A dog doesn’t care if you’re tired or it’s raining. It wants to go out – and if it doesn’t go out, it’s going to be mournfully following you around the house for the whole evening.
I have no problem with people feeling a bit down – crikey, you only have to walk down the road to find enough reasons to fall into a depressive coma – but I do have a problem with whining about it.
I was staying at the Konchucos Tambo lodge, next to the Huascaran national park, near Chavin. Sitting here on its veranda, I was beginning to see where all those Latin American magical realists get their inspiration from: they don’t need to make anything up; they just write down what’s around them.
In a way, the road between Huaraz and the lodge is a metaphor for Peruvian politics. It used to be in good repair, and in some places still is.
In my experience, there is a very good reason why a good-looking young woman of around 20 is willing to go out with a man over 15 years her senior – she’s nuts.
Let me start with a confession: I don’t enjoy cooking. The reason I usually do it at home is not because I’m a New Man or Jamie Oliver disciple, but because my wife’s cooking is so bad. In fact, to me, cooking is less a pleasurable pastime than a defense against poisoning.
Not wishing to blow my own trumpet, I’m as near to being the perfect dog owner as it is possible to be.
Our grandparents’ generation never expected too much out of life and, paradoxically, were happier for it. It never occurred to my granddad that he would enjoy work. He hated it from the day he walked through the factory gates at 14 to when he left at 65.
People generally complain that they’re overburdened by responsibilities, forgetting that they chose to have those responsibilities. No one makes you work like a dog in order to live in a nice house, put your kids in nice schools, drive a smart car and go on exotic foreign holidays. It’s up to you.
The rainforest has an intense beauty that at times seems almost suffocating. The jungle is one twig short of impenetrable, and the greenery seems to crowd in on you with a sensation that has been described as akin to snow blindness.
The reason some younger women were willing to go out with my flabby, ageing self was that no one of their own age would put up with them for more than 10 minutes.
The sun setting on the Ucayali, with the Andean foothills in the background, and the taste of freshly cut papaya in my mouth, restoring a body utterly shattered, made for one of those ‘ones to tell the grandchildren’ memories.
There was a time when people had the decency to wait until they were approaching 50 to have a mid-life crisis. Now it seems many thirtysomethings find themselves succumbing to existential navel-gazing.
What older men and younger women have in common is they are both suffering from different insecurities. She is looking for someone to make her feel safe, and he is looking for someone who doesn’t answer back and is a trophy.
When Reg died and we first looked into getting a new dog, I was adamant we should pick up a mongrel from an animal-rescue shelter. It’s not only that they’re usually healthier and have better temperaments, they also fit with my world view – I prefer a ballpoint to a fountain pen, a barber to a hair stylist, and camping over glamping.
With a rescue dog, you take what’s at the centre as long as it roughly fits the bill. When you buy a dog from a breeder, you can choose everything from its personality to how shiny its coat is.
Younger women are willing to go out with high status males. If you look at the kind of women Salman Rushdie attracts, they tend to be intelligent, arty types. For her, it’s a kudos thing. The man just wants a good-looking girl because he imagines that when his friends see him, they’ll all think, ‘Gosh I wish I was him.’