September 27, 2013 6:47 pm

Dog-walking etiquette and why return visits often disappoint

It’s a messy business for those who want to live in an idealised world

David Tang, entrepreneur and founder of ICorrect, offers advice on questions about property, interiors – and modern manners for globetrotters

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David Tang

You are right about the Algarve. I do, however, blame your great sense of humour for equating Portugal to an utterly boring holiday destination. Lord Byron was particularly fond of Portugal, describing Sintra as a “glorious Eden”.

OK, most literary people know that in Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Byron likened Sintra to glorious Eden. But that was nearly 200 years ago and Byron was on his first grand tour as a young man. Even if Portugal had marked him, I rather suspect that all the changes since then are not going to have the same effect on the poet if he were to return to Sintra today. Revisiting a glorious place is a dangerous pastime. Think of the agonies in Brideshead. Charles Ryder’s emotional recollections are an inexorable descent of gloom. And haven’t we all come across old flames who might once have been the volcanoes of our love but years later look dormant and extinct, half-shrivelled and devoid of any heat, making us ask, “How could I have ever gone out with that piece of fossil?” Nostalgia is a potent reminder of our past innocence and naïveté – and sometimes gross myopia.

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I always ensure I have a small plastic bag with me when I take my Labrador for a walk around Belgrave Square so that I can pick up and dispose of any dropping. But what should I do if I come across the dropping of another’s dog on the pavement? Does my civic duty require me to pick it up? And, by extension, should non-dog-owners also carry a bag? If I do act as described, how should I handle a situation when I have already used the bag I had with me for precisely such an event?

It is definitely beyond one’s civic duty to have to deal with someone else’s dog, especially if their dog is larger than one’s own. Otherwise, one would be expected to pick up all the rubbish one comes across in the street, and that can’t be right. But if you were a real goody two-shoes or an ardent admirer of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals, you might then have the urge to do to others what they would not do to you. It’s a messy business for those who want to live in an idealised world. In your case, you should at least take with you more doggy bags than you need, or it would be like carrying just one square of loo roll when going into a public lav.

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I am always interested to read your musical suggestions for certain situations – from accompaniment in morgues to how to irritate nuisance neighbours. What are your favourite pieces of music to listen to while burning calories on the gym bicycle?

My exercise regime is rather erratic and mostly consists of running for cover, jumping to conclusions, and stretching my imagination. But occasionally, especially in a foreign city, I try to make a point of going out in the open for a gentle jog. When I did it recently in Pyongyang, North Korea, I had the whole city to myself, as there was no one else around. It was eerie and I imagined myself in one of those films in which the whole world has died and I am the lone survivor, half-expecting to run into Morgan Freeman. The paradox, of course, is that the North Koreans are experts in “Arirang”, that massive movement of people in parade. So where are they all and where do they practise?

I also like listening to audio books. I went through Bleak House, which was bleaker than a multiple-marathon, before I discovered poetry which was refreshingly shorter. Listening to Richard Burton gurgling through Under Milk Wood makes me instinctively exercise my teeth and jaws as well. Good old P.G. Wodehouse always makes me chuckle and even curl up, which is always welcomed as a camouflaged rest.

But when I’m indoors on, say, a cross-trainer, I would do my daily cryptic crossword by taping it on to a board in front. In the background, I would put on a bit of avant-garde music – quietly playing – to jar the grey cells into action. Which explains why I don’t go to “professional” gyms that pump through loud and monotonous music. If I were ever to have control over their music, I would choose compound time signatures, such as 5/4s (as in Tchaikovsky’s extraordinary waltz in his last sympathy) or 7/8s (as in the last movement of Prokofiev’s 7th sonata). Or, for the less esoteric, Dave Brubeck’s rendition of “Take Five”, in 5/4s. It will be interesting to see who, in their leotards, have rhythm and who have not!

Email questions to david.tang@ft.com

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