My two-and-a-half week jaunt into cat-withdrawal — in other words, my vacation — has come to an end, and I thank all the kitties along the way who didn’t scratch me when I stalked them or endeavored to be friends. Especially …
I saw you as I was rushing out one morning to move my rental car before the police gave me a ticket. You sat so quietly, so serenely, squinting at me from the doorway of the check-in lobby. Little grey paws peeking out beneath a round little belly. I only had time to say, “Oh! Hello you!” before rushing out the door. I couldn’t wait to tell my husband that our hotel had a resident cat! The gasps of glee would be legendary.
We came back that afternoon, and you had vacated the lobby. Wondering if I’d seen a ghost cat (not a first for me), I sheepishly sidled up to the friendly desk clerk and asked, “Am I insane? Did I see a cat here this morning?”
The desk clerk smiled and responded, “You’re not insane, we do have a cat,” and proceeded to walk out from behind the desk and lead me to one of the wood paneled dining rooms in our antique laden boutique hotel. The Rookery Hotel is quite stately, as is befitting to a cat of your stature, m’lady.
The clerk knelt to look under a table and piped up, “Oh! There she is!”
And there you were, curled up under the chair at the head of the long dark-wood table. I would come learn to that this is one of “your spots” to nap.
“What’s her name?”
“Lady Grey,” the smiling clerk said, and left me to get acquainted.
You were somewhat reticent that first day. No doubt wary of the thousands of guests every year who vie for your favor. I complimented you, and gingerly stroked your back. You allowed it, but were not ready to unveil your true character. Which made you all the more charming.
I left you be, not wanting to overstay my welcome. It was all I could do to play it cool and not show the giddiness welling up inside me at having a cat to talk to during our stay in London. There is no replacing the creatures who wait at home, but knowing you were there soothed my cat-lonely soul.
Over the next few days, my equally cat-inclined husband and I had standing “appointments” with you.
In the morning, on the way out to breakfast and all manner of tourist shenanigans, we stopped to visit with you and get tips for exploring your city. Your tips no doubt involved a request for tuna or yummy tender vittles, but we enjoyed our chats nonetheless. Your silly side began to unfurl from beneath your regal facade, and we were granted the pleasure of giving you tummy rubs.
When we’d come back to the Rookery to freshen up before dinner, we’d often find you in your living room, lounging around after cocktails. You came to give us the occasional winking “hello” and figure-eight around my floor-sitting husband and me, allowing us to stroke your downy, silver stripes. Nothing quite revived me from sightseeing weariness like these interludes with you.
At night, perfumed by our curry dinner and a few pints at the pub, we’d find you curled up in your chair. “Hi, Lady Grey,” I’d softly coo, to see if you were interested in some after-hours companionship. You’d lift your little head and blink at us in the dim light, giving us your genteel permission for pets and scratches.
Sometimes you preferred to lounge by the fireplace, so we’d accommodate your scratches there:
Nothing helped me drift off to sleep, dreaming of my kitty at home, than a nightcap with you, Lady Grey. Thank you for all the sweet, fluffy dreams.
I’m sure we developed the reputation amongst the hotel staff as the latest “crazy cat people” to worship at Lady Grey’s paws. Talking to her, following her when she decided she’d rather entertain in the parlour, vaguely distraught when we couldn’t find her — to us, seeing Lady Grey was just as important and delightful (if not more) than seeing Stonehenge or Buckingham Palace.
Many of our subway conversations involved wistfully saying, “I miss Lady Grey” or “I wonder what Lady Grey is doing right now?” or “I can’t wait to give Lady Grey some scratches!”
I actually felt guilty saying goodbye to you on our last morning. Would you miss our late afternoon happy hour? Would you wonder where your late-night scratches had gone? Had it been unfair of me to create a “schedule of snuggles” then abruptly take it away?
But my fears quieted a bit when, at checkout (and yes, this really happened, renewing my faith in cat-based karma), another weary American couple was checking in and the woman gleefully cried from the other room, “Rob! They have a cat!” Rob just about jumped for joy.
And then I knew our tradition would carry on.
I thank you Lady Grey for being a comforting, peaceful presence in a loud and bustling city. You were the balance to my vacation, the antidote to my cat withdrawal. You made me want to hug my kitties close, and appreciate them that much more. Thank you.
So if you’re ever planning a visit London, there’s an unusual little hotel in Clerkenwell, with an unusual little cat. She gracefully pads amongst the Georgian antiques, and if you’re lucky, she grants you an audience.
She is Lady Grey, and she is most certainly the lady of that house.
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