I took Duke for his daily early evening walk and met a pensioner who was also out for a stroll. He looked like a cross between Bobby Ball, Bruce Forsyth and Buddy Holly. It is no exaggeration to say that he could easily represent his country if there were an Olympic event for unscripted monologues. In our family, we call the art of non-stop irrelevant chatter as “chelping”; my daughters were rather good at it, but this guy was world-class.
Duke was wearing his harness and was on his lead. He is quite a big Labrador, and my new friend took an instant liking to him. He started the conversation by saying Duke should have a saddle; I replied that he had one and what he really needs is a jockey. For me, that was our conversation done; it was short and sweet, contained mild humour and friendliness. For him, I reckon he had gone fishing for someone to talk to and hit the jackpot. Duke made a brief fuss of him before the unstoppable force of his dialogue was unleashed. It went like this.
“I used to have a dog, but he died a few years ago, and we decided not to get another. He was a collie; we always had collies in our house even as a child when I lived on a farm. The last one used to chase cars, I could never trust him on the road, not like your big fella. I think your dog likes me; animals can always tell when humans are friendly and when they are used to having animals around them. You know, my mate had one of them pit-bull things, it used to guard his garage. Do you know it, it’s that exhaust place just down the lane? Anyway, he always told people not to go near it, but the dog was always fantastic with me. Don’t get me wrong, he once said the same to a lady who lives next door to his garage, she ignored him, and he had a little nip of her hand. Well, she was warned. When I lived on the farm, we didn’t only have dogs; we had horses too. There was a German one which was huge. I used to get on well with him, but not everybody did…”
I admit I might have switched off a little bit at this point so didn’t get the full history of the other horses he used to have. Duke did a big sigh because he wanted to carry on his walk. He nudged me gently, but then sat down.
“Did you see that story in the paper about a pensioner who had killed a burglar with a screwdriver after he had broken into his house? Well, I’m sorry but I’m with him all the way; I have no sympathy for the victim. I would do the same thing myself given a chance. It reminded me of that publican who was murdered in the pub down the road about 20 years ago. ‘Mad Mick’ they called him. I’m pretty sure there were drugs involved and someone owed him a lot of money. He had sent some handy lads to retrieve it, but the two guys who owed the money had some handy mates of their own, and they decided the best course of action was to take the initiative and get in the first hit. Things got out of control, one thing led to another, and Mad Mick was shot dead. The murderers were sent to prison, but I happen to know the mother of one of them. She has lived her life under a constant threat but, ooh she’s a lovely woman, and she doesn’t half work hard. You can’t knock that can you?”
I swear I had not said a single word up to this point. Duke nudged me again and then lay down by my feet.
“Have you been to America?” I was not given even a split-second to answer. “I went a few years ago, and I tell ya, they couldn’t understand me. I know I have a very broad Yorkshire accent, but the thing that baffled them the most was that they couldn’t understand what I was saying, but I understood everything that they said. Isn’t that weird? I’ll never forget saying to them that if someone were to tell me where I was going to die, I’d never go near the bleeding place. I didn’t half laugh, but they didn’t get the joke. Either Americans don’t have a sense of humour or it’s completely different to mine. Germans are the same.”
Duke had a little whimper at this point, to be honest, I had a little inaudible whimper too.
“It’s not just Yorkshire people who have difficulty being understood in foreign lands you know. The Welsh and the Irish are pretty bad, a Scouse accent is almost impossible and don’t even get me started on the Geordies. I had a good mate who was Scottish. I could just about fathom what he was saying until he had a drink – which was quite often – and after that, he’d say things like…” this was where he attempted an impression of drunken Scottish utterances which made absolutely no sense whatsoever. “He died when he was in England. His mother, lovely woman, bless her, had to travel down from Scotland to take his body back home. You won’t believe this, every Scottish county that they had to travel through to get his body home charged her for the privilege of travelling through their county. She even had to pay £150 just to get his body out of the hospital.”
I have no idea whether this is true or not, but my gut reaction is to suggest it is complete and utter bollocks.
There were more topics of conversation, too many to list here. The whole experience of being on the end of a world-class monologue was becoming too much to bear. I had to get it out of this situation. There was no option but to interrupt him in midsentence and make some excuse about already being late. I said it was lovely talking to him (‘lovely’ might be pushing it a bit), but I wished I had more time to listen to his fascinating stories. All the while, Duke and I were backing away but facing him the same time. We were least 5 yards away when he attempted to start another topic about a different car mechanic mate who had also lived locally. “I’m sorry, I really have to go, please tell me next time, and I’m looking forward to it already!” That could be the last time I take that route in the foreseeable future.