Tag Archives: cat

My Neck of the Woods: Chapter 14

27 St Annes Street, Levin, New Zealand

August 2016 – November 2017

This house is going to be largely about dogs – canine and human.

Even prior to being ousted from the previous place we had found a house in town to live in. In fact, although we would spend part of each day at the previous place we had shifted most of our belongings to the new address and slept in the new place at night. We still had the cow and the goat at the old place. The end came suddenly and before you could blink we were ensconced at 27 Saint Annes Street, Levin.

It was a large two-story house with a steep staircase that had no bannister. To get to the main bedroom you had to squeeze past the staircase, which suggested that the upstairs had been an afterthought. Outside in the front were two gigantic trees; a gum and a copper beech. Next to them was a fairly busy road. At the back of the house was a substantial lawn with a large, but old, garage and workshop. We put in trellis gates to keep the dog at bay.

We always regarded this place as being temporary. It would give us space to search anywhere in the country for as near-perfect a house as possible. We made a list of what a rented house would have to have, and a list of what would be nice but not necessary. Every day we looked online at the houses available, from the top of the country to the bottom. In the meantime we got on with living a life.

We were permitted to have a dog, so of course Delia came too as did the cat. Delia didn’t like the place much. She was used to expansive rural settings where she could roam at whim. And then she was diagnosed with bladder cancer. Luckily an expert dog surgeon was visiting the town. He said an operation would be touch and go. We held our breath, but within a week Delia was happily home as large as life. Six months later we went for our daily walk. We came home. Delia sat down and died – tail wagging.

A month or so later we had the opportunity to get a puppy – a black and white Springer Spaniel. We named him Bubble.

On one side of the house were neighbours Pearl and Norm. They were an older couple, and delightful. They would frequently pop in for a chat, as indeed we too would pop over to their place. Norm was into making home brew and I wasn’t beyond making a brew myself. Norm was a car mechanic and was called upon several times to fix our car. Pearl cared for half a dozen homeless cats.

There was a neighbour on the other side also called Norm; Norm and his partner Chelsea. All day, and for a good part of the night, you could hear them screaming obscenities at each other. (You get the idea). They had seven dogs; half a dozen fluffy lapdog yappers and a vicious Rottweiler. The Rottweiler knew how to jump the fence into our property right at the back where Norm had his marijuana garden. We were at times scared to go out on the back lawn, and little Bubble wouldn’t go there to pee. Luckily, Levin had a dog park of about ten acres. We would visit the park each day and Bubble would play and run with packs of other dogs of all shapes and sizes.

I continued to play the piano at the Levin Library when invited to give a concert. Usually I would play Scarlatti Sonatas or Haydn Sonatas. I loved it, and the library users appreciated it too.

Another thing that happened was a 7.8 earthquake. It was a biggie! It went on and on. In fact it was two earthquakes following one another without a break.

Rainwater had no escape from our back lawn, and the water from the roof of the house also gushed there. The back of the house with the wretched running Rottweiler became a muddy swamp. We made some raised beds to grow vegetables.

Then disaster struck. Norm-of-the-obscenities dropped dead at his front door. The body was taken away and the partying began. Crowds revelled at the house and a few stayed the nights. A second Rottweiler made an appearance. Chelsea could not control any of the dogs. They ran amuck. A month or so later their landlord called to ask why the rent had not been paid. He booted all out. The house had been trashed.

Peace at last, but we’d had enough of the place. With greater urgency we searched for a house we could call a home. We drove several hundred miles to view a place, but that is the next story. Eric went ahead to set up the new abode; internet and power and phone and so on. I stayed behind to supervise the removal truck and to shampoo the carpet. Three days later, with dog and cat, I set sail and left the wretched place behind.

My Neck of the Woods: Chapter 8

96A George Street, Tuakau, New Zealand

June 2006 – October 2006

After scurrying up and down New Zealand for four months or so looking for work, with every possession on earth packed into the car, we at last landed a job in Auckland, New Zealand. The new job put us up at a very nice hotel for two weeks. That gave us plenty of time to find a house to rent.

