We went out to dinner last night with a friend and her dog, Amy. Amy has a broken paw, were it not for the cast you wouldn’t notice. She jumps, runs and has a fantastic attitude. I wasn’t in the mood to iron, so I wore crumpled white linen and medium blue trousers. It’s wonderful to get to this point in life when one can say/think I don’t look good, and that’s okay. I spent my teens and most of my 20′s crippled by self-image issues. Hating the way I looked. Spending an inordinate amount of time trying to make myself look better. That seems to be over, for the most part.
I’ve been helping put together a website in French for Casa Alba. That’s the gorgeous house (mansion, really) that I’m going to help show on French channel 5 in July (we’re filming next Thursday). I still don’t know what I’m going to wear. We’re halfway there, but I’ve still got tons to translate. I’ve loaned my website (for my house), www.sotogrande.us, as the web space since it’s an easy address for people to remember. Particularly because the houses are in Sotogrande. If you have any suggestions of what other information should be on the website, feel free to share. I haven’t finished uploading the pictures… so no need to suggest more pictures. Mike did a cute little sketch of the façade for it.
There’s a new commercial on British TV with a fantastic song that I’d never heard before: How Glad I Am by Nancy Wilson. It should really be one of our Gay Anthems. Have a listen:
This evening we’re invited to dinner at the Ayala Polo Club. The restaurant is absolutely fantastic. You get to sit right by the fields. I’m not sure what it is about polo, but as sports clubs go, they’ve got the best looking and most interesting people- as opposed to, for example, golf clubs. I’m wearing black and white…
and Morgan says hello
Since last Wednesday we’ve had social things to do nearly every day. Lunches/Dinners/Drinks etc. Absolutely exhausting. Today we’re finally free. The printer broke down and it just happens to have happened a month after the warranty ran out. We were given a whole loin of venison. It’s a huge thing and I now have to figure out what to do with it. I’ve never cooked venison, so this is uncharted territory. In case you have a tried and tested absolutely amazing recipe… do share!
There’s a GORGEOUS new puppy in the neighbourhood named Amy. She comes to us for a couple of hours a day to be socialized. Rudy seems to adore her.
A couple of nights ago we were sitting by the fire. I was flanked by Morgan and Bessie and Rudy was nesting under Mike’s arm. Mike had his kindle in hand and I had my sketch book and was working on ‘my project‘. We looked like this:
As we sat there Mike was talking about Rudy’s enthusiasm for life. He wakes up and you can see from his expression he thinks getting up is his favourite thing in the world. Then having breakfast is his favourite thing in the world. Then taking a walk is his favourite thing in the world. Then sitting on the sofa is his favourite thing- and as the day goes on he just keeps going with the most wonderful attitude imaginable (until he collapses in exhaustion). As I’m particularly prone to getting obsessed with the minutiae of life and anxieties- I’m hoping to take a page from Rudy’s book this year. I digress- I looked around the room in detail (as I do every room I enter) and thought: ‘This is nice‘. Then, I thought: ‘One day I want to have a life just like this’. Then the coin dropped. I need to breathe and enjoy. Breathe. Enjoy. Breathe. Enjoy. There’s nowhere else I need to be, nowhere I have to go. No one else I need to become. Breathe. Enjoy. Breathe. Et pui je fume.
In any event- Happy New Year to all. I’ve met some great people around here (mentioned below in no particular order!) -so to them: do accept my best wishes and thanks for your kindness.
Ricky, Colin, FreePennyPress, Clare Flourish, Carolina Courtland, Vickie Lester, Metan, Madd Suspicions, FoolsMusings, ACflory, JohntheAussie, Makagutu, Lucianus, Cassie being Cassie, MyFrenchHeaven, Joe, Dr. Karen Rayne, Melanie, Dawn Landau etc… (and those are just the ones I can remember without having to go through a list, if you weren’t mentioned that doesn’t mean I’m rejecting you, just that my head is currently spinning a bit and I have a ton of work to do even though it’s the last day of the year!)
