Every now and then, in one’s life, one is lucky enough to find a soul mate. A like mind which tesselates with one’s own.
Tonight, to take me from the sound and stormy fury of my working life, I thought I’d introduce an old soul mate, one I loved and who loved me.
Who was in no way human.
When Kit Kat was about three or four, I changed my job. I was notorious for this, getting itchy feet in one career, and swerving approximately over into another.
I had been a footsoldier in the teaching world at a time when spare time was still an option for those lowly creatures. And I grew afraid of growing old as a teacher in a classroom, teaching and marking and arranging assemblies and leading singing practices.
So I took a post on a newspaper. Bang went the early exit of the punters at 3.15pm, poof went the holidays. Spare time became a very different commodity, now I was surrounded by hungry newshounds baying for round-the-clock exclusives.
With our human minds, we reasoned Kit Kat must be feeling awful lonely.
In retrospect, this was an inordinately foolish conclusion. That cat walks on her own, always did. But we were young, we had no kids, and we imprinted so many of our fears and desires on a small angry tortoiseshell, blithely ignoring her infinite fury and hatred of company.
Of course she was lonely, naturally she was.
So we contacted the Cats Protection League, who came and pronounced our house sufficiently cat friendly. Despite the glares of the encumbent feline.
We have just the cat for you, they said. He had grown up a feral, but unlike the rest in his considerable litter, he had done something very rare: he had crossed the Rubicon from wild to tame.
His name was not one ounce like him. He should have been called Jet, or Scythe, or Yaotang-Shi. But because the lovely ladies at the CPL were simple and affectionate souls, they called him Tuppence.
It is true that he was black and white, like any British moggie: but he had the heart and soul of a chinese warrior.
We hold to this day that he was descended from those distinctive, fierce temple cats of Siam. He held his cheekbones high: his eyes gleamed emerald: his glossy fur shone.
If this was an Elizabethan portrait, I would stop there. But it doesn’t do to leave out vital truths. We all know the story of Ann of Cleaves, the Flanders Mare, about whom a King was so very outspoken, despite his own unflattering girth.
All because a portrait painter told half the truth.
So I should add that he had bucked teeth: became unflatteringly portly; and had an unhinged air about him which could be quite unsettling.
The day Tuppence arrived, his deliverers let him out of the box, and all we saw was a black streak and then nothing for about four days.
Someone did come to collect the food: but whoever it was, we never saw them.
In the pitch black of the fifth Kentish night, I woke to feel something breathing on my face. Peering into the gloom I could just make out a triangle teetering precariously above me. The newcomer was checking out the locals.
A few days later we passed on the stairs, and he decided to trust me. I put out my hand, and he came to be stroked.
And once he had crossed the barricade, an avalanche of affection plummeted towards me. We were immediately fast friends, this passionate warrior and I.
He followed me everywhere, and whenever work became tough he would jump on the bed and purr and share his furnace-warmth. We were content with one another, he and I: two like transverse minds at rest.
When we moved to an 18th century cottage in Cornwall, it took Tuppence a while to adjust.
It was a stunning place. The back garden looked out on a 12th century church and farmland which was restaurant to some 30 cows.
I will never forget the moment Tuppence was allowed out into the back garden. I saw him sitting on the tall post at the bottom, watching the cows. He was trying crazily to compute. What in the name of all that is holy….
Even the cow moment did not compare with the day we found Tuppy on the thick shelf windowsill at the front of the house, his eyes held in a tractor beam by a new visitor.
The cottage down the road kept some rather glorious chickens. The cockerel had taken it upon itself to swagger up to our garden, like some 18th century dandy, sporting outrageous auburn tail feathers, which flirted with the breeze.
Tuppence was slavering. But the size – that size held him back.
I am thankful to this day that there was a layer of window glass between my small predator and this giant foolish bird. I would have given anything to hear the cat’s internal dialogue during those moments.
He was such a razor-sharp predator. One morning Phil and I heard a large, louche, succulent fly buzzing brazenly around. It was a Saturday morning and we were slumbering under a down duvet and had not yet surfaced into full consciousness.
No-one felt like getting up to vanquish the bluebottle. No-one with two legs, that is.
We heard Tuppy run, and launch: and the lazy buzzing ceased abruptly. Moments later we heard him chomping contentedly. His table manners were never polished.
We acquired a small wired cornish cat called Jessie during our stay at the end of the world, close to the Atlantic.
She was a fishing-village cat who talked loudly, I would swear in a wide Cornish accent. Kit Kat ignored her: Tuppy adopted her, worrying for her welfare, shepherding her around. He was like a pacing father, watching for her return when she stopped out at night to sample the local wildlife. He even helped her across the road to the local mouse field.
He is no longer with us: his kidneys began to fail, and I held him and cried softly as my good friend left me. For months afterwards I could swear I felt him get up onto the duvet to curl in the space around my legs.
Just occasionally, maybe once in a lifetime, like minds are not necessarily human. I miss this little one even today.