I’m in my sister’s bad books. I kindly offered to take her dog for a stroll – she’s currently struggling to walk long distances because of a nasty outbreak of athlete’s foot (though she’s asked me not to mention it in print as she’s embarrassed) – but managed to lose a brand new £15 pet toy she had purchased the day before.
The toy – designed for particularly frisky dogs – is circular, a bit like a frisbee, and which, when thrown, goes miles. Clearly that’s a slight exaggeration. It doesn’t go miles, that would be ridiculous. No matter how frisky your dog, even a greyhound would struggle if you threw it in Blackpool and it came down in Chorley.
But it went a fair distance, as I discovered when I gave it a mighty throw – and hurled it straight into a nearby river.
I told her the news on my return. “You absolute cretin,” she screamed. She was pretty relaxed about it.
As well as being an accident, it was out of character, for – and I don’t wish to blow my own trumpet here, but just occasionally it needs a gentle parp – I am an excellent thrower.
I’ve always been good at it.
Take skimming stones. Most people manage one or two. My average is about 10, even in choppy waters and with a sore elbow. Indeed, I once managed 14 on a windy day at a reservoir just outside Nuneaton – it remains one of the highlights of my life, and it is a major regret that stone skimming is not an Olympic event. If it were, I feel I would be a multi gold medallist and would now be sponsored by Nike, live in a huge mansion with a stunning wife (as opposed to Mrs Canavan), and be hanging round with the likes of Mo Farah and Jessica Ennis-Hill discussing stuff like nutrition and which Lycra pants to buy.
I put my stone skimming skill down to the fact that my dad and I used to do it for ages, mainly because it was free. My dad was quite tight and never took me to place where other children went, you know fun places like Alton Towers or Disneyland, or indeed anywhere that cost more than £1.50 to get in.
I remember the conversations with other kids at school when we returned after the summer holidays.
“We had the BEST time,” my mate Lee Shuttleworth would say. “We went to America and I met Mickey Mouse and went on a speedboat. What did you do?”
“I went to the local river with my dad and chucked stones in,” I’d reply.
Lee would guffaw and run off to play with the cool kids, while I’d stand forlornly and reflect, not for the first time, why I didn’t come from a normal family.
But my dad’s tightness paid off, because now in adult life I am absolutely top drawer at throwing stuff.
When I go walking to the Lakes with the lads, for example, we have a game where every so often we stop and set a target – like an distinctive-shaped boulder in the distance – and then each try and hit it with a stone (I think from that last sentence you really get a feel for how exciting my life is: some folk drink to excess or take drugs – I don a rucksack and walking boots and try and hit an overhanging tree branch with a pebble).
But here’s the thing. While my mates miss, I invariably hit the target and, quite pathetically, it gives me a superior and triumphant feeling for the remainder of the day. Simple pleasures…
However, this ability to throw failed me last week when, as mentioned, I took Paddy, a slightly mad Border Collie with a bowel problem, for a walk.
I was in a field when I produced his brand new 15 quid toy. Paddy was so excited he stopped in the midst of doing his seventh poo of the walk and began barking wildly.
I swung my arm back but just as I bought it forward and let go, my foot slipped and the toy flew out of my hand at a strange angle and travelled around 400 yards – at which point I thought two things; ‘wow, that goes a long way’, followed by ‘it’s not going to land in that river is it?’
The answer to the final thought was, ‘yes it is’. It splashed down in the centre of what was a surprisingly fast-flowing river.
I sprinted along the bank, remembering my sister’s final words – ‘this toy cost a fortune’ – and wondering whether to dive in, Baywatch style, and reclaim it.
Having neither my costume nor armbands with me, however, I decided against it, and watched it drift off into the distance.
“Erm, there was a slight problem during the walk,” I informed my sister on our return. She has not spoken to me since and has rescinded my invitation to Christmas dinner. I’m hoping to win her round with her Christmas present – an extra large tub of athlete’s foot cream.