I have dog envy. I love dogs but do not have a pet of my own so I gaze longingly at other people’s, possibly in a disconcerting manner as far as the owner is concerned, especially when I see a golden retriever or a springer spaniel, my favourite breeds.
Blanche, Cordelia’s gorgeous dog, appeared in my imagination one early morning during a walk past Duke’s Mound on Brighton’s seafront. It is heavily vegetated and a popular site for al fresco sexual encounters. I noticed a cappuccino-coloured underwired bra hanging off a twig deep in the undergrowth and thought how disappointed the owner must have been when they realised they had left behind their expensive lacy lingerie. I was already intrigued by random shoes lying in the street and that is how Cordelia and her psychic ability had come into my head in 2010. I knew Cordelia would be able to ‘read’ the bra but would need a dog to retrieve it from the tree for her. And not just any dog, but a mixture of a Golden Retriever and an English Springer Spaniel. How noble, how intelligent, how smiley, how adorable. That’s Blanche! Being my ideal dog it was apparent to me that she would have to feature in the first lines of Sole Brethren.
“Everyone thinks of their dog as irresistible but in Cordelia’s opinion, there was no question that Blanche was a canine cover girl: burnished copper silken coat with long floppy curly-haired ears, a feathered tail usually in motion, and a permanent smile. Blanche was a golden retriever and English springer spaniel mix. The common name for that hybrid is a ‘spangold’ but it made Cordelia picture something worn by an Iron Curtain gymnast for the floor exercises at the Montreal Olympics. Instead, she referred to Blanche as a ‘retraniel’ even though that sounded like the name of a drug used to treat hair loss.”
Blanche is a good judge of character and can sense if a person is authentic and means well. She is also prescient and heralded an important development in the plot with her initial reaction to Elodie which not even I knew until the final chapter!
Blanche lives at The Weasel, and as a pub dog she spends much time being adored by customers, or snoozing by the fireplace. The novel does not mention this, but as a puppy she was a wedding gift from Rex to Cordelia and Oscar. Now they are divorced (but still the closest of friends as well as being co-owners of The Weasel) she lives with Oscar in the spacious pub rather than in Cordelia’s impractical Platform Boot habitation.
I am eagerly developing the sequel to Sole Brethren and have already written a vignette for darling Blanche that includes a heroic deed. She may not have any dialogue but she is a very important character none-the-less!
The title of the sequel is Sole Brethren: Left To Their Own Devices. I have no idea when it will be finished and published. If you are interested in receiving updates on the progress of ‘Left To Their Own Devices’ please subscribe to my occasional newsletter by clicking here. Thank you.
B.A. Summer (pen name of Jane Peyton), Brighton, UK