Pad Life 2: X Marks The Spot
‘Here Cat! Come and eat your lovely medicine-mixed-with-food! Ooooh, yum yum yum!’
Cat, who would normally eat her own body weight in anything that’s not nailed down, regards a passing fly with interest.
‘Look, Cat! Mummy’s mixed it up all nicely and put in some of your favouritest treats. Yum yum yum!’
The fly lands on the food. Cat ignores the food, eats the fly, and looks round hopefully for more.
Little Cat, snoozing at the top of the cat climbing thing, is awakened by the sound of somebody, somewhere, eating something. She opens one eye and decides it merits further investigation.
Cat and Little Cat never eat from each other’s bowls, just as one never uses the other’s litter tray. Cat and Little Cat tolerate each other in the manner of oppressed minorities forced to share space by a malevolent tyrant who will one day face the wrath of the masses.
Little Cat sticks her nose into Cat’s bowl.
Over the course of the day I try hiding one bowl, hiding one cat, decanting one bowl, almost decanting one cat, offering the stuff on a spoon, offering the stuff on a finger, and sobbing. Eventually I inform Cat she can do what she sodding well likes, eat it or not, I don’t care, share it with Little Cat, have a damn party with the German Shepherd over the road. I’m going to watch Game of Thrones and I hope the White Walkers come out of the telly and turn her eyes blue.
Cat yawns, sniffs and licks her bum. Having made her point, she eats the food and the medicine while Little Cat looks on with complete indifference.
Cat is on steroid tablets, to help manage a condition which is incurable and which will take her from us in the not too distant future. It’s hard to believe when we look at her. She’s a lot skinnier than she used to be, despite still stealing any unattended food, because her gastro-intestinal system is shot to pieces and I spend a large chunk of my day donning rubber gloves and scrubbing the carpet. Other than that she’s still very much Cat – grumpy, bossy, nagging, and rather beautiful. Bloody animals. You know from the first moment you see them that one day they will break your heart, but do you learn? No. You lose one, you vow you’ll never do it again, and then you do. Stupid humans.
After yesterday’s food and medicine ritual, I took myself off to vote in the local elections. A bit of an adventure, first time voting since I moved to the Pad. I actually had to take note of where I was going, instead of just following twenty-three years’ worth of instinct.
One of my ex-colleagues, who is still working for the local authority, was doing poll clerk duty. She looked pleased to see me – well, to see anyone, really. They’re weren’t exactly queueing out the door. ‘Hello. How’s retired life?’
‘Splendid. How’s the council?’
‘Uh huh.’ This is the standard response from any local authority employee beneath the rank of Director. ‘How’s the turnout today?’
Her fellow clerk looked vaguely disapproving as he handed me my paper. I didn’t know him. He still had a bloom on his cheek and hope in his eyes. Obviously not from social services.
In the booth I looked at the ballot paper. I have an almost religious devotion to voting. I was brought up to believe that voting is a duty as well as a right, that democracy withers if it isn’t used, that you can’t complain if you don’t participate, all that. Both my parents were zealous voters, arranging for postal votes when my Dad was working abroad. I’ve always regarded the spoiling of ballot papers as a waste of time – you may get a thrill from your declaration of dissatisfaction, but it literally counts for diddly squat otherwise. And yet I had this sudden desire to scrawl something derogatory and preferably obscene across the list of names. I wondered what would happen if I pushed over the line of flimsy wooden booths, hurled the black metal ballot box through a window and snapped every single piece of string on every single stubby pencil, all the while screaming, ‘They’re all a bunch of fucking wankers! Anyone in politics is a fucking wanker! Fuck off, fucking wankers!’
I thought about it for a while, before concluding that getting arrested for grievous bodily harm to a voting booth does not have the same ring to it as getting arrested for civil disobedience in the name of the planet’s future. I haven’t done that either, but if I had to make a choice, I know which I’d go for. And it’s local elections. I’m not saying there are no wankers in local government, just that they are amateurs in wankerdom compared to the seasoned professionals in Westminster. Neither am I saying that all Westminster politicians are wankers. My own local MP is a conscientious and very likeable person, who takes her job seriously and, I believe, has ethics. It’s just that every time I watch the news I want to intone, ‘These are not just wankers. These are Westminster wankers.’
I put my stubby pencil mark against three names and obediently slipped my paper into the box, smiling at my ex-colleague. ‘Weather’s turned a bit colder, hasn’t it? Just in time for the Bank Holiday, as usual.’
Yes, yes it is.
The Scion, my older child, called me on the way home.
‘Hello! How are you and Girlfriend?’
‘Shit.’ He told me they’d just been served notice on their flat as the landlord wants to sell. Would I be interested in a pie and pint at a nearby hostelry in return for being a guarantor should they ever find another flat they can afford?
I’m easily bought. We sat by the window, enjoying the guy marshalling the ghost tour punters along the street. We couldn’t hear him, but he’s very theatrical, with his top hat, cape and cane, and anyway, we know the stories attached to each stop. Airman chucking himself out of a pub window, little girl screaming from a different window as she's left to die of the plague in a house full of her already dead family, Ninth Legion yomping through the Treasurer's House, Lord Whatsisname goosing women in another pub's toilets, the kids from the Bedern workhouse tugging at your hand in the darkness, plus a positive Little Mix of Grey Ladies. I did hear that Lord Whatsisname's loo is a popular haunt for Hen Parties out to prove a point. I don't know where the Stags go for a bit of ethereal action. All the Grey Ladies seem to be nuns.
I asked the Scion if he voted.
‘No. They’re all fucking wankers.’
I mustered my convictions. ‘That’s not the attitude.’
‘You’d vote in an election for a Lollipop Lady.’
‘Crossing Operative, I think you’ll find, and yes, I would.’
The Scion shook his head. ‘How’s Cat?’
I contemplated the gastro-intestinal issues, and the probable state of the carpet when I got home.
‘Shit,’ I said, and he nodded sagely.