Past Post: A Hard Life

Lucy was asleep on the sofa when Barbara returned from her shopping excursion.

“Hellooo!!” Barbara trilled, “Luceeeee!!”

She sighed and rolled over, making sure she kept her eyes tightly closed so as not to attract attention. If Barbara thought she was asleep she would hopefully leave her in peace. No such luck. For today, it transpired through Barbara’s muffled shouts from the hallway, was the ladies’ bridge afternoon, which meant that Lucy would be fully expected to join in the festivities.

Unable to ignore Barbara’s incessant crashing and banging any longer, she slowly stretched out and peeled herself off the sofa with a heavy heart. Walking into the kitchen, she saw Barbara unpacking several hefty shopping bags. The purpose of this particular shopping trip, like so many others before, had been to purchase ‘nibbles’ for the occasion – a concept that seemed to have been well and truly lost on this particular group of ladies, given the amount of food they systematically shovelled into their cavernous mouths at any one sitting. Lucy often thought it quite a feat that they managed to get the food anywhere near their mouths, such was the amount of blubber surrounding their big pink faces.

Sitting down by the table, she surveyed the pots of brightly coloured additive-laden dips, multi-pack bags of crisps and hugely calorific boxes of cream cakes. Her heart sank even heavier in her chest and she let out an almost imperceptible sigh.

“Oh! Lucy!” Barbara detected her presence and spun around to face her. “You look such a mess!” she gasped, “and the bridge girls will be here in half an hour – what on earth are we going to do with you?”

Barbara, oblivious as always to anyone’s feelings other than her own, continued to berate Lucy without pausing for breath. “You haven’t time for a bath now so we’ll just have to fix your hair and hope for the best. What a shame! I so wanted you to look pretty for our guests!”

Pretty. Lucy couldn’t care less if she looked pretty or not. She just wanted to be treated with some respect. Why was she expected to perform like a circus animal every time those big pink ladies came over? She was sick of being paraded around like a toy.

“I’m six years old!” she thought to herself, “Not a baby!” Crossly, she turned on her heels and stormed out of the kitchen, pausing briefly to cast a mournful look at the cream cakes. How could Barbara gorge herself on such delectable foods when all she fed Lucy was tinned food and leftovers? Whenever Lucy expressed an interest Barbara would say, “You can’t eat this, it’s bad for your digestion.” It really was despicable.

Three hours later the bridge ‘girls’ had gone, leaving a trail of crumbs behind them, trampled into the carpet. Barbara, slightly merry after two glasses of Babysham, was finishing the washing up and singing to herself. Lucy was standing behind her, glowering. Having been forced to watch them devour every morsel on offer, she had almost reached the end of her tether. And if only she could talk she would say so. There was really only one thing that could save the situation and prevent her from walking out for good.

And, at that moment, a miracle happened. Casting aside her rubber gloves on the draining board, Barbara spun around and smiled broadly. “WALKIES!” she warbled. And in that very instant, all was forgiven.

Charlie

When I walked through the front door tonight I heard the funny clunk-whirring noise of the cat feeder (which my flat mate reckons is really a dog feeder, given its propensity to deposit such enormous servings of food into the dish twice daily that it could feed the entire neighbourhood’s population of felines in addition to our own precious moggy, Charlie).

Shortly after the feeder finished dispensing its gargantuan haul a familiar mew rang out from the kitchen. Right on cue, Charlie appeared in the doorway, his expectant face looking up at me, asking for I-know-not-what with his characteristically plaintive little cry. Of course I pandered to him, stroked his little tabby chin and fussed over him intently until his cries had subsided. This cat, you see, has got us wrapped entirely around his little paws – and he knows it.

From the moment Charlie came into our lives last year we were besotted. Just a tiny (but boisterous) kitten when we got him, we’ve watched him grow into the handsome (if somewhat spoiled – but we’ve nobody to blame but ourselves for his upbringing) chap he is today. Since parting ways with his manhood (my boyfriend says we have emasculated him, but what were we to do – let him fight to the death with the local tom cats? I don’t think so – he’s far too good to meet that kind of end) and venturing into the great outdoors he’s taken to the life of a domestic cat like, well, a domestic cat. He wants for nothing and is treated like a king – and why not? He is the apple of our eyes, and at the end of a long day in the office there is nothing nicer than cuddling up on the sofa – stroking cats has health benefits, don’t you know?

So anyway, back to tonight. After fussing over Charlie he followed me into my room, jumped up onto my bed and settled down onto my knee. Five minutes later he stood up, regarded me with distaste, turned on his heel and – without so much as a backward glance – left.

Here lies the crux of tonight’s post.

Before you assign me to the crazy cat lady bin, allow me to explain. My aim was never to wax lyrical about the wonders of my pet in particular (though I appreciate I’ve inadvertently done a fine job of that), but rather to extol the virtues of all cats when compared to dogs. Don’t get me wrong, dogs are amazing in their own floppy, cutesy, poochy way. It’s hard not to melt when they look up at you with those big brown eyes, tongue lolling to one side of their mouth as they attempt to coerce you into venturing outside for a freezing walk in the park.

But, crucially, the one thing cats have which dogs just don’t is independence – by the bucket load. Whereas dogs can’t be left for too long by themselves without turning into emotional wrecks, cats just come and go as they please. Whereas dogs love their owners unconditionally and would selflessly (or stupidly) throw themselves in the path of an oncoming truck to save their owners’ lives, cats would just as likely turn the other cheek and walk on by.

When a cat invests time in its owner they feel pathetically grateful, and rightly so – there are a million and one other things kitty could be doing besides deigning to be manhandled by a human. Dogs, on the other hand, can never get enough attention. They are like hyperactive children with attention deficit disorder. Why have a pet that invokes such feelings of guilt? Why not have a pet that’s content whether you’re there or not, just so long as there’s food and water and a nice comfy sofa to sleep on?

Perhaps I’m painting a bad picture of cats with this post. I’m sure they do love their owners unconditionally underneath it all, but what I love about them is their surliness, their unpredictability and staunch refusal to do what is asked of them. They will love you, but they’ll do it on their own terms. And I don’t know why, but I just find that pretty cool.

Something tells me I won’t feel the same if I ever have teenagers…

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Our little Prince!