Friday 31 December 2010

Friday 24 December 2010

Guest Christmas Cat: Mr Pig

Mr. Pig.

Fuzz bucket, furburger, poptart, stoat pastie, weasel, ploppit, sexpig, National Velvet, Piggy Wiggy woo woo, the Wig,fucksausage, devil beetle ( robot in disguise) two weasels and a rat, Poppet up the chimney, The woodwose, dumpling
pusscat pusscat big fat hairy wuss cat, eel pie, ploppit pudding, bog butter, cat påté.


Firstly a French breeder, then a deranged pianist, then Annabel for a while Will, now it's Alex and Annabel.

Whiskers cat milk

Favourite Habits?
When Annabel and Alex go out I like to go to the basement and roll in cobwebs. Sometimes when they come back they laugh at me and Annabel says it's like her sister's lodger- who her sister found naked strapped to a crucifix when she came back from Tescos once.I used to like wrestling with Annabels bras but my tastes have changed a bit lately. I used to like bouncing on Annabels boobs to wake her up- now I like patting Alex's eyelids.

What constitutes a perfect evening for you?
Lying on Alex's groin. I am in love with Alex.

Favourite Food?
Cobwebs, moths, spiders and boring old 'sensible' Royal Canin I suppose.

Defining moment of your life?
There have been many:
Lining dead mice up with catnip mice under Annabel's bedside cupboard impressed her and got me the nickname Pol Pot for a while.
The first night Alex stayed at Annabels studio I brought him a mouse and placed it on his chest while he slept. Annabel rescued him. Annabel's ex boyfriend Jamie made a cardboard badger for an artist called Sarah Lucas once. I ruined it by moonwalking into it backwards and staying there for two days. I had to be cut out. Annabel has a friend called Mimei who doesn't like cats and is allergic to them. Mimei stayed in the ' Anne Frank' space in the kitchen once and I climbed the 15foot ladder a total of 22 times to visit her that night. Annabel had to take the ladder away stranding Mimei up there and I still tried to throw myself at the wall to get up there.
Annabel used to take me for walks in the countryside on a lead. One time she took me to Staverton Thicks which is famous for being where Queen Elizabeth the first went for a wee wee. I saw a deer and Annabel had to climb an oak tree to get me. I clung to her boobs for 24 hours after that. The rip cord on my fluffy jacket had been pulled and my coat wouldn't go flat for ages.
Annabel shrieked with terror when she woke in the night to find me sleeping next to her like a human with my head on the pillow and my body under the duvet. She said I looked like the Tollund Man.

If Annabel ever had anyone important to the studio to look at her work- I used to enjoy taking a dump in my litter tray as they tried to ignore me.
Similarly that thing when I vibrate my arse- Annabel calls bum glitter I do that on strangers too.
Hugging Boudicca to the ground.
Sicking up a hawkmoth
Doing a plop in Annabels cowboy boots- both of them
Torturing bees

Any Enemies?
Children, the angry bluetits that live in the Rowan tree in the garden, Boudicca, Slinky, Vincent, Ed, Mark and the Hoover. Ed tried to stick a pencil up my bottom, Mark demonstrated to Amnabel where he would cut me to skin me and turn me into a muffler and Vincent punched me off his seat once.

If you could do one thing to make the world a better place for felines, what would it be?
They would be allowed to live in their mothers wombs FOREVER

Which one of the cats in Under The Paw would you like to be stuck in a lift with?
Mm this is tricky. I've only had sex with my brothers Lord Raj and Rolls Royce Gentleman so it seems a bit wierd having a romantic interest in a stranger. I think the Bear has a nice name- and a bear and a pig might make a good combination- both eaten in medieval era.

Brief biography
I am French and lived in the south of France for three years. Then I came to Suffolk with my fifteen brothers and sisters where I lived with Sarenka who loved me and her naughty husband Nick who threatened to divorce her unless she gave us all away. I was called Sonatina de Sarengay then because I am a Bengal. Sarenka called me Tina and Nick called me Totty, but I don't want to go into that.
Annabel used to come and look after me and my brothers and sisters while she was studying. She'd drink Sarenka's booze and play her Steinway grand badly with grade two pieces she thought she could remember. She came to get me soon after Sarenka gave me plastic surgery to cover the bald patch on my neck that made me look like a vampire victim. I went to live with Annabel on a boat after that, then with Will for a bit while Annabel went to switzerland. I live in the house of a sculptor now. I love it there.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

The 30 Best Internet Cats Of 2010

This is a great list of the top 30 Internet Cats of 2010 on Buzzfeed. For what it's worth, I think these are my two favourites....

Cat vs Printer: The Translation

Wednesday 15 December 2010

This Might Not Work But I Thought It Would Be Interesting

Read Talk To The Tail.

Guest Cat Of The Month For December: Parsley


Parse, Parsnip, Doughnut, Tiger-bum, Longtail, Snake-face, Golden Nugget.

I'll be four next spring.

Tim (60%); Isabel (40%).

I can't be bothered.

Favourite hobbies?
I'm not a fan of exercise, but I am quite partial to chasing rolled-up bits of paper. I'd make a decent goalie because I'm good at catching stuff, too. I'm expecting to get a call-up for England, but I wouldn’t play because I’m not keen on going out of the garden. I sometimes go down the alley, so if England had a match down there I suppose I could. Tim used to play as a goalie and his nickname was ‘the cat’ so I’d like to have the same nickname, although I actually am a cat so it wouldn’t really be a nickname. Maybe my nickname could be 'the human'. I get easily confused, as you have probably guessed.

