The following is what was on my phone when I looked at it next day. It’s the ‘transcript’ of the text ‘conversation’ between my daughter and I when she found out from her mother that there had been a bit of a drama with the doggies. It made me smile, which is good, because jumping, fully clothed, into a freezing canal to rescue a puppy at the age of 65 (me not the puppy) does not always make one feel joyful. Just by the way, to ‘big up’ the heroic content, he fell in by a lock gate so the water was surprisingly – certainly to me – deep. Probably to Archie, how deep, it was wasn’t relevant as his little paws were some way off the bottom no matter how deep. The text conversation between my daughter and I was as follows :
Daughter : So what amusing things have the pups been up to 2 day?
Me : Archie and I went in the canal
Daughter : Erm, together? And that was intentional?
Me : One after the other, not intentional on Archie’s side and reluctant on mine
Daughter : Oh my word, how did he manage 2 fall in there?
Me : Only he would know, one minute he was there then a scraping sound (on the stonework) then gone! What seemed like several seconds later then a splash.
Daughter : Crikey, so could he swim or wud he have drowned if u hadn’t gone in?
Me : Well he was swimming when I got to him but looking pretty scared, when I got him out he stood on the side looking at me as if to say what the fuck are you doing in there?
Daughter : Well it’s a relief he can swim but prob not one to repeat.
Me : No indeedy
I couldn’t say this was a typical Tuesday afternoon but it is an afternoon prone to little dramas. It is or was the afternoon of my wife’s stained glass course. This means I am in sole charge of the puppies. This can be quite challenging. I won’t bore you with the details but all kind of factors come into play when there’s one of you and two of them – on lead / off lead? Where to walk them, how long for, etc etc. Even the simple act of trying to open the treat container to entice them to come back and be put on the lead . They run round like demented idiots while I make a grab and miss and another grab and miss, drop the treats which they try to scavenge and so it goes. The whole thing assumes military proportions. In an effort to kill two puppies, sorry I mean birds, with one stone I walk them near where the class takes place which, as luck would have it, is along the side of the Leeds-Liverpool canal. If I walk them along the canal then I have them on the lead, not because I think they will jump / fall in but just to reduce unfortunate snarling at passing cyclists.
It was one such cyclist that I saw approaching as I realised having boldly, some would say, foolishly, jumped into the canal, that I couldn’t get out. As it was part of the lock system the water was deep and the walls were both high above my head and smooth with a curved edge. All bad for the person trying to get out of the canal rather than in it. So there I was stuck up to my neck in freezing (did I mention it was very cold and did I mention that my wallet, money and phone were at this point 3 or 4 feet under the freezing (did I mention that) water. Thank God, here comes help. Wrong, my saviour was a frail looking lady of mature years. She dismounted looked at me dubiously but said, gamely I thought, can I help you out? I pointed out to this lovely lady that if she tried to help me out the most likely result would be that we’d both be in the freezing (did I mention that it was cold?) water. Bless her, she pulled limply at my sleeve and my embarrassment (and desire to live) was such that I managed to somehow lever myself out then to lie like the proverbial beached whale on the side of the canal. How we laughed. You’d better get up, you’ll get hypothermia she said. She’s right, I thought, as I started to shiver uncontrollably. I’m fine I said. She looked dubious again.
Then for the difficult bit – walking twenty minutes back to the vehicle with people looking at me. I guess I looked a sight. Not every day you pass somebody who’s been in the canal fully clothed.
I get back to the Land Rover and all those off items of clothing that I’d been meaning to tidy out for weeks come in handy. There were no trousers or underpants in there and, as I was parked next to a public toilet, I did not fancy sitting without these items. True I have no career to ruin now but even so the headlines retired educational psychologist arrested half naked (and wrong half) outside toilets in Saltaire, felt both undesirable but also worringly plausible. So pulling on a woolly hat that, under normal circumstances, (and these definitely were not normal) I would not be seen dead in, I sat half dry and half freezing even with heater on full blast, waiting to pick up my wife. For the final irony was that I couldn’t just drive home because I had to wait for my wife’s class to finish to take her home. Yes, I was still laughing. I arrived at the spot where I would pick her up. Bear in mind that the bottom half of me is soaking wet, no socks, and the top half of me is wearing a totally different outfit and on my head is a very silly hat. Does she notice any of this? No. Instead she looks at Archie and says blithely, Archie you look a bit wet. Yes, I thought that will happen when you fall in the fucking canal. I pointed out, with all the dignity I could muster, that I also had been in the canal. We drove home, a degree of silence pervaded.
And all I can say about this incident is that it completely drove out of my head what had been, to this point, the main event of the walk. This being the second part of my title. This is a good thing both for me and, although you may not know it, for you as well. It was an unsavoury event that is best left unpublicised. You see the great thing about retirement is that it gives you more and different opportunities to enjoy yourself, like jumping fully clothed into a freezing (did I mention that before?) canal.