Gypsy has at last spared me a precious nanosecond in which to accomplish her portrait. She may well have fundamentalist leanings being that her head is covered most of the time as it is buried in the ground digging for freedom or the pipe to our fosse septique which is Willie Wonka’s factory to a dogs olfactory sense, and for the rest of the time I can only see her fundament at the far end of the lead or sometimes on my pillow as I wake. I was not good with babies, nor with children come to think of it and I’m not all that good with people but I certainly never wanted to be good with dogs so the fact that they have made me their new best friend is unnerving. As I sit at the computer my peripheral vision is filled with black floorbound sprawling attentive poodles. I have become a the Poodle Piper. Poodles are with me wherever I go. Dancing with wolves was nothing compared to dancing with pans of boiling water whilst negotiating a path from oven to sink through a mini pack of highly mobile barking shiny eyed blackness: the folk of the forest, otherwise known as dogs’ best friends, have become accustomed to the grey haired loon being dragged ever further into its depth by the two black hounds of Lilliput, twice daily. My wife has a friend who often offered advice in the form of this doggerel ” …the more you do, the more you may” which I would deride as bollocks and the ramblings of someone who has had the misfortune of spending too much time in Norfolk. The problem is that it’s true – particularly in the case of small dogs. Each pat on the head, each throw of the ball, each tiny piece of chicken offered as a treat and each click of the “walkies” lead mounts up, with compound interest, in the love bank of these small brained love sponges. To keep things simple in the kitchen, whilst doing a sword dance with two living claymores, I am baking potatoes which will be eaten with creme fraiche and, for the lack of Iranian caviar, lumpfish. There will also be the simplest and best tomato salad made from one of several delicious examples that I taxed from our daughter’s garden along with tiny, yet deliciously irresistible strawberries from the same source.