We did find a house in one of the suburbs. It seemed quite nice, and would be available on the very Friday that we had to leave the hotel. We turned up at the rental agency to pick up the key.

“Oh, sorry, but we rented that out to someone yesterday. We have nothing else available.”

Needless to say, it was pretty devastating. We went straight to another rental agency and told our plight. The woman said she had two houses available. Have a look at both of them and say which one you want. One was in the suburbs and a bit run down. The other was in a little village called Tuakau some way out of Auckland. We chose the one in the little village. That night we unloaded the car of all our possessions in the world. No chair! No bed! No table! But we had a computer! We sat and ate and slept on the floor!

The next day we purchased a dining table and some chairs.

My mother had died several months earlier. One of my brothers packed up some of Mum’s furniture and freighted it to Tuakau, including a clothes dryer. With it he had included money to buy a washing machine!

The neighbour had eleven dogs and seven cats. The palm tree outside our back door had a large family of rats living in its branches. (In case you didn’t know, rats love living in palm trees). There were snails in the wilderness around the house in the thousands.

The house was a bungalow – as the majority of New Zealand houses are. It had recently been painted inside. There was no heating; no wood burner, no heat pump. We bought a heater. We might as well have tried to heat the Antarctic. It was useless. It was freezing. I’ve never been so cold in my life. It was damp. When it rained the entire water from the street ran down the driveway and under the house. Quickly mould formed on the newly painted walls.

One of the neighbour’s kittens, clearly tired of living with eleven dogs and six other cats, decided to take up residence with us. She was the only warm thing in the house all winter! The neighbours had called her Bali because she had been born six months earlier while they were on vacation in Bali in Indonesia. We didn’t think much of the name, so for the last sixteen years we have called her Pussy Cat.

I would manage the Village Bookshop when Penny the owner went away. It was a good way to “meet the locals”.

Our house used to be surrounded by a cottage garden. It was now all brambles and weeds. I decided to clear it. In fact I dug over the entire quarter acre by hand and planted a pretty cottage garden all around. It was delightful. In fact it was so delightful that the owner decided the time was ripe to sell – “While it’s looking so pretty”.

At the final rental inspection the agency declared that “The window in the garage is more broken than it was.” More broken? I said. I simply cleaned it. “It is more broken and you will not get your bond back.”

We left with pleasure and with Pussy Cat. Over the next four months the house was sold four times – each time fifty or so thousand more than the previous sale. As far as I know the “more broken window” never got fixed.

2199. Joyce’s pet cat

“There’s no doubt that my pet cat rules the roost,” declared Joyce from Kentucky.

“He certainly is something to crow about,” answered Maisie Fina’fi’fau’u’fi’ from Hawai’i.

“Your cat’s not chicken when it comes to sorting out who’s in charge,” expounded Angelica Angelico from Luxembourg.

“I don’t think a cat is a paltry thing,” joked Norma from Nigeria.

“It’s not only fun, but it’s so educational being on Facebook,” wrote Sheila Plonk from New South Wales.

2134. You are being watched

Sometimes (quite often actually) I feel as if I’m being watched. It’s nothing really. It’s just that every time I go somewhere everyone and everything looks. In fact, once or twice I’ve put my hands into my pockets just to ascertain whether or not I remembered to put on my pants.

There’s nothing unusual about my appearance that I know of. I’m really quite ordinary to look at. In fact, when I left my home planet (somewhere up near Sirius – I’m not allowed to say) I thought the Department of Shape-Changing did a pretty good job of making me look like an ordinary Earthling.

But here on Earth it’s mainly the cows that stare. I know that the Crowdacians (they’re from a planet fairly close to mine, and they’re our greatest enemy) take on the appearance of a cattle beast. They’re so good at it that often I can’t tell a real cow from a Crowdacian. The Cow is one look that our Department of Shape-Changing has never been able to master.

