The Banker's Niece

Read exclusive extracts from my new novel The Banker's Niece. Click here for Chapter 1.

Monday, 23 May 2011

‘Meat, Ma’am. You’ve been feeding him meat.’

Because our garden used to be an apple orchard (a long time ago, way before we came on the scene), it is enclosed by proper Devon hedgerow. This is probably many centuries old, if not a fragment of ancient woodland, and is rich in flora and fauna. One thing it’s not good at however is containing a determined puppy.
    When Ellie arrived, Adrian from the village (who has laid the hedge for us beautifully in previous years) came over and put up a gate for us as well as fencing to cover gaps in the hedge. Since then Frog has covered other gaps with fencing and we’ve plugged yet others with prickly cuttings. Still she absconds.
    I’ve always believed that the more you walk a dog, the quieter they will be at home. Frog however (who is not a keen walker himself unless tempted with a pub meal en route) believes the opposite. The more you walk a dog the fitter they become and the more they want to walk.
    He is wont to quote Dickens at me, the Beadle in Oliver Twist in reply to the undertakers when they complain that the orphan they’ve acquired in order to work to death is not behaving properly. ‘Meat Ma’am. You’ve been feeding him meat,’ says the Beadle, instead of the gruel which would keep him weak and servile.
    On Sunday I took the dog for two walks, nearly three hours in total. After the second walk, and giving her supper, I left the kitchen door open so that she could potter round the garden if she wanted to. Two minutes later she had vanished and we heard the children next door calling her name.
    ‘Your turn,’ said Frog, who was making pizza dough and had his hands covered with flour.
    When I arrived next door Ellie was running in and out of the house with pieces of packaging in her mouth, obviously filched from a bin somewhere. She wasn’t in the least tired. What she was, was over-excited. What I should have done after the walk was shut her in her crate so that she could calm down.
    Maybe Frog is right after all, at least partly.
    And maybe it’s me who needs the walks in order to keep calm.

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