The Coronavirus Diaries, 20th March 2022

Octavia has got Covid. Triple vaccinated, she started feeling unwell on Friday, tested positive yesterday morning. We spoke last night and she was croaky. Today in a text message she says she’s feeling awful. Cases are rising again, yet all around precautionary measures are being cast aside. Fewer people are wearing masks on public transport. At the theatre last week the audience was asked to wear face coverings, but many people did not comply with the request. At the interval the foyer the jammed with people jostling for space. The safest place was undoubtedly behind the bar where perspex screens protected staff from contact with customers.

I sent Octavia a link to this piece by David Baddiel about cats. Cats are on my mind today. Not all cats, but MasterB who is currently outside in the garden, Hartley and Romeo the two garden cats, and the new cat on the block, named Treacle by Helena, who has joined the feeding regime, and has so far not been claimed by any neighbour. Also Freddy, aka Cat.

It’s eleven years ago tonight since he died. Reading David Baddiel’s piece moved me. Unlike Baddiel I came late to being owned by a cat. Freddy, a cat of Opinions, marched into my life, took over my home, ambushed my affections, stole Mother’s heart, and had Aunt wrapped round his paw. He was a joy, a tie, a distraction, a comfort, a worry. How I had lived so long without him became a mystery. He was macho, affectionate, demanding, imperious and a great companion. He loved eating or sniffing my cut flowers – carnations were his favourite – adored broccoli and would beg for noodles. He changed my life.

When I took him with me when I visited Mother she loved it. He knew the way from the car to the cat flap in her front door. He would announce our arrival by walking in and rolling on his back beside her. As her dementia increased he could calm her and bring her peace. She remembered his name when she forgot mine, though she often called him a little dog. She loved the way he knew her and showed her he loved her. He didn’t ask her awkward, difficult questions. He was beautiful. She loved watching him, admiring him. When others admired him she basked in reflected pride. So many of my good memories of Mother from that very difficult time are of her interactions with Freddy.

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Feline Therapy

Just had a very long chat with my friend Vicki in Melbourne. Thanks Vicki. It was great. Vicki used to give Cat aeroplanes: she would hold him under his tummy and spin him around. He purred his head off. I am pretty sure had I ever tried it I’d have lost an arm. Or an eye. Maybe both.
Vicki and I used to work together. We got on. We did not get on with management. To say we were managed badly is like saying the Spanish Inquisition was not welcomed by Jews and protestants. An understatement.
Cat was our therapist.
He would listen while I told him all the awfulnesses of work and just stretch out and ask to be groomed. He never contradicted, never pointed out inconsistencies in my narrative. He kept me sane. I know that sounds like a big claim, but I think it’s true.

Just Love Me

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One Year

It is a year ago tonight since Freddy the Gorgeous Boy, known on this page as Cat, died. Now, as then, I’m preparing for bed. Next Sunday, I am going to ask you to join me in the evening by putting lighted candles in your windows to remember all the pets we have loved and who have enriched our lives.
Last year I asked the same, both here, by email, phone and face to face. The word spread to more people than I could have ever imagined. Friends here and in foreign countries passed the idea on and I got messages telling me of people who I have never met in the real or virtual world lighting candles. People told me stories of their pets. I heard of much loved dogs, of guinea pigs, cats and rabbits. There were memories of ponies, horses, donkeys and pet goats. It felt like people had kept these stories bottled up, and there was joy in the telling. Everyone’s pet was the best, which is just as it should be.
So dig out your candles, chill that bottle of good wine, and on Sunday night, let’s remember all the great times we have had with our pets, and how much we have loved them.
Tonight, I’m going to have a single candle, a glass of wine, and repost one of my favourite pictures of Freddy taken eleven months to the day before he died.

Perfect Happiness