Monday, 22 December 2014

The Cat: A Winter Folk Tale

Once upon a time, a man, a woman and a cat were walking through a deep forest. All three had walked for what felt like a thousand miles and each but the smallest member of the party balanced precariously on blistered, swollen feet. Night had fallen only an hour ago but its polished granite blackness above the treetops seemed to hint at a stark permanence and corresponding adjustments to the way life would be lived. Just as the man and the woman felt they could not possibly walk any more, they chanced upon a stone bothy at the edge of a small clearing. The bothy showed few signs of recent occupation: the man entered first and found only a strip of dirty unspecified cloth, a broken tankard and the decayed skeleton of an apple core on its mud floor. Its roof had a hole, but this was covered by the thick twisted limbs of ivy, which for now would go some way to keeping out the advancing weather, which the woman could feel in her finger joints. “Here?” she said. “Here,” nodded the man.
   They bedded down in the lone draughty room beneath an old threadbare blanket given to her by her late mother, their tunics spread on top of it for extra warmth. An enchanted dancing spell of mist rose off the cold forest floor, covering the world in doubt. The cat began the night sitting in the doorless doorway, listening to the nearby hoot of owls, then, having spied the tunics, nestled on top of those instead. By the time night had ended, the cat had somehow commandeered 85% of the sleeping area while the man and woman, who were each roughly nine times the creature’s size and largely furless, were squashed into the remaining 15%, their limbs contorted in an awkward and painful fashion. Rising and inspecting the tunics, the man found welded to them a matted mixture of small leaves, hair and soil.

   “You fucking wanker,” the man said to the cat. “We only washed those last month.”

   Later that morning, the man ventured out into the forest, killed two rabbits and filled a pail with water from a clear rushing river a mile away, surrounded by mossy boulders. The cat sat and watched with wry curiosity as the man and woman skinned, cooked and ate the rabbits, then the man threw him the leftovers, which the cat gnawed on with something approaching enthusiasm. The woman poured the cat some of the clear river water into a bowl, which he refused, instead choosing to drink the rainwater from a rusty trough behind the building, which had all manner of unidentifiable old crap in it. They could feel the dark teeth of mid-winter gnashing at them now. Here was the final heavy push towards Solstice’s new hope. The next day the man caught three more rabbits, roasted them on a bigger, angrier fire, and offered the cat a larger portion of the leftovers than before. The cat sniffed at this, then looked up into the man’s eyes in a way that seemed to say, “Nope, I’ve gone off this stuff already. Do you have anything else?”

   Over the following weeks, the man and woman worked hard to transform the bothy into a home: the man walked to the river and caught fish, which the woman took to the town, some four miles away, on Market Day and traded for crockery, tools, milk, butter and soap. The man coppiced and whittled and hammered and chiselled and extended and improved. The days were long, partly because there was endless work to do, but also because the cat insisted on waking the man and woman up before daybreak by meowing at the top of his voice and knocking stuff off the new shelves the man had built. The three of them sat by the fire at night: the woman working on a poem by the flickering light, the man so tired he could only stare blankly into the flames, and the cat cleaning himself in a self-important manner that suggested he was getting ready for an important yet clandestine cat ceremony in the near future. Sometimes, while the the woman tried to write her poetry, the cat would get on her lap and stick his arse in her face, obscuring her view and smudging her fine calligraphy with his paws. Later he would continue to dominate the bed, leaving more small leaves, hair and soil on the new blankets that had replaced the tunics as bedding. He’d also occasionally pop off into the forest to kill mice, which he would bring back and leave half-eaten on the bothy’s floor. The cat was generally very unpredictable when it came to food: some days he preferred rabbits caught in the part of the forest to the east of the bothy, and some days he preferred rabbits caught in the part of the forest to the west of the bothy, but the man and woman were buggered if they knew why. 

   One morning a visitor came to call: a tall gentleman with an angular face and the tiny eyes of an untrustworthy bird. He said he worked for the Squire of the local Parish and had a proposal: if the man and the woman would concede ownership of the bothy to the Squire, who deemed it a perfect hunting lodge, he would reward them with more money than they had seen in their life. “Take three sunsets to think it over if you like,” said the tall gentleman, jingling some coins in a leather purse. “By the way, did you know you had a mouse’s spleen stuck to your big toe?”

