Maybe it’s because it’s Halloween, but there’s a presence in the house, and Pink keeps looking behind her, scared of her own shadow. Last night she was with the dogs on the big yellow sofa, just as normal, when a nasty, grisly, horrid sensation gripped her and she wanted to turn around and look but she was too scared to move. The dogs felt the same as she did. Normally they’ll bark at the smallest disturbance (like a leaf blowing across the lawn) but they were so scared they couldn’t make a sound and it took all of Bernie’s courage to call for Alleycat with a little yapping bark. Alleycat ran in from the kitchen, but of course he’d been fast asleep and he’s not as quick as he used to be, so when he arrived on the scene there was no sign of uncanny intruders or walking shadows at all. You can imagine he didn’t take too kindly to be woken up for nothing, but Berne and Lucy were adamant that they’d seen (or felt) something nasty, and Bernie decided to put on her quilted jacket for extra protection and Lucy and Pink begged Alleycat to stay close and help them to settle down. As soon as they felt confident enough to be left alone, Alleycat returned to his gentleman’s chair in the kitchen, where he went straight back to sleep. But he must have half-believed that something was amiss because he kept one ear open, and presently he heard a weird, unaccountable sound that wasn’t normal at all, and he woke himself up to find a rather sinister looking bear snooping around the kitchen. As soon as it realized that Alleycat was on to it, the bear tried to escape through the outside door, but Alleycat chased it into the house and made it stay there. He’ll be questioning it later and that bear had better be sorry for frightening Pink and promise to mend its ways, or I wouldn’t like to think how angry Alleycat will be with that miscreant night-wanderer.
This afternoon we couldn’t find Lucy. We didn’t think she’d be anywhere except in the house, but one of the neighbours shouted over the fence to say she was out in the Six Foot, running up and down. She’d been ignoring our calls. We ran outside and there was Pink a few feet away, looking down from a high fence post. That little cat had been there all the time, watching and acting important and we realized that she’d tempted poor Lucy to slide under the gate and run over the lawned garden where the cats hold court; and once past that gate you can see the Six Foot through Alleycat’s hedges. You can bet Lucy didn’t hesitate when Pink showed her how to negotiate the twisted boughs and the prickly spears of hawthorn that stand guard on Alleycat’s turf. Bernie didn’t miss her daughter at all and was quite happy to be on the sofa alone, without Lucy getting in the way and demanding our attentions. There she is in the video, pleased as Punch.
It‘s winter, don’t you know, and the cats are staying indoors until the snow clears. Even the dogs are hiding from the cold, because they’re soft little cocker spaniels and Bernie has to wear a quilted jacket at all times, just to be sure. The humans on the other hand are usually out and about, and instead of waiting for the cold to abate they grind the snow down with their heels and think they’re heroes if they go to the shops. But Alleycat knows that the winter is for gathering the Ginge Club around the fire and making them listen to his mouldy tales. He’s not as strong as he used to be, but he still sits higher than anyone and the rest of the animals look up to him and listen to his confabulations. The dogs probably think they’re important, because he allows them on to the sofa, but they’re just living cushions and sources of ready-made heat for the rest of the Ginge Club to cozy up to when the nights draw in and the frost starts to snap at the window. Bamber and Pink sit at the front, listening, and Alleycat’s usually on the arm of the sofa, preparing to orate. When Alleycat isn’t reciting his endless stories and forcing everyone to listen, Bamber and Pink play up; they scratch the sofa, they jump on the dog’s heads and they paddle across them when they’re asleep. You can see that Bamber likes to play up. You only have to look at him in the eyes to know that he likes to be naughty, and Alleycat encourages him to disrespect the dogs, but if the dogs don’t listen to the Ginge Club’s winter tales they get a good telling off. In the end though, when years and years have gone by, it’ll be Bamber who sits on the highest point, and Bamber who tells tall tales, and Alleycat will listen in the corner, because Bamber will be in charge of the Ginge Club and Alley will be an old gaffer with gums instead of teeth. Of course that day may never come, but if it does at least Alleycat will have taught Bamber the old tales and Bamber will know how to tell them. That’s better than going to the shops and spending money.
