Pink is secretly glad that Alleycat’s gone because she gets more attention in his absence and she often stands in the places where he put his feet, or where he sat, and claims them as her own (although they aren’t hers at all and never can be). By contrast Bamber stays close to the ground and feels for the thunder and listens to the wind and he doesn’t need to pretend he’s Alleycat or anyone except himself. He’s in charge and that’s why he’s down there, low to the ground, with a cat’s purpose, while Pink’s on high trying to be a monster. Bamber keeps marauders at bay, walks the limits, patrols the pathways, and any intruders are beaten back by him alone. Alleycat can’t help him because Alleycat’s far away; and if we see Alleycat crossing the railway line from a distance, or jumping the fences between the station and the tracks, that doesn’t mean that he sees us or needs to show himself; on the contrary, he’s on a mission all his own, a secret charge that doesn’t involve any of us. We know almost nothing of his new life, except that we know what he left behind, or think we do, and Bamber can never forget that once (not long ago at all) it was Alleycat who sat listening to the wind and Alleycat who felt the onset of the storm.
Alleycat knew what he wanted and simply did it – he left to drive trains and let the old life go. One day he was sunning himself on the porch and the next he was far, far away, walking in his footprints. He was as old as the hills or older, but as young as a leveret too, and everyone knows or ought to know that a leveret’s never alone and even if he seems alone he isn’t; his parents are always near at hand and keeping an eye on him no matter how lonely he looks to be.
Pink of course is secretly glad he’s gone because now she doesn’t have to compete with anyone to be the centre of attention.That’s how self-centred she is! Me! Me! Me!
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.
I don’t believe in déjà vu, but I like the theory. One of my aunties who enjoyed being the centre of attention was being shown around a Scottish country house; she pointed at a portrait of Arabella Stuart and exclaimed That’s me! She was half way up the stairs at the time and had to be caught in mid-faint by the rest of the tour party. I don’t believe in time travel either, or reincarnation, though if I did they’d be the same boring old thing, like remembering yesterday. Alleycat knows more about the hidden kingdom than I do, but he only knows the theory. We talk of these matters often, usually at midday, when he’s at his most sleepy-headed and leisurely. But Pink’s the only one of us who’s ever (so she claims) been to and fro in time, and she doesn’t know how she did it and can’t repeat the experience, so that’s no good. Alleycat says that if time flows just one way you can’t expect to travel to and fro in it independent of the moment in which you happen to exist. He has lots more to say, about stretching time out and making it flat or round like a loaf of dough, but all of these things are far beyond me and I just pretend to understand and nod my head when he’s talking. Apparently his idea is to pop time in the oven, bake it a bit, then eat it and know everything there is to know about every possible instant. Whatever he pretends to believe, Pink’s the only one of us who’s ever accomplished the deed of travelling beyond the present, and this is her version of the story (at least it’s chapter 4 of it).
Pink’s playing up. She’s wants to dictate more of her adventures, but I haven’t had time to write them down and she feels I’m slacking. That’s rich coming from her, the laziest cat in the Five Streets. Anyway, she’s ordered me to stick in and press on regardless of other commitments. I’ve told her it’s Christmas and I might have to break off and drink some mulled wine or eat some strong cheese, but she’s impatient with that sort of thing and simply won’t tolerate it. This morning when I got up she was waiting for me on the kitchen table with her head in the angle-poise lamp. She thinks that if she sits there she’ll have a bright idea. It’s as if the lamp’s lighting up her brain as well as lighting my table, and Pink’s such a strong-minded little cat that she can probably make the light do anything she wants, including inspire her, just as she can require me to write when I ought to be eating Christmas cake. Maybe she’s right, because while she was boiling her brains and egging me on to listen to her, I managed to get another chapter done in draft and here it is.
It’s been a while since I blogged, but I’ve been hard at work on a story that Pink told me while I was sleeping. She crept up close while I was dozing in the armchair and whispered in my ear and said I’d better get on and write up some of her better adventures, not the latest ones, but the ones she had when she was younger. Pink isn’t altogether stupid. Mostly she just pretends to be silly because it means she can avoid difficult and lengthy tasks by claiming they’re beyond her. But she’s clever really and she knows stuff. She was quite right about the story. I’d been letting things slide and it was high time I got to work. Here’s a link to what she dictated. While I was writing it Pink perched somewhat cheekily on the back of my office chair and watched what I was typing, in case I got anything wrong, and if there was anything she didn’t approve of she chirruped a warning and told me to blot.
We hear tell of cats who went on adventures and travelled far and wide, or cats who bravely opposed injustice and fought for freedom, but in general cats have little truck with that sort of thing. Now and then Alleycat and Bamber go out into the world and show themselves to the neighbourhood, but Pink never goes out at all, and that’s why I think she may be the brains of the outfit. None of the rival cat families ever come into Alleycat’s garden, because if they did Bamber would be straight out of the cat-flap to engage them in heated discussion, and if Bamber failed to impress them Alleycat would plod out and ascend to the top of the highest fence post and stare at them. That usually does the trick. Pink on the other paw stays indoors all day and all night, profiting from the other cat’s exertions. In the cold weather she has prime spot in front of the hearth and she’s allowed to sleep wherever she likes without being disturbed. She can even walk over the heads of the dogs on her bony little feet and they know quite well that they’re not to complain. Pink, for all her pretty ways and her silly habits, may, in truth, be the most Machiavellian and formidable cat of all and easily the cleverest warm-blooded creature living on Nine Foot Way. And that’s a frightening as well as an amusing thought.