And sweet dreams in big-dog land
It took us 571 days, a big deadline and Oda’s creativity, but the Dog & Hound has finally been rebuilt and officially reopened in Vale das Estrelas on the occasion of my surprise 50th birthday party.
Little did I know all my carpentry, plastering, sanding and painting – let alone the pushing to “get this family project done this week” – had all been a great ruse for project BYOB: Build Your Own Bar...aka Build Your Own Birthday-present.
But it looks fantastic, and it answers one of the big questions raised since the Dog & Hound first emerged in Kenya out of a weird clock and some questionable interior decoration...
Having a bar in one’s house used to be as luxurious as it is dangerous, but that was before the pandemic: I presume everyone now has one? (figuratively if not literally).
But the Dog & Hound opened when COVID was a cute sneeze in a bat cave...in the strange beast of a house in Nairobi where we lived for four years.
Formerly rented by the Swedish Embassy it was protected by a security guard day and night, was surrounded by an electric fence, enclosed within a metal cage and came complete with panic buttons.
But at least the iron bars were fashioned to look…nice…there was an indoor/outdoor room to which we added a dart board and a locally made pool table, and it did have a nice garden...and of course a bar.
There were some security issues in Nairobi of course – the odd terror attack and a sprinkling of violent crime – but we didn’t really need to lock ourselves into the top floor with a security gate every night.
It was reassuring for Ana when I was journalising across Africa – which was more than half the time – but combined with daily dog searches of her car at the embassy gate it was also a constant reminder of the threat.
It’s one of the reasons we decided to live where we are now – I mean I wouldn’t leave the front door wide open in Kenya...let alone the car key in the ignition while at the shops (oops).
Portugal is one of the safest places to live in the world – especially when compared to Nairobi or Kabul, but also alongside London or Los Angeles.
The bar was robust and the interior design was heavy on dark wood, so we decided to go for “tacky” rather than “classy” in our decor.
We’re talking flags – big and small – different African banknotes pinned to the wall, an England 2003 rugby shirt and all sorts of fabulous tacky bar tat.
The name was inspired by a homemade clock fashioned from a photo of myself and Simon, and a wooden sign was quickly and cheaply carved by a bloke down the road.
The question of course was “which one is the dog and which one is the hound?” – a question that was never really, adequately answered.
Extremely dirty martinis were the house cocktail, great receptions and parties were had and the Dog & Hound served us and our guests well.
Since we arrived in Portugal one year, six months and 21 days previously, the Dog & Hound had been languishing around the back of the house still packed in boxes, waiting to be unwrapped and eased back into service.
And so, with oak bought from some oke in Lisbon, with some good advice from friends, a bit of YouTubing and Oda’s skill with a stencil, we finally finished building the bar we’ve been planning for months.
I was delighted with my shelves with hanging stem glasses as per Oda’s specifications...until I realised half of them didn’t fit, as I’d miscalculated while woodworking in the dark (quickly resolved in the light of day I might add).
It was a proper team effort and as we stood back to admire our work and planned the first dirty Martini (shaken not stirred) and a tiki-style birthday cocktail it looked...classy.
With a nod to James Bond Oda explained it need to be “de-classified” and with the unwrapping of tat, the Dog & Hound was back.
But with the new addition of Garfie to the family, the clock seemed...non-inclusive...and so Oda designed a new logo with a hat wearing Simon and Garfunkel welcoming all-comers.
But why, I wondered, did the bar need to be finished by my birthday...let alone a dart board put up?
After my fabulous birthday sandwiches and great presents (I mean, a gold soda stream? wow) and just before being treated to lunch at our favourite restaurant (thanks Andrew), I thought I’d mop the floor “just in case.”
I returned to a surprise party with a British food and darts theme, home brewed beer and home smoked salmon, British pub sarnies, sausages, salads and scones, a Black Forest gateau...plus a game of Swedish kubb and that tiki-cocktail.
It was an excellent evening of friends and family in a happy blur of new fiftyness.
Simon’s never been one for big parties, and Garfie was apparently angry all these people sneaked into our house while we were at lunch, but he did make a big step forward this week.
Since we adopted Garfunkel as a three year old 60kg dog just before he was sent to a shelter, he’s had nightmares.
Suddenly he would start panting and shaking and whining and we would wake him up with a smile and a pat to reassure the big fella he’s in a nice home now.
But we were chatting away in the lounge when we suddenly heard a rhythmic pat, pat, pat coming from the place Garfie lies most days guarding his largely unfunctional radiator.
He was dreaming...but this time he was wagging his way through a happy dream.
A big step for the big scaredy horse/dog...perhaps pleased to discover that he was the dog and Simon was the hound...whatever exactly the difference might be.
Thank you all so much for all the wonderful messages sent and drinks bought for my birthday week.
Oda is sadly (for us) back in LA, and while the bright sunshine and clear skies is lovely, we really could do with some more rain about now.
Our big project remains stuck in various stages of delay, bureaucracy and waiting for quotes as we throw our efforts into learning more about Portuguese wines.
But speaking of quotes, I thought I’d share some of the wonderful one-liners sent to me for encouragement on the occasion of the passing of my half-century:
“Faith consists of believing when it’s beyond the power of reason to believe.” (Voltaire via Marrin)
"Life is either a daring adventure or nothing at all." (Helen Keller via Steve & Mo)
“Give me laugh lines and wrinkles...I want proof of the jokes we shared.” (Rupi Kaur via Eva)
“Audere est Facere,” to dare is to do. (Tottenham Hotspur FC motto – thanks Geoff)
“You have done what many were scared to do, keep doing it.” (thanks George)
“You both have done this so perfectly, as well as perfectly imperfectly.” (thanks Andrea)
“There are no bad decisions you make in your life. The ones you make are like a great painting: once it’s done you can't go back and change it because it would never be the same” (thanks Buck, but have you seen my paintings?)