Yup, you guessed it. I seem to have happened upon a lot, and I mean a lot, of web pages about cats lately. So, as I don't live with one at present, here – INPO - are some memories of things to do with cats.
a) Thomas Hewitt Edward Cat. T.H.E Cat. A TV show I watched when I was around 12 years old. “A reformed cat burglar, former acrobat with the circus. Years on the road taught him to be silent, stealthy and ruthless. Moving through the night dressed in black with only a knife for protection.” After each show I'd don my black woolly jumper – which itched like the devil - dash outside and practise springing off walls and fences then try, unsuccessfully, to throw my little penknife so it would stick in a tree. If I had a thrupenny bit for each time I had to reassemble that little penknife I could have bought the matching black pants.
b) When I was six, we, mum and I, lived in a flat attached to a private nursing home. The private nursing home was itself attached to a country manor. It was a serious country manor sporting numerous bedrooms, WC's and a huge team of servants. The owners of the manor owned the nursing home. Mr and Mrs Green. Lovely people who fed me on Sundays while my mum worked as a midwife. Anyway, the cat: it roamed the extensive grounds (as did I) was very fluffy, very white and deaf as a post. I would attempt to sneak up behind it - which was incredibly difficult – and touch its tail. My reward – when I at last managed the feat - was a loud mewling noise and seeing the cat shoot vertically three yards straight up in the air. Hey, gimme a break, I was six and the only kid for miles around.
c) I had a woman friend who wanted to go over to America to visit her parents. Would I house-sit and look after Mr Fussy her cat while she was away? As her place had a TV, a shower which sprinkled one with clear water instead of some brown substance, armchairs instead of deckchairs and mushrooms in the fridge and not growing from the walls, I thought about it for seventy-five milliseconds or so before saying, “Hell, yes.”
Morning one, after a wonderful night's sleep between crisp white sheets, I showered, dressed, cerealed, was careful to lock the door behind me as I left for work, then noticed the furry black and white and very flat carcass in the middle of the road.
I will never forget that phone call I had to make about the demise of Mr Fussy. “Hi Anne. What's black and white and lies in the middle of the road? No, not a dead nun ...”
d) Arthur is a cat I actually owned. I say “owned”, does one ever “own” a cat? He was white like the TV cat of the same name. He lived with me in a VW camper van is I toured the Groot Karoo in South Africa. His thing was to find a tortoise, wait patiently until it stuck its head out to see if all was well, then pounce and separate the aforementioned appendage from its body. He'd then sit and scoop out the meat with his paw. He'd sit on the dashboard as we drove along and even accompany me on foot when I went exploring. Arthur got sick when we were in the middle of nowhere. He began moving really slowly and had rheumy eyes. The last I saw of him he was being dragged away by a Cape Fox. I found a leg, buried it and cried. I stopped my 'walkabout' after that and headed north to Jo'burg.
e) When I was about ten, in England, mum got a black and white cat. She asked me to name it and I decided to call it Mrs Todd. Ten years later, in South Africa, mum met and married a Scotsman called Jimmy Todd. She became Mrs Todd. Cue the Twilight zone theme tune.
Mr A had a superpower. He could transform from sober to drunk in the blink of an eye. And the only way to tell, in the early stages at least, was his hair.
Mr A was a smart individual: bright, talkative, always immaculately suited and groomed. On occasion – usually a Friday evening – we'd go to the pub and stand, in a manly fashion, at the bar, drink beer and talk shop or bollocks or a satisfying combination of the two.
Around pint number four, I'd start to watch for the transformation. Almost holding my breath, daring not to blink. But, as always happened, I'd be distracted by a friendly greeting, an attractive face or simply someone wanting to get to the bar. Whichever, I'd glance away for a mere moment and when I looked back the previously immaculately coiffured Mr A would look as if someone had sneaked up behind him and ruffled their fingers enthusiastically through his hair. And I'm sure he didn't do it. One hand held his pint, the other slipped carelessly into his trouser pocket firtling with his keys.
Besides, it was too quick. I'd glance away for less than a second and whammo – his hair had fessed up, blabbed, snitched, proclaimed his inebriation.
Many, many times I watched, drank, and waited. But never ever witnessed the transition. I suppose it wouldn't have been a superpower if I had.
Earlier this year the we picnicked by the river Swale. A few other families had the same idea. One family had a toddler. The little guy was dressed in a furry grey rabbit suit with large ears inset with pink, a la Bugs Bunny.
I remarked, “What a mean thing to do. Dress the kid up looking like that. Look at the other kids making fun of him.”
My mother said, “I used to put you in a rabbit outfit just like that.”
I looked at her open mouthed as my wife, son and daughter snickered into their chicken sandwiches. “You did what?!” I said.
“Well, you were a runner,” said mum. “A nightmare on a crowded beach. You'd be off like a whippet. The ears helped me keep tabs on you. Another sandwich?”
“You dressed me like that on the beach?!”
“As I said, you were a runner. Would it have been better to tie a rope to you?”
So here I sit, four months after that conversation, as my darling son and my darling daughter hop around the living room sporting large pink ears and enormous buck teeth.
I experienced the joy that was Mr and Mrs B on half a dozen occasions during my teens. It was always at one of mum's braais. (Braai is South African for BBQ.) Mr and Mrs B were Scots. From Glasgow apparently and perfectly nice people to boot.
Until the booze set in.
Mr B would be the first. He was normally very quiet. Reserved to the point of the standing dead. A Weltschmerz of pauses to talk to. Agonisingly shy. Even with me. A mere teenager to his adult.
An hour or two into the braai, we'd be sat among the debris - paper plates, empty lager cans, the odd body - and Mr B's right leg – always his right – would begin to dither. Only slightly at first. Then growing in intensity until it shook like a loose branch in a hurricane.
No one would show any concern, they knew the drill and stopped talking or dancing or whatever, and turned to face him.
What do you think he did, dear reader? He told jokes. Lots of jokes. On and on, joke after joke in his sandpaper Glaswegian accent. And not one of those jokes wrung so much as a titter from his audience.
After five minutes or so he'd run down. His leg would stop dithering and he'd be back to his normal, quiet – though clearly inebriated – self, graciously and unsteadily accepting a smattering of applause.
This was Mrs B's cue. At the top of her voice she'd describe life with Mr B as a complete farce paying careful attention to his extreme lack of prowess in the bedroom. She'd then turn to the nearest teenage boy – yes, me on occasion – and proceed to lavish on him her most unwanted attentions in a voice impossibly louder. “Run away with me, young-un,” she'd plea. “Run away with me and I'll take you places you've only ever - hic – dreamed o.” Thankfully, it was usually at this point her head slumped forward and she started to snore, a glass of whiskey in her hand magically refusing to spill. Mr B would take up a silent position alongside and wait for her to rouse and demand to be taken home.
Seeing the two there - her asleep and him standing guard, while all around them partied – was a touching sight which, even now, brings a moist glaze to my eye.
I know my spelling isn't perfect but a quick look at the last few postings showed up around twenty spelling mistakes with some words transposed and a couple of choice swear words added. I hope I caught them all. I've changed my password just in case I'm not in the Twilight Zone.
Also, my traffic spiked enormously overnight.
Hey, just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean I'm not a target. Right?
The puzzle is: why bother with me? Are my books really that bad? One too many sarcastic quips?