So when I see a herd of cattle I stop. They all stare, and I shout: “Ha! Ha! Ha! Milking time! Go home! Milking time!” That usually sorts them out. The fake-cow-Crowdacians can’t stand that. They stamp their feet and drool at the mouth. So that’s one way I get to determine who is who.

But now I’m faced with a terrible conundrum. To make myself appear even more normal of a human being I got myself a pet cat. Every second Earthling seems to have a pet cat. And now I’ve discovered that my cat in fact is a Midconsevarian in disguise. At first I didn’t know where the planet was that Midconsevarians came from. But now I know and it’s not nice. I love my cat but have strict orders from my Department of Shape-Changing that I shouldn’t associate.

What am I to do? Everything and everyone stares. I love my pet cat. I want to go home. I asked to be relieved of this terrible cross (goodness, I seem to be taking on the language of an Earthling religion). I have been told that I am on a sixty year contract to stay on Earth.

So a warning to others: think twice before volunteering to do a spell on Earth. It can really suck.

2088. My side of the bed

There’s no doubt that Zoe takes up most of the bed. If she would just stick to her side! But no! I’m left wide awake and perched precariously on the brink of the bed ready to plunge down onto the floor the minute I nod off.

She does it on purpose. She pretends she’s asleep while she inches her way into the hollow in the centre of the bed. Straight away she’s fast asleep and breathing noisily. How is a man meant to sleep with all that? Getting one of those modern hard mattresses might help (there’s no central hollow) but I have to admit I do like a bit of softness.

Seriously, I’m thinking of getting my own bed. I shall have it all to myself. But of course Zoe is not to be trusted. I retire to bed before she does, and when she comes to bed, especially in winter, she likes to have the bed warmed up. So I begin by warming her bit of the bed first and then move over to my side. So probably if I got another bed there would always be one bed redundant.

It’s something I’ve put up with for ten years now. I guess there’s no getting around it. Just accept it and get on with life. Damn cat.

1948. That was a close call

There was nothing particularly singular about Janice and Branwell. They lived in a suburb. They had a cat and a dog. The grandchildren would visit quite often.

Usually they took turns in walking the dog, although Branwell had the task of feeding it. Janice was in charge of feeding the cat.

One sunny afternoon the cat was particularly vocal which usually meant she wanted some milk. Janice poured milk into a saucer and placed it on the kitchen floor next to the oven. The dog barged in, which he usually didn’t do, pushed the cat aside and lapped up the cat’s milk. Janice shooed them both outside.

A few minutes later Branwell appeared in the kitchen.

“I just heard the strangest thing,” he said. “I heard it as clear as a bell. The cat spoke to the dog. She said, ‘You shouldn’t do that. You know it’s my milk’.” The dog responded by saying, “Your English gets better by the day.”

“You’re hearing things,” said Janice. The cat’s been complaining all morning.”

“It was perfectly articulated,” said Branwell, “but, yes, I guess I was hearing things.”

“Exactly right,” said Janice.

The cat and the dog sat outside in the shade. “That was a close call,” they said one to the other – but in French.

1924. Only one miracle allowed

Nina-Marie had recently died and was thoroughly enjoying looking down from above at her loved ones. There was her husband Clive, her cat Maisie, and her dog Wolfgang. They certainly missed her.

During life it had always been Nina-Marie who looked after the pets. It’s not that Clive wasn’t interested or didn’t like them; it was just that the task had fallen to Nina-Marie almost accidentally years ago. Nina-Marie fed the cat and dog; Clive brought in and stacked the firewood. They were the two marriage-allotted chores that occurred most days in early evening.

In her last hours Nina-Marie had said to Clive that if she was permitted, if it was at all possible, she would give some sign that she was doing well in eternity. It would be some little thing; some surprise perhaps; something that Clive would recognize.

