Recently, sleepless in the dead of night, gasping for air in the heat like a beached whale, I found that the cats of my life had emerged from their resting places where they sleep in my memory and were quietly observing me from various vantage points.

In every case, the cat had arrived in our lives either of its own volition, or not actively sought by us. My mother liked cats and we had one or two over my childhood. The one I am going to write about was a small and dainty tortoise-shell, not at all friendly with strangers, and I think called Lucy (hence Pussy Lucy.) She was there as a young cat when I was still living at home, but working.

I arrived home one day to find the cat lying on her blanket, very unwell with the dreaded cat flu. My mother was not very good with illness – she tended to the view that if the sufferer cared more abut her – my mother, they would get better to ease her suffering. She gave all physical care diligently enough, – she was by no means neglectful, but she could not encourage, soothe or uplift. All you felt was her anxiety, so her presence in your sickroom just made you feel worse.. She was very distressed about the cat and resigned to losing her.

I looked at the cat – a young and beautiful animal, and thought that we shouldn’t abandon her prematurely. So I said to her, You hang on in there, and we’ll see what we can do. I found a pipette with a rubber teat, and I filled it with a mixture of beaten egg, warm milk, a little butter and honey. The cat did not actively suck but she did not resist me either; so I just poured it as down her throat, stroking under her chin to ensue she swallowed. I held her over a litter tray but did not detect much activity. I would tell her pussy cat stories of how she would recover and that she would hunt for mouse and bird; of the kittens she would have. Then (I had donated an old mohair cardigan of mine) I would wrap her up gently. I did this every 4 hours, getting up in the night.

The days passed and the cat did not die. She looked terrible, skin and bone and with her fur a matted mess where the drink had stuck to her. By this time I was very tired, and I began to wonder if there was any point in continuing if she was not going to recover. One day, seated beside her waiting for the drink to cool, I became distracted by the book I was reading, when I heard a tiny ‘rrnnt’ noise from the cat, and when I looked at her I realised she was staring steadily at me. She was waiting to be fed.

When my mother realised that the cat might live, she began to share the feeding with me. She cut off the matted fur and gently wiped the cat with a warm, damp cloth. It was a great day for us when she licked her filthy fur once or twice. My mother would feed the cat tiny bits of things she liked, with her fingers and the cat lying on her lap; A little prawn; some smoked salmon, a piece of raw haddock, some raw chicken. (This cat retained unusual tastes. She liked a scone straight from the oven, and my mother would spread it with butter for her.) Eventually she was able to stagger to the outside litter ray but we had to go too to catch her if she fell over and at first she was so exhausted from the effort of getting there that we had to carry her back t o her bed.

But very gradually she recovered. She lived for over ten more years, and she had the dreamed of kittens. Even though she remained my mother’s cat, unfriendly to visitors, she always had a kind word for me, even when I would turn up like a bad penny after a long absence.



Last week I was declaring myself Not-a-Fan of Theresa May. This week, it will surprise no-one to learn that I’m also Not-a-Fan of Donald Trump. In his case, I don’t think it’s even necessary to list any reasons. Where would you begin and end?

However, I’m still rather ashamed of our behaviour towards him as a visitor to this country. I’m all for the rights to peaceful protests, so we had the RIGHT to object to him, but it was hardly good manners on our part to insult him personally. He is the President of the United States after all, and he came in peace. We would not be pleased if some Prime Minister of ours, however he or she might have been despised by us, were to have been received by the United States in like manner. And apart from the issue of how we treated him, there’s the question as to whether this is how we want to behave.

I think it might have been a better way of demonstrating our disapproval of him if we just had completely ignored him. I suspect that the good Donald would prefer even negative attention, rather than none.

And while I’m thinking about media attention, I heard a BBC news broadcast in the last few days which stated that Theresa May had ‘caved in’ to pressure from some section of her party over some issue or other. I thought the BBC was famed for it’s even handed and unbiased reporting? This is certainly not an example of that. ‘Caved in’ is a) an opinion and b) an emotive term. Mind you, I think it was true, but they should find a better way of putting it!

I’m going to cave in to the heat and go and read a magazine!



We’ve had an unpredictable week in politics with predictions as to the longevity or otherwise of Theresa May as Prime Minister. Now I’m not a fan of Theresa May – she’s a head girl, a Tory, and her taste runs to leopard skin shoes – but I think her unexpected survival this far is due to one of the few admirable qualities of the British electorate – ie their desire for FAIR PLAY. (I mean the electorate’s desire for fair play, not the politician’s obviously. Many of them don’t have a notion what it means.)

