There have been many loves in my life, some memorable, some less so. Some cultural, some intellectual, some human, some sensory. The most all-consuming passions in my life have been for music and the other for cats.
As a child of a family always in fairly dire financial straits, there was no way an animal of any sort could have been added to the two-parent four-children equation without some - or possibly all of us - winding up in the 'forties' equivalent of debtor,s prison.
My best friend had a cat which I cuddled whenever there was a chance and when she had three kittens I briefly, hopelessly begged to have one.
Any passing cat was an instant target for my unwanted affections and the neighbourhood mogs soon grew wary of my sudden lunges in their direction.
Later in life in my twenties my parents were living in West Wickham in Kent and every time I walked up the road to their house the resident mogs would emerge from hiding and come for a friendly 'rub'. My mother used to call me The Pied Piper since there was always a cat or two trotting behind me when I arrived.
Then for a number of years music took over to the exclusion of most other things and cats were a pale shadow in the background of a busy working and singing life, until after my marriage, living in a flat in Northwood in Middlesex when they once again came to the fore.
Working as a civil servant I was briefly at Perivale Skill Centre where I encountered a pretty little skinny tortoishell, a stray, being fed (illicitly) by one of the cooks. When a cull of all the numerous feral cats on the premises it was clear that Mitzy as she had been named by the cook, was to be one of their number.
John, who liked cats, but thought a third-floor flat unsuitable for one agreed despite his misgivings to try to adopt her.
To our amazement she settled in with only the most minor hiccups and was soon queen of all she surveyed.
Our neighbours loved her as did we and she very quickly took over a large territory where she spent every night incarcerated in the flat and all day out and about, usually at the top of the tallest tree in the grounds.
The vet who gave her the 'once-over' when we adopted her said she was thin but healthy, had no fleas and appeared to be about five years old. She had been spayed and had been well cared for at some time.
That was in 1978 and we had her for 15 and 3/4 years, She was at least 20 years old when we said our final farewells to her. A truly lovely lady great fun, full of mischief and tricks, clever and (when she felt like it) very loving. Our first cat.
There were three others to follow, but that's for another post.