The Weird Cat

She’d been a weird cat since she’d first arrived, squeezing her way past the children’s legs one day as they came in from school. “Can we keep it?” they’d begged their mum, but she’d told them that this was somebody else’s cat and lifted it out onto the path, where it sat until the door was opened again before attempting entry once more. The girls had made posters advertising ‘FOUND CAT’, complete with a photo, but it’s hard to tell one black cat from another, especially in a grainy print. No owner had come forward and, day after day, the cat came back with little encouragement from the girls’ mum but secret treats and lots of cuddles from the youngsters. Eventually, it was tacitly accepted that she was now the family cat; a bed was bought and two bowls for food and drink. They named her Clinker and they loved her.

There was no doubt that she was getting on in years; her belly was flabby, the tip of her tail was flattened and hung at an odd angle, she had strange flecks in both eyes and she never meowed, although she often purred. The whole family made a fuss of her, but nobody pretended that she wasn’t weird. She would sit on the window sill, her back to the outside world, watching the room like a small, furry guardian. If anybody got up to leave, she would watch them until they were out of sight before resuming her original stance, rarely blinking, even more rarely sleeping. Most un-cat-like.

Clinker wasn’t very graceful for a cat either. She had an ungainly walk and would frequently fall from the furniture, righting herself as she hit the floor and continuing as though nothing had happened. The one time she displayed anything like the expected amount of feline agility was when she did the weirdest thing of all; whenever she crossed from the rug in front of the fire to head into the kitchen, she would walk in a wide arc, hugging the furniture until she reached the chair closest to the door, whereupon she would leap delicately as though she were clearing a small hurdle. The first time she’d done it, the family had laughed at her odd ways and had subsequently tried to fathom what made her do it. They’d tried moving the lamp in case a stray shadow was causing the cat’s confusion but it made no difference; over time the furniture was rearranged slightly, but she still followed roughly the same path and always ended with a little leap. It was part of her charm.

As the girls grew older, Clinker’s fur sprouted stray white hairs and she looked a little scrawny about the haunches, but she would still sit and survey the room with her almost unblinking gaze, never once facing the outside world. She enjoyed curling up in a lap, rumbling like a fur-covered Geiger counter and there was never a shortage of willing laps. All in all, it was a good life.

It was approaching winter when the burglary happened. As the family lay sleeping, their mother woke to a strange sound. Somewhere, a cat was mewing loudly and a bitter draught rattled under her bedroom door. She thought the girls might have left a window open, as they sometimes did; perhaps a local cat had climbed in, but as she opened her door to go and check, she saw a dark figure halfway up the stairs, or down – it was difficult to know which way they were heading in the gloom – and she cried out and flailed for the light switch. The burglar ran down the stairs and headed through the dining room and into the living room, making for the open back door through which he had forced an entrance.

He’d clearly spent some time in the living room, looking for valuables that didn’t exist, as every drawer of the dresser had been emptied onto the floor and the cushions from the suite had been tossed, as though someone might hide money or jewels in the furniture. The burglar stepped onto some letters and skidded a little before taking a wild step to try and right himself. He hadn’t accounted, however, for the now silent black cat prowling in the only spaces left unsullied and as his foot landed on the flattened end of her tail, she hissed and lashed out with deadly accuracy, raking her claws across his leg. He fell with a crash, catching his chin on the dresser and was already unconscious as he hit the floor. As he lay like a dead man near the kitchen door, Clinker sidled up to him and leapt in a graceful arc over the vanquished intruder, as though clearing a small hurdle.

Parliament Reels as Cameron Quits!

In a move that has rocked the British political scene, David Cameron has announced his retirement from politics with immediate effect and is to become the host of a late night chat show. The shock move came in the wake of the £1.7bn bill from the EU, which is due to be paid by December 1st. Sources close to the former Prime Minister say that he had been considering stepping down for some time and this latest crisis gave him the incentive to take the drastic step.

As a result of his resignation, the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg, is now Prime Minister and, although an official statement has not yet been made, it is believed that Esther McVey is to be the new Deputy Prime Minister. Just minutes after Cameron informed the world of his decision, with rumours of the new leadership team running rife, the value of the pound plummeted, net migration dropped steeply as British and foreign nationals fled to the continent and Scotland requested a second independence referendum.

Although he refused to be interviewed on camera, David Cameron was recorded in the lobby of the House of Commons, saying “I don’t know where they think we can get £1.7bn from, this close to Christmas. I’ve promised Manchester a high-speed railway and I haven’t even finished paying for Birmingham’s library. It’s just take, take, take with these cities. Do they say ‘thank you’? No!” When asked to elaborate on his remarks, Mr Cameron refused, claiming he had a prior appointment with the controller of Channel 5.

While there has yet to be confirmation, a member of the scheduling team at Channel 5, who has asked to remain anonymous, has suggested that the proposed chat show is to follow a light entertainment format. Guests will discuss their latest projects, share a few glasses of wine and perform a song and dance duet with the former Prime Minister. Suggested titles are said to include ‘Croon with Cameron’ and ‘Dave’s Duets’. Russell Brand is expected to be the guest on the first episode, which is scheduled to air shortly before the general election.

