Writer and organic farmer Amarylis De Gryse imagines exploring Norwich with a dog in tow!
In this Walking Norwich piece, Amarylis describes navigating her emotions and the changeable weather during her in-person residency in the Dragon Hall Cottage. She wonders if there might be a weather god and that a puppy might be a good way to regulate and structure their day, as her own dog so often does. As the piece goes on, Amarylis pretends to traverse through Norwich with her own pup by her side, watching the seasons refuse to settle and considering the city in new lights.
Amarylis’ residency was part of our exchange with Passa Porta house of literature in Brussels.
Imagined Dog Walk through Norwich
Written by Amarylis De Gryse
Translated by Alice Tetley-Paul, 2023
February. It’s still winter, but spring is already impatiently imposing itself here in Norwich. At times it’s so mild you might think it were the middle of April. I tell myself it’s not a feverish symptom of the sick climate, but rather a clear lack of structure among the weather gods. Perhaps one of them is on holiday or has retired, and the newly enlisted weather god is making mistakes that are inconceivable to old hands. If I were in charge of the weather, it wouldn’t have a fixed pattern either. I barely manage to structure my days.
Perhaps the new weather god ought to adopt a dog. The animal would necessitate routine. That’s why I got a dog myself. The set walk times force me to clearly schedule the days and tasks and meetings. Who knows, it might help that weather god too. A weather god puppy with a weather god routine: the frost comes with the morning wee, hail during the lunchtime walk, snowdrops when the puppy can sit on command and perhaps sixteen degrees by the time it can give a paw.
But the new weather god and I are both in Norwich without puppies. So the spring and winter stubbornly alternate while I have my breakfast in the afternoon and heat up my lunch at some point in the morning.
I’ll have to pretend.
Pretend it’s winter and the warmth isn’t making me anxious.
Pretend my dog’s here too.
She wakes me in the morning. I pull my coat on over my pyjamas, push her thick puppy paws through her harness, click it onto the leash and hastily make my way outside. Over Lady Julian Bridge. We turn left and follow the water until we reach Prince of Wales Road, where we turn around and head back, while I encourage her with the voice people reserve for their dogs (soft and high: go pee? Go on! Yes! Good girl!), but only when no one can hear.
I make coffee, breakfast, let the puppy snuggle up on one of the sofas. And then, in the afternoon, we go for a proper walk. Her body, low to the ground from pulling on the leash, leads me to King Street, where she sniffs every façade. While waiting to cross at the red lights, I say: sit. Of course, she doesn’t obey. Sit. Sit. Sit. Quick. But then the lights are already green.
Her floppy ears dance over the grass
We walk towards the cathedral, I let her sniff the trees on the short, neat grass and wonder whether I should really let her do that. In Ferry Lane she barks at another dog and secretly sniffs the trousers of a passing man when I’m not paying attention. I’d been busy wondering which of the façades we would most like to live behind. Perhaps that blue one, with the little gate leading to the garden. In the mornings I would then only have to take a few steps to the field at the end of the street, where the sign reads: Well-behaved dogs are permitted. But we don’t live there so I don’t dare enter; fortunately my dog can’t read.
We follow Riverside Walk to the left, I let her sniff the river bank. Her floppy ears dance over the grass when her hunting instinct compels her to zigzag through duck poo and feathers, following her nose. Don’t roll, I shout.
We stick to the water until Whitefriars and then go up the steps to the left, towards Palace Street, until I realise that’s where we came from. She recognises it too, runs over to the grass, I let her sniff the trees again. At the end of Ferry Lane we turn right this time. We cross over at Foundry Bridge and follow the water home, just like in the morning.
We would do this every day, the dog and I.
And every time something would change.
Look, I would say: snowdrops.
Look, I would say: the daffodils are about to bloom.
Look, now they are showing their yellow faces, everything is happening in the right order.
But the dog wouldn’t listen. She would tug impatiently, the way spring is doing now.
Amarylis De Gryse (b. 1989) lives in Antwerp, where’s she retrained as an organic farmer. Amarylis soon stood out in the writing talent programme set up by the literary organisation deBuren and in 2020 she debuted her novel Pork Ribs, a tragicomic story about caring, loyalty, how memories affect a life and how food can replace all basic emotions. The debut made it to the shortlist of the ‘Bronzen Uil 2021’, an annual Dutch-Flemish literature prize for the best Dutch-language debut. A chapter of Pork Ribs was translated and published on Asymptote’s website. While she was in Norwich, Amarylis worked on her second novel, exploring agriculture and climate change. Her residency was part of our exchange with Passa Porta house of literature in Brussels.
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