Living in the countryside doesn’t just involve worrying about your bins. You also have to become obsessed and furious about dog shit. I am really fitting in.
I am always infuriated when I see dog shit on a country path. You know that some other dog owner has been through there, let their dog do its business and then adjudged that they haven’t been seen so they can move on. You hope that such selfishness would be punished by the same dog owner stepping in it on the next walk (or their dog rolling in it), but you know it’s unlikely. But worse than them are the people who do bag up their dog poo (which is surely the difficult bit) and then leave that bag placed on a wall or on the floor or hanging in a tree. Like they think some tiny dog shit dustbin lorry is going to drive through the streets and pathways and pick it up for them. It’s not always fun carrying a tiny bag of shit with you until you pass a bin, but it still seems odd to do the nastiest bit and then wimp out. Now the world has to contend with the plastic bag and the horrible contents. I have biodegradable bags so you could argue that chucking them under a hedgerow or burying them might be acceptable (I still carry them home though), but the ones I’ve seen on this weekend’s walks have all been the black indestructible ones. Who are you strange person? Is this an art installation?
Dog shit aside I had a very enjoyable 75 minute walk with my dog this morning, taking in a new wood and coming down to the village through parched and cracked fields, past horses and hay bails.
I stopped in the woods (dog owners, why not let your dogs off the leads there? - they can run off the beaten track and do their business in the undergrowth and inconvenience no one and their poo can slowly return to nature) and checked my phone to discover that Barry Chuckle had died.
I was much more upset than I would have expected. But there’s something more awful about losing a man who has dedicated his life and his old age to silliness than someone who has been sensible and serious. No one called Barry Chuckle should be capable of death. If Barry Chuckle can die, then anyone can die. The death of Barry Chuckle made me face my now mortality in a way that a pop star or even a philosopher could not.
I had hoped to have the Chuckle Brothers on the podcast, as they represent the last of a sadly now dying breed of performers, with an in depth knowledge of sight gags and a link back to the Music Halls traditions. Also I think they would have been spectacular value. One Chuckle Brother would be a different kind of podcast, but my thoughts are with Paul Chuckle who has to cope with the loss of a brother, his best friend and his professional partner all at once. And in death their catchphrase takes on an added poignancy.
I love the silly comedians best. I hope that Barry knew the affection that he was held in. It’s interesting with an act like this how childhood hero-worship turns to teenage ambivalence, turns to young adult ironic love, turns to actual love.
In our radio shows in the 90s we were in the third stage, where we’d have Dale Winton or Geoffrey from Rainbow on with a kind of ironic detached coolness, but yet we and the audience were allowed to express the genuine excitement that we were repressing. I think we always treated our guests with respect and we did respect them. But as you get older you understand the game you were playing with yourself more.
And I’d rather be Barry Chuckle than Bill Hicks.
Which is lucky for me.