have always had one or two cats sharing my home: Sappho and Dido are
the current incumbents, sisters from the same litter. These two tabby
cats have, from the first, shown an unusual interest in my writing,
spending long hours in my study and frequently walking across the
keyboard of my word processor, as though they too wanted to get in on
the act of story telling.
Sappho, particularly, is a very chatty cat, and over the years I became used to bouncing ideas at her while I worked. Perhaps this is why Two Cats Walking came to be written. It is a story told entirely from the cats' perspective, and is, ostensibly, all their own work. Certainly I was never sure whose tale it was, or where it all came from. I felt more like an editor, privileged to be there, and I looked forward to each day's episode, never knowing where it would lead. But I do know that it felt like the most delightful collaboration.
An Extract from Two Cats Walking:
From the Introduction, as written by Sappho:-
There were four of us kittens in the litter. I, Sappho, was the second born, coming after a big bumptious male named Buster. He and I most closely resembled our mother in appearance, though Mama was forced to concede that my markings were more beautiful and regular than either hers or my brother's I have four perfect snow-white feet, a dazzlingly white bib and stomach and the longest of long white whiskers. My eyes are particularly fine, being very large and expressive and boldly outlined in black and silver. The rest of me is that perfection of silver and black markings which is known as tabby.
Last of the litter, the runt, was another female; the one fated to be my companion, my sister Dido. She was tabby all over, but unlike my sumptuous black and silver stripes, hers were varying shades of brown and pewter, and the fur on her belly was a workaday beige. She was not blessed with any of my dazzling whiteness, except for the merest grubby smidgen under her chin. Nor has her fur ever assumed the exquisite silkiness of my coat, but is of a more woolly and coarse texture. We differ further in that the pads of her feet are a serviceable black, while mine are a delicate shell pink, requiring a great deal of attention to keep them in the immaculate condition required of our race.
The most striking, and to my mind, the most embarrassing aspect of my sister Dido's appearance is her eyes. These have remained perfectly round like those of a tiny kitten, giving her a permanently startled expression. Yet in spite of all these shortcomings there are humans perverse enough to admire Dido more than they do me. `What marvellous markings she has' they say. What amazing symmetry. Meg even claims that Dido reminds her of a picture called Tiger in a Tropical Storm (Surprised) by a french artist named Douanier Rousseau.
Since I discovered that Meg's writing machine also gave us access to the Internet, I have used this facility to track down the Rousseau painting. It is in the National Gallery in London. Having seen it, I reject Meg's fanciful notion outright - my sister looks nothing like this rather crudely painted tiger - except perhaps for the startled expression which I think of as Dido's daft look.
While I was still locked on to the National Gallery, however, Dido did see a picture which she thinks resembles her far more closely. This painting is by Hogarth, and clearly the artist was a cat lover because, having been paid to paint a portrait of the Graham children, he made the focus of the picture an eager little tabby cat perched on a boy's shoulder. I have to admit that with its round eyes and big paws it does look very like Dido, especially when she is watching a squirrel or stalking a pheasant...
The Two Cats lives are turned upside down when their owners decide to move to another part of the country. Filled with indignation, they decide to escape en route. They do so and find themselves in frighteningly unknown territory.
.....By some miracle we arrived at the other side of the motorway unhurt and dropped breathless beneath a hedge, and when Dido had recovered a little we went on again until the roaring of the road ceased, and we found ourselves in the peace and quiet of a green rolling countryside. We had made our escape. O What Triumph!
It was at this point I realized we had not thought of anything beyond the immediate escape. What were we to do now? Which way lay home? We had been driving for hours at great speed, and must by now be weeks away at the rate a cat travels. Suddenly the victory seemed less complete......
What exactly happened to Sappho and Dido on the epic journey that followed this escape can be read in their book - Two Cats Walking.
Sadly both Sappho and Dido are no more. They lived till the right old age of seventeen and a half, but now they have moved on and joined all the animals they met on their travels. We miss them a lot.
Their book is published by Mountain House publishing and is available from them at a price of £12.95 in English money. Contact Mountain House to order directly. Click here
Return to Books page click here