Please will you excuse the lateness of my New Year Blog. I am an old boy now and not as spry in mind or body as in my dancing days.
Now I do hope you had an enjoyable Christmas. I was told later that we had a good time, but having polished off a goodly slice of the excellent roast lamb, (a pleasant change from turkey) half a stuffing ball, two pigs in blankets and a pink marshmallow before lunch, it appears I dozed off among the gifts beneath the Christmas tree and slept soundly through the rest of the festivities!
Yes, mine was a quiet Christmas. I’m getting far too old for all those party games, though I did have a few nice presents of tasty snacks. They held the wolf at bay and kept me munching through most of Boxing Day!
The news is that I have two new young cousins, Joe and Otis. They have spent a long time at the cat’s home so need a lot of basic social training in manners and feline behaviour. They are always hungry and keep trying to break into the kitchen cupboards. One of them, I believe it was Joe, even succeeded in getting the lid off a cake tin and eating half a large Christmas fruit cake waiting to be iced. The silly cat was very unwell resulting in an emergency rush to the vet. As I said later in no uncertain terms. ‘cats should not eat fruit cake. It makes us most unpopular!’ Let’s hope Joe has learned his lesson.
Not to be outdone, Otis fell in nextdoor’s pond while trying his luck at fishing. Merow!
Ha-ha! I don’t think he’ll be trying that one again in a hurry.
As for New Year resolutions, I haven’t any. I have a good life; my people are well trained, and I wouldn’t change anything – except sell a few more of my books about the Pusska Moggyinsky Ballet Company; I’m the director you know.
Well, time to get great Auntie Maria back on her laptop. My head is buzzing with ideas for our new book and I’d hate them to be forgotten.
HAPPY NEW YEAR
TO MY READERS – AND MAY YOUR NETS BE ALWAYS FILLED WITH FISH!
Many years ago, my family bravely took on the restoration of Gothic House, a once beautiful then derelict Victorian villa by the sea. The history of the house, dating from the 1830’s, and its list of occupants, was formidable. Included was the secret ‘love-nest’ of a London aristocrat; the complexities and ownership squabbles of sixteen relatives, each left a share in the property on the death of an eccentric uncle; an elderly Edwardian gentleman who drove an early Rolls Royce and who strangled his poor parrot, a constant companion, for embarrassing him one time too many at a society lady’s soirée. And it was even said that the artist J.M.W. Turner had stayed there to paint the sunsets, of which the area is famous. Though we lived in hope, we found no priceless canvases from that great man lurking in either attic or cellar or tucked away beneath the floorboards. During World War 11, the property was taken over by the American Army who stripped the oak panelling for firewood, dismantled the wrought iron balcony and porch and had a big gun mounted on the roof.
Up the narrow drive and round the back was the coach house, a matching addition in neglect and dereliction to the main building. Saplings of sycamore, forsythia and buddleia sprouted from broken guttering, ivy waved in curtains from the beams, rotten doors and frames creaked painfully in the sea breezes and shards of broken window glass lay everywhere.
Where well-groomed horses had munched their oats and chewed their hay and lay down thankfully to rest after a long day’s work, a large concrete block, ribbed with rusty iron bars, used to anchor a war-time electricity generator, had taken their place. Even after several decades, the rank odour of oil and diesel still hung in the air around the generator block and the concrete filled remains of an army vehicle inspection pit, dug deep into the cobbled floor.
It certainly took imagination to picture the horses and smart carriages, traps and pony carts that had been housed beneath that broken, leaky roof; but when you are young and with plenty of energy and imagination, anything is possible!
Restoring the house was a major task taking five years of slow hard slog, frustration and a dwindling purse, but it was while patching up the coach house to provide a garage, workshop and winter quarters for Peter Pan, my beloved pony, that I stumbled across a small a mystery.
The bricks of the back wall were in serious need of repair, many were loose, and some had almost crumbled away with the wet and damp from broken guttering and downpipes. One brick, right down near the floor, fell away in my hand and there, squeezed tightly at the back of the gap, was a small oval box. Tentatively reaching around a long legged spider with a disapproving stare, I took the box from its hiding place, wiped away the mildew and dirt of countless years and to my delight, found it was a gold embossed brown leather jewellery case. Fingers trembling with excitement, I prised open the rusted metal clasp, but as the rotten lid fell off, out into the light spilled the treasure from within.