   That night by the fire the man and woman faced a tough decision: they had worked hard on their new dwelling and were looking forward to starting a family there, but, with the Squire’s money, they would be able to set up home almost anywhere they chose. By the glow of the fire, they examined their hands, which, due to a life of constant toil, were as gnarled and wrinkled as those of men and women twice their age born of more noble stock. As they did so, they knew which choice they would make. 

   The night before the man and the woman were due to vacate the bothy, a party was thrown there: a celebration as lavish as any small makeshift dwelling in the woods had ever known. In a gesture of good will, The Squire provided limitless ale, eclectic soups and a freshly slaughtered wild hog. Better still, this was not just any wild hog: this was Big John, the grandest and haughtiest hog of the forest, whom every hunter for miles around had been trying to bring down for as long as memory would allow, and whom the Squire had finally slain earlier that day. A minstrel played songs celebrating the deeds of the afternoon and the bawdy ones of outlaws of centuries past in the Green Wood, and a few of the Squire’s men danced with the woman - though not, the man was fairly sure, in a dodgy way which involved trying to cop a sneaky feel. The cat ate like a Feline King, then bedded down on the large comfortable stomach of one of the night’s early casualties: Edgar, the fattest of all the Squire’s men. Edgar was now paralytic and emitting stale odours from at least two of his orifices, but the cat was largely relaxed about odours, unless they were soapy or astringent, and Edgar did possess an unusually soft tunic. Before this, the cat had spent a good hour or so batting a button that had come loose from another of the men’s tunics around the floor. The woman saw this, and it kind of pissed her off, as she’d spent a lot of the previous week making a cloth mouse for the cat, which he’d indifferently inspected once then totally ignored.

   It had been a grand night, but the next morning, when the man and woman woke up, a discomfort and self-hatred set in, compounded by their hangovers. How easily they’d given away what they’d worked lovingly to make theirs, in exchange for monetary gain. The Squire and his men were still asleep yet the man and woman already somehow felt unwelcome in their home of many months so they gathered their possessions and quietly set off into the cool spring morning. The cat followed a few paces to their rear and they thought about what a good cat he was, how beautiful and plush his fur he was, and how lucky they were that he followed them from place to place like this. When all was said and done, at least they still had his love. The cat, for his part, was sort of torn, if he was being totally honest, since he could still smell the remains of the wild hog and remember how soft that tunic was. But, he concluded, the bothy would not be permanently occupied with feeders, now it belonged to the Squire, and the man and woman were okay sorts, especially when you considered how many cat-hating scumbags there were out there.

   In time, the man and the woman found a new house, made it their own, and raised a family in it. The money wasn’t quite as much as it had seemed at first and soon ran out, but they found other ways to get by. They didn’t quite live happily ever after, since people never actually do. It would be more accurate to say that existence was made more enjoyable than not by an ample sprinkling of fleeting, epiphanic moments of happiness, which were rendered more meaningful by being set against a more customary backdrop of mundanity and grey struggle. Fortunately, they lived with a cat, and living with a cat has a way of helping prepare people for life’s peaks and troughs.

   The cat lived to a ripe old age. But that was no big deal for him. He’d lived numerous times previously too and had seen some dark shit you could not even dream of.

Read my latest book The Good, The Bad And The Furry

Friday, 19 December 2014

Guest Reader's Cat Of The Month: Holly


Button, Hula Baloola, Holly Balloo

Theme tune:
Anna sometimes sings “Her name is Hula, Hula Baloola” to the tune of Copacabana.  I do not like this one little bit, not least because the noise she makes I painful to my ears.


I’ve lived with Anna for 13 years.  She is mostly fairly easy to live with and well trained. She does get a little over-excited when she listens to England play cricket on Test Match Special. I tend to leave the room. I tend to leave the room when it’s on, to avoid subsequent over-exuberant cuddling.

