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On Being Boring

I moved from London to Brussels with my husband nearly 10 years ago. When I told people we were moving, the news was greeted with bemusement: why did we want to move to a city that was possibly the most boring place on earth? Ten years later and I can honestly say that I've had more fun here than I ever did living in London. It might not be the most exciting city in the world but it is a fantastic place to live. It is full of hidden treasures that you probably never get to see as a tourist: wonderful shops, amazing food, great museums and galleries, beautiful architecture, a forest (yes, a whole forest), and so much more... And if that doesn't convince you, well, get on a train and you could be in Paris, Amsterdam, Cologne or, yes, London in no more than a couple of hours... Which other city can you say that about?

Pets

Blog every day in May, day 7: Tell us all about your pets, past and/or present.

My grandfather was a writer. He had over 80 books published during his life (that sounds like a ludicrous number but it’s what his Wikipedia entry says – and copies of his books do take up many many shelves in our bookcase). He wrote a series of detective novels. He wrote plays (one of which was performed by Prince Harry while he was at school – I used to have the press-cutting but it’s been lost to time). He was the successful author of a number of historical novels, mostly based around his experiences of the Second World War. One of these books was a huge best-seller back in the 50s. It was even made into a film staring Michael Redgrave and Dirk Bogarde. He also wrote and illustrated some children’s books. He was a brilliant artist and while his books may have dated, his drawings are still beautiful and funny. In fact, he started out as a cartoonist, drawing comic strips for the Sheffield Telegraph. I have kept some of his cartoons and they still make me laugh even today.

But where were we? Ah yes: he wrote children’s books. Not all of them were published. I’m not even sure they were meant to be. They may just have been for his grandchildren to enjoy. There is one in particular that I remember. One of the unpublished ones. I can’t remember what it was called, but I do remember my mum reading it to us, after we moved to France, before we had a television set to distract us. I remember it being roughly bound, probably by my grandfather himself, with a hard cover. He had illustrated it with simple sketches, line drawings that were more full of character and life, more perfectly captured than anything I could create even with a lifetime of practice and patience. The story featured some children and their little pet dog (you were wondering what this had to do with pets, weren’t you?). The dog was called Take No Notice because, well, he never took any notice. He never did what he was told. And that, I’m afraid to say, is all I remember about the book. I wish I remembered more. I wish I could read the story to my children but I don’t even know if the manuscript has survived. I hope it has. I really really hope it has.

Shortly after we moved to France, living in our tumbledown farmhouse, one of our neighbours offered us a puppy. We didn’t want it: we had just adopted Archie, a beautiful golden boxer, only a few weeks old. But then we found out that if we didn’t take him, he was going to be drowned, just like his brothers and sisters already had been. So we took him. He was a cross between a tiny female cocker spaniel and a huge male Doberman (how the mechanics of that worked, I can’t begin to imagine). He was a funny looking puppy and, in all honesty, I don’t think we loved him very much to begin with. He seemed to bully Archie, constantly stealing his food. And as he grew bigger, Archie only grew weaker. In fact, as it turns out, Archie was very ill. He had an incurable condition that meant he couldn’t digest food and shortly after he joined our family, he died. We were left with the ugly runt. I think we may have blamed him slightly for still being there. But he didn’t give up on us. In fact, he took no notice at all of our resentment and kept on wagging his tail and loving us. And so we called him Take No Notice (after the dog in my grandpa’s book) and decided to love him right back. Take No Notice or No-No for short. My best friend for years. And, so far, my one and only pet.

8 May 2013 - 10:51 PM Amand - I love this story of Take no notice!! And remain incredibly impressed with your grandfathers achievements. xo

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