First, catch your cat!

Let me paint you a picture. Not an actual picture, of course. Even though only six people read this, including me, just the materials alone would cost more than I’m allowing for my weekly shop and the postage would bankrupt me. So, this picture is a word picture: a mental image, so to speak. It’s a picture of a poorly cat. She’s getting on in years and has been unsteady on her legs for a while, but that unsteadiness has increased of late as she hasn’t been well.

The cat in question is mine, after a fashion; she’s an intruder who decided to live with us and there was very little we could do about it but we don’t mind. At the moment, she is sporting what you might call ‘the cone of shame’; it’s like a tiny lampshade fastened around her neck to stop her from over grooming. Even though it’s blue and made from a flexible material, it has the effect of making her look like the smallest, hairiest protoceratops that has ever lived. As I said, she’s been unwell and so she has been almost entirely an indoor cat for a few weeks as there are a lot of other cats around who might push her over or steal her lunch money while she’s in this weakened state. It hasn’t been that difficult to keep her in, given that her top speed has been somewhere around the twelve-feet-per-hour mark and she hasn’t really wanted to go anywhere anyway.

Now that you have this background information, I can finally get to the point. A few days ago, my husband was chatting at the front door with the window cleaner. I say ‘chatting’; he was trapped at the door, being forced to listen to the same jokes the window cleaner tells us every week. Every. Single. Week! The window cleaner is a lovely man, but with the best will in the world, and even on first hearing, his jokes leave a lot to be desired: funny parts, for example! I was sitting within sight of the door, but studiously avoiding making eye contact with the would-be comedian, when a forlorn little figure limped towards the front door and began to put on a turn of speed not seen for several weeks. Yes – it was the cat. Had it been my husband, the forlorn little figure would have been going away from the front door to seek respite.

Two things went through my mind as I realised there was a good chance she was going to get out: the prospect of her running straight into the road (quite possible) and the prospect of the window cleaner talking to me if he saw me (quite inevitable). Obviously, I didn’t want the latter but couldn’t chance the former, so I did the only reasonable thing; I rugby tackled the cat! I don’t mean I ran and snatched her up. Oh no! That would have been far too sensible. No! What I did was to literally throw myself across the room lengthwise, grabbing the cat just as she tried to scurry past the feet of the window cleaner, leaving me lying on the floor holding a cat with a lamp shade on its head. As I heard my husband explain “She’s not allowed out because she isn’t well.” I decided not to worry about whether the window cleaner assumed he was talking about me and retreated into the living room with my precious cargo, who was making a disturbing yowling noise, whether through indignation or distress that she hadn’t scored the try.

Now, you might think that rugby tackling a cat in plain sight of a man who tells the neighbours everything and will probably be reading up on cat puns to torture me with for the REST OF MY NATURAL LIFE would have been enough. Ha! I laugh in the face of your idea of sufficiency! Because what you don’t know, what I didn’t know at the time, what I wish I still didn’t know is that the reason she was heading out was that she’d heard nature’s call. So, there I was, hugging an old lady cat who had a full bladder, was feeling under the weather and who had just been rugby tackled back into her home. Do I need to paint you a picture?

To Dirty Washing (With profound apologies to Andrew Marvell)

Had I but world enough, and time,
My efforts I would turn to rhyme
I would sit down and think which way
To sculpt a poem every day.
I, by the chattering Mersey’s side,
Could sit with pen and watch the tide.
Of chills and winds, complain. I would
And shuffle back to flee the flood,
Of water, not of words I’d use;
The offerings of my shimmering Muse.
My verse anthology would grow
As vast as any that I know;
And readers would, with deep amaze,
Marvel at how I used my days;
Yet empty pages do attest
That my sweet Muse remains at rest;
Or else she knows not how to start,
Bold inspiration in my heart.
Most likely she must sit and wait
‘Til I surrender to my fate.

But at my back I always hear
The pile of laundry, damp and drear;
Which will not hang itself to dry
Though I should wait eternally.
And in the bedrooms, more is found,
Socks, shirts and towels, all in a mound
I gather laundry with a sigh
And wonder why it’s left to lie,
Forgotten forms to gather dust,
If left too long to form a crust:
To banish beauty from the place,
Inviting odours at a pace.

Now therefore, when my sons return
Strong words will make their ears burn,
And consequences may transpire
Involving piles of clothes and fire,
If I should chance to find them thrown,
Upon the floor; my will is stone!
Their clothes will dwindle by the day
‘Til every thread is cast away.
Let them retrain to nightly scamper
To drop their clothes into the hamper.
Then I can take my book and pen,
Commence to gather rhymes again.
Thus, though I may not be a bard,
My laundry won’t be half as hard.

