GORDON SANITAIRE by Gordon Urquhart (XL)

Animal Companions

When I was six Mumsy and the Senator brought me with them on their annual cruise. We visited a number of places in the South Seas, as people referred to the Oceania region then, and my abiding memory is of the adults sitting on deck in wicker chairs at sunset, playing bridge and drinking gin and tonic from tall glasses with plenty of ice in them. I learned all I know about trouncing slightly inebriated adults at the card table then. When we returned the junior gardener was no longer on our staff and of course his dog Millie was gone too. I had thought of Millie as being my dog, in a way, and had given her pats and the occasional treat from the kitchen when Nanny said it was OK. She wasn’t really my dog though. I used to play with her while the junior gardener was showing Tess, the new scullery maid, around in his shed. The junior gardener had shown me around his shed, and I was mightily impressed, so it seemed logical that Tess might want to be shown around in there on multiple occasions.

Millie was about as close to I ever came to having a pet.

There have been other animals in my life, I suppose. I learned to ride early in life, and there always seemed to be a horse available if you were visiting someone and everyone decided to go riding. One of the great pleasures is to groom a horse but sadly opportunities to do this were few and Mumsy flat out refused to allow me to indulge in this practice when she detected an interest. She said that horses were filthy, which isn’t true, and it was only later that I learned what her true motive was. It was the desire to keep me from bonding with such an animal and activating the horse mad gene she carried from her grandfather Godfrey Bartrim, who trained horses, and won the 1883 Melbourne Cup, and then lost his fortune, and was forced to work for a new mining company called BHP until he got back on his feet again. I appreciate that Mumsy meant well and perhaps I was able to focus better on my future life in the law without cats and dogs walking through the house and curling up in my lap by the fire. They would have been a distraction to my studies, and later to my romantic escapades, but I do wonder sometimes whether their absence left a gap in my emotional life.

Perhaps some of the affection a child shares with a pet was stifled in me somehow, although that’s doubtful. Pretty soon I was boarding at Frencham, punching the chubby boys as hard as I could, and learning how to kick people and get away with it in a series of unbelievably brutal rugby games. That was how healthy boys channelled their energies and sorted out their confusing emotions in my day.

Now as Nancy and I drink our coffee in the morning and gaze out over the dark grey water of Sydney Harbour we look forward to visits from the family of lorikeets which has adopted us. There’s Wayne, Shane and Daryl, and their mum Breeanna. They may not be a real family, but we treat them as one. We left fruit out for them as an Easter present earlier this year and they seemed to appreciate the gesture.

Published in: on November 12, 2012 at 7:29 pm  Leave a Comment  

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