Diary of Ripley, the cat at number 3, part one
I’ve been suspecting a plot for months, but this is beyond anything. Pretty rich, it strikes me as. I mean, first of all there’s one visitor fellow, not unpleasant, scratching my ear, and talking about the ‘Long View’ and the ‘Wow Factor’—Next thing you know, the entire back garden is a Building Site. (No, not only the immediate area: the whole garden, rabbit holes, bird baths, the lot.)
It wasn’t quite as quick as that, perhaps. First came the architect (smelling vaguely of pomeranian), then it’s the project manager (cigarettes), and then it’s two, four, seven of them prowling round the garden like it’s theirs (when it’s actually MINE) and bringing in dangerous anti-cat pick-axes—though they admittedly appear keener on going after worms. The afternoon is even worse. The tall ones produce a slim lean machine that literally eats patios. Also, all the birds have left. It’s hell here.
(Only one good thing. Rob, my sworn enemy from his kingdom up the road has not been sighted since the onslaught A true coward, like most big fluffy cats.)
Today the architect came back, still smelling of Pomeranian. I gave him one of my Looks, but he said I was a ‘sweet little moggie’ and patted me hard on the base of my spine (so inconsiderate) so I relieved the burden of my temperament by chasing a pair of mice down the garden, though I but elected not to eat them (my tummy is delicate—increasingly so, in these stressful days). I was relieved to understand that ‘Jack’ had neglected to order something of which I’d never heard, so pleasantly quiet here at present. Still no sign of the invaders.
Disaster. The tall ones, male and female, filled up the camper-van and left, leaving me to the tender mercies of the men I have heard them term builders. However, I have begun to sort them out. There is:
1) Mike, bilingual (speaks cat and dog)
2) Pat, only speaks dog, but not ill-tempered
3) Eddie, who reeks of Rottweiller and
4) Joe, who is alarmingly tall and big but clearly mentally deficient
I would call it a mixed hand, in short, were I playing bridge.
Today they principally entertained themselves with a huge urn-like effort which squidges out something that looks like—well, I’d better not tell you what it looks like, not if you value keeping your breakfast down. They sludge it in between bricks, assembling a tolerable if miniature little wall, though sadly not one in direct sunlight. Once they’d gone for the day (in their van) I experimented with it as a roosting place but soon discarded the notion.
The female tall one next door is supposed to be feeding me, in the absence of my armed forces. I try to keep her up to the mark but she is a writer and (worse) a tennis-player, so occasionally I have to appear outside her kitchen window looking pensive and holding in my tummy in order to get my usual chopped chicken or cutlets (I will also venture fresh salmon, when in season).
I don’t know why they’ve left me again, and so heartlessly. It’s not as if I’m fussy.
The tall one who lives next door has now given me chicken three days in a row. She has ink stains on her nose and calls me ‘Sweetie.’ (Lower than this, frankly, one cannot go.)
There is however some small hope on the horizon with ref. to the builders. It turns out that Pat is a generous soul, though with a very odd accent. ‘Begorrah,’ he says, ‘The poor wee cat looks half-starved. Would you like a wee bit of ham, pussie?’
And, as it happens, I am not averse to an occasional cut of ham, as long as it isn’t too fatty. (In middle-age, one much watch the calories, alas.) So I accept a little offering, but not the whole, stalking off with my tail in its best position (straight upwards).
It does not do to be taken for granted.
And here I must unreservedly withdraw the previous comments I made about the builder they call ‘Joe.’ No mentally deficient person could behave with quite such delicacy. But I must explain.
The fluffy villain up the road, Rob, has long been desirous of muscling in on my nation, while, needless to say, I have been ever-zealous in my determination to protect my personal domain. Now, Imagine my fury when I noticed that the builder called Eddie—the same one who perpetuated the appalling worm-killing drill—was patting this interloper within my borders and even opining that the smug creature was ‘a fine little cat.’ I slunk under the rhodadendrons, ready to pounce, while Rob was distracted, and very nearly got him, except that he howled and scuttled towards the poplar with a speed surprising for one of his size.
It was then that ‘Joe’ showed the true mettle of which he was made. He grasped the water-pistol with which the tall ones must had acquainted him, and shot the intruder neatly in the the abdominal cavity, making a rather liquid Rob screech upwards over the garden fence, through number 23’s homeland and in into the hills. I don’t know when I’ve seen such a neat piece of work. (One of my tall ones is also adept at this, but Rob has long since learned that the female tall one has no aim at all, so when he is out the purity of my borders rests on my shoulders alone.)
I can still hardly say that this completely altered my opinion of the said ‘Joe.’ It has been a long time since I met a tall one so thoroughly of sound mind.
He is large and tall, to no obvious purpose, so he must have little will-power with potatos and hamburgers. But his spirit is boundless, and he is a Good Thing.
Still no sign of those born to be untrue to their true purpose (Feeding Me). The utter selfishness of the hairless ones never ceases to amaze and astound. They are probably stuffing their faces at restaurants, while I starve.
Meanwhile the builders come and go, with no consideration at all. Their machines, some noisy and others not quite so unbearably noisy, come and go likewise. But today I was seriously alarmed, when suddenly at one point enormous great cement hands stretched out of the sky, and took hold of a great heap of rubble in the drive, transferring it seamlessly into its maw. (Needless to say, I ran. I am famously brave, but there is no point in taking on an Alien Being).
For some time afterwards I hid in the garage to recover my spirits and reconsider my strategy in the light of (a) my own troops still being AWOL in their camper-van and (b) the on-going invasion of the Builders but mostly (c) whether or not the time had finally come to accept the long-standing invitation of the tall one at number 12 to rule over her kingdom. (She has the sense to buy those little potted prawns in which I delight, but I detest the smell of pot-pourri.)
Just then, from a distance, I spotted the little Burmese from down the road, Eloise, just licking her paws. I pretended not to see her, but it can be hard not to watch as she has a panther-like movement pleasing to the eye. Mike called, ‘Hey, cat!’ and we both turned, but it’s me he has his eye on, holding out a smidgeon of previously-battered chicken, which I just deign to smell. Noting a wistful movement of Eloise’s I invite her to share the ransome, an offer that she accepts, very graciously. It’s only polite to be generous to neighbouring royalty, excepting Rob, of course.
It is almost noon when I see the camper-van coming around the corner out of the corner of my eye. The cowardly deserters have returned, and I am no longer the single stalwart soul upholding the honour of the territory. However, I am not about to grovel to troops who have yet again proved treacherous. It is a sunny day and the builders make what they call ‘tea’, a ritual to which they are uncommonly addicted. I permit myself to inspect the site where the now-historic massacre of the patio took place. There is a slab at a restful angle, nicely toasted by sunlight, and here I stretch out for a well-earned rest.
Life could be worse, after all.