Monday 28 April 2014

Guest Cat Of The Week: Dolly


Dollycat - apparently people might not realise I'm part of the master race.
Squeaky - highly offensive, my miaow is lady-like and sounds nothing like an old door.
Scaredy cat - another lie, I'm actually running to the human to provide her with protection.
Princess - This isn't a nickname, it's my birthright.

Theme tune?
I avoid music wherever possible, it only encourages her to sing. And that's more painful than a room full of wailing cats.

Five on 15th April (Gifts and cards will gratefully received for up to 30 days after the big day).

You mean who do I own? My human is the bookshop blogger, Erica. She's a little obsessed and quite frankly the large number of books piling up around the house from all her travels is getting ridiculous. At least, that's what I tell her. Secretly I think they're great fun for hiding behind, climbing over and generally smothering in fur. 
Also, when she's reading a book she doesn't move about too much so I get to enjoy plenty of undisturbed lap time.

Brief biography?
Erica rescued me from the Cats Protection League last summer. She'd spent an entire day meeting every single resident there so I knew she'd be a good human to move in with and made sure I told her so the moment we met. We don't talk about my life before or during that dark time, but I'm very grateful to the charity for introducing me to such a pushover.

Who needs a catchphrase when you've eyes as beautiful and winning as mine?

Favourite habits?
Accidentally forgetting to retract my claws when swatting my human awake at 6am. She pretends she doesn't find it cute but as she always gets up to feed me I know otherwise.

What constitutes a perfect evening for you?
Lap. Chin rub. Adoration. Sleep. Repeat. (My human is well trained.)

Favourite food?
My delicate stomach means I have to watch what I eat but any expensive biscuits generally go down a treat.

Defining moment of your life?
Convincing her we should move house because there are too many scary cats in the neighbourhood. That was the day I realised she is my slave.

Any enemies?
Cats. Every last one of them, especially Pointy Face from four doors down who keeps trying to claim my garden. Oh, and mice, and birds, and frogs, and anything non-human really. Wildlife's a bit too wild for my liking.

If you could do one thing to make the world a better place for felines what would it be?
Mandatory lap time between the hours of 8am and midnight. And chin rubs at least five times a day.

Which celebrity would you most like to meet and why?
Marlon Brando would obviously be the ultimate for a discerning cat such as myself - have you seen the photo of the cat with him and the typwriter? Swoon. But my human's not convinced, so I suppose I could settle for any cat-adoring author if I have to.

Which of the cats in Under The Paw and Talk To The Tail, and The Good, The Bad And The Furry would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?
Does it have to be a cat? I don't like cats. They're scary and they pick on me, er, I mean, don't show me the respect I deserve. Can't I have Tom? Oh, okay then, I guess Roscoe could be fun. But not Ralph, I reckon he'd be too threatened by my beauty.

Erica is a bookshop stalker. She travels the country to 'meet' bookshops, which she then writes about in a weekly blog The Bookshop Around The Corner:

Friday 25 April 2014

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About @MYSADCAT But Were Too Afraid To Ask...

Who is @MYSADCAT and where can I find out more about him?

@MYSADCAT is my eighteen (nineteen in October!) year-old cat, The Bear. He spends his days on the floors, bookshelves, chairs and freshly washed towels of my house here in South Devon, UK, with three other cats of significantly lesser intellect: Ralph (tabby, narcissistic, aka MYSMUGCAT), Roscoe (black and white, a tomboy, a bit like a living cartoon) and Shipley (black, sinewy, foulmouthed). He is one of the stars - the star, many would argue - of my fifth and sixth books, Under The Paw and Talk To The Tail, and my latest one, The Good, The Bad And The Furry. The best to place to start reading his life story is Under The Paw. There is also a potted history of it of sorts in this This Guardian column I wrote in December 2012.

What made you set up the @MYSADCAT Twitter account?
Almost everyone who meets The Bear in real life (and in Internet life) comments on the amazing soulfulness of his eyes, and he spends a lot of time following me around the house, looking directly into my own eyes, as if he has just heard about all the sadness in the world and is wondering what I can do about it. I had the idea a few years ago of a Twitter account where I would list all the things The Bear was sad about, but I prevaricated over it for various reasons - being shy about the idea of showing strangers bits of the inside of my house, respecting The Bear's privacy, not wanting to fritter away valuable writing time on the Internet, not wanting see cruel comments about The Bear, or have anonymous  nutcases send me pictures of dead cats (this is the Internet, which means that this stuff does happen, although it's soon shrugged off, mercifully, with the help of the great love 99.9% of The Bear's followers show for him). But then I changed my mind, and decided it could be quite creative, both comically and photographically. So many people had already responded to the melancholy and magic of The Bear's character after reading my books and asked to see him, I thought it would be nice to share him and that if it were up to him, he would probably have approved. After a fairly troubled early life, he'd probably be pleased to know he was being widely adored in his later years: the years when he has really come into his own, in terms of both looks and personality.

