September 7th 2007 5:23 am
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On December 7th 2001 our 15 year old cat Marmite was hospitalized and the veterinarian diagnosed her problem as a kidney infection caused by a curled nail of the forelimb that had overgrown incising the footpad, the problem had been unnoticed for some time. Senility had made Marmite more susceptible to the infection and after two days in hospital she succumbed to the infection and died. The next day she was interred on a hillside overlooking Davao City. After the burial, on returning home, I was looking through her things; in 15 years she seemed to have accumulated quite a collection. Amongst her belongings I found a tattered exercise book, her journal. I was surprised and immediately took it and began to read. It was written in the language of the English domestic cat and a translation is given below. Lady Ridley-Dash
Paw-prints: The Memoirs of a Feline Globe-Trotter
by Marmite Ridley-Dash
Chapter 1 - Life in England I am a female, neutered because that is the norm for female cats in England, tortoiseshell domestic cat. I was born in 1986 in Wisbech, Cambridgeshire of stray parentage and as a small kitten I was taken to the local cat's home in Wisbech. After a stay of only a few days a family, a dad called John, a mum called Anne and two children called Alison and Michael, came looking for a family pet. The boy, Michael, chose me and, after they received instruction from the lady running the cat's home about how to look after me, we left in the dad's car for my new home. The first thing that happened, well the second thing really as the first thing was that they fed me some lovely cat food called Kitticat, was that the boy gave me a name. He named me Marmite because of my dark brown coat (for those of you who cannot see the connection - Marmite is a bottled yeast extract popular as a spread on bread with English children); well fancy being named after a sticky gooey brown sandwich spread - it's a cat's life. My new home was comfortable and I was well fed, the only problem was that the family was out all day so it was a bit lonely. The dad was working in London and he left early on Monday morning and didn't usually get back till Friday evening. The mum worked as a dental nurse in the town and the two children were both at school. The mum would feed me before she drove to work taking the boy, Michael, with her. A bit later the girl, Alison, would walk to the local college. I used to walk with her until we got to the main road where she would cross and go into the college. I sat on the pavement watching till she disappeared inside and then I had to amuse myself until the evening when they would all come home. It didn't take me long to find a nice place to stay during the day. Opposite the college near to the end of the lane to my house was an old people's home. The old ladies here were always glad to see me, they fed me titbits, I sat on their laps and they made a fuss of me. When the weather was bad they always allowed me inside the house and when it was fine we could sit outside in the shaded garden. This became my daytime home, later my family found out that I was spending my time there but they didn't seem to mind. I always left in good time to get home to welcome the first arrivals. So my early life settled into a weekday routine of visiting the old people and my weekends usually consisted of sitting on the sofa with the dad relaxing as he watched TV.
The first warning of the changes that would occur in our lives was one weekend when the dad didn't come home. I hadn't been concentrating when they had been talking before or I would have found out that he had got a new job in somewhere called Bahrain. The mum took me to the vet's surgery although there wasn't anything wrong with me “ strange I thought. I listened carefully as she talked to the veterinarian. It seemed the whole family was moving and the mum was enquiring whether or not it would be alright for me to go with them. The vet told her that a young cat like myself should have no trouble acclimatising to the tropics and any trauma would be less than the trauma of adjusting to a new environment. That was good news I wouldn't have to start looking for a new home yet. The bad side was the vet checked me over thoroughly and he gave me some injections even though he told the mum I was in fine shape and certainly fit to travel. I remember he gave the mum some pills for me to take when we started the journey. That evening the dad phoned and I listened carefully to what they were talking about, well it affected me and I didn't want any more surprises.c Anyway it seemed that the dad had been looking for a new house in Bahrain and now he had found the right one and it was time for the family to go and join him. The girl, Alison, wasn't going to stay in Bahrain but would return to our house and continue going to college here. That's good news I thought because I can always come back here to live if I don't like the new place. Life in the house became frantic with suitcase packing. The mum went out and bought a very comfortable cat box for me to travel in and I was induced, by tempting me with cat treats, to try it out. Then the long awaited day arrived. The mum, thinking she was being clever, crushed one of the travel tablets and mixed it with my breakfast I knew but, being a obedient cat, I ate it without making any protest. My but I felt sleepy “ not like me in the morning. I thought I'll settle down in that nice new cat box and have a good sleep..
