Although Savage Gods is Paul Kingsnorth’s latest book, it has been around for a while having been published in late 2019 – just before the entire world went “Covid crazy”.
It is one of two books that I eventually decided on, as late Christmas presents for myself, after my wife suggested I spend $50, or there about, on something for myself for Christmas.
In Kingsnorth’s own words – “Savage Gods is a confessional: a short, sharp, unexpected account of a crisis in my own writing, in my sense of purpose and my sense of home. It is an examination, from within the moment, of what it means to lose faith in words. In the process, it asks: what is the meaning of language and what is it for? Does writing illuminate or conceal? And can a human ever really ‘belong’ to a place in a broken world which militates against it?“
I started reading this book just before bedtime and got a third of the way through it before turning in for bed and then being unable to sleep because my mind was still processing and turning over and over what I had been reading. The following day I knew I had to finish it for my own peace of mind – which is what I did.
Some parts of the book, detailing his move from suburban living in a small Cumbrian market town to his new life in rural western Ireland – apparently just inside what is classed as the romantic bit – is fairly straightforward, clear and informative. It details the move and what his and his family’s new life, working the land and being as gentle on the environment as they can, without being completely off grid, is like. This is their attempt to escape from the all consuming “Machine”. This writing is what I bought the book for, to find out all about his transition from urbanite to part time farmer, working the land.
Other parts of the book concerning his writing and his apparent…..his apparent what exactly? His apparent – one could describe it as his falling out with words or his lack of trust in words….those black markings on a white page. And his inner conflict and lack of self belief, or lack of belief in his ability to write any more, or even if he should write at all in the future – which in my opinion is unjustified because I hold the guy in such high regard – I found quite disturbing.
At times, in this book, he writes as though he is coming apart. Having some kind of breakdown due to his mistrust of words. His lack of belief in his craft, his art.
He talks about writing as a sacrifice, or I should say in his quest to write and to be a writer, to be able to fully immerse himself in the world of words and sentences, he sacrifices everything else in his life. Writing comes first even before family. He chastises himself when he puts his “job” above spending more time with his children because he wants to be remembered by his kids as a good father, but it’s what he, as a writer, is driven to do. It’s his cross and he has to bear it.
It is also about belonging or not belonging to a place and whether or not it’s possible to become at home and at ease in that place. This is not something that Kingsnorth is comfortable about doing. It disturbs him when he starts to feel “at home” in a particular place, because it is alien to him. His lifestyle as a writer, has lead him to be a wanderer – not entirely nomadic – not on the move the whole time, but to move from place to place after a few short years without experiencing the feeling of becoming settled, of feeling “at home”.
But now in Ireland, living the rural idyll and reaching his mid 40’s, he is coming to the conclusion that it’s actually OK to feel at home in a place, to finally put down roots and to learn how to belong.
He thinks that perhaps the planting of hundreds of trees on his property by himself and his wife has helped him to begin to accept the act of putting down his own roots as a natural and normal thing to do. Something he has been both searching for, and at the same time avoiding, all his life.
I have, in the few years that I have been aware of Kingsnorth and his work, always been absolutely sure of his ability as a writer, a communicator and a great thinker. The latter is a title that many people give Kingsnorth and one that he seems to be the least comfortable with. (And there’s that word again – comfortable – something else that doesn’t sit well with Kingsnorth). To see his lack of belief in words and in writing and therefore lack of belief in his singular purpose in life – to be a writer. To expose his vulnerability in this way – and in the process, to expose the raw nerves of his relationship with his father – was both refreshing and deeply disturbing – and made me question my own life, my purpose and where, if anywhere, I belong. (please see my previous blog post)
I can’t say that I “enjoyed” reading this book, but I did find it almost impossible to put down. Once started I had to finish it. It is compelling reading, certainly a must read for anyone contemplating writing as a career…..or a calling. Some writers write because they want to. Kingsnorth writes because he has to. It is his very reason for being. He gets little choice in the matter.
