Throughout my nearly 29 years I’ve always had cats. Why? Well, to me, a house without a cat doesn’t feel like much of a home. My first ever cat, Henry, a puma of a feline my parents rescued after he was hit by a car, was with me ever since I was born. He used to sleep by my cot and he joined me on my bed (and sometimes in it – we grew up with no central heating, even the cat was cold) up until his final days at the grand old age of 21. So for me, a cat is a necessary companion and a comfort that completes the family.
I now have two cats: Rupert and Paddington. Rupert is a rescue that found me, and Paddington we’ve had since he was just a tiny kitten. He replaced Poppy, our little Ragdoll that passed much too soon. They are both, for want of a better description, wonderful little shits. They bring joy and frustration as all cats do, but there is nothing better than snuggling up to them of an evening, which is a regular occurrence seeing as both them are lethargic little lummoxes. What’s more, they absolutely adore each other and have regular ‘love-ins’, in which they groom each other until one of them gets fed up and starts a barney. God love the mischievous little mites.
I’ve been taking a lot of walks recently. To me, there’s no better antidote to a head cluttered with thoughts than an aimless ramble around a scenic area. With each step the mind clears, allowing one to appreciate the things outside themselves; the trees, the wildlife, the biting embrace of a crisp March breeze and of course, the many smells that add that extra layer of feeling to the experience. I’ve often said that smells are the unseen textures and colours of the world. They add the fourth dimension to what we see, touch and hear, leaving stamps in our memory that can be drawn upon years later, to allow any experience to be relived in vivid detail.
It was on one of my recent walks that I came across a familiar smell. It was an odour that I instantly recognised but hadn’t smelled in such a long time: the smell of chimney smoke. First things first, some context for you. I grew up in a tudor cottage in a small village in the middle of buttfucknowhere. The house is what I would call ‘shabby chic’ but with little chic and an extra helping of the shabby. As pretty as it may have been from the outside it was well-lived-in from the inside, but the most important thing to note was the lack of central heating, with only a wood burner to be relied on to provide warmth. Now, there were a few of downsides to this, but none more notable than the fact that it was cold most of the time, and when I say cold, I mean real cold, like the Clinton bedroom after the Lewinsky scandal cold.
For the first few years of my life, my siblings and I were subjected to appalling hair cuts. I’ll put it simply: we rocked the ‘bowl cut’, so much so in fact, that my older brother and I earned the nicknames ‘Bobby Bowler’ and ‘Baby Bowler’ respectively. Good times. Our dear parents hired a family friend to cut our hair at home and she was lovely however, her one sticking point was that she wasn’t particularly good at hairdressing and my parents didn’t have the heart to seek alternative services in hairography for their ever-growing brood. Blast them!
As we got older, bowl cuts simply would not do and we berated our parents into allowing us to attend a proper hairdressers – a hairdressers I should note, that my mother had been frequenting for years. No bowl cuts for mummy, no sir. So off we went to the local hairdressers to find a hairstyle that was a little less, well, horrifying, and we were wowed by the sensory overload that was to be found there: the sound of hairdryers and chatter, and many a strange smell (I now know that one of these smells was the gloriously eggy and cat wee-redolent perming solution). It was brilliant.