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Friday, December 16, 2005


Granny drove back from the south of the island at dusk last night. Overhead and behind a big black rain cloud, pissing itself down. All round flat desert. Ahead clear sky, purple-pink darkening hills; over the hills as if lodged on top of them an enormous ENORMOUS yellow white moon. Wild. Weird. Only possible from the middle of such a moon landscape as this.

This was some - the only -consolation for the reason Granny was on that road at that time of night. If last week was dreaming about sick chickens and waking up worried, this week is worse, dreaming of a sick - maybe even dying -cat - the maddening demanding altogether unique orange one, Feline Houdini. And waking up distraught.

Cats are maddening creatures at the best of times; all hypochondriacs, one day they will appear to be dying, the next they are leaping round like kittens. One day they don't recognise as food anything that doesn't come out of a packet, the next they only recognise as food a- limited - selection of anything that doesn't. Carting them off to the vet at every such sign is to be avoided. Not least it is expensive. At worst - usually - it makes you look a fool. Feline Houdini had no obvious symptoms; he was drinking, eating (despite rejecting the biscuits he's always gobbled down in favour of fresh meat, fish, liver etc etc.). Above all he's been washing himself and insisting on going out at night. All signs of normal cathood. The other signs were more subtle - he was getting thinner and asking for food all the time? Worm him, said Beloved, a dog not a cat man. Granny and Beloved wormed him. He seemed less willing to play? But then he's no longer a kitten, said Beloved. He was asleep all day? Cats do sleep all day, said Beloved. And so on. Despite all this Granny was getting uneasy. Vet? she wondered. But what symptoms did he have? His eyes, nose (and, let's be basic, defecatory habits) seemed normal enough, and yet, and yet. He's just as much a nuisance as usual, said Beloved. He must be alright.

Beloved's Beloved Daughter arrived for a visit. 'What's the matter with Feline Houdini?' she said straight off. With relief Granny agreed it really was time for a visit to the vet.

The vet a long way south for historical reasons is a dishy, once fat now thin vet called Pedro who knows no English. (Good for Granny's Spanish, anyway.) A nice man too. Very sympathetic. He asked tenderly after the chicken, the patient that had last arrived on his table in the blue cat basket now containing sad FH. He looked in Houdini's mouth and said 'he's got ulcers' - this explained the not eating biscuits, the general malaise Granny thought. Given an anti-biotic, a tinful of soft food which he gobbled up greedily, FH appeared instantly restored, leapt off the examination table, made a fuss at the needle, his usual stroppy self. Etc.

Two hours later, back at home, he got out of his basket and couldn't walk; his hind legs dragging, he looked as if he was dying. Granny had no number for the vet, she looked up on the internet and found another vet on the east of the island and called her up. This one was English - just as well since she turned out to live in a particularly labyrinthine village that Granny doesn't know at all; her geographical instructions were lengthy.

B's BD agreed to drive. The roads were narrow, windy, full of potholes, many had steep drops either side leading down to lava fields more often than not. Not good places to land in. Agitated B's BD, the cat moaning in the back, drove very fast - too fast - Granny thought; if the cat survived the journey she wasn't sure she would. Only when they bounced in and out of a particularly vicious pothole did the pace slow down. And somehow, somehow, they got themselves through the labyrinthine village, found the vet, who was 70ish, enormous, laid back, told them about having divorced her husband twice, about having heard from a friend that she'd been rumoured to have a terminal illness - clearly untrue - meantime suggesting that Feline Houdini might have one. His kidneys were swollen, etc etc. He might have eaten poison. He might have the Feline version of AIDS. Altogether the prognosis wasn't good. She filled him with steroids - adrenalin - urged blood tests, Xrays and a diet of baby food, charged 30 euros and bade them good night. Adrenalin filled Feline seemed more like his normal self. At least he wasn't moaning.

B'sBD drove back across the island at a more sedate pace to Granny's relief. The abused tyres made it to within 5 minutes of home when the most abused of them gave up. Beloved had to come to the rescue in truck. What a night.

Yesterday Granny took FH back to the once fat, now thin, altogether dishy Pedro. Much conversation ensued (she could, it occurred to her, improve her Spanish by visiting him and forget the intensive course she's signed up for. Not a good idea, on second thoughts. It would be still more expensive. And anyway it would be difficult to make general conversation with a vocabulary consisting largely of vetinerary symptoms.) Pedro disagreed with diagnosis of large English semi-retired and not terminally ill divorcee, x-rayed FH and diagnosed an obstruction - he showed Granny the X-ray - no scientist her she couldn't see the obstruction he pointed out. He fed FH some biscuits which he gobbled up - obviously his ulcers were better; he was by now behaving more like his normal self once more, making a fuss about everything, leaping from examination table to shelf and back again. Though he was not happy to be taken away then and put in a strange cage; Pedro insisted on keeping Feline Houdini for the night to observe him more closely, and to palpatate out the obstruction, if he could. Granny has to return for him tonight, also for full results of liver, kidney, blood tests etc etc, also presumably for a very large bill - what with vets, tyres, language courses and Christmas this has been an expensive week. She was, though, feeling feeling marginally more optimistic. Obstructions aren't so bad as diagnosis of female English vet. No - it wasn't a tumour for sure. She did ask that. Tonight she will know more; the worst - or she hopes - prays - the very best.

Funny about cats. Over her life-time Granny has had many of them; but only the orange ones do badly. The first, a beautiful, crazy Abyssinian, who jumped at his own shadow, but took on cats of any size in defence of his territory had a tooth put in his skull by one of his opponents and died of brain damage; an appalling fate, that left the much younger Granny crying for days. The second, another Abyssinian, was too adventurous and curious for his own good and still more of a houdini than present feline. He escaped where no other cat could and got himself run over. And now there's dear beautiful orange - young - FH...

What is it about animals who live with us? Why do we get so upset? Why does Granny get so upset, she wonders? she is not in general that much of an animal lover - she does not call hers 'boys and girls' or subscribe to the oozy, whoozy magazines put out for cat and dog freaks. Yet animals - her animals - share her life at such close quarters. They know her happy, they know her upset, they know her bad and good temper, they know her smell - all her smells- more intimately than anyone except a partner - their noses so much more acute they know the scents of her still more intimately than her Beloved probably. She knows their scents too. She knows F H's scent, for instance as well as she knows Beloved's - though she couldn't describe it with the certainty with which Beloved claims his Tiresome Terrier 'smells of chocolate and shit'. They live entrenched in the smallest crevices of her life. When they die, a bit of her life goes - or seems to go - with them. Will Feline Houdine reappear in good nick this evening. Oh God, how she hopes so. She doesn't want to lose the lovely grass and cat scent of him. Yet.

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