Friday, 31 July 2015

The most beautiful cat in the world

I never considered myself a cat person. I grew up in a household that always contained one or more dogs. As a child mine were given endless training and grooming that they succumbed to with a good grace. I loved my dogs and was given slavish devotion in return. Cats were another matter entirely, their manners I thought disgraceful, observed at friends' houses up on table tops checking out our food, unsheathing their claws in a 'don't mess with me' sort of way and not taking a blind bit of notice of what they should or shouldn't be doing. Unreliable, incapable of discipline, remote, that was my judgement on cats.
The last dog that I owned, my smooth fox terrier, Maisie, was rarely out of my sight, whatever I happened to be doing there she was, a glimpse of her white coat in the corner of my eye.
She knew not to walk on any flower or vegetable beds and would sit in the sun and watch me while I worked. She patrolled the garden with zeal, nothing with four legs was allowed to enter, and not everyone on two! Squirrels were chased and sometimes caught and dispatched, the same with pigeons. A mole was dug up and shaken. Ugh, it apparently did not taste good! She looked such a sweet little dog but she could be an efficient killing machine.
I was concerned when our neighbours bought a pair of kittens, two small white indistinguishable bundles of fluff. As they grew they became more adventurous, taking an interest in our garden, climbing along the dividing wall or up into the trees on the border. I expressed my fears to their owners of potential damage or death should either of them tumble off the wall or out of a tree. 'They'll have to take their chance' I was told. The cats were brother and sister and they grew to be very different, the boy sporting a flamboyant coat with a ruff like a lion's mane and a big fluffy tail while his sister, Vanilla, was sleek and elegant. What they had in common was enough sense to stay well out of Maisie's way.
I was devastated when Maisie became ill and the hard decision was made to have her put to sleep. The house and garden became such silent places. I was working on the vegetable plot when I saw a flash of white out of the corner of my eye. There sat Vanilla, just as Maisie had done, in a patch of sunshine, studying me carefully. How pleased I was to see her!
 She came to see me often, running forward, purring in anticipation, knowing that I would stop whatever I was doing so that she could sit on my lap to be stroked and admired. She would rub her face against mine then bury her head beneath my arm. No two ways about it - I was besotted! She was a tease, crawling into the cloches with open ends that had been set out to protect my vegetables. No point saying 'get out of there', she was a cat and wouldn't take a blind bit of notice.
She made herself thoroughly at home.
When I saw my neighbour I would joke. "How's my cat?" I've cried over dogs all my life, with no apologies for my emotions, they had given me all their love and devotion and each and every one was worthy of my tears. I never thought that I would cry for a cat. But this week her owners found Vanilla
lying out in their garden, seemingly untouched, but dead.  She is buried in the orchard. She was quite simply the most beautiful cat in the world. 

Friday, 24 July 2015

Lyme Regis, Friday's 56.

I've been to Lyme Regis walking along the Cobb, the harbour wall that features in Jane Austen's final novel, 'Persuasion'. My copy is from a Folio Society boxed set with wood engravings by Joan Hassall and it is my choice for this week's Friday 56 where Freda's Voice hosts contributions of a sentence or so from page 56 of any book of your choice. Take a look at the books that are featured. And thank you for hosting, Freda!
 Page 56
 'the child was going on so well - and he wished so much to be introduced to Captain Wentworth, that, perhaps, he might join them in the evening; he would not dine from home, but he might walk in for half an hour.' But in this he was eagerly opposed by his wife, with 'Oh, no! indeed, Charles, I cannot bear to have you go away. Only think if anything should happen!'

The high drama that takes place on the Cobb comes later, on pages 106/7 in my edition.
'There was too much wind to make the high part of the new Cobb pleasant for the ladies, and they agreed to get down the steps to the lower, and were all content to pass quietly and carefully down the steep flight, excepting Louisa; she must be jumped down them by Captain Wentworth.' 
'He advised her against it, thought the jar too great; but no, he reasoned and talked in vain; she smiled and said, 'I am determined I will:' he put out his hands; she was too precipitate by half a second, she fell on the pavement on the Lower Cobb and was lifeless!'
This is my favourite Austen with it's quiet central character, Anne Elliot, who thinks that love has passed her by. And it's always interesting to visit places that have been made use of in literature. I would like to have added page 56 of 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' but I can't find the copy of my book. If you have watched the film, with the title character played by Meryl Streep, then you will have seen quite a bit of Lyme Regis and the Cobb because the film was made in the town.