I rate the book highly and am now eager to start reading the other book that made up my late Christmas gift…..another Kingsnorth offering. This time it’s his 2009 homage to his homeland called Real England – Part personal journey, part manifesto, Real England offers a snapshot of a country at a precarious moment in its history, while there is still time to save its future.
Once more, many thanks for reading this. I welcome comments, positive or negative, as long as they are constructive.
Is it just me or has anyone else found these times of “Corona” to be mentally draining? I’ve been neglecting my WordPress blog and the blogs of those I follow due to feeling so drained, lethargic, mentally exhausted. Anything that needed thinking about was pushed aside in favour of mindless pursuits such as Facebook or watching YouTube videos. Writing or even reading books was a task rather than the usual joy I experience. Add to this the unusually grey, cold, rainy and overcast weather we’ve been experiencing here in New Zealand through our first month of winter and the result is a wish to hibernate until it’s all over and springtime, sunshine and blue skies mean that normal service has once again resumed.
BUT, I’m back…..maybe not 100% back, but at least I’m reading again and have finally posted a short but hopeful post here. Sorry to all those I follow, for not actively following and commenting on your posts recently. I’m sure that there have been many good ones and I will be attempting to catch up on what I’ve missed over the last couple of months. Also apologies for those who have been following me for several months and have started to wonder if I’d fallen off the planet.
I’ll be doing a review of a trilogy of Margaret Atwood books – Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood and MaddAddam. Thankyou Margaret for rescuing me from the brain fog I’ve been lost in for several weeks. For anyone who hasn’t read any of her books yet, you’re missing a treat. She has a very imaginative mind.
I may even review some of the mindless but oh so addictive Zombie movies I’ve been watching on YouTube. There have been many over the weeks – some good, some bad and some really terrible.
This time of year the garden gets a good tidy up and I’ve already got seedlings coming up in my seed trays in the relative warmth of my shed window. Another week or so and they will be ready to plant out, under cover of plastic tunnels, so the frost doesn’t kill them. Life goes on.
I hope that you’re all well, have avoided the dreaded virus, and are thriving – physically and mentally.
Until the next post. Thank you for reading. And to borrow a phrase from our Prime Minister “be kind to one another”.
Other than my wife and family I have three main passions. They are writing, photography and travel. So I thought I’d hit you with my favourite quotes to do with writing, photography and travel
“Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” –Franz Kafka
“No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader. No surprise in the writer, no surprise in the reader.” –Robert Frost
“Read, read, read. Read everything – trash, classics, good and bad, and see how they do it. Just like a carpenter who works as an apprentice and studies the master. Read! You’ll absorb it. Then write. If it’s good, you’ll find out. If it’s not, throw it out of the window.” –William Faulkner
“To me, photography is an art of observation. It’s about finding something interesting an ordinary place… I’ve found it has little to do with the things you see and everything to do with the way you see them.” — Elliott Erwitt
“If the photographer is interested in the people in front of his lens, and if he is compassionate, it’s already a lot. The instrument is not the camera but the photographer.” — Eve Arnold
“My life is shaped by the urgent need to wander and observe, and my camera is my passport.” — Steve McCurry
Anatole France – “Wandering re-establishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.”
St Augustine – “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”
Mark Twain – “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.”
Anyone who writes, whether they call themselves a “Writer” or not has probably experienced this. Last night I hardly got any sleep at all because I had lots and lots of ideas for blog posts or other articles swimming around in my head….demanding my attention…rather than allowing me the bliss of sleep. Eventually around dawn I dozed off with several pieces already written…in my head anyway. Only to awaken, unrested, unrefreshed and very grumpy to find that all those brilliant ideas had evaporated into the ether and I sit frustrated in front of a blank screen. The great writers…..many of them alcoholics…..would use this enforced pause in their ability to write as an excuse to have a little drink…or two. But for me, as perverse as it may seem, I turned to poetry to break my writers block. Please forgive me…..I know not what I do. I am tired after all.
I toss and turn all night in bed,
Amid rumpled sheets all damp with sweat,
Ideas for writing swarm my head,
But morning comes and I forget ……..everything.
