An inordinately long tube ride ferries us from Heathrow, past station after station bearing names we recognise from the Monopoly board of our childhoods, to our destination station Dagenham Heathway.
Alighting from the train we are all agog with anticipation, London at last.
A veritable flurry of texts has passed between Pam and our house sitting host Shelly during our tube ride. We are to await her arrival to pick us up in the car park of a nearby supermarket.
Swiping our newly acquired blue Oyster travel cards we exit the station.
Outside is definitely not the London of my imagination. This could be busy outer suburban anywhere. It is fair to say Dagenham is not the most picturesque place in London.
Waiting in the car park of the supermarket a parade of impatient crazy drivers amuse us as they try and jam into limited spaces.
Patience is apparently a virtue that finds little application in this particular car park. Eventually Shelly arrives and we pile into the car before any fistfights break out amongst locals competing for parking space.
Shelly, her lodger Jo, an ancient black cat Benny and the two enormous dogs JJ and Cara that we will be caring for occupy the small two bedroom terrace house.
JJ and Cara are still both pups being only ten months old however JJ, a male Malamute husky already weighs over 50Kg. Cara, a white Maremma Italian sheepdog, is taller and rangier than JJ however weighs far less.
They greet us with enthusiasm, a tiny metal baby gate is all that stands between the kitchen where they live and the living room. JJ has apparently torn the wood and glass door that once filled this space from it’s hinges.
He is going to be a bright eyed bushy coated handful.
Cara is a little more relaxed, she has beautiful pleading eyes that she puts to great use in seeking attention.
Shelly is, by her own admission, completely besotted with her dogs and expects us to step into her footsteps whilst she is away. The dogs will require at lot more attention than we had anticipated and are not used to being left for longer than a few hours at a time. We quickly realise our plans of daily trips to London for sightseeing have been thwarted.
‘Oh well, what the hell, we are here now’.
Changing plans at this late stage does not fit within our code of honour. We will just have to grin and bear it.
We take the first walk around the neighbourhood with Shelly and the Pups. Despite the profusion of late model luxury cars parked on the sides of footpaths, trash and litter line the front yards of houses. Tumbleweeds of old Western movies are replaced by aluminium beer and soft drink cans rattling down streets in the wind.
Chicken bones and cigarette butts littering the footpath prove constant irresistible temptation for the strong willed dogs. Rubbish from the multitude of fast food establishments in the area is strewn absolutely everywhere.
Even households who make an obvious attempt to keep their yards debris free are defeated by each shifting gust.
Rotting mattresses, lounges with ancient stuffing spilling out. Dog turds left wherever they are laid.
Our journey takes us to the local vet where Shelly introduces us. Future risk to the dogs being covered we make our way to a local pet shop to buy them final treats.
JJ’s STRONG will is matched by his sturdy physique. He has four legs I have but two.
Cara has long legs with hooks for paws, she manages to surreptitiously scoop litter straight into her mouth given half a chance.
We are going to have to follow Cesar Milan’s great advice and become pack leaders.
‘I’m not being aggressive, I’m being dominant’
Any trips we make to London City will have to be short and sweet if we expect to arrive back and find no holes eaten through the walls.
For the first few days we don’t leave the dwelling other than to pick up supplies from the nearby ASDA. This does give me time to work on the blog however Pam grows more restless by the nanosecond.
Walking the dogs is a constant challenge. While JJ does not attempt to eat everything he comes across he is a sniffing and pissing machine who alternatively jerks my arm from its socket either trying to race ahead or pausing to deposit his endless scent reservoir on every vertical surface.
I cannot possible hope to contain his power and use my Pacerpoles at the same time. Luckily the Cetyl Myristoleate I have been taking since our arrival in Anglesey has had time to work its wonders and my knees are much stronger and less painful than anytime since Logrono, Spain.
Pam has to be on constant guard to prevent Cara scoffing down all manner of trash that she comes across. She is particularly attracted to the many items of clothing or shoes we find left on footpaths or in the parks of the area.
Despite this constant battle the dogs are very appealing. They have a ton of personality and we have no trouble falling in love with them.
JJ is super bright though equally headstrong. Children in the area give us a wide birth, whispers of ‘wolf, watch out for the wolf’ both precede and follow us.
