And as if that wasn’t enough…
Yesterday, while we were taking the dogs for a (different) walk, Simon and I paused to admire the weird-and-wonderful Heath Robinson creation installed a couple of days ago by the local farmer, to carry water from his newly installed field tap near our house, to the distant reaches of two vast fields on the opposite side of the lane. No neat pipes through the ground for this farmer. Oh No. So much more fun to slice off multiple tree branches, wedge a few long pieces of bolted-together metal rail very high up, between two trees either side of the lane, and then route a Very Long Hose across it.
Simon considered the contraption with a knowing look. “Come winter, that’ll freeze.” he declared. I considered Simon with a knowing look. “Come winter, he’ll have all his cows inside, so he won’t need to use it anyway.” We are country folk indeed.
And then I heard it. “Shhh…listen! Who’s that miaowing in the bushes?”
Now the thing I have noticed since spending so much time with animals is that they are indeed very distinct individuals. We have yet to work out the individual differences between the forty or so young white cows that currently occupy the Hay Field opposite our house, and stare at us with a vacant oneness as we pass by. But we know our cats. And not just by appearance. We know them also by their behaviour, and by the sounds they make. We can tell which of our merry band is lurking on the other side of the door, or approaching in the darkest of the night-time lanes, by what they say, and how they say it. Their miaows are as distinctive as human voices.
And the miaow that was approaching us through the thick and prickly vegetation beneath the bushes at the side of the lane was a miaow that we had not heard for some time. I peered through the greenery and miaowed in response (Don’t ask….. although I have failed miserably to learn French, I have progressed splendidly in my acquisition of Cat, Chicken and Pig). The sound got closer. The sound got louder and more urgent. The neurons in my brain clicked and whirred as the cat-voice recognition centre fired into action. And just as the name sprang from the depths of my memory to label the sound, Big Cat sprang from the bushes.
Big Cat! The First. The Best. The One-and-Only. Big Cat was back!
We haven’t seen Big Cat since the beginning of July. Like Mother Cat before her, and Little Cat after her, her visits to the house had gradually tailed off until one day we noticed that she hadn’t come back at all. We had not seen her, not even in the distance, or even heard her far-away miaow for twelve weeks. She had gone, we assumed, forever.
But here she was, large as life, trotting towards us with her tail in the air and her head tilted up, looking strong and healthy, and happy to see us, and as if she had never been away. And just like before, she wanted to be picked up and carried. And just like before, when I put her down she followed us all the way up the road and back, and then asked to be picked up and carried again, all the while chattering away with her familiar miaows and purrs, as if trying to tell us all about her holiday.
Yes, that is what it feels like. It seems as if Big Cat has been away for her summer vacation, but that now the weather is changing she has returned home, to avail herself once again of the undoubted delights of a warm, dry and cosy house, where the food doesn’t try to run away, and the living is easy.
She took yesterday evening to reacquaint herself with the lie of the land, and to check out who had moved in and out since she was last here. And this morning she was waiting on the window-ledge to come into the house, along with the other three House Cats. She waltzed in, ate a hearty breakfast, and then plonked her plump and furry self bang smack in the middle of Simon’s computer chair, as if she owned the place.
Which I guess she sort of does. After all, she lived here before we arrived. And I have a strange feeling that she may well be here after we leave.