The Tory party has a ruthless and unprincipled attitude to the removal of leaders who no longer suit it, but if it wishes to win the election that will follow, it has to pay some attention to the wishes and views of the voting public.

So I find myself entirely surprised to be in the position that I’m defending Mrs May. She is in a very difficult position. She voted to remain but she’s heading a team and a government tasked with leaving Europe. For her majority, she’s obliged to depend on the DUP which is the equivalent of a baby owl needing the support of a fish eagle feeding chicks – i.e. tenuous to say the least. There are elements of her own party which are rabid in their support of Leave or Remain and Cameron was so afraid of them that he asked this unaskable question, which he ought not to have done. However it has been asked and we must now deliver accordingly.

Mrs May must lie in her bed at night, wondering which of the undesirable possible outcomes might be marginally acceptable. She does not enjoy overwhelming support from any section of party or country and most pundits predicted her demise in a couple of weeks, Yet she is still here. She has managed (just about) to steer her way through these dangerous waters. She has kept her temper while being insulted and betrayed (and by those from whom she might reasonably expected some loyalty.) She gets up every morning and goes doggedly through her day, and as Dickens observed, It’s dogged as does it.

As I’ve stated, I’m no supporter of Mrs May and it’s very unlikely that I would vote for her party. But I don’t think she’s done so badly. She doesn’t insult us or patronise or underestimate us as her female predecessor did. She is entitled to be treated with respect and to the right of a Prime Minister to call the next election and be listened to with courtesy.

Besides, of the candidates available, who would you prefer at the present time? I agree that the lady is neither decisive nor brilliant. Boris is brilliant and having him in charge would be even more hair-raising. Brilliant people quite often soar like a burning star only to come to an equally spectacular bad end. Think of Napoleon.

No, on reflection, Don’t!



We British, foreigners observe, are ‘obsessed’ with the weather. I don’t think that this is actually true. We are surrounded by weather, as we are by water, and we certainly talk about it a lot, but I think we choose to do that. I don’t think we’re obsessed by it. Our weather is so diverse and varied (yet generally it remains within mild and tolerable boundaries) that it impacts very strongly on our life and culture.

In the anonymous short poem that runs:

Western wind,

when wilt thou blow?

The small rain down can rain.

Christ, if my love were in my arms,

And I in my bed again…

you can feel the writer (whom I like to imagine was a Roman soldier used to the warm Roman climate) despairing over a prolonged cold, wet period. We know exactly how he felt.

But I think the reputation of our country for it’s great beauty is in no small measure due to the weather. This is not only because its dampness (perhaps I should be honest and say wetness) contributes to our ‘green and pleasant land’ but because we view it through the infinite variety of our climate conditions. We see it on clear days ruffled by the breeze; we see it still and mysterious in mist.

In Britain you never know what weather the day will bring. While this means that its cooperation cannot be depended upon for a wedding, a queen’s jubilee, or even just a picnic, it gives us our capacity to deal with whatever turns up; our resilience; our endurance; what makes us British

I’ve been in countries where the weather is the same for long periods. I’ve been several times to Singapore and no matter when the time of year, the weather was exactly the same: grey, overcast sky, extremely warm and humid, so that stepping onto the street was like walking through wet sheets and even just sitting doing nothing was quite exhausting. Plus in its perpetual sameness it grew boring.

I think we are genuinely interested in our weather, but it is also a very convenient neutral topic of conversation. It is very hard to see how anyone could be offended by a few comments on the weather. So, with someone you’ve just met, or don’t know very well, it’s a useful filler: you make a few mild remarks about the weather but meanwhile you’re giving yourself time to observe them and

decide how you’re going to proceed. Talk of the weather is not personal and it is not political. As the rhyme tells us, it rains the same upon the just as on the unjust fellow (except that the just gets wetter because the unjust stole the just’s umbrella.)

In England, we’ve have unusually enjoyed a prolonged period of hot, dry weather. Although it was pleasant enough to begin with, I’ve had enough of it. I long for rain – for the coolness, for the grey skies, for the wonderful smell of dust that the rain will release, and for how next morning everything will look brand new and washed clean.

Well, no doubt it will come soon enough and then we can complain about how awful it is and long for sunshine!