T S Eliot said cats should have three different names.
It’s true for people too, especially in these online days. I’ve this name for work, I’m about to adopt my shiny new husband’s name for rest (or at least for paying the bills) and I’ve a couple of online personas for play.
I wouldn’t bother keeping my current surname, but thanks to Google, names have a longevity that they never had before. If you google ‘Ben Warsop’ you land here and I can’t just email them my marriage certificate and say ‘update your index servers please’. Mind you, one of the search terms captured in the stats here the other day was
meet women in warsop for sex now
which isn’t the sort of web presence I planned. Even so, I’m keeping my existing name for my work, LinkedIn profile, blog and twitter feed. There are eminent precedents: Lady Antonia Fraser continued to use Sir Hugh Fraser’s surname after her marriage to Harold Pinter.
I find this branding so useful that if I were naming a child these days, I’d go for a googlewhack and create accounts in its name with Yahoo and Google before the umbilical cord had dropped from its belly-button. Seriously. However, it’s probably a good job that I don’t have the task of naming a child because having an unusual name is tedious, especially if it hard to spell. You have to smile and be courteous through the same conversation again and again. That experience me so lazy that when I was in Germany I germanicised the pronunciation saying ‘Ich heisse Frau Vaarsopp’ because they heard Vaarsopp and wrote Warsop. Magic.
Changing your name’s common, but not trivial. I’ve friends and relatives who’ve changed their name because they’ve changed religion, sex or marital status, and some just because it’s time to move on. But when you change your first name, it can take people a while to catch up. 45 years, in the case of my godmother and her brother. She converted to Russian Orthodoxy in the 1960s but he still uses the given name she abandoned then.
It’s fun choosing a new name, I remember driving along the motorway up from Cornwall considering possible surnames for my friend Frankie – we wanted something that didn’t make her sound like a bookie or a third rate stand-up. My husband and I have discussed the option of BOTH changing our names because that’s a solution to my name change which doesn’t involve the Patriarchy. But he is reluctant to do that for much the reason that I am and Antonia Fraser was. We all have too much invested in our current names to want to abandon them entirely.
Hand on heart, I’ve been put off by the number of organisations to contact and the number of marriage certificates it involves. But I’ll be moving later in the year (who knew?) and I might as well change my name when I change my address.
And then of course there’s the unalloyed joy of brand new spam-free email accounts. It’s almost worth it for that alone.
I opened with a reference to T S Elliot – if you want to follow it up, here’s his poem given the Andrew Lloyd Webber treatment:
The little black cat is even more elusive than he was before. In the last 6 days, I’ve caught a glimpse of his back leg and tail once, and I think the one who stays over occasionally saw him on Thursday night.
I’ve not been round much myself though, so it may just be that our paths haven’t crossed. I was away for five days last week. I arranged for my neighbours to pop in and feed both cats while I wasn’t around. When I got home, I settled down to being ill for four days and spent most of the time in bed, ignoring the cat-flap and the kitchen entirely.
I did glimpse his back leg and tail disappearing behind the curtain by the front door some time over the weekend, but nothing since, and I’m still worried about him.
It’s a big, nasty cold world out there, if you are a little stray black cat.
Hopefully blogging about it will bring him back.
I have a visitor each night who comes in to see if there is any spare cat food.
There is, unless he’s eaten it all already, because I make sure that there always is. He eats his way steadily through great full bowls of the stuff but runs out of the house if I move and make eye contact. Nervous as he is, he was considerably worse at the start of the year. He no longer bolts the food down though he doesn’t waste any time either, and he now sits on the kitchen steps for – oh – 15 or 20 seconds after he’s finished eating instead of shooting off as soon as something spooked him. Tiger ignores him completely.
I’d assumed for a while that he was an opportunist trying his luck away from home the way that opportunists do, and in fact I used to clap to get him to go home. But he was so persistent and seemed so hungry that I lost the heart to do that.
