As the years have gone by I have grown accustomed to people not ingratiating themselves when it comes to me personally. I am not known for my fondness of strangers. It took three years for me to accept the new postman. I am rarely comfortable with people unfamiliar to me, let alone life's oddities such as the Anglo (you will note I declined to specify the word English out of respect to my southern friends) couple dressed strangely identical and standing at the gates to my wee Shangri-La in the Spanish hills. I prefer peace and solitude to tend my gardens, prepare my own version of recipes gathered, and to be left to ponder not only my navel, but also the delicious blue skies about me. Besides, it had not gone well at the original meet and greet with the new neighbours. To be told that I resembled a 'bank robber' at our first meeting did not sit comfortably with my wife Siobhan for a start. The crinkling up of the noses when I declared which city I was from set back the Scottish-Anglo relationship from our side of the border by at least another century. All in all the chances of us being good friends is as likely as snow in July. We avoided them when we could. So it was with weary steps that I descended the rockery path to greet the matching anoraks now encamped, with arms impatiently folded, by my freshly white-washed entry way. I put on my best not-quite-a-smile-possibly-just-this-side-of-a-I-am-tolerating-you-but-only-just! look about my face as I opened the wooden gates. I was very conscious of the fact that my wife would not approve of me being outwardly rude to our new neighbours. Perhaps she was right, perhaps I should make an effort to actually be nice and polite to the execrable couple who stood so churlish before me.
"Hello hen" was my standard opening line.
"Rita" came back the reply. "Hens are something that lay eggs and festoon a wicker basket during a bar lunch, surely?"
"Right... what can I do for you this early on a Sunday, Rita?"
"Can you keep your dog from barking during the night?"
"I don't have a dog here Rita"
"You must have, it kept us awake every night this week!"
"No hen, we do not have any animals here, certainly no a dog."
"Not hen...Rita! You must have, it barks all night long"
(Deep breath) "No doll, just the two of us here, no dogs, just us"
"Nonsense? Excuse me here doll, but..."
"Please, my wife's name is Rita, not doll not hen, Rita. Be advised, we are going to stop by the other new people who live up the hill and get a petition to stop you barking"
"Away you go then pal, but see me? I never bark, but you be advised, I do bite on the odd occasion, especially when provoked by a couple of wee dafties trumpeting at me on a Sunday morning."
Silence.... A stone cold lingering silence.
"Right hen, is that you two done then? I'll be away back to my coffee. Thanks for stopping by. You two be sure and keep an eye out for that wee dog, eh?"
"My name is..."
"Aye, that'll be about right doll, cheerio"
Strangely enough, our matching North Face friends fae down the way have no troubled us since the enquiry about the dog that we do not have. Our espresso moments continued unabated long into those precious Sunday mornings and the intercom never rang again before the back of ten. The other new-comers further up the hill do have a dog, a lovely wee thing by the name of Baxter. His owners, a smashing retired couple fae Oxford, called around one lunchtime with flowers and a bottle of wine to apologise about wee Baxter settling in. Not necessary, very nice people who are often to be found at our table enjoying a meal, a glass of wine and our company. Not once have they asked about my face or passed comment on my banking arrangements back home in Glasgow. They aren't to keen on the people further down the hill it seems, something to do with their dog and an early morning intrusion I believe. Och well, sometimes it's just nice to be nice, eh?
Barking Dog Cocktail
3 oz Tequila
2/3 oz Crème de Bananes (banana liqueur)
1 oz VodkaGarnish: Lime Slice
Fill a highball glass with ice. Add the tequila and banana liqueur. Fill with sweetened lime juice. If it is too sour, add some lemon-lime soda. Add the vodka, garnish with a slice of lime. Serve with friends, throw a wee ball and clap the dog.