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.


Anonymous said...

Your cats are just a delight,but this is the first time I've actually screwed up the courage to respond on your blog. Normally,I'm giggling like an idiot & haven't time to compose myself,but for the first time in ages,I actually have time to wipe away the tears of laughter & respond.
Firstly,my heart LEAPS with joy at the thought of another cat on the planet who combines the "fart-hiss" thingy! Yayyy! I thought my poor wee Mactavish was a bit screwy..and secondly, your cat's taste in junk & rubbish coincides with mine & I applaud him. Congrats on the Retro Rubbish,Janet. It's worth a fortune! :)

Unknown said...

I hear that litter piling is a nocturnal habit of the rare Norwegian Upside Down cats - which Janet is. He is highly intelligent. I think he is trying to tell you something - don't quite know what though.
Need to worry when he starts to colour code the litter and starts selling it on Ebay! Think I will give the fart-hiss thing a miss though.

Anonymous said...

Interesting...I love your writing.
I live in Atlanta - but I grew up in the UK (64-73)
I don't recognize ANY of the items you've mentioned....
I visited last year - my dad's in Weymouth..
I had a field day checking out all the crazy (to me anyway) stuff at the supermarkets!

Anonymous said...

How very green of him - bravo (and those damnable polystyrene beads get what they deserve)!

SG said...

"Fart-Hiss" HarHar! My Aunts cat Sammy's favourite quarry was mucky magazines. Steve seems to prefer butterflies, which fits well with his rather camp persona. As for Stella; we haven't actually let her out into world yet but she seems to have a highly developed hunting sense (her current favourite toy is a pipecleaner spider she likes to drown in her water dish) so there's a whole new adventure in kitty gifts to be had once she is free to roam. Though given her no fear attitude I worry for the local canine community!

Purrs to you.

Sally, Ash, Steve & Stella.

Jo said...

We too have a 'fart-hisser' so glad we are not the only ones...as for the re-cycling...you go Janet!
One of my cats, Lillie has a plastic fetish and is in her element since re-cycling has been introduced.
She can be found deep amongst the plastics in a licking frenzy with a dried out tongue!!!!

Unknown said...

Our Bean is a "fart-hisser" (ROFL)but it is our Panda who is a rubbish-piler. He is especially helpful at sorting the socks in a laundry basket. He will take about an hour to root through the freshly laundered clothes to find the socks and walk very calmly with one at a time in his mouth and deposit them at our feet. He then returns to the basket to search for more.

And now I'm off to Tea & Sympathy (a British food shop here in NYC) to buy several Curly-Wurlys. YUM!

Anonymous said...

Hmmmm.......one of our cats does something similar, now and again.
There'll be much banging about from upstairs, then he'll sit at the top of the stairs and start wailing. Upon investigation, he's usually 'hunted' a receipt or screwed up chocolate wrapper from under the bed and is sitting there with it between his feet.
He gets most upset if you don't go and fetch it and thank him very much. Daft animal.....

Anonymous said...

My cats (6 cats + 3 kittens) dont do anything like this (only dead mise or birds) but i have heard when a cat brings you something, like rubbish or a mouse or bird, its classed as a prezzie, i know its a pain but let your cat carry on as he is telling you 'I love you' in his own little cat way...hehe.

Anonymous said...

great pictures :-)


She said...

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Good Luck with your book.

The reviews are excellent

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mummymeow said...

Hi, u have a unique writing style. i love this post, it's actually quite funny.

will be looking for your book in the bookstores soon!

Unknown said...

I had to laugh at the litter collection!
I once was owned by Oliver a beautiful grey tabby!
We lived in terraced houses in Southsea so there was no way he could get out onto the road for at least 60 houses.
One night we heard a lot of commotion and rustling trying to get through the cat flap, once in there was a very proud Miaow!. Olly had bought us a used nappy sealed in a nappy sac. The most amazing thing is the amount of garden walls he would have to had carried it over!