There are times when the material in the Shrewsday household tumbles out with bewildering abundance.
Where shall I start?
Our cat is old.
She is senile, and impossibly moody and beloved. She is convinced nobody understands her except my husband, Phil.
About 17 years ago, when I suggested we have a cat , he vehemently opposed the move.
Three weeks later she set her four tiny paws across the threshold and began her scheme for world domination.
She has only ever managed to dominate a tiny corner of the world, but she does this quite effectively using her six-foot bodyguard, Phil Shrewsday.
I remember clearly watching her standing on the roof of our garage in Kent awaiting him with piqued boredom. Phil would scurry off to fetch a high garden table so she might alight from her recreational space with ease.
All that was missing was the red carpet. No-one seemed to entertain the notion that she could jump down by herself, being, as she was, a cat.
She liked to be lifted up, too. It worked both ways.
It was most enlightening to arrive home one day, screeching my car hastily up on the drive and slamming on the brakes, and watching an alarmed Kit Kat employ emergency procedures and run straight up a vertical wooden plinth to the garage roof, completely unaided.
Aha, I thought: we have discovered your secret superpowers. You are Ninjakitty.
Phil didn’t believe me. He never saw the psychokitty side of this formidable creature. Whenever she sat full square in front of the television screen; whenever she practiced Thai punch-walking up and down Phil’s sleeping form; whenever she wailed like a banshee from the ninth circle of hell for attention, her bodyguard would rise and attend to her every need.
She was always, without fail, a feline damsel in distress to my husband.
The damsel has grown old. Now she is more like a dowager.
These days she prefers to stay in the room of the house which has always been the busiest room in the house: our kitchen.
Our kitchen is a little outdated by today’s standards, but it’s a moderate size in English terms: its furniture is sturdy, and in the centre stands a utilitarian wooden table. It has two large windows: one which looks out on the world, the other which faces the garden, and after that the forest.
And the world potters in, and we make the world a cup of tea and we chew over world gossip; and subsequently, refreshed, the world goes home.
Or so it sometimes feels. The kitchen is a public room. It’s where we all sit and talk. It’s where we eat. It’s where Felix constructs lego on the table, and Maddie does her homework. It’s where Al eats his red pasta and I eat my green pasta. It’s where Macaulay lurks, waiting for the opportunity to pilfer or downright steal.
And it is where Kit Kat chooses to spend her days, dozing while Rome burns.
At night-time, the heating is turned off in the kitchen.
Kit Kat has the voice of a gorgon. Mythically harsh, as piercing as a siren call, she thinks nothing of waking her bodyguard ten times in a night to pander to her every whim. The wages of ignoring her call are sleep deprivation. Conversely, cater for her every need and twenty minutes later she will be back for more.
So she must sleep in a cold kitchen. I urged Phil to turn the heating on, but he was quite alarmed by the whole suggestion. Instead he has devised a personal central heating system for his small fluffy princess.
When I am cooking dinner, he heats a brick.
And when it’s time for bed, Kit Kat gets the warm brick, radiating a gentle heat, next to her box. It lasts most of the night.
Today, my sister and her family arrived back from a forest walk for tea and Christmas cake at our house. We sat round the table, watching Al and his investigations:”Kit Kat,” he was enquiring with stage courtesy, “do you have bones?”
I glanced up at the oven and saw, to my dismay, that it had been left on since dinner.
Phil leapt up:”It’s ok,” he declared; “it’s only on low.” And he opened the oven, took out a large brick and put it on the working surface: for all the world as if people put bricks in their ovens as a matter of course.
There ensued what can only be described as a bemused silence. We are not a family short of words, but to encapsulate what had just happened-and more importantly, why it had just happened – was beyond us.
That’s Phil. A surprise round every corner. The material just keeps on coming.
Meanwhile, the cat’s snug as a bug in a rug.