The Tale of Bob the Dog, the Grand Prix and the Steak.
When I was a lad we had a Bedlington Terrier called Bob. He was a bit of a chancer was Bob. Although he was pedigree—his official name being Robert Charlton of Chatsworth—he was more Del Boy than to the manor born. Like every dog, he had his days and the one I like to recall is the episode of Bob, The Grand Prix and the Steak.
It was a day long in the planning. The British Grand Prix at Brands Hatch was a special treat for my brother and me, and Dad was taking us. It was one of the most epic days of my childhood and what would turn out to be a classic BGP featuring a legendary tussle between James Hunt and Nikki Lauda (that season was encapsulated in the movie “Rush” with Chris Hemsworth). But this story isn’t about that. It’s about the drama of equal magnitude unfolding back home with Mum and Bob.
Mum loathed sport. I can’t say I blame her. It is fleeting and shallow and of little importance in the grand scheme of things. She was arty and creative and tried to make the world a better place, a far more noble and worthy thing. So she graciously declined (I imagine) to come with us and instead set about planning her own day, a rare ‘me’ day for her.
Now, we were a working class family. I grew up thinking that the tastiest cuts of steak were the tiniest ones. That’s because, watching Mum in the supermarket, I learned there were three types of steak. The ones she didn’t seem to care much for were “bit expensive” and “I’m not paying that”, whereas “look for the smallest one” was a treasure hunt I was often invited to play.
This occasion was different though. The boys were having an expensive day out—and believe me, going to a Grand Prix is *expensive*—so, for one day only, Mum amended her steak categories and “I’m not paying that” became “sod it, I’m paying that”. She was going all out to pamper herself: it would be a lovely steak dinner, Babycham to wash it down, “Hadleigh” and “Going For A Song” on television and who knows what else, probably flowery things in the garden.
Whilst, miles away, her husband and sons were getting all animated and excited over a bunch of noisy cars, she was calmly preparing her treats with military precision. The steak was done to perfection (in her eyes at least—I’d have given it another hour or two in the pan), the fizz was chilled and poured and the tv show about some posh bloke was about to begin. She took her tray into the living room and sat down in front of the television. Life was good.
Then came the knock on the door. It wasn’t the kind of half-hearted knock that you feel doesn’t deserve answering. This was an important knock, a purposeful urgent one. Mum sighed and put the tray to one side then went to the front door. She was confronted by a small man with a suitcase who immediately told her to have a horrible life. Somewhat dumbstruck, she smiled politely, shook her head and closed the door in his face. A few seconds later, as she was walking back to the living room in puzzlement, she realised he was a foreign gentleman and his accent had disguised the fact that he was trying to sell her “Herbal Life” products. She went back and opened the door but the guy was already standing on a neighbour’s doorstep with a fixed smile on his face and a dubious greeting at the ready.
Mum shrugged and then the theme tune on the television had her scampering back into the living room. With excitement returning, she sat down and picked up the tray. Immediately, she knew something wasn’t quite right. The peas, carrots and potatoes were all exactly as she had left them. The steak, however, was nowhere to be seen. She stared in disbelief at the steak-free region of the plate, wondering if she had gone mad and forgotten to take it out of the pan. But she knew it had been on the plate moments earlier because she had been on the verge of cutting into it.
And then the mystery was solved. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed movement. Bob was sitting in the corner of the room. He was watching her with his very best attempt at looking innocent—a look which, with Bob, could mean only one thing: guilty as hell. This was backed up by the fact that, having just had the most expensive meal of his life, he simply couldn’t resist licking his lips. Over and over again.
Bob was a lovable rogue and you couldn’t stay mad with him for long but he knew he’d bitten the hand that feeds and he was on his best behaviour for some time after that, though I have no doubt he thought it was worth it. Naturally, upon our return, we thought it was the funniest thing that ever happened, and Bob was my hero for the fact that he hadn’t nudged a single pea or carrot out of place. A dog after my own heart.
If there’s a moral to this tale then it is simply this: if you decide to have a little “me” time do not, under any circumstances, answer a knock at the door. And for heaven’s sake don’t leave steaks lying around if you have an opportunistic dog (i.e. a dog).