Is it gin?
I’ll just sit here like a cat in the sunshine and stare at it then.
Is it gin?
I’ll just sit here like a cat in the sunshine and stare at it then.
Dear Mr Tent,
We’ve come a long way together. Had so many adventures…camping has taught me so many useful things. For example…
Yes, I confess to sharing my home with a couple of cats. And I recognise that for many people the appeal of sharing space with 50 claws attached to a random-brained, unpredictable eating machine is something unfathomable and a sure-fire sign of weirdness.
Cats are magic. They have special powers beyond human reasoning.
Here is Tiggy. She is going to demonstrate one such power …
“Behold. By day I am a delicate little poopkin, no bigger than a wickle melon.
By night, my body mass triples, quadruples even, and I expAAAAAaand into a thing of monstrous proportions.
Because of this trans-mogrification I am not allowed to sleep on their bed.
(..in the morning I will get in and Sit on her Face. Heh.)”
Don’t you just love poetry??
Its all intense and draws a thread of language though experience and ideas , producing something seamless that sings or speaks or sobs..and often shines.
Patti Smith got it right. Back in the dark ages around AD 1970 something, looking dangerously hirsute, the rocklady glared crossly out from the album-soup which at that time provided an alternative floor covering for countless student shag-piles. “Poets are Dangerous” declared the record sleeve “..because their Minds are Free…”
Really?? All that careful crafting of self-absorption? Dangerous minds perhaps but free???
How delightful then, to discover the odd poet whose mind truly ranges free.
Top man for me has to be Mr Christopher Smart, an 18th century English chap whose mind was so free that he ended up in a lunatic asylum. Whilst there he fell to musing about his cat, very sensibly named Jeoffry. Obviously a creature full of the universal truths of cat hood , good old Jeff inspired a gigantic poem which correctly details all the finer points of cat etiquette. I know this because I have read it to one of my own cats, Percy, and he has verified it’s accuracy.
Anyone who doesn’t appreciate the whiskered ones better look away now, because what follows is the first 18 lines of Mr Smart’s poem..followed by a translation for the modern feline..
For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry.
For he is the servant of the Living God duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in his way.
For this is done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant quickness.
For then he leaps up to catch the musk, which is the blessing of God upon his prayer.
For he rolls upon prank to work it in.
For having done duty and received blessing he begins to consider himself.
For this he performs in ten degrees.
For first he looks upon his forepaws to see if they are clean.
For secondly he kicks up behind to clear away there.
For thirdly he works it upon stretch with the forepaws extended.
For fourthly he sharpens his paws by wood.
For fifthly he washes himself.
For sixthly he rolls upon wash.
For seventhly he fleas himself, that he may not be interrupted upon the beat.
For eighthly he rubs himself against a post.
For ninthly he looks up for his instructions.
For tenthly he goes in quest of food…..
For I will consider my Cat Percy
For he is the servant of nobody and nothing and all humans must duly and daily serve him
For at the crack of dawn he worships in his wailing way
For this is done by winding himself round the bedpost seven hundred times
For then he leaps up to sit upon my face, which hath the promise of food
For he rolls upon my head to make his point
for having done this duty and received a verbal kick up the arse he turns about-whiskers in disgust
For this he performs a ten step ritual. Minimum.
For first he stares at his front feet and chews stuff from between his toe-claws
For second, he assumes the chicken position, and licketh his bum.
For thirdly, he getteth his legs back from around his earholes and he works that stretch,
For fourthly he sharpens his claws upon the bedroom chair
for fifthly he washes himself. Again.
For sixthly he writhes about on the carpet.
For seventhly, he shares his fleas with his human, that his murderous mousing may follow undisturbed,
For eighthly, he rubs himself against a post ( any post..)
For ninthly he looks up and goes ok, what more do I have to do, ignoramus.
For tenthly, he goes in quest of food.
(…On his own.
….And it will be your breakfast and he’s going to chuck it
So, holiday after holiday I have given in to the male-induced lunacy of paying ten quid less for a ticket so that I may drag myself shivering and semiconscious from my snoring-burrow into the bathroom and thence to the foul , freezing car.
