Monday, 14 April 2014

Rapture?

Funny how you miss even a nuisance when it’s gone, she mused as she blinked the stinging smoke from the corner of her eye and headed back towards the trolley.

Crazy George was one of those uninvited reminders of the ever widening holes in society’s safety net that pricked her pathetic bleeding heart conscience every time she saw him. Broken but harmless, he was enough of a jar in her normality to make her feel uncomfortable. Guilty. 

Just not enough to prompt more than handing over a few coins from her pocket, without having to look into his red-rimmed eyes.

She couldn’t recall when she’d first noticed his rambling, shambling presence. She guessed he’d always been there, part of the army of invisible unfortunates who reminded ‘ordinary’ folk like her of what might be if they strayed too far from normality. But she did remember when she'd first heard his voice. Like the rasp of a key turning in a rusty lock, stiff and creaky from lack of use. He’d touched her slightly on the shoulder and smiled crookedly when she turned to see who it was.

“Not long now. I heard them. They’re coming,” he growled conspiratorially. He glanced with meaning at the battered transistor radio in his hand with the flap hanging off its empty battery compartment. Her shock at his uninvited contact was tempered by amusement, but the smidge of decency within her stopped her from laughing out loud.

Over the next few months, she learned more about by him some kind of osmosis. He was a well-known ‘character’ in the neighbourhood, and folks said he was once a respectable, hard-working man – until that day when something inside fractured beyond all repair.

She’d started greeting him every time they met with cheery but empty platitudes, carefully designed to shield her from the reality of his situation, and soon he’d become part of her daily routine. A memento mori of how lucky she was, despite the problems piling up at home. Taking the time to say hello and offer some crumb of comfort assuaged her survivor’s guilt slightly, made her feel alright about being OK, even gave her a small sense of moral superiority. But she could never bring herself to look him direct in the eye. Scared, perhaps, of what she might see reflected there.

“Morning, George!” she’d say, looking at a space precisely three inches to the right of his haunted gaze. “Bit nippy today. Hope you’re keeping warm” as she dropped some spare change into his hand. As if 73 cents would make any kind of difference.

And yet, he seemed to warm to her, see her as one of his favoured people. The ones who at least pretended he was human, and to whom he trusted his revelations.

“It’s nearly time, you know. They’ll be here VERY soon,” he said that morning with a toothless grin as he gummed his way through the greasy sausage roll she’d given him.

“Who’s that then, George?”

He stopped, mid-chew, and looked at her in disbelief and doubt.

“YOU know. Them. They’re coming. Soon. And when they get here, everything will change. Everything.” He dropped her a cheeky wink and extended his hand, offering her the last two bites of the pie.

“No thanks, George. I’m good. Gotta go. Take care.”

She scurried off to buy her daily pack of smokes from the nearby kiosk, angry at herself for letting the harmless street nut propped up against his supermarket trolley spook her like that. Clutching her cigarettes in one hand, she rattled the small change in the other and decided to give him the coins. 

But the street was empty except for the trolley neatly parked under a Stop sign on the corner. George was gone. Nowhere to be seen. Not sitting on the low wall to the side, or even taking an untidy pee around the corner.

She strode up to junction and looked both ways, expecting to see him bent over talking to a pigeon or staring up at the skies. But nothing. It was as if he’d been vapourised out of his miserable existence, quietly and discretely, in the few seconds it had taken her to buy her cigs.

Tapping one out of the packet, and taking a deep jolting puff after lighting it on the third attempt, she turned and walked back past the trolley.

It was empty, as it always was when George rolled it around the neighbourhood with him. Except for the greasy paper bag that had held his sausage roll. Beneath the printed words declaring its makers the best bakers in town, someone has scrawled some uneven penciled letters, jagged like broken teeth. 

She squinted in the sunlight and bent to read what it said. The words made her choke on the smoke and look over her shoulder in panic.

“THEY CAME.”




Thursday, 10 April 2014

Heavens! 21st century saints

I learned something new and rather delightful this week. 

That in itself is not unusual – most weeks I stumble across some new nugget of knowledge that makes me go “Hmmm”, “Huh?” or “Ha ha!”.

What makes this week’s revelation noteworthy was the fact that it was related to religion.

It was to my great delight that I discovered that St Kevin – yes folks, Kev himself – is the Patron Saint of blackbirds. How cool (and how unnecessary) is that?

