In due place to forget one’s wisdom is sweet, says Horace, so I have prevailed upon Digitalnun to allow me a guest post on her blog. I think the snow has addled her wits (not that she has many) because she agreed without demur. Of course, it could just be that she wants a little holiday from blogging. You can’t tell with nuns. They keep things under their wimple and look at one over the tops of their spectacles in a quizzical way. It’s terribly ham, but what can one expect? They never go to the theatre or watch a good film.
Anyway, back to my favourite subject, me. I joined the community at the same age as St Bede, viz. five years old, on my return from Sweden, where I had been sent on a missionary journey of sorts. My year in Sweden taught me a great deal about snow and ice, for both of which I have an affection, but also reinforced in me the desire for a more solitary, monastic existence. My people knew I would never again be happy in their kennel, for I had known the delights of woodburning stoves and forest walks. Happily, they had just received an enquiry from some nuns wanting a male dog as companion to one of their older community members who was becoming housebound. It was impressed upon me that this would be no sinecure. I would be the monastic porter, the wise old man at the door of the monastery, whose duty it is to welcome everyone; and though I would have a comfortable bed to sleep in because of my age, I could not expect any ‘spoiling’. Fortunately, I have a soft spot for the ladies, so I leaped at the chance.
I have many wonderful children and grandchildren, including the fabulous Jilly (reserve Best in Show at Crufts last year and this year’s Top Dog All Breeds — she takes after me, obviously), but was becoming less and less attracted by the endless round of shows and ‘engagements’ elsewhere. I had had enough of fame. Now I desired stability, a regular routine and the comfort of the same fireside. The monastery gave me what I craved. I soon discovered a genuine taste for religion, especially since it meant I could stretch out on the only comfortable rug in the house (the one in front of the altar) while they chanted the Divine Office. I resented being booted out for Mass but found compensation in the library with a fire and supplementary biscuit or two. I don’t know much about the Song of Songs, but, apparently, one look from my kohl-rimmed eyes would melt the sternest heart. Guests would plead for me, and the nuns would give in!
To my great joy, we moved to Hereford last year and now, not only do I have some beautiful country to roam over, I have a woodburning stove to lie in front of when the weather is foul. My nuns are well-trained and know exactly how I like my kibble and chicken-and-rice when my digestion is a bit sensitive. (Don’t forget, I am of French origin: I won’t eat anything tinned, sacre bleu!) There were a few little problems about managing to get my bed placed where I wanted, but by dint of stretching myself outside Digitalnun’s doorway for a few nights, I achieved my aim. Whether it was my paw or the hand of another (allegedly, Quietnun) that opened the door, I shall not say. It is enough that I’m allowed a spot all my own, right by the radiator.
I am ten now and have been with the nuns five years. My life has all the serenity one would associate with the cloister. I am very quiet, except when I give tongue (that’s houndspeak for the lovely basset profundo which is my natural note). I eat well and enjoy much freedom on this side of the grille, so to say. I give a superb example of humility to all (not difficult with legs my size) and spend much of my time with my eyes closed, meditating on the Four Last Things: supper, walkies, tummy tickle and bed. I am a good example of the alternative name for my breed: the Happy Hound. In short, I am Duncan, the monastery PBGV, a smalle hounde, such as Chaucer wrote about, but a true monk at heart, one who demonstrates the truth of the words, Ego dormio, sed cor meum vigilat. (I sleep, but my heart keeps watch.)