Chapter 2“ My Arabian Excursion. I awoke with a start, there was a droning in my ears and it was very dark. Where was I? I had the feeling that I was moving but as my eyes became accustomed to the darkness I could see nothing moving around me. Then there was some bumping, the movement stopped and a door opened flooding the area with light. Some men, dressed as I had never seen men dressed before, came in and started moving the boxes and cases that surrounded me. They placed them onto the end of a moving path just outside the door and the boxes and cases moved away out of my sight. Strange I thought when a man picked up my box and put it with the cases and slowly I was carried away from the doorway. The air smelled and tasted different, and I was a bit bewildered as I slowly travelled along from room to room in semi-darkness “ then suddenly my box pushed through a rubber curtain into lightness and into an amazing place. I sat up and looked around, I was still moving but now my box was slowly moving around in a big room with many people looking at me. I heard a voice I recognised, it was Michael, "There she is!" and to my delight I saw my family. I was still a bit sleepy but with the family around me, especially the dad who I hadn't seen for a month, I soon felt better. We walked to the dad's new car, a big Range Rover like the Queen drives, I felt like a princess in it. Soon we were at the new house, it was dark so I didn't see much of the garden, I would have to wait for that experience as I was not allowed to go out for the next three days but that wasn't too bad as the new house, the new furniture and especially the new house occupants I'm told that they are called lizards and geckos “ were great fun to catch and eat.c However after my three days of acclimatisation as the dad called it, the great outdoors ceremony took place. The family were all excited about my going out so I felt I should join in with the general mood and, when the door was finally opened, I bounded out with feline abandon. I got down the steps from the veranda before I realised that something was very wrong, very different, I was having difficulty breathing, the air was so hot, the concrete under my paws was so hot, why, everything was so hot, the sun was literally blazing on me. I froze, if that is possible in that heat, so I turned and quite slowly and deliberately walked back into the air-conditioned house. I would leave going outside for another day. c Slowly over the next few weeks my excursions into the garden, and beyond into the semi-desert surrounding the compound, lasted longer as I got used to the strange heat of the tropics. I befriended another cat, a beautiful white Egyptian queen, who, quite unintentionally, had had an encounter with a local tom and. As is the way of such things, was now heavily laden with kittens. I told her about my family and, as she was homeless, I suggested she should hang about the back door of our house and the mum would always give her some food. This she did and before very many days had passed she appeared there with two little kittens, a black male who was very shy and wild and a beautiful white female kitten almost the exact image of her mother “ a true Egyptian princess. This was to be my first meeting with Snowy who was to be my companion for the rest of her life. The family were entranced by the baby white kitten and it wasn't very long before it had moved into the house as its newest member. Snowy and I, although we had different favourite places in the house and outside, became firm friends and spent a great deal of time together. Life in Bahrain settled into a routine of sleeping, eating, with short excursions outside to attend to those bodily functions that are best left un-described.c One day my breakfast came as usual but I recognised that strange taste. It brought back memories from so long ago when I first came to this place that I now thought of as home. I looked over towards Snowy who was eating without her usual gusto. I thought she can taste it too Here we go again .
Chapter 3 “ Visiting the Island of Love Well here we are at another new house. Its strange because only the dad is with us here, and the dad's mother lives next door. The dad's mother, Sylvia, also has two cats Pamuk and Hilfie. Hilfie is a little black and white female and Pamuk, a neutered tom, is a pure whit Ankara swimming cat. This is an ideal time to introduce our new vet Turker. The dad's mother met Turker when she first came to live in Cyprus in 1971, when the dad's father died she left the old house and moved to a small semi-detached house in the countryside about 2 miles south of Kyrenia in the foot hills of the Karenina mountains. Pamuk, then a kitten, was run over by a car and Turker spent 8 hours operating to save him. When he got over the operation Turker asked the dad's mother to look after Pamuk and he has been with her ever since.
