Blue Puppies And Other Good Investments
First Published In SunFlyer


Once the silly season dies away and the hangover subsides, take a moment to consider your New Year's resolutions. If you're reading this in the middle of the year you have even less time to act. Seize the moment and claim for yourself an interesting life - get a puppy.

Puppies are a source of endless joy and wonderment, not to mention a source of artistic inspiration. Once you get past the obvious Hallmark moments, consider my friend Maggie who recently moved to Spain with her husband and three children. Shortly after arrival they acquired two fox terrier puppies. After all, nothing turns a house into a home quicker than cute new additions to the family.

By their very name terrier puppies should strike fear in the hearts of their owners. Intrepid explorers, naturally gifted at clandestine endeavours and filled to the brim with the sheer joy of living, these bite-sized creatures are underestimated at one's own peril.

Maggie is an artist and set up studio on the roof terrace - good light, stunning view of quaint Spanish rooftops and the ocean in the distance, an idyllic environment in which any right-minded muse would feel welcome, warm and inclined to share a stray idea or two.

But back to the two terriers, who seized a moment when no one was looking to sneak into the house and make their secret passage all the way up to the roof terrace in search, no doubt, of spiritual enlightenment and new toys. They were not disappointed. In particular, they found a nice, big tube of Ultramarine Blue paint. Eager to find out more, they ate some, squeezed some from the tooth-holes, smeared it around, rolled and frolicked and generally turned themselves and the carefully selected muse-friendly environment bright blue.

After much scrubbing of the said environment with turpentine, of the puppies with shampoo, and of mouths that couldn't stop swearing with soap, the puppies have thus far remained a happy, festive blue. Inside and out. Maggie is considering framing the tiny blue turds and selling them as abstracts.

This is unfortunately not an entirely new idea. In 1961 renowned Italian artist Piero Manzoni filled 90 tins, each with 30g of his own excrement. The tins were sealed, numbered and labelled in Italian, French, German and English, and priced at the going daily rate for gold. All 90 were snapped up by eager art connoisseurs. 

These tins of "merda d'artista" have in fact proved to be an excellent investment. At a Sotheby's auction in 1998, London's Tate Gallery forked over 22 500 for Can 004 when 30g of 24 carat gold would have cost them a mere 550. Apparently at least 45 of the original 90 tins have to date exploded. Tate Gallery claims to have had no such problems. No doubt the remaining tins will appreciate even more rapidly. Manzoni died in 1963 from a liver condition (he was reportedly a heavy drinker) and can thus produce no more. The dynamics of supply and demand dictate that the remaining cans will achieve even greater rarity value. Very sad indeed.

Had Manzoni's liver stood up to the rigours of artistic living just a few more years he could have been buried in a fantasy coffin made by Ghana's Kane Quaye. Kane Quaye was an unemployed construction worker earning his bread and butter by making furniture. As fate would have it, his uncle became terminally ill during this time.

His uncle was an important figure in the town's fishing industry. The muse fluttered a wing and Quaye made a coffin for his uncle, shaped like a fishing canoe. That was all it took. Before long everyone who was anyone wanted a coffin symbolising an aspect of their lives. Quaye and sons were in business.

They have made coffins shaped as canoes, fish, chickens (for women who were particularly good mothers), microbuses, cars, shoes, supermarket counters, lobsters and onions. Museums and galleries around the world have declared the coffins art and put them on display. It strikes me that Manzoni would have felt very comfortable entering the afterlife in Can 091.

As for myself, I would rather fancy being buried in a cat-shaped coffin. Until then I dapperly search for inner peace in a world gone mad. My cats have taught me much in this regard. As Fernand Mery put it: "With the qualities of cleanliness, discretion, affection, patience, dignity, and courage that cats have, how many of us, I ask you, would be capable of being cats?"

Like blondes, puppies seem to have more fun. Think about it. No self-respecting cat would devour a tube of Ultramarine Blue unless it was generously laced with catnip. For sheer exuberance nothing beats a blue fox terrier puppy. Like the Ghanaian coffin makers, puppies will paint even the macabre of your life in bright, primary colours.

If however, like me, you live in awestruck admiration of those who can walk through insanity with Zen-like indifference, those who can indulge themselves continuously and feel no guilt, those who turn their owners into staff without blinking, you would be wise to get a cat and copy it. Puppies create the chaos that cats spend their lives ignoring.

Quaye or Manzoni, puppy or cat... the choice is yours. Whatever investment you choose to make, may it disrupt your life with an infusion of fun, may it be more valuable to you than its weight in gold, may it afford you moments of serene contemplation and finally, may it stand as a celebration of the best in your life.