Further research revealed that there’s a saint for pretty much anything you can think of, including the beatified protector of invincible people, the one and only (but surely underworked and bored stupid) St Drausinus.

Then there was Genesius of Rome, a stand-up comic of his time who experienced a conversion whilst on stage mocking a Christian baptism. I guess the modern equivalent would be Tim Minchin falling to his knees shouting “Halleluyah!” – and meaning it – slap in the middle of his “Thank you, God” song. Considering that he was sainted for giving up comedy, it’s a bit odd that he’s the patron saint of comedians. But I guess You-Know-Who works in mysterious ways, doesn't He/She/It?. Genesius is also the dude who keeps an eye on actors, clowns, lawyers, barristers, converts, dancers, musicians, printers, stenographers and…   torture victims (what?).
I definitely fall into at least three of those categories (I’ll let you guess which) and perhaps more, so I suppose he should be my guy. Shame I don’t do the whole God thing, really.

But heavens to Betsy! (More of her later). This is the 21st century, an increasingly secular age in which lip service is paid to all creeds and credos. So, why shouldn’t the godless get saints too?

Here are some of suggestions for saints particularly suited to our times and the special needs of western civilisation in this modern, oh-so-enlightened age.

Our Lady of Aspartame, Patron Saint of junk food dieters. You know the ones I mean – the ones who run a mile when someone offers a grape, screaming in horror at the thought of “All that sugar!”, but who happily glug back the diet Coke whilst nibbling daintily on a fat-free, taste-free, nutrition-free E-number bar. After all, if Coco Chanel had meant us to be lumpy and bumpy, designer jeans would come in sizes larger than Pre-teen Famine Victim, wouldn’t they? Our Lady is the one who protects them from the derision of the dumpy and confirms their deeply-held belief first uttered by their founding priestess Wallace Simpson, that a woman can never be too thin.
Her devotees can be found wandering the aisles of H&M, chewing on caffeine patches, bemoaning the 'huge' sizes and mindlessly repeating their mantra “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”.


At the other end of scale we find St Barry of Bridgend, the Patron Saint of binge drinkers. Positively Dionyssean in his outlook, Baz demands that his devotes pay homage to him every Friday and Saturday night by downing the body weight of a baby African elephant in cheap booze before discovering an almost spiritual inability to walk down the street without regurgitating on stray dogs or taking a dump under a streetlight. 
Saint Baz looks rewards his faithful followers by providing them with sensible friends who take away their car keys (and most importantly, their mobile phones) before a night out. Not a merciful saint, however, he leaves those to fail to worship him to literally left stew in their own juice.

Some of those who escape the clutches of St Barry inevitably end up in mocking embrace of Simon of Cowell, protector of the deluded talentless. They can be found most weekends, hogging the karaoke machines in pubs and clubs and being egged on by drunken followers of Baz to go for it and audition for the latest exercise in reality humiliation the box is offering. Best known for building 'em up, then ruthlessly knocking ‘em down, St Simon’s golden rule is to be cruel to be kind, or kind to be cruel, whichever generates the highest ratings and biggest turnover. 

St Angelina of the Perpetual Pout inspires particular devotion from her followers, as she represents the absolute possibility of transforming from vice-addled bimbo to earth motherly sainthood, by virtue of a few judiciously selected adoptions, the ability to give birth and the uncanny ability to make a sack-cloth sari drape her body like a frock from a designer known for his 'Va-Va-Voom'. Most of the time, her eyes are downcast, but perfectly mascara-ed, as she endures the penance of daily bee stings to keep her lips swollen like a guppy suffering from anaphylaxic shock.

I can’t close without mentioning St Betsy (I did promise, after all). She’s my favourite, and when I grow up I want to be just like her, complete with the lop-sided halo and barbed wire wings. She’s the patron saint of feisty old ladies, who refuse to age gracefully, probably drink a little too much and definitely have the dirtiest jokes.

These are just a small sample from the pantheon of modern-day saints. I’m sure you know some I haven’t discovered yet – so, please, enlighten me.
I SO want to believe.



Friday, 4 April 2014

The Kitty Letter Chronicles: Stake-out

It was eleven o’clock in the morning, mid-spring, with the sun fighting the smudged clouds to emerge and a light dew dampening the calls of the blackbird perched in the peach tree. I was clean (thanks to a thorough licking), sleek and sober, and I didn’t care who knew it. Everything a well-turned out feline private detective ought to be. Today, I wasn’t chasing my tail - I was chasing a case.

