As I write, I realise: I have survived a whole week after making a momentous decision. A new job? Not yet. I’m never going to eat chocolate again? Yeah, right. I’ve given up collecting old books? Wash your mouth out with soap! No. None of those. I have survived a week of allowing Nergal, our cat, to come in and even sleep, sometimes, in my room. My room- which is for writing in and looks like it has more books in it than some village libraries. A room which has long been a cat-free zone. People are allowed in. Well, grudgingly.
Although, most of my books are in bookcases – around 14 bookcases, I think – some of the books are in tottering piles. And that was the problem. I was scared they would fall on her. Nergal would often sit crying at my door, until I went to see what she wanted. It was generally: food or to go out to the garden or attention, or: “I don’t know what I want, human, but I thought you would know.” And, every time, she would peer around the corner of my door when I opened it, staring wide-eyed into the forbidden zone.
“No, you know you’re not allowed in there” I’d say, as authoritatively as I could.
Sometimes, Nergal would raise one cat-eyebrow a fraction, and look at me as if to say: “Hmm. One day, human. I have cat-patience. And, cat-patience is mighty!”
Well, mighty or not, I resisted letting her in. Until, I had a flash of inspiration, after spending a rainy day constantly interrupted by a howling cat, as I tried to write my latest masterpiece (which is going well, thanks for asking). What if I let her in and kept an eye out for potential book avalanches? That would be OK, right? And, it was fine. It turned out it was safe, after all, but there were a few other little problems.
First, the laptop incidents. Near my desk, I arranged a chair with a blanket on it, especially for Nergal. Every time I led her there, explaining: “This is where you can sit”, she jumped up onto the desk instead and curled up on my laptop. Gently, I pushed her off and towards the chair. Sometimes, it worked. Other times, I’d leave the room for a few moments, come back, and find her sitting up on the laptop again, ears up, chest out, proud of herself, as if announcing: “Hah! I am now the Queen of the laptop!”
“No, you’re really not” I would say, and push her back to her seat.
Eventually, she got the idea. Without any encouragement, she went to the right place. I could get on with my writing or reading; and it felt good to have a gently snoring companion. Especially, when Isobel wasn’t around to do the same job, which she calls ‘reading’.
At first, Nergal was happy to sleep or just sit on her chair or sometimes wander around the room; not knocking anything over, not causing any bookalanches. Occasionally, she would try to hop up from a chair onto a shelf, but it was never a very determined effort. I could soon bring her back down to room level again. All was well. Until she found out- there is a window-sill. Problem.
This particular window-sill is hidden behind rows of books, a radio, and lamps. It’s also hidden behind blinds which are usually closed. There’s more than enough light comes into the room without the blinds being open, and there’s a lot of reading lights. Hey, I’m a book hermit these days, what can I say? Anyway, when Nergal found this hidden window-sill, she decided to hide in it. At first, I thought she had sneaked out of the room, when I was concentrating on writing chapter 4 of my novel ‘Based on a True Story’. (It’s really good, by the way. You should buy it, when it comes out.) The only hint of Nergal’s new home was a slight twitch of the blinds. Something about that twitch told me it wasn’t a draught, but something alive. Either it was the worst MI5 spy ever, or it was the cat. After a short deliberation, I decided it was probably the cat. When I looked through the blinds, I saw her curled up in a ball, gazing up at me innocently. Only a cat, or possibly an Isobel, can seem to be quite so innocent when totally guilty.
“What are you doing there?” I asked the guilty cat.
She shrugged. Yes, cats shrug. Nergal does it a lot.
I sighed, and tried to push her out, worried that she would get stuck or really get buried in books this time. She wouldn’t budge. I had to call in the special rescue team: Isobel.
I have made another momentous decision. I’ve decided to clear a way for Nergal to get in and out of the window whenever she wants to. She likes looking out at the world, especially when it’s too wet for her to roam in the garden. And I must admit, it’s embarrassing having to keep admitting to my life-partner, wife- type person that my ability to herd a single cat is a bit limited. Okay, it’s non-existent.
That’s all for now. Nergal says hi.