When you can’t keep your tiny dog under control!


El Comandante was a proper pain in the ass last weekend. We were traveling to London for Easter celebrations and a bit of downtime to write. I needed to check some facts as part of my next book is set in London so it seemed like a great idea to spend some time there.

Our dog is convinced it’s all about him, though. As soon as we got on the train, he jumped in one of the window seats, ready to watch the world go by. I tried to explain to him that that wasn’t his seat. I told him I was very sorry that I hadn’t been able to get him his usual due to my late booking but that I’d reserved another one especially for him. I always put my coat on his chair and he jumps on straight away but last week, he wasn’t having any of it. When I tried to remove him, he growled at me so I left him to it in the silent hope no one would arrive with that particular seat number. Buddy was a good boy, as usual. He lay down under the table and fell straight into a blissful sleep.

Unfortunately, after the first stop, a man walked up to us. “Excuse me, ” he said. “I believe someone is sitting in my seat.” He stared at the dog with a mixture of amusement and mild annoyance. El Comandante ignored the man, blatantly turning his back to him. I tried to negotiate with the passenger, selling the original isle chair I’d reserved for El Comandante. He was nice but politely declined. “I’d really like the window seat if you don’t mind,” he said.

And so it began. I lifted my dog of his seat. He doesn’t like to be picked up so he got grumpy and showed his teeth to both of us. When I put him in his own seat, he jumped off immediately, straight into the lap of the intruder who took his place. He sat down as if there was nothing strange about sitting there and continued staring out of the window with a smug look on his face. The man in question seemed rather taken aback by his action. I tried and I tried but nothing could keep El Comandante away from his window. After a while, I think the man sensed my desperation and lack of ability to keep my own tiny dog under control and moved to another seat.

Finally, El Comandante fell asleep. Until the food cart came by, selling bacon rolls, croissants and beverages. It was the bacon smell that woke him up and when I didn’t buy him one, he watched the cart roll away with the most hurtful expression I’ve ever seen and started howling like I was physically mistreating him. It was the most awful noise. Heads turned. I had no other choice but to buy him one. He took great care in consuming his meal, making sure none of the bread was swallowed. That, he spat out on the floor and Buddy, who’s already overweight, ate it, along with his own bacon roll.

A little later, a young boy entered the carriage. “Look mommy, it’s a doggy. Can we sit here?” El Comandante looked up and exposed his teeth immediately but the kid was super excited, even when I had to hold my dog back for fear of snapping at him. His mother looked worried. “Let’s go find another seat, she said. “I’m sure there’s lots of other places to sit in the train and the doggy looks tired.”

Upon arrival at St Pancras, I had another challenge to deal with. Buddy, our good boy, is terrified of changing surfaces. When exiting the carpeted train, he panics when the surface changes underneath his feet and will immediately go flat, frog style. I have to pick him up and drag both him and my suitcase along until we’re outside.

El Comandante had no sympathy for his brother’s nervousness.  He pulled the lead so hard that it slipped out of my hand and that gave him the perfect opportunity to run after the poodle he’d been eyeing up all journey. Within a split second, he was gone, leaving me to run after him with twelve kilos of dog in one hand and twenty kilos of luggage in the other. I only caught up with him outside the train station because the poodle had left in a taxi. He was looking lost and heartbroken next to the taxi stand, oblivious to the fact that I was furious and out of breath. Then he lifted his leg and casually pissed on someone’s bag.

When we arrived at the house two hours later, I was exhausted and quite ready to kill him. But there were two really big dogs there, running around, defending their territory. He looked lost and once again, I forgave him. I opened my arms and he jumped in, burying his face in my neck.




‘So when will you two love birds be starting a family?’ my sister-in-law asked me for the second time during a family get-together last weekend.

‘I can’t, unfortunately,’ I answered sadly. ‘Babies scare me. I was attacked by a pack of them when I was little, and have never gotten over it. Their teeth are like needles when they’re young. They gang up on you, especially when you start running. It’s…’ She held up a hand for me to stop talking and rolled her eyes at my lame joke. Then she handed me my two-year old niece, who has absolutely no interest in me.

‘Well I don’t think you know what you’re missing.’

Another phrase we hear quite often is: “It’s possible for two women to adopt, you know”. Or: “You could always get a donor.” As if we’re completely oblivious to all the ways for us to have children in this country that thankfully allows it. If I snap after having to defend our choice over and over again, my attacker will look at me as if I’m the unreasonable one.

Why is it that, as soon as you’re in a stable relationship and of a certain age, people start pressuring you into having babies? As if it concerns them personally? As if it will affect their own happiness if you don’t? Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a baby-hating asshole but I do happen to prefer puppies. My wife does too and so we agreed not to go down the children-route together.

Unfortunately, people around us refuse to respect that decision. They will hand me their babies at any given opportunity and tell me ‘it suits me’. I’m not sure what that means. My new shades suit me too but that doesn’t mean I want to commit to them for life. What the baby-naggers fail to see is that babies are just as uncomfortable around me as I am around them. It’s like they can smell the fear on me. They take one good look before they start crying and waving their little arms around, desperately searching for the safety of their mum. “Get me away from her! Now! She doesn’t know what she’s doing!”

