Dark to light, then dark again

Words by:
Maxim Griffin
Featured in:
March 2023

Banjo can’t settle – never settles – barks every second, growls into space, looks beyond corners with Wilko Johnson eyes… By Maxim Griffin.

Vet says it’s time – Banjo’s almost 15, not bad at all for a Springer, but he’s becoming weird – snapping – he didn’t break the skin, but y’know – there are children in the house – vet says it’s time.

Middle of the night – witching hour – Banjo’s bouncing off the walls – after a quick and bleary coffee he’s hooked up to his lead – he shuts up because he never barks on a walk – Meg sticks her head up out of her bundle of cushions – she’s coming too – we steal softly out.

The street lights are timed to switch back on at six, but the moon is up and it’s crystal ship clear – the slates of the terraces shine silver – you could read a slim volume of Dadaist poetry by it – Meg is on the right, Banjo on the left – they pull at different paces – flick the torch on – red beam while we’re passing through the sleeping streets – far Belmont sends a red light back and the breath of dogs begins to rise.

It’s freezing – you can see the feathers forming on the windscreens – walk in the middle of the road because there’s nothing moving for miles – the tarmac glitters – Banjo’s cloudy eyes only just reflect the moon – this night has the colour of slowed down Debussy – the fists of Orion are shot through with satellites – we cut through the usual fields – keeping that sense of routine, ritual – Banjo sniffs the usual sniffs and pees on the usual corners – his back legs falter and he slumps for a moment – oh mate, it’s time.

Best friends
There’s a chalk line across the last of the night sky – moon heading west, drawing ice out of the ground – our breath sharpens in the blaze of the torch light – across the field a pair of foxes rut and holla – Meg dashes around Banjo, play bowing and huffing, but he can’t keep up with her pace – the ball is thrown a short way – he can’t keep up the pace – we’re shadows on the blackthorn.

The first street lights flick on – six – still no one about – we get in, unbuckle, de-boot – Banjo starts barking – every second, spinning in circles, growling, howling, snarling into space – he has his medicine hidden in a lump of Cheddar and resumes his noise and motion – Meg settles in her blankets, but Banjo is still 100 miles an hour – we’ve understanding neighbours but it’s Sunday morning and not light yet – we buckle up – another walk for the sake of peace – two of the boys come down and boot up – John loves to see the moon and Rufus loves Banjo very much, they are best friends.

Day is coming – a mist off the canal but the sky is clear – those chalk jet lines turning red in the east – Banjo plunges in and out of the water – always a strong swimmer – but he needs help getting on the bank – he growls, blank-eyed and goes back on the lead – the boys know he’s ill but not what’s coming – they’re off ahead, all sticks and machine gun noises, blasting invisible Nazis – if they were dogs, they’d be spaniels too. There’s an iron bridge everyone knows is haunted and Banjo needs help getting over the stile – he snaps at my old herringbone coat – come on, good boy – he clicks back into the present – good boy, come on.

The world turning
We’re out beyond town again – two miles along the river and off into the big fields – no one is ever allowed near the abbey – there’s a wall remaining, some earthworks – never been excavated – Henry VIII did a thorough job – the boys want to investigate but they’re not subtle enough for that style of light trespass. A vast red cow forces her head through the beech branches, all steam and beef – John likes cows and begins a lecture in mooing – the cow retreats and poos much to the amusement of the boys – they run on cackling, calling to Banjo but Banjo doesn’t hear.

The moon begins to vanish – a perfect bright stone fading into the hills – the sun is coming – timed it right – to see the sun rise is a wonderful thing – daily, profound and free – the oldest magic. Jackdaws and crows over ploughed fields, a river of mackerel clouds turn ruby, orange then blinding white – the boys fuss Banjo and Banjo fusses the boys – ice cracks as we pass. Light begins to fill the outmarsh – through a far wood comes the first sight of the disc of the sun – look – how quickly it comes – look – the sense of our movement in space, the world turning – the boys faces shine, cold and gleaming – Banjo’s back leg falters again – oh mate, the world turning.
It’s time

Field to field and across dry ditches – dog and boys keep going – hoar frost in the reeds, hoar frost in the wires, steam from the factories, the mute flights of jet liners – miles – we must have knackered him out now. Banjo enters the river and swims lengths – he once swam the length of Saltfleet Haven and into the sea, he’d have kept going until Denmark too – he needs help on the bank, growls low and goes back on the lead – the growls are alarming, but it’s the snaps and bites – we’ve tried everything, we’re his fourth home, no one else could cope with his energy – his medicine takes the edge off but that’s no way to live – the vet says it’s time.

Home – boots off, kettle on – a promise of sausages, eggs, pancakes – Banjo, unbuckled, dashes to his place – barking every second, spinning – he pauses and pinches the bacon from the kitchen table, dashes off as he snaffles it, Gollum style – the back legs falter again – the boys don’t see, they’re already fighting dragons on the Xbox – Banjo barks and barks, a rind of raw bacon in his chops, but nothing behind the eyes – the vet says there’s nothing to be done, it’s time – the vet is right.

Banjo: 18/3/08 – 8/2/23

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Have you seen this months copy of Lincolnshire Life Magazine? 📖 If not, you may have missed their feature on the Taste of Excellence Awards, including our very own Tristran Russell presenting the Best Farm or Local Shop to this years winner and finalists Doddington Hall and Gardens, Manor Farm Shops and Garden Centre, Leasingham , Nr Sleaford and Leagate Road Farm Shop, congratulations to you all! 🍾 #awardsceremony #awardsnight #magazinefeature ... See MoreSee Less