I sit before my keyboard,
My first coffee growing cold,
As I try to recall a single word,
Of great ideas once bold ………disappeared.
I’m angry, grumpy, tired,
If I could one idea recall,
My mind once sharp now mired,
Writers block – bricks in a wall…….inaccessible
The screens bright light taunting,
Fingers poised above the keys,
Illusive lines are haunting…. me,
Half remembered thoughts just tease…..like dreams
Ideas so clear last night,
No need to write them down,
This morning not a single bite,
I feel like such a clown……….ridiculous.
But I refuse to let it get me down,
To wallow in self pity,
So I’ll turn that frown upside down,
And jot down this little ditty.………..poetry
Or if you prefer poems that don’t rhyme (free verse)……as the words that aren’t in bold above read….
Hi all. I am really enjoying my blogging experience, both from a writing perspective and also from reading other writers posts. As 2018 comes into it’s final days, it almost brings to an end my first 3 months of blogging.
It’s been difficult as a beginner to know what to write about. What do people want to read about? – was my first thought. Then I threw caution to the wind and I simply wrote about anything that came to mind, relating to my passions of writing, books, writers….anything book-ish or book related…travel and photography. Also there was a question of how often I should write? Should I write every day, or once a week – how often is too much and how often is not enough? That question sort of solved its self as I have other things to fit in between my writing….like living. It’s been an interesting first 3 months and this being my 33rd blog post means that I am averaging 11 posts per month or around 2.5 posts per week – which, due to other commitments is about as much as I can manage at this point, although I would love to dedicate more time to writing.
I probably need to rearrange my life to allow more writing time. Not only for my blog, but also for other writing and photography projects – present and future.
I started to write a book about how it was to be a child of the 1960’s, growing up in a Yorkshire village – with my younger brother and about some of the scrapes we used to get ourselves in. After school or in the school holidays we’d spend most of our time with our friends playing in the local woods. This was of course before child molesting became a national sport and the “stranger, danger” programme convinced most parents that the world is no longer a safe place for kids to play unsupervised. That, combined with the internet and virtual reality/on-line gaming is going to rob most kids in the future of the fun of playing in the woods and getting dirty, bruised and scratched – building tree houses, rope swings and just being out in the fresh air.
I had intended it to be more of a family history type book so my children and their children (if and when they have them) have some idea of where their ancestors came from, since we now live on the other side of the planet. BUT once I started writing and the words started to flow it soon became a more anecdotal collection of amusing (I like to think) stories of some of the crazy things we did and lived through as kids.
I hit the 40,000 word mark just before starting my WordPress blog in early October and the book has been put on the back burner for now. My New Year resolution will be to get back to it and finally get it finished.
Another project languishing on the back burner is a photo book of a six month backpacking trip around the UK and Europe undertaken during 2016. I was meant to be getting right onto it as soon as we returned home. Almost 2 years later…..it seems I am still the king of procrastination.
Yet another project is to combine some of my photographs with poetry. Again, this is something that is partly under way with about a dozen poems under my belt so far.
BUT the main purpose of this post was to look at which of my posts have been best received from readers/followers so far – in order to guide me in the direction that my blog needs to take in the future. It would appear that you folks tend to like my travel related posts the best. Of the posts to attract “likes” reaching into the double digits, my posts about Paris and Barcelona scored the highest, followed by a review of Richard Laymon books, closely followed by a piece about beat writer William S Burroughs and another piece about Christmas. The next best liked was a couple of attempts at poetry. So I guess that gives me some guidance of what I should concentrate on in the future.
I’d love to hear about your writing projects destined for 2019. Please feel free to comment below.
I’m not going to go into depth about what I do or don’t believe in about Christmas…..except of course that Santa really does exist….(cough cough). Christmas is a magical time of you have little kids to share that magic with……..otherwise, it does all seem to be a lot of work for one day of stuffing our faces and damaging our livers.
