‘Get this party started on a Saturday night, everybody’s waiting for me to arrive,’ blasted Shirley Bassey in the car as we drove from Bariloche airport in Argentina. How apt, I thought – but no, it wasn’t all about me arriving. ‘It’s the song from Cats and Dogs 2, gran,’ said my granddaughter who’s 10 like one of her cousins back home in Blighty, Oh joy, I thought – well, I was a bit jet lagged, it’s a 24-hour stint door to door – that means I’ll be watching Cats and Dogs 1 too – and probably both more than once. My granddaughter has Kung Fu Panda 3 in her sights – let’s say, I’m pretty familiar with KFP 1 and KFP 2 already, lucky old me. And her dad (aka my son) has told me that Cars is also on the cards courtesy of his son aged five, who like my grandson in Essex, is into superheroes as well – but, god help us, isn’t there a Cars 2 too and no doubt 3 is in the pipeline?
Ok, so I’m a grumpy old woman but show me a parent or grandparent anywhere in the world, universe, space who doesn’t feel just a tad jaundiced at having to watch the current best film ever of their no doubt beloved child or grandchild over and over and yes, over again. But of course it was completely fantastic to see my son, his wife and their two children waving at me as I waited to haul my suitcase off the conveyor belt and to be able to hug and kiss them after all this time. And, as we drove home beside the huge glittering lake with the mighty Andes in the background, on came ‘Spiderman, Spiderman, does whatever a spider can’ – just to make me feel at home, perhaps.
We arrived at their little wooden house and, blow me, what a surprise – a new puppy with the regulation big brown eyes, soft flappy ears and large paws – how sweet – one of six found dumped in a bag near their house. ‘She might yap a bit at night,’ said my son. ‘No worries,’ I replied, ‘I’ve got my earplugs’ – I’m a light sleeper and back home my partner snores a bit. Over here there are nocturnal noises from local wild life like a computer in McAfee scanning mode, a fridge turning on and off, a buzzing fish tank and outside the odd guard dog barking at the moon. Anyway, I soon found out that caring for the puppy involved a lot of ‘No, noo-o-o-o, you so-and-soing dog from my son, and ‘Ow, oo-oww, basta, basta, basta’s from his wife as Cristal, as the pup’s been named by grandson, leaps up in welcome, her huge paws clawing at their legs (and now mine) – lovely. My son’s built a barrier of old bunk bed sides to keep Cristal in the kitchen which is just at the bottom of the little wooden stairs down from the balcony where I sleep (a bit like in Heidi) with my granddaughter. Cristal’s not quite house-trained yet which makes getting to the kettle of a morning somewhat of a challenge if you get my drift. But as me and my granddaugher doze on our futon, my son or his wife clean things up and squirt vinegar liberally about on the floor (as a disinfectant, you understand) and soon the beautiful scent from a lavender joss stick is wafting up the stairs.
The thing is that the family already have two dogs who live outside in the garden: Paisa, a Catalan dog and fellow passenger on the plane when the family moved here from Barcelona, and Dina, a large amiable, yeti-like creature, a stray who was hanging hopefully around outside Alfredo’s, the local butcher’s up the road. As you might think, the doggie dynamics here have got a bit complicated – Dina and Paisa used to be bosom pals, but as Cristal bounces into the garden like Zebedee on speed, Paisa gazes at her dotingly with liquid brown eyes (cue Donny Osmond singing Puppy Love softly in the background) and Dina skulks off to sulk among the raspberry canes.
Into the mix throw a couple of assorted cats: a tabby one from Barcelona called Pita (oh yes, on the same plane too). And don’t go looking it up in your Spanish dictionary, it stands for Pain In The A— – let’s face it, miaow, miaow, miaow at the window at 4am in any language is not a what you’d hope for in a dawn chorus. The other cat looks like the one from Room on the Broom and was adopted us as a kitten when we were all staying in a cabaña on the other side of the lake. We brought him home in a cardboard box and my granddaughter, named him Saltarin, which means ‘jumping’ which he does a lot and this cheeses off Pita who arches her back and hisses horrendously. But Saltarin gives as good as he gets and they seem to have agreed on a stand-off situation. Pita the cat and Paisa the dog, having bonded in Barcelona, are erstwhile BFFs but now Pita, poor pussycat, has been pipped at the post in Paisa’s affections by the bouncy bundle of fun or hound from hell (depending on your perspective) called Cristal and the times they are a-changin’ as Bob Dylan might sing. And best not to expect Pita and Saltarin to unite in their feline disdain of the intruder any time soon – they sit in opposite corners of the room, surveying the scene through narrowed, glinting eyes.
So we have Cats and Dogs Live right here, right now. Will I be let off watching the two film versions, I’m wondering? Hm, not likely. But, you never know, they might not be all that bad. After all, they’ve got the great Bette Midler doing the voice of Kitty Galore and I can cuddle up on the sofa with my granddaughter and grandson. And with Shirley Bassey belting out the theme tune in Cats and Dogs 2, maybe I should be thankful for small mercies – at least it’s not Frozen and that so-and-soing anthem, Let it go.
*Granny on the frontline is Jill Garner, grandmother of six.