As part of my rehabilitation into my ‘normal’ life, I am trying to re-flex that writing muscle that has lay largely dormant for the past 10 months. I am going through some old files on my computer and found this little snapshot of our life from many years ago. I am interested in how little my writing style appears to have changed – although these days I would edit out the use of neighbour and neighbours in the same sentence.
Sam was a great companion. Everyone loved her and she never grew up. However, it was clear that she was not made for the 21st century and in the early hours of December 27th 1999, she died. She was simply not Year 2000 Compliant.
Three weeks before, my partner and I had just moved house. Work commitments, added to the unrelenting unpacking that moving home produces, meant that, apart from our immediate neighbour to the right, we didn’t actually see any of our other neighbours. Christmas came and we had a great time, even if unwrapping presents was an all too apposite reminder of the mountains of unpacked boxes.
The day after Boxing Day, we woke to find that Sam was dead. It was no great surprise as she had been ill for some weeks. Old age began to get the better of her and had now finally won. Although we had yet to sell our previous house and we had only been in the new house three weeks, we knew she had to be buried here with us. As we were planning to grow vegetables in the back garden, we decided to lay Sam to rest in the front garden.
So, on a cold and drizzly December day, we began to dig a hole, under a hedge. After three inches of top soil, we met concrete that had clearly run off the neighbour’s driveway when it was constructed. A further series of test excavations showed that this excess concrete ran in both directions the length of the hedge. Finally, we hit on the idea of moving a shrub in the top corner of the lawn. With any luck, its roots would have broken up any rocks. As we were digging the shrub out, a voice said words to the effect of “Hello there. I live two doors along, how are you? Keen gardeners by the looks of things.” I turned and made small talk about gardening, and rain and things of that ilk. The voice was impressed at such dedication so soon after Christmas although I suspect they thought we were clearly mad too.
My partner and I continued digging, taking it in turns to break up and remove the seemingly endless layer of shale and rock. The roots of the plant had only made a paltry attempt at breaking up the stone. However, Sam would be in her element – she loved stones to the point where she would, bring them into the house and hide them in our bed.
As our labours continued, another voice emerged to say much the same thing as the first. Apparently it is a remarkable thing to dig holes on December 27th especially in light drizzle.
We know all our neighbours in the street now. They still think we are keen gardeners who, on that rainy day after Christmas were out moving plants for the love of horticulture.
I have never had the heart to tell them that we were burying the dog.
Our current Sam is Sam VI and is a worthy successor to Sam IV, the Sam in the tale above.