Thursday, 13 November 2014

#NaNoWriMo - Chapter 3 (I thought I'd be on chpt 5 by now!)

*My writing is a bit more sporadic than it was last week, but that's ok. I'm still on track, although not as far ahead as I'd like to be. I imagine if I were writing about anything other than myself I'd have to write every day as I don't think the words would always flow as easily. With all my sporadic blogging this year I'd forgotten how much I actually enjoy writing. I'd do it all day if I could.

Oh, there will be no more talk of spiders. I meant to put a warning up yesterday, but I completely forgot* 

We eventually also got a dog. We knew that we’d have to train the dog a lot more than we’d done before, and that the dog was going to be a lot of responsibility. It probably wasn’t the best time to get a puppy since Jamie had just been born. However, Mom had her cats, so Dad was going to get a dog. He knew someone who’s German Shepherd had just given birth, and so we got one of those pups. She was beautiful. We named her Scrumpy, short for Scrumpy Jack, just to go with the fact that we were living in a pub. Plus my family has always had a tradition of naming animals after alcohol, so it seemed to fit. We started to train her, trying to get her to be house trained, teaching her to walk on the lead. She was learning quickly and well.

Around this point we lost the pub. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I know that with all the money my parents had come over with there was nothing left. The only thing they could do was get the brewery to evict us and go into council housing. By this point there were five of us and three pets. My parents were told that there was no chance that they could keep the pets. We would have to give them up in order to get a place to stay. I’ve never really understood that about rented housing and social housing in the UK. I understand that landlords and the council don’t want houses being wrecked by animals, nor do they want to have to clean it thoroughly in order to ensure it won’t affect someone with allergies. However, going into social housing, going on benefits is so dehumanising on a lot of levels. You can’t choose where you live, you can’t choose the house you stay in, it seems incredibly unfair that you have to let go of your animals too. My mother fought to at least keep the cats. So, very soon after getting her we had to find Scrumpy a new home. My heart ached for her. She was young, so I’m sure she adapted quickly, but it must be so confusing to be removed from your mother and all you know, get used to a new family, only to be removed from them.

At least we got to keep the cats. We moved from the oddly named Gamlingay to the even more oddly named Moggerhanger. It is a tiny little village in Bedfordshire, very close to the Cambridgeshire border. For the first time ever we lived in a very rural environment. Gamlingay had been relatively rural compared to Cape Town, but it was still a large village and we lived in the centre of it. Where we lived in Moggerhanger was right on the edge of the village, surrounded by fields. The cats had a field day hunting the mice in the fields, sometimes bringing them back for us to find. One night I vaguely woke up to hear my parents whispering near to my bed. I fell back asleep without waking up fully, which is a good thing as one of the cats had kindly placed a dead mouse right by my head. My parents quickly removed it and told me about it the next day.

After a few months of living there we moved to a village called Linton. My father had managed to get work in Cambridge, so it made sense to move there. This was a wonderful place to live. The cats seemed to settle in perfectly fine and so did we. There was a stream nearby. After a couple of weeks my mother noticed that a family of ducks would come near our house, waddling down the street with their ducklings. Her and Jamie spent many an afternoon feeding them until they waddled off back to the stream. It was a lovely place to live, full of woods to explore, streams to paddle in and animals to discover. We were allowed to roam free, as long as we were back by specific times.

Alistair made friends with a boy who lived a street away. He and his mother were also South African, and he and Josh played football together for the Linton team. As we were able to explore to our hearts content, Alistair and Josh went out for a wander one day. They had gone out after lunch with the express instruction to be back well in time for dinner. The afternoon went by and the sun began to set. Mom sent me out to go and look for him. I went to all the regular spots, down the pathways in the woods, the footpaths in the fields, yelling for Alistair and Josh, getting no response. Dinner time came and went. They still hadn’t appeared. My mother and Josh’s mother had joined in the hunt by this point. Most of area around our houses were thoroughly searched, but nothing could be found of either of them. I think my mother was perhaps at the point of thinking about calling the police when at the footpath at the end of the road two blond heads appeared. Alistair had a massive gash on his leg from a barbed wire fence. It wasn’t deep enough for stitches, but it showed that the two of them had definitely gone on a bit of an adventure. I was expecting my mother to start yelling at him for not being home on time. It was then that I learnt mothers whose children have gone missing until 9pm are no longer angry. They’re just relieved to have their child back safe. It seems that Alistair and Josh had gone to explore, during which time they had gotten completely and utterly lost. We’d never gone far before, always close enough to get home in about 10 minutes. Those two, however, had probably gone half the way to Cambridge, scampering over fields and, at one point, a barbed wire fence. Alistair was cleaned up, we all had dinner and were promptly put to bed.

