Thursday, 20 April 2017

The Wanderer

Cyril has returned. We encountered him down the lane, not far from where I first found him. He cried out and came running over to us when we called him. We were delighted. In the back of our minds was the fear that he had been injured in a fight with the local feral cats or even worse. We walked together back towards the house, Cyril trotting along the lane in fits and starts. When we got near to the house he seemed to suddenly recognise where he was and ran ahead. He was waiting by the front door when we arrived.

As usual he tucked in to several bowlfuls of milk and food. He looked like he had been sleeping rough, his fur was a bit muddy and his ears were flecked with specks of dried blood. He licked himself all over and then went to sleep on the bed for some hours. Later on he got up and fed again, returning to bed after. That evening he went out into the darkness. As we closed the front door, we wondered if we would ever see him again.

But the next morning Cyril was back for a hearty breakfast. On the front doorstep was a piece of grey rabbit fur with a slice of flesh attached to the inside skin: a cat gift to reaffirm the bond. Afterwards I went to the local Post Office to remove the missing cat poster.

‘Did the cat come back on its own?’ said the postmistress.

I explained and thanked her.

‘Is it a boy?’ she said.

I nodded.

‘They do wander,’ she said, shaking her head.

Cyril had been away for the best part of two weeks. We had looked everywhere for him, especially down the lane where I first found him. Near the disused railway line was an old barn with bales of straw in it. I had pushed apart the brambles to reveal a cat sized hole in the straw in the corner.  We called and called but there was no Cyril to be found anywhere.

We had given up hope of seeing him again and had feared the worst. But wee Cyril has proved himself to be self-sufficient, in spite of our townland being full of wild creatures: feral cats, badgers and foxes.

His little purring presence and big personality have made a real difference to our house. He’s been with us all this week. We hope Cyril stays for a good long while before his next wander.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Cats and the Bonfire

We enjoyed having Cyril with us. He was easy to get along with. He would be out all night, returning early in the morning with a gift of a dead mouse or shrew. After his large breakfast he would sleep. Towards evening he would liven up and play with us and his toys. He enjoyed accompanying us on our after-dinner walks, trotting along like a little ginger dog. After a hearty supper he would go out for the night. Cyril was good company. Unfortunately, one day last week he disappeared. We have looked everywhere for him. We even put a notice in the local Post Office, offering a reward if he was found. But there is still an empty space where he used to sleep.

Despite Cyril only being with us for a short time, we miss him. We think he was attacked by one of the local feral cats. They regard our garden as part of their territory. I had been feeding them for several years after some rodents got into my loft. They solved the rodent problem. You rarely see the feral cats, but there are three that come into the garden regularly. The first was all black with green eyes, we call him Pangur. We haven’t seen him for a while. His place has been taken by a big blue-grey cat we call The Da. So named because we thought he could have been Pangur’s Da. But for all we know it might be The Ma. There is also a black and white cat we call Scruffy because he has lost part of his tail and is left with a bony stub. Any of these would be bigger and stronger than Cyril, who was fairly small and domesticated. We imagine that faced with a fight with any of the feral cats he would have run away.

With the good weather we have again been working hard in the garden. This also provided some displacement from worrying about Cyril. We cut back several ground covering conifers that had run amok in the rear border and had grown down into the back yard. Some of their branches were as thick as your arm and unable to be cut with my heavy-duty lopper, they had to be sawn. We collected these and all the prunings from the other shrubs, the apple tree and the ash hedge and ferried them into the corner of the farmer’s field next door. This took ages and built a huge pile. Then we burnt it.

There is something very satisfying about a good bonfire. Perhaps this is reawakening a primitive bond with fire. Perhaps it is a ritual cleansing of all the debris of winter that marks the turning towards the natural plenty of Summer. When the flames take hold, leaping through the branches and the smoke billows and rises into the sky there is something in my heart that sings. After you stoke it with fresh prunings and branches it burns all afternoon and evening. Then you are left with ashes – the symbol of mourning.