Of the kind of jewellery Victorian ladies would have worn when in mourning for the death of a loved one, it was a silver marcasite cross set with fingers of black jet surrounding a freshwater pearl. There was a link at the top of the cross for a ribbon or chain, but of course any ribbon would have rotted years ago and there was no chain. Though we searched hard, we found no clues from local historical records, neighbourhood memories or gossip, as to the owner of the lovely ornament, but what a strange place to hide such a treasure. What were the circumstances that led its sad owner to hide it there, or did she? Maybe the cross was stolen, hidden and never retrieved… Perhaps one day, the Victorian mourning cross and its mystery owner might become the theme for a new story – it is certainly an interesting thought well worthy of consideration!
Stubby is my second inspiration for the character of Galway O’Toot the magical Irish lepremogg
School out, a lovely sunny day and two little girls, my best friend Lillian and me, were off on an adventure. Our favourite dollies and teddies, dressed in their Sunday best, sat smiling over the edge of their pram, their seat, a wicker picnic basket packed tight with fish paste sandwiches, sponge cake, dog biscuits, bowls, beakers and bottles of orange squash. Springer spaniel Rolly and Guinness, the Border collie danced, barking ecstatically around the pram; our destination was the beach.
The tide was right out, the mud flats glistening in the sunshine. Far out near the water-line, an army of tiny, side-stepping mud crabs scavenged busily for whatever it is that mud crabs scavenge for. Seagulls swooped, dived and strutted importantly among them and the dogs, unable to contain their excitement, raced and splashed across the mud, sending the gulls screeching into the air and scattering the startled crabs back into their holes. But then we noticed something else was out there on the mud; something strange that sent the two dogs slowing and tip-toeing over to investigate.
From where we had set up camp in the shelter of a sand dune, the something strange out there on the mud looked like a rock or maybe just a lump of driftwood, but then as we sat watching and the dogs approached, it moved. Sniffing cautiously, Rolly jumped back, barking in alarm and the way Guinness suddenly backed off, brought us quickly to our feet. The strange something was beginning to look very much like… a cat.
Kicking off our sandals, Lillian and I rushed across the slushy mud shouting at the dogs to stop and stand. Well trained but surprised at being prevented from their favourite, cat chasing pastime, the dogs actually obeyed. Sad eyed, they sat together in a puddle, drooling and panting with disappointment as I bent, picked up and carefully carried the thin, wet and muddy black cat back to our camp and placed him gently in the pram amongst the still smiling, but genuinely concerned, teddies and dollies.
Lillian opened the picnic basket and as I pushed the pram homewards and the puzzled dogs looked on, our hungry passenger wolfed the fish paste sandwiches – he left the crusts – golloped down the sponge cake and to the disgust of Rolly and Guinness, he licked, sucked and chewed for afters, one of their dog biscuits.
Several days of rest, good food and love and Stubby, as we named him, for he had no tail just a furry bob on his bottom, blossomed into a handsome, bold and affectionate cat. The lack of a tail was quite a puzzle to our family and friends. Some would have taken bets if there had been any chance of proving whether the missing tail was the result of deliberate cruelty, an accident or actually missing at birth. But in time and to everyone’s satisfaction, the answer came.
Another of the many strays that had arrived at our door was Snowy, a fluffy, pure white, coquettish female, and it wasn’t long before Stubby was smitten by the love bug and Snowy, hiding in a wardrobe in a bag of jumble, produced a pretty litter of four kittens. One like its father was all black and three like Snowy, were pure white. But one of the white kittens, a delicate, fairy-like little boy we named Oberon was, to our surprise and delight, born without a tail. So now we had proof that Stubby, sad survivor of the mud flats, was in fact a genuinely tail-less, magnificently magical, pixie Manx cat.
Sabby is my first inspiration for the character of Galway O’Toot the magical Irish lepremogg.
Cold and hungry, pressed hopelessly against a locked door that never opened, his moth-eaten ginger fur barely covering the sharp angles of his stiff old bones – this was Sabby as we found him.
A neighbour thought his name was Sab or Saboo, or something like that and said the house had been empty for months, the previous tenants having packed up, leaving the cat and a load of debts and disappearing into the night. A practical woman, she had fed the poor stray scraps, not wanting, as she said, to find a dead cat on her doorstep.
We moved in to the property on a freezing winter’s day, a family of five in a transit van bursting at the seams with second-hand furniture and a few precious possessions. Our new home was cold and smelled of mildew and damp. The plumbing was doubtful and the electrics dodgy to say the least. Added to that, the locals said it was haunted. When we finally managed to turn the key in the rusted lock and shove the stubborn back door open, in with a blast of cold air had fallen Sabby. Breathing heavily the sad stray was too weak to walk.