What constitutes a perfect evening for you?
I like sitting on the sofa and getting looked at – and talked about – but not stroked too much. The occasional bit of rubbing with that glove with the bobbles on it is good. There'd be no visitors. That's important, because I get a bit spooked by new people. Usually, at the very end of the evening, when the humans are about to go to bed and want to shut me in the kitchen, I'll dash under the bed in the spare room where they can't reach me. I'll sit there for ages, right in the middle where they can't reach me. You wouldn't believe some of the language they use when I do that.

Favourite food?
Anything. Everything. Tim tries to divide the food equally between me and my sister, Nutmeg, but I wolf mine down so I can steal hers. For the record, though, I'm not greedy. I just have a healthy appetite. I like getting fed by hand best of anything in the world and scrunch my face up so when I’m crunching biscuits I look like an old man, although I’m not – I’m a girl and a cat and still quite young.

Defining moment of your life?
When Nutmeg ran away for three days. It was brilliant. I had the house and the humans to myself. Tim and Isabel were upset so I got lots of fuss and they even gave me more food that usual. I do love Nutmeg and stuff, course I do, because we've growded up together, but she can be a bit noisy and demanding. She's a terrible flirt, too. I'm not one to tell tales, but once when we were in the cattery she minced around showing her tail to the boy next door. Another time, when a hedgehog came in the garden, I think she tried to give it her number.

Any enemies?
I'm quite a nervous cat so I'm scared of lots of things. Dogs barking. Dustmen. The car over the road with the funny engine. People knocking at the door. Brooms. Boots. The postman on gravel. There are enemies everywhere. If I had a psychomologolist they'd tell me that's why I eat too much. It's my nerves. I’d tell them what I tell everyone else: I’m big boned.

If you could do one thing to make the world a better place for felines, what would it be?
Ban rain.

If you could meet a celebrity who would it be and why?
David James. I could show him how to catch.

Which one of the cats in Under The Paw would you like to be stuck in a lift with?
The Bear. I'm not really into boys, but I'd get his number for Nutmeg.

Brief biography?
I was born in Sussex, then moved to Surrey. I never met my daddy, although my mummy was called Mabel and her human said she used to go "loopy for leaves" when she was my age.
My scariest moment was when I got stuck on a neighbour’s pergola. I’d followed Nutmeg over there but then two dogs came out and started jumping up at us. Nutmeg legged it and left me there and I just froze. I sat and pretended it wasn’t happening, staring at the sky. In the end, Tim had to come round with a stepladder and rescue me. He said it was the last thing he needed, because the neighbours already thought he was a crank when it came to cats!
I have a very long tail. Even people who meet me for the first time have remarked on the length of my tail. I think it could win a prize. I also have striking markings and big eyes. Humans often say I should be entered for a show, although I vetoed that idea because I don’t like meeting other cats. I also have a sensitive tummy so I often have to eat boring bland food from the vet, Mr Mike.
My main ambition in life is to catch a pidgin. They sit in the garden and make me go cross-eyed. One sat on the shed for two hours once, so I sat on the grass staring back at it for all that time. I might not be very quick, but I’m patient. I watch them in trees and hope they’ll fall out and land next to me. This hasn’t happened yet but it might. When they fly off, they sometimes drop feathers and I eat the feathers. That's how I think the actual pidgin would taste.

PS: Don't think I'm not aware that Nutmeg got asked to be a guest on this blog before me. I heard her boasting about it. And it’s not true what she said about me finding the worm dead. It was alive and I had to wrestle it to the ground (well, it was actually already on the ground, but it did wriggle a bit).

Parsley's human Tim Relf is the author of two novels - you can find out more about his fiction here.

Sunday 12 December 2010

The Bear And His Question Mark Face

Sometimes, just sometimes, the heartbreak can get a bit much...

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Finished copies of Talk To The Tail have arrived!

Only four and a half weeks until it's published now...

I think it looks rather nice as a set with the hardback of Under The Paw. It almost makes me want to renege on my decision to call my next book 'Satan's Cockhounds'.

Saturday 20 November 2010

Something I Was Thinking About Bagpuss Yesterday

Bagpuss, dear Bagpuss
Old fat furry cat puss
I wonder
If you knew I'd picked up your 2005 'The Complete Bagpuss' DVD
To save and trap a vole
In a promotional mug
Which my first publishers made
To go with my first book
In the days that publishers
Had money
For frivolous stuff like that
Would you have yawned approvingly
Or been kind of pissed off
And given me a good twatting
With one of your giant fuck off new rave paws?

Thursday 11 November 2010

Think Animals Don't Feel Emotion? Watch This...

I'm not one for Five Year Plans, usually. Today, however, I have made a Five Year Plan. It is this: within the next five years, I will own an owl.

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Cats Like Being Thrown Onto Beds: The Proof

Oh, Whistle And There’s A Vague Chance I Might Come To You M’lad: The Diary Of An Amateur Dog Walker (Part Three)

Part three of an extract from my book, Talk To The Tail! Read part one here and part two here.

25 June 2009
Henry seemed fully recovered when I collected him today.
With the addition of a sleek haircut– the dogwig is gone,
and I can’t pretend I don’t miss it– he actually looks health-
ier than ever. When I arrived at Hannah’s, he commenced
his usual routine, with no noticeable difficulty; this involves
him stealing his lead from my hand, then running in mani-
acal circles for three or four minutes before he allows me to
attach it. I then stroke and pat him, and he seems to enjoy
it, but here I miss the feedback I receive from my cats. I
have no idea whether I’m rubbing him up the wrong way or
the right way and I suspect he doesn’t care.

‘Are all dogs like this?’ I wonder. I know you don’t get purring dogs, but surely some canines are a little more dis-
cerning, and offer a more comprehensive appraisal of your
affections. Having said that, I’m yet to meet one. I suppose
this says a lot about why I’m a cat owner. I love dogs, but I’m
not sure if I truly respect them. They’re too easily pleased,
and their judgement offers no true preparation for the trials
of real life.

