Who is in the photo at right?
This is Danny, who is a seven-year old Jack Russell. I’m Matthew Parker, author of a number of history books, mainly on the West Indies. My most recent is Goldeneye: Ian Fleming’s Jamaica.
I live with my family and other animals in East London.
What's the occasion for Coffee with a Canine?
Danny’s nominal owner is my fifteen-year-old son, Ollie, who has a Saturday job as a barista in a local café. He claims he’s incredibly good at it, so we’re checking it out.
I have to say I’m with Ian Fleming on this. One of the many things he loved about Jamaica was the Blue Mountain coffee. Very smooth and rich. It’s really hard to get hold of here, so I always bring loads back from Jamaica. On this occasion, Ollie makes me a delicious latté.
Any treats for you or Danny on this occasion?
It has been known for him to receive a sausage from the café, but he’s getting a bit chunky round the haunches. My treat is the coffee, which I usually make at home.
How were you and Danny united?
My wife grew up with Jack Russells and always wanted one for our family. But I was opposed to having a dog in a big city – I think it’s unfair on them. But then we moved near a park… When Ollie was little he used to be scared of the dark. We live in quite a rough part of London and he was worried about burglars appearing in his room. When he was given Danny, that all stopped straightaway.
[photo left: Danny the puppy with Ollie]
We got him from a farm near a village in mountainous central Wales where we go for most of our summer holidays. So Danny is Welsh, which is strange because he hates the rain!
How did your dog get his name? Any aliases?
His name was chosen by Ollie. Helpfully it’s easy to say with a Welsh accent.
Does Danny do more to help or hinder your writing?
If it’s one of those rare moments when the writing is flowing, it can be annoying if Danny comes in and makes those doleful ‘Please take me out’ eyes. He lives for his trips out. That said, a brisk walk in the fresh air is always very good thinking time.
Cat, postman, squirrel...?
The cats round here are hard as nails, so Danny treats them with fearful respect.
He used to chase squirrels like mad, and even caught one once. Then he stopped that, but has suddenly restarted, as if he were having some sort of male mid-life crisis. Which is strange because he’s had his pocket picked. When we visit my mum’s in the country he goes ballistic for the rabbits. He once chased one down a drain and got stuck. In the end we had to call the fire brigade [photo right], one of whom had to go head down in a muddy hole and pull him out by the tail.
The really big excitement, though is foxes, of which there are many mangy specimens in the park. I guess centuries of breeding kicks in.
Ball, squeaky-toy, stick...?
He loves a stick, but has never worked out that you have to give it back to have it thrown for you. He prefers to be chased holding it. If you don’t cooperate he bashes your ankles with the stick/branch.
What is Danny's best quality?
Kindness. We’ve had a rabbit, hamsters and now a cat, and after he’s got over the attack hard-wiring, he’s been very tolerant and even affectionate. And he puts up with being dressed up by the children.
Who is Danny's best pet-pal?
Sadly Danny’s rabbit friend Charlie [photo left] fell foul of the foxes.
Partly to deal with the mice, we recently got a rescue cat Olive. She’s already bossing him around, but he loves the company.
If Danny could change one thing about Londoners, what would it be?
Surely less traffic. London is growing really fast, and we’ve got a bad problem with air pollution. Danny would prefer everyone on skateboards – he loves chasing them.
If Danny could answer only one question in English, what would you ask him?
At one extreme, whether there was a dog god; at the other, any juicy local gossip he’s picked up from his doggy mates in the park.
If Hollywood made a movie about your life in which Danny could speak, who should voice him?
It would have to be a Welsh actor – Rhys Ifans from Notting Hill, or the late Richard Burton?
What advice would Danny give if asked?
Fresh air and the outside is best – unless it’s raining.
Visit Matthew Parker's website.
The Page 99 Test: Goldeneye: Where Bond Was Born.