The invitation, as I mentioned in my last blog, said 'Dogs welcome.' The occasion was a J.M. Coetzee Festival in Richmond in the Great Karoo. Suppressing a slight scepticism as to the potential festiveness of an occasion dedicated to J.M. Coetzee, I accepted the invitation, packed my case and all Simon's paraphernalia (which took up most of the space in the car), and collected my friend Andre, who had kindly agreed to come along to help manage Simon. Not that Simon required much managing, at least at first. He lay in the back of the car very contentedly for the duration of the seven hours plus that the trip took, with occasional pit stops. So everything was fine -- until we got to the guest house. The landlady had been warned of Simon's imminent arrival, and seemed grimly reconciled to his presence. Simon, however, took some persuading to get into the room; it is possible that it was the particular shade of pink that the room was draped in that scared him (I don't as a rule have much pink about at home), or perhaps the plethora of artificial flowers; either way, he balked, and had to be more or less dragged into the room. Once there, he made his dissatisfaction very clear:
I had naively assumed that we'd be able to leave Simon in the room while we attended the Coetzee sessions, but for reasons sketched above we decided against this. So for the first afternoon, I attended the sessions, while Andre baby-sat Simon. It was clear, though, that this would not really be practicable for the all-day sessions on Saturday -- even if Simon could tolerate being cooped up in a guest house bedroom for a whole day, Andre couldn't. So we decided that Simon would go along to Disgraceland, as the festival was called:
And this was where we spent Saturday, listening to papers on Coetzee. I can't claim that Simon was an attentive audience, but I will say that he was very well-behaved, sitting quite still in the front row, only occasionally gnawing at his chew-bone rather audibly. I thought it only appropriate that a Coetzee festival should contain at least one live dog, as an implicit corrective to the Disgraceland perspective. This would have been a better story if Simon had more dramatically manifested his resistance to that perspective, but I was only too grateful for his docility. I'll do it again, but next time check out the guest house colour scheme in advance.