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Good dogs and wet grass
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I'm reading Agatha Christie's Tommy & Tuppence mystery Postern of Fate right now, and the one thing that's absolutely leapt out at me is how lively and fun and convincing Tommy & Tuppence's dog Hannibal is - about 10 times more well-rounded and believable, to be honest, than 90% of Agatha Christie's human characters. Now, of course, I wonder whether she based him on a real guess, since she was a Golden Age British mystery writer, is that surely - surely! - she must have had a dog or two, but I don't know anything about her outside of the books.

Here's one of my favorite bits:
'Want to go for a walk, Hannibal?' [Tommy asked.]

Hannibal, as was his habit, immediately replied in the affirmative. His affirmatives and his negatives were always quite impossible to miss. He wriggled his body, wagged his tail, raised one paw, put it down again and came and rubbed his head hard against Tommy's leg.

'That's right,' he obviously said, 'that's what you exist for, my dear slave. We're going out for a lovely walk down the street. Lots of smells, I hope.'

'Come on,' said Tommy. 'I'll take the lead with me, and don't run into the road as you did the last time. One of those awful great "long vehicles" was nearly the end of you.'

Hannibal looked at him with the expression of 'I'm always a very good dog who'll do exactly what I am told.' False as the statement was, it often succeeded in deceiving even those people who were in closest contact with Hannibal.

Meanwhile, Maya is sleeping curled up on top of my legs on the futon. Soon I will have to shake her awake - when she spends too much time sleeping during the day, she spends nowhere near enough time sleeping at night! - but she's so cute and so peaceful-looking, it feels really mean to wake her.

She spent part of last night curled up against me while I knitted and listened to a fun BBC radio show online - "A Nasty Case of the Vapours", which investigates the mysterious ailments and deaths of various 19th-century heroines. I'd caught part of it on the radio a few nights ago and shrieked in outrage at a major inaccuracy in the first five minutes (the reporter referred to Willoughby in Sense & Sensibility as "a dashing army officer" - gaaagh!), but the rest of the show is really interesting, especially the interviews with various medical historians, who all disagree about basically everything. (Was consumption the same as TB? Did anorexia exist in the 19th century? Each expert gave an absolutely firm and completely opposing opinion on those points.) One of the weirdest and most interesting points that came up was that people in the days of both Jane Austen and Charlotte Brontë really did believe - and were taught in medical handbooks - that for a woman, walking in damp grass could kill you! (Unless you were a vulgar, lower-class woman who was used to it, of course.) A scary, scary world to live in! You can listen to the whole show online.

Unfortunately, the sky is looking pretty grey and grim outside right now, so within an hour or two I may have to take my life in my hands and walk through the wet grass myself...

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