There are certain situations in life where it is acceptable to be friendly.
In the countryside for example, where ramblers on a remote fell will always, without fail, stop to have a cheery talk with any walker they happen to meet (standard exchange: “Lovely day for it. Where are you heading? Oh, Lower Forkwipe. Parked at Blackrabbit Head have you? I’m doing the circular walk from Thastlethwack. Lovely to talk to you, have a good day”).
Bus drivers always wave at one another as their vehicles pass, so too Eddie Stobart drivers on the motorway.
This week I have discovered another friendly little club - the vet’s waiting room.
I took Percy Canavan (the cat, not my second cousin in Doncaster) to have some staples in his belly after he was pounced upon by another, clearly far stronger animal. “Could have been another cat or it might have been a fox,” said the vet, as she prodded Percy’s wound and a rather annoyed Percy attempted to take her right hand off at the wrist using a combination of his teeth and claws.
“Feisty one isn’t he?” remarked the vet cheerfully, while attempting in vain to remove Percy’s teeth from her blood-soaked hand.
But I digress. The real revelation during this trip was the 10 minutes I spent waiting for Percival (his Sunday name) to be seen.
The surgery was empty when I arrived but as I took my seat, a middle-aged woman entered with a small spaniel on a long extendable lead.
As she waited to be seen at the reception counter, the woman either didn’t notice or, more likely, didn’t care that her dog had wandered across to where I was sitting and was showing an uncomfortable amount of interest in my left groin. She eventually turned round, saw her dog attempting to mount me, and called: “Oooh, Tanya, hope you’re not being a nuisance”. Before I’d had time to remark ‘yes she bloody well is being’, Tanya’s owner turned her back again to speak to the receptionist.
Eventually she wandered over and sat down opposite before, for reasons unknown, and without prompting, launched into a lengthy and entirely humour-free anecdote about Tanya’s life story.
“Six months old and a bag of bones when we got her. Barbara, that’s my sister, found her at the back of the school. Just sitting there shivering and whimpering, making this dreadful high pitched noise - the dog, not Barbara. No collar. She’d just been left there. LEFT THERE! What kind of person would do that?’
I smiled politely and made the right noises while, never one to be judgemental, privately dismissed her as a one-off, insane individual.
But then, blow me, in walked a fella with another dog, sat between the pair of us and announced: “Tanya did you say? This is Eddie (pointing to a small border collie with a limp). Come to have your back leg looked at haven’t you Eddie”.
Tanya and Eddie parents got on like a house on fire and were on the verge of exchanging numbers and embarking on a short-term but no doubt vigorous relationship when a young lad and girl, holding a cat carrier, entered and took their seats. There was silence. At last. Fantastic.
Then, from the lad who’d just entered: “What lovely dogs. I used to have dogs when I was younger. Got my first in ‘93, a Dalmatian called Dougal...” and off they all went again.
The moral is this: If you are feeling lonely and want someone to talk to, buy an animal and head to the vets – it’s the perfect place to make friends, even if you weren’t planning to.