Upon arrival in Heaven Nina-Marie was informed that she would be granted one request regarding life on Earth; one prayer to answer. Wistfully she gazed upon her earthly family. She didn’t want to waste the single wish she could grant.

I know exactly what it will be, thought Nina-Marie. The little apple tree, the one we planted several years ago, has never borne fruit. This year it shall have fruit. Not too many apples, that would be wasteful, but just enough for Clive to say “Aha! That’s Nina-Marie’s doing!”

Nina-Marie was about to make arrangements for her “miracle”, when she noticed something; something serious. The cat and dog’s water bowls had dried up. Clive hadn’t given them water since the funeral. It was an oversight. This was an emergency. I wish he’d give them water! Give them water!

Goodness, thought Clive almost instantaneously, they’ve run out of water. And that was Nina-Marie’s one miracle all used up.

1835. Don’t overfeed pets

When Natalie came home from school she overheard her mother say to her little brother, “You’re not to do that again. It was very naughty.”

“But the cat was hungry.”

“I told you not to feed the cat between meals. It will get fat. So feed the cat only in the mornings and in the evenings. I’ve enough to do without having to run around covering up for your naughtiness.”

Later Natalie asked her mother what was wrong with feeding the cat, and her mother said that it was wrong to overfeed pets. “You should know that because of your goldfish. You can feed them too much and they overeat and die.”

For the rest of the day Natalie noticed that her little brother was pouting. He never liked being told off, and Natalie made it worse by reinforcing what their mother had said, and told him that “he shouldn’t overfeed his cat. You are a very naughty boy” – which made her little brother pout even more.

Later, when Natalie went to feed her goldfish it almost looked the same but she was pretty sure it was a different fish.

1806. Alleluia! the cat

Christina and Florrie lived in the same house and shared a pet cat. They called their cat “Alleluia!” because it brought such joy. The exclamation mark in the Alleluia! is an important part of the name, Florrie told the vet. Our cat is not simply “Alleluia” but “Alleluia!”

There were many other things that Christina and Florrie shared besides the cat. They shared cooking and meals, for example, and cleaning the house. They shared a glass of wine before the evening meal. They shared the rent. They had shared like this for thirty-two years. It was not only companionship; it saved money. How much cheaper it is to heat a single house rather than two.

Every day the cat would curl up at wine-time on the mat between Florrie and Christina’s armchairs. It was part of the daily ritual. Alleluia! was now seventeen years old, as far as they knew. It had adopted Florrie and Christiana. They had no idea where it came from. They advertised with photographs but no one came forward. Alleluia! was there to stay.

And then, very suddenly, just as they were one evening pouring a wine, Christina had a stroke and died. Florrie had to make all the arrangements for Christiana’s funeral, while she herself was devastated. Admittedly it gave something for Florrie to do, something to occupy her mind, but she never imagined that such feelings of grief were possible.

When all was over, Florrie still had Alleluia! It was a connection, a support. The cat was a living link. In fact, Alleluia! had taken over Christiana’s armchair in the evenings. It might sound silly, but Alleluia! was always there for Florrie to talk to.

And then Alleluia! took ill and Florrie had to have it put down.

Poem 93: Yet another poem about a dead cat

My cat woke me at four each morning.
She would jump on the bed and claw the pillow
right next to my eyes.
I would wake, fearful for my sight.
Would I never again see the day slip over the hill?
Would I never again see the moon slip over the hill
or the barley field wave in the wind?
Perhaps by patting the cat I could doze a little longer.
Bloody cat.

Fourteen years ago,
on a night I could not sleep,
I rose from bed at four and fed the cat.
Breakfast at four became her rite, her right.
Bloody cat.

Last year she was sick.
The veterinarian said
“That’ll be one hundred and thirty dollars please.”
I gave up wine and stuff for a month to pay for it.
That bloody cat was more of a nuisance than I ever imagined.

Last week she died.
If she came back I’d let her scratch out my eyes.