Thursday, 25 March 2010

From Foreign Parts

Mistress receives many e-mails from artists. She’s had images that range from the ‘Still Life’, to raunchy nudes. I can tell how these are being received from my pitch under her desk and I am used to God’s name being taken in vain. Occasionally I hear a giggle, which means she is looking at something rude.

Sometimes, Mistress finds herself in difficult situations that she can’t get out of.

One afternoon, we had a young man who came into the gallery after leaving dozens of messages. Mistress finally relented and made an appointment. On his arrival, he smelt of heavy leather and nicotine.

The man was called Marek and he was hardly inside the door when he laid out several sheets of paper. He liked boats, I could see that. The man had painted boats at sunset, boats against a strike of lightening and a series of canoes diving into bright green waves.

“Right,” said Mistress. She put her hands on her hips as a sign of authority. But it was a dead give-away to me. She had no idea what to say.

I sat on my haunches and put my head to one side to show that I was giving the painter serious consideration.

“Can you help me?”

The man had an accent, but Geography is not my strong point. I think he said he came from Warjaw.

We have artists from everywhere, but Warjaw sounded interesting. I had an inkling that this man had a kind heart. He might be kind to Mistress. So would she take him on, or not?

Follow the trails of paint to find out and catch up with me later!

Friday, 19 March 2010

Family Affairs Part Two

(Scroll down for Part One…)Archie has been known to knock Lesley’s hat box out of the cupboard and put on her latest floral design for Ascot. We both keep warm with her woolly slippers. When Lesley is out of course. Archie has opinions which I listen to. He dislikes Gordon Brown. He barks at the mention of his name, one of his habits which gains instant respect from his owners.

Unfortunately, there is a great deal of strife in the household of Lesley and Nathan. Very often Archie is stuck between the two of them and the arguments, which can start with where to go for a vegetarian curry, really get him down.

We talk about these incidents a lot, and one evening when we were invited to the Fullers for dinner last week, I could understand exactly what Archie meant.
There we all were waiting for the meal. Nathan with his can of Stella Artois, lying on his big leather chair: the women sharing a bottle of wine on the sofa: Archie and me curled up in Archie’s basket in the corner.

“I dunno,” said Nathan, twitching his left foot.

(Archie thinks he spends too long in that chair).

“I’ve been with Draycotts for nine years,” Nathan went on, “and I’m being offered a redundancy package that won’t pay for a new lawn mower, let alone Lesley’s hair bills.”

“Ha ha,” replied Lesley.

Nathan put his can of lager down on a ‘pug’ mat.

“You’ll be the first to complain,” he said.

Mistress looked at the two of them. I could tell she was dithering.

“In this current climate,” she announced, “I think you have to be ready to accept a redundancy package of any description. You may find yourself two years down the line with nothing at all.”

Nathan’s face was resembling a worried St Bernard’s.

“I dunno. I dunno,” he said. “Alex got a much better offer for opening an Ipswich branch that’s still losing money. Everybody knows that. And his office is bigger than mine.”

“I’m in a bloody cubicle with Jim and getting resipiratory problems.”

Nathan coughed.

“He’s always getting respiratory problems,” said Lesley to Mistress. “He had them on our first night together.”

Nathan coughed again. He took a long draught of his beer. Archie grunted against my back. Our paws were crossed. It could have been quite a domestic scene.

“I dunno, I dunno” Nathan went on.

He stood up.

“Well ask Archie,” Lesley said. “He’s a damn sight smarter than you are.”

“Thank you very much,” replied Nathan. “I will.”

“What d’you think Archie?” he asked, bending towards us pugs and giving each of us a pat.

He took an imaginary golf swing towards his wife.

“Is she worth it, that’s what I want to know?”

“Worth what?” asked Lesley.

“Worth discussing this important issue with,” said Nathan. “And do I want to be retired at my age and being told continually what to do by wife?”

Archie gave a grunt.

“She may kill him and something’s burning in the kitchen,” he said to me.

The pair of us dogs stood up. We shook ourselves and Archie’s tail wagged like a flag of honour.

“I reckon the firm want you off their premises” Lesley said. “They’ve had enough of your pontificating …”

She got up too.