Cara is a loving sweetheart with tender eyes, she entices children to pat her, they recoil in fear from JJ.
Sights of Dagenham fill me with rage each time we take the dogs for a walk.
People here appear neither poor nor hungry yet they apparently chose to live in squalor.
Clumsy anger filled poems I wrote decades ago scream twice daily through my mind. Pam will only let me post the most benign.
A Pox upon thee
I curse thee, and thy descendants
With Gaia slain choked
Sundered the last bonds of our interdependence
May larvae crawl unbidden
From our edgeless refuse middens
To take everlasting turgid repose
Cored within your overripe
Worm eaten, maggot’d souls
Each time as we return from our twice daily walk I find myself singing Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds ‘Papa won’t leave you Henry’.
Pam urges me to find something positive to say about this dreary area. It takes me a while however finally I realise I have also been seeing the diamond in the rough at least twice daily.
The traveling rule I have adopted in other more scenic areas needs also to be applied here.
Look up, look up, look up……
Look up and you shall see, lazy spinning in the midst of suburbia, the gigantic blades of three wind turbines.
I don’t know why I have never thought of it before.
Rather than tearing up the precious top soil of farmlands to install infrastructure or placing them in all places of natural beauty in ways oft found offensive to some eyes let us fill the deserts of our grim suburbs with these energy delivering whirligigs.
Now if we just coat every available surface in Black Hole Vinyl to accompany the white painted spinning artificial trees we shall finally rid ourselves of the constrictive fossil millstone we tote everywhere that shall fast drown/drag us to our deaths before becoming our collective tombstone.
Pick up after your dog and put your rubbish in the bins provided kids.
Mick and Pam
Scintillation stripped from each quanta quenched
Vibrant deposits incite charged potential cascade
Quanta course transparent laminate falls
Released to Midnight’s pooled embrace
Midnight gains ascendance over brightness of the day
Reflected twilight inverts those quanta unspent
Back to whence they came
Though nary a moonbeam’ escapes
Quantified potential from each quanta surrendered
In Midnight’s transparent ascendancy reflection deceased
Convert every surface to reap each Sunbeam’s fall
Flexible lightweight Photovoltiac Black Hole Vinyl
Essential Midnight laminate that easily installs
Over existing roof tops and walls
Onto footpaths, roads, parking lots, skyscrapers, malls
Engineer constructive solar futures collective
Midnight’s draped ascendancy so plainly apparent
Only windows remain see through transparent
Sunshine’s vibrant caress elicits widespread surface charge
Trickle turns to cascade turns to raging torrent of sparks
Re fused spark inverted becomes bright AC
Midnight’s ascendancy illuminates habitual choices
Humans start to ask, ‘Is this the best that we can be’?
What if energy, suddenly, was plentiful and cheap?
Or better yet, abundant and free?
Not called a cartel for nothing see!
Subtract a cartel’s Tithe from every transaction
It’s not money makes the world go round, it’s energy
Woven into Price itself, Tithes’ impact lies implicit
Death, murder, warfare, rapine, all find Price illicit
For sake of age long arms race
Let all peaceful lands invaded
A plainly hidden basis stated
A global carcass traded
In every rotten currency
Re fused spark inverted becomes bright AC
Midnight’s ascendancy transpires to wins’ for all
Everywhere everything electrical spectacular evolves
Sparks alight our simple species conscience
We agree we’ll breed selectively in spectacular consensus
Our Green House restored as our species primary focus
Gaia released from our fossilised wreath
Coughs up asphyxiating hydrocarbon grease
Sighs our forgiveness, her call quiet
Sweet song sung in gust and breeze
Her whisper rustles leaves in forests let re-grown
Sails whitecaps across oceans let bountiful refilled
Dances dust devils of rich soil Perma-Farming restored
Life’s abundance renewed righteous as our holy creed
The whole world wholly feeds
Synthetic Photosynthesis reclaims atmospheric footprint
Manufactured captured carbon sates our needs forever more
Humility usurps hatred; we forget to wage war
Re fused spark inverted becomes bright A/C
Midnight’s ascendancy summons from the grave
Nikola Tesla’s spectre bold materialises
His stern face barely hiding the smile in his eyes
Or the hope in his edict, as he loudly states
‘Better far than never’
‘Is a century too late!’