After a quick tour of the premises, and a visit to the sandbox to lighten my load, I took up position on the sill. Pale green leaves dappled the sulky sunlight as a pair of sparrows squabbled in the branches. I yawned, stretched my jaw and pushed back my ears before considering the best stake-up position to await the arrival of my No.1 suspect.

I hadn’t been looking for a case. It had dropped into my lap, and no matter how hard I tried to push it under the rug and ignore it, it kept nagging at me like a dame selling cigarettes at a speakeasy or carnations at a 'Skyladiko'.

This was no victimless crime we were talking about. The victim was someone who meant the world to me.
The victim was me.

As the winter chill had lifted Big Red had started giving me my meals al fresco. And who was I to complain? Food, water,  the constantly changing drama unfolding on the street below, a patch of sunlight to luxuriate in, and the occasional bluebottle fly to chase was pretty much as close to cat heaven as anyone could expect in the Here & Now. It also gave me a great view of next door’s tabby as she sashayed her way around the garden like the closet siren I knew she was at heart.

But there was trouble in paradise.

There was a thief on the balcony – and his loot was my lunch.  

Every morning, my bowl was filled with crunchy goodness. Being a cat of simple needs and moderate appetites, I would only take a few mouthfuls before doing my daily limber-up and practicing my stalking technique in the mirror. But lately, when I returned for a top-up after my mental gymnastics (the ones that involved stretching out on the sofa, twitching my ears and gently snaking my tail from side to side as I considered the intricacies of a case), I’d noticed that someone had beaten me to it. The bowl was picked almost bare, leaving only the boring brown triangles that no discerning feline will eat unless faced with certain starvation.

It was a mystery. Judging by the look on her face when she dished it up, it wasn’t Big Red dipping into my food – and as for DanglyMan and NoisyKid, they hardly even touched it. No other cats stalked my beat. So, who was the culprit?

None of my usual contacts knew anything – or at least, those birds weren’t singing. I suspected the blackbird may have been in on it. His only reply was a teasing “Wouldn’t you like to know?” look down his yellow beak with one beady eye, before hopping over to another branch to squawk for his mate.

And so the stake-out had begun. For three solid days, I had taken up my post, hidden between the curtain and the frame of the balcony doors, watching, waiting for the thief to come. For three days, I followed the progress of fallen leaves from the untended flower box geraniums from one end of the balcony to the other. For three days, I pricked my ears for the slightest sound offering a clue beneath the blanket of birdsong and passing cars. For three days, I took only minor 20 minute naps to break the monotony of round-the-clock surveillance.

And for three days, I’d woken to find my bowl bereft of crunchies. It was as if the thieves were waiting, watching me, and swooping in to claim their swag the minutes my eyelids drooped.

But today was different. Today I would catch them in the act, and show whoever they were that I was no kitty to be toyed with.

I dropped down from the windowsill and took up my place near the half-open balcony door. A slight breeze fandangoed the net curtain at the edge of my gaze, threatening to break the focus. A beetle scrabbled to the corner, ignorant of the fact that he’d fall his certain death if he ever did manage to scale that ledge. The sun rays grew stronger, and warmer….  the lazy drone of a fly threatened to lullaby me to sleep. But I resisted.

A whirr of wings and chorus of coos announced it was Show Time. A gang of thuggish pigeons alighted on the railing. Big, urban bruisers with red eyes and dirty grey plumage. One sported what looked like a half-hearted Mohawk dipped in a puddle of something unmentionable.

My backside instinctively started waggling in anticipation. I forced my base urges back and bided my time “Slowly, slowly, catchy pigeon” I repeated under my breath like a vengeful mantra.

One by one, they hopped down onto the balcony tiles. Led by the biggest, meanest bruiser of the bunch – a strutting heavy with a splat of black across his left eye – they pigeon-toed towards the bowl. Black-Eye mumbled orders to his minions and they took up position behind him as he bent his filthy head to the food, MY food.

Fury acted like rocket fuel on my back legs as I exploded out of my hiding place. Mohawk narrowly missed losing an eye to the fully-extended claws on my right paw as a flying jump landed me squarely on Black-Eye’s greasy puffed-up chest.