Scotland and England on the Jeremy Kyle Show

(Scotland sounds like Nicola Sturgeon, England sounds like David Cameron)
SFX: JEREMY KYLE THEME.
JEREMY KYLE: Next on the Jeremy Kyle Show, we have a couple who are literally on the brink of breaking up and are here as a last resort. Welcome to the programme, Scotland!
SFX: CHEERING. APPLAUSE. SOME BOOING.
JK: So … let’s talk about the relationship. How long have you been together? And how was it to start off with?
SCOTLAND: It’s been more that 300 years, Jeremy, but it’s always been terrible! I never really wanted to be with him, but he wouldnay let it lie.
JK: So, for 300 years – more, even – you’ve been stuck in an unhappy relationship. Tell me what he’s like.
SCOTLAND: Well, Jeremy, he never lets me have control of my own money. He let me have a bank account …
JK: Let you?
SCOTLAND: Yes!
SFX: BOOS
SCOTLAND: But even though my name’s on the account, he controls everything I spend, checks up on me all the time. He even took control of the stocks my mother left. Said it would be better if we ‘shared responsibility’, but he always has the last say!
SFX: SHE SNIFFS
JEREMY: Is there anything else?
SCOTLAND: He’s never really stopped seeing his first wife – Wales!
SFX: SHOCKED SOUNDS FROM AUDIENCE
SCOTLAND: And then there’s Northern Ireland. He met her after me. They have a … special relationship. It’s a bit stormy, but still …
JK: Well, as always, there are two sides to every story. Welcome to the Jeremy Kyle Show … England!
SFX: LOUD BOOS
JK: Hello there, England. Scotland says you’re too controlling and you keep tabs on everything she does. Not only that, but you’re also in touch with your first wife, Wales. Is she telling the truth?
ENGLAND: First of all, jeremy, can I just say that I have the greatest respect for Scotland and I feel we just work so much better together than we ever could apart. I have worked tirelessly to make sure she knows how much I value her input and …
JK: Are you still seeing Wales?
ENGLAND: Scotland understood my responsibilities to Wales when we got together and …
JK: And Northern Ireland?
ENGLAND: If that was a problem, she had plenty of opportunities to speak up when I was making those arrangements. It seems that she’s forgetting the good times – like when we won those Olympic medals, and the men’s title at Wimbledon.
SCOTLAND: That was all me! You just take the credit for everything!
ENGLAND: We have to try to make this work! I’ll fight for you with my last breath!
SCOTLAND: I’ve had enough! I’m leaving and I’m taking the kids: The Krankies, David Moyes … Duncan Bannatyne!
JK: What do you have to say about that, England? Just how are you going to fight for her?
ENGLAND: No. She’s right! We’re bad for each other. I won’t fight this break-up any more. As long as she gets custody of George Galloway!
END

For the benefit of the non-British, Jeremy Kyle hosts a very tacky show like the Jerry Springer show and Scotland is about to hold a referendum on whether to leave the United Kingdom. This is meant in a light-hearted way and I hope nobody is offended by it.

At the Edge of the Mersey

All the beauty of the sparkling river, spread out in the sun.

Red ruts rise here and there, naked in the ebbing tide.

Between the river and me, a ribbon of green and grey

With one magpie, bobbing.

The wind carries my breath toward the rails.

Could my words make these ripples?

I move closer and see the shards of colour on the water:

White, grey, green, blue, black.

The magpie startles.

It takes its leave.

And so do I.

Impatient

This poem is impatient!

It wouldn’t go away.

Although I said “I’m busy!”

It insisted it must stay.

I was with another poem

Which required a lot of care.

But this one made a racket

So I’d know that it was there.

“Pick me!” it cried in urgent tones,

“I can’t hold on much longer!”

So I turned my attention to

The poem that was stronger.

It swayed my better judgement

By dint of being loud.

It steered me from my righteous path,

Of which I am not proud.

And as it nears conclusion

I have a sneaking fear

This poem had no message but

To tell the world “I’m HERE!”

Twenty-first Century Prayer

O, Lord, let not my Bluetooth fail

Make all my passwords strong.

Protect my battery from all harm

And make its lifespan long.

O, Lord, may all my tweets be great.

And many find them witty.

May hosts of favourites come my way

And not just out of pity.

O, Lord, when I am in my car

Turn all the lights to green.

If birds should fly above me

Keep their crap from my windscreen.

O, Lord, make sure my TV shows

Don’t meet a sticky end.

Keep spoilers from my eyes and ears

Lest I should lose a friend.

O, Lord, deliver tasty food:

The type that comes with fries.

But keep its stores of harmful fat

From clinging to my thighs.

O, Lord, I do the lottery.

Please help me win a prize,

So I can have these bags removed

From underneath my eyes.

O, Lord, my dryer’s on the blink

Please make it work again.

Or failing that, just stop the rain

Until it’s fixed. Amen!

Lie

It startles me how easily the lies stack up

Until they form a wall.

Why ‘the voice of reason’?

Where are the eyes and ears of reason?

Twisting your fingers into the gaps of despair,

You can pry open a doorway

And climb in.

The weakest are your primary prey.

Oh, how you love to crow!

“I speak for you!”

You lie!

What walls can keep your vicious rumours out?

Walls of truthfulness?

Clear, unvarnished reality

The only answer, but one that is hard to find.

With cameras on every side, we still don’t know for sure

Which way we’re facing.