At our home, in the build up to Christmas, my wife had reeled off a list of things that “needed to be done before Christmas” and we sweated and toiled in order to get most of them done before the big day. We live in New Zealand so Christmas falls in our summer-time meaning that usually we can bask in sunshine with temperatures in the high 20’s or low 30’s Celsius. Christmas lunch is taken in the garden…..usually…..which is why a lot of the tasks tended to centre around the garden and lawns – making everything as neat as a pin and putting up an awning for a sun-shade and of course fairy lights – although with it being a lunch time feast, no one will see the lights against the bright daylight. BUT they were on the list so had to be put up and switched on.
So after a week of hard work and fraying tempers, completing our garden tasks, of course it absolutely poured down the day before Christmas and on the day itself. Oh JOY! As the front lawn gradually became a shallow lake, we dined inside and it was a bit of a crush squeezing 11 around the tables in the dining room. We had to arrange the tables diagonally – corner to corner – in order to fit everyone and everything in, as a rather large Christmas tree occupied much of one side of the room.
We all ate more than we should – naturally. AND one or two of “us” definitely drank more than was sensible….but we survived the day.
Honestly – next year I wouldn’t mind just disappearing to a Pacific island for the week instead – to chill out and recharge the batteries. My wife even suggested flying to Norway for Christmas…..about as far as you can get from NZ – where we would be completely off the radar….not to mention freezing cold.
It’s now 2 days later – the 27th and finally I am kicking back, chilling out. I’ve just had a coffee with a large chunk of Christmas cake and am contemplating either opening a beer…..or finishing off one of the many bottles of wine that were opened and left unfinished on Christmas day. Why do people do that? Why open a new bottle when there is already another one of exactly the same wine already opened and has only one glassful missing. Does anyone else find that frustrating or is it just me?
Anyhow…getting back to chilling out – I’m reading a book put together by a lady called Penelope Rowlands of 32 essays / short stories by 32 different writers, of a variety of nationalities, who have all lived, or been seduced to stay longer than they should have, in the European City of Lights – Paris. It’s called “Paris was Ours” and I picked it up second hand. It’s in very good condition and I was drawn to the book by the beautiful moody black and white photo on the front of a dimly lit, rainy street with people walking -mostly wearing raincoats and carrying umbrellas – lots of shadows but also reflections and rain spattered glowing pavements. By reading the inside back cover of the book it appears that the photo is from flickr by a Julien Brachhammer. Who-ever you are Julien, I love the photo.
Inside the book the essays range from 3 pages long up to a maximum of around 16 or 17 pages, so it’s very easy to pick up and put down when you have spare moments…..or you can sit and binge read the essays – much like I was trying to do until I had the urge to share my experience of the book with you all – on here…WordPress.
All of the writers had been seduced by “the city of love” and all or almost all profess to still love it although some also claimed to have a love/hate relationship with a city that they found both passionately alluring, yet also one that theft them feeling lonely and blue. As one writer put it “Paris is a good place to be young and melancholy.” Another says “Paris steals in on you like fog.” Others refer to it as “the world capital of memory and desire” or insist that they were seduced by …”that siren, Paris.” I just love all these quotes – most are so poetic and I wished that I had written them first.
But living in Paris even for a short time – as a resident rather than a tourist – has been beneficial to the inner writer in all these essayists. As one put it “to be a writer you MUST come back to Paris.”
In her introduction to the book, the editor Penelope Rowlands speaks for most of the writers in this enthralling collection when she professes, “We hated Paris and loved it all at once.”
As writer and journalist Walter Wells wrote in his essay “I knew already that living in Paris would not be like visiting Paris, but I hadn’t appreciated what that really meant.” OR as Marcelle Clements attested – “Paris is a great place to fall in love, to eat, drink, and be merry. But it’s also the perfect city in which to be depressed or, even better, melancholy……You don’t have to be French to smoke a Gitane and notice the falling leaves drifting by your window.”
