Revenge of the Cat
I don’t dwell in the past. But I am occasionally, and unexpectedly, haunted by it. Leaving my family and friends to move here 10 years ago was one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. Looking back, I am not sure how I managed it. I think it takes a certain kind of person to be able to announce to your entire family that you are planning to live five thousand miles away. A cold-hearted one, you might think. I am not cold-hearted – I have been known to cry whilst watching car commercials – but I do think I am quite cool. OK, wrong word. I am definitely not cool, in the modern sense of the word. I am cool, as in somewhere between hot and cold. I think this comes from having a very effective protection device. It’s called denial. I am very good at denying anything that might be potentially upsetting. In fact I shut it away in a box and only let it out when I’m ready. I do not recommend you try this at home. You might find yourself, ten years later, opening that box and not really knowing what to do with what’s inside.
Cokie’s new home
The memory that haunts me most from that time ten years ago is the fact that we abandoned my cat, Cokie. Cokie was 20 when we left England, and I’d had him since he was six weeks old. I remember him sitting on the stairs of my little house, watching as we packed up the last of our things to leave. He was confused, and so was I. He didn’t yet have a new home to go to and right up until that day, I didn’t know what to do with him. He couldn’t have come with us – at 20, he would never have made the flight. I hadn’t wanted to face giving him up to anyone and so hadn’t made a decision. And then my good friend Veronica stepped in – a cat lover and ultimately Cokie’s saviour. Cokie went to live with Veronica for the last year of his life, and Veronica got repaid for her kindness with violently scratched sofas and old-age-induced incontinence (the cat’s not her’s).
He died a few months after we arrived in Canada, and when I got the phone call, it was my turn to sit on the stairs, in my new Canadian home, and mourn the cat I had abandoned. I have never fully got over Cokie, because I felt, and still feel, so guilty. Guilt is a funny thing, in a completely unfunny way. It can really ruin your sense of – well, common sense. As a way of dealing with the shoddy way we had treated Cokie, we decided to adopt a new cat. New cat (now 9 years old) was named “Trouble” by the adoption centre where we found her (I really don’t know what we were thinking. The clue really was in the name). She leapt onto son Liam’s head as soon as we saw her, and it was so endearing and hilarious, that we chose her straight away. It wasn’t so hilarious when we realised the cat was completely crazy. We renamed her “Rosie” (such a sweet name…so misleading).
Rosie rules the roost
For years, Rosie ruled not just our house but our street, strutting through the neighbourhood like a territorial lioness. Nowadays, she stays closer to home, opting to rule just the house, and the people (and dog) in it. Middle to old age has not mellowed this cat. She wakes us in the middle of the night for no reason, demands attention that she doesn’t really want, and bites us at every opportunity. She once brought a live rat into the house and dropped it onto our sofa. We had to throw the sofa away. We won’t talk about the kitten we brought into the house a few years ago; we are certain that Rosie drove this poor kitten to its death; probably suicide. Every time Rosie attacks me, I think about Cokie, because I am certain that he sent Rosie our way, as a kind of punishment for abandoning him. After being awoken this morning at 5 by a punch to the chin with a sharp claw, I have to say to Cokie: consider us punished.