Life is very different now; the dad is not working yet although he says he has a new job that he will start in September. Now it's July and he told us he is going on a trip, first back to Bahrain and then to the Philippines and we will stay with the mother while he is away. The mother is worried that we might get lost and keeps us in the house. Its OK for me, I get on well with her and, as I'm the oldest, her two cats accept me as the matriarch. But Snowy isn't too happy. She spends her day sitting on top of the cabinet in the kitchen only coming down for food. The dad is back and we have moved into the house next door and life has regained some semblance of normality. The dad feeds us and then goes to work, when he comes home we watch TV together and then all have dinner. The dad usually telephones someone after dinner and it's obvious that he is waiting for something to happen. At bed time Snowy sleeps in her favourite place, between his legs and I snuggle up against his chest. Life is idyllic; I wonder how long it will last. Well it just lasted one short month. Today a new person arrived from the Philippines and told us her news, she is expecting a baby. The new mum-to-be, Millet, is shorter than the old mum but it is obvious she is very fond of the dad. I half recognised her as she had visited the house in Bahrain one afternoon with the dad. As she seemed to be nice I told Snowy not to be jealous. Actually everything is working out well because the new mum is at home all during the day and she really spoils us with cuddles, kisses and, best of all, cat treats.c The Alison came to visit us. It was nice to see her again although our relationship was different. She told me about her two pet cats in England, she showed me a photograph and Toodles is a tortoiseshell like me and Junior is a black and white tom. I was pleased she had some cats to look after her now she has her own home. Soon after the Alison's visit the new baby arrived. He was called James. It was both difficult and exciting for Snowy and myself. The dad and the new mum were very busy with the baby and we had to amuse ourselves often. For me it was another added responsibility for a new baby has to be taught how to interact with cats and that was my self-appointed task. As the James grew we became very close, as close as I had been with the Michael so many years before when I first joined the family.c Another new arrival, some American friends of the dad and the new mum are going back to the USA. Tuesday, their black tom, cannot go with them so he is coming to live with us. Unfortunately the American couple spoilt him a bit so, although he is very friendly, he is a bit undisciplined “ another training job for me. Tuesday needed an injection and Turker the vet said "Bring Tuesday on Tuesday" and everyone laughed “ humans can be strange as it seemed completely sensible to me. Now more visitors, for not long after the Michael, now a young man, visited bringing his girlfriend with him. It was a pleasure to see how he had grown into such a pleasant young adult and I felt that my influence was more than partially responsible. He played with me as before, bending back my ears was his favourite which I allowed; he was the only person in the family I allowed to do this. His visit seemed over before it had begun but I realised that he had a new life to live and, of course, I had the new boy James to mould. A cat cannot dwell in the past.c When the James was a bit bigger, I think he was one year old by then we had another new arrival. A small girl, Lady, came from the Philippines to live with us. She seemed quite nice and she liked me. I welcomed her with an open heart because she was very unhappy at first. I could tell she was homesick so I used to sit on her lap and sleep beside her at night to help her feel better. She would stroke me, her way of saying "Thank you". After a week the Lady went to school each day with the dad. As time passed she began to smile more and I believe she made new friends at school and she seemed more adjusted to her new home.
