Manny's dog, Dan, howls in the basement whenever his master goes out without him. You can see his moon-baying shadow from the ramp at the side of the house. Dan is not the short for Danger, even though he is a mat brown rotweiller. When he's taken for a toilet turn, he trots head down along the pavement, drooling at the muzzle, resigned never to be resigned.

Every second person on the coast is an artist. Most, Welsh says, 'draw corks and paint the town a cheap red'. The serious ones come for the luminosity. Manny, from over-the-border Colera, is neither/nor. He has turned his back on the light and dabs frescos on the walls of his basement studio, which does not have a paved floor, interrupts his work twice daily to pump iron at the gym and only talks to Dan, who does not know any French. Welsh describes him as 'a muscular symbolist, who punches the air with a sweeping brush until some of it sticks. Recently he has broadened his canvas to include the ceiling, and his great unfinished work is entitled Sight Unseen'.

It's siesta time and Manny's abandonment of Dan announces itself with a canine transcription of the baleful unaccompanied tuba concerto that Berlioz composed for his own funeral, to a text from 'The long habit of living indisposes us for dying' (Sir Thomas Brown). I notice the lilies I stole from a neighbour's garden last night are dead in the vase. I should have left them in the ground.

I'm not alone in having to share Dan's despair. His somber foghorn disturbs the neighbourhood. Many wish Manny painted in miniature in the open air and stayed away from the gym. And He Who Loves Dogs, Welsh, says, 'If someone took a gun to the ramp and put Dan out of his misery we could all live, if not in peace, at least in quiet'.

I sometimes think of having a word with Manny but I haven't the heart. And so, resigned to be resigned, I throw out the dead flowers and take up once more my failed translation of Count Vittorio Alfieri's 'Cane Gravido'.

Know your master.
Learn to beg.

O the howling of the heart.

to bark at
the intruder.

O the howling of the heart.

The intruder
who is your shadow
until your master comes home?

O the howling of the heart.

Wag your tail.
Good dog.

O the howling of the heart.



Manny muscles the basement walls with distemper.
'I'm raising a sunken cathedral. Somebody
has to do God's work.' He buckets on some more,
and brushes the weeping stone until it is dry.
Then he starts on the ceiling. 'The sky's the limit.
I am holding it up with the human spirit.
My work is almost nothing scrubbed into what's there.
I was the son of a builder of cheap housing,
and when my wife left, that was that. I crossed the border
to the quiet side where I didn't know the tongue.
Now I'm the strong man who makes invisible paintings,
and is the master of the ugliest dog in town.
I go out just to hear him howl for me. The complaints
prove my existence. I get other people down.'

June 2010