Tuesday, 12 August 2008
Janet Joins Bill Bryson's Keep Britain Tidy Campaign!
It's now been a few weeks since empty sweet and crisp wrappers started turning up outside the backdoor of my house, and the mystery of their source has caused much paranoia. The way that the building is positioned dictates that, barring the event of extremely high wind, if there's a packet of spicy tomato Wheat Crunchies on the flagstones outside my study, it's almost certainly the result of someone sitting on the flagstones outside my study, eating a packet of spicy tomato Wheat Crunchies. Disposing of soggy Mr Kipling packets (the litter is almost always soggy) and crinkled, greying Sunblest bags has recently become no less an intrinsic part of my morning ritual than making coffee, turning on the kitchen tap for Bootsy and shouting at the presenters of BBC Breakfast for speaking to me as if I'm simple.
What is almost as spooky as the appearance of this litter is its notable vintage quality. I mean: I know that there are some fairly timeworn products knocking around the market town where I live - one of the kebab shops only recently got rid of the last of a supply of bright red coke cans that my wife and I suspected were "retro" in a worryingly genuine way - but some of the brands currently residing in my flowerbed haven't been widely available in supermarkets since 1998. "Do that many people still really eat Curly-Wurlies?" I found myself asking, last Thursday. At one point over the weekend, I half-expected (well, hoped, really*) to see a packet of salt and vinegar Odd'Uns.
Of course, I'd seen Janet lazing about next to the rubbish as it appeared, but it didn't occur to me at first to connect the pile of litter with the pile of cat alongside it. Janet, who's more of a dozer than a sleeper, can do his lazing in a remarkably eclectic array of habitats, and his penchant for hard surfaces is one the major quirks of his middle-age, right up alongside his ever-loudening yawn and the new "fart-hiss" he has been perfecting for times when he is angry or frustrated**. Even now, I haven't actually caught him with any rubbish between his jaws, but since I saw him loitering just inside the house, with a full, sealed bag of pre-Lineker Walkers sitting behind him on the tiles, I have come to the conclusion that the only explanation for the fly-tipping is this: he is fishing the litter out of the lake of the bottom of my garden.
If so, this is very kind of him, since I usually spend an hour or so each month doing the same thing, particularly at rainy periods such as now, when the lake gets high and washes its innumerable crap up in the reeds beyond my lawn. Though in many ways the most uncomplicated of my cats, Janet has always been an enigma, from the summer romance he once sustained with a decrepit neighbourhood fox to the strange way that he drops to the floor, jellylike, when you tickle in him in a particular spot behind his right ear. My best explanation for his actions is that his litter picking is his form of "presents": a feline pacifist's (with the possible exception of a meddlesome polystyrene bead, he's never killed anything in his life) version of the headless voles Pablo leaves at the beneath my work desk. This explanation also accounts for the plaintive wail I heard him making the other night, as he sat alongside his latest stash of archaic firelighter packaging: a wail not dissimilar to the one Ralph makes when he has a mousetache. Where will this end? I do not know, but I spotted a faded can of Lilt in the gutter near my front door yesterday, so it's possible he could be expanding his repertoire.
*Does anyone lament the 1985 demise of these on a daily basis, or is it just me?
** Particularly baffling to be around, considering the amount of time he now also spends actually farting as well.