Bailey, King of the Cats

img_9221Dear Readers, as I have mentioned before, this is not a cat blog. However, I feel that this week I have to pay obeisance to a particular feline who was so much part of welcoming us when we first came to East Finchley, and who still pays us an occasional visit today. His name, as we eventually discovered, is Bailey, and he is the undisputed King of the local cats.

img_9207Back in 2010, when we were first looking for somewhere to live in East Finchley, my husband was walking along the pavement on his way home from work when he was knocked down by a speeding cyclist. My husband hit his head on the kerb and was rushed to hospital with a massive gash on his temple, and a short-term memory of approximately two minutes. When I rushed to A&E to see him, the conversation went something like this:

Nurse walks into the room.

My husband shakes her hand, and introduces himself. Hearing her Australian accent, he asks ‘Are you from Sydney?’

‘No’, says the nurse, ‘Melbourne’.

She walks out of the room and comes back thirty seconds later.

My husband shakes her hand, and introduces himself. Hearing her Australian accent, he asks ‘Are you from Sydney?’

‘No’, says the nurse, ‘Melbourne’.

Repeat ad infinitum.

My husband did remember that I was someone important to him, but not exactly who I was. On the other hand, he did remember the names of the two cats that I owned when I first met him. I shall leave you to ruminate on his priorities.

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Anyway, this is a long-winded way of saying that when I finally saw the house that was to be our home, my husband was at home recovering, and I took my friend J with me (as she is always up for ‘neb’ as my northern friends say). We were standing on the patio and listening to see if the noise from the North Circular Road was too loud to tolerate when a white apparition jumped over the fence, yowling, and threw himself on his back to have his belly scratched. Yes, this was our welcome to the neighbourhood.

img_9226Once we had moved into our house, the mysterious fluffy visitor continued to pay us regular visits. In the morning, he was immaculately groomed. By the afternoon, he was usually covered in twigs and dead leaves. Whenever he arrived, he would walk in, plonk himself down in the most convenient chair, and go to sleep. It was rather comforting, having him there while I worked away at my computer. Who was he, and where did he belong? His visits got longer and longer, and eventually we checked the tag on his collar. His name was Bailey, and he lived about ten houses up the road. If we carried him home he would jump out of our arms on his doorstep, but he seemed unable to work out where his house was if his paws were on the pavement. We were, in effect, his personal taxi service.

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On one supposedly Bailey-less occasion, I was working in the office when I heard Bailey’s owner  H berating him from the front garden.

‘Bailey!’ she said, ‘Come down from there and stop making a show of yourself’.

And then came a familiar howl.

I went downstairs to find Bailey balanced on the top of the eight-foot high doorway that leads to my back-garden, his face wrinkled in distress. He appeared to be unable to get himself down. His cries were pathetic.

Two youngsters from the local school passed by, and looked at him with worried expressions.

‘It’s Bailey’,  they chorused, for the cat is a local celebrity.  ‘Is he stuck?’.

‘No he blooming isn’t’, said H, ‘He’s just being dramatic’.

But fuss or not, he wasn’t moving. My husband arrived home from work to find me tottering on a dining-room chair and trying to retrieve an enormous fuzzy animal from the top of a rickety fence. Being six-feet two inches tall, he was able to remedy the situation quickly and efficiently, and so it was that Bailey was returned home.

img_9223The thing about Bailey is that he thinks he’s human. When he strolls through the garden, the birds and squirrels look up briefly and then carry on, because it’s clear that there’s as much chance of him chasing them as there is of me prowling through the hawthorn on all fours. He gets intensely frustrated when people don’t understand what he wants. All this sitting in the sink, for example, was meant to inform me that he wanted to drink from the tap. Of course.

Bailey isn’t allowed to come indoors at our house any more, because as you might remember we now have a very shy little cat who is completely freaked out by the presence of others of her species. But Bailey has taken to disappearing from his house for days on end, so when he turned up at our house on Sunday we felt we had to take him in until H got home. We confined him to the kitchen, where he sat in the sink glowering, as if the kitchen was his (rather inadequate) fiefdom. It was just like the old days. And when H and her daughter arrived to carry him home, it was as if his servants had arrived with a sedan chair and a fine plump cushion, as befitted his aristocratic status.

Where have you been?

Where have you been?

It is clear that we never really own a cat. They have their own views of how the world should be, and nothing we do will ever change them. It is also clear that every cat is an individual, with his own preferences and habits, foibles and tastes. Every cat has personality, but some personalities, and some cats, are much bigger than others. As Samuel Pepys said of his own cat: ‘He is a very fine cat indeed’.

All blog content copyright Vivienne Palmer. Free to use and share non-commercially, but please attribute/link back to the blog, thank you!

15 thoughts on “Bailey, King of the Cats

  1. Anne Guy

    Bailey looks great fun we have a daily house guest cat Jakey who is currently fast asleep on his chair in the kitchen, tins of food in the cupboard” what are we like!!

    Reply
  2. Helen

    Didn’t know about John’s accident, how scary. Thanks for this delightful account of Bailey’s visitations. And for putting up with him last week when he gatecrashed your house again. It’s worth saying that I’m sure he was arranging for us to meet when he starting dropping in on you. He’s now apparently a solstice-related cat as he is mostly at home at the moment unlike during the summer when he absconded for days at a time.

    Reply
  3. Gubbinal

    Thank you so much for this delightful portrait of Bailey complete with video of his long and competent tongue—looking like a thick slice of Canadian bacon. He really is a magnificent creature–and I like the way he appears dour for his “mug shots”. What a wonderful slice of life and I do hope your husband had no lengthy complications from his accident.

    Reply
  4. Andrea Stephenson

    Baily certainly looks like an aristocrat befitting of special treatment! When I was a student we were welcomed to our new student house by a ginger tom tapping on the window. We never knew where his actual home was but he visited us regularly.

    Reply
      1. gertloveday

        Here’s an excerpt:
        “There is nothing more difficult than understanding human mentality.

        My master’s present mental state is far from clear; is he feeling angry or light-hearted, or simply seeking solace in the scribblings of some dead philosopher? One just can’t tell whether he’s mocking the world or yearning to be accepted into its frivolous company, whether he is getting furious over some piddling little matter or holding himself aloof from worldly things. Compared with such complexities, cats are truly simple. If we want to eat, we eat; if we want to sleep, we sleep; when we are angry, we are angry utterly; when we cry, we cry with all the desperation of extreme commitment to our grief. Thus we never keep things like diaries. For what would be the