Gathering round, we murmured words of comfort to the dear old soul. With gentle caresses, small mouthfuls of food and warmth from the cold, a glimmer of hope flickered in his sad, watery eyes. And suddenly, to our delight, a tiny unexpected miracle, as a faint purr struggled, shivering and spluttering in his throat.
But there was work to do if we humans were to be settled before dark, so leaving him in a corner, an empty cardboard box for a bed, a full tummy and a hastily made fire in the hearth to warm his tired old bones, Sabby slept.
Early next morning, the dear old fellow greeted us with a loud, rasping meow. Rubbing his thin body round our legs, he lifted his heavy head, his faded green eyes filled with thanks and love.
Over the next few weeks, Sabby’s breathing grew stronger, his body filled out and his ginger fur, though thin, took on a healthy glow. Sabby was content.
Spending his last winter days curled by the fireside and the early days of spring sitting in the sunbeams from the windows, he never did see the glories of summer that year. Passing peacefully away in his box, Sabby, wrapped in a candy stripped towel, was buried with simple ceremony beneath a blossoming apple tree at the end of our garden.
Now tell me, have you ever heard of a lepremogg? Do you know what a lepremogg is? No? Well I didn’t either until quite recently, then one day as I was sitting sticky fingered, at my computer, eating a jam doughnut and suffering from a severe case of writer’s block, it suddenly popped into my head – Lepremogg!
‘Whaaat?’ I said to myself.
‘Lepremogg!’ came the reply and as if by magic, the dough-nutty log-jam in my writer’s mind simply melted away.
No doubt you’ve heard of the magical leprechauns of old Irish folk law; a race of little people, dwarfs, fairies, pixies, gnomes, who jealously guard a fabulous pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Well, in their spare time they also amuse themselves by playing practical jokes on us unsuspecting humans. Some of their pranks, I’ve heard, are not so funny and are quite heartless and often cruel. But if caught, which hardly ever happens as they are far too clever for that, just like the genii in Aladdin’s lamp, they must grant three wishes to their captor in order to buy their freedom.
But again, according to Irish folk law, leprechauns do sometimes show a gentler, kinder side to their nature, for it is in the dead of night, that they will creep into your home and mend and clean and polish your boots and shoes. Leprechauns are very skilled at this and in the making of pairs of new shoes are unsurpassed – the only trouble is that sometimes they only make one!
But none of this answers the question, what is a lepremogg? Well, where leprechauns are magical little people, dwarfs, fairies, pixies, gnomes, lepremoggs are of course, magical little cats, though in the case of the lepremogg, Galway O’Toot, one of the stars of my story, Dancing Paws of Magic, he is described as a rather large magical cat with bright green eyes, fiery red whiskers and a furry bob of a tail hidden beneath his emerald green coat.
Just like leprechauns, lepremoggs also have their precious pot of gold and Galway O’Toot is no exception. But to discover whether he is a lepremogg for good or for evil, and whether he was caught, held to ransom and asked to grant a very special wish, you will have to read my book!
Dancing Paws of Magic by Maria McArdle – published 2017 by @MatadorBooks
It all began with a shopping list that became a doodle that turned into a plump little pussycat dressed in tutu and ballet slippers. Quickly forgetting the weekly repetitive boredom of my shopping list, I studied my doodle with quiet pride and began to question…
Now who can this pussycat be? She needs a name, Pussy Pavlova perhaps?
Hmm,The last of course; a mixture of both the animal and the human world. that seems good or what about Pusskarina Pavlova? Yes, I think she would like that; a Russian sounding name for a ballet dancing cat.
But what is she? Is she a child’s toy?
Oh no! I don’t think so. She looks too real and too alive.
Well where has she come from? The animal world? The world of humans? A mixture of both?
Yes, of course, that’s it; a dancing cat in a human world. But surely not a performing cat for human eyes.
Oh, no, that would never do. My little dancer must dance in real ballets, but with other cats, soloists, a corps-de-ballet forming a complete company and on a stage and in a theatre that is just their size and where no human can ever go.
That’s good, but what about the music? They must have music and an audience? These little dancing cats must have an audience to see them perform.
Yes, that’s right. How about a small musical ensemble made up of a variety of other animals, not just cats but dogs, rabbits, birds and even mice? And the audience should be all kinds of animals and birds too; fans of the ballet.
