I have spent the last fortnight or so, trying to cram The Dog and my life into my newly-purchased 42 sq metre flat. I'm not sure if The Dog thinks he’s living in my kennel or I’m living in his. All I know for sure is that we are sharing a very very small flat. Forget all that stuff I said a few postings ago about how Small is the next Big Thing. Theory is one thing and practice is another. Talk, as they say, is cheap.
It requires compassion but nerves of steel withstand the mutely eloquent pleas for a snack from the dinner table, the ears which prick hopefully at the jangle of car keys, and the howls of disappointment and the Prisoner of Zenda looks if you leave home without them. It takes a hard heart to ignore the bedtime pleading to be allowed up onto the bed even when a perfectly comfortable basket and 100% wool blanket has been provided.
I’m not complaining about the rule. Back in the good old bad days pavements and grass verges were peppered with dog turds, fresh or fossilised into darkly coiled meringues. One humid Ponsonby afternoon my jandaled foot landed squarely in a fresh mound of dog excrement. My toes curl now, years later, at the memory of the cloying hot wetness of it, the stink and the long limp home before I could apply the cleansing blast of the garden hose. Owning a dog also requires a tolerance for muddy paw prints on the carpet, dog hair (on everything) and a car reduced to the status of mobile dog kennel. And of course if a canine virus leaps the species barrier, you’re in for a nasty bout of Barking Mad Disease.
I’m not a 100% sure whether Pete thinks he’s living in my kennel or I’m living in his. All I know for sure is that we are sharing a very small flat. A few columns back I blathered on about Small being the next Big Thing. How living small is terribly “on trend”, good for the individual and the planet. Forget all that romantic nonsense. Theory is one thing and practice is another. Talk, as they say, is cheap. Small is actually just Small.
Small means that only about 20% of what you own fits into your home. Small means stacking things and negotiating around or tripping over stacks of things. It means trying to make every item in the house do double, if not triple duty. A chest is storage space, coffee table, footstool and lamp stand for example. Small also means - and this is a matter of some disappointment to the dog - you can’t swing a cat.
I have spent the last fortnight or so, failing to cram the dog and my life into my less than palatial, newly-purchased 42 sq metre flat. It’s a seriously difficult task to decide what is necessary to one’s life and sense of self, what is worth keeping and what should be discarded. Each item large and small makes a special pleading on its own behalf. I’m finding that small things are more difficult to decide about than the large. Clearly that chair, that lamp, that table must go. The books I’ll never read again must go. But what about the images of my daughter’s hands photocopied on our visits to the Ponsonby library throughout her childhood? Her tissue-wrapped milk teeth? What about my awful type-written high school attempts at poetry, the tie clip and cuff links with the shell emblem on them which my long-dead father was given when he worked for the oil company? Should I keep old photos of family members I have never met and am unlikely ever to be able to identify? Unless there’s a support group for Domestic Downsizers I’ll be dithering for a long time about decisions like these.
However, I think there is a quark at the end of the tunnel. I’ve discovered that my flat is subject to a very localised quirk of the laws of physics: whenever a visitor enters the door the size of the flat reduces exponentially. I have yet to thoroughly test the theory, but I believe that if I held a large enough dinner party, the flat would vanish entirely, but - and this is what’s so utterly brilliant - only in this space-time continuum. My flat would simultaneously reappear in another dimension and would therefore be, like the Tardis, of an infinite size.
Given that I’m sharing my home with a dog, Snoopy’s doghouse from the Peanuts cartoon might be a better analogy of the effect I’m describing. You’ll recall that contained within his modest kennel, Snoopy managed to house a Van Gogh painting and a pool table, a guest-room, a whirlpool bath, a refrigerator, a teakettle and a supply of TV dinners, a stereo, a library, a potted plant, electric socks and an outfit for dancing in. What else does one need for a full life?
Snoopy also had a birdhouse in his kennel but I don’t need one of those: my new next-door neighbour has an aviary in her backyard full of canaries and budgies. They’ve been singing their hearts out this week in spite of the rain.