This week we have managed to get our hands on an advance copy of “Bark” the latest instalment detailing the life of Mr Long: Badger, to his peers, or the Duke of Midlife, to his vassals and many humble fans. The Duke has been busy these past few months putting together memories of his first years in the Midlife Garden, or the Firm, as he likes to call it.
Badger has been reminiscing on the events of the last couple of years, how he has brought joy and love to people’s hearts and been the one true star of the Midlife Garden Family. But it has not all be plain sailing for the rugged little soldier. He recalls how he brutally lost his mother at such a young age (well, we bought him) and how that has affected him. How the fact that his parents were of differing cultural backgrounds has affected his outlook on life and how he has always suffered bigotry and prejudice at the paws of the middle class dogs in the village. It explains his vehement dislike of the golden Labrador puppy down the lane, but does not excuse his attempts to rip the throat out of the big black Newfoundland at the other end of the village. We put that down to Small Dog Syndrome.
Badger Boy seems happy to share his most intimate secrets, such as the day he lost his virginity. He says it was a “humiliating” experience, during which the“bitch” treated him “like a young stallion”. But underlying the questions over his prowess, were the muttered questions from some sources, about how dark the offspring from his union with the sexy blonde might have been.
Badger relates his early experimentation with drugs, describing the first time he took Drontal, which led to a night of hallucinations and hysteria which only ended when a member of the household staff took him on a long trek in the early hours to bring him down. This did not reduce his appetite for illicit substances. On another occasion he nearly OD’ed on chorizo and mozzarella balls from an unguarded coffee table. This led to a night of hallucinations and hysteria which only ended when a member of the household staff took him on a long trek in the early hours to calm him down.
Other contentious claims in the book revolve around Badger’s assertion that while out on patrol around the village he has sought out and destroyed up to 25 squirrels, a claim that is as unverifiable as it is unbelievable.
The good news is that Badger is very happy now. He has found peace and love with Carrot – who is always there for him and who does not look on him as inferior in anway, but simply bleats and squeaks at his command.
Badger has come to accept that he has not always been the most patient and empathetic member of the family but puts a lot of these feelings down to the insecurity of being ‘The Spare’, behind Ella who is the favourite, the chosen one, the heir. The pair of them have been through some tough times together and while one might hope their bond would gradually strengthen, Badger’s relationship with Carrot and the treatment of Carrot by other members of The Firm have led to tensions. It all came to a head one day in the garden when tempers rose over a string of sausages. Badger had to take himself off around the grounds – repeatedly – to calm down and although Ella became openly aggressive towards the put-upon junior at least no dog bowls were broken in the fracas.
It is clear that Badger feels belittled by those who see him as no longer a working member of the Midlife Garden, but the question remains as to what he did if he ever was a working member. What exactly does a working member do apart form wag his tail and make people go “ahhhhhh”? Still, the title is important and so Badger remains a part of The Firm, albeit often apart – when out on walks and chasing imaginary deer. He claims that no one else does so much to guard the territory and reputation of the Midlife Garden – if sheer volume and persistence of verbal and non-verbal communication is the gauge.
Despite this, Badger still alternates between periods of debilitating lethargy and terrifying barking attacks, but Carrot has been there to calm him and massage his ego. The relationship between a Carrot and a Dual heritage Dapple Dachs has been the subject of many scurrilous rumours and falsehoods, but if there is one thing to take from “Bark” it is the conclusion that they make each other very happy and for that we should be pleased.
Just don’t keep yapping on about it, OK?