Mr Beans and I have a saying that one of the saddest things to have to do in life is to carry an empty cat box back from the vet’s. That’s what we had to do yesterday – because we had to have our cat Empress Felicity, from whom I take my screen name, put to sleep. She was about twenty years old and started to go downhill in the final month of her life, until organ failure and the almost total inability to use her back legs meant that she spent most of the time lying right next to a special litter tray we’d set up in the dining room. This was obviously no life for any cat, never mind one of Felicity’s regal temperament.
Empress Felicity wasn’t always called Empress Felicity. We named her that when we took her in three years ago. Due to a case of mistaken gender identity as a kitten, she’d actually been called Felix.
So how did Felix/Felicity come into our lives? She belonged to an acquaintance of ours, a widower called Brian. When Brian had to move to a second floor flat without a garden, Felix didn’t take kindly to the lack of freedom and several times she tried to escape down the stairs and out the front door. This was obviously not on, especially as the block of flats faced out onto a main road. So Brian, knowing us to be cat lovers, asked us if we would be interested in giving Felix a home. “She’s a horrible cat, actually.” (Yeah, go on Brian – really sell her to us.) “She was my wife’s, and I never got on with her. Every time I try to stroke her, she goes for my hand.”
This didn’t exactly sound promising. I suggested an afternoon for Brian to bring Felix round to us, so that we could see just how horrible she was and what we’d be dealing with if we decided to take her on.
The day came. In walked Brian, with a large cat box. From the cat box came the occasional deep, loud and tuneless miaow. Very much like the kind of miaow that Siamese cats have. Cat box was set on the living room floor, and the flap was opened. Felix emerged, looking around and obviously ready to take on all comers.
Our other two cats, Blackie and Lottie, saw the intruder. Lots of hissing ensued on all sides. This didn’t look promising. Nonetheless, Mr Beans and I said yes – we’d give Felix a home (there was never really any doubt, though).
Felix spent the next three weeks camped behind the sofa, emerging only when necessary. Eventually she decided to come out properly, and an uneasy truce developed between Felix and the other two cats, who both treated Felix with a measure of caution and respect. For Felix had a certain presence. She could sit at the foot of the bed and her Siamesey miaow was like the command of an absolute monarch: “Mr Beans! Want foooooood!” Eventually Blackie cottoned on to Felix’s ability to martial her human servants, and trailed along in Felix’s wake, knowing that he too would benefit from any food that was going. We dubbed them the Black and White Kitty Committee.
While Mr Beans was Felix’s butler, I was her companion. She would come on my lap and head butt my chest – it was most endearing and as far from “horrible” as you could get. Eventually it got to the point where both Felix and Lottie could claim bits of my anatomy/the sofa at once, without any problems.
Felix’s other hobby – apart from eating – was lying on the wall in our back garden, sunning herself. She also spent time in the front, holding court with some of the neighbourhood cats. She was an absolute star, and the house feels very empty without her.
Today I picked our first roast dinner-for-two sized handful of runner beans. (I had picked four or five beans earlier this week, but they don’t count.) Obviously the lateness of the beans is down to our dreary summer, but actually looking back at last year’s posts, the beans aren’t that late – maybe a week or so, perhaps.
The same cannot be said of our tomatoes, none of which are ripe yet. This time last year we were picking Gardener’s Delights and hanging basket toms every single day. This year, there are a few Gardener’s Delights which look almost on the point of turning red, but none of them are actually edible yet. We do have hundreds of tiny green fruit though. My feeling is that all our tomatoes will ripen at once in mid-August, thus prompting a frantic session of cooking: freezer portions of tomato, onion and garlic pasta sauce on the one hand, and chutney on the other. Mr Beans makes fabulous chutney.
I’m glad I never bothered with courgettes this year. I think I will wait until the sunspot cycle does its thing and we’re back to sizzling summers again.