Some of this is undoubtedly down to intelligence. Dogs
chase cats in the folklore of cartoons, but the reality is rarely
as simple. In almost every household I know containing
dogs and cats, the cats have the upper hand. In the vicinity
of my last house, there were few sights more satisfying than
watching my neighbour Jenny’s little dog Tansy trying it on
with Jenny’s hulking black moggy Spooky, then getting a
sound paw slapping for her trouble. Even if a dog such as
Henry came to live with my cats and retained the physical
upper hand, the labyrinthine complexity of their mind
games would soon get the better of him.

Nonetheless, I am not sure you could call Henry com-
pletely stupid. Evidence of a primal and mysterious intellect
of some form can certainly be found in the timing of his
whimpering on our car journeys. I still haven’t experienced
the obsession with speed that Hannah warned me about
early on, but I have noticed that a couple of minutes before
I park the car at our destination, be begins to squeak and pip
excitedly. Take today, for example: I’ve checked with
Hannah, and I know Henry has never before visited the
enchanting Arts and Crafts village of Thorpeness, on the
Suffolk coast, yet from a few minutes before I pulled into
Leiston Leisure Centre car park, where our walking route started, his familiar chorus began.

This is not merely a matter of him responding to the slowing of the car. I slow the car down plenty of times on
our journeys– sometimes I even stop for petrol– and Henry
barely stirs. But, in Henry’s mind, who is to say I’m not
going to stop and walk him round a petrol station? This
seems evidence of a different extreme stupidity/crafty intel-
ligence dichotomy to the one found in cats, but it does seem
to share something in common: the overwhelming sense
that an animal is reading my mind.

16 July 2009
Perks of dog borrowing, #173: So far this week I have used
the phrase ‘I’m sorry, you’ll have to forgive me: my car smells
of spaniel’ three times. My car does not actually smell of
spaniel. It is just very dirty.

3 August 2009
My walking regime for this year means that I’ve also been
doing something I haven’t done for with any regularity for
two decades: rambling through the countryside with my
parents. This is rather unnerving for them, as it occurs with-
out me asking ‘How long is it to go now?’ or lagging behind
them and practicing my golf swing, and rather alarming for
me, as there’s a thirteen-year-old part of me that still feels it’s
my duty to not enjoy walking with my parents and to ask
‘How long is it to go now?’ and lag behind them practicing
my golf swing.

I’ve been a bit slow in taking Henry on a walk with my
mum and dad. Not that I could remotely imagine Henry scar-
ing any human being, but my dad was bitten by an Alsatian
when he was young, and has a slightly fractious relationship
with dogs as a result. This is a shame, because in many ways a pet dog of his own would be a perfect apprentice for my dad: a creature who could look up adoringly and non-judgmen-
tally at him as he makes a succession of wordplay-based jokes
and campaigns evangelically to get everyone around him to
listen to the Radio 4 News Quiz. My canine world is one
where you say, ‘Hello!’ to dogs in a posh voice, they say hello
back to you, then move along their way, or at the very worst,
smear their paws on your new Aerosmith t-shirt. My dad’s, by
contrast, is one where snarling East Midlands men in baseball
caps say, ‘Don’t worry, mate, ’e not hurt you’ a split second
before their Rottweiler gnaws chunks out of your cheek.

I often suggest to my mum that she and my dad get a dog,
and not just because, having now got a taste for dog bor-
rowing, I am actually fantasising about building myself a
network of canines available for my use at a succession of
evenly spread points across the British Isles. I tell them it
would suit their lifestyle well, and would be a brilliant addi-
tion to their walks.

‘Ooh no, I don’t think it would work,’ my mum says.
‘Life’s already too complicated as it is. And I don’t know if
your dad wouldn’t really like it.’

It would be an understatement on a par with many of his
own overstatements to say that my dad is prone to exagger-
ation, but I can see there’s truth in what he says: dogs and he
do appear to have some insurmountable issues. It’s as if they
both come into each encounter knowing the mutual history
of their breeds. My dad and dogs don’t just nod and go along
with their business. When they cross paths, Things Happen.
Just a month ago when he was walking in Cambridgeshire,
my dad found a stray golden retriever wandering through a
meadow. Not spotting any owner around, he removed his
belt from his baggy cord trousers, tied it around the
retriever’s neck, and began to lead it back towards a nearby village, in an attempt to find its owner. A mile further on,
he was surprised to find a woman in wellies in her mid-for-
ties charging up to him, accusing him of stealing her
beloved pet.

When my dad walks, he invariably carries with him a ‘dog
dazer’, in case of emergencies: a handheld device that emits
ultrasonic sound waves that stun aggressive dogs into sub-
mission. I made him promise to leave this at home for our
walk with Henry at Blakeney Point today.

as Henry jumped out of the boot of my car enthusiastically
in the quayside car park.

‘No, no. You’ll be fine,’ I said, and pretty soon the two of
them were striding out over the salt marshes together, forty
paces ahead of my mum and me. Perhaps in consideration of
the immense unspoilt natural beauty of this stretch of the
North Norfolk coastline, Henry opted to wait to empty his
bowels until we had looped back to the main road, leaving
me crouched down on the white line, hurriedly bagging up
the contents as a BMW 7 Series came snaking into view at

asked my dad, when I had dragged myself to the grass verge.

‘I’m going to put it inside my bag until I find one of those
special dog bins for it.’ I replied.


It was a hot day, and, though the excrement was double
polythened, then placed in the relative cool of my shoulder
bag, I felt an acute sense of it changing texture as we walked
on. It really did seem an awful long time between dog bins.

