My best friend. Not only racist but with a habit of peeing into crack houses

Click to follow
The Independent Online

There was something eerily reminiscent about the place: the long, dark drive in the early evening, the first sight of the low, menacing buildings. Then the sound, the terrible wailing and iron bars. It was akin to drowning. Memories flashing by, I nearly bolted but held my nerve. I was here for a reason. I could leave whenever I wanted to.

There was something eerily reminiscent about the place: the long, dark drive in the early evening, the first sight of the low, menacing buildings. Then the sound, the terrible wailing and iron bars. It was akin to drowning. Memories flashing by, I nearly bolted but held my nerve. I was here for a reason. I could leave whenever I wanted to.

I was on a trip to drop my dog Huxley off in the kennels for two nights. I'd never put him in kennels before as, if we are away, he normally stays with my cousin a couple of miles away. He loves it there and I think they must spoil him rotten as he has run away from home twice to make his way back there. Unfortunately they were away and we had to opt for kennels. Previous visits with Huxley to London had revealed not only that he might be racist but that he was prone to peeing through railings into crack houses. So we feel it's best to keep him in the country.

The kennels were a perfectly decent place and the owners tried to soothe our fears with talk of three walks a day and how he'd make friends. But then came the "green mile," the long intimidating walk down between the cages trying to ignore the howls of some of the more hardened inmates. Huxley tried to look tough, but halfway down a butch-looking corgi broke his spirit. He started howling like a girl and clung to my legs in bewildered desperation.

My mind flashed back to boarding school. I could remember the hours before the return when I would sit counting down the minutes willing the clock to rotate more slowly.

Then the drive, reaching the Chiltern Gap that nowadays tells me that I'm halfway home, but at the age of nine sign-posted that I was 20 minutes away from hell. Finally the arrival, the stiff upper lipped farewell from parents and the long walk down menacing corridors trying to speed yourself back into the rhythms of boarding-school survival mode.

It's been said before that an English education is a decent training ground for prison. I definitely found this to be true. First there was the misunderstanding with the man selling herbs in the medina, then the attempt to persuade myself that it would be a waste to leave it all behind. Three hours later, walking past seemingly uninterested guards at the airport. I'm through ... and then the shouts, the hand on the shoulder and the bright lights in the little room. I distinctly remember the dental pattern of the head guard's triumphant smile ...

The next nine months were difficult, to say the least. There was the early chance meeting with Kurt who became a kind of mentor and taught me the basics of how to survive in a North African prison. Boarding school had taught me to cope with isolation, to put up a front, but it hadn't prepared me for Ahmed El Bubba. We shared a cell for the last three months and he certainly shaped my views on a lot of things, not always voluntarily.

Release was swift and unexpected and I moved on quickly, blocking a lot of the experience out and yet, here I was taking my dog to some kennels and everything was flooding back.

I started to repeat the mantra that my parents must have used: Huxley might make some friends. Maybe he was a bit sheltered? Maybe this was what he needed, to meet other dogs from different walks of life? I looked down at the quivering mass of jelly that used to be my beloved hound and longed for some sign of understanding. None came. A menacing looking bulldog in the next-door cage gave an ear-piercing howl and for a moment the whole block fell silent. In that instant I knew that Huxley was about to meet his Bubba and that things would never be quite the same between us. I walked out fast not looking back. As I got into the car and sped off, I started to wonder what the hell I was going to do about the goldfish.

Comments