It’s well known that writers have to grapple with their demons to produce their best work. But their cats?
Two years ago, I gave up my day job to concentrate on writing fulltime. If the impending solitude worried me at all, it was only because I was afraid I might enjoy it too much, like an addict being left alone with an unlimited supply of his drug of choice. A writer craves solitude, you see.
What I hadn’t taken into account is the fact that I wouldn’t actually be alone. Yes, my wife would be at work, and the kids would be at school, but Molly, our cat, would be sharing the house with me. But how much trouble could an ageing cat be?
She was pretty much set in her ways. As far as I could see, they seemed to consist entirely in finding somewhere cosy to sleep out the day. I’d leave her alone. She’d leave me alone. We’d get on fine.
Of course, it didn’t work out like that.
Despite the fact that she had, up until this point, been so sedentary as to be almost comatose, Molly now took to prowling restlessly through every room. She had always been the strong silent type, unlike her daughter Phoebe (now, sadly, no longer with us). But my presence in the house brought out the “talker” in her. She took to announcing her entrance into every room with a stream of yowling vowels that very nearly made sense. But, annoyingly, never did.
Her noisy prowling would invariably lead to one place. I’d hear her paws pad on the wooden stairs up to the loft where I have my office. I would await the thud of her arrival on my desk. She’d grumble a little, as if she was irritated by me for some reason (I mean, what had I done?). Then she would start rubbing her face against my hands as I tried to type. If I was lucky, there might be some bits of cat food around her mouth, which would be transferred to my fingers. She has no teeth, you see, and finds it difficult to chew.
Now, all of a sudden, the best place to sleep in the house was no longer the patch of sunlight on the kitchen floor, but the narrow strip of desk between me and my laptop. On more than one occasion she would lie across my wrists as I tried to type. It can’t have been comfortable for her, and it certainly wasn’t helping me.
That wouldn’t have been so bad if she settled down quickly. But you know cats. It generally took half an hour of traipsing over my keyboard inserting new, uncharacteristically experimental, sections of text, and, best of all, thrusting her bottom in my face. All the time purring loudly. Do you have any idea how loud a cat’s purr actually is?
On one particular day, so relentless was she in coveting my keyboard, that I decided it was easier to leave her to it. Who knows, she might come up with something better than I could. Thinking I was outwitting her – I mean a man ought to be able to outwit a cat, right? – I sneaked down to the kitchen. It was the last place she would think of looking for me. I thought.
Deprived of my computer, I set to work with a notebook and pen. Things went well, until I was yanked out of my creative reverie by something sharp pulling at the fibres of my jumper at the back. I felt an unseen presence wrap itself around my shoulders and neck. It was a startling moment. I could not imagine what it was.
As I heard the thrumming motor of a cat’s purr, and felt the soft furry warmth of the thing that had suddenly possessed me, I realised that it was a cat. Could it be Molly? Never before in all her considerable years had she shown the slightest inclination to climb up someone’s back and perch on their shoulders. Why would she start now?
So firm was her grip that I was able to stand up and walk about without dislodging her. I was even able to set up my camcorder and record the moment. Below is the film I took that day. I hope you will watch it, and feel my pain. Perhaps then you will have some insight into what we writers have to go through for our art.