When our daughter was born, the cats were aged four and a half, and compared with the baby, they suddenly appeared old and wise. They were also appalled at the tiny crying thing that we brought home from the hospital. However, the tiny crying thing learnt to crawl, a talent which we only discovered when we found her eating cat food with her fingers. It’s possibly understandable. I’ve never sampled cat food, but a boy I once met told me it tasted like fish pâté, after he’d come home from the pub and found what he thought was a plate of fish pâté in his mother’s fridge. In the spirit of scientific enquiry, I did try baby food. I’ve never tried eating dishcloth, but the spoonful of baby food I tried tasted exactly as I’d imagine dishcloth to taste, if you could be bothered to put a dishcloth through a blender and turn it into brown sludge. In the interests of giving our daughter something better to eat, I mashed up some rice in the remains of a chicken vindaloo. She golloped it down. Unfortunately, my wife caught me feeding it to her (she was about five months old – my daughter, not my wife, obviously), so I got into more trouble. It’s no wonder people grow up with problems when they have mothers who’d prefer them to eat dishcloth instead of curry. How many dishcloth houses do you see on the average High Street (Cliffe or otherwise)?
By the time we moved back to Cornwall the cats were five and a half, and my daughter was able to toddle after them, which they found terrifying. On the plus side, she’d lost her taste for cat food, though I still regularly found myself in trouble for feeding her real food. “It’s got salt in it.” That’s why it tastes nice. “She might choke.” Cat food wouldn’t do that, then. As far as I could tell from Marti (which was what Martinet had become shortened to), cat food made you throw up on the landing, or just inside the front door when guests were arriving.
On the journey here, one of the cats crapped in the back of the cat basket, and my daughter was sick, though I suspect it was the chicken tikka sandwich that my wife bought her for lunch in Salisbury that was to blame, and not cat food. Moving may be stressful, but once they were here, the cats loved it, running around in the garden and chasing birds. Marti continued to throw up, on one occasion in one of my slippers. I saw it as I was getting into bed, and I congratulated myself on noticing it then, rather than putting my foot in the slipper in the morning. Unfortunately, when I went to throw the slipper full of cat sick in the bin, I stepped in the hitherto unnoticed pile of cat sick on the carpet, in my bare feet. Such is life.
My daughter is now twenty-six, with two cats of her own, and Thompson and Marti are buried in the garden. However, among my many books I still have a copy of A Practical English Grammar. Thank you Audrey and Agnes.