Harriet and Daisy
It was a bright and refreshingly cold morning as Harriet lead Monty for a long walk out through Lower Theraton. He was happy to be walking along different streets and finding new smells along the way. It would be a long day out and Harriet had brought snacks and drinks in her rucksack. They were heading out to the nature reserve at the Environment Centre. It was the nearest large area of open green space where Monty could go for a good run and have a play if he wanted. Though Harriet had been there before this would be a new experience for Monty, but he was yet to realise it.
Harriet had made a tentative arrangement to meet Daisy to take Monty for a walk and a play. It was Daisy’s idea to meet there on her day off from work.
As Harriet arrived at their agreed rendezvous she didn’t see Daisy anywhere. Monty, however, dashed forward pulling Harriet along and jumped up to put his paws on a woman seated at a bench, much to Harriet’s horror. “No, Monty!” Harriet called. “I am so sorry…” Then Harriet realised it was Daisy. She had only seen Daisy wearing work clothes and a high visibility coat and hadn’t immediately recognised the woman wearing a red patterned dress and burgundy wool coat. “Oh, hello! I didn’t recognise you for a moment.”
Daisy was sitting on a bench, by a display of chainsaw carved sculptures of wildlife and nature, waiting for Harriet. She had been absorbed in her own thoughts for a while and hadn’t noticed Harriet approaching until Monty jumped up to say hello. Daisy ruffled Monty’s fur and leaned forward for him to have a good sniff. “Hello Monty, you made it!” She spoke to Monty before looking up and smiling at Harriet. “I scrub up well when I want to.”
Monty noticed that this person had a slightly different smell from last time, less bins and more floral, and that needed investigating by pushing his nose in and around the folds of Daisy’s clothes making her giggle.
“Sorry about Monty.” Harriet felt embarrassed about Monty’s behaviour.
Daisy took it in good steed and laughed as she continued to fuss Monty as he sniffed around. “Oh don’t worry, I think he is just interested and saying hello. He is so sweet, and friendly. Fancy sitting for a bit before we go for a walk?” Daisy put her hand down on the bench next to her invitingly and Harriet sat down at the far end keeping a distance. The curved bench provided a good view of all the sculptures and gave them something to talk about.
They chatted about the various animals represented in the carvings, the owl with its head turned almost all the way to its back, the giant sized mouse holding a nut, the hedgehog sniffing the air, the many acorns and mushrooms dotted around ignored in favour of a cartoonish rabbit posed as if straight from Easter egg packaging, the hawk in flight with one wing, the other broken off at some point and left to decay on the ground. Monty had settled down under the bench chewing on a stick as the two women talked. It was very much a non-committal, and gentle introduction to each other, neither being testing nor deep in their responses.
At a lull in the conversation Daisy suggested they should walk. “Is Monty okay off the lead?” she asked.
“I don’t know, he is usually on the lead when we are out, I’ve not had him that long and we’ve not really been out that much where he can play. I suppose we could try him, his recall is quite good.”
They walked along the path a short way and then Harriet unclipped Monty’s lead and let him loose. She was a little nervous but Monty seemed quite happy trotting alongside the path following a few scents in and out of the undergrowth, but never straying too far. He didn’t seem to notice the other dogs being walked in the distance, or any other wildlife. Still, Harriet kept her hand on the a bag of treats in her pocket in case they were needed, along with several dog poo bags.
Monty was happy wondering freely but his fear of losing his pack again meant he kept track of the two women and followed along obediently checking and marking the route, just in case.
“Have you always been a woodworker? Carpenter?” Daisy asked.
“Nah, I only graduated from college earlier this year.
No, hang on, last year, huh, I’ve lost a year. I only moved into my workshop this year. It has been quite a change.”
“So what were you doing before?”
“I was, umm, working in a café.” Harriet was keen not to talk too much about her past with Marie. “What about you? Is collecting recycling a career choice, or just a job?”
“Oh it was just a ‘tide me over’ job, but I quite enjoy it now. I’ve been there a year and a half, and have some good friends there. I was…” Daisy chose her words carefully hoping to underplay her modelling, “I was doing a lot of agency temping work, admin stuff and reception work, and some fashion shoots, for clothes catalogues. It wasn’t really going anywhere any more and I wanted a change.”
“A change to recycling?”
“A change to ‘I don’t know yet’. I wanted to go back to college to study and found a history degree course, but I needed to show some evidence of being able to study and research first. I wasn’t all that good at school when I was a teenager. I took the recycling job as I also needed something to do, my friend Steve sorted it for me, and then I gave myself a hobby researching the history of Theraton, just to see if I can, and because it is interesting. So why woodwork then?”
“I’ve done a fair bit of DIY and I like doing practical stuff and woodwork seemed, I dunno, nicer and more creative then, say, plumbing or electrics. I wanted that creativity so I studied furniture making instead of something like joinery work for buildings. I say that, but in the workshop I have a long deadline job to make a pair of doors for a Georgian house. That’s what I should have studied joinery to do! But a job is a job, and Flo, the client, is lovely. She is in Scotland.” Harriet added quickly so that Daisy wouldn’t think Flo was any more then a client. “History sounds interesting.”
As Daisy explained some of what she had learnt about Theraton’s past as they walked along Monty was dragging a stick along behind them. He sensed a change in the pack dynamics, the introduction of an ally or maybe another member of the pack. He was okay with this, the new human was nice and he could sense she was friendly.
“So do you do all the work on your own? Or do you have someone you work with?” Daisy was testing.