My study is small, it’s the smallest room in the house. Five by four metres. Just enough room for my desk & computer, a sofa, an armchair, a television and couple of book-lined walls. Tara knew this when she was around and acted as my personal bodyguard by blocking the door. Someone would approach, she’d get up and block. Irish wolfhounds can do that because of their size. Yesterday someone came at 5pm to pick up some pictures of furniture to take to a client in London. Then they called someone to say they were here and that person called another person and by 6pm there were people sitting everywhere, plus there were four more chairs pulled into the study. I considered panicking or trying to move them into another room, but poured myself a stiff drink instead. That usually works. They’d brought platters of food with them. It’s strange living in a place where people have food platters ready at a moment’s notice. There were actually some very nice cheeses. People were talking in little groups so it was a bit chaotic- and I kept going back and forth to the kitchen opening wine bottles. Not being warned, prepared and in control causes me tremendous anxiety; But I’m working on it. Or perhaps not since my solution seems to be to move somewhere where I don’t know anyone at all. I have to find a way of doing my work where no physical encounters are necessary. It should be easy because of the internet. To be honest there’s not even much reason to communicate with people by phone since writing is so much more clear and avoids misunderstandings, but people insist on real-life contact. I’ll never understand it.
Rudy has recovered from castration. He’s a Ratonero Bodeguero Andaluz. They’re similar to Japanese and Chilean terriers and known for their hunting skills. They were bred here in Andalucia to hunt mice/rats in the wine and sherry bodegas in Jerez (the birthplace of sherry). Long story short, Rudy’s discovered that down by the woods he can find the occasional mouse. When I woke up today he was guarding a dead one which he probably killed and placed proudly on the sofa that’s on the terrace. I screamed and Mike took care of it. Then I washed Rudy’s mouth. I hope this doesn’t become a habit. He and Morgan continue to be inseparable.
Yesterday it rained all day. An old friend came for tea. We had cucumber sandwiches and the tea was soon substituted by red wine for us and Pacharán for her. She has a company that makes luxury leather golf bags and other accessories. I’m not into golf (at all), but her stuff is gorgeous. We discussed the horror of how a man in Granada recently committed suicide on the day he was about to be evicted from his life-long home. Meanwhile the PP was making political appointments to the Cajas (banks). It apparently worked out so well in the past, they’re just going to keep doing it. It’s exactly what this country needs, giving politicians even easier access to other people’s money.
I went down to the woods today, at the bottom of the garden by the stream. I’ve been avoiding the area for a while since that’s where Tara is buried. Some animal tried to dig her up and a corner of the blanket in which she was buried was visible. I filled the hole back in and put logs over it. Quite a depressing experience. The nasturtiums and anemones I planted around there are doing very well. Today it’s 20º C and sunny. Doesn’t feel like autumn at all. I think I need to garden more regularly, it clears my mind. When I got back to the house Mike told me we were invited to lunch on Friday but he declined. I’m glad because I’m not in the mood for people.
It’s going to rain heavily starting tonight at eight. I absolutely love rain. Always have since childhood. It gives me a (probably artificial) sense of isolation. Although, people rarely come to the door to annoy me when it’s raining, so there’s some method to my madness. That probably played a role in choosing rainy central France as my next and final home. One of the houses we like has just lowered its price. It’s no beauty and it’s by no means at the top of the list, but it does have certain advantages. It’s on the edge of town and has a huge, dog-friendly garden that’s not fiddly, so it doesn’t need a team of gardeners for upkeep. On the other hand the place needs some serious help to bolster its aesthetic appeal. I showed it to someone a few days ago and got a blank look response: “Really? You’re leaving this house to live in that?”. I guess not everyone has imagination. It needs a gravel driveway, a marble fountain, a porte-cochère, better colours and more thoughtful landscaping; But once all of that is done it could look quite nice. It’s an 18th century affair, built for a notary. The garages should be moved elsewhere so the space can become a study, but the living room itself is a very good 50m2. It also has independent guest accommodation which is essential to us. The biggest advantage is obviously the price. You couldn’t get a 2 bedroom apartment (with no view) here for what they’re asking for that whole house there.
Rudy was neutered this morning and is now resting in a duvet nest we made for him. On the way back from the operation he was trembling and cold. The vet said it’s because of the anaesthetic. He wouldn’t settle for anything but sitting on my lap. When we arrived back Morgan had redecorated. A bunch of cushions (and he) were on the dining table.
“(S)He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever, I was wrong.”
Thank you for all the messages and kindness, I’d respond individually, but I just don’t feel able to right now.
Getting through the night was difficult, I’d only slept three hours the night before, but still I couldn’t fall asleep. I considered a Valium, but I’d had too much to drink during the afternoon and evening and the mix results in a dreadful hangover. The problem is/was we were entirely co-dependant. We’d been together for the past eight years and three months. We never spent a night apart, in fact, we were never apart for more than 4 hours. Mike and I set that as the maximum limit the dogs should be alone, and we make sure that even those cases are rare. My love affair with Irish Wolfhounds began around 12 years ago, when I met Mike’s dog, Billie. Irish wolfhounds are usually aloof and reserved, Billie was especially aloof and reserved, she really didn’t like outsiders. When people visited Mike, she’d prefer to go outside and observe from a distance. But this is us the day we met. Mike said the coat must have made her think she and I looked alike.
