Today, Caoimhe invited me to go to lunch in Victoria Park with her and her flatmate’s wee dog. On the way to Caoimhe’s new place, I stopped by Fraser’s Fruit and Veg to pick up a contribution to lunch–I was hoping for fresh raspberries, but I suppose they sold out of those yesterday, so I settled on strawberries instead. I also cleared them out of rhubarb. A few days ago Fraser had said that they were out of rhubarb for the season, so I was surprised to see the massive red stalks (long as my forearm and as big arround) resting across a basket near the shop entrance. I bought them all, with visions of a rhubarb rose cheesecake dancing in my head. The girl on the register seemed surprised that I wanted them all, for they were somewhat dear (a couple pounds per kilo); I explained that where I come from, you don’t get rhubarb, and that it was worth the cost to me. As I was leaving, Fraser asked eagerly if I had done anything with the black truffle I had purchased yesterday, and his face fell when I reported that I had not yet tasted the strange fungus (which is currently chillin’ in a tupperware in the fridge, waiting for a purpose in life). I told him I would report back as soon as I did something with it.
Upon arriving at Caoimhe’s new address, I suddenly realized that she had not given me her flat number. And of course, I didn’t have my cell phone. Rather than walking back home, I decided to ring every flat in the building until someone either buzzed me in or I found Caoimhe’s flat. I think I buzzed everyone in the building (or almost everyone) before I hit upon her buzzer. Even then, I wasn’t sure it was her–all I could hear on the intercom was a horrific squealing of some kind of electronic interference or feedback, coupled with a lot of yipping. Unfortunately, the buzzer didn’t have a flat number on it, just a name. But I remembered Caoimhe mentioning that she had swapped her long bike in from the far west end of Dundee for a long walk up to the top floor of a building, so I guessed and found her apartment without too much trouble.
There, I was introduced to Red, a tiny strawberry-blonde “jackapoo” or something, who was terrified of the sack of rhubarb I was carrying. Once I was divested of the sack of rhubarb, however, we were fast friends. He laid on my feet while I rubbed his belly, and put his wee paws on my legs to request petting. He is darling.
Red’s darlingness is widely regarded, it seems. After we picked Neha up from her flat, we walked to the park where Red desperately wanted to run with the big dogs. Including the ginormous mastiff that kept wanting to stand too close to me. Troy, the mastiff, was mottled black and tan, and his head was larger than mine, in addition to being significantly slobberier. He smeared his mastiff drool all over my purse. I responded to him mostly by backing away nervously and squeaking for help, something that was probably an overreaction considering his extremely calm and docile behavior, but I am really a small dog person. Huge dogs intimidate me. That are large, and I am wee. Red, being slightly larger than a house cat, is an ideal dog size for me.
Red can also run like a furry red rocket, like a bullet, which is fortunate for him since he insisted on pestering a much larger dog named Tia, who had made it very clear that she did not want to play with him, nor share the large branch she was chewing on. He would dart over to her and she would snap at him, and he would dash away again. He repeated this process many, many times while we were playing in the park.
Victoria park is beautiful, and the air is fragrant with flowers that I can’t name. We walked up the hills in the park, alongside a cemetary built on such a steep incline that we wondered if the coffins slide to the bottom of the hill over time. We crossed a beautiful wrought iron bridge that had been painted bright blue, and were stopped by a young boy who fawned over Red and regaled us at length with stories of the other dogs in the park. He had once seen an old lady in the park with a dog “older than she was”. The dog, Lucy, was getting hard of hearing, but the lady insisted that she just didn’t listen.
We ate caramel slice on a park bench on top of a hill, surrounded by buttercups, looking out onto the Tay. Red very much wanted some of our caramel slice, but it being chocolatey made it not for him. Caoimhe plucked a buttercup to see if it would reflect onto the bottom of my chin, which it did, apparently indicating my love of butter. (Which is true, I do love butter).
On the way home, Caoimhe and I were stopped by another person who wanted to fawn over Red–an older woman who wanted to set Red up with her dog. She talked at length about her dog and her garden, before continuing on her way to the shop. It was after this encounter that Caoimhe and I decided that a small, cute dog is the ideal ethnographic tool. People just want to talk to you when you have one with you.
The rest of my afternoon was filled with the gym, where I finished the Italy section of the Eat, Pray, Love audio book and moved into the India section, with its austerity and thoughts on meditation. I went for a run in Magdalen green, too, and completed thirteen intervals instead of just eight. It was a beautiful run, in the sunshine, and I smiled at the other folks in the park and waved at the wee doggies.
Having met all of my exercise goals for the week, I took a long bath. I had already put a beer can chicken in the oven, and Aaron and Alicia were finishing their contributions to dinner while I bathed, so the house smelled fantastic. We had a pleasant dinner, beer can chicken (the only roast chicken recipe anyone needs ever), sour cream and cucumber salad (a polish staple) and roasted potatoes with sour cream and sweet chili dipping sauce (a dish Aaron introduced us to).
During my bath I was struck by how intensely grateful I am. Not just for the bathtub, which is a blissful thing to have, but for this gorgeous new summer flat, and for this little city which has nurtured me, in its own way, over the long and harsh winter. I am grateful for my dear classmates, who have helped me along through this difficult course and supported me when everything was dark and horrible. I am grateful for Alicia and Aaron, who look after me (and give me someone to look after myself). And I am grateful for the beautiful parks I have here to play in, and the great food that I have available to me, and a capable body that did not abandon me even after I abused it for all those years. In many ways, I am a lucky, lucky girl, indeed.