There are three circles of cat magic. Bamber sits in the first circle. Now and then the desire of ancient days comes over him, and the world goes dim and he seems to be walking in another place, in the temples of old Egypt, where the priests are chanting the word for Fire and the word for Moon and when they say the word Invisible, everything goes dark around him and no one can see him because he’s more in that world than he is in this. Once or twice he’s managed to escape from his enemies like that, and slip by them without being seen. The second circle of magic is where the old cat-wizards sit and watch the stars and talk to the skies and examine the future and the past – cats like Alleycat who’ve learned to commune with the moonlight. Finally, there are cats like Pink who don’t know what they know and yet they know pretty much everything. They sit in the third circle and everything they see reminds them of a dream. On the other hand, dogs and other sorts of creatures know little of these things, which explains why cats usually manage to look down on them.
The dogs can’t bear it when the cats appear in high places. It pains them greatly when Pink appears on the tall fence right over their heads or looks down on them from the roof of the carport. They leap at the fence and yell at the top of their voices, but they can’t ever reach her, and all they can do is ask where Alleycat’s going, or demand to be told where Alleycat’s been, and Alleycat occasionally sings a jangling sort of song at them from the branch of an overhanging tree, and this makes them madder than ever and causes them great displeasure. Up they leap at him and Alleycat warbles in their woolly faces and says: I go where I please, I climb all the trees, I go where I go, and only I know what it’s like to be there, drinking the air, alone in the night in the moon’s friendly light. And the dogs look at one another and run indoors and cover their faces with their ears, because it’s all too much for them.
Today, just now in fact, I almost stepped on Pink by mistake, because she was curled up inside a sunbeam and I couldn’t see her. She was literally asleep inside it and the yellow light was covering her up like a cloak. Her coat isn’t exactly the same colour as the sun (only nearly so) but I can guarantee that when when I almost stepped on her, Pink and the sun were virtually one and the same . Of course, cats have a knack of concealment, of hiding in open sight, and this was just one of those cases I suppose. Neither of the dogs cares about hiding anywhere. All they want is to bark, eat, sleep, run, and bury their bones in obvious places. On the other hand, dogs can be sensitive. Lucy’s suffering from a rather nasty skin condition at the moment and we’ve had to buy her expensive food from the butcher (high quality, only the best) and her mother Bernie’s jealous as sin. You see, Lucy’s prone to anxiety and she just can’t hide it.
Pink is little and she’s also a little bonkers. Just to show how small she is, here’s a picture of her next to Bernie the cocker spaniel. She’s the smallest cat in the Ginge Club by far, and yet she’s inclined to do mad things and act like she’s indestructible. Yesterday, I was working on the blog when I heard a clap of thunder and instantly thought: Where’s Pink and Bamber? Alleycat can look after himself, so of course he was already indoors, watching the storm develop. Out I ran, and what do I see but Pink on the highest point of the car-port, and Bamber next to her, both of them staring across the valley at the blackest storm-clouds you’ve ever seen racing their way. At first I thought they were too scared to move, but that wasn’t it at all. They wanted the lighting to come, and they wanted the wind too. They were waiting for it. Their whole body language said as much. They were excited, and they wanted to feel it more and more. Now Bamber can cope with virtually anything, but Pink may be the smallest cat who ever lived and so we begged her to come in. Eventually she scrambled down, albeit reluctantly, and stood in front of the kitchen door. We tried to gather her up but at the last moment she changed her mind and ran off down the path that is known as Alleycat’s Desire. At the third attempt we managed to catch her, and bring her indoors, but it wasn’t easy. She was desperate to stand under the lilac tree and bathe in the lightning when it came. She thought it would be fine.