We all have to start somewhere.
And when we begin, we’re wet behind the ears. We carry the vestiges of where we were before with us: we wear difference like a badly fitting anorak.
There are the Mirandas of creation, : those who, though wet behind the ears, like Shakespeare’s Tempest heroine embrace every brave new world with wide-eyed delight.
And one of these arrived at Shrewsday Mansions late, late on Saturday evening, long after the children had given up hope that we would collect him.
We drew up at the house nestling deep in the forest as half-light fell. As we walked in with empty cat-box we could hear frantic scrabbling on the first floor, above our heads.
Furry sisters and brothers were everywhere, frenzied little vortexes of movement here and there in peripheral vision. Some had not yet departed for their new lives, some were staying anyway. But the black kitten – the one they called ‘Mike’ – he was waiting for his bus ride home.
We put him in to the cat box with a soft towel. We said hello to the other kittens and goodbye to the mum, and got in the car and drove home.
I installed the kitten in his personal room. His eyes informed me that anything could happen in the next half hour. And he padded out, and inspected his quarters and chased his tail and fell over backwards.
And I thought, Bond, I thought, (for I lost the battle to call him Clive) you’re only doing this because you’re wet behind the ears.
Because this is the only time a cat will ever allow you to see it without a perfect sense of balance; without that knowledge that every step is part of the plan, every thought premeditated. If you say something to a cat it will reply, yes, I knew that already, thank you. A cat, on its home turf, owns every comfy chair and every well-travelled route. It is master of the household routine and it balances, poised, with four velvet paws, on the minutiae of family life.
But not yet.
The new recruit has distraction down to a fine art. It has the five-second attention span sorted. It will follow anything covered with feathers or stuffed with catnip anywhere.
The agility which, later, will help it fall on its four paws, is currently occupied in Spring-Heeled-Jack leaps onto furniture. It is a ninja kitten. It would do well in those Chinese Films like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It leaps in rocket-assisted bounds which leave you thinking, is that possible?
It wolfs food. And eats toes, too. And also sofas.
Totally uncharacteristic of the creature he will eventually be.
But then: he is wet behind the ears.