So the new bread maker has arrived. Did I tell you the old one had departed?
It did, after a swan song involving a series of stolid door stops which stubbornly refused to be carved for packed lunch sandwiches.
Not a lot of people use a bread maker. It sounds like a luxury. But it’s essential: you spend one minute chucking stuff in, stick on the machine and in three hours the house is full of the heavenly smell of fresh bread and tomorrows packed lunch sarnies are sorted.
We never fret about new bread makers, because England is populated by a middle class which buys bread makers because they sound like a good idea, never uses them, and finally sells them on ebay at a considerable loss. Thus our latest one cost us £8.36.
However, there has been a slight development.
For the new bread maker has a feature which none of the others had: namely a piercing shriek when the paddle mechanism turns.
The movement of a breadmaker has always resembled a living thing. It can wait for ages without doing anything and then spring into life with a series of Calibanesque grunts. You think it sleeps, and then it makes a gruff comment from the corner like some dormant gnome who has suddenly had an idea.
And now, with this new arrival we have something new: a squeak which sounds like nothing short of someone heinously throttling a small defenceless vole.
For most of us here at Shrewsday Mansions, this ranges from being ambient background noise to mildly irritating.
But to one, it has proved that elusive thing: the elixir of youth.
My four-year old nephew, Big Al, sat at his Red Pasta this lunchtime, munching contemplatively.
“Auntie Kate, ” he enquired amid a mouth of spaghetti, “what’s that noise?”
“That, Al, ” I said with rare conviction, “is the bread maker. The thing that mixes everything together has a bit of a squeak.”
Silence ensued. I thought he had forgotten about the whole issue and moved on, but an interval later he observed dryly: “Kit Kat likes it. Does Kit Kat like bread?”
I followed his gaze. Across the kitchen, on her own personal kitty shelf far from the barking crowd, sat the queen of terror, she of the satanic eyes, HRH Kit Kat Shrewsday. A few moments before she had been looking old and grey and full of sleep, as Yeats would say; she is, after all, 18 years old and a tortoiseshell dowager of the first order.
But now, what light in yonder amber peepers broke? It was the breadmaker’s strangled vole impression, and Kit Kat was the hunter.
Kit Kat was convinced that somewhere inside that grumbling white box was a vole, ready to be hunted.
Her crooked posture straightened, her eyes widened; once again, every atom of her fluffy being was focused on the joy of the hunt. She looked young once more.
It should be recorded here that Kit Kat has never, ever hunted anything successfully in her whole life. She is terrible at it. Hunting, for her, involves looking very, very interested indeed. One’s fur is fluffed up, one’s cheek bones high, one’s ears straining for sonic shrieks. But one rarely pounces, and never actually catches anything.
The joy of the chase endures, though; awakened today by a counterfeit shrieking vole.
Perhaps the elixir of youth is not a drink from some far-flung place, but rather the very thing which sets you a-quiver like this old cat. An obsession, a preoccupation, an arrow which slices through the mundane things of life and catches your heart and runs, yes, sprints, capers and cavorts away with it.
What say you?