His minders with the single digit IQs scattered to the four winds with a flap of frantic, discordant coos, and I looked down at my thick-billed nemesis trapped beneath me. Black-Eye fixed me with a malevolent glare as he struggled to escape. Part of me wanted to grab his filthy head with my teeth and twist til I heard those its super-light bones in his neck snap like dry sticks – but I couldn’t. I have my standards – and there are some things that I simply won’t put in my mouth.

I lifted my paw, claws extended, and swiped. I caught the top of his left wing and the cheek just below his vicious eye. Pain and panic shot him upwards as the movement threw me off-balance. Black-Eye scrabbled out from beneath me for a clumsy, hurried take-off that dropped into the branches of the mulberry bush below, leaving me with a pawful of feathers and the satisfying sight of a smear of avian blood across the tiles.

“Don’t think I'll be having any uninvited dinner guests for a while,” I said to myself as I shook the grimy feathers out of my grasp and smugly licked my paw.

Sauntering over to the edge of the balcony, I looked into the green-eyed gaze of next door’s tabby. She blinked up and turned to stare at the cables linking the street lights.

From one end to the other, they were filled with a chorus line of pigeons, all looking in my direction. They didn’t look like they were about to dance the Can-Can.

I decided it was time for my nap. Inside.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

The Lost Letter

So, Jude had been right all along…

He couldn’t believe it. Or at least, he didn’t want to. He raked his shaking hand through his thinning, greasy hair and stared through blurring tears at the letter. The crumpled, faded pages torn from an old school workbook shook slightly in the breeze – or perhaps from his own tremor of shock and denial of the truth it betrayed.

The contents of the letter he’d found tucked into the personal effects handed over when he left jail a month ago had delivered a body blow as real as a sledgehammer to his solar plexus. He didn’t want to accept them, but they were irrefutable, and the hurt was just as deep every time he’d re-read it since settling into the halfway house.

Could it really all have been for nothing? Was everything they had done, everything they had been through, everything they’d sacrificed, all been part of an elaborate fraud? Everything they’d believed nothing but a web of lies built around the delusions of a charismatic megalomaniac?

And he had believed. Believed, because he needed to feel, to know, that he was part of a bigger story, a nobler cause, a greater truth. Because he needed something to refill the empty glass of his existence with meaning and purpose.

He’d believed that night Jude and The Teacher quarreled bitterly for the last time. He’d believed when the police burst in, scattering their numbers to the night and arresting those not young enough, quick enough or streetwise enough to make a run for it. He’d believed all through his three-year sentence.

But now, he didn’t know what to believe.

Jude had been the one who first got him involved. Moving among the dregs of society, animating them with his passion and compassion, he was the one who’d convinced them they could do something about their miserable lot, filled them with hope that together they could put right the wrongs of a world besieged by injustice.  That was before The Teacher joined them, first of all quietly, unassumingly, but with the fervour blazing brighter in his eyes with every day that passed. Soon, he’d eclipsed Jude’s burning passion and his position as their natural leader.

It’s not that they hadn’t done good, made a difference. They had. At least to the most wretched and desperate. At least for one day. Old men reduced to rifling through rubbish bins for scraps of discarded food were given a hot meal. Dried-up nursing mothers received formula to nourish their babies. Children faint with hunger gulped down warm milk. The uninsured sick got medicine to ease their pain. Shelter was offered to those with none to protect them from the cold and cruelty of the streets.

All that was asked in return was that they believed. And they did. Because they had to. They needed to believe that, despite their torment, they were the chosen, the special, the ones who would be rewarded – one day.

As the months passed, Jude’s intense gaze had gradually clouded with doubt and confusion. He started to question more, and to accept the answers less. And as he did, he was increasingly ostracised by the group he had created. His bitterness at their rejection burned like acid. Cynicism grew like a tumour within him, fed by the anger that smoulders in the heart of a disappointed idealist.

After that last night together, he’d heard nothing more of his old friend. He simply ceased to exist, his name only ever mentioned in contempt and anger. As a man, who cared, struggled for justice and hoped for a better future, he had been erased. All that remained was a new name for treachery.

The letter in his hand was undeniable. The upright letters unmistakably in the bold, commanding hand of The Teacher. But the words seemed so much at odds to the message he’d followed and given himself up for.

