Rosie and Jim: Why won’t dogs let sleeping people lie?

The sleeping arrangements of pets and a village-like enclave in south-east London come under the gaze of our columnists this week.

Our writers Rosie Paterson and James Fisher blogged for Country Life throughout the lockdowns of last year, when (one way or another) they ended up alone for the duration. Both used to the time wisely: they revealed the rules of cycling, ranked musical instruments (and not in a good way)shared tales of curious robins, video chat and little old ladies winching shopping through windows. You can catch up on all their columns here.

Now, though, our intrepid pair have moved on — one to become a home owner, the other, er, not. And now, they’re facing the perils of living with parents as an adult, and the coming of winter. They have our sympathy.

 

During lockdown, solo, in Devon, my sole accomplishment (apart from the amount of food I managed to eat) was learning how to sleep. For the first time in however long, possibly ever, I managed to stay asleep beyond 8am. And it was glorious.

Pre-lockdown, I was awake at 6am every morning on the dot. A year after I purchased an overpriced alarm clock that glowed like the rising sun, my flatmate pointed out that yet to hear it go off because I’d never stayed asleep long enough for it to actually do so. It went to the charity shop.

Post-lockdown, now reunited with my parents and still not back in London, I assumed that my newfound love of sleep would continue. How wrong I was. Nowadays, I have a new alarm clock. Or, should I say, three alarm clocks. Their names are Patzy, Gus and Mabel.

Patzy, Gus and Mabel are my parent’s rescue dogs and unlike many of the dogs that belong to the readers of Country Life and any sane individual, they are allowed upstairs, on and in the bed.

Patsy was a deeply damaged and suspicious stray when we took her in, and Mabel, then only 16 weeks old, was on doggie death row because she looked ‘too plain’ (not my words) to attract a new home. As for Gus… well there isn’t enough space in this column to go into all of the problems that Gus has (though the chief one is that he is so annoying he could be utilised as a weapon of torture in Guantanamo).

Following a tricky start in life, letting them have a corner, or all 6ft, of an expensive mattress and some freshly ironed sheets seems like the least we can do.

Mabel sleeps in my bed (her decision, not mine). At first, I tried to tempt her into a dog bed beside my bed. When she rejected that and just whined at me until well into the early hours of the morning, I compromised and put her dog bed on top of my bed, next to my head. This worked well, until she figured out that if she waited until I was asleep, she could crawl down the duvet and use me as a human hot water bottle.

Patzy likes to check in on me around 5am.

Patzy: part dog, part alarm clock.

Gus sleeps with my parents. He has a thing for lying on top of people’s legs. Or their necks. If you move, he’ll make it clear that he’s not impressed. In the morning, he’ll patter into my room, boot Mabel out, shove a rotting tennis ball in my direction, lick my face and sit on my bladder.

But what really annoys me is the fact that despite all of this — the fact that my bed often resembles a giant sand pit with all of their collective grit, mud and hair; the fact that Patzy’s breath can induce violent nausea — the thought of moving back to London and not seeing them every day breaks my heart (just a tiny bit, I’m sure I’ll get over it when I get a bit more sleep).

Living on an estate in Bermondsey throws up every kind of excitement you might imagine. Late senseless screaming at night? Absolutely. Just an insane amount of cats that seem to ignore every kind of boundary? You better believe it. Just yesterday, I came downstairs to find not one, but two cats, that weren’t mine, sleeping on my sofa.

What was my own cat doing in this situation? Sitting there, staring at them, seemingly as in awe of their brashness as I was.

Cats and screaming aside, one of the joys of my new environs is an intense sense of community. We city folk are often lambasted for not having any sense of whom are neighbours are. ‘It’s not like the countryside!’, the people from the countryside say. ‘We know everyone and see each other at the fete on a yearly basis!’

Great. You also have to drive to the pub, your council tax bills are enormous and secretly you all hate each other due to excessive extensions that everyone is objecting to.

My little estate courtyard is a real and proper little urban community. I know all my neighbours, who made an instant effort to introduce themselves when they saw the removal van pull up.

It is more than common to find various front doors left open in the summer months. We receive packages for each other, and keep an eye out for anything sinister. If I need a builder, a plumber, or electrician, I can no doubt ask a neighbour for a recommendation. Even better, I’m in London, where all the stuff happens and the buses come more than twice a week.

We also have a Tenants and Residents Association (TRA), who do their best to look after the estate and more. Just yesterday, the latest newsletter fell through my inbox, and amid the usual concerns about rubbish (too much) and streetlights (not enough), there was a list of upcoming events at the TRA Hall (we even have a village hall!).

The usual stuff was there: a bit of crochet for the older folks, some yoga for the less older folks and bingo (it’s for everyone). But what was this! Miss Dot Com! A drag queen! Now that’s an event that I highly doubt graces the conservative heartlands, and you better believe I’ll be going.

So here we have it. Community, and not just community, but a progressive institution that looks after the welfare of its members and breeds a sense of care that is shared by its members.

I think it’s a great idea. I hope it might even catch on to the rest of the country.

Rosie and Jim: ‘I did not miss this. I did not miss the pain’

This week, the phrase 'be careful what you wish for' comes back to bite both of our corona-correspondents.