I chose to remain a model citizen for the time being, and keep the offending item in my bag, but I could definitely see
the appeal of hurling it full toss into a nearby field, and the
liberation that would follow: me striding off into the sun, a
shit-free knapsack on my shoulder, all my worries behind

After about five miles, we came to a stile. The fencing
was a little low, and Henry looked up at me, expectantly,
and I lifted him over.


‘I do if he can’t go underneath,’ I said. ‘He’s a bit


By now I’ve learned that Henry is drawn to loud people
and, perhaps for this reason, he tended to gravitate towards
my dad. Earlier, as we’d stopped beside the marsh for a
picnic, my dad had even shared some pork pie with him.
You’d have to know my dad, who is notoriously cautious
about sharing meat, even with some of his best friends and
closest relatives, to realise what kind of a breakthrough this
was. Once again I talked about how well a dog of their own
might suit my parents’ lifestyle, and what a great addition it
would be to their walks. However, as fond as they seemed of
Henry, they seemed unconvinced, and my dad, in particular,
didn’t seem to be listening.

‘KEEP IN!’ he shouted as each car passed us on the
narrow country lane.

It was an extremely useful instruction, under the circum-
stances. After all, what with my mum and I not being
scheduled to start our first term as primary school pupils for
another two months, and not yet having any road sense, either one of us could have wandered blithely out in front of
a car at any time without his crucial guardianship.

‘Mick,’ said my mum. ‘You don’t have to shout that every
time a car comes.’


A mile or so later, as we turned onto a heath land path, I
gently suggested that an earlier right turn might have led to
an even more scenic route.


He was beginning to sulk now. In retrospect, I probably
went too far by following up by asking him if he was ‘the
man who invented walking’. I felt guilty, as I always do
when I’ve been sarcastic towards him. On the upside, Henry
was looking up at him with undiluted admiration. I couldn’t
help thinking back to the photos I’d seen of my dad as a
teenager, in so many of which he seemed to be pulling a
kind of proto punk, mocking face at the camera, and also of
something Hannah had said about Henry: ‘I swear if this dog
had fingers on the end of his paws, he’d spend most of his
life sticking two of them up.’ Watching them picking up the
pace and walking back towards the salt marshes ahead of us
and thinking about the dog dazer and the Alsatian bite, you
might have initially thought it was an unlikely meeting of
the minds, but when you considered it more deeply, there
was something very right about it.

3 August 2009
Email from my mum: ‘Lovely to see you. Was really great
meeting Henry. We both loved him. We’re actually thinking
of getting a dog now. Your dad thinks it would really suit our
lifestyle, in a way, and make our walks even more interest-

Sent reply: ‘Really? I suppose I had never thought of it
that way. I probably should have suggested it.’

7 August 2009
Have not seen Henry for a few days and am, just for the first
time, missing him slightly. Received update from Hannah,
to tide me over: a photograph of him happily licking an ice
cream, and the news that, yesterday, he attempted to swing
from her CEO’s tie.

Read the final part of the diary in Talk To The Tail!, published on January 6th, 2011.

Monday 1 November 2010

Oh, Whistle And There’s A Vague Chance I Might Come To You M’lad: The Diary Of An Amateur Dog Walker (Part Two)

Part two of an extract from my book, Talk To The Tail! Read part one here.

28 February 2009
Henry pissed on his paws again this afternoon. I’m told by
Dee that this is because he has a slightly arthritic hip, and
cannot cock his leg properly. To be frank, I’m still coming to
terms with spending time with an animal who is not entirely
self-sufficient in terms of his own bowel functions, and fur-
ther alarm comes from his habit of taking a dump in the
exact middle of country lanes, usually a matter of seconds
before a four-by-four comes haring around the nearest bend.

Today, a few miles south of Norwich, near the village of Loddon, I was almost mown down by a Range Rover as I
dived for Henry’s excrement, baggy in hand, and rolled skill-
fully over into a roadside ditch. Henry, however, appeared
unmoved by the incident, and raced off to intimidate some
ducks. There’s still a part of me that, as I carry his poo in a
plastic bag, in my coat pocket, is asking myself, ‘You mean
people actually chooseto do this? Every day?’. Sometimes, as
we walk, I’ll forget about the bag, and think about how the
brisk Broadland breeze feels against my skin, or admire a
scarecrow in a nearby field, but my sense of its presence
never fully goes away and, somehow, as I walk further, that
presence seems to expand, until I feel I am walking with not
just one living creature, but two.

18 March 2009
Number of animals encountered on walk today by Henry
and me: seventeen. Number of animals wound up by Henry:

24 March 2009
When Henry and I walk locally, there are now various
neighbourhood dogs we have come to recognize. For these,
we like to make-up appropriate nicknames. Well, I say, ‘we’;
I obviously mean ‘I’, but I feel that, if Henry could make up
nicknames for his canine rivals, he would take great pleasure
in doing so. I suppose he’s quite a lippy, boisterous dog, and
I can see that his goading and cheek can get easily on the
nerves of a snotty Dalmatian or a well-heeled wolfhound,
but at least he’s not aloof or imperious in any way, and is as
happy to say hello to a Jack Russell as he is to a greyhound.
This is more than I can say for the Janetdog, so named by
me because of its striking resemblance to my cat Janet. The
Janetdog strutted past us, snout in the air, fluffy tail high,
this afternoon and you could just tell we were no more than
a couple of dirty specks on its radar. This seems pretty rich,
coming from a creature that looks like one of the most
brainless felines in East Anglia.