More than half of the essays have never appeared in any other publications and were written especially for this book. Some are well known writers, others – if you’re like me – you will never have heard of before, but all are intrepid men and women writing about their personal encounters with a magical yet uncompromising place – one that changes them indelibly and will stay with them forever – PARIS!
Most of these essays left me wanting to read more by each writer – to delve deeper into their backgrounds – and of course made me yearn to live for a year or more in that seductive city of lights, love and melancholy.
I’m not really a giver of stars to recommend books, as a book is a very subjective thing – what I love – you may hate. BUT if pushed….I would give this at least 4 out of 5.
I have always considered myself a dog person, having owned a pet dog of one sort or another since I was a little boy and actually looked upon “cat people” with scorn almost to the point of ridicule. Why would anyone want a cat rather than a dog for goodness sake?
That was then…..this is now. I’ve jumped ships. I’m now very much in the cat camp.
Looking back all my dogs – Lassie (how original right?) the mixed breed black dog with tan markings was my first and was a lovely natured, loyal, obedient, lively dog and a great companion for two young boys (me and my brother) growing up. Her life was taken too soon on a busy road by a car in a hurry – or a driver of a car in a hurry.
Next came Bess – a Welsh Springer-Spaniel – liver and white in colour. Another wonderful dog, and quite intelligent for a spaniel… (she learned to “heel” very quickly and so could be walked almost anywhere off the leash and would stay by my side). I used to walk her for miles through the woodland near our home in Yorkshire – treasured memories. She had a great temperament, so gentle – (we had a budgerigar in a cage in the house – One day it got out and the dog caught it. She just held it ever so softly in her mouth and presented it to me completely unharmed – except for a coating of doggy saliva that is).
Then, after moving to New Zealand and having two small sons of our own…..we thought a dog would be a good companion for them too. So we bought a black and white Springer/Cocker Spaniel cross from our neighbour. He (our first and only male dog) was playful and very friendly – a little over exuberant maybe – even to the point of annoyance – but also…..I don’t really want to use this word, but honestly I have trained other dogs with ease – this one just wouldn’t learn…..he was STUPID. (This is where Forest Gump pops up in my head and says “stupid is as stupid does….that’s what my momma used to say”). I’ve heard some experts say that there are no stupid dogs, only stupid owners……that may be true in 99% of cases ,where the dogs may have had a learning capacity greater than that of a Turnip, but our dog was definitely a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Which is why we named him Baldrick – after the character from the Black Adder TV series.
Finally we come to our last dog, Millie a Jack-Russel Terrier with the typical brown on white markings. She was the runt of the litter, only half the size of her siblings and so my wife took pity on her and, despite my insistence that we were n’t having any more pets, she was soon sleeping in a shoe box, (that’s how tiny she was – I could hold her in the palm of my hand) by the side of our bed. Another lovely, well trained dog with a friendly manner – except she didn’t like very small children – as a result of being poked around by a couple of little ones when she was a pup (no, not our kids). The problem with runts of the litter is that they are not generally expected, in nature, to live to adulthood. Millie did however, but not without a whole raft of medical problems that cost us into the thousands of dollars to combat. She was 12 years old when she died – 74 in dog years according to the latest way of calculating dogs years Vs humans. (15 dog years for the first human year, 9 dog years for the 2nd year and 5 dog years for every human year afterwards – it used to be 7 dog years for 1 human year….things change – must be inflation).
After her death – which was extremely upsetting for us all, we both agreed – No More Pets!
We went away on holiday (that’s the same as a vacation – for our cousins from the former colonies) – leaving our home in the capable hands of my wife’s brother and his son who would house sit for us and keep things ticking over while we were away. On our return I found, much to my dismay that our home was now “open house” for 2 very young kittens who had come through the fence from next door and had had the run of the house almost from day one of our holiday.
“Right” I said “Not having this….we are a cat free house!” – What a grumpy bugger!