I’d never been near an animal that was so human, so large, so opinionated. They have unusual habits and abilities, they like to sit on chairs, as you see on the right (notice how the hind legs are suspended.) They know they’re big and powerful and the general attitude is: “I’m big enough to do what I want, so don’t push me”. Each one is different but fantastically human. With a clever little move of the face they can open doors as their faces are at the height of the average door handle. They believe in equal rights: You sit on the sofa, I sit on the sofa. You have a large bed, I want a large bed, or I’ll sleep on yours! Unfortunately, Irish wolfhounds often end up in shelters because people think the idea of them is wonderful (which it is), but sharing space with such a large animal requires knowledge, patience and a lot of care. They can reach the kitchen counter, they can take the food off of your plate, and playfully they’ll try both. We have a wonderful story of Billie once tiptoeing away from the terrace with an entire roast chicken in her mouth in the short time it took for people to get from the outdoor seating area to the table.
We’ve had three wolfhounds, Billie, Blue and finally Tara, who was the result of an accident. A professional breeder had a female that escaped whilst on heat and consummated the act with her brother. They didn’t want to sell the inbred puppies, so they gave them away. Billie had cancer and died at the age of eight, so Blue was on her own, hence we decided to take Tara. We found her incredibly amusing as a newborn. She walked over all of her siblings and came to us. Even as puppies, they’re quite big. At 8 weeks, we brought her home. She promptly found my lap and sat there during the 3 hour drive home. You probably can’t tell my keyboard is wet from tears as I wipe my face and type. The first night she was here she repeatedly climbed on the bed. Mike kept putting her back on the floor, but when I woke up her head was on my pillow, next to mine.
The years that followed were funny, intense, at the age of one she became our generic Birthday card. She destroyed the legs of my Biedermeier arm-chairs, she ate the corners of two Persian rugs. She destroyed my alarm clock and a mobile phone. I smoked and she would take cigarettes from my pack and chew them. If I got up, she sat at my place on the sofa. If I went to the bathroom at night, she got into my place in bed. If I put my wine glass on the floor, she drank from it. Mike often joked that I was a terrible example which she followed to the letter. The pain of her absence is physical as well as emotional. She was always in my eye-line, if not blocking my path. She stood behind me when I was cooking, hoping I’d look away for a moment and she could steal something. She was my child, my friend, my companion. She was such a tremendous part of my own identity, today I feel as if missing a limb. And that’s where the incredible humanity of wolfhounds is so incredibly touching and so fantastically painful- they live 6 to eight years. Years like nothing anyone who hasn’t had one could possibly imagine, and I say that as someone who has and has had all kinds of dogs.
“The stars are not wanted now: put out every one;
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.”
After losing Jimmy a few weeks ago, This was quite the blow. It’s a risk every Irish Wolfhound owner knows he’s taking, they tend to live short lives. My Tara, my wonderful Tara had a pulmonary embolism early this morning. Mike woke me and we went to the vet. He gave her blood thinners she seemed to improve, but two hours ago she stopped breathing. Some days I’m not sure how much more living I can take.
I’m sorry I haven’t really been answering anyone’s comments or emails lately. James Dean is gone. In the end he came to me and to Mike. We held him. I don’t want to talk about it. Life can be excruciatingly sad at times- But…
We have decided we don’t have time to be sad, instead we must be useful. Enter the magnificent Inge. She was the lawyer on J.D.’s panel of supporters. She’s a one woman dog advocacy group. She funds a private kennel for dogs that shelters can’t handle and tried to catch J.D. (and fed him) during all the years when we were also trying to catch him. She suggested we take on Rudy (for Rudolf Nureyev.) He’s a young Bodeguero that was mistreated. He had a broken leg and someone threw him over a wall into a shelter in La Linea. They couldn’t afford his care so Inge jumped in and took custody. We went to meet him at Inge’s kennel and brought him home. He may need further surgery in the future, but we’ve got a great vet that’s a great surgeon, so we’re not worried.
He’s here as the result of J.D.’s life, that somewhat blunts the sadness. Here’s Rudy on the right. To the left it’s Morgan our Breton Spaniel who took an immediate liking to Rudy. The jeans and the hand are me…
Nobody said it was going to be easy… He’s got every illness known to dogs. Heart-worm (filaria), leishmaniasis, kidney & liver issues- everything. He does however have a panel of friends which include a vet, a pediatrician, a lawyer and two business owners. They’ve kindly contributed around 500 euros to Jimmy’s care, which was exceedingly generous.
