A constant source of amazement to me, the seasons are. Cold fingers are the worst thing about winter as there is only one glove in the house. Buying socks is bad enough. It's one of those things that always needs to be done, but never happens in my life; and now there is just everything to buy. I've got a new house and I'm getting married and it's Christmas and there's all that stuff to buy. A dazzlingly eloquent and sozzled sociologist told me once, as his gaze focused somewhere in the middle of his brain, that all societies basically worship themselves. It's the old question of how many sides does the god of the triangle-shaped people of Betelgeuse have? I'd give him four, but the sociologists reckon that he'd just have the three. By the same token, Christmas is about consumerism and stuffing. We've come a long way from the baby Jesus.
There I was at a Christmas lunch yesterday, discussing the meaning of Christmas in a post-Groucho, digitalised, multimedia society. My thoughts flowed further abroad to the notion of faith in general, and I was wrestling with the next bit, which involved the French in some way, when I was hit on the face by something soggy. When the trifle arrived, so did something sticky, on the back of my neck. I turned around and a cross-eyed, giggling girl covered in the same stickiness was telling me to cheer up. I had been pretty cheerful until I got so sticky, but we were now in a Hogarth painting and I was feeling a bit like a grown-up at a kids' party. You can get away with being 16 until you are about 30. Then you become your dad.
We thought we might get a dog for Christmas. I took a pretty existential approach. The main thing about a dog is that it's a dog, and will be happy to love me, chew bones and all that. But you have to approach it as a consumer of dogs, and decide what sort suits your purposes, like when you're buying a car. She wants the Ferrari of dogs: so our research took us to Shropshire, on the trail of salukis.
It was a perfect Saturday to be on the trail of something. The house was down a lane, in the middle of green. We roared up in the Porsche all covered in bits of maps and crisps. A gentle-looking man came out of a garage. I live in London and I find garages rather glamorous. I wondered what he was doing there. All men are artists and garages are their studios, and his looked like it had some pretty specialised tools. He waved us in, and led us into his home, which had a doggy ambience and a tangy, doggy whiff. There was a nice little old lady, too. She seemed happy with everything, and added to the good vibes. The lady of the house was wielding tea with cups and saucers and a fresh tin of biscuits. The furniture and carpets were covered in shitty, pissy rugs, but, otherwise, this was a really posh house.
It was going very well for us all. First, we were introduced to the aunt and uncle and close friends of the puppies. They live behind the door and were very pleased to see the biscuits. A saluki looks like a large rat with a very small head and big woolly ears. I didn't know that they were sight-hounds, which means that they chase things that move and that they don't really come back until the thing they've got in their sights is dead. It was all a bit of a shame, and I had nothing to say when the proud parents of the puppies were introduced.
You need a large enclosed area to "run" salukis, and we were led through the garden to a huge field that resembled a speedway track. The dogs flashed off like really fast kangaroos and tried to knock each other over in their rush. We shivered while the owners tried to catch them, and eventually went back for more tea.
These people, although they were ultimately trying to sell us something, were genuine enthusiasts, and I was moved by their devotion to the dogs. They really, really cared, and you don't see that so often. It was infectious, and when the puppies came out, I suddenly almost wanted one. There was a hypnotic and powerful love at work. It was a spell. I knew if I touched that puppy, I'd walk out with it.
I took a deep breath of dogshit-piss air through the nose and said we'd call them.
Alex James is the bassist of Blur