One terrible day I heard the family talking about Snowy; she had got into a fight and, after being injured, had run off. The new mum was very worried and was crying. Snowy hadn't come home for a week and I was beginning to miss my old friend. I went out looking for her but I didn't find her “ I never saw her again “ I am so sad, days passed as I follow my usual routine but now I spend most of my time sleeping. I have lost interest in playing outside with the other cats, I have transformed from an energetic cat to quite a lazy cat. I ask myself if I am getting old.c The dad and the Lady came home from school one afternoon and with them was a little grey kitten. He was very scared, especially when the tiny creature saw me. It seems that the Lady got him from a friend at school and obviously the dad had agreed to adopt him. The family named him Nimrod, the great hunter, he soon accepted me and we became friends, I treat him like a younger brother and his presence fills some of the gap that Snow's disappearance created.c One night I had a strange familiar feeling, my family were in the living room talking and I kept hearing the Philippines mentioned. As I listened very carefully I realised that the family was going to move again, it didn't worry me at all, I mean I've got very used to the idea of moving by now. A week before my last day in Cyprus two new kittens came to the house and I guessed they too had been adopted and would be living with me. I liked the idea, it would make life exciting and give me more interests as I would enjoy teaching them how to make the humans life better. There was a little white female with one green eye and one blue eye and she was already being called Snowy after my old friend, the other was an orange tabby and he was called Ginger. The moment of moving came, as usual there was the crushed pill in my food, of course I knew what this meant now and I ate it up without a second thought, Nimrod, Snowy and Ginger ate their food and didn't even notice the taste how stupid they are.
Chapter 4 “ And so to the Far East We slept all through the journey; it was the longest journey I had made so far in my life. I thought it was quite exciting, Snowy, Ginger and Nimrod didn't know what was going on and were quite worried so, being the oldest and having experienced travel before, I had to explain what was happening to them one by one. Then they understood, perhaps they aren't as stupid as I thought. So we woke up and we were in the Philippines; at an airport, an officer in uniform was checking our papers. As everything was in order we were allowed to officially enter the Republic of the Philippines.c A man in a minibus met us outside the airport and we drove off, I didn't know where we were going but the dad said he had arranged for us all to stay in a hotel for the night and the next day we would travel again to a place called Davao. Oh no, not again; my family never seems to get tired of travelling. Is this a thing that most humans like to do? The next journey was quite quick and then we were in Davao. The dad had decided we would stay in another hotel again. In fact it was a little apartment and when we got there Snowy, Ginger, Nimrod and myself were very happy, we can stretch or legs and explore. Life settles down and the family all are around as the dad hasn't got a job yet although he is looking for one.c The Philippines is a humid place and we aren't allowed to go out to play so I decided to sit near the air-conditioner in our new home and sleep most of the time just moving to my bowl at feeding time and then back. We stayed in that hotel place for a few weeks while the mum and the dad looked for a new house. Then we moved again. The new house is very big, it has five bedrooms, and the three kittens were very excited; they were arguing about which room each of them would claim as their territory. I chose to stay downstairs next to the Lady's bedroom as its cooler there and the air-conditioner was close by. Days pass and I adjust to a new routine, Snowy, Ginger and Nimrod are always playing, they invite me to join in but I think I am too old for that sort of thing now. The dad has a job now and, like before he leaves in the morning and comes back in the late afternoon, the Lady goes to school so we cats are here in the house with the new mum and the James who is still too little to go to school. He plays with me and it reminds me so much of my time with the Michael so many years ago now.
Today I'm feeling a little dizzy, I have a pain in one of my paws; it's been there for a while now but I'm sure it will go away soon so I won't make a fuss about it. It's getting harder to walk about so I'll just stay here under the bed until I feel better. I won't tell anybody about it; I don't want them to worry about me.c I am very tired now. The family are concerned and I am at the vet's surgery. I can hear the vet talking to the new mum, he says that he has done everything he can and now it's up to me. But I just don't have the energy anymore. I'm an old cat, if its true that one cat year is like seven human years well I'm 15 now so that means I'm well over a hundred in human terms, a grand age for a feline. I have had a wonderful life, I've lived in four different countries, travelled half way around the world, had many different experiences and all my life have been loved by my family. The Alison is a doctor, married with her own child. The Michael is at college again and seems to be doing well. The Lady is at college too and is talking about becoming a vet like Turker, The James is growing up nicely and the three kittens are now grown up so my work is done. I think it is time for me to rest now. Goodbye dear family, I will sleep now