The other day I was at the station wailing for the eight oh five, and Alleycat was in the cabin of the train. I didn’t disturb him, passengers aren’t meant to distract the driver while the train’s in motion, and within a few seconds we were off. I waited, hoping that Alleycat would come to find me; but he didn’t and that seemed very strange because usually when I’m around he can’t wait to jump in my lap or wrap himself around my neck. Eventually, after I’d waited for ten minutes or so, I went to the front of the train and listened at the door of the driver’s cabin and that’s when I heard the music. There was a band in there, a three-piece I think, and I could hear someone on the pipes, someone strumming a guitar, and I don’t know what Alleycat was doing if he wasn’t singing along. You’ll realize that the trains in my neck of the woods are crewed by unusual individuals. One of them’s tall, as big as a giant nearly, and he can hardly get along the carriage when it’s packed and he needs to check our tickets. The giant has a pal, who’s maybe half his height, and the pair of them manage the train together. Once I saw them at the side of the tracks, walking along rapidly, the giant taking immense strides, with his pointed cheeks and sharp nose in front of him, and he wasn’t going to wait for the little chap and made him run after him, and he didn’t care if the little fellow had difficulty keeping pace. I could see the little fellow didn’t care either. Obviously, when I got back home I told Bamber and Pink what I’d seen and heard, and Bamber wasn’t impressed at all and listened to my tale from behind the garden gate, and Pink was more interested in her bowl of milk. Only Bertie was amazed by it all and afterwards she sat on her own in the raised beds and thought it all carefully through.
When Bertie arrived she was shy and unsure. She’d hide under the sofa or lie in the climbing ivy or under the fence because it felt safe.
But since then Alleycat’s instructed Bamber to keep Bertie safe and naturally that’s made her more confident than she used to be. She may be young but she senses Bamber’s presence and feels him watching over her, and that’s why she’s getting too big for her boots and dragging old Lucy around by the ear and biting her where she shouldn’t.
The other day when I came home from work, the world opened up and fell out of my bottom. I had a bad case of sickness and diarrhoea and for the next few hours I was either moaning silently in bed or making huge heaving vomits in the bathroom, and all the while I was racked with shivers and quivers and pins and needles. You might say that a healing sleep was just what the doctor ordered, but when I managed to drop off I was haunted by endless nightmares that sapped me as much as anything and to make matters worse these evil dreams had so much influence on my fevered mind that I couldn’t wake up and had to go on dreaming. I guess it was maybe two o’ clock, when Alleycat showed up and took his stand on the bedpost over my head. Pink followed him in to the room and she sat at my right hand, while Bamber, bless him, stood watch at my bedroom door and patrolled the threshold. After that there were no more nightmares. Bamber wouldn’t let them through the door and if any evil dream managed to slip past him Alleycat pounced on it and snuffed it out. All this makes me think of a snippet in Yeat’s autobiographies where he says that every evening he imagines a large, fierce guard dog in each comer of his bedroom and he sets these dogs there to sit through the night to keep bad dreams at bay. The only difference between our cases is that I had living, breathing cats to weave their protective thoughts across and around me.
The next book in the Ginge Club series will be available soon. Dean Harkness is doing the artwork and there’s a bit of info on the blog. Now, I wish I could say that I haven’t posted because I’ve been busy writing, but that isn’t true and I haven’t been working hard at all. The reason for the hiatus is that we were in Harrogate recently, staying at an old, historical hotel. It’s the same hotel that Agatha Christie ran to and hid herself away in when her marriage fell apart and she needed space. Bamber was waiting for the car when we arrived back home and turned into Bugle Street; he must have heard us coming, or scented our approach, and he made sure he was there to welcome us. Pink and Alleycat were less forgiving. One of our friends was in the house looking after things and while we were away the cats behaved impeccably, but as soon as we came back Pink and Alleycat went mad. That night they both slept on my head; and Pink decided to change her toilet habits and instead of using the litter tray or some other appropriate receptacle, she decided to go in the bath. This was a probably a ploy on her part to appear more eccentric than she really is, but Alleycat has been behaving oddly as well. Since we came back he doesn’t venture out of doors. Instead he stands in the hall and stares at the shelves in the alcove. It looks like there should be a door behind the shelves; someone told us that the house had a cellar at one time and we’ve wondered if that’s where it was, but we’ve never been able to find any evidence of either a cellar or a door that may have led into it. All I can tell you is that Alleycat’s taken to staring at that alcove and occasionally he goes up to it and sniffs it carefully as if he knows there’s something interesting behind it.