Two hours of mindless motorway tedium follows, punctuated only by a constant stream of brainless-tunes-from-the-nineteen Seventies courtesy of Radio Torment, and the relentless crunch of my companion troughing Cheese and Onion crisps.
When, several hours later, release eventually comes, it is predictably at some cost. Although this is not actually written down, anyone who ever visits airports will know that they are subject to the Law of Airport Inconvenience, which falls under the general umbrella of the Law of Sod, and applies to every single thing about the airport, including the location of the only free parking spaces
Necessarily, these must only exist in a corner between the bins and the perimeter fence at some two kilometres from the actual building. So, having emerged from the car, there follows a workout more suited to a boot camp than a holiday, heaving and humping suitcases onto trollies and buses and escalators until the experience culminates at a conveyor belt staffed by evil minded uniforms.
If I am lucky, these packaged souls will take one look and allocate me the seat with the toilet in front and the ADHD four year old behind. If I am unlucky, they will force me to redistribute the contents of the luggage to fit the weight requirement. I will have to open my suitcase, and as twelve pairs of comfy knickers and half a bottle of gin erupt onto the airport floor, many other passengers will look on with great joy.
Eventually we will free to wander towards Security, definitely the most magical part of the airport and possibly the pinnacle of the whole experience. If the forces of darkness ever got hold of Disneyland, this would be the result. First, the queue. One can only marvel at the masterpiece of crowd-management that crams 3,000 barely awake people into a space designed for 300.
Then, the opportunity to extract one’s ‘electronic devices’ from where they are resting at the very bottom of the hand luggage, bringing with them half a packet of biscuits, last night’s socks, three spoons, a maverick pair of mens underpants and the shoe that wouldn’t fit in the hand luggage.
Next, arrival at the Enchanted Gate. Quite possibly the most perverse piece of kit in the whole place, this is able to reliably detect and squawk about things which are simply not there. I am not certain whether the officials on the other side of the great gate are actually human, or robot but I know without any doubt at all that they will stop me. Will I be patted down, or have the air around me swept with a thing like a Hoover? Will I have to stand there while the official concerned waves a bat device all around me like I am the object of a weird Feng Shui ceremony?
Maybe, as once on a flight leaving a major UK airport, I will have my knicker elastic pinged, or if I get really lucky, a dog in full uniform will be led over to sniff my bag. But that was Canada…
Whatever, since the Other will derive huge entertainment from this performance, I distract myself from the humiliation by praying that his belt will set off the alarm and he has to take it off and his trousers will descend round his ankles.
Finally, I will be rewarded for providing the cabaret by being granted permission to enter the Kingdom of Boredom aka the cattle pen called Departures.
Herein lies the surreal experience of being forced to sit on the edge of a hard orange plastic chair for three hours and twenty minutes , or until madness forces us to experiment with experiences like buying 250 ml of diet coke for £4.75.
Around six hours into the whole ordeal, I might seek mental respite by wandering bag-faced and pig-eyed out of the cattle pen called Departures and into the toilets ( which, incidentally, always have metal pans) Here I will be greeted by a terrifying hag in the mirror, a vision of someone who has died and whose funeral face was put on by an evil craftsman who learnt his trade at the paint counters of B&Q.
One cannot change the unfortunate fact that the Alps are not conveniently placed in the Midlands. Therefore, in the interests of time and economy the aeroplane beats the car hands down.
One cannot change the even more unfortunate fact that the aeroplane and all his winged mates live in soulless compounds in the back of beyond, and that to gain access to him one must pass through ranks and ranks of ranks of uniformed po-faces whose very mission is to make you blush with the guilt of some transgression you never knew existed.
One cannot change the reality that unless one wants to pass entire summers and winters unable to tell whether it is August or Christmas Day, it is necessary to find a way out from the shadow of our National Cloud, and go somewhere where you can see the sky. It’s a basic fact of emotional wellbeing , of keeping a sense of humour….
“So… none have been handed in then? No senses of humour? Thought not – you probably wouldn’t recognise one anyway, not even if it leapt out and bit you on your liveried bum. You would probably toss it into the big transparent bin with all the sad confiscated tweezers and plastic bottles. Never mind.
Maybe it’ll turn up when I unpack. It’s quite dark , so it’s easy to miss sometimes.
