The Madness of Kitty Wiggins

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the cat. “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be;” said the cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Mad means something different to English people. It does not mean insane; that archaic interpretation died with those horrible old gothic lunatic asylums that crawled into the 20th century and died. In 1774 a Madhouse Act of Parliament instigated the requirement that licensed practitioners ran these places, and yearly inspections would take place: but they were barbaric old hovels in truth.

No: mad has long since wandered away from that old meaning, and now represents the eccentric. The quirky. The downright odd. The pop group, Madness, is a case in point. It’s edgy and right on trend to be mad. And when you join a new group of people you are often told that someone odd will fit right with them in because they’re all a bit mad, there.

Mad is a badge of honour.

I wonder just how mad one is allowed to be before one makes all the other mad people feel a little uncomfortable?

Maddie had a dentist’s appointment on Wednesday. I think the Dentist has been watching Marathon ManHe tightened her braces for the very last time before they are removed in about 12 weeks’ time; and by the time she sat down to tea that night she was in agony.

Bedtime saw her miserable. Could she have an ice pack, she pleaded?

We have never had such a thing as an ice pack. But we do have about four open packs of frozen peas. I buy them, I forget they’re there, I buy another pack, and so on until, were peas currency, we would be millionaires.

I pottered downstairs to the freezer and inspected its contents. The fridge freezer is unconscionably old. In April it will be gone, along with the rest of the kitchen. We are marking time, watching the ice wage war on the door and the dribbles trickle occasionally across the kitchen floor.

I selected a bag of peas. I did not put it in another bag, but flew happily upstairs to administer cold to my daughter, who gratefully accepted them.

Time wears on, and inevitably all peas must melt. By nine they were thoroughly defrosted. And not only this, but my daughter had dozed off.

The peas, not content with their Florence NIghtingale bag stance, had made a bid for freedom. They had populated the bed, and not with lovely hard frozen easily retrievable peas, but with green squishy peas which left little round green pigmented calling cards. As I picked each one, individually, from its chosen place on the duvet, I wondered  briefly how many mothers had ever done this before.

I went downstairs, passing the cat on the bicycle.

The cat has a post-Olympics obsession with the bikes in the porch. He seems not to want to go out of the door, but to climb to the handlebars of a big man’s bike and ride like the wind, absolutely nowhere.

He has a wild and questing face, there at the controls of a human bike. Anyone would think he has opposable thumbs.

He may be hiding a few, I thought, as I arrived in the kitchen to find yet another sachet of cat food on the floor and ripped expertly open with a claw. That very morning, musing as to how he managed to steal the sachets in the first place, Felix and I stopped short a we watched him jump onto a kitchen surface, open the high cat food cupboard with his paw and stick the paw in to test for loose sachets. He was stood up on his hind legs like a small child. It was odd. Uncanny.

Sound like a Lewis Carroll novel to you?

And you must be mad too. Or, as a wise, slightly crazed old cat once said, you wouldn’t have come here.




49 thoughts on “The Madness of Kitty Wiggins

  1. “And how do you know that you’re mad? “To begin with,” said the Cat, “a dog’s not mad. You grant that?” I suppose so, said Alice. “Well then,” the Cat went on, “you see a dog growls when it’s angry, and wags it’s tale when it’s pleased. Now I growl when I’m pleased, and wag my tail when I’m angry. Therefore I’m mad.”
    Kitty Wiggins amber eyes are glorious.

    1. I remember having a debate with myself about that as I chose Maddie’s name, Roger. It does not help the poor girl that her nickname is turning out to be Mad, too. Luckily I have rarely met anyone saner.

  2. We shall all join Mad Hatter and March Hare at their perpetual tea party. We can even invite Tweedledum and Tweedledee. But not the Bandersnatch. He’s mad.

    “Pass the peas, please.” 😀

  3. Dear Kate, here in the States, back in the 1950s, the word “crazy” meant what your word “mad” means. When I came home on vacation during my first year of college, my grandmother expressed concern that I didn’t have any friends. I insisted I did. She countered with, “Well, you wrote that they all think you’re crazy and so they can’t be your friends.” I tried to explain that “crazy” was good and that their using the word meant they liked me. To no avail. For Christmas that year she bought me a copy of the book “How to Win Friends and Influence Enemies.” “With that,” she said, “you’ll be able to make a friend or two. If you’ll just read it.” I never quite convinced her that anyone liked me!

    I so enjoy the picture in my mind of Clive Bond the mad cyclist! Peace.

  4. I do the same thing with frozen peas! Why is that? I have all kinds of bags and boxes of peas in the freezer. Clive Bond is a clever one. Have you ever gotten a photo of him in action? And poor Maddie, I hope her mouth is feeling better. I remember getting my braces tightened, it was pretty painful.

    1. Thanks, Weebles, she’s better today but it’s taken a couple of days. I guess peas are the most plentiful and malleable of the things one might find in the freezer. Frozen chips would smell funny and be all lumpy.
      And as for a photo in action, I have a whole library of him on the bike. But thieving, not so much. You brandish a camera, he starts to think I have food and might be a better bet than the cupboard.