The past few days have been touch and go, he’s been refusing to eat. We took him to the vet this morning, he got vitamin shots and pain killers and we’re hopeful he’ll eat this evening. The roller coaster of emotions has been utterly unpleasant. It became apparent to me that people have been preparing me for the possibility that J.D. might not make it. This morning as we drove to the vet he kept peaking out at me from his cardboard box. It was unnerving. I had readied myself for the moment when the vet would say it was more humane to put him down. When instead the vet suggested the vitamin shots and a different course of treatment I could barely breathe. I removed myself to the privacy of the bathroom and cried a little.
I’ve spent the past few hours calling every expert that would take my calls the world over. I’ve ordered milk thistle and aloe vera juice on their advice. Dietary recommendations were many… We got him fresh sardines. I’m making chicken soup. We bought cow liver. We bought duck foie gras & serrano ham. One of those things will surely tempt him.
The vet says that if we can get him to eat, he has a chance of survival. He now lets Mike touch him, but with me it’s a different story. We do a version of Catherine Tate’s Scared Woman sketch. I touch him, he jumps, then I jump- so I’m giving him a break from me touching him for now, it’s too stressful for both of us.
In other news today is Karen’s summer party, it kind of opens the season. We’re not going because I don’t like attending parties (any more) where there are more than 4 or 5 people. It’s a waste of effort. I did tell her that after everyone left, she could call us and we’d come by so she can tell us how it went. I’m sure it’ll be great (as always). This year an Australian chef is doing the food. He spends spring and summer here on the coast and the rest of the year in Gstaad.
Now I’m going to check on James Dean…
It was noon. I was ready. Mike was almost ready. I’d just taken two pictures of myself in different mirrors. Neither one came out very well.
When Mike saw me he called it my Death in Venice look. He always says that when I wear white and Breton stripes. Yes, that’s my Botero bronze you see in the picture, number 3 of six. As I was walking away from the mirror I noticed James Dean was in the garden, he’d escaped his enclosure. Suddenly he was by the fence into the green zone. I was screaming, he was digging and then he was out. We drove around for two hours and nothing. But we’ve just been out again and he’s back in his hole in the wall on the main road. Mike has gone to the vet to get more tranquilizers and this afternoon will be operation rescue part II. Adolfo Dominguez suit is back in the closet and I’m wearing jeans, long sleeved thick t-shirt and leather jacket because I just know James Dean is going to try to bite me again.
HE’S BACK!!!!!!!! Catching him this time around was easier, but he still gave us a run for our money (in the hot sun, it’s 27º C- and wearing leather jackets and gardening gloves.)
We put him back in the newly fortified enclosure and he went straight into the dog house. I took a picture, I had the impression he looked like he was laughing at us.
Summer’s coming again and we were worried about James Dean. He hurt his leg last week. He seems to love living on the streets and keeping residence in a hole in a wall, but it’s on a main road and thousands of tourists descend on Sotogrande in summer- meaning: getting run over is very easy for a limping stray dog.
We spoke to the vet that takes care of our dogs and he guided us through what we had to do. James Dean is feral and hates humans getting too close. We crushed up three pills and made a ball with the resulting powder and cold butter. 45 minutes later he was groggy, but still tried to bite us as we put him in a cardboard box. At the vet he was properly sedated, washed, nails clipped, blood tests, fleas and tics removed, vitamin shots- all sorts of things- and I do mean ALL SORTS, because the bill was 400 euros. Who cares!
I already knew Mike was planning something on Monday because when I got up he was putting this together in the middle of the living room. I asked him if he was planning on moving out, so he explained his plan.
The vet told us feral dogs need their own space, so we fenced off a piece of the garden for him, down by the stream. Then Mike put up a little awning. I’ve never visited a trailer park, but this is how imagine they look like. Britney Spears probably grew up in a similar home to what we’ve given James Dean.
He’s very friendly to our dogs, but still wants absolutely nothing to do with us. The vet tells us that ferals sometimes never adapt to human beings, but that’s okay. He has his own space, he’s welcomed in our space, and he can have as much or as little to do with us as he chooses. What counts is that he’s safe. He does seem to have settled very nicely into his new home. Here he is asleep on my old Ralph Lauren sheets (I was a child of the 80′s, I still have a strange attraction to chintz.) We bought a crib mattress and cut it to provide a mattress and a back cushion. I think he’s pleased, even if he won’t admit it.