How on earth have you managed to amass so many photos of him?
I started taking a lot of photos of The Bear around New Year 2013, when I began trying to get a new cover shot for my book to send to my new publishers, Little Brown. The original paperbacks of Under The Paw and Talk To The Tail books, which came out via Simon And Schuster, featured posh actor kittens who I'd never met, and didn't really sum up the spirit of the books at all, something I wrote about here. By taking lots of shots of The Bear and starting the @MYSADCAT project I hoped I might be able to redress the balance, not only getting him on the cover of the new book (done!), but perhaps eventually prompting my previous publishers to see sense - and the enormous love people have for his beautiful, somewhat human, face - and reissue Under The Paw and Talk To The Tail with him on the cover (also done!). On a personal level, having got an old, better quality camera working again, I wanted my own, half-decent photographic record of what an incredible, one-in-a-billion cat The Bear is, and what a great friend he's been, through thick and thin - something (albeit much, much more amateurishly) in the spirit of the wonderful book Ernie: A Photographer's Memoir by Tony Mendoza. That said, some of the photos stretch back much further. 

Are you doing this because you're bored?

No. I think the last time I was bored was in the summer of 1983, when my friend Adam was going to come to my house to play snooker, but got nits and stayed at home. My head is so full of so much stuff so much of the time (not including nits) and I'm so constantly, desperately in need of more time for all the stuff I want to do, all the stuff I want to read, all the stuff I want to write, every day that I sometimes crave a taste of boredom, just for a nostalgic, sweet memory of what it actually felt like. I knew I'd want to do MYSADCAT properly, if I did it, and it would take up a fair bit more time, which was another reason why I hesitated about it. At the same time as tweeting on behalf of The Bear and Ralph, I've written a book and a quarter, moved house twice, and fulfilled various monthly journalistic obligations. Much as it might look like it through the vastly reductive prism the Internet makes of strangers' lives, I do not just sit about all day, hanging around with my cats and taking photos of them. I enjoy doing @MYSADCAT, but, if I'm totally honest, it's not for the simple pleasure of it; I also have an agenda. I want my books to find their audience, because I put a lot of hard work into each of them. The publishing industry is struggling these days, and I'd been having a very hard time, financially speaking, when I set @MYSADCAT up. I really only see it as a portal to the books, where the proper stuff is, but at least it's a fun one to operate.

Does he mind you taking all those photos?
He doesn't appear to. His habit of looking directly at me means he is also often looking directly at the camera, and he's very happy to pose. Sometimes it feels a bit like he... knows. I don't stalk him with it all day. I don't want to piss him off, or keep waking him up from his many naps, so I take a series of different shots at times in the day when he's alert and friendly and I have a free moment or three. I do keep the camera handy, though, just in case I happen to find him doing any weird and mystical stuff, which he often does. 

There is a dead rodent in that photo! Did The Bear kill it?
No, The Bear is a lifelong pacifist. He would like, if he could, to be a friend to all rodents, and read them poetry. My other cats, however, are homicidal maniacs.

Why is the wallpaper in the background in some of the photos so old-looking and great?
Because I chose it and I'm not bad in some ways, if you like those kind of people who do things like that.

Why is the wallpaper in the background in some of the photos so old-looking and rubbish?
I don't know. Why was your mum so convincing in her role as Chewbacca in the original Star Wars trilogy? Life is full of unanswerable questions.

Are your opinions The Bear's opinions?
Sometimes, but definitely not always. We agree on a few things. We both obsess over books. We're both fairly old-fashioned, and worried about the Americanisation of everyday British dialogue. But he's far more serious than me, with far less tolerance for low culture. We both like melancholic country rock. He adores Leonard Cohen and The Smiths. I quite like both of them but prefer 70s disco, British acid folk and good time 70s rock. He can't get on at all with the first Foreigner album, whereas I believe it to be a snobbishly overlooked classic rock masterpiece, and arguably the best album of 1977. I like comic fiction and big, character-based American novels, but he prefers magic realism and anything with a gothic element. We both love historical fiction and epic, wordy HBO TV dramas such as The Wire and Deadwood. All in all, we can find plenty of common ground, but if we were out in a pub together, talking to some cool people about the stuff we like, he'd probably be a bit embarrassed by me.

How does The Bear feel about Internet trolls?

He has been known to respond to the odd one, out of sheer grammar pedantry, but he mostly ignores them. He knows it's best not to feed a troll - something he's learned from his real life troll, Shipley.

Is he REALLY sad?
The Bear is sad only in the sense that anyone of high intelligence is prone to melancholy and overanalysis. On every other level, he appears to be by far the happiest he's ever been in his life - sometimes in a very intense and clingy way. He and I moved to Devon just over a month ago, and he's been particularly bright-eyed and buoyant since arriving in the South Hams countryside.  He was rather troubled, and not a little bit scheming, when I first met him, but over the years has mellowed, and would, I suspect, dearly like to be my only cat, so he could sit next to me for a large portion of every day, undisturbed by low lives and wannabes. No other cat I've ever known can purr for such sustained, lengthy periods and, because of his age, he does get a few more treats than the other cats who live here, though they're all spoilt rotten. Of course, he ultimately believes that the planet is on a fast-track to oblivion, but that's a separate issue, which he is able to compartmentalise, and in terms of his own day to day existence, he seems to be having a great time.

Read the first part of The Bear's life story in Under The Paw

Read the second part of The Bear's life story in Talk To The Tail

Read the latest part in The Good, The Bad And The Furry

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Reader Of The Week

Marie (from Hannah - - via Twitter)