Brief biography:
I used to live in a flat and Anna was my next door neighbour. I was shut outside all day and sometimes my neighbours would come home very late. If the weather was bad, I’d sit in Anna’s flat, for a bit of company and to warm up. When my old owners moved, they said I was going to live with the Cats Protection League.  I didn’t really want to do this, so I moved in with Anna instead.

“Is that for me?” about anything and everything.

Favourite habits:
Sleeping, watching my DVD, playing with my plague rats. When it comes to moths, I am a voracious and skilled hunter, and there’s nothing better than a tasty moth for a snack. I did once accidentally catch a bird. There was a moth RIGHT NEXT TO IT and I misjudged by jump slightly. However no harm was done, as I let it go again and it flew off a bit soggier than it had been. I used to also bring frogs in for Anna to play with – catching them again together in some Tupperware was a bonding experience we both enjoyed.

Perfect evening:
A medium rare steak, washed down with some water, followed by a few minutes watching my DVD. I’d have a nap, then some of Anna’s dinner, then look at a few pictures of The Bear. Finally I’d go upstairs to settle right in the middle of the bed, for the rest of the night.

Favourite food:
Beef, tuna or anything involving cheese (mostly pizza or cheese on toast)

Defining moment:
This was about six years ago. I used to be a carefree and adventurous soul, until one day, when I was out dealing with some important cat related business, I felt a bit hurt. I went straight home and went to sleep. I don’t really remember much, but when I woke up I was in the hospital and the vet told me that a nasty person had shot me. This made me realise my own frailties, so I mostly like to stay at home now.

I don’t really have any. There used to be a big black cat who came in the house and pissed on our tumble dryer, but he has moved house now. 

If you could make the world a better place for felines, what would it be?
Everyone knows that the most important things in life are: good food, cuddles and a comfy and warm bed. I’d make sure every cat had these three things.

Which celebrity would you most like to meet?
Henry Blofeld. I don’t know who he is, but Anna promised to give me some brie if I said this answer.

Which of the cats in Under The Paw, Talk to the Tail or The Good, The Bad and the Furry would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?

Most definitely The Bear. We would both sit tidily and look at each other for a while. We would then have a very interesting and meaningful conversation about our pacifist beliefs and the state of the world today. By the time we were rescued, we would have moved on to a little mutual grooming and maybe a cuddle.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Reader Photo Of The Month

Feebee, from Alex Clifton-Fearnside.

Thursday, 20 November 2014


I've been stubbornly resisting using CatNav for years but I've decided to say sod it & give it a go on my walk today.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Reader's Cat Of The Month: Welsh Felix


Angel cat, Lalee, Hussar

Theme tune?
Johnny's Garden by Stephen Stills. I live in a great area now (with the exception of Storm, see below). I wake up & go to sleep feeling happy to be here.

16. I know, I don’t look my age (unless you see my back teeth).

Constance is more like a friend, one who feeds me a lot. When she comes home from work I run to greet her, & I come when she calls me. I know you'll think this is embarrassing, but it’s not like I’m usually very busy. She feeds me when I sit by my bowl, she lets me out when I like (except at night because she says ‘only bad cats go out at night’. Not sure about that?). When it’s cold we sleep together, when it’s hot she brushes my fur with a wet brush. We were both pretty sad before we met. Things are good, now we have each other.

Brief biography?
I am a Welsh cat and Constance suspects I was a country cat before my time in the shelter because I hunt well and I don’t mind sheep. Other than my time in the shelter (sad time) I also had skin cancer surgery twice in the past few years, one time required me having a CONE ON MY HEAD for 3 months. 

Life is better together.

Favourite habits?
I like to sit silently in meditation after dark, and look at the trees moving against the night sky. I often sit close to Constance when she is sleeping, so that my whiskers just touch her face. This lets her know I am there. If she doesn’t notice this, I might meow, just to make sure. Constance also has some very nice soft clothes, like a knitted poncho and a fluffy robe. I have persuaded her to give them to me, so maybe I have a clothes habit, too.

Perfect evening?
Some tuna flavoured cat parcel followed by curling up on the sofa with Constance, space heater on next to us, music playing, AND a blanket over me. 

Favourite food?
Anything in a parcel with a picture of a cat that looks like me. Or, well . . . probably mice.