7 April 2009
I think I am becoming more commanding in my instruc-
tions to Henry. I can almost feel my voice getting
inadvertently deeper when I shout him. Dee, meanwhile,
has taken to calling him my ‘alter doggo’. I’m choosing to
take this as largely a reference to my walking hat, and its
spaniel-style ears. He’s still a little slow in coming to me,
but he does always come, eventually. There are moments,
like the one a couple of hours ago, on the heath a mile
from home, where I was almost passing myself off as a
proper dog owner. The illusion was only shattered when
Henry began having a ‘conversation’ with two Border col-
lies and a red setter. Was it the item of mod clothing my
dad calls ‘YOUR NANCY BOY COAT’ that blew it for
me? Or my shout of ‘Hey! Leave those ever-so-slightly
bigger dogs alone!’? Weighty arguments, no doubt, exist for

2 May 2009
Henry has had an accident. Whilst staying at Hannah’s par-
ents’ house last week, he broke into their kitchen bin,
despite the fact that, as a precaution for precisely such an
eventuality, said rubbish receptacle had been weighted
down with two bricks. During this adventure, Henry man-
aged to eat 2.5kg of old food, tissues, cellophane wrappers,
and some leftover Chinese ribs. This has resulted in what
Hannah has described as ‘a blockage’, leading to an opera-
tion, and stitches. Henry is currently being carried around
the office in one of the blue woven plastic bags customers
pick up near the entrance of IKEA, though Hannah assures
me that this does not stop him from attempting to jump up
and ‘go for the ties’ of executive male members of staff.

19 May 2009
Am I now officially hound-friendly? It would seem so. This
afternoon I walked, Henryless, between the Norfolk villages
of Castle Acre and West Acre. After a mile or two, I passed
by a welcoming-looking pub, with ‘Don’t Spook the Horse:
7.30’ written on a sign outside. I couldn’t work out if this
served as an advertisement for some live music, or just as a
general instruction for the welfare of passers-by. No horse
emerged, but a small brown mongrel – the kind of dog a
person finds himself wanting to call ‘Rascal’ – did, then fol-
lowed me down a lane leading to a ford. I attempted to shoo
him back, but he seemed quite determined, and continued
to walk a few paces ahead of me. There was a presumption
about this on his part, as if this had all been prearranged by
a third party: his dark lord and master, perhaps, who lived in
a cave at the end of the footpath he now led me along.

This point in my seven-mile route involved a number of
stiles, twists, turns and cross-field paths, but Rascal, keeping
pace ahead of me, seemed familiar with it, and needed no
instruction. I passed another couple of ramblers, and, if they
could sense that he was not my dog, they didn’t show it. But
I worried. What if we passed Jim and Mary from the village,
for example, and they wanted to know what the strange
bloke with the beard was doing with the Brian the
Landlord’s dog?

What if Jim was a nosy type, known for his interfering
ways and bad poetry in the Parish newsletter? I could imag-
ine the accusations of theft, the subsequent trial, with
Hannah standing on the witness stand, a betrayed look
across her face, confessing, ‘Well, I do admit I thought it was
a bit strange when he told me he was into borrowing dogs,
but I thought he seemed trustworthy enough. Now, though,
I realise I was naïve.’

Rascal and I must have walked a full mile before he
turned around and scuttled home, in a manner no more
explicable than the one in which he’d joined me. After
that, I only saw two more dogs on the walk, and neither of
them followed me, though one, a Briard, did leap up and put
its muddy paws on my chest. This seemed a more familiar
canine perception of me: not as companion, but as the kind
of sap who would smile, chuckle nervously and not com-
plain if you got a big load of crud all over his Tom Petty and
the Heartbreakers t-shirt.



Buy Under The Paw at amazon with 40% off!

Pre-order Talk To The Tail!

Guest Cat Of The Month For November: Boris Bratby


Borisola, Kitty Malone, Il Gatto. (the rest really are too embarrassing).

6 – going on 50.

Richard and Annette

Damn you, door!

Favourite Habits?
Repeatedly cuffing Annette’s ankles with the flat of my paw. This is the thing with humans – they CAN be trained (it’s a myth to say they’re basically unsociable) but you have to let them know their boundaries. Actually, they prefer it, in the long run.

Rubbing the paintwork on the walls either side of the bedroom door with my paws. I’ve discovered that if you do this, you can make the door open automatically. But it takes perseverance; you may have to keep at it for upwards of an hour.

Springing onto the dinner table from a standing start – especially if there are guests present. They’re sometimes a bit startled: one minute, they’re eating cassoulet; next they’re eye-to-eye across the plate with the head of the household. This is usually a good moment to claim my statutory allocation of their main course, though I find it tastes better once I’ve knocked it about on the floor a bit (doesn’t everything?) Richard and Annette conceal their respect for my skills under a show of apologising – but you can see in their eyes that they’re pretty damn’ impressed. Heck, everyone’s impressed. Why pretend otherwise?

What constitutes a perfect evening for you?
About 6pm I wake up from my 5-hr nap and shout at whichever human is closest until dinner is served. Down in one, out the back door for a quick patrol of the territory, and then back to sleep until the humans prepare their own food. I talk them through the preparation process, ramming their legs at key points to keep them on track. Then it’s served: so straight onto the table and chin down on the rim of Annette’s plate until she remembers to give me my portion.

After dinner, another patrol (and if I’m lucky, a moth or two as a chaser), and then it depends, really. If the humans have performed up to standard, I may join them on the sofa or in front of the fire, maybe even – as a special treat – on their laps. Perhaps a few games of “catch the shoelace” – it’s important to keep their minds stimulated. If not, I’m back off upstairs, leaving them to stew in their own inadequacy in front of the flickering idiot-box.

Favourite Food?
Tuna. Sweetcorn. Tuna and sweetcorn. In no particular order.