So Pusskarina Pavlova, her company, her stage, her theatre and her audience of eager ballet fans now needed a setting. It should be near the human world but hidden safely away from the interfering curiosity of prying human eyes.
Wait! What about a big country house with a secret cellar and tunnels where a cat size theatre could be built; where this little pussy ballerina and her company of cats could perform?
Yes, that’s it.
And they could live and play and dance within a whole complex of studios, music rooms and dormitories, comfort stations, a canteen and everything required for a flourishing company of dancing cats.
Well very soon, my little Pusskarina Pavlova developed into two kitty-cat characters; a small white cat named Pusskarina Pavlova, the prima pussy ballerina of the company and Dame Pusska Moggyinsky, the founder of the ballet company who just had to be of the Russian Blue cat variety. Other characters quickly followed and the secret tunnels beneath Pluckerslea Hall, as it became known, were quickly filled with the musical cacophony of meows, barks, quacks, clucks and squeaks of the many creatures that went to make up the legendary, Pusska Moggyinsky Ballet Company.
But this creatively idyllic lifestyle could not be without its problems; there would be no real story in that. With my imagination working overtime, trouble came thick and fast for the ballet company, with the appearance of the evil Bruiser Bumfluff and his ruthless Black Treacle Farm Gang.
But what about the magic? I hear you ask. There has got to be magic to make it all work.
Well, you’ll have to read the book to find out about that!
They say truth is stranger than fiction, but in some stories (like mine) fiction can be pretty strange too!
Marmite’s True Life Blog
Marmite Harris is the inspiration for the character of Marmie Moggyinsky, Director of the Pusska Moggyinsky Ballet Company.
Mer-ow and Hi! I’m Marmite. Now when my brother Berlioz and I were young we always seemed to be moving home. This time it was to a tumbled down old house in a place called Portland, which is a kind of island, but with a long thin bit covered in nasty common seagulls joining it to the mainland. It was in our time at Portland that I learned to loathe seagulls.
For the first two weeks Berlioz and I were prisoners; locked indoors, we were told, in case we got lost (as if!). We used to sit for hours at the sitting room window, gazing longingly at the overgrown garden and imagining all kinds of adventures we might have out there. But then the seagulls would arrive, strutting around ‘our’ garden as if they owned it, coming right up to the window, screeching that awful screech they make and poking their beaks at us in a very unfriendly manner. Berlioz, always a cool cat, ignored them but I used to give them my extra evil stare, the one I keep especially for enemies. However those hateful birds just laughed and waggled their tails at me in a most indelicate way. My super deluxe, blood curdling war cry was my next weapon, but unfortunately, with the double glazed window between us, they couldn’t hear me. Hmmm! Mer-row! Then as a final insult, they would turn their backs on me, flick up their tail feathers and give a loud screech and… Oh, how rude…that’s disgusting!
Just you wait, I thought!
From my earliest days I, together with big sisters, Rosemarie and Christine, had a love of books and were taught, by parents and teachers alike, to treasure them as friends. Books are friends with whom we share quiet moments, we were told; friends that bring laughter, tears, adventure; friends to escape with; friends that educate young minds. This last, from the kind-hearted nuns at the convent school we attended, was re-enforced with a strict code of practice regards the physical care of our very valuable bookshelf ‘friends’. And of course as we all know, school books, particularly text books, never did come cheap.
Those last evenings of holiday freedom, before the beginning of each new school year, saw the three of us gathered around the kitchen table. A pristine pile of exercise books, their enticingly blank, virginal pages torture to any young aspiring artist like me, were divided into three piles, while text books, smelling deliciously of fresh printers ink, were stacked in height according to our ages and ability. Sheets of brown paper were rolled out and with sticky tape, scissors, pens and pencils at the ready, we began measuring, cutting, sticking and labelling our precious school ‘companions’ ready for our teacher’s approval and the term ahead.
However our book covering efforts did not stop there. We became so enthusiastic with this task that every new and second hand book we received, for birthdays and Christmas and sometimes special occasions in between, would be treated to the same method of protection.
Big sister Rosemarie’s cherished Complete Works of Shakespeare, and her books on theatre, plays and novels, were covered in the same stout brown paper as her school books. Middle sister Christine’s treasured ballet books, which she called her ballet ‘bibles’, historical romances and Rupert Bear Annuals, were lovingly wrapped in pink and red rose patterned gift wrap. I preferred to see the cover pictures of my nature, pet and pony books, adventure stories, Disney and Bobby Bear annuals, and so clear coloured cellophane was my covering of choice.