Defining moment?
I suppose that would have to be my time in the shelter. My last family just dropped me off one day. I felt like the air had been taken out me.  I was there for almost a year. Constance came to get me, after seeing my picture. Her cat of 16 had recently died. She called to me. It had been a long time since I’d heard my name; ten months since anyone had really noticed me at all. As you can imagine I walked into the carrier without hesitation, & never looked back. 

There is a local ne'er-do-well, a grey tabby called 'Storm'. He greeted me on the first day I arrived by coming into MY house when I was still in my carrier, & freaked out by the move. He’s since bit my ears, face, almost pulled my whiskers off, and generally been a nuisance. I am as calm and friendly as I can be with him but he’s just one of those stress-heads that turns everything into a fight. Mostly now I try to avoid him but sometimes if he’s too near the house at the wrong time I will stand my ground.

If you could do one thing to make the world a better place for felines, what would it be?
Eliminate cars; they're loud, polluting, and dangerous. And they take us to the vets.

Which celebrity would you most like to meet?
Tom Cox! I like people and he’s seems a particularly good sort. I’d like to see what his day to day life must be like caring for so many cats, and I wouldn’t mind playing a game of Scrabble or Trivial Pursuit with him.

Which of the cats in Under The PawTalk To The Tail and The Good, The Bad And The Furry would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?
The Bear might bring me down a bit (in a lift) with all those Smiths lyrics, Ralph's sideburns are slightly intimidating, Shipley makes me nervous, and Roscoe is so young...what would we talk about? I'm sure they're all great cats, but I am going to cheat and say a cat that will be in the next book. I know he’s moved on to Tom’s parents, but I think George & I would've been good friends. He’s relaxed and cheerful like me. In a lift together we’d  just make ourselves comfortable, have a nap, and wait for someone to fix it & then make a fuss over us. I’d also like to have gone on a walk though with Monty, he was so adventurous.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

@MYSADCAT goodies for people who'd like to get to know The Bear better

Here are a few links to @MYSADCAT stuff for people who've started following The Bear recently and would like to get to know him better. I've included links below purely because I know that a lot of people find that the most convenient place to buy from, but, if I'm honest, my ideal choice would be that you buy from, who support independent bookshops and represent a fairer, less soulless future for the publishing industry. If you're outside the UK, wordery is an independent site which does free worldwide delivery (and, unlike fellow free international deliverer The Book Depository, is not owned by amazon).

Under The Paw is the first book about The Bear and friends.

Talk To The Tail is the second book about The Bear and friends.

The Good, The Bad And The Furry is the third - and most recent - book about The Bear and friends.

There is also a 2015 @MYSADCAT calendar and some @MYSADCAT Christmas cards available. Both are best purchased direct from the publishers, Graffeg, who will deliver anywhere worldwide.

If you're outside the UK, wordery is an independent site which does free worldwide delivery. That said, it has sold out of The Good, The Bad And The Furry right now, unlike The Book Depository, who also do free worldwide delivery.

(NB: For those who have asked recently, there will be a fourth book about The Bear next autumn, published by Little Brown.)

Sunday, 12 October 2014

A lovely birthday message for The Bear from Celia Hammond (and her pal)

Donate to Celia's Animal Trust and help support the amazing work she does for homeless cats by clicking here.

Reader's (Biker) Cat Of The Month: Jazz


Jazz A-ma-razz. Jazzman. Monster. The Terror..

Theme tune?
The Stray Cats - Cool for Cats.


There is Doug who is covered in a lot of fur. It's on top of his head and a lot hanging from his face. He is a very nice Human. Doug likes to take his Harley Davidson out for long relaxing rides. I tend to not like the loud noise of the Harley so I always stay home and wait for him to return. Then there is Shari. She adores me and plays games with me. I like to jump on the bed and get pettings. I also like when she spreads out the blankets so I can knead for a long time. They allow me to do much as I please. Of course there are rules to follow. They are the most purrfect Humans I could ever own.

Brief biography?
I was born outside in the springtime. As a kitten I enjoyed roaming around the mountainside. When I was about 3 months old I decided to find a furrever home. I was walking one sunny day in May when I saw a Harley rider with a long beard and a lot of hair. He was with a beautiful female human. Since I love motorcycles I felt these Humans would be mine. I walked out in front of them and they fell in love with me. They took me to their home near the woods. Now I get to enjoy my life with my Humans and another cat named Cool.