Except in bright sun and snow. And against dazzling seas, and under overdriven moonlight , and the other joyful places, and almost always on the far sides of airports…..”
Inevitablei>Oh..hi – is this the Airport Lost Property Desk? Yes, well I seem to have lost my sense of humour? Oh…yesterday I think. Before I went to bed …but I always keep it with me so, I just wondered…..
February, 3.15 a.m. The moon is in the sky, God is presumably in His heaven. The planets are swanning happily about the mighty firmament, and I am Totally Out of the Comfort zone.
I am privileged. I have been blessed with a good seat on this world as it continues its long journey around the sun. Through my window I have a clear view of the slow rotation of stars, beneath my head a soft pillow, and within the terms and conditions I am able to remain here, short visits to the bathroom aside, for as long as my body clock wishes to do so.
It is a simple freedom, the sleep, the softness, the candour of the womb-like warmth, but it remains one which is fundamental to maintaining my own mental wellbeing, and curtailing any urges to boil my own head.
I live with a man, essentially a kindly man, who casts his trousers to the four winds the second he puts his foot in the front door and then spends hours lounging in his hideous man – pants. Doubly disturbing then to be woken by same individual, skipping around the house fully clothed at ten past three in the morning for Gods sake eating toast and marmalade , his face transformed like a kid who has just received a midnight visitation down the chimney from Santa Claus.
The White Stuff. The annual Alpine jolly. The poles, the carbon-fibre, the ink of infinite sky, the squeak of virgin snow and the incomparable frisson of the potential shattered pelvis.
“Ooooh” sighs an envious owl, somewhere in the dark wood outside my window. The Alps are a long way, but nothing like as far away from attractive as the prospect of getting up.
However, the Other has clearly hit a double black diamond of enthusiasm and is completely out of control, shrieking ” On the piste!!!” and even worse “Time to get up!! Time to get up!!!”
Had I the required level of consciousness I might marvel at how someone who usually spends at least five hours a day assuming the position of Jabba the Hutt on the sofa could undergo such a manic transformation. Pausing only to flick the bedroom light switch and floodlight the place like a football stadium, he repairs swiftly to the kitchen to throw cutlery into the drawer, stuff bread in the toaster and set off the smoke alarm.
Nobody should have to get up while they are still effectively asleep. We are creatures of the sun. Rising before the sun is unnatural. It perverts the natural order of things. Call me an ungrateful old cow but when an alarm starts bawling like the screaming spires of hell in the darkness , a primeval panic-bag bursts inside me and floods me with the certain knowledge that somebody has died, that the house is burning down, that a monstrous emergency is here, now, and what am I going to do to survive it? Get mighty cross, that’s what.Admittedly, there are in this world some people who like to be up and about shortly after the time when most humans go to bed. Some only do it because they are paid to, an entirely understandable approach. However in my experience the huge majority are either babies whose brains are not yet mature and properly sorted, or teenagers, who are mentally programmed to emerge for breakfast at 4 pm.
Parents valiantly endure all sorts of mortifying shenanigans in an effort to train their offspring to become normalised, so that they learn to go to bed at night and become fit to occupy the civilised world. Even the raving, crashing lunatic downstairs was once trained to transform himself roaring snorting warthog which he now becomes at around 11.15 every night.
Enter the Economy Airline, that unique industry which visits Alpine airports so rustic both in construction and location that they are surely used as actual cowsheds during the off-piste summer months. Even more tempting, it’s possible to leave the UK at the crack of dawn so the prospect of a whole days lift-queuing is a real possibility, and even before you unpack the gin. It’s enough to make me eat my thermal pants.
Downstairs, the relentless fork – crashing continues. A horrifyingly discordant version of “we’re all going on Winter Holiday ” ( Sorry, Sir Cliff, but it makes me want to throw myself right off one ) accompanied by the wailing of our elderly tomcat who clearly thinks morning has broken.
It’s like an avant garde event at the Proms, only worse.
I turn to my comatose self and recognising the inevitability of the whole hideous business murmur “shit” , by way of comfort. Rolling away from peace, quiet and gorgeous slumber I stagger to the bathroom, turn all the lights off and sit on the toilet in shocked silence
In the hallway below the night now resounds with the sound of Homo Not-very Sapiens playing luggage-Jenga with the tower of skis, boots and the wardrobe-sized suitcases necessary to transport ones existence somewhere else for seven whole days.
