Shrink Me!

This is what I hope it won’t feel like, moving into a flat. My first flat – apart from the four year ‘first marital home’ – after all these years.

I never actually thought I would get a flat, what with the thirteen Furry Friends, but luckily I stumbled across some fellow cat-friends and they don’t mind. And it’s got high ceilings, which is good, since I’m a tallish lady (or, as my sister once less flatteringly put it, a giantess). No bumping the old head on the ceiling.

At first I wondered how the cats would take to it – after a having glorious three bedrooms to roam around in, now to be confined to two and no upstairs. But in fact they don’t tend to roam around. Cats stake out their own spaces – huge, dominant gingers mostly downstairs, close to the food – old, feeble tabbies upstairs – young, mostly female cats choosing between levels, depending on who’s asleep and who’s roaming about. Kitten – the most ancient one – never leaves her dusty corner of the front bedroom, though the door is always open. She has her own basket, next to the radiator, her own food tray, her own personal dirt box and there she sits – or mostly sleeps – unless accidentally invaded, in which case a lot of fearsome hissing and sideways skittering breaks out.

I have observed that whereas humans seek out plenty of horizontal space – floors, rooms – what cats like is vertical space. They like shelves, stacks of stuff at different levels. They have this competition going to be top cat – on top of the kitchen cabinet trumps on top of the fridge, which trumps on top of the tumble drier, though that’s warmer. Aloft is good, carpet is draughty and worse – low status.

Therefore when I move into my new flat (fingers tightly crossed) I shall make sure to pile stuff up for the Furry Ones to scale. This is likely to happen of its own accord, it seems to me, in that receding removal men leave behind a tidal wave of stacked cardboard boxes. There’ll be plenty for the first five to use for mountaineering and by the time I have collected the remaining eight from the cattery (possibly two separate catteries) next day I will have  had time to do some more ‘spatial engineering’. That’s the plan anyway. But we all know what happens to best laid plans.

And then there’s just me. Me adapting to living in close proximity with other people again. Me re-joining the human race, perhaps. Me returning to the small town I inhabited for most of my marriage and – I realised recently – the very last place I can remember feeling ‘at home’. I am looking forward to rediscovering familiar territory, old walks, old shops, new shops. I am looking forward to actually being able to walk without being observed with a stone-faced, slack-jawed stare from every doorway. Honestly, it’s like Deliverance round here.

Ex and My Replacement, however, have long since moved away so meeting them walking hand and hand in the street (as I did, once) is a vanishingly small possibility. They probably don’t hold hands any more anyway – or if they do, I don’t wish to know that. In my experience hand-holding tends to be a short-lived phenomenon, all too swiftly replaced by bickering, and then silence. But perhaps I’m wrong on that. Just a sour old cynic!

drink me

Following the White Rabbit

Apparently there are now mugs advising one to KEEP CALM AND FOLLOW THE WHITE RABBIT. I rather like all these Keep Calms though they’re a bit old hat now.

Follow the White Rabbit – I was assuming Alice in Wonderland but I gather – and this is the beauty of blogging, you find out so many totally irrelevant things – that it may also have some sort of drugs connotation, but also may refer to a scene in The Matrix (I thought I’d seen all the Matrix’s but I can’t remember this scene) where Neo is advised to follow said Rabbit and shortly thereafter is visited by a lady with a rabbit tattoo on her right shoulder. I must watch those films again… but since I can’t afford to go to the cinema, or indeed anywhere I don’t have to in my little motor car, I will have to wait until they appear on one or other of the Freeview channels. Which they will. They’re almost as regular as The Sound of Music. That was on again this Christmas and for once I actually watched it – again. And I hate it. I loathe those goody-goody children in their matching frocks and silly dungarees. I loathe Julie Andrews and I loathe Christopher Plummer… who, I have just discovered, is exactly the same age as my mother. Assuming still alive. Christopher Plummer, I mean, not my mother. I know she’s still alive.

I must have been really bored.

This prompt, Keeping up with the Joneses (or Jones’ as they insist on putting it – no one ever kept up with a Jones’) is asking me to tell you about one luxury item I wish I could afford, in as much detail as I can. I am meant to paint a picture for you.

I’m never going to manage that. I’ve never been any good at selecting one just item out of many. That would involve a decision. I’ve never been any good at decisions. The best I can do is a list.

This is the first time in a long time I have allowed myself to think about what I might want. That’s the worst of poverty – not the lack of stuff but the gradual loss of motive for daydreaming. You get to the point where you cannot want. It’s a bit like sex. I can admire Daniel Craig – his chiselled good looks, his splendid physique, those icy blue eyes – but is there even the remotest chance that he would admire me in return? No. Therefore I cannot fantasise about him.

(Every time Daniel Craig’s name is mentioned I think of Kate Bottley, a vicar who watches TV with her husband and a dog on Gogglebox, wearing enormous fluffy slippers. Kate Bottley, not the dog. She once remarked that she knew there was a Benevolent God since He had created Daniel Craig).

It’s the same with money. After a while you ditch the desire for it. It’s a way to survive. But, for the purposes of this post, I will consider – what would I really, really want, if I suddenly got my hands on some money? Well, here’s my list:

I’d like a driveway. A long, gravel driveway with a house so far down that driveway as to be invisible from the road. I would like it to crunch as I drove down. I would like the house to be large enough for lots of cats to roam about in and wreck, but discouraging to callers. Preferably surrounded by tall, glossy-leaved laurel bushes. Nothing interesting.

I’d like a beach hut. Rented would do. I love the sea. I’d love to go down to the choppy English Channel with my flask of lukewarm tea, some cheese–and-pickle sandwiches wrapped in tinfoil and a thick blanket to wrap round my shoulders (I’m guessing it gets cold in beach houses) and I’d sit there and drink it all in. View, not the sea.

I’d like a camper van. Is that a universal name, or just British? Maybe they’re called something different in America, like caravans being trailers. I’d like a van I could stuff full of tea, cheese-and-pickle sandwiches, blankets – whatever else might be needed for a week away – and I’d like to just go, pootling around the countryside like Toad in his motor-car and parking in lay-bys. I never got to travel – well, a weekend in Paris, a week in Ontario and a few assorted works outings and day-trips to forgettable destinations such as Calais, Bruges and Le Touquet. Oh, and Scotland where like most people I didn’t get to see the Loch Ness Monster. But travel. I would like to just drift… from lay-by to lay-by… stopping to look at the view, keeping some kind of journal… And it would be sunny. Sunny, for once.

On a more practical note, I’d like a white transit van capacious enough to transit a large number of cats in a large number of large pet-carriers, should I ever decide to move. Better still, one of those vans specially adapted for transporting animals, with built-in accommodation, like the RSPCA have. Although I suppose if I already had the camper van it could double up as a transit van. No room to park two large vans and my little car. Although of course if I already had the laurel-shrouded house at the end of the crunchy driveway, that would be no problem. I could day-dream a triple garage somewhere round the back. Or just park them all on the drive.

And lastly I would like approx £500 a month from some sort of Trust Fund, which will be discovered to have been set up for me by an Uncle in Tasmania I didn’t know I had. £500 a month would mean I didn’t have to think about money, ever again. I could manage on that. We could – the multi-cat-and-person-commune. Felix for all and the occasional tub of Raspberry Ripple ice-cream for me.

So what do all my ‘wants’ have in common? F.I.P. No, not Fell In Pond – as Rudyard Kipling recorded of unlucky visitors to Batemans, his beautiful house in East Sussex, but