We can communicate with anybody, anywhere and extract absolutely any information in the world from them, well, except for the following night's lottery numbers. Any form of entertainment except for real, live performances await us on their sleek little screens, and they will readily provide any kind of music we might wish to hear.
Of course, man’s traditional best friends, dogs, are still the most popular pets in the west and still do a lot of work for us. They are appreciated by the police and by border guards for their keen noses, and also by the blind for whom they provide sight. They still work on farms rounding up livestock. They guard our houses, it’s true, but as friends they don't command our attention these days as much as our devices. We like their canine affection, and the way they come when we call, nobody else will these days, with headphones on, or in, their ears. Alas, our noses soon point back at our screens, and the poor pooch is once again left scrounging for affection... “to be treated like a dog”.Unfortunately the common expression “it's a dog's life” no longer carries the weight it once did!
Horses, once our main means of transport, have receded even further from the modern scene than dogs. The size of horses, and their maintenance requirements, have completely pushed them out of cities, while the million mad Mr Toads and their motors make the roads too dangerous for them. Riding has shrunk to being a sport and a pastime for the well healed with country connections. Only mounted police officers and jockeys do anything serious with horses. People in cities have stopped “horsing around”. For most city people the horse might as well be a zoo animal.
In their place have come foxes, at least in London. They gradually moved in and became urban foxes and suburban foxes, generally discrete and staying out of the way. Foxes exist in the popular imagination as exemplars of cunning – we say “as sly as a fox” meaning devious, not intellectual. Yet the success of urban foxes belies their clever nature as they stay away from people, and hence generally stay out of trouble.
We might expect constant strife between urban foxes and local dogs, and even between the foxes and city cats (not “fat cats”, a different breed), yet there is none. Certainly cats and dogs have a reputation for constant warfare: “to fight like cat and dog” but these two sworn enemies are clearly much too busy with their own eternal feud to allow any newcomers to join the fray.
Gregory Edwards, Tutor at OISE London
Gregory has been teaching English for many years. Originally from Canada, he has made his home in the UK, although he also spent some time teaching in Libya. With a previous career in the banking industry, he specialises in teaching English in this area as well as finance, oil and gas, and culture and the arts. He is a published writer of several books on art and poetry and this gives him a unique insight into the importance of language development for students.