I then set about putting barriers across the back doorway too high for the kittens to clamber over. This of course worked for a couple of weeks until they learned how to jump…..something that animals of the feline persuasion do extremely well. In the end I softened my attitude and allowed them back in…for a while….and would then pop them back through the fence to go home. The two kittens, one male and one female -(we didn’t know what names the neighbours had given them so…) – my wife named them Scarlette and Tiberius. Well, Scarlette, as a name, I could handle…..but Tiberius? To me, he became Tibbs or Tibby and as an ardent Dog man, I hate to admit how fond I became of him. He quickly became MY cat….my wife would claim OUR cat….but he was definitely mine – Shhhh don’t tell her.
From being a 3 month old he pretty much took up permanent residence at our place, (we’d been buying food for them both for some time already), though his sister would go back and forth from us to the neighbours. Tibbs would come when called in at night and slept inside – where ever he wanted to. In the mornings he’d come into the bedroom and jump on to the bed and nuzzle me, purring like a motor boat – as if to say ‘Good morning…great to see you!’, before settling down to sleep on my chest. He had a routine. After breakfast he’d go off exploring for a couple of hours before coming home again to check on me, to have a cuddle and some more food before finding a nice sunny spot to settle in the garden…..sometimes joined by Scarlette. They were really good mates together.
As I said Tibbs never went far and always came home every few hours, so one day when he’d been missing all day, and didn’t come when I called him in, in the evening – naturally we were worried. Fortunately the next day he turned up, bloodied but otherwise ok. He’d obviously been in a fight, bits of missing fur and tooth marks in his skin attesting to that. After that night, he stayed close to home for a few weeks.
Then after he’d been living with us for about 9 months….it was the 4th January 2017 and we had a houseful of family staying over Christmas and New Year….he went out into the garden about 10pm and that was the last we saw of him. My wife was very upset and I, someone who over the years had often said “I can’t stand cats!” – was devastated. It was crazy. I’d had pets die before…dogs…budgies…goldfish, even chickens, and had been upset, but this was gut wrenching. I was beside myself. I think it was the not knowing what had happened to him that was the worst. Was he alive being looked after by another family, or trapped in a shed somewhere, was he dead….if so had he suffered?
A few weeks prior to his disappearance, Scarlette had given birth to her first litter of kittens. 3 little bundles of fluff. We’d not seen them, but we’d been told by the neighbours about them. The day after Tibbs disappeared, Scarlette came visiting and brought with her the cutest, prettiest looking kitten ever. Now bear in mind that this is someone who “doesn’t like cats” who’s writing this….so the kitten MUST have been extremely cute.
My wife…as she does….named him – yes the new kitten is a him – Hector. And, like his uncle Tibby, Hector – once he’d weaned off his mother, kind of settled in with us. He’d go for a wander next door to check on his bro’s, but would usually be back in a few minutes. Other days he’d stay at the neighbours overnight, but mostly spent his time at our house. The youngest boy who lived next door used to come around and collect Hector…who they called Hemi….and take him home to their place. Half an hour later Hector was back with us. Time passed Hector grew and Scarlette had another litter of kittens and so Hector went down the order of cuteness as far as the kids next door were concerned. The new kittens took priority and Hector was no longer wanted.
Long story….already pretty long…but, long story short we had a chat with the neighbours and officially adopted Hector/Hemi to be OUR cat. We took him to the vets, got him “fixed”…..sorry Hector – I feel your anguish and your…loss. AND now I’m going to have to sit with my legs crossed for the next hour wincing in sympathy, just at the thought of it. We bought him a nice collar with name tag and phone number on ….. that’s our phone number not his…..I mean, we spoil the cat with treats but didn’t go as far as giving him his own phone. He settled back in with us despite having him go under the vets knife and except for his tendency to test our love for him……I’ll explain shortly…..everything was going very nicely.
We live on a very busy main road – to the front of the house – with orchards and fields to the back of the house. Scarlette seems to have done a good mothering job in teaching her offspring about keeping off that main road and heading the other direction into the orchard instead. At night I close our big double gates to make the gardens secure for the night…..this, if I am not careful, is where Hector tests our love for him. If he sees me walking down the driveway toward the gate he’ll lay in wait until I have closed one side of the gate and will then run hell for leather out of the open side and lay on the footpath inches away from the busy road and traffic. He’ll lay there and and turn to look at my frantic face as if to say “Well….aren’t you going to rescue me?”. A couple of times I have walked slowly over, bent down and picked him up….bringing him back on to our property and safety….and telling him not to scare me like that ever again.
