Monday, 14 December 2009

The Tale of the Champion Mouser

Knotty Ash, Liverpool, isn't just a place Ken Dodd jokes about, it's the area where my mum grew up. Back in 1918, when Mum was ten, phones were rare commodities, as were cars, especially when you were council tenants like they were, so people communicated by letter and caught the bus.

One day, my gran received a letter from a friend who lived way over the other side of the city. "We have mice in the house. We need a cat," the letter said.

Now, my gran kept a menagerie which at once point consisted of cats, dogs, rabbits, chickens, a monkey called Jacko and a swearing parrot that my grandfather adored (another story). One of the cats, a huge, scabby old ginger tom, was a brilliant mouser so my gran decided to lend it to her friend. Old Ginger was bundled, protesting loudly, into a shopping bag and my mum, Muriel, a pretty little girl with big blue eyes and lovely strawberry-blonde ringlets, a real Pears Soap child, was walked to the bus stop and told where to get off the other end.

At first, Ginger protested loudly. Loud, mournful howls such as only a tom cat can produce, emanated from the bag and old ladies gave Muriel sympathetic looks. After a while, all went silent. 'Good,' thought my mum, 'he's fallen asleep.' Not so. There is another reason why a cat falls silent and that is when he has done something so momentously, horrifically, wickedly terrible that he is guilt-struck dumb. This was one of those occasions.

All of a sudden, a terrible stench arose from the bag. As the miasma pervaded the bus, passengers produced handkerchiefs and started to move seat. Scarlet with embarrassment, Mum prodded the bag and called, "Puss, Puss," to no avail. Silence prevailed. She was just a little girl with a shopping bag and everybody thought the vile aroma was coming from her.

Eventually, wobbly-legged and weeping, she humped the heavy, silent , stinking bag down the stairs of the bus and made the long walk to the lady's house, the swaying bag bumping against her knees and making her slender, ten-year-old arms ache most horribly.

Finally, wearily, she arrived. "My gran has sent you a cat," she said with a sweet smile, plonking the bag on the lady's hall floor. As she undid it, out shot a furious, filthy, hissing, spitting ginger ball of teeth and claws which frightened the woman so much that she fainted. When she came to, she told Muriel, "Catch that horrible creature and take it right back where it came from. I wanted a sweet little kitten, not that... that demon!"

Without allowing Mum to clean out the bag, old Ginger was stuffed back into it and Muriel was forced to carry her smelly cargo all the way back to Knotty Ash. No wonder they say friends and business don't mix!


Teresa Ashby said...

What a super story - reminds me of the time I had to take a poorly cat to the vet on the bus in a box and the same thing happened. I can imagine how much worse the experience would have been for a ten year old.

And then having to deal with a fainting woman - poor Muriel.

I have a soft spot for ginger cats - actually more than just a soft spot. The one in the photo is gorgeous.

Jacula said...

Tiggsey always yowls his head off and produces something foul and noxious when he has to travel in a vehicle to the vet's. I only ever took him there in a taxi once; not only did he manage to burst out of the door of the plastic cat carrier, breaking one of the hinges and leaving me hanging on for dear life to an upended carrier, trying to keep the lid on a spitting, snarling, struggling fury of feline fur, teeth and claw, but he also fouled himself and stunk the taxi out so badly that we needed the windows open to breathe. Unfortunately, we didn't dare open the windows in case the cat escaped. Embarrassed and apologetic, I was only too glad to flee the taxi.

hydra said...

My first cat, when I was six, was a ginger and white called Sandy. I adored him and my old photo album is spotted with tearstains from me crying over his photos when he died, at only ten, following a fight with another cat. He got blood poisoning from a wound on his spine. Very sad. The photo was a stock one I nicked from the internet, but he does look like a proper ginger tom!

hydra said...

At least if they do something nasty on the way there, they can't do it again on the way back... or can they, Jacula?!

Jacula said...

They can always squeeze a bit more out, Hydra. Or, failing that, throw up (which smells just as nasty).