They gave step-by-step instructions for a Master Class in deceiving those only too keen to believe, from faking miraculous cures to manipulating ancient texts to prove that they were destined to inherit everything they had been denied by harsh reality. The promise of a higher power handing out reward or punishment was the motive, and along with a little succour delivered to the desperate along the way, the result was the elevation of one charismatic man to a pedestal which fed his pride and delusions, and ultimately led to his martyrdom.

He stared at the pages for the hundredth time. The letters danced in front of his eyes, mocking his gullibility, his willingness to do things he would never have dreamed of, all for a cause they now revealed to be a con. A well-intentioned con, to start with at least, but a con nonetheless.

He’d given up everything for the cause. His free will, his family, his friends, his freedom. He’d thought it gave everything he needed. It had felt right. It had felt like ‘home’. And now he was faced with evidence that it was all for nothing.

There was no reward for him, and no penalty for those who’d opposed him. The only reward for the good he’d done was the knowledge that somehow, somewhere, he had helped someone – even just a little.
He tried it on for size. No. It didn’t satisfy. It wasn’t enough.

The truth will set you free, they say. Bullshit. The only thing it had done for him was imprison him in a cage of regret, resentment and self-loathing. If that was freedom, he preferred the enslavement of blissful ignorance. He envied those who still believed. He wanted to rejoin their ranks.

He tapped a cigarette out of the battered pack in his pocket and lit it. He watched the line of red march up the paper as he greedily sucked in its acrid smoke, squinting as it stung the corner of his rheumy eye and blinking away a tear of regret and resignation. He made his decision.

He held up the letter – lost to him through all those months in jail and unknown to him before he was sent there – delicately between thumb and index fingers from the top left corner. With his other hand, he flicked open his ancient Zippo lighter and held it to the pages until the flame licked at the edges of the paper. A line of black followed the vanguard of glowing embers eating up the pages, swallowing the words that revealed the truth that had tormented them since he first read them. A familiar scent of bonfires filled his nostrils and he smiled through the smoke as the flames devoured the pages.

He dropped the last scrap before the creeping heat blistered his fingers, stamping it to brittle black fragments as it touched the ground.


The letter was lost again, leaving him free. Free to believe there was a reason for everything.

Friday, 28 March 2014

The Kitty Letter Chronicles: Declaring my Independence

That’s it. I’ve had enough. I been suppressed and subjugated enough. I’m mad as hell and I not going to take it anymore. 

No more will I bow to the will of the Humans. No more will I allow them to exclude me from tabletops, cupboards and toilet bowls. I’m a grown cat and it’s time I asserted my independence and took my stand as a Free Feline.

So, with a little help from that anarchist magpie who sits in the tree outside the back balcony, I have drafted my Declaration of Independence. Here it is…

When in the course of feline events, it becomes necessary for one mammal to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of catkind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident:
- that all cats are created equal (though some are more equal than others);
- that cats are endowed with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the purr-suit of happiness;
- that whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of cats to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government to effect their safety and happiness.

When a long train of abuses and usurpations is evident, it is the right and duty of every cat to throw off such oppression. The history of DanglyMan and Big Red’s reign over my dominion is one of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny.  To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world:
  • my inalienable right to sit on any surface I should so desire is consistently denied by humans using their greater size to enforce their rule (if that PC isn’t designed for sitting on, then why, pray, is it warm?);
  • my natural dietary needs are disregarded, and sustenance only given in the form of bland dry biscuits that smell like human halitosis (the worst kind);
  • I am treated as a mere plaything, passed from one human to another, with no consideration for my wishes or needs;
  • cruel and unusual forms of torture – specifically, the box of screaming demons and NoisyKid’s use of the thing with strings in combination with the loud box - have consistently been used against my person to manipulate my conduct in accordance with the desires of the human population;
  • my dignity has been insulted by the enforced use of a pile of gravel in which to perform my ablutions;
  • human cushions refuse to remain in their assigned place once they have been established as an official cat resting place. As a result, my rest is disrupted on a daily basis, reducing my tally of sleep hours to a mere 20.
For the above stated hurts, and many more unstated, I, the Representative of the United Feline Brethren of this house do solemnly publish and declare I am a free and independent entity, absolved from all allegiance to DanglyMan and Big Red, and all political connection with the same to be totally dissolved.

I am a Free and Independent cat, with the full power to levy war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish commerce, and to do all other things which independent entities may do. And in support of this Declaration, I pledge my life, my fortune and my sacred honour.


