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!