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Sober Life
by Sinclair Newton



Sober Life

THE thing about Sidney is that he can be so forgiving. He purrs out his views on the world according to the climate.

Last week I referred to him as the killer cat of Meadow Lane, which was a bit unfair really. He gave up that killing thing years ago.

He betrays all the characteristics of an Ibicencan cat. He's lazy when he wants to be, which is a whole lot better than being indolent for no good reason.

He gives off this aura… You just know he could get up and kill something if he wanted to and especially if it's a bit frosty around the paws area. It's just that today it seems like a much better idea to ignore the buzzing of the flies and the incessant clip-clopping of the high heel shoes where the pavements haven't turned to sand.

Sidney was the product of a forgotten wedding anniversary years ago. She who thought the West End of San Antonio was a bit quiet literally had kittens - at least this one - and brought him home on whatever the date was with no clear idea of where she had got him. Or, in her case, gotten him, darnit.

Still, it healed the rift for the moment and it later transpired he was a gift from a taxi driver.

In those days, about 13 years ago, about ninety of Sidney's, he could crawl up my lapel and wouldn't have looked out of place in an eggcup.

It was rural then and the lane was his territory. Woe betides a rabbit or a rat. Once a pigeon got in through an upstairs window and was trapped on the oak beams with Sidney's baleful eye upon him. "Have a nice day, Sidney" gave no real impression of what would go on, but the pigeon was gone and there was not a feather in sight later in the nice day.

I see there's a report out saying cats are crazed killers and can dispatch up to forty little animals in a good week. Sidney's greatest tally was a bathroom full of baby rabbits he brought home for fun. I was impressed with Samantha who got up in the night then came back to bed and said she thought there was something I should go and attend to. Hitchcock had nothing on Sidney's idea of what could go on in a bathroom.

He must have found the entrance to the burrow and kept trouping off to bring them home one by one.

Those were the drinking days and Sidney saw me in all sorts of states, more often than not looking through the wrong end of a bottle of scotch. But he would purr rather than demur.

I know this sounds a tad bizarre, if not pretentious, but I once interviewed a cat psychiatrist. Honest. He's got a book out called "How to Understand Your Cat" and I took him for lunch.

I asked him why Sidney would cheerfully let a neighbour's cat come in and eat whatever food he had left in his dish. He's never been like a dog, wolfing down the lot, and likes to leave a little on the side, if you get my drift.

Then he would chase the intruder away.

"It's obvious," said he who earned thousands of ECU's at a time advising elderly ladies about their pussies. (Nice work if you can get it).

"He knows the other cat will run away once he's had his fill and Sidney can feel virtuous about apparently having defended his territory without even having to fight."

I left him (Sidney, not the cat shrink) with Nancy, the lovely old lady next door when I went to live in Ibiza half his lifetime ago. I like to think he brightened the last years of her life.

But seven years later when I moved to Meadow Lane I got a call to say Nancy had died and Sidney was outside with nowhere to go.

An hour later I was there and he was sitting on a little wall waiting for me.

To the consternation of some hikers changing their boots outside the Diggle Hotel, I got out of the car and announced: "Sorry about that Sidney, I've just been out for a bottle of milk."

We're back to that forgiving thing again.

He got in my car and though clearly petrified (did you know cats purr both when they're happy and sad?) he came to spend his retirement here.

We overlook some homing pigeons and I went to see George, the neighbour whose pigeons they are.

"Sidney used to catch pigeons in mid air," I said. "I hope it'll be alright."

And do you know it has been.

There's no blood on the carpet and he's still keeping warm.

The forgiveness is in his eyes all the time, which makes me feel guilty.

Don't you see that he knows how I used to drink and he's forgiven that, too?

Sinclair Newton