He's never seemed a great cat lover, possibly because my sister-in-law is compassionately devoted to them and he has felt the need to keep a degree of moderating emotional distance from them. Cats in rural France rather live life in the fast lane, sometimes by their own preference, but also because it's simply hard way of life and people aren't soft on them. They can break your heart with their combination of toughness and fragility, and are subject to all manner of potentially fatal hazards, which is one reason why we've avoided having one, since the pretty tortoiseshell with half a tail who adopted us in her last year, before we had Molly, died from anaemia probably brought on by ingesting rat poison. This hasn't always been easy, when there is a never-ending stream of kittens with death sentences over their heads and all manner of other waifs and strays, and usually a tender-hearted Anglo wringing their hands about it. You get the picture? I'm afraid it's not a pretty one. But we hold out, we couldn't save them all, we say.
But without further ado, here is what my brother wrote. (Cretouffiere is the name of their home.)
Since this appeared, it has received more hits, by a very long way, than anything else I have ever posted. While I can quite see why this should be the case, I would dearly love to know where everyone is coming from! Is there a link to it somewhere I don't know about? Surely you don't all arrive just by Googling 'cats'... Please leave a note in the comments if you can tell me how you got here, anonymous comments are allowed so you don't need to be logged in to Blogger or anything.
Well the last Cretouffiere cat has gone, the last of the originals that is. Hoppy, or Hop as we knew her, like a shadow has departed from the light. She was the dark shape that could be seen at one end of the garden, and seconds later at the other, staring intently into the tussocks before she pounced on some unsuspecting mouse which was pawed, tossed, ignored, shaken and then gobbled up.
She was the creature that emerged from the darkness if we arrived home late at night, more often than not preceded by Fatso (Dublin to her friends) who went to the cattery in the sky only ten months ago. On those dark occasions you always heard Hop before you saw her. Sometimes you thought you saw her when you didn’t, or did you? Mostly she minded her own business, but always knew when you’d cleaned the car, or left a basket of ironing unattended. I know they all do it, have this uncanny knack for finding and walking in wet concrete, but she asserted her rights to make a mess like no other.
She was the last survivor of four, born when we arrived here in ‘96. Jack left home early because he didn’t like Gremlin, who was lovable to those with a preference for the mentally retarded but also had wicked claws. Gremlin wouldn’t have made it in the big wide world so he chose to stay with us. He could be guaranteed to make an idiot of himself, he didn’t even need to try, he didn’t have far to go. Jack just vanished into the countryside to try his luck elsewhere, while Gremlin remained to make a nuisance of himself with his two sisters and old aunty Dublin, who despite her odd name hailed from Gloucestershire. Hoppy was one sister, Silky the other. Dublin was three years older and not happy to share her owner but she got used to it. Bewildered at first, grumpy later, demanding, possessive, tried to act dignified, wouldn’t get off your lap for love nor money until she was good and ready. In later life she competed with Silky for top female cat. Silky was a wise one but a few years back her blood turned to water and she had to go.
Other cats have come and gone. Stray Toms have sniffed us out. Them at La Cretouffiere are an easy touch. Ginger was I believe the first. He never bothered the others and eventually got his nose through the door. We were getting very fond of him because he was so affectionate and harmless when another brute arrived, a white creature with black spots determined to drive the others out. We suspect he was responsible for mutilating Ginger, who was taken to the vet and proved to be beyond repair. More anguish and more determination on our parts to keep the white monster out. One freezing winter night he asked me if he could come in. I told him to piss off. The following morning I buried him.
This year another Ginger (this one with white patches) has been ingratiating himself. For many months he slunk around with his tail trailing the ground so we couldn’t detect the golden balls that we suspected were there. As he became more confident they revealed themselves. Of course, Hoppy didn’t want him around, but we thought they were getting used to each other until Hoppy took sick. Last weekend she lay down. Both Andy and I knew she was dying and should just have let her get on with. She’d never been to the vet and didn’t want to go. What a bloody dilemma. Do you gamble that the vet might have the answer, or do you leave it to take its course. We took her there and I wished we hadn’t. It wasn’t much of a choice. Sorry Hop.
My Mum sometimes appears in my dreams, sometimes my Dad. These cats don’t. I just see them out of the corner of my eye sometimes.