After the success of Richard Dawkins’s The God Delusion, which has spent many months in the best-seller lists and has elicited so far no fewer than 657 customer reviews on Amazon, I thought it might be a good idea to piggyback on his theme and write a book about dog worship: The Dog Delusion.
The thought came on after a few months in Nice, where it seems that every sweet old lady sitting opposite you on the bus has, peering from a basket on her knee, the face of a tiny ferret-like creature.
Doggy faces on the bus and doggy faeces in the streets. The dogs of Nice are the least continent in the continent. Paul Theroux got excited about them in Pillars of Hercules. The municipal powers place plastic bags and special containers in the streets so that the animal on one end of the lead can collect the droppings of the animal on the other. In some villages the residents hang brightly-painted brushes and shovels on their walls as a hint – but sadly too high for the dogs to reach.
There are many parallels between the two forms of worship: the anthropomorphism, or the way even some non-believers think there’s nothing wrong with belief because it gave us great works of art and, well, it doesn’t do anyone any harm. (Try telling that to someone in Belfast, Iraq or Palestine.)
I know this guy who’s a magazine editor. Lovely chap, but he is to dogs what I am to cheese, (as my cardiologist once wrote to my GP: "This man’s problem is that he is inordinately fond of cheese".)
Well this guy is inordinately fond of dogs. No matter how hard you try to divert his attention, conversations with him will inevitably get around to dogs. If they don’t, he brings the subject into focus with some subtle, oblique reference – like "Do you have a dog?"
He did it the other day. I said, "Why do you ask?"
He said, "It’s just that I find that people who like dogs tend to be nicer people than those who don’t".
I said, "I guess I fail then, I just don’t like them."
He frowned. So I said, "But Hitler did".
He’ll never plug my book now.
Last weekend Nice celebrated the return of the tram after 50 years’ absence. They called it a Fête du Tramway and it was great fun. The “new” mode of transport was free for the weekend and – such is the public passion for freebies – packed. The streets were equally packed and there was a genuine air of celebration.
You bet there was – we’ve had four years of traffic chaos for this.