due a return to that boating scene on the Cherwell, because it’s been ages since we read it in context and anyway, we meant it about not wanting to give these characters up.