The term ‘fat cats’ has been used and misused for a very long time.
It is thought to have been coined by Baltimore Sun journalist Frank Kent in the ’20s.
Fat cats dog our political systems, it is true.
But where I am right now, a fat cat is a fat cat.
The cats of Cornwall have clotted cream to contend with, you see. They have adoring tourists, and packed pubs who simply don’t seem to mind a cat wandering in from who knows where in search of who knows what.
Last night, I met Bagpuss, the village cat. He is portly beyond words. This is because he has developed a strong working relationship with the village pub, and his diet includes chips and apple crumble with cream.
He takes it all as his due, naturally. The village is lucky to have Bagpuss, he feels strongly. And it cannot be denied that this rotund ginger tom is a local celebrity.
Our meal at the pub finished, we sat back and waited for the rest of the village to arrive for the weekly trivia quiz. For the first time, Felix was allowed to stay for the first half hour. The children love quizzes.
But there was time to kill.
Ten minutes before, Bagpuss had done a cameo appearance off stage left, past the pub door. The bar lady gazed fondly out and said, “Oh, there’s Bagpuss”, as if she had been looking for him everywhere.
Now an investigation was in the offing. Felix said, “Can we go and find Bagpuss?”
There was an unholy scramble as Maddie, Felix and Phil took the suggestion and ran with it. But ten minutes after that they returned. He is a big cat, but he has long since mastered the art of camouflage. He was nowhere to be seen.
If you want to see Bagpuss it must always be by chance. Thus, as I left the family in the pub and wound back up the hill to the cottage I found him basking in the road. I stopped to say hello and he greeted me like an old friend, though he has never seen me before in his life.
His coat, though size extra large, was luxuriant and he seemed at home in it. We communed there in the lazy Cornish evening as the birds wove frenetically in the sky above.
Later I passed him again.
This time he wore a different demeanour. This time, he had spotted something in the Cornish dry stone wall. And by his fat–hunting–cat stance it was not stationary.
Some small vole was going about its business, unaware that a plump ginger predator had registered an interest.
Bagpuss, Bagpuss, I remonstrated. You have, in all probability, had egg and chips, followed by pavlova for desert. Have you really room for a small vole?
The cat did not even hear me: his senses were tuned to a squeak in a crevice, somewhere just out of sight. He was on Planet Vole.
I left him obsessing.
The family came back soon afterwards. There had been a technical hitch with the quiz. They were concerned because a small fledgeling sparrow was sitting in the front garden, surrounded as it is by dry stone walls and a stout iron gate.
What if Bagpuss got it?
I gazed levelly at Phil, and said, ” Phil, do you really see Bagpuss scaling that wall?”
The family contemplated the issue in solemn silence, visualising the fat village cat even leaving the ground.
We all knew the fledgeling was safe.