My eyes snapped open. The clock glowed gently: it was three in the morning.
I became aware of something hurtling around the room in disjointed dashes. It was the cat: months ago when he was a kitten, these charges which end in standstill stasis were not momentous because he was small, and light, and almost floated on the air.
Now he is large, and packed with muscle, and when he hurtles, his halt has a tomcat’s gravitas. His arrival is always accompanied by some ungodly clatter or other. It is like having a small puma charging about the room with an agenda.
And his agenda, this morning, was to wake up the dog.
Clive was bored. He wanted to play.
Which is all very well, but the rest of us were bleary, in dire need of rest. And that included the mealy-mouthed, flat-moustachio’d dog, who had spent the day humouring the cat and would rather not give his night-time hours to the same cause.
The cat was sitting on my legs, looking intently down at the dog, who sleeps on an outrageously soft pile of cushions in the narrow space next to my bed. Macaulay was a sitting duck, so to speak. I resolved to maintain the dog’s peace at all costs.
“No!” I said firmly, and put out an arm to gently ward the cat back onto the other side of the bed.
The cat backed off and sat, computing. His little mind cogs were whirring. He was going to do that cyclical thing, launch into a loop of actions. He would walk towards the dog, I would say no, I would move him backwards, he would walk towards the dog, I would say no, I would move him backwards.
I braced myself and began the ‘No!’ cycle.
About the third time around, I put out my arm out to move him back. And he came out with an unpredictably nifty move: with all the aplomb of his MI6 namesake he jumped silently over the arm and continued his progress towards the dog.
This was going to be a long night.
“No!” I admonished, putting out an arm to sweep him back, and this time it was seamless: he skipped, smooth as you like, over the arm.
I lifted my arm higher; he leaped effortlessly over like an Olympic hurdler.
I sensed the dog’s reproach. Let me sleep, he implored. He was just a dark blur in the night, but he wanted to stay that way. He had no intention of joining Clive Bond’s martial arts 3am club.
And then I had an idea. What if, I thought, I held the duvet up high? It would look like a wall. Not even Clive could battle his way through a duvet.
I watched Clive prepare for his next charge. I lifted the duvet way up, high up where a cat had no business being able to reach. It formed a formidable wall of impenetrable textile between him and his beloved playmate.
And I’m blessed if the cat didn’t hurtle over my latest defensive arrangements.
So the next time I held it joke-high. All thought of rest was lost in the desire to get the better of the black cat who had come to live with us.
And like something out of one of those Chinese martial arts films, the cat soared over. It was not so much a jump as flight.
This is a good game, Clive thought.
And I gave in. Phil, I said, take this cat out and put him in the sitting room, or Macaulay – and indeed I – will get no rest this night.
He did: and Clive could be heard scrabbling at the sitting room door, furiously.
His terrier tutor has schooled him well.
A little too well for my liking.