“Something’s burning in the kitchen,” she announced. “Excuse me for a moment, Julia.”

We had gone before her, a staccato of paws over two sets of wooden floors and past the aga. We put our noses to the window. It was as cold as ice.

“It’s snowing,” said Archie.

White flakes were floating towards us, touching the glass and making star patterns. The sky was dark. The trees were white. They looked like scarecrows with disembodied arms.

“Is this what snow is?” I asked Archie. “Is this really it?”

Archie sat on his haunches.

“This is it, boy,” he said. “The real thing.”

Just as I was getting used to the whiteness and the thrill of it, two large amber eyes peered in at us, unblinking and wild.

I barked. What else does a dog do?

“The fox!” I said to Archie.

“I tell you, It’s the same fox from our garden.”

We climbed on our hind legs and drummed with our front paws against the window.

“Come on dogs,” said Lesley right behind us. “It’s only snow.”

But the eyes were staring in at us and they never moved. Well it was alright for humans. But for us canines, I had a premonition we were in for the Wild West.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Family Affairs

My best mate is called ‘Archie’. He’s almost a replica of me, only bigger. He belongs to Julia’s best friend, Lesley, and her husband, Nathan Fuller. Unlike me, Archie has no claim to an aristocratic lineage, but he is very clever. He knows things that I don’t. He knows things that I will never even think of.

The Nathans are aware that they own a superior dog. Archie sits glued to Mastermind and tends to bark at the right answers. He is also a connoisseur of art. We watch The Culture Show together sometimes and different programmes on what’s selling. Archie could tell Mistress a lot about the tricks of the trade and has suggested that we take one of her abstracts and tread our paw marks in.

“We’d make a fortune,” he says. “Frankly, a lot of the time, your mistress is barking up the wrong tree.”

I look at him.

“Well, go on, then,” smirks Archie. “Let’s have a smile. That’s meant to be a joke.”

My fellow pug has a huge appetite. I’m surprised it hasn’t been his downfall. Only Archie could survive a whole Jane Asher birthday cake (which he ate out of the box), and a batch of Lesley’s HRT pills. They had no effect on him whatsoever.

Archie plays a big part in our story. Listen for the patter of our next post and I will tell you more.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Ancestral Heights – Part 2

(Part Two of Ancestral Heights… scroll down for Part One) There are various artists dropping in, with ambitions to hang in the gallery. We don’t have any room, I want to tell them, and they are the ones who behave the worst. During the first show I attended ‘At Home’, one of those aspiring painters got so drunk, he had to be carried out. Then we had the artist who brought her entire family of twelve members, including the baby, who screamed like a banshee.

Another lady with a Modigliani neck and a black fringe shall remain nameless. Having painted a series of unappealing cabbages, she had them placed in mock Dutch 17th century frames. (Frankly, a poor nod to Surrealism from a pug’s point of view). And the woman was a nasty piece of work. She had an aura that made furniture freeze. But the pictures all sold! The lady then rang the next day at a ridiculous hour, waking both Mistress and myself, to complain about her CV.

People are devious. Take that old couple arriving in a taxi last month. The man wore a hat and carried a walking stick. They had seen our ad in a magazine. They were interested in viewing the gallery.

“We’re only open ‘By Appointment’ said Mistress. (And quite right, too, with the state of the place in the mornings).

“We’ve come a long way,” said the man. “In fact we’ve come from the airport.”

Mistress looked at me. I gave a yawn and buried myself in her legs. It was her problem.

“Alright then,” Mistress said.

Well she made coffee, brought out the biscuits and showed the couple round the two floors.

They admired the paintings, the wonderful sense of colour and the high level of draughtsmanship. An hour later, the woman produced a card with long red talons for nails.

“Would you look at our work, please? We are artists and we have our biographies and our statements, our beliefs in Art as we see it in the 21st Century.”

The woman smelt of scent that was just turning.

“I’ve got artists’ statements from here to Eternity in this house,” Mistress said.

She saw them out finally and tore up their business card.

Just before they left, I peed on the man’s left shoe. He hopped all the way to his waiting taxi.