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The thing about cats is they remember they were Gods. They don’t really care if you remember this fact, for they will not forget it and will adjust their behaviour accordingly.

We had two cats when I was growing up. The first, Snowy, pure black fur of course, had  a temperament that owed more to temper than anything else and consisted of snarling, scratching and a propensity to bring home big game. Where other people’s cats popped a gift of mice or the ever popular vole on the doormat, Snowy would drag home war torn badgers, dead dogs, muntjac deer. In the end he proved no match for the traffic.

Sophie was a true goddess cat, sleek and calming, her favourite place to sit was on my dad’s shoulder as he played the piano. His heart broke when she too failed to practice the Green Cross Code.

I did not wish to own a cat as an adult and my children, now in their 20s feel they have had a deprived childhood. ‘We never had any pets’ my son moaned the other day and I reminded him of the cannibal hamsters. I wonder who cleared up that skeletal little mess? Hm? No, sorry, the delights of a cat litter tray were not on my household agenda. My husband didn’t want a dog either, he does not see the appeal of poop-scooping or fleas. We caught fleas once from my mother in law’s dog. She insisted it was the other way around. Lovely.

Instead the brats have had to make do with second hand cats. There was a tortoiseshell type one, very pretty, that they used to feed scraps of chicken and ham to on occasion. Our neighbour’s cat is white and requires no extras as it manages on all the blackbirds it can scoff when I’m not pursuing it with a water pistol.

They lounge about, cats. They swagger and stroll their way through the neighbourhood, parading along my fence as if there are no boundaries. In our old house we were visited by a half feral monster that I called One Eyed Jack. If I left the kitchen door open he would wander in at will and stare at me with that scarred eye until I left, or made an offering, a chicken leg, a haunch of venison, something small and godworthy.

The other day I looked out and almost fell over. There was something swanning around by the raised beds. It was tall, probably a foot high and it had lynx ears, the ones with the crossed spikes of fur. It was grey but that doesn’t really cover the depth of this colour, it was blueish in the sunlight, the deep rich hue of Welsh slate in the shadow. The fur itself was fluffed and extravagant, I’d even use the word flamboyant. I have never seen such a huge cat. It wandered for a while, prowling for the wood pigeons who, for once, had more sense than to get down from the fence. The cat decided to get onto the fence. There was a flurry of wood pigeons and the cat did an impersonation of Blondin, patter footed, tail, extreme fox style brushy tail, flicking with perfect balance and timing. It loped onto the shed, possibly an unwise move since all that is holding up the shed is the cobwebs and the ivy. It sat there for some time surveying its kingdom, as Gods do.

I had to google it of course. It turns out it is a Maine Coon Cat, a rather expensive specimen going for something north of £800.

She doesn’t pop in very often but when she does I generally bow and give up my seat on the bench.

Or hide in the summer house, whichever is quicker.

 

This glorious pic is by Robert Sijka, check him out:

http://metro.co.uk/2016/08/13/photographer-captures-the-majestic-side-of-maine-coon-cats-6065391/

 

My #BreakfastWaffle thoughts this morning are why on God’s Green Earth are #Radio4 persisting with the #PuzzlefortheDay? That in itself is a puzzle wrapped in an enigma. I’m a cheery soul at sun up but even I am strained by the #BreakfastWaffle of these tangled thought processes. I’ve never been much of a puzzler. I’ve marvelled at my dad unpeeling a cryptic crossword, four down, nine letters: mountain snowdrop anyone*? I don’t sit down and thrill to puzzles. They seem more like a punishment. I feel certain that puzzles are written into Dante’s Inferno, that what Judas Iscariot is really staring at for all eternity is the possible answers to the Puzzle for the Day on Radio Four.

Even as a child, riddles left me cold because, in the end, they always seemed contrived and stupid. They just masqueraded as clever with their glib responses of : ‘The answer’s a lemon’ or ‘No, it’s a toad because it was Thursday’. Good grief.

I harbour disagreeable feelings towards these puzzlemasters and it irks me. I don’t want to feel like that about people. There is a terrible whiff of smugness about the puzzles and also, I feel, a lack of reality. Who cares how many times the polar bear won at chess? I’m not asking for reality, far from it, I  love a story, stories have been my life. Perhaps that is what I’m asking from them, a heart and soul. My problem with the puzzles is they ring hollow. So, when John Humphries, with his ‘kill me now’ tone of delivery asks ‘If the train is running 3.17 minutes late at Hereford and there is a  Leicester blueface sheep on the line at Craven Arms, will Professor Moriarty arrive in Ludlow before Sherlock Holmes?’ The answer is yes, he bloody well will because he’s Professor Moriarty and he’ll get off the effing train and take the station masters bike, but, actually NO, HE WON’T.  The reason he will not arrive in Ludlow before Sherlock Holmes is because Sherlock Holmes IS DISGUISED AS A SHEEP AND IS ON THE LINE AT CRAVEN ARMS.

Pass the teapot, Watson and put down that last scone, it’s mine.

 

Did you deduce the answer is *avalanche? If so reward yourself with a free book by signing up here: http://www.helenslavin.com/signup/  Mwhahahaha, turns out I’m as wily as the good Professor.

 

I’ve heard the fox but I’ve not seen it. With the windows open for summer the sounds of the night peek in and the fox calling is particularly harsh to some, welcome to others, the squirrel nutjobs like me. I’ve seen scat as well. I read a book about identifying various bits of ‘business’ and embarrass my kids at every ‘opoortunity’ (wink, nudge). So the fox is out there, territory has been marked.

Eye witness report: Our neighbours, having dinner with friends out on their patio, watched as the fox came through their back gate, gave them a glance as if to say ‘Meh’ and then trotted on its way.

It’s infuriating because I like to think my garden is a special haven for the wild and wandering. No weedkiller. No hard pruning. Weeds are welcome. At this moment the jackdaws are raising another family of chicks in our chimney. They have been here since before us.  For the last few years the blackbirds have made the honeysuckle sprawling over the upturned/upcycled trampoline gazebo, into their home. There are usually hedgehogs although the latest incumbent might actually be the one that’s been flattened in the roadworks that have just set up outside our house.

There was a badger in our driveway once. I didn’t see it, sleeping oblivious above, but my neighbour told me about it later.

We’ve already talked about the rats. Like them or not, they are wild, of a sort.

Last year my neighbour on the other side had a pet rabbit. This little black furry creature took to visiting my garden. I would trip over it at any time of day or night, night in particular when it liked to sit by the fire basket with me. My neighbour, since moved away, stomped into the garden uninvited one afternoon and declared ‘My rabbit is in your garden AGAIN.’ as if it was my fault. Truth be told, the rabbit was escaping its domestic hell. According to my neighbour, her dog, a lovely little Jack Russell, liked to ‘play’ with the rabbit. Yes. Jack Russells will do that, it is a classic predator/prey scenario.

I called him Bunny. In return for sanctuary he ate my crop of courgettes and kept the grass down. He was high on Herb Robert for half the summer.

One night, the Jack Russell began barking in some distress. It was an unusual occurrence, he was a quiet little dog, well-behaved and no trouble unless, of course, you were a rabbit. By this time we’d heard the tale about the fox at the dinner party too. The terrier shrieked onwards, getting higher and higher pitched until our neighbour came out and shouted at him. He shrieked more, a dog in distress. She didn’t listen, instead she frogmarched him into the conservatory and shut the door.

We never saw Bunny again.

Somewhere, down by the river, a fox licked its chops, because rabbits feet are not only lucky, they’re tasty.

 
 

‘a highly original talent’ – Beryl Bainbridge

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