Caught by the River

Dog Walk Report: June

Diva Harris | 11th July 2024

Mountain to beach to concrete to moor: Caught by the River editor Diva Harris sends June’s Dog Walk Report from here, there and everywhere.

Ground cover/wall cover: dog daisy, dog rose, bindweed, poppy, nigella, cornflower, clover, Buddleia globosa, foxglove, thistle. Umbellifers I can’t differentiate between. 

June is a month of being here, there and everywhere; together and apart, together and apart and together again. At the beginning of the month I drop the dog off at my mum’s so we can go to a wedding in the highlands. Our flat feels sad and dingy without its long-limbed guardian, and a few stray biscuits left in her bowl from breakfast make me want to cry. 

When we arrive in the mountains we are greeted by our dog’s best friend, and we borrow her for walks to fill the big chaotic gangly void. There are red-roofed crofters’ cottages, a derelict barracks and a seal carcass without its head. True to form, we find a lot of sea-washed victorian kernels on the beach; fragments of salt-glazed stoneware, transfer-printed plate, and codd bottle sea glass. Limpets leave ancient messages, maps of the stars, on the rocks. 

We visit some brocks and the artist’s impression dogs (faraway in time) look like our dog (faraway in space). A dead owlet rests on a ledge, perfect and awful, carried and uncarried on not-strong-enough wings, a skylight to the acid-green summer leaves above — a portal to the beyond. 

My partner, his brother and their Gavin Maxwell-loving dad go on further to Sandaig. Although my hope of seeing otters while we’re in Scotland goes unfulfilled, I certainly get to smell them, the borrowed dog having gleefully rubbed herself in the sweet hot mustelid musk, happy as a stinky clam until another wedding guest ruins the fun with a bottle of Herbal Essences. 

Back by the sea, back together, we escape my birthday party to let the dog blow off some nighttime steam on the sand. My very stoned friends are both in awe of the largeness of the sea and afraid of it, locked in a silent staring contest with the water. Lights blink on the horizon and we speculate (some of us more wildly than others) about flying objects.

When we get back to London, we carefully re-acquaint ourselves with our patch, taking our time over the posts and the posies. Three fat Canada goslings nibble at grass, their parents hissing at dogs. Webbed feet slap on still water and cleavers’ seeds stick in fur like green peppercorns. The hot, full bins make microwave meals for the foxes, who redistribute picnic rubbish around the park.

I graze a bare ankle on a thistle. In some ways summer in the park in the city is fraught with danger: physical, spiritual, psychic. Natural and man-made. Stings on skin; umbellifers which masquerade as each other; the risk of wearing sandals in the grassy unknown. The heat which radiates from the pavements and paths; chemical leaks from the festival loos. Grass seeds wedged between dog toes. The chicken bones from a thousand al fresco KFCs. Discarded old pants on the path at dusk. 

On our usual route home, someone has trimmed their prolific rosemary and left the cuttings on the pavement. I carry an armful home in the crook of my arm like a bouquet, and its glossy dark green scent settles and lingers in my blue dress. 

“I feel like I’m going to find a four leaf clover” I say to B, and then, improbably, immediately do, which feels like a good auspice for the first week of my 30s. (The dog tries to eat it, swallow my luck whole, which is inauspicious, but quite funny). Salvaged, carried home carefully in a pocket, I press it in a heavy book of 1930s hobby suggestions. The dog licks my knee from her bed under the kitchen table as I stretch the rubber bands over the book, and I think of Norma Tanega. 

On the road again — mountain to beach to concrete to moor. Three ponies on the hill. The dog sniffs a circle round a cairn. June ticks into July, a peach streak in the sky, ear tufts and grass tufts blowing in the wind. 


Read last month’s instalment of ‘Dog Walk Report’ here.