“Oh, on my own, unless you count Monty, but he isn’t so accurate with his woodwork.” Harriet laughed. “It would be nice to have an extra pair of hands sometimes, like when you helped with the table saw, but I don’t really have enough work to employ someone, even part time. What about you? Anyone at home? Family?”
“Only Fran at home. My parents are down in the south, I should be with them for Christmas now,” Daisy looked a little sad. “I spend every Christmas with them, but as we can’t this year… I’m out walking with you.” She smiled “But even this staying two metres apart thing is awkward to maintain.”
Harriet stooped to pick up a stick to throw for Monty. “Fetch, Monty!”
Monty took a few steps forward and then stopped, looking at the stick in the distance. He looked back at Harriet wondering why she didn’t want that stick.
“What’s the matter, Monty? You fetch them at home.”
“I’ll try.” Daisy looked around for a stick, found a short bit and threw it. “Go on, Monty, fetch it!”
Monty sat and looked from one woman to the other. He knew something was going on but didn’t recognise the new words, or why they were throwing sticks away. He cocked his head hoping for something so that he could learn what the new word meant.
“Awww, I don’t think Monty knows ‘fetch’. But when I throw a stick for him in the garden he does go and get it to chew on.”
“Do you think no one has played fetch with him before?” Daisy tried again with another stick. She held the stick for Monty to sniff at and then threw it not too far away. “Fetch!”
Monty had a sniff a the stick and then watched it get thrown away. This was what the old pack used to do with bones and bits of food. Monty was beginning to understand a little and so he got up and walked over to the stick, had a sniff and settle down to chew it. He kept an eye on Daisy wondering what she was going to do next.
“I think Monty knows that you want him to have the stick but not why.” Harriet got a doggy snack from her pocket and waved it at Monty. “Come Monty.”
Monty looked at his leader and walked back uncertain. As he got closer he noticed the snack and began to wag his tail. Whatever he had done was a good thing. He put the stick down and sat waiting to be given the snack.
“Oh good boy, Monty! What a good boy!” Harriet gave Monty the snack and patted his head fondly. She then picked up the stick and waved it at Monty and threw it a short distance. “Fetch, Monty!”
Monty looked at the stick and walked off after it bringing it back and was rewarded with another snack.
“Looks like he is learning a new game.” Daisy sounded as proud of Monty as Harriet felt, and they continued throwing the stick a few more times for him laughing joyfully each time Monty returned the stick.
“So, who’s Fran?” Harriet was trying not to sound too interested as they started to walk on again.
“Oh, Fran is my house mate. We share a house, along with Ingrid, but Ingrid is staying with her boyfriend instead of being locked down with me and Fran, well, I wasn’t locked down, but they were. Fran’s a model like I was, but she hasn’t done any work since this Covid thing started, and she split with her boyfriend rather then be locked down with him. Ingrid’s a make up artist and was furloughed. I think she has been back at work part time but I’m not sure if she still is.”
“Ahh house mates. For a moment I was thinking Fran was like your daughter, or partner or, something.”
“Haha, oh no, not Fran, she’d be too old for one, and she’s definitely not the other!”
“Sore point.” Daisy drew breath. “Nope, no boyfriend. You?”
“Nope, on my own. Last relationship wasn’t so good, glad to be out of it.”
They walked a little further in silence, each wondering about the other’s ‘no boyfriend’ situation not quite sure what could be read into it. As they approached the edge of the nature reserve Daisy broke the silence. “Fancy a coffee in town? We could sit outside with Monty.”
“Yes, that would be nice.” Harriet was happy to extend the day out, and called Monty to be put back on the lead. “Anywhere you fancy?”
After a short pause “Not Marie’s!” They said in unison! Then burst out laughing.
“Okay, why not Marie’s?” Daisy was still laughing.
“No, you first!”
“Well, I was in there doing a bit of research…”
“Your history thing?”
“No, house hunting, looking at estate agent details.”
“Yeah, and the manager woman was just so rude commenting out loud about me having the money to buy a house but not buy more then a coffee. And I was going to stay and have lunch there too, but not after that. I mean what did she expect after saying that about me so the whole place could hear.”
“When was that?”
“Oh, just before lockdown, I was looking to move out and buy a house but it just became too awkward to do viewings so I put that on hold for a bit. I might be able to get back to it soon, and have a bit more savings for the deposit now.” Daisy explained with a grin. “So what’s your reason?”
“Marie’s the ex I mentioned earlier!”
“Oh fuck, I’m sorry!” Daisy stopped still on the pavement and put her hand to her mouth. “I’ve put my foot in it haven’t I! Oh crap!”
Harriet turned to face Daisy. “Nah, you didn’t know and I am better off without her anywhere in my life. And your experience of her is mild compared to what she could be like. No, I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have put you in that position knowing more then you did.” Harriet looked at her feet feeling a little ashamed of how she had made Daisy feel.
“Oh, don’t worry about that…”
“Thanks, but just so you know, I like women, I’ve never had a boyfriend. Does that…?”
“Oh no, no, that’s fine. No, I am completely… I’m very… I’m happy about… I mean I’m fine with that. That’s good… I.. I am sorry about you being in a bad relationship. I know that feeling too, also hence no boyfriend. If it were legal I’d give you a hug.” Daisy gave Harriet a testing smile.
Harriet smiled back. “Appreciated. And you too.”
“Thank you. Lets find a decent café then.” Without thinking about it Harriet transferred Monty’s lead into her other hand and the two women headed into town walking just a little closer then they were before.