It always pays to be risk averse when packing, since you just never know what awaits when you arrive in your dream destination. For example, once I had to spend a complete fortnight in a cupboard in Austria without a kettle, just when a Nice Cup of Tea would have made it all bearable. In my experience, travelling with a passport but without a small washing line, proper tea-making stuff and at least half a bottle of gin is just asking for trouble.
Sitting on my porcelain throne I reflect on the contents of my hold baggage and mentally tick off the essentials which I have had the foresight to pack. It would be comforting if not for the yelling up the stairs, even banging on the bathroom door, actually banging on it because apparently We Need to Go .We Need to Go!
Why? Why do we need to go anywhere apart from the Lovely Land of Nod at this truly horrifying hour? This is one of the cruel mysteries of the universe : why, if the airport is a two hour drive away, and the plane does not leave until half past ten in the morning, WHY do we have to leave the house so early it is practically yesterday afternoon? Anything could happen, it seems. All manner of unthinkable delays could crop up. There could be an elephant running loose on the motorway. The man who opens the airport gates could be taking a nap. The airport could have relocated fifty miles further down the road as a result of a monstrous conspiracy….
I turn on the basin tap, and the ghost of my mother whispers down the water pipes. “Ungrateful girl…” she says..
OK, I give in…
Contents of the pantry :
A lot of flour
A lot of spices
A lot of cat biscuits
Approx 15 ml No Added Sugar Apple Squash.
A lot of porridge oats
5 ice cream cornets
Lentils & a lot of other things resembling assorted gravel unless boiled & soaked for 36 hours
One crust of Multiseed Bread, dehydrated
6 sachets of Cat Food
1 tin of Low Fat Custard. ( almost as good as Parmesan cheese
On account of this we decided to Go for a Curry. Spent about 2 hours deciding where…
Him ( on bog) We always go to Mumbai
Me( scrubbing fossilised bits of nuclear porridge bomb from inside microwave )yeah it’s good.They get us a nice table & they bring us our drinks without even asking
Him : we could try somewhere else?
Me : ….hmmm..ok then..but it may not be so good..
Him: it would be different..
Me: ok, well..I suppose.We could go to Chutney
him: the Raj?
Me: Service meant to be crap there…
( a Tripadvisor interlude ensues…)
Me: the Viceroy?
Him: The Mumtaz?
Me: The Taj Mahal?
Him: Orchid Indienne?
Him: the Tigress?
Me: that’s Thai. And they had that thing in the paper
Him: about the lice and the plug hole
Him: Its vegetarian, I’m not having bloody vegetarian
Me: yeah the doors are narrow there..
Me: ..& your mind is so broad your head might not fit through..
Me: they won’t let you in
Him: let’s go to Chutney. We haven’t been there in….
Me: it’s tiny.
Him: we havent been there for, ages, it would be different
Me: they practically make you sit on someone else’s lap.
Him: we always go to Mumbai, let’s go to Chutney..
Me: Ok, but there better not be people there.People go there you know..People from Work, even..
Him: it’ll be empty. It’s 7 o’clock, it’s the school holidays.
Him: It’s Saturday.Its pouring with rain
Me: ( its school holidays.Its Saturday)….we live in a holiday resort. We should book..
Him: itll be fine
Me: ok, you better bring your Ear Trumpet. I’m not shouting at you across…..particularly if there’s people from work,..
Him: What about the Raj?
Me: What about the Raj?
Both: Sod it, let’s go to the Raj…
So, last Saturday, we went to the Raj.We ordered poppadums and chutneys including one which was a thrilling shade of green. Then pilau rice, chicken tikka chilli masala and tandoori chicken wings. Totally yum.
This aside, the Raj was nice: big, airy etc and apart from its view directly over the Cricket ground, was salubrious and agreeable. Were it a view over some more attractive sporting facility, say, one of those places where real men in kilts toss tree trunks about, then this would seal the deal for the Raj. However, as many of the mighty sisterhood and some of our more enlightened brothers recognise, Cricket is a horrid excuse for a sport at which anyone with half a brain weeps buckets of despair.