Defining moment of your life?
It would have to be the occasion when I saw a meddling vet off with a single commanding hiss. Yes young lady – I will permit you to clip my back claws, but don’t push your luck. “Big boy, isn’t he?” Madam, you’d better believe it.

Any Enemies?
The tabby who patrols behind our house in Lichfield. He’s got a good territory, I’ll give him that: it’s a grassy area called Prince Rupert’s Mound, and it’s a Scheduled Ancient Monument. But if he puts a paw on my patch again, his ears are going to be a scheduled ancient monument, savvy? JUST WATCH IT, MATE.

If you could do one thing to make the world a better place for felines, what would it be?
Lose the cars. Four legs good; four wheels bad.

If you could meet a celebrity who would it be and why?
As a Lichfield cat in a house full of writers, my hero is of course Hodge, Dr Samuel Johnson’s legendary cat, mentor and (I believe) co-author. Hodge dined nightly on oysters and the great Doctor himself fetched his dinner from Smithfield Market. I’d be flattered to be remembered by a statue like this one:

I was deeply honoured when Twitter’s @drsamueljohnson recently told me that “Young Boris, you seem to display the Character of my dear Hodge & Master Eric CARTMAN in equal Measure”

Which one of the cats in Under The Paw would you like to be stuck in a lift with?
I think The Ponce (Monty). Being any human’s first (serious, I mean) cat is a big responsibility, and he really sounds like he knew what he was doing. We could compare notes; plus I, too, offer a personalised fuzzy wake-up service.


I prefer to draw a veil over my early years. You know the story; I was raised on the streets. No igloo beds and James Wellbeloved Complete Kitten Food in the badlands of South Birmingham: you did what you had to, and only the tough survived. I made mistakes, did a few things I regret. Heck, we all did. But I make no apology. It made me the cat I am today: 100% full grown Tom (well, 98% since that strange episode at the shelter…but let’s not dwell on that).

There were only two ways it could end. I guess I got lucky – though it didn’t seem like it at the time. They caught me, took me in, called me (I can still hardly believe this ) “Splodge”. Once again: “Splodge”. Seriously. Because I’ve got a black “splodge” on my back. Bet they won a Booker for that one.

They stuck a collar on me and gave me to a family. A family…with children. Look, people – children: they shriek, they chase, they put sticky fingers on fur. Have YOU ever tried licking Sunny D off your tail? I don’t care what you told the Cats Protection League: it’s not “anti-social” to try and instil a bit of ten-clawed discipline in the little rats. Whatever: it was back in the slammer for me – South Birmingham CPL Adoption Centre.

Then Richard and Annette rocked up. I’ve seen better material, but I reckoned I could work with it. They wanted a small, well-socialised cat with no health problems. Ha! Like it was up to them. The keeper opened the pen door, and I moved straight in with the full “nice kitty” act – the purring, the lifted tail, the head-rubs. Apparently Richard’s first thought was “Cats That Look Like Hitler”. Annette’s was “I Can Haz Cheezburger”. Both agreed that I looked a lot more like a Boris than a Splodge. Back – as they say – of the basket.

I now live with them in Lichfield, Staffordshire, assisting with their various literary projects. I enjoy lengthy naps, stealing food and controlling the moth population, and divide my time between Richard’s pillow, the back of the sofa, and (particularly when deadlines are looming) the space between Annette’s keyboard and VDU.

Friday 29 October 2010

Oh, Whistle And There’s A Vague Chance I Might Come To You M’lad: The Diary Of An Amateur Dog Walker (Part One)

The first part of an extract from my book, Talk To The Tail!

14 January 2009

Today Dee and I went for a walk with Hannah, Dee’s friend
from work who has just moved in up the road, and Hannah’s
cocker spaniel, Henry. ‘Hannah might even let you walk
him, if you’re lucky,’ Dee told me, as we waited outside
Hannah’s front door. It’s been a few years since my regular
walks with Nouster, the Border collie owned by our former
neighbours Richard and Kath, so I was thrilled at the
prospect of having a new dog in my life.

‘Really?’ I asked. ‘Are you sure?’

‘Are you... panting?’ said Dee.

No,’ I protested. ‘I’m just a bit wheezy, what with the

The four of us set off down the hill, leading out of East
Mendleham past the old fairground site, Henry pulling
Hannah along at quite a pace. ‘He’s not fully trained yet,’
she said breathlessly. Henry is a cocker spaniel, but he is so
big he is usually mistaken for the next breed up: a springer.
He is black with white splotches and has mischievous, red
eyes that seem to glow even redder as he makes a dastardly
beeline for ducks and pedestrians carrying freshly-wrapped

‘You’ll be okay,’ Hannah said. ‘He likes men.’ One of the
men Henry showed a liking for on this occasion was a hobo,
living in the woods beside the heath, where the river cuts
in, about a mile from East Mendleham. ‘Henry! Come back
here! No! Leave that man alone!’ Hannah shouted. She
and Dee seemed nervous, but I was impressed as the hobo
came out from beneath his tarpaulin to see what all the fuss
was about. His weather-beaten hawkish face looked star-
tled, with no evidence of the usual jumpy smile of the
person who gets accosted by a dog in the British country-

East Mendleham is not without its colourful transients.
The man with the overalls and the David Crosby hair who
sits beside the town lake all day and reads nineteenth-cen-
tury French literature has long intrigued me, and I suppose,
if you like that kind of thing and don’t have to make a
living from writing in the nearby vicinity, the old man with
the badge-covered blazer who shouted, ‘Fucking come on
then! Let’s be having you!’ at the town ducks every morning
has his pluses. But, whatever terrible tragedy had put you
there, however down on your luck you were, choosing to
bed down in the middle of the countryside was something
else: the act of an iconoclast.