  5. I really like the interpretation of “mad” as eccentric. I think I mostly use the word in reference to anger, but this is preferable! You’re so right, we do stop by on a regular basis to peek in on Shrewsday activities, or to listen to what you’ve been considering, because each time there is a certainty you’ve discovered the absurd or ironic gems that others seem to pass unnoticed. You have a nose for intrigue! And apparently you have also influenced your animals to expand their repertoires into uncommon activities! Pure delight! It’s a very nice club to have joined! Thank you for welcoming us in! 🙂

    1. Oh, Debra, what a lovely comment 🙂 Thank you so much! What happens here makes me laugh a great deal; I was very grateful when the advent of blogging meant I could share what happened. Call it therapy 😀

  6. He’s a very clever cat!

    Interesting about that little word ‘mad’ – in America having yet another subtly of meaning- a madness linked to anger.

    1. That’s true. And we use that here too, don’t we? But I like the eccentric meaning most of all.
      Stay dry…are you on high ground? those pictures of flooded fields looked quite extensive!

  7. Peas are definitely “cool” for icing injuries. Perfect for round and angled body parts like ankles, wrists and knees. And I would be somewhat of an expert on that. As for the mad catter, I wish I had one for they are so entertaining. Recently my neighbor’s cat got loose and I took him in for several hours until his owner came home. He had a fine time investigating the many nooks and crannies in my apartment, and I was shocked (although I shouldn’t have been) when he found his way up to a top shelf in the kitchen (I have 10-foot ceilings). When I came back from getting a ladder, thinking I had to get him down (silly me), he was already down. He wouldn’t drink from a bowl of water, though, the whole time he was here, and his owner later told me he only drinks from a faucet. True madness.

  8. I vaguely recall icing some injury with a brick of frozen peas or spinach – I don’t recall which it was, but I do recall putting the brick inside a zip-lock bag to prevent seepage. (Wow, lots of recollecting in that sentence.) Maddie’s dentist sounds like he trained under Josef Mengele. Nice to know that she’s recovering. Is there a way you and/or Phil could position a videocamera aimed at the cupboard door so we could see Clive Bond’s filching in action? I’m sure that would score a hit on YouTube especially if you discover that cat-loving Macaulay has been acting as the lookout proving that both Shrewsday critters are hardcore eccentrics.

      1. I never heard of Slinky until now. Slinky looks so much like Clive! Hairy Maclary sounds like a code name for the Shrewsday Mac. Smells like your household is being spied on to me.

    1. I’d say so, Tammy, although in defence of my sanity I will say I was not picking peas out by choice exactly: more because I’m the sort of scatty person who would give a child a bag of frozen peas without first limiting the peas’ access 😀

  9. Doesn’t ‘madder’ if it’s your place or mine, Kate Shrewsday, being in such blissful, company is a pleasure indeed.

    PS – It’s not just children being born with elevated intelligence!

  10. If Clive Bond’s wily mind figured out how to open cupboard doors, he will soon have mastered peddling to the grocery store to get more frozen peas for those odd emergencies.
    Hope Maddie didn’t suffer long. It never fails – your teeth ache the worst in the middle of the night and on holidays when doctors are off.

    1. This is so true, Judy. Mad’s teeth are now better but she had two miserable days….
      As for Bond, I shudder to think what he has in store for us next. I have detailed Felix to instigate surveillance with a flip camera, so his exploits might find their way onto film. (I think a pedalling cat should be worth a goodly number of views :-D)

  11. I’m mad, alright, Kate; a mad hatter who has also used peas for comfort. Spilling some on the floor with our Jennifer was quite young, I asked her help me pick them up. Her reply? “I don’t pick up dead peas!”. Dead peas are a family phrase, mostly for trying to get out of whatever one doesn’t want to do. We are all, it seems, quite mad here.

    Poor Maddie. Soon, she will be smiling a very big, braceless smile.

  12. Mr. Eliot said it best….

    The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
    It isn’t just one of your holiday games;
    You may think at first I’m as mad as a hatter
    When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
    First of all, there’s the name that the family use daily,
    Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
    Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey–
    All of them sensible everyday names.
    There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
    Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
    Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter–
    But all of them sensible everyday names.
    But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
    A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
    Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
    Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
    Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
    Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
    Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
    Names that never belong to more than one cat.
    But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
    And that is the name that you never will guess;
    The name that no human research can discover–
    But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
    When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
    The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
    His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
    Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
    His ineffable effable
    Deep and inscrutable singular Name.


  13. Fabulous post and pic, Kate, thank you! I am as much in love as ever with your gorgeous boy, and still bemused by the name Clive for a cat 😀 Wonderful news for Maddie getting her braces off soon too, not to mention your pending kitchen makeover!

    1. Naomi, how lovely to hear from you! The rhino films are amazing, congratulations. Sad though…to be around animals like that must be so exhilarating. Hope everyone over there is well.

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