Me: ( pensively) I hate cricket.
Him:Well you could ask them for a fork, they wouldn’t mind..,
Me: It’s chicken wings, you are meant to pick it…no, I don’t want a fork, look, I was talking about Cricket..
Him: I’ll get you a fork (waggles hand in direction of passing waiter) hang on, excuse me but…
Me: (glancing hopefully at his trouser pocket, which is where he hides the ear trumpet..)..so.. The Ear Trumpet, could you, er..
Time shifts in my head. Blazing, red shift backwards. I am Mummy. I am ever loving, ever loveable. My value lies in the indisputable fact that the two vibrant little clothes bundles of life who accompany me everywhere, permanently attached to my leg, know indisputably that I indisputably know Everything. They can ask me anything, and I can respond, and in their absolute trust they believe that I am right. Some time in the future, they become aware that this is total rubbish, however, within the rosily tinted time shift they still know that I am right.
I can confidently answer any question, no matter how inane..
Eg Mummy, why is the moon?
A: Because it is the great big moon, poppet, and it just is..
Mummy, why is the moon big?
Because its the moon.
(holding teddy up to the moon)…it’s only as big as teddys hand, look..
(O…God..this could go on..) Well, that’s because it’s got moon magic.
Why is moon magic?
Well, it can make itself look really really really small…
Really small..really little like a sweetcorn thing?
Ohhhh much smaller than that..
Can it disappear, with moon magic?
Of course it can ! ( slight snuggle..) you know what, if you close your eyes now, in the mornings the moon will be gone..
Will it come again tomorrow..?
Oh yes….but sometimes it has to go to bed for a little while too..
..moon goes to bed???
Yep, but it comes out again then. It has a great big moon bed behind the clouds, that’s why there’s clouds, to keep the moon cosy
Are they soft?
Really soft. Just like your pillow..
(sitting up rapidly) Clouds are like my pillow?
Just like it poppet. All soft and fluffy, just like your pillow!
( whingefully) mmmmmwwwwwwwnnnnnrghEEEEEEE
I don’t like my pillow wee!!
It weeeeee!! My pillow WEEEEEEEEEE..
( Right. ok.) Of course it won’t, silly sausage! Its a pillow ! It can’t wee!!
(Oh!Oh!Oh! Nooooooh!! At best, am now about to be forced to explain anatomical details of why a pillow cannot wee!) Rapidly become aware of a Motorway Moment, ie overwhelming need to find/ take next exit, any exit, to avoid becoming committed to many hours of hideous tedium..)
But Daddy said when we were in the park we have to go home because the clouds are going to do a rude word that means have a wee and we have to go home and..
Well he was just being silly! OOOOh!! Look ! I can see Big Wheels ( ie picture book re diggers and tractors and truck stuff so criminally boring it can fossilise any sensate being within 30 secs of opening..)
Eeeeeeeeh!Eeeeeeeeh! Big Wheeeeeeeels!!! I want Big Wheeeeeels!!
( accepting fate) OK then.
“Big Wheels work for us. Big Wheels are on the Low Loader. Big wheels are on the tractor.Big wheels are..” etc etc etc
Reverse shift. Returning to the restaurant.
Him..what did you say?
Me: I said where’s your Ear Trumpet????
Him: ( to passing waiter) Excuse me, could we have a fork please? She needs a fork…
Waiter directs a glance of disbelief/ disgust in my direction. I snatch at His fork and brandish it.
Me: A Fork!! A Fork, please!!!
Waiter departs, many suspicious backward glances.
Me: I didn’t even NEED a bloody fork!!! What is WRONG with you?
Him: Mighty.I am a mighty man. I got you your fork..
Me: ( give me strength..)..Can you hear me?
Him:..AND I got you nice chicken..
” Look! Look! Theres a Big Screen just over there!!!
Me : hey look, there’s a Big Screen, and Foopball !!!
Him: ( suddenly animated) FOOPBALL
A beautiful silence ensues during which I retrieve the nice lumps out of the mango chutney whilst he undertakes cosmic shift between my universe, and alternative one which contains foopball..
I don’t know how many calories there are in Mango lumps. A lot, probably, but I can eat them very slowly.