A few months after we moved to Linton Tom went missing. It was around spring time, so we had the theory that, as he wasn’t neutered, he’d gone off looking for some lady cats or something. I had a private theory, that he’d returned to Moggerhanger or Gamlingay. I’d recently read Blitz Cat, so was convinced that cats would return to wherever they thought was home. We put up notes and signs to no avail. He remained missing. He had no microchip, only a collar that he’d regularly lose. We have no way of knowing if he’d ended up in a rescue shelter or hit by a car. I like to think he ended up somewhere nice, rather than he’d ended up in an accident.

Eventually we moved again, this time to Cherry Hinton, a suburb of Cambridge. Not long after we moved Mischief disappeared. We should have let him acclimatise to the area, gradually letting him out, but hindsight is a wonderful thing. All I know is that we were more than a little upset and it was decided that, even though we finally owned the house we lived in, there would be no more pets for a while.

Alistair and I had walked the neighbourhood, once again putting up signs and notes asking if anyone had seen our cat. Again no one contacted us. Again I convinced myself that Mischief had gone back to Linton. Our neighbours had heard what had happened. Their son was moving in with his girlfriend, into a property that didn't allow pets. She came around to our house and asked if we’d take in his two cats. Reluctantly my parents agreed. There’s only so many run away cats that a person can take, and they were very much worried that we’d have two further runaways on our hands. However, we’ve always had a house with a pet in, and I think they were missing having them around. Pimms and Sasha arrived a few days later. Sasha was 6 months older than Pimms, and part Siamese. She was thin, vocal and loved to hunt. Obviously Alistair decided she was his. Pimms was more British Shorthair, although very obviously not purebred. She was black and white, with socks and a collar. She was also normal cat size, therefore looked a lot bigger than Sasha. While she would hunt, she’d often bring the mice in, get bored and set them free. Obviously she became my cat.

My parent’s fears were unfounded. The cats settled in, apart from one scare when Sasha disappeared for a few hours. We found her in the primary school very close to our home. Alistair snuck through the fence, grabbed her and we took her home. Beyond that they were very happy with us. Sasha was a very affectionate cat. She would pick a person to be her favourite and torment them for a while by insisting on sitting on their lap and getting attention. Even when that person was sitting with their knees bent towards their chest she would look up, meow loudly, bat at their legs and keep doing so until they put their legs down for her to sit on. She would also tease me when she was younger. We had mats down in the living room for a while. I liked them to be straight and even, and so I’d straighten them and even them out every time I noticed they didn’t look right. Sasha would then run from under the sofa, mess up the mat, and then run back again. Every time I tidied it she would do that. We very much had a love hate relationship right from the start.

Pimms did not like to be picked up. She was not a lap cat, which suited me perfectly. Instead she would come and sit on the back of the chair I was sitting on, or rest on the armrest. She liked to be stroked, she just didn’t like to be cuddled. Every night she would scratch at my door, softy meowing to be let in and sleep at my feet. This was in some ways very sweet. In others it wasn’t so great. As she was still a kitten when we got her, she still had a very playful personality. I’d wake up in the middle of the night in shock as she bit my toes whenever they moved across the bed. She’d then pounce on my legs and feet, which was all fun until she’d start clawing under the covers. Cat claws are sharp and when they catch on your toes they hurt like anything.

Every day Alistair and I would walk to school. I would walk him to the bus stop on the way and then continue on my way. Pimms would follow us out the door, down to the park at the end of our street and then watch as we walked down the pathway towards the main road. Most afternoons, coming home the same way, she’d rush out and greet me in the park. I swear she had the personality of a dog. She was very loyal to me and very clear about that. My bed was the only bed she really liked to sleep on, whereas Sasha would pick and choose, often changing half way through the night.

Jamie absolutely adored Sasha. Pimms was the type of cat that would teach a toddler not to grab her tail, or pick her up or do anything she decided was annoying. Sasha would just protest loudly, doing nothing else. When Jamie reached about 3 years he started a new bedtime routine. He’d brush his teeth and get ready for bed, then go around the house searching for Sasha. I watched her hide from him. We had a cat flap, and so she had a pretty easy escape, yet as he called for her she ran and hid behind the chair, moving to behind the sofa as he peeked around the chair. Eventually he’d catch her, tuck her under his arm and march off to bed. She’d reluctantly settle down next to him as he held her as he fell asleep. I’m certain she knew exactly what was happening and made a game of it. On the few nights that he didn’t manage to catch her she’d often creep up after he’d fallen asleep and curl up next to him.

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