The saying goes that a lady should never reveal her true age but, not to let the cat out of the bag regarding mine, I will say it is over sixty years since those early book covering days and am pleased to tell you that a few precious volumes remain on our shelves today. Some of my sisters’ books are still covered in their brown and rose patterned paper and when the wrappers are gently peeled back, the outside covers are in surprisingly good condition, though I can’t say the same for the well-thumbed, dog-eared pages within! Sadly, my choice of cellophane didn’t last. The wrappers became brittle and eventually fell off, but some of my books, my ‘friends’, though now naked (ooh!) and rather tatty, did survive our numerous house moves, and still give pleasure when I take them down for an occasional, nostalgic thumb through.
And now a short Blog from Marmite
Inspiration for the character of Marmie Moggyinsky, Director of the Pusska Moggyinsky Ballet Company.
I went to the vet last week for my annual MOT as my people call it. After much peering down my throat, pulling back my lips, prodding my tummy and other most unpleasant habits with a thermometer, that these medical furless folk like to impose upon our feline dignities, I was subjected to a sudden sly prick with a needle in the scruff of my neck. It didn’t hurt but I gave a big ‘Yowl!’ just to prove the point that I was not at all happy with these arrangements.
On being forcibly squeezed back into my pet carrier and the door firmly locked, the vet announced that I wasn’t doing too badly considering my age, though my energy levels were a bit low. Well, I’m seventeen now so what does he expect? Cartwheels round the ceiling?
We writers must accept that we cannot please all book lovers with our work, no matter how great we think it is! Each and every one of us has our own particular taste and idea of the kind of story we like; how it should read, sound, develop and end.
With this in mind, write from the heart. It is your story, your creation. As a reader yourself, think what kind of book you would like to read? Whether it be fantasy, drama, comedy, biography or romance, how would you like it to be told?
We have all been through the happy, sad, difficult process of childhood and as a children’s writer, I write for the child that still lives in me. Though I’m getting on in years and may sound rather old-fashioned, there will always be a ten year old tomboy buzzing busily around in my soul, for I have never completely grown up. It is for this child of my youth, the child who laughed and played, grazed her knees and banged her head, sang, danced and dreamed long ago, that I write my stories.
Frances, a gentle, loyal and loving, rather dizzy German Shepherd Dog and inspiration for Guard Dog, Constable Frances de Wolf, of the Pusska Moggyinsky Ballet Company.
Following our sad parting with Sherry, a dearly loved, eighteen year old Springer Spaniel, a deep, empty chasm had opened in our hearts and lives.
The local paper carried an article about a litter of orphaned Border collie pups at an animal rescue centre nearby. With great excitement, our young niece Catherine and her brother Ian scrambled into the car. But on arrival at the centre, the thrill of a new puppy, glowing radiant in their eyes, was quickly snuffed out. The newspaper had done well; all six pups had already found their forever homes.
“What type of dog were you hoping for?” asked the kindly woman.
“A puppy,” sniffed the disappointed children.
“We were hoping for a collie or spaniel,” replied my husband.
“I’m afraid I can’t offer you either of those,” she said, “but there is one dog I think you should see.” Going to a shed at the back of a wired yard, she opened the door. Standing aside, she called softly, “Frankie!”
For a few seconds nothing happened, then first a long brown nose, then a pair of sad, hopeless brown eyes, followed by large, laid back ears and a painfully thin, weak and wobbly, black and tan body crawled out.
“Nobody wants her.” There was desperation in the woman’s voice. “Her two weeks are up tomorrow. I’m afraid we can’t keep stray dogs any longer than that.”
“What?” we all chorused, looking in concerned confusion at the pathetic creature, our hearts immediately reaching out to her.
The woman clipped a short lead to the dog’s collar. Taking it, I gently coaxed the reluctant Frankie to walk a circle around the concrete yard to where our car was parked. Nervously twitching and with eyes rolling, she began, very slowly, to respond to my voice.
But what was I thinking! We had no experience of the breed. A German shepherd with an unknown temperament and obvious history of terrible cruelty and neglect would be a great risk, especially where young children were involved. My husband called encouragement to the dog, but the children, smiling nervously, retreated to the car.
Then before I had time to return her to the woman, the lead jerked from my hand and Frankie, with one enormous bound, was in the car, huddled down and panting anxiously between the two astonished children sitting on the back seat.
