Mog and the Prime Minister
When the Prime Minister of the U.K. utilises the feline resourcefulness of a beloved children’s story to resolve a cabinet dispute you know the country has not yet gone to the dogs – it’s safely in the hands of a small black cat. An intelligent cat but one who is thankfully, also patient and indulgent towards humans.
Thinking on Judith Kerr’s fine books and her character’s patient dealings with her human owners set me to thinking about my very own Mog. Not just because he had been named after the very same books, much enjoyed by my daughters, but because he always struck me as a creature who had resigned himself to living alongside the whims and irregularities of us humans with as much dignity as he could muster. A bit like David Cameron trying to preside over May and Clarke perhaps.
Why Mog chose to attach himself to a family where the two adults were avowedly non-cat-lovers I shall never know. But, with hindsight, it was the first meeting with Mog that showed just how smart he really was.
November 5th, some 16 or so years ago and my eldest daughter and I were returning from a bonfire party when a small black figure came stumbling out from the bushes and began striking dramatic poses a la “You gotta help me kid, they’ve done for me.” (If he could have held a paw to a bleeding side I’m sure he would’ve done so.) It was a fine performance. Of course, dutiful citizens that we were, we felt unable to leave him outside on bonfire night, at the mercy of all those rockets, so we encouraged him to come inside where he was fed with chicken and milk (all we could think of.) Any cat reading this will realise from our choice of menu that our fate with that skinny bundle was sealed that night.
It may be that Mog, as he was soon named, had done his homework, knowing that the big ones in the family weren’t as easily swayed by his fluffy coat and swirling tail as the little ones were. But playing nicely with the children earned him a reprieve while we tried to track down his origins. And here, possibly, Mog showed real genius. The back story was that he’d been forced out of his comfortable life by the callous installation of a bigger, rougher cat, a cat who turned out to be a bit of a bully. So Mog had left his home with nothing more than the coat on his back. A refugee. A deserving asylum seeker if ever there was one. He was merely another victim of regime change in search of a better life. How could we resist? But should he stay with us, or be removed to an institution?
As the case for permanent residence was considered Mog was denied use of a cat flap. (In fact it was a good few years before we accepted that he really was here to stay.) ‘Simples’, as they say.The clever feline somehow worked out that by jumping up at the front door and tagging the knocker he would gain entry. Night after night while watching T.V. or eating dinner we would be disturbed by a rattle at the door. Once opened, in would trot Mog, giving us a little trill of “Thanks for that” as he nonchalantly took his place by the fire.
Mind you, it wasn’t all easy going for the new arrival. I’m sure many of the new world’s customs seemed incredibly bizarre. Some involved him being dressed in baby clothes and wheeled around in prams for large parts of the day by the two smaller ones. He was forbidden to ‘play’ with the hamsters and guinea pigs that also stayed there. And he was not, absolutely not permitted access to upstairs, despite that having the warmest places to sleep.
Over the years he was with us, this slightly suave, somewhat eccentric but genuinely affectionate visitor, won us all over and turned out to be a big softy underneath his dark exterior. In time, his charm meant that even some of his misdemeanours were overlooked. Unexpected keys in the door would inevitably signal the sound of padded feet tripping down the stairs and one would be met with a nonchalant “Oh, hi.” For all the world as if he hadn’t heard you coming in and just ‘happened’ to be waiting at the foot of the stairs. Likewise the headless mice, braying Molls and muddy footprints were accepted in trade for the warm curve around your legs, the purring on your lap and the patience with which he endured your threat to drop kick him over the fence, if he ever, ever did that in the house again.
For me though, Mog’s finest hour, his crowning glory, was the day at the vets. Still living in denial of having a cat in the house a necessary trip to the vets posed the problem of transport. No cat basket. Escape from a cardboard box proved, to quote another Dark lord, “All too easy.” My sister in-law had an old bird cage that we could use, but we’d have to cover it up with a blanket so that Mog wasn’t distressed by the journey. I thought no more about it until, arriving safely at the practice, we were called in. To this day I can picture the look on the vets face as I pulled off the covering to reveal that big, furry black cat, sat with an indulgent air, inside the bird cage. All that was missing was a yellow canary feather dangling from his mouth.
As I struggled to find the explanation that was so clearly needed, Mog met the gaze of the confused vet with a decided look that said, “My friend, you have no idea.”
So it may be that we were manipulated by that bundle of black fur, but I have since met many friends who have had cats leave home prematurely due to a change in circumstances. And there is no denying that we all grew very fond of Mog, and now that he has left us for that great bedroom in the sky, we all miss him very much. I still think of him every time I hear the refuse collection begin, and picture his frantic scurry under the sofa; refusing to come out until he could be sure all the nasty men had gone away.
I can only conclude that neither Theresa May nor Kenneth Clarke have actually ever tried living with a cat, for if they had, they would surely be more open to the idea that they can, indeed, be a manifestation of a happy and warm family home.
© S Dyer 2011