A while ago someone posted a great video on Facebook to do with how we spend our lives. They took 28,835 jelly beans and showed how many of them we spend on sleeping, eating, watching TV.
The message is that there aren’t many beans left for the important things, and to use your beans wisely. It’s a vivid message and I’m glad I watched it (I rarely watch videos on facebook or blogs because I get too much screen time and prefer the written word for my downtime).
What made the beans message stick, however, was a comment hubbie’s Aunt left on the post, when I shared it. She said that’s why she feels guilty when she doesn’t walk the dog, because dogs have fewer beans. That phrase has wedged firmly in my mind.
Our poor dog spends much of her life trying to figure out what she’s done wrong. Mostly it’s me telling her to lie down and relax even though I’m rushing round the house and she thinks she needs to keep me company (we got her as a puppy when I was heavily pregnant and I called her to me a lot, to make sure she wasn’t chewing anything, so she thinks her job is to follow me round like a ghost.)
Or the kids will send her away before calling her back a dozen times and then complain when she accidentally whacks them with her tail.
Labradoodles are smart dogs (and get easily bored, unfortunately). Ours can count: when there are two adults minding the children she immediately asks for a walk because she knows that’s when it can happen. So then she gets told off for being clever, and for (rightly) reminding us she hasn’t been out. When I’m working at home I have to close my laptop quietly if I get up to make tea because, if I shut it with a snap, she jumps up thinking it is time for her walk. The same goes for coming downstairs in a jumper, or saying “Right!” (all cues she recognises. And for goodness sake never say “Daddy’s home!” unless you want to unleash chaos.)
She gets told off for begging while the kids have their tea, then is fed scraps from the table. She’s allowed to chase rabbits in the fields but not the bunnies at the farm. She’s allowed to dance with Mummy but not to jump up at strangers. And often, when the kids are finally in bed, and she gets her fifteen minutes of quality bean time, the last thing I feel like doing is taking her for a walk.
But, even before my Aunt-in-law’s comment, I made a commitment to walk her every day. I don’t always manage it, and it’s usually the same boring walk (she hates the car). But now I do it willingly. Partly because it means I can tap out my daily blog in my phone, as I’m doing now. And partly because I hear in my head all the time, “She has fewer beans”.
Below is the next installment in my novel Two-Hundred Steps Home: written in daily posts since 1st January as part of my 2013 365 Challenge. Read about the challenge here.You can catch up by downloading the free ebook volumes on the right hand side of the blog:
Claire scrawled her name in the ‘out’ section of the visitor book and turned to face the man who had come to escort her from the building. Conor reached out to shake Claire’s hand and there was a flicker of a wink and the suggestion of a smile. His hand felt warm and smooth in hers and she was surprised to discover his eyes shone like green glass. Sensing her scrutiny, the man laughed, revealing unnaturally white teeth.
“See anything you like?”
Aware of the blush rushing up her neck, Claire dropped her gaze down to her bag on the pretence of searching for her keys, letting her heavy hair fall over her face.
Clearly one for the ladies, she decided. Mr Cheeky was right. Or maybe Mr Smarmy. In no danger of falling for his charm she was, nonetheless, grateful for his support throughout her ordeal.
Jason, or Mr Mean, as she preferred to think of him, had earned his moniker during the hour-long interrogation. Everything from her marketing qualifications (limited), tourism credentials (non-existent), Myers-Briggs profile (forgotten), reason for changing jobs (undisclosed) and recent history (blagged) had been torn apart and challenged.
The remaining individuals had thrown out one question each on cue but Claire surmised that they were there for aggrandizement purposes only. Except Conor, head of marketing and business development and her potential line manager. His questions had been thorough and relevant and sometimes too acute for comfort. It seemed, like now, that he liked to put her on the spot to see how much he could make her blush.
“Thank you for showing me out.” Claire flicked her hair away and shone her coolest smile. No need to give a man like that encouragement.
“It was my pleasure.”
Claire shivered. Even the most innocent statement sounded like a come-on. His words lit an unexpected fire in her belly, and she gritted her teeth. Glaring at him through narrowed eyes, Claire turned and headed for the door.
Claire looked back, eyebrows raised.
“Don’t you want to know what happens next?”
The eyebrows shot up further. “What happens next? Jason interviews a man, who clearly will be more suited for the role, and I carry on with my life?”
Conor frowned at her words. “Is that what you think? That he gave you a hard time because you’re a woman? And I thought you were smart.”
She turned again and didn’t stop when he called for her to wait a second time. She heard his footsteps as he strode after her and fell in step with her as she walked across the small car park. She stopped before she got to the Skoda, some part of her unwilling to give the man more ammunition.
Facing him, she waited for him to speak.
“He gave you a hard time because you’re by far the best candidate for the role, and if something looks too good to be true it usually is.”
Claire felt a pulse throb in her temples. How long had it been since anyone told her she was good at something? She couldn’t remember.
“If I have my way, he’ll hire you. We need someone like you to bring some life to the company.” He ran a hand through his sandy hair, as if unsure of what to say. “Look, I’m sorry you had a tough time. You have to understand, this is a new organisation. There’s a limited budget and no strategy. But I see huge potential. Jason, Tim, and the others, they’re public sector workers. They came over from the Council to set up this venture. They’re bean counters, regulation enforcers.”
Taking a breath, Conor rubbed at the stubble on his cheek. “I’m not sure why I’m telling you this, except you’re the only person to walk in here and get what we’re trying to achieve. Purbeck is an amazing part of the country, with beaches to rival the Continent. But people came here as children, and stayed in caravans with their gran. They see it as old-fashioned, out-dated. It needs an injection of life, of world experience, to show people what it can be. Look at Swanage. I came here when I was a kid. There was life. Now it’s practically an old-people’s home. We need you.”
Claire looked round the car park, unsure what to think. Conor’s passion surprised her. She had taken him to be a salesman, in for the quick buck.
“I need time to think about it. Besides, I’m not sure you’re right. Jason didn’t strike me as the type to take a chance on someone.”
“He’ll come round, leave it to me.”
He gave her a grin that made him look about twelve, then, with a half-wave, he headed back into the building.
Claire stood for a while, deep in thought. When she was sure he was gone, she paced to the Skoda and hid herself inside.