My partner has always wanted a pet: a dog; a spaniel, to be exact. I don’t want a pet, especially a dog, of whatever breed. Such a disagreement could be a deal-breaker when negotiating the start of a relationship so, during our courtship, we made light of the difference -such was our enthusiasm for each other. We explained it away as a consequence of my pet-free upbringing and then implicitly agreed to avoid the subject.
But it never quite went away and, over the past few years, my partner has gradually re-introduced it into the relationship. She was never so crass as to watch Cruft’s Dog Show on the telly - at least not in my presence - but began occasionally to pass comment on dogs we saw in the street, dropping hints like “That’s exactly the kind of dog I want”. Hers is a technique of suggestion rather than confrontation but it has led me to conclude that a) she would still like to have a dog and b) it should be a spaniel - one of those wet-eyed, curly-haired little creatures which many people find irresistibly adorable and others find just irritating.
So, have we reached a crisis point in our relationship? Have long-suppressed differences now surfaced to signal that it is headed for the rocks? I hope not. I cling to the evidence of other couples I know who remain intact despite their obvious incompatibilities. There’s couple A: he likes camping and outdoor adventures whereas she would rather, if she had to go anywhere, stay in a comfortable hotel. There’s couple B: he likes music, fine wine and good food while she cares nothing for music, is teetotal and enjoys eating junk. Then there’s couple C: he is an omnivore while she is a vegetarian. And only yesterday I heard a radio interview with a Palestinian who is married to an Israeli. Vive la difference. Love conquers all, it seems.
So need I worry? Maybe not. Regarding the acquisition of a dog I do have a reasoned argument for my position, which is that we live in a high-rise flat. But still my intransigence nags at me and, in the spirit of compromise I am moved to demonstrate empathy with my partner’s desire. So I took it upon myself recently to research “easy maintenance pets” and discovered there is one which I could entertain - the solitary bee. A coincidental trip to the hippy shop decided it: while searching the shelves for a packet of quinoa (another concession I make for the sake of the relationship) I saw that they had a beehut for sale - at a reduced price! A beehut is a man-made residence for a species of bee called the Mason which likes to live alone, requires no feeding, walking or ball-throwing and is generally no trouble at all.
The beehut is now firmly fixed to the railings of the balcony, facing South East, in the hope of it catching a few rays of sun and attracting a homeless, grateful and, I hope, friendly Mason. Fortunately my partner is appreciative of the selflessness of my gesture and has refrained from showing any disappointment. Nevertheless, I am the one checking, several times a day, for signs of habitation, despite the fact that it is winter and even I know that it’s too early to expect a result.
Yesterday I found an idle moment in which to google bees. I am starting to worry that this could be the start of a whole new relationship.