Obviously almost giving me a heart attack wasn’t enough for dear old Hector so the next time he was laying beside the busy road and I ever so slowly moved toward him….he thought “lets see how much the old bugger can take” and jumped up and wandered slowly across the road…..somehow dodging the cars hurtling past. He got to the centre of the road all calm and collected and then completely lost control and bolted for the shrubbery on the far side. I was so caught up in watching what HE was doing that I found myself….almost trance-like standing in the middle of the road among the traffic. Regaining my senses, I too bolted for the far side, but restrained myself from diving into the bushes after him. Not only were there bushes and shrubs on this side of the street, there was also a wire fence separating me from him. I got down on all 4’s and peered through the hedge. Hector was there, but wouldn’t come when called and wasn’t quite within reach. I had to go for the secret weapon….the wife!
The idea being that if she couldn’t nag him out no one could……just kidding dear.
Once I’d explained what had happened my wife spiritedly volunteered to go through the wire and shrubbery after Hector. I sort of half supported and half pushed her through the hedge until she was all the way in there except for her feet….which I was gripping onto for dear life. “I can almost touch him…..just a little further” she uttered, and in a flash she had gone….I was left on one side of the hedge my wife’s empty slippers in hand and she was on the other side…..somewhere, barefoot…hopefully with the cat now safely in hand.
Moments later, a rather grubby and scratched face appeared and then some hands and arms came through the branches and leaves – holding a very scared Hector. I took him from her and holding him tightly to my chest – I could feel his heart beating like a machine gun – I got him safely home and gave him some food. Only then did I think of my dear wife…battered and bleeding from scratches….and by now barefoot….on the wrong side of the hedge on the wrong side of the road.
She appeared in the kitchen just at that moment grunted “thanks a lot” at me and then made a fuss of the cat. So all’s well that ends well…..and I’ll make up the bed in the spare room shall I dear?
For the next few months all continued to go well….we got into a routine, as we had with Tibbs. Hector sleeps indoors….meows in the morning to be let out, so we unlock the cat flap (we have to lock it at night to keep the rest of the neighbourhood cats out), and off he goes to return a couple of hours later for another feed or a cuddle or a nap. Like his uncle before him, he doesn’t usually wander too far from home and always returns every couple of hours to check in with us. AND like his uncle he jumps on the bed and nuzzles me in the morning….not every morning, just when HE feels like it. He’s his own man. There is no doubt that it’s he that is in charge and this is definitely Hectors house.
Regardless of what time Hector gets me up to let him out, I always make a fuss of him, stroke him and tell him how special he is….after losing Tibbs suddenly like that I just wanted him to know that he’s loved. (I know I don’t sound like a former hater of cats). Then one morning off he went, 4.30am – through the cat flap into the first dim glow of what was promising to be morning. All through the morning – no Hector….nor the afternoon…nor the evening. I took to the streets checking for any signs…alive or dead…and calling his name. I even checked the shrubbery over the road. Nothing. Evening gave way to the full dark of night. At midnight I climbed into bed – worried sick and fearing for the worst. My wife reminded me that “You’re the guy who doesn’t like cats, remember?”….but by now Hector wasn’t just a cat he was family. We both lay there in the dark, silent…wondering.
Then around 1.30am…a distant Meow….then closer, another….louder. The rattle of the cat flap and a loud MEOW! We leaped out of bed and rushed to the back door and there he was, a little scruffy and musty smelling and minus his collar, but otherwise alive and well. I have never felt so relieved!