I didn’t want to get too close and disturb the hobo’s busi-
ness – and he definitely looked like he had some– but I
found myself peering over, curious about the paraphernalia
of his life. What were those papers next to his campfire? Old
pamphlets of some kind, containing the wisdom of previous
hobos from many years before? Or just his special Hobo’s
Diary? Actually, getting a bit closer, they looked more like
the last couple of issues of GQmagazine. But what did he
cook? What did he spend his days thinking about? Did his
voice taste odd in his mouth on the rare occasions he com-
municated with another human being? Hannah and Dee
looked relieved as Henry trotted back over to us, but I was
thinking forward to my and Henry’s mutual future, uncov-
ering the eccentrics of the East Anglian countryside.

I took Henry’s lead as we turned for home. He was smaller
than Nouster had been, but I was struck by his strength, par-
ticularly when he found the rotting ribcage of some sizeable
road kill on the verge of the road, and decided he would like
nothing better than to wriggle on top of it on his back. This
kind of animal communion with the deceased was new to
me. My cats have killed plenty of creatures, of course, but
after a couple of scissor kicks and a bit of juggling they usu-
ally lose interest in their rodent victims. You might find
them neatly severing a shrew’s spleen and placing it on the
carpet outside my bedroom, as a child might leave the crusts
from his bread for a parent to clean away, but you wouldn’t
have caught them using it as a pillow later.

‘Oh, yes, that’s happened before,’ said Hannah. ‘He sat on
a dead pheasant the other day.’

Before heading home, we stopped at the local pub, and I
congratulated Henry on being a good boy– I wasn’t actually
sure that he hadbeen a good boy, not being aware of the previous standards set, but it felt like the polite thing to
do– and ordered us each a pint of Guinness and a packet of
cheese and onion crisps. I was about to dip my hand into the
latter, but remembered just in time to go the bathroom, lest
I fatally mix rotting ribcage with cheese powder, vegetable
oil and salt. As we drank, Hannah and Dee taught me some
spaniel terms, from the spaniel-heavy office of the horse
charity where the two of them work. A tail, apparently, was
known by insiders as ‘wagstick’. The curly scribble of hair on
Henry’s dome was officially termed his ‘dogwig’.
‘It’s like I told Tom after I’d first met Henry,’ Dee said to
Hannah. ‘ “You’ll love this spaniel. He’s almost exactly like
you, only he’s a spaniel.’”

It wasn’t the first time I’d been compared to a dog, and in
this specific instance, I could see the physical evidence on
hand. Since my mid-teens, I’ve had dark, thickish curly
hair. Over recent years this has receded slightly at the tem-
ples, leaving something of a fluffy peninsula at the front; I
can assure you that it’s one hundred per cent natural, but I
suppose, in spaniel vernacular, you could call it my own sort
of dogwig. I was fine with that. Still, considering that the
observation had come from the person I spent most of my
time with, and who had also just used the term ‘simpleton’
and ‘galumphing’ in describing Henry, I could not help
dwelling on it slightly, as we walked home.

23 January 2009

I hear from Hannah that, on his walks, as he passes The
Upside Down House, Henry has been pulling her towards
the front door. I could hardly believe this could be the case,
as he’d only been to visit us once, but as I brought him
down to my car, from Hannah’s house, before setting off on our first walk together alone, he seemed to know where he
was going. I decided not to let him in, for fear of alienating
the cats, who already seem to sense something is not quite

Henry, I’m told, can get a little bit antsy in the car when
traffic is slow, tending to howl whenever Hannah’s
speedometer slips below 30 mph: a kind of dog version of
the movie Speed, but with a spaniel instead of a bomb and a
Nissan Micra in place of a bus. If so, he was on good behav-
iour, only beginning to whimper impatiently as we arrived at
our destination, Dunwich, on the Suffolk coast.

One of my New Year’s resolutions four weeks ago was to
try to complete fifty-two East Anglian walks of four miles or
above, in an attempt to get to know my local area better, an
endeavour for which I have purchased a deer stalker hat,
and grown a winter beard. They say the most important
part of the body to keep warm is the head and this hat is so
absurdly furry, I sense that it doesn’t actually matter what
I’m wearing, I’ll still be warm in it. This is, however, a
theory I’m somewhat reluctant to test out in full.

One thing I’ve noticed about being a lone bearded man,
walking through remote countryside donning novelty head-
wear, is that you are not always automatically viewed as a
wholesome figure. You can tell from the shift of your fellow
walkers’ gaze as you pass them. Add a dog to the equation,
however, and everything changes. As I walked Henry along
the beach at Dunwich, everyone I saw stopped to exchange
hearty hellos with us. ‘Is he a springer?’ a fellow spaniel-
walker, a ruddy-cheeked, blonde lady in wellies and a
Barbour jacket, asked.

‘No, just a big cocker,’ I replied, with a certain smug sense
of assurance.

That I can now utter phrases like ‘big cocker’ without
feeling the need to giggle is perhaps a measure of how far
I’ve already come in my short time as a dog walker.
Nevertheless, I remained nervous about further questioning
from the Barbour-jacketed lady. What if she asked me about
what products I used to clean him, or where I got his lead?
I am unconvinced that my bluffing would be able to with-
stand such interrogation. I am also aware that when I call
Henry, and put him back on his lead, I am not just doing so
to prevent problematic encounters between him and other
dogs; I am also doing so to prevent scenarios where, by being
forced to make conversation with doggy types, my phoni-
ness will be revealed.