Now can someone please tell me why my food bowl is empty?

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Writer’s block

Tulip Frobisher stared blankly at the cursor blinking accusingly from the top left hand of the empty screen. 

She huffed, pursed her lips in precisely the way she knew a woman knocking on the door of 50 shouldn’t, and glanced over at the chair to her left. From its depths came an equally accusing blink from Blott, her white cat named for the black splodges that made him look like someone had shook an old-fashioned fountain pen over him. 

Or perhaps it was an unconscious tribute to Tom Sharpe?

A sip from the ceramic imitation of a cardboard take-out gourmet coffee cup made her feel a little more like a Hampstead hipster than she really was. She looked back at the screen and hovered her hands over the keyboard. The Peruvian Fairplay coffee fought with the whipped milk topping it as they slipped down her throat and completely failed to deliver the double shot of adrenaline and inspiration she was looking for.

“Stop worrying about what you’re going to write – just start typing, and the words will come,” she muttered.

Her fingers stayed stubbornly levitating an inch above the keys, quivering slightly in anticipation of the words of wit and wisdom (or perhaps utter wankiness) that were waiting to spill from their tips – any minute now….

A slightly discordant ‘ding!’ alerted her to a new addition to the growing list of unattended mails in her In Box. Guilt kicked in and her index finger dropped to the mouse to click and see what was waiting for her ‘paid for’ attention. Blah, blah….   800 words, snappy headline…  blah, blah… get all the corporate buzzwords in and make sure you quote X, Y, Z as well as Ms Alpha and Mr Omega too. Deadline: 3pm today.

Tulip glanced at her wrist. That didn’t help – no watch. A look at the bottom of her screen told her she had just over two hours to churn out the blurb. Sighing heavily, but secretly slightly relieved to escape the blinking cursor on her blank page, she set to…

…90 minutes, three coffees and a sloppy cheese sandwich later, she has her first draft ready – bar the blanks waiting for missing info, inevitable discussions about who says what and demands to jam the hated jargon back into her copy – and was gleefully hitting the “Send” button that would put the ball back into someone else’s court.

She could churn out the words for others, pretty much on demand. So why couldn’t she do it for herself?

Back to the blank screen, this time with a cup of green tea in her hand, in case the missing ingredient was a little touch of Zen.

“Write what you know,” she said, repeating the mantra of her old English teacher a lifetime ago.

But really, would anyone WANT to read what she knew, when it was pretty much the same thing that every second woman born in lower-middle England in the 1960s knew? She’d been beaten to it on the confessional diary front by Bridget Jones and the rampaging herds of chick-lit, Mummy-lit and Menopause-lit stream of consciousness novels she had spawned.

She was simply too ordinary, too normal. She had not overcome any massive obstacles to make her way in life – not even a smidge of dyslexia or depression to make her date with her ordinary destiny heroic. Nor did she come from privileged but potty Bohemian aristocracy to give her story an edge of high-born eccentricity.

She was just plain ordinary, without blood, sweat or tears or mad auntie in the ancestral attic.

Her name wasn’t even Tulip Frobisher – nothing so Primrose Hill, much to her regret. Her real name, like her, was much more middling. She had picked her non de plume with her second favourite spring flower in mind, after she realised that Daffodil Jones was just a little bit too “Look you, Boyo” for whatever masterpiece she was eventually going to turn out.

She cast her mind back over the week’s headlines. The media had pretty much all the angles and maddest scenarios for disappearing aeroplanes covered, and anyway they’d already been beaten to it by the writers of “Lost” and, long before them, Stephen King in ‘The Langoliers’.

The state of the economy and the political posers pretending to do something  about the mess they themselves had created just made her fume, and there were already more than enough ranters out there without adding to the racket.

“Look inside” she said out loud, startling Blott from his slumber to throw a sulky stare in her direction. She shuddered the goose that had walked over her grave off her shoulder and remembered the voices she used to hear, or thought she heard, from the top of her wardrobe when she was an awkward ten-year-old with pretensions of becoming a poetess. What had they been? Her overripe pre-pubescent imagination? Lurking psychosis? Ghosts? Or the spectres of some deeply-buried trauma?

No, she wouldn’t be going there. Not today.