He’s back to his old routine. Doesn’t wander far, eats here, sleeps here, gets cuddles here…..plays here, or next door, with his mother and younger brothers and sisters. Yes they have quite a collection of cats next door now after 3 litters of kittens. Some of the kittens have been found new homes but it still leaves around 6 or 7 of our feline friends on the other side of the fence. Of course most of them find their way, at some point during the day, over to our place to play with Hector, to eat his food, drink his milk and of course to dig and shit all over my vegetable gardens. Oh the joy of cats!
I had planted enough garlic in my garden to provide us with a couple of garlic bulbs per week for the whole year…on maturity. Why do cats like to crap in garlic beds? They have dug and shit…shit and dug so much that I’ll be lucky to have a dozen bulbs left come harvest time.
In order to foil their evil plans to do the same to my strawberry beds I have built supports around the garden edges and netted the entire strawberry beds in bird netting – in a bid to not only keep the cats from digging the plants up, but also to protect the ripening fruits from the thieving birds.
The cats and kittens really love the nets. It seems that they make great hammocks….wonderful places to just hang out (literally) and enjoy the spring sunshine.
SO….The difference between dogs and cats. Over all and despite the angst caused by the permanent disappearance of Tibby and the temporary disappearance of Hector, cats in my humble opinion, are far less trouble than dogs to look after. All they ask for is food, water and a cuddle – when it suits them. They clean themselves, take themselves for walks, cover up their own “business” and let themselves in and out via the cat flap. If they are hungry and there is no food out, they will prepare their own meal of rodent or bird (Rat or Tui anyone?- don’t worry, it’s New Zealand joke).
Following a dog around with a plastic bag in hand, waiting for it to “go to the toilet” – lets face it, leaves a lot to be desired.
They, cats, like human companionship….but only when it suits them and they are not desperately fawning when their laughingly called “owner” (ho-hum) appears in the same room – unlike their canine counterpart, who even if their owner has only been out of sight for five minutes, behave completely deranged when they reappear. Wagging their tails almost off in sheer delight. Man is, without doubt, in charge when it comes to dogs…..but cats definitely rule over men. (When I use the word “man” or “men” I don’t specifically mean a male of the human species – I use it in the way that we, “the older generation”, used to use the term “mankind”….before we got our wrists slapped and were told it now has to be “humankind”…or even “personkind”)
A dog maybe mans best friend and man is, without a doubt, the object of a dogs undying affection….even it seems when the dog has been mistreated. A cat on the other hand may be a loved companion of man (or woman), but man to a cat is just…meh…you can cuddle me when I say you can cuddle me and not a moment sooner…..now where’s my dinner and don’t just give me bloody biscuits!
Oh and by the way….the reason that cats make better bookmarks than dogs is that usually, but not always….they are smaller, so fit inside a book easier….and have the ability to lay still for ages. It makes them “purrrfect” bookmarks.
Whilst I agree that some poetry of old was as corny as a Hallmark greeting card. I do lament the passing – or apparent passing of the rhyme. And although I am sure that a lot of thought and agonising goes into more “modern poetry” – to an onlooker who knows little about poetry or poems (namely me), some of what these days goes under the guise of poetry can seem to be random thoughts jotted down in broken prose….to shorten the lines to make it look like a poem on the page……without the rhyming couplets etc.
I do however realise that there is merit in, and room for, all kinds of poetry and poets. I mean no offense. So….dipping my quill into the inkpot……here’s my Eulogy for the Poets.
When I was a child all poetry rhymed
But poetry like everything changes with time
Rhyming words on the end of lines gone, I suppose
Poems have been hacked and become chopped up prose
The mad poet swings the axe
Attacks the words once fluid
Now abrupt and angry rampage
Across the page, undisciplined rage
Against established system
Rebelious writers turn their backs
No more Ballads, No more Sonnets
Mindless acts, thoughtless hacks
Gone Wordsworth, Shelley, Tennyson, Keats
Trampled under heavy boots, pounding feet
Great poets and poems crushed
Tradition down the toilet flushed.
And in view of my earlier statements above….by hypocritical contrast……here is, (in chopped up prose), an homage to Shakespeare & Company bookstore in Paris.