The decision had been made; Frankie had chosen her family and it was a decision that none of us ever regretted. Not wishing her to be reminded of the horrors of her past life, we renamed her Frances.
This darling dog lived more than fourteen years, and though she had many problems to overcome, she was one of the most wonderful canine companions and fun-loving friends.
As a deeply imaginative child, I loved telling stories to my friends. To the secret amusement of my teachers, like a wandering medieval minstrel I would hold court on the classroom steps, re-imagining new twists to the latest cinema screenings, recounting and miming the action of my weird and wonderful nightmarish dreams, singing soulful songs of cowboy kings and pirate princes and fair maidens who were really royal princesses (of which, naturally, I was one) who had fallen on hard times. Some of these stories were so convincing that I was delighted when my gullible young friends began to curtsy and bow in my presence! After that even I began to believe my stories were real! And why wouldn’t I when I shared my father’s notorious ancestors? A rum mix of rustic farmers with dubious aristocratic connections, gypsies, smugglers and highwaymen, most originated from Pluckley, a small village deep in the heart of the county of Kent?
My dad, the youngest of eleven children, along with his older siblings, was a great spinner of yarns. After all, there wasn’t much else to do in the olden days with no TV, mobile phones or computer games! Pluckley, with its reputation for being one of the most haunted villages in Kent if not the country, not to mention the Black Horse pub and scary Spectre Inn close by, provided a rich treasure trove of spooky and romantic tales on which they could draw. The churchyard still boasts at least twelve ancient headstones bearing our family name and one rather grand stone slab, lying hidden beneath rush matting in the floor of the church nave.
For centuries strange lights and a tearfully grey lady carrying a rose have been seen at night in the deserted church; a gypsy woman selling wild flowers, slowly fades from her perch on a five bar gate; a highwayman swings stiffly in the wind from a gibbet at the crossroads. Of course, true or not, we claim all these and more as our own!
When my idea for the Pusska Moggyinsky Ballet Company began to take root, I needed a setting and where better than our old ancestral stomping ground of Pluckley, re-named for the purposes of the story, Plucker’s Bottom. Sadly, in the 1950’s, the old manor house of Surrenden fell victim to a disastrous fire. Most of the house was destroyed but there was enough information in historical records to ‘resurrect’ it as the stately home of Pluckerslea Hall, where the animals of the company could inhabit the secret cellars and tunnels beneath its creaking floorboards.
There is no ruined abbey in the immediate area of Pluckley that I am aware of, but the ruins of the war bombed church at Little Chart nearby, became my model for the ruins of St Bee’s Abbey. It is here the company perform their nocturnal ballets deep down in the beautiful Crypt Theatre. This glorious ‘temple’ to her art was designed and built especially for the legendary pussy ballerina, Dame Pusska Moggyinsky, founder of the company.
Marmite Harris – His Blog
(Aka – Marmie Moggyinsky, Director of the Pusska Moggyinsky Ballet Company)
Now here is a subject that I’m sure is familiar to many of my feline readers: the dreaded hairball! I am a British Shorthair and as my name suggests, I am completely black. My fur is thick and luxurious and I take great pride in grooming and looking smart. Unfortunately, like most cats, I moult. Yes, it’s true, and not just in the spring but all year round, which means I leave trails of thick black hair wherever I go. My people are quite understanding, that is, until we have company.
Oh, I do love having guests. I get so excited, entertaining my admirers, jumping from one lap to another, kneading their knees and sharing myself around. What with giving friendly head butts and all the cuddling and fussing, I purr and I dribble and when lifted in haste from a comfortable, now soggy knee, of course I have to cough – and cough – and – yes you’ve guessed it – COUGH! And out comes a slimy black hairball! At this point apologies are made, my brother Berlioz looks down his nose with disdain and I’m usually locked in the kitchen till tea time. I don’t mind telling you, it is all extremely embarrassing and seems most unfair that Berlioz doesn’t have this problem. His coat is short and grey and he has a stripy tail so he thinks he’s royalty.
Later, when the guests have gone, and I push him aside and help myself to some of his dinner, I take great pleasure in reminding him of his origins. “We eat the same food,” I say, “and we share the same litter box. Stripy tail or not, it’s only tabby leftovers, so don’t you ever go forgetting you’re only a common old farm cat like me!” Then every single time, walking away with his superior head in the air and an irritating shake of his paw, Berlioz completely ignores me. Humph!