It is with doubt a deeply troubling dark and misanthropic anthem. To what do I refer? Well, it's Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer
. It's ostensibly presented, in the main by primary school teachers up and down the land, as a joyful ode to the season of Christmas. It depicts the rising of an also-ran to the head of the group in triumph. Or does it?
Let's take a closer look. Rudolph is depicted in the early part of the song as an outsider, but not just that, an outsider who is shunned and ridiculed by his fellow reindeer in the form of excluding him from their activities and leisure time. You know what, I would like to know what part the main man, Santa, played here. Was he aware of the behaviour of what were, after all, his employees? If so, what did he do about it?
Was there any help offered to the much maligned Rudolph? I expect not and to my mind, so-called Father Christmas has much to answer for. Given there being no evidence to his positive intervention on the hapless reindeer's behalf, was he perhaps happy for this to continue as an exploitative capitalist, divide and rule tactic? Not much chance of the herd organising, if they are so busy concentrating on internal wrangles.
For me, the main evidence supporting this exploitative approach is when Rudolph is finally plucked from the ranks to become first reindeer. It was not an act of kindness on the part of the boss, it was circumstance and chance that elevated Rudolph. To put it short, he was in the right place at the right time, Santa had a problem and looked to his resource to solve it. The rest as they say is history, albeit one which has been heavily distorted.
Do you really think that other reindeer with peculiarities akin to our friend's bright shiny nose were thereafter held to be the best and most useful of the species? Hell no. After Rudolph, it appears the glass ceiling was ever more firmly in place. You could even say Rudolph was a token to the Claus enterprise and one which they have exploited mercilessly since. Rudolph would have remained a backroom deer, I have no doubt, but for the weather that fateful night.
So, as you sing along with the weans this yuletide, perhaps you might take a wee bit of time to reflect on the true story of Rudolph and the less than saintly role Santa played in creating the mythology of the Red Nosed Reindeer, as he spun the story in support of his own legacy, to be the Simon Cowell of his age. 'Discovering and giving a break to talent?' No, me neither.
It may well have turned out very differently for our hero for 'Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. Might have gone down in obscurity'.
I think it has finally come time for this song to be struck from the litany of Christmas anthems, who is with me?
As we stood back to admire the last of the decorations on our white plastic Christmas tree (another clear sign of our impeccable green credentials), Fetiche du Gatine du Bois the VIII trotted in and lifted his leg against the base. A small Yorkshire Terrier, he was displaying a characteristic that had not been apparent when we found him in a French dog refuge near Cognac.
Fetiche marks his territory but in a highly selective manner. We took him all over France, down to Italy, brought him up to Scotland, visited the Highlands and the Isle of Man. Hotel rooms, B&Bs, as well as relatives' houses were left pristine. He only relieves himself in the house where he lives. Some might find that endearing. For us, it means regular purchases of Glengarry tartan body belts and associated disposable pads. Fetiche may have a pedigree that stretches back seven generations and includes many champions. He also wears a nappy and answers to the name Snoopy.
As I changed his pad, I couldn't help ruminating on the other dogs who had complicated our lives. My wife is a doggy person which I am not. At least, I don't think I am. My first was a Weimaraner, with slate blue eyes, a gorgeous grey coat, and webbed feet. In the Weimar Republic, where they were bred, males had to bring down a deer before being allowed to breed. This was not a useful quality in East Lothian which two local postmen and a broken glass front door made plain.
He was followed by a red setter that snacked on car seats and drove female friends out of the living room. A friendly press photographer liked the look of him so we let him move on. Later that same day, the photographer's wife phoned to say she was confined to her kitchen and terrified. The snapper was out working but Tail (an odd name for a badly-cropped setter) was equally busy. We learned later that the marriage foundered quickly and when Tail went skywards after many devoted years, the photographer had to be given counselling.
They came thick and fast in the following years. Molly was a little mongrel terrier who, sadly, was stone deaf. She was okay approached from the front. A pat or stroke behind her eyeline resulted in an instant bite and often blood. She bit most of the neighbours and my mother in law which was not a good career move. Harry was a black Spaniel-Labrador cross who defied regular washing with a permanent body odour that could empty a room. He was also the only dog I have known who could leer. With the ability to scent a bitch on heat at about a mile, he used to slip out of the front gate, head down the lane bitchwards, and before easing under a stile onto farmland, turn and give me a leery look. Ignoring my demands that he come to heel, he then sped off – sometimes for several days. Biscuit was a pretty little brown terrier-type who, we learned too late, was a bolter.
A walk in the park could become a frantic chase if Biscuit slipped his collar. The front gate left ajar could lead to a week's absence. We found him in some interesting locations – a boy scouts' camp, a local pub, and, memorably, at the local police station, where, unknown to us, he was a well-kent face. They enjoyed his visits because he gobbled up their offerings of food and always ate the newspaper on which it had been placed. I think they suspected us of dog starving.
Pippa was a seriously large German Shepherd who looked, to me, terrifying but was instead a cuddle lover who licked everything and played third fiddle in our household to two white cats. When we emigrated to France, we partitioned the boot of our estate car with half for Pippa and half for three cats and an en-suite litter tray. Pippa travelled well and ate normally but refused to relieve herself for two days. The final denouement in a French supermarket car park was not a pretty sight.
When Pippa passed (ruthless breeding had given her a much admired curved rear end that sentenced her to losing control of that area in later life) her successor was Bob, a black collie cross, who grew up in a cardboard box at the door of a French refuge. This meant he jumped up paws first at any human. Endearing at the refuge, this became a nightmare elsewhere. As he grew to full size, his thrusting paws inevitably reached human groin height. Strong men blinked at his welcome while ladies, especially attired in gleaming white leather trousers (we had some odd friends in France) demanded a sponge and towel. When Bob left us, we took a break for several years until finding Fetiche. I suspect he may be my last dog and, like all of them, he will have left his mark... fortunately, in his case, small and damp.
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