"I love it when a plan comes together"

Favourite habits?
Eating. Sleeping. Playing outside. Eating. Sleeping. Watching squirrels and birds.  Eating. Sleeping. Bring bugs and mice into the house. Eating. Sleeping. Watch a little TV. Eating. Sleeping. (Repeat)

Perfect evening?
A good ghost show. Ghost Adventures is my favorite. Followed by a wonderful dinner and a warm bath. To finish the evening I'd have my Mom sing "Soft Kitty" to me..  

Favourite food?
Fancy Feast, even though it's not always "Fancy". I like to sample eggs from my Dad's plate every morning. Also an occasional turkey sandwich hits the spot..

Defining moment?
Recently my Humans brought home a book called "The Good, The Bad & The Furry". It has created a lot of fun in my house. I like to watch the computer a lot, so it's so much fun to see my photo on the internet. I have almost as many likes as my friend Cool got. My Humans like to tell me that I've "gone viral".

My best friend is called "CooI". She and I go on adventures together but we disagree on whose catnip toys belong to each other. When we get into wrestling matches our fur stands up and we yell a lot. There is also a neighbor cat who comes around - we don't like her at all and chase her away as fast as we can.

If you could do one thing to make the world a better place for felines, what would it be?
home for every cat and a free supply of catnip. 

Which celebrity would you most like to meet?
Ozzy Osbourne. He has a lot of dogs and it's time he gets some cats. Black ones.
My Dad met and hung out with Ozzy in 1986. That would be fun for me to see.

Which of the cats in Under The PawTalk To The Tail and The Good, The Bad And The Furry would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?
I have the most in common with The Bear. We seem to get into a lot of situations where our Humans can take photos and put in funny captions. We both use small meows when we talk. We could just sit in the lift and stare at each other and we would still have a great time.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Email from my dad

I was away last week. My dad stayed here, did some walking and looked after the cats. He sent me this email afterwards.

One of my favourite pics of The Bear

Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Fancy a pint down The Bear & Roscoe?

Today a nice company called Purrfect Box sent a box of toys and treats for my cats (see valerian heart being destroyed by Roscoe below). Instead of addressing the package to me, the company decided to write my cats' names on the package. The courier looked slightly stressed when he arrived at the door. "I've been driving around for ages looking for a pub called The Bear & Roscoe," he told me as he handed me the package.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Places To Order The Good, The Bad And The Furry (That Aren't Amazon)

Being an author these days and dealing with amazon is a bit like being Luke Skywalker and trying to fight Darth Vader and just going, "Oh, sod it. BE my dad." For their tax practices, for their fleecing of authors and publishers, for the fact that they very clearly (see the extremely illuminating recent New Yorker mag article on them) have few people who give a crap about books any longer working for them, they're reprehensible. But other bookshops take notice of amazon sales, and many readers will still buy from amazon, for entirely understandable reasons related to convenience and bank balance, so boycotting them as a writer or publisher in the current climate would be an act of self-harm. In a perfect world I - and The Bear too, especially - would like all people to buy my books at small independent bookshops, but we don't live in a perfect world.

That said, amazon - who, not in any way insignificantly, are in dispute with Hachette, who own Little Brown, the company who now publish my books - have been absolutely abysmal at stocking The Good, The Bad And The Furry recently, despite the book's increasing popularity, and that of the two books about @MYSADCAT that came before it (the second of which, Talk To The Tail, hit the number one spot on amazon's non fiction ebook chart this morning). I apologise for this. The book has been unavailable on amazon for almost over a month now, and I know a lot of @MYSADCAT followers have found this very frustrating, so I thought I should link to a few other sites where the book can easily - and inexpensively - be purchased instead....

The Good, The Bad And The Furry at The Book Depository (with free worldwide delivery)

The Good, The Bad And The Furry at Waterstones

The Good, The Bad And The Furry at Guardian Bookshop

The Good, The Bad And The Furry at Hive (good way to support independent shops)