The Village Cat

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.



67 thoughts on “The Village Cat

  1. The cat and the vole. An interesting proposition, isn’t it, except for that wall? I love villages with their cats, the true mayors of all and deciders of fate, and I love your holiday post today, Kate.

    1. Thanks, Penny. I think you have divined that the vole was safe as houses. Bagpuss was not sylph-like enough to mount an assault on the crevices.You have summed him up: mayor of the village πŸ™‚

  2. I thin a cat of this stature deserves a series of children’s books in his honor?? I’ve never met a Bagpuss I didn’t like. His affection for all things cream puts him up there with the best of ’em. I imagine he dreams of having wings.. just like the little fledgeling:)

    1. One day, someone should invent a thought bubble one can hold above a cat’s head to find out what they are thinking, Barbara.What a revelation that would be.

  3. What an amusing little story,having a cat of my own I know that they do all have intriguing personalities. Bagpuss sounds wonderful as does Cornwall, lucky you with the weather. X x

    1. Hi Dizzydiva, thanks for reading and leaving a comment πŸ™‚ The weather has been gorgeous….perfect for all the cats to show off their personalities to their advantage…

  4. “Fat cats dog our political systems” :o) – & it’s surprising how many really big things can’t be seen by looking straight at them. I think I rather like Bagpuss… but would rather he didn’t know it for fear he’d gift me with a dead (or barely alive) vole.

  5. Elvira likes a ‘fat cat’, too much. I had to ban her from posting a comment.

    There’s new cat in our neighbourhood she discovered the night before last. This one has a white stripe down it’s back. It was a extremely close call.

    1. Mac is the same with street cats. He can go from 0-60 in about three seconds, rendering the cat a streak heading up a tree

      But he is extremely short sighted. Cats often take diabolical liberties.

  6. A substantial presence. Most birds are safe, I think πŸ˜‰

    I wonder how wide he is when he lolls on his back for a tummy tickle?

      1. Oh no, not at all. He’ll be in action again on Saturday. I’m trying (unsuccessfully at the moment) to get one of my nearest and dearest to accompany me to Dorking in the early hours of Saturday morning to park up and cycle to a suitable viewing point of the mens Olympic road race For some reason they can only see the negatives in this, to my mind rather innovative and exciting plan…! πŸ˜‰

  7. *sigh* reminds me of our old Tiger – my son’s cat from kindergarten days – by the time our daughter was born, he tipped the scales at 17 pounds or more – we have a great photo of the 6-lb baby lying next to him. She didn’t look much bigger than a vole next to him – fortunately he was more of a snuggler than a hunter.

  8. Dear Kate, today, in response to a posting on another blog, I remembered two children’s books that you and Phil, Felix and Maddie might truly enjoy because of your love of the cat you recently lost to age and your love of Macaulay. The books are by Sharon Creech.

    The first in the duo is “Love That Dog.” The second, “Hate That Cat.” Both are narrated by a middle-schooler who tells his story in prose and poetry. The poetry, written by the middle-grader as assignments, reflects the well-known poems that his teacher shares with the class. The books are delightful and poignant too. I think your family might enjoy them. Peace.

  9. I enjoyed this post about Bagpuss, and it sent me looking for the photo of a specific shop kitty I remembered from a place many years ago. He likely has long since crossed the Rainbow Bridge, however, and I could find no reference to him. However, while looking, I stumbled across this: Apparently LOTS of businesses have cats on the payroll! Seems just about right! πŸ™‚

    1. Not just shops, cathedrals too, Karen! Have a look at the photos I have posted at the foot of yesterday’s post. The door with the hole in it – it leads to the ropes and pulleys of the cathedral astronomical clock. Rats would gnaw them to threads until the cathedral cat was employed. The hole at the bottom – it’s a 14th century cat flap.

  10. Beautifully written Kate – I’m always impressed at the way you can create so much atmosphere from something as simple as a meeting with a cat! πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you, Martin – Bagpuss, of course, was a cat of considerable stature and would have written the post himself had I let him wrest control of the keyboard πŸ˜€

  11. Poor Bagpuss might just be big boned. My unnaturally large (and unnaturally fat, I’ll admit) cats weighed 20 and 25 lbs… they were on diet kitty chow for most of their post-kittenhood lives, with the exception of a few forays into roast-thievery and rice crispy squares.
    I love your writing – the stories you tell are so vivid πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you! Big boned – of course, you are quite right. My father had a beloved dog who loved his chow. One day a fellow dog walker ventured to say the dog was overweight. My father was outraged. “He’s not overweight!” he exploded. “It’s just that his head is too small for his body!”

  12. What a lovely cat and an equally lovely name ‘Bagpuss’ – sounds like you and yours are having a very nice holiday! We have some ‘friendl’ Kookaburras who visit the local pub and when there is a sausage sizzle (BBQ) you must watch out because your sausage and bread with sauce may suddenly become bread and sauce πŸ˜‰

  13. What a great cat…in spirit and in girth, apparently! I got a good chuckle at the thought of him leaping to grab the sparrow, and you’re right, probably not! πŸ™‚ I don’t know if his spirit will override the clotted cream–longevity or not, a happy soul! πŸ™‚ D

  14. I have a 17 lb cat I rescued from the alleys of Chicago…along with his sister.
    Linus WISHES he could scale anything. So far, his daily triumphs include eating, sleeping and pooping without harming anyone else. Gotta love fat cats.

  15. I’m not a huge fan of these fluffy beats, however, I would dig having one roaming the pub. There is rather a famous cat that made its home in an Iowa library years ago… I asked our director if Z could be the library dog.. no dice ~

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