What greater gift than the love of a cat?
Charles Dickens said that, and I for one think he was onto something.
Meanwhile, William Blake saw God for the first time in 1762, His big old face pressed against the living room window. And Little Billy Blake, only four years old, screamed. Awwww. Even at that age, an absolute looney. But what a talent. Then, somewhere between eight and ten, William Blake was on Peckham Rye. He gazed upon an ordinary tree and do you know what he saw? He saw angels. Or rather, ‘a tree filled with angels, bright angelic wings bespangling every bough like stars’.
Peckham Rye is just down the road of course. And round here Blake’s vision is rightly revered. Here is an artist’s interpretation on the side of a local house.
So, naturally, under the circumstances, on Thursday evening, Keith and I set out to find Blake’s angel tree. Within a matter of minutes, as if by divine providence, we found it. Or at least one very similar. Albeit sans readily visible angels.
Then we came home and, with Pablo still on his blanket on the living room floor, we became intoxicated. We looked up cat quotes online. There are a great many.
Here are a few of my favourites:
‘Way down deep, we're all motivated by the same urges. Cats have the courage to live by them.’ - Jim Davis
‘The little furry buggers are just deep, deep wells you throw all your emotions into.’ - Bruce Schimmel
‘Poets generally love cats because poets have no delusions about their own superiority.’ - Marion Garretty
I also told a few Pablo stories. Here are a few of my favourites:
There was the time he enraged an elderly neighbour by killing one of her rosette-winning doves. I tried to explain to this furious woman that Pablo would never do such a thing, but when I found him later, there were still giveaway white feathers all over his face. I tried to chastise him for that, but he seemed so proud, and really, it was hilarious.
Then there was the time he brought home a beautiful grey squirrel he’d caught and heartlessly murdered for his own pleasure. I love squirrels and was really quite angry with him. But again, you know, what can you do? He was a killer. He loved to kill. And deep down I couldn’t help admire him for it.
When he was a kitten he grew very attached to a straw shopping bag a friend brought round to the house. So attached did he become that the friend brought the bag back the very next day, empty, as a gift for Pablo. We then developed this game, Pablo and I, wherein Pablo would climb into the bag and I would swing him backwards and forwards, causing him to grizzle with pleasure. That low slightly-spooky cat-growl that he’d do when I gave him cat-nip. The higher I swung him, the more he would grizzle, until eventually I was swinging the bag around the room in full circles. Then when I’d stop he would stagger out of the bag, still deep-purring but unable to walk in a straight line. This hilarious pastime came to an end one day in the back garden when the bottom of the bag came loose. Pablo flew out and away, high into the air in the direction of the house. He landed just above the kitchen window, where he remained, clinging to the brick work like a terrified drunken bat.
Then there was the time he wouldn’t stop shitting everywhere, a couple of months into our relationship, and I picked him up and shouted at him and threw him onto the ground like a bow tie I couldn't fasten, hurting him quite badly in the process. He squeaked in pain and when he righted himself he was limping quite badly. Immediately disgusted by what I’d done I went to comfort him, to apologise, and he hissed at me.
I never forgave myself for that. It made me question everything I thought I knew about myself. It made me wonder who I was and what I capable of. It made me question whether I was fit to have children. It made me go into counselling.
I have still never forgiven myself for that. And I think it’s important that I never do. But Pablo forgave me. And that made me love him more than I think I have ever loved anyone.
‘Let’s buy a house,’ said Keith. ‘Then we can get another cat.’
‘That seems a bit extreme,’ I said. ‘But maybe, yeah.’
Then, when it was properly dark and properly late and only cats and drunks were out roaming the streets, two drunks armed with a dead cat, a garden fork and a spade sashayed suspiciously over to Peckham Rye, heading for Blake’s Tree of Angels.
Now, I haven’t dug a hole since I attempted – as I imagine all children do - to tunnel my way to The Bowels of Hell aged five or ten. Turns out it’s bloody hard work. Despite Keith’s manly arms, it took us over an hour to get the hole deep enough so that we had no fear of it being dug up by dogs. And that was with the bare minimum of cannabonoid breaks.
To begin with, Keith – who sings the outdoors electric, frankly, and makes Ray Mears look like Margot Leadbetter – sliced up and removed a few squares of turf a couple of inches thick and put them to one side. Then, with our grave template in place, he unfurled a large sheet of tarpaulin, or, as I rather wittily insisted on calling it, Tom Paulin, and we got to digging in earnest by the light of the moon, Pablo already stationed above us in the branches of Blake’s Tree, angel feathers stuck to his cheeky chops.
When the hole was good and deep and the Tom Paulin piled high, I took Pablo’s body, blanket and all, gave him one final hug and kiss and placed him deep down inside the soft wet earth. Then I recited my poem:
Believe me, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
Then we covered him over with earth and earth and more earth and stamped down hard on top of him, which felt a bit wrong but Keith insisted it was necessary to make him safe, to seal him in there, in the heart of the planet. Then we replaced the grassy bits and stamped them down too. For minutes we stamped and stomped and chanted like weird warriors. 'His name was Pablo Cattermole,' we chanted. 'His name was Pablo Cattermole.' The leftover earth we tossed around and kicked about. Then we went home to sleep.
I checked the grave on Friday afternoon and it was fine. A damn good job in fact. You could barely notice it. I had decided that I didn’t want to mark it because, well because it isn’t necessary – I know where Pablo is; Pablo is in my heart. Also, marked graves are easily damaged. By sick, sick human beings.
Then on Saturday, in another stroke of brain-boggling coincidence, Keith and I met Fred, a 12-week old ginger tom owned by Rex and Rita, two Keith's friends. They live in Hampshire. They had invited Keith along for a barbecue. Keith invited me. I went along and met Fred.
Here, readers, meet Fred, and remember the words of Leonardo da Vinci: ‘The smallest feline is a masterpiece.’
There were quite a few humans at the gathering too, but I paid them very little heed, spending most of my Saturday with Fred.
Lots of people have suggested to me in the last few days that I should get a new kitten, and it’s easy to see why so many bereaved pet owners do immediately get involved with new animals. In fact, the only reason I’m not going to is because I can’t, because my pseudo-Chinese landlord won’t allow it.
I don’t think the procuring of a new kitten is an attempt to replace that cat so much as finding another avenue for that love that you still have inside you but which suddenly has no place to go. I suppose in that sense it’s a little like relationship rebound. But hopefully not as temporary.
Here’s another quote:
It upsets me that I cannot get a new cat at the moment, without incurring the wrath of the man-ferret Dudley, but so be it. The next house will have space.
And that’s it. I think I’m done for now.
Oh, except to say that at the weekend, Rex and Rita mentioned an article which had appeared in the Guardian a few weeks ago, about the death of a cat called Wilson. I’ve just searched it out and read it. It made me cry.
Rest in peace, Pablo.