And they call it puppy love…

In Sud America, travelling on April 20, 2010 at 10:31 pm

As Max Bygraves used to say I wanna tell you a story.

So I’m eight, or maybe nine, and I’ve got some roller skates for my birthday, or maybe Christmas, as I remember my sister got a pair as well. Shit, I’ve got bogged down in the details, the little details, the minutiae of a tale, my age, whether it was a birthday or Christmas, whether the rollerskates were blue with yellow stripes and yellow wheels, or yellow with blue stripes and yellow wheels – I think the former.

I’m a writer, a storyteller I should know better, but it always happens I get bound up in the details rather than the over arching story, more interested in the tidbits, the fragments which make for a fuller story, rather than the narrative itself. Fuck!

Anyways where was I? Oh yeah, I was not more than ten, and I’d got some rollerskates as a present, and I was downstairs at the back of my block of flats practicing on them. Wobbly trundling along, trying not to fall flat on my face, or scrape my palms as I tried to break a fall. I remember distinctly that I was able to turn left, maybe it had something to do with me being predominantly right footed, or something, but I could only turn left, how stupid was that huh.

So there I am trying to teach myself how to turn left, how to roll in a straight line, over the pockmarked tarmac we called a carpark. When I hear this barking, and my heart fills with fear. That was the sound of Sabre, the white Alsatian that used to terrorise my estate, all the kids were frightened of him. He’d been trained to attack black people, and the kids knew to walk quickly into their blocks when he was about.

So Sabre’s out, and his barking fuelled trajectory is aimed straight at me, I turn and spin round to my left and head for my door, heart pounding, small child images of being savaged by Sabre’s long white fangs, flashing in front of my eyes, just as wildly as my arms flail for balance and I push, totter, scrabble for safety.

But you know what, and if you haven’t guessed what comes next then I’ve got to shake my head, I’ve got to turn right to get onto the path to the door at the base of the block of flats. TURN RIGHT! WHAT THE FUCK?! Ain’t it always the way. Now I can’t explain how it happened, or how I did it, but I turn right, turn right like no rollerskater’s turned right before and I burst through the door, which swings after I pass through it.

I’m safe I think, and I’m heading to press the button to call the lift. When I remember that the door opens both ways. And I’m terrified once again as I spin away from the lift and tip toe on my stoppers hands against the glass – the old school doors were the half glass paned kind, safety glass, but glass nevertheless. And Sabre’s teeth and tongue are snapping inches from me as I hold the door against his thrustings, frightened I won’t be able to balance long enough on my stoppers, that they will slip away from under me and Sabre will get his chance to devour me.

I don’t know how long I stand there, holding the door closed against the white four legged terror. But hold it I do. And finally Sabre is called away. And I can let the door go.

I never wear roller skates again.

And I don’t particularly like dogs anymore.

And your thinking why this story, why is he telling us now? Well Argentina, Buenos Aires anyway is a city of dogs, they are everywhere people walking them, carrying them, refusing to clean up their shit. But its nothing like Colonia del Sacremento in Uruguay where I go with a friend for a day trip. Its only an hour away on a high speed ferry, and it has at its heart a perfectly preserved little colonial town which is the oldest town in Uruguay. Now I’m not totally terrified of dogs anymore, I’ve gotten over the heart wrenching fear that would overcome me when they came near. And I can stroke them and pet them, but I still don’t like them and I still view them as wild unpredictable creatures that at any point will turn and attack.

Attack, attack, attack!!!!

So when I’m informed before we go to Colonia that wild dogs roam the streets and that once it gets dark, they like to clump into packs and chase cars, and possibly humans. I’m not entirely happy. And Colonia is full of dogs, stray ones, that roam around and adopt you, sitting at your feet as you eat lunch, looking for scraps and tidbits. Following you down the street, sniffing other stray dogs when they come upon them.

I feel much safer and calmer when we leave Colonia, which apart from the dogs is a delightful little place, full of olde world charm, and really small buildings. But once you get past the tiny historic town and the walk along the sea front, we didn’t have enough time to explore the beaches further along, there’s not much else to do.

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