Last Saturday, our little Jack Russell terrier Coco and I went along to our first Obedience Lesson. Even though Coco is now three. Which is like sending your errant child to Miss Manner's Deportment Class when she's thirty.
Coco was understandably excited at the prospect of socialising with more than 100 other four-legged friends. Getting to know other dogs is her favourite thing. Next to digging, jumping on things, and leaning out an open car window while we're driving through the countryside.
When she saw the 100 or so dogs milling around the park, she peed a little pee of glee as she jumped around in the car seat. Which made me laugh. And hope that I didn't pee a little too.
Unfortunately, Coco had to wear a bandana for her first lesson, which declared she was A Nervous Dog. Consequently, all the other dogs avoided her. She was like Moses parting the Red Sea. You could almost hear her think: "This park is very strange."
When we began the lesson, the instructor called all the small breeds to a select area. "Show me how you get your dog to sit," she said authoritatively. "Sit!" I said sternly. But Coco simply ignored me and strained to befriend a handsome dachshund walking past.
Horrified at our incompetence, I waggled my finger at her. "We DO NOT waggle our fingers at our dogs!" barked Madame Instructor suddenly. Then again, louder, for the benefit of the entire park: "WE DO NOT WAGGLE OUR FINGERS AT OUR DOGS!"
Everybody looked at Coco and I. Standing silently in shame.
The lady next to us, a new friend called Catherine and her black-and-white terrier called Spike, cheekily waggled her finger at us and winked. At that point, Coco felt it might indeed be wise to sit. I felt the same thing.
We were clearly the dunces of the entire park.
Back in the car an hour later, having learned nothing apart from the valuable lesson of humility, and that humour will get you through anything, I thought of the Kathleen Turner-type instructor (did you ever see the film Marley and Me?) and I couldn't stop laughing.
Coco wagged her tail and did another small pee of glee. That was enough reward for me.
Writing this blog has been a little like our Obedience Lesson. Intimidating, occasionally humiliating, always engaging, wonderfully social, heart-warmingly funny (at least the comments often are), and sometimes cause for people to waggle their fingers at us. (On this note, I'd like to say sorry if anything on The Library has offended anyone: I would be mortified if it did and hope you can forgive me.)
People sometimes criticise me for only dipping into the top layer of life – fashion, gardens, design, architecture, travel, Paris, New York, and those other frivolous subjects, including glamorous old Hollywood celebrities, that may seem pretentious or even shallow. They also murmur that perhaps I tell too many celebrity stories? And that maybe I'd best be quiet? This is true. And so I shall be. Journalists are fortunate to interview hundreds of people in their careers, and sometimes their interviewee's stories are so good, they deserve to be told. (And I know the interviewees don't mind having them told.) But there are also secrets I will never tell.
I have loved every week of writing The Library, and I have come to love the readers even more. I am also touched that many have become blogging friends and look forward to catching up, in email or in person, throughout the year. You can find some of their fantastic blogs in the 'Inspiring Titles' column on the side. Many of us are going to Europe in May. I can't wait.
Unfortunately, the work projects planned for this year are piling up and requiring increasingly late nights. As well as managing the Garden Tours, I'm project-managing other people's book deals, planning a still-unnamed business venture, and (in between) writing a few books of my own. Of all these things, though, it is the Garden Tour clients that are the first priority, and I hope you'll allow me to focus on those lovely people for a little while. (Oh – and if you'd like to come to Paris or London, do email me on janelle (dot) mcculloch (at) bigpond (com). We're getting back to everyone this week now the itineraries are complete.
I may be back here later on. In the meantime, if you want to keep in touch, feel free to exchange details on Facebook (PS I'm 'Janelle McCulloch50'; the one who's the writer, not the porn star. Just so you know.)
Farewell. Adieu. I'll certainly miss you all.