A repost from my nephew, Big Al’s nursery days, when our old cat Kit Kat was still ruling the house with a rod of iron. Al was about three at the time.
The dog has just looked up from Tolstoy’s War and Peace, and given me a baleful brown-eyed reproach.
He has nothing whatsoever to reproach me for. He has been well fed, run helter-skelter round Crown lands, and been given a maths lesson by seven-year-old Felix who has just found and abducted the Big Family Calculator for dog tutoring purposes.
I am unsure why the dog has chosen as his bedfellow one of the greatest writers Russia has ever bequeathed the world. I had him down for more of an Agatha Christie kind of dog. But preconceptions can be misleading, it seems.
Beware of pigeonholing your pets. They may surprise you.
Here’s another preconception: I know how one should pick up a cat.
I also have a pretty good idea what cats will put up with and what they won’t. They have claws and teeth and an attitude, and a loud yowl to boot. If things are not going their way, it is my experience that they will let one know, in no uncertain terms, that the situation is not to their liking. A cat will simply summon its staff with all speed to remedy the problem.
I collected my nephew, Big Al, from nursery the other day, and came home to rustle up some lunch for the two of us. I left Al comuning with some of Felix’s cars. They were already beginning a full-scale debate with each other as I left the room to sort dinner out. Kit Kat, our stately tetchy tortoiseshell cat, sat in stately splendour near the hearth.
And when I returned, less than a minute later, Al was, quite literally, brandishing Kit Kat, our long-suffering family feline, high in the air.
He had a fist full of tortoiseshell shoulder in each hand, and was excitedly telling me about Kit Kat in considerable detail, reaching as high as he could and swinging her to and fro in companionable rugby-scrum camaraderie.
Swing high, sweet chariot-cat.
As I remember back to that horrified freeze-frame moment, though, I must own that – against all the odds – Kit Kat did not seem to mind.
Her eyes were not staring and she was not uttering a squeak of protest. She had not lashed out at Al in any defensive gesture. She was just swinging to and fro, seemingly complicit in the whole surreal Gilliam-esque experience.
I broke it up, naturally.
Ever since, she and the toddler from cat-hell seem to have been the best of chums. There is no hint of hysteria in Kit Kat’s demeanour as they saunter together down the hall past the dog and his Tolstoy.
And so I sip a cup of tea, this afternoon, and wonder idly who will confound my expectations next. It is as well, at times like these, to eye one’s spouse beadily. He has never been a conventional soul.
I wonder, will he be next?