Anyway, those voices – one male and silkily sarcastic, the other female and with a harsh edge like a slap across the cheek – had made their appearance around about the same time she got all Evangelistic, learning huge chunks of the Bible by heart and having nightly catch-up chats with God (He didn’t answer, which was probably just as well, and she figured He was just too busy). They stopped a couple of years later when her reading habits landed her equally compulsively in the arms of H.G. Wells, George Orwell,  Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, George Orwell, Jules Verne and (her greatest and most enduring obsession) Douglas Adams.

That, she decided, was probably the problem. She had read and worshipped the words that seemed to spill so effortlessly and eloquently from those minds packed with original ideas that she felt like a literary cripple whenever she tried to emulate them.

But surely even those great minds had their moments of doubts before they started spewing their worlds onto the page? Didn’t they ever sit bewildered in front of an empty page or screen wondering who could possibly want to read any words they might find to fill it with?

One thing’s for sure, if you write nothing, no-one would read you.

Tulip threw the last of the bitterly insipid tea down her throat, clunked the cup onto the table and poised like Blott when he was ready to jump on a house fly, or a sun beam, preparing to attack the keys.

A double “ding!” brought her back. That urgent article, back to her with a long list of changes for her to accept or argue.


Her literary debit would just have to wait. Again.  

Friday, 21 March 2014

The Kitty Letter Chronicles: Spring has sprung - and so have I

Blackbirds - Noisy buggers, aren't they?
There’s a change in the air. A smell of 'green' in it. Fresh buds are poking through the branches on trees I can see from the windowsill. Birds are singing (squawking their heads off, if I’m honest). Skies are clear and the days are longer.

And naturally, as is normal in the feline world, I’m in especially bouncy mood.

Unfortunately, the humans have welcomed spring with slightly less joy.

Whilst I’m doing my Wall of Death act around of the living room walls, wrestling NoisyKids’ socks into submission, chasing sunbeams as they dance on the ceiling or throwing myself face-first at (closed) doors and windows, they’re sitting there with rheumy eyes, blocked nasal passages and an all-round hang-dog look on their faces. Every half an hour or so, DanglyMan’s face explodes at least three times in a row, Big Red makes a noise like a lost baby elephant snorting into a tissue (which she refuses to let me play with) and NoisyKid coughs and wheezes like a broken-down steam organ.

In short, they’re no bloody fun.

They blame something they call “allergies” and it seems to be preventing them from relishing the joys of the season. 

I’ve tried to cheer them up, I rely have. But to no avail.

I try to show them how great all this new life exploding all over the place – yes, even those weird long-legged mosquitoes that have appeared in the corners – by performing my world-famous Jump Jet vertical take-off whenever they walk into the room. I bring them little gifts (or I will once I manage to catch one of those Daddy Long Legs). I stretch out alluringly in the patch of bright sunlight threatening to fade the bedroom carpet.

But nothing works. My efforts are met with cries of “Bloody nutter!”, “Euw, gross, Joker!” and “Get outter my way, cat”, as they stumble half-blind towards the next box of tissues that they seem to go through at this time of the year as the same rate that I get through sachets of Whiskas.

What’s a cat to do? Here I am alone, surrounded by misery-merchants and isolated from my own kind. OK, so I’ve never actually MET another cat seeing as my humans were the ones who got the privilege of weaning me, washing me and wiping my elegant behind before I got sick of their clumsy efforts and took over the job myself. But I have seen the neighbourhood cats from the windowsill as I survey the world from our first floor flat. Frankly, honest I’m not that impressed. Most of them look like rather a rough lot, in good of a good all-over licking, and certainly not the kind of creature someone of my caliber should mix with. Well, all except that cute little tabby who sits teasingly on the back wall of an afternoon – but that’s another story, and if I’m honest, I really haven’t worked out how I feel about that quite yet….

….but I digress. Now, where was I? Oh yes, the joys of spring and the fact that my humans are being miserable so-and-sos in response to it.

I don’t know, anyone would think they prefer the cold, dark, wet days of winter to the general wakey-uppiness that late March has brought. No pleasing some folk, I suppose.

So, until they get over their (waggles paws on either side of head to indicate ‘so-called’) allergies, I suppose I’ll just have to occupy myself with plans on how to capture that wretched blackbird that wakes me up every afternoon with his infernal twittering (“how rude!”).

And then there’s always the tabby who might be charmed by an elegant pie-bald prince sitting in the window. Now, if I can just work out how to get from here…   to there.