Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Good-bye-ee, good-bye-ee, wipe the tears, baby dear, from your eye-ee.

The Couple have finally sold their flat and will be moving out on Wednesday. It has certainly been a tumultuous few months for them. Their initial sale fell through at the last moment and they were in danger of losing the house they had set their heart on altogether. It was even more important than ever for them to sell up now that Mrs Couple is (very) big with child. I said farewell to their cat on Friday as he will be staying with the in-laws for the duration of the move. He has proved to be worth his weight in catnip after he single-handedly resolved our rodent problem, which coincided with the commencement of the construction work next door. It seemed as if the mouse population sought more salubrious accommodation in our house as the builders moved in to their former abode.

Tonight we went to a local Italian restaurant to mark the Couple’s departure and celebrate their time at the house. I can’t recall such a turn-out for a previous resident but then no-one else has matched their popularity. A predecessor of theirs was a geologist. Like the Couple, she too had a cat. However her cat was allowed outside through a cat-flap she had installed on her upper ground floor window. Her work meant she often had to fly abroad at short notice, which would lead to a sudden knock on my door and an entreaty to look after her cat until she got back. On the whole I enjoyed taking care of her moggy except on that one occasion when the Geologist had had the decorators in and subsequently her flat was left in something of a mess. Thus, carrying the cat I repaired for my own more modest apartment upstairs rather than spend the evening amidst the stately chaos below. The cat began to explore its new temporary quarters before vanishing behind the closed curtains. It was then I remembered that I had left the windows wide open and we were four storeys up! Luckily the cat had not tried to test how many lives he had left by jumping out. I laid down some newspaper in the hall and placed a potted plant on it, hoping that the cat would use it should it want to answer a call of nature. The next morning I discovered it had decided to avail itself of one of my shoes instead.  Although I appear to have a stuffed cat in my flat, I did not call upon a taxidermist to wreak a terrible vengeance on the despoiler of my footwear. My stuffed cat, made of rabbit fur, has been crafted to resemble the real-life tabby cat, Mrs Chippy, who accompanied Sir Ernest Shackleton's ill-fated Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition of 1914–17. Like Tiger, the tabby cat of my childhood,Reigning cats and dogs the original Mrs Chippy’s life was brought to a premature end at the hands of her owners. When the expedition’s ship became trapped in ice, Shackleton decided he was not prepared to risk squandering precious rations on feeding the sled dogs and ship’s cat and had the animals summarily shot. So realistic is my Mrs Chippy that I once took her into an office and surreptitiously placed her under the table. I then pretended to be amazed to discover that a cat had somehow sneaked into the building through an open window and was asleep under my desk. It took a while for my colleagues to realise the cat in question was a fake.  I made a great show of gingerly picked up the feline to the consternation of my deputy who, unbeknownst to me, had a phobia about cats.

The Geologist always brought me back some trinket from her travels but I would have willing foregone the souvenirs in return for a neighbourly call that didn’t begin and end with a request for my on-call cat-sitting services. The first I knew of her imminent return to her native Canada was when I saw a For Sale board erected outside the house. I naively assumed that she would invite me around for a farewell drink. Instead she rang me on the very morning she was moving out and said I could help myself to any potted plants left behind. Along with all her worldly goods, she had managed to persuade her company to arrange for her English boyfriend to get a work permit so that he could accompany her home. To her credit she took her cat back with her too. On Friday Mr Couple said they were leaving all their furniture behind and that I could help myself to whatever I wanted.
“You’ve taken the only thing I would want, “I replied, pointing longingly at their cat but of course to no avail.