I’m usually pretty good at getting Henry re-leashed, and
he does always tend to scuttle back to me the second or
third time I call him, but upon spotting a Labrador on the
woodland track back from the Dunwich marshes, I acted a
little slowly. There was a small barking exchange, and the
Lab’s owner and I exchanged a nervous glance, before the
Lab wibbled off, visibly upset, and Henry scuttled back to
me. I noticed three main thoughts going round my head as
I wandered back to the car:

1. ‘I probably would have handled that better if I hadn’t
owned cats instead of dogs my whole life.’
2. ‘I must watch out for Henry’s bullying streak.’
3. ‘My dog kicked another, bigger dog’s butt. Awesome!’

12 February 2009

Hannah and I seem to have come to a happy arrangement
very easily, regarding Henry’s walks. When Hannah is away
on a business trip, I will do my best to walk Henry, and canpretty much walk him any other time I please, so long as I
give her at least a day’s notice. Hannah seems grateful for
this, which is odd, since it’s she who’s doing me the larger
favour. The bonuses are twofold: I get a quick-fix confi-
dence boost for when my cats are treating me even more
like a doormat than usual, and dog ownership without the
hassle– or so it would seem. Yes, I have to pick up Henry’s
excrement, and reward him with biscuits and chews, but I
do not have to clean Henry, buy food for him, take care of
his vet bills, or listen to his whining at night. As someone
who’s toyed with the idea of getting a dog recently, I also am
getting perfect trial run for dog ownership.

This is not to say that I am able to keep my time with
Henry completely compartmentalized from the rest of my
life. During today’s walk near Burnham Overy Staithe, on
the North Norfolk coast, Henry jumped into the river sev-
eral times, and smelled distinctly ripe in the car afterwards.
Later, having dropped Henry home, I collected my friends
Steve and Sue from the train station. Our subsequent con-
versation is the second time I have apologized for the fact
that my car ‘smells of spaniel’.



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Tuesday 26 October 2010

EXTRA Guest Cat Of The Month For October: Fu Manchu

Fu Manchu

Fu, Fooey, Pooey, Lemony, Puss Puss and Get Down


Emma Clayton (author of The Roar and The Whisper), Jake and Molly.

‘Ermm, what are you doing? Can I do it?’
(‘I’m sorry Fu, but you can’t do it, because you don’t have any hands.’)
‘Then, if it’s alright with you, I’ll lie in the middle of it.’

Favourite Habits?
Keeping an eye on the men who visit our house. If I think they’re a bit iffy, I pee on their things or follow them around to make sure they don’t nick stuff.

What constitutes a perfect evening for you?
Well, I would like to spend my evenings out, prowling my kingdom like a normal cat, but unfortunately I’m forced to stay at home to protect Molly from her shady looking boyfriend. I employ a range of strategies: I either create a cat barrier by wedging myself between them, pin him down so he can’t move, or sit on his head so he doesn’t forget whose house he’s in. Sometimes Molly asks me not to do this, which hurts my feelings because I adore her. I’m just trying to make sure she’s safe.

Favourite Food?
Not what I’m given.

Defining moment of your life?
I had a very frightening and painful experience when I was a young cat.

I was a shy kitten, but I became friendly and gregarious after realising how much I enjoyed playing games. My favourite game was this: I’d sit on Emma’s knee, facing her. She’d throw a ping-pong ball over my head and I’d leap, back flip like a dolphin, catch it with my mouth or paws and bring it back so we could do it again. We used to have such fun. I also loved abseiling the curtains and climbing trees like a monkey.

But when I was two, I was shot out of a tree and nearly died. I managed to crawl home with broken hips and a punctured lung. Emma found me under Molly’s bed and ran with me to the vets. I had to stay there for a long time. When I came home I was very sad. My hips hurt, I couldn’t play games and I was too scared to go outside. It took a long time for me to recover, but I’m happier now. We live in a nicer place where people don’t shoot cats. Molly rides horses and she’s taught me to show jump over piles of books and riding crops. And I have my teddy bear; a really stupid black cat called Fozzie, who follows me around and stares at walls.

My teddy bear, Fozzie (other names: Fat Pants and The Barometer Cat)

Any Enemies?
Human beings who think that just because I’m small and furry I can be shot at like a tin can. I don’t understand them.

If you could meet a celebrity who would it be and why?
Stephen Hawking. I watched Universe a couple of weeks ago. All that star stuff is fascinating.

Which one of the cats in Under The Paw would you like to be stuck in a lift with?
Janet. Janet reminds me of my teddy bear. He would probably make quite a nice beanbag while I’m waiting for the lift to be fixed.

Emma’s first cat, when she was a child, was a Siamese called Lychee, who was very clever and gentle. When she’d grown up, she decided she wanted another cat like Lychee, but didn’t want to buy a show type, pedigree Siamese, because she was worried it might be born without a liver (a friend of hers had owned such a kitten and it had suffered very much before it was put to sleep). So Emma looked for me. I’m three-quarter Traditional Siamese and one-quarter Farm Cat. I came from a country house near Woodstock, in Oxfordshire. My mother was a tabby point, Traditional Siamese, which is why I have such lovely fur and paws. My father was this big, hard thing that lurked in the shadow of the kitchen table. For my first twelve weeks I lived in a laundry room with a litter of Retriever puppies, which may be the reason I used to be shy. For ten days after I arrived in my new home, I was a pair of quivering bat ears behind the sofa.

After I was shot, we moved to Leamington Spa, which was a nicer place for cats and children. For a while I lived next to the river and we had a woodpecker in the garden. But there were quite a lot of scrappy cats there, so it wasn’t that great in the end. Now we live in a quiet corner of the town. Fozzie and I like it here, because there’s just one silly cat over the road. Emma writes books for young humans, so I spend my days sleeping near her and waiting for Molly to come home.

For more info on Fu's human, Emma, and her books, please visit