However, it was only this week that it finally dawned on me that he is most likely either feral or a stray; sometimes I can be very stupid. He doesn’t have the tatty look I associate with entire toms – he certainly doesn’t spray in the house even though I know he beds down in the living room of a night sometimes. His coat’s shiny and he looks to be in fairly good shape, but then again he should be – he’s getting through a bowl of IAMs a day.
Oh my goodness – awful thought – maybe the reason SHE is so hungry is that she’s pregnant?
The cats are noticeably less neurotic since I fitted the cat-flap. Hardly a surprise, really: they can come and go as they please, sleep the afternoon away, get up for a light snack, saunter out, take the air, indulge in some elegant exercise, look splendid, out-stare their rivals, kill birds, and come in again and complain bitterly when they get bored of the outside world.
A charmed life, being a cat. Rather like being an 18th century aristocrat, if you think about it. Or a member of the Waffen SS.
I’ve finally given in and agreed to fit a cat-flap. This is not so much to let the cats out, as to let them in again. The weather has been so fine recently that I let them out at 8.00am and I’ve had to call them in after midnight. They come in occasionally and demand food, though why they cannot feed themselves on rabbit-flavoured rabbit and mouse-flavoured mouse is beyond me. They require tuna-and-cod-flavoured horse, it seems.
Who would have thought buying a catflap took so much time? The door is varnished wood. It is too nice to cut up to install a cat-flap, but see above. So I need a brown cat-flap. The weather is benign now, but the wind wuthers around in the lane in the winter, so I need one which is weather-proof, possibly with magnetic strips to hold it shut in the wind. The panel I’ll be installing it in is half and inch thick, so I need one which has a tunnel or a sleeve which I can adjust to fit.
Three catflaps later, I finally found one in the market which purports to be what I need. So I will be making-it with the drill, the pencil, the saw, and the screw-driver.
And then the demanding little bastards can come and go as they please.
The egg is smooth, round, perfect,
speckled brown and green,
heavy with the bird inside –
An astonishing thing to find
by the bathroom door.
On my bed,
the serial-killer purrs.
Posted in poetry, summer
There was a black and white cat lying full length on the opposite side of the road when I drove to work this morning.
I thought “dead cat”, and then its tail moved. I stopped the car and put my bag into the footwell so that so that I could put the cat on the roadmap on the passenger seat if I had to. I was aware that I wasn’t sure that there would be anyone at the vet’s at half past seven in the morning.
It was quiet but the sun was bright and harsh.
I stood close to the cat in the road, to protect it while a car came up the hill. The cat was barely marked but there was blood on its teeth and its jaw. There was a small splash of blood on the road. Its eyes were wide open, and very clear. The tail must have been caught in the wind or else I had seen the cat’s last breath.
On the other side of the road there was a man reading the paper waiting for his dog. I called over to him. He put the dog in his house, crossed the road, looked at the cat and picked it up by the scruff of its neck. It hung heavy and boneless from his hand.
He went to put it in the nearest dustbin. I said “don’t do that”. Someone somewhere soon was going to wonder what had happened to their cat.
The people in the nearest house peered out of their window to see what we were doing. The man went round and asked them if the cat was theirs. It wasn’t.
It was already a hot day. The corpse of the cat was lying by the wall in the full sun. I got back in my car and went to work.
It had gone when I drove home this evening.
Posted in diary
Bright skies and moonlight.
Owls hooting above the woods.
Wide eyed, cats explore.
The cats fascinate me, particularly in the summer.
They step delicately out of doors and enter whole-heartedly – whole-bodiedly – into the outside world. You can see them react to every sound, savour every smell, watch for every movement and every change of light. They seem greedy for physical sensations. When they are outdoors it is as if they are swimming: every sense is fully immersed.
They are fully in the moment – practising the mindfulness of being outdoors. They sun themselves; they luxuriate as they twist and turn, rubbing their shoulders in the dust; they drink in the flavour of the breeze. They watch, and listen, and kill things.