Besides the fact that babies don’t like me, I’m not very good with them because I’m not used to being around them and I don’t know how to communicate on their level. It makes me extremely stressed, knowing that I’m responsible for the safety and wellbeing of such a tiny creature. Maybe I’m traumatised due to my failures in the past. The first time I looked after my godson, I forgot him on the tram and only realised he was still on there in his pram when it drove off and an angry woman yelled after me to come and get my damn baby. I’ve never ran so fast in my life. When I looked after a three year old in the South of France a couple of years ago, he arrived at school with chocolate around his mouth, different shoes and his sisters’ sweater on inside out. He seemed so capable that I just assumed he could do everything himself and it didn’t look all that bad to me.

During our family weekend, I took up the challenge to bond with my little niece. I don’t see them very often and I wanted to prove that I was perfectly capable of having a good time with kids. My wife is great with kids and they always seem to like her immediately so I observed her and tried to put myself in their shoes the way she did. Four days is a long time so you would think they eventually warm to you if you just try hard enough, right? So I tried. And I tried. Clay? Lego? Barbies? “No!” was the stern answer to everything I suggested. I gave up on day three after I asked her if she wanted to go outside and feed the ducks. She looked me in the eyes and said: “Leave me alone.” Her mother was beaming with pride because apparently, that was the longest sentence she’d ever constructed.


I’m an author!

Today is the big day that I’m publishing my first book and I can’t begin to tell you how good it feels. For years I’ve been struggling to find my purpose. I always knew designing wasn’t the profession I would grow old with and along the way, my attempts of re-invention have quite possibly caused enough entertainment to write another book about.

First it was music. When I was eighteen, I worked with DJ’s in Amsterdam, convinced I was going to be the next big thing. I wrote hideous house tracks that would make the worst wanna-be-no-talent kids cringe and presented them without shame. After several attempts, myself an my DJ (who is now quite successful in Russia – good for him) got a record deal and produced an album. My royalties in the three years after launch added up to about four-hundred Euros, which was disappointing but not surprising.

After that, it was magic and burlesque. That’s right. I’m not joking. I had the brilliant idea that magic, burlesque and singing would go hand in hand and that it would all naturally fuse into a great one-man show.  I signed up for burlesque lessons and applied to be the protege of a respected magician in the UK. His name was Roy and for some miraculous reason, he accepted me. Roy gave me lessons for free and taught me the tricks of the trade.

My wife was sceptical about my career change but respect to her – she always supported me and told me I was amazing, even if she could clearly see the kevlar thread wound around my finger. Turns out, magic is quite an art on it’s own and takes years and years to master. Duh. Basically, I sucked. Maybe I didn’t practice enough, maybe I didn’t care enough but I never managed to get my test-audience in any state of surprise. There I was in my corset and fishnet stockings, my silk handkerchiefs stuck under my sweaty armpit and my boa on fire. People were always on to me. Roy was very disappointed.

A year later, I decided to devote my life to the guitar. I had lessons – again – and spent a lot of money on stuff I really didn’t need. Things that made me look professional, or at least like a struggling artist. I could see myself on stage in Nashville or behind the scenes, writing for famous country stars. Needless to say, I never got there and I still can’t play a song to save my life.

Sixteen months ago, I started writing. To begin with, it was all a joke. My wife and I had just returned from six months in Hong Kong where we had found a lesbian book in the super market. Neither of us had ever read lesfic before but it was quite an eye-opener. It had something to do with a lesbian secretary, although I don’t remember exactly what the storyline was. I was slightly down from being back and was looking for a new project on the side to distract me from the miserable weather. “I want to do that,” I said. My wife laughed but again, she encouraged me to try it. I love her for that! Since then, writing has become my obsession and I know this is something I could very happily do till the day that I die. I had to learn everything from scratch and spent every free minute writing. It was hard and I wasn’t certain I would be able to finish it but now I have the final product in my hands.

I was in the middle of a range review at work when the security guard put a box on my desk. I got so exited that I was barely able to finish my presentation and kept on looking over to make sure nobody approached the package that was only meant for my eyes to see. When I started writing, I made the decision not share my aspirations with my friends, family and work colleagues. Only my wife and a couple of really close friends know about it. After all, I might not be able to make a living out of it and I will still need a job for the coming years.

Anyway, I saw my sneaky colleague “D” eyeing up the box and gave him the finger from the other side of the room. “Stay away from my pressure cooker,” I shouted, unable to come up with another explanation. As soon as I finished, I sprinted over to my desk and took the package to the toilet. There was a feeling of utter relief and happiness when I finally had my first proof copies in my hands. They weren’t ugly and they didn’t look like I’d made a sad attempt to create something I couldn’t. They looked good! Yay!

I spread them out over the toilet floor so I could admire the repeat and pretend they were in a bookstore. Then I called my wife. “Fuck me,” she said. “You did it, looser.” As I’m writing this, the book snob is reading my second proof it and seems to be enjoying herself. I can hear her giggling.

The dread of editing

I haven’t been blogging much lately. It’s because I’ve been editing my upcoming novel, Lily’s Fire. At first I was excited. I had the comments back from my editor and was impressed with what he’d picked up on. I followed his advice for weeks on end until I came to the point where I wanted to pull my hair out. It didn’t feel like my own manuscript anymore and it didn’t feel natural. When do you stop? When is the point where you decide it’s good enough for people to read? Because it can always be better…

Continue reading “The dread of editing”