During the time we’ve lived together, Lady Barton St Mary and I have housed a number of cats; most of them haven’t hung around for that long. Most of us imagine a cat’s life to be an idyllic one; sleeping for a large proportion of the time and being provided with regular meals.
However, it is worth remembering that when a cat goes outside, the whole scenario changes. They spend their time defending their territory against other cats, fighting, scratching and biting. There’s the abundance of other tempting wildlife, which is hunted, caught, dismembered and consumed. Except for the guts and tails, which are left on the doorsteps of the poor unsuspecting big monkeys who live there.
Then there are roads. This is usually the downfall of most cats, eventually. You can outrun a big monkey, but a big metal box containing one or more of them is another matter. This basically was the fate of the cats that never stayed long, but ended up squished on the highway, a rather upsetting and traumatic event if you are the big monkey that they owned.
He was the first of a pair of cats that Lady BSM and I lived with. Initially, we only wanted one cat, a tabby cat, but a black and white kitten, who looked like a toy panda bear, looked at us with pleading eyes and made the journey home with us too.
The tabby cat was named ‘Tabby’ after hours of deliberation, but our teddy bear lookalike was always going to be called Ted. It turned out that Ted was a bit of a survivor.
Sadly, the road claimed Tabby a few months later and Ted, like any normal cat, took the news in typical fashion. He didn’t give a shit. In fact, secretly I think he was pleased that he was now able to dominate the food bowl.
Much to his displeasure, having survived a house move, we brought home another tabby kitty, but again, it didn’t take long for this one to be splattered across the busy A road where we lived. Ted, somehow, had this uncanny ability to stay out of harm’s way. But was very good, on more than one occasion, of putting us in it.
The first property we lived in backed onto the garden of a well-known local hard man who played rugby for a team regarded as the most fearsome in the locality. In fact, he was part of a family dynasty, known for settling differences and exacting justice by rearranging people’s features, sculpting kneecaps and offering free electro therapy to the genitals of any (what they regarded as) deserving individual. To protect me from being stuffed in the back of a van, having my legs chopped off, being encased in concrete and dumped in the Severn, let’s just call this neighbour ‘Don’.
Often, Don would engage me in conversation, which of course, I never refused. Don was very fond of his trophy winning racing pigeons, who lived in a shed in his garden.
You can see where this is going, can’t you?
Sure enough, one day I was in the kitchen at the moment Ted squeezed through the cat flap with one of Don’s prize racing pigeons in his mouth. I immediately adopted the pose of Edvard Munch’s famous subject, not daring to let any sound emit from my mouth. Ted placed the now deceased bird at my feet and looked up at me proudly. At this point, Lady Barton St Mary entered the kitchen and reflected my pose. I don’t know how long we stayed like this, but by the time we’d composed ourselves, Ted had given up on the whole food bowl refill idea and gone to sleep on the sofa.
We dealt with it the only way we knew we should. We wrapped the deceased animal in carrier bags and disposed of the body by driving to the tip. The vision of Don’s henchmen scouring the neighbouring dustbins and finding the missing pet in ours was too much to leave to chance. Don, incredibly, never asked us if we’d seen his pigeon, so I have to assume he didn’t blame us or Ted. Perhaps some other innocent pussy ended up sleeping with the fishes.
I can only assume the joint of beef Ted brought home wasn’t Don’s, either. It was beautifully cooked, juicy, with the lovely aroma of Sunday lunch. Again, whilst Lady BSM and I adopted the position, Ted ensured that his plunder was quickly consumed. Too quickly, as it turned out.
“I don’t know what’s happened to Ted, but it doesn’t look good,” Lady BSM said a couple of days later. I went to have a look.
Ted was wandering around the kitchen with something trailing out of his bottom. What was it? A huge tapeworm?
On closer inspection (but not too close), I identified it as a piece of string. The sort of string that is used to tie a beef joint. Dumb cat.
“Oh my word, how are we going to get THAT out?” asked Lady BSM.
At this point, Ted scampered past, string trailing from his bottom. Instinctively, I stamped down on the string, making Ted increase his pace. With a strangled wail from Ted, the trapped string unravelled from his arse. With his bulging eyes, I’ve never seen a cat look so shocked.
Then there was the climbing. We rented a place in the country, which we called Bri Nylon Cottage due to its tasteful décor. We were awoken one morning by the calls of Ted asking to be let in through the bedroom window. Except we were on the first floor. Ted had climbed the ivy clad wall to let us know of his intentions.
He also had a fondness for sitting on the window ledge of our spare bedroom, where he would wake up any sleeping guests demanding entry. One Saturday morning, I was surprised to see Ted fly vertically past the kitchen window before flattening himself on the concrete floor.
Gerald, my old fag from school, had been asleep in the spare bedroom before being bothered by Ted’s incessant requests to get in. Sleepily, he had opened the bedroom window rather too quickly, bumping Ted off the window sill to the ground below.
Ted accompanied us to our next home, where he was joined by a baby, Miss Katherine. He regarded Miss Katherine with the same attitude he had for all the other kittens that hadn’t survived: with barely concealed contempt. Watching the many times he wrapped his paws around her face without releasing his claws was almost admirable. They did become friends of sorts, since Katherine was very fond of giving Ted a steady supply of titbits. In return he would grudgingly let her stroke him, always wearing the expression of someone who had dog muck stuck up their nose.
It was here he displayed a real love of emery boards, those things one uses for filing nails. If he ever found you using one, he would insist on getting involved. He liked nothing more than the feel of an emery board on his teeth. Crazy cat.
The day finally came when Ted grew old and very poorly and had to make regular visits to the vet. Eventually, one day, I gently put him into a box and walked to the end of the road to the vet’s.
A shake of the vet’s head told me everything I needed to know. I gently stroked Ted’s head as the vet gave him his injection. He purred gently for the first time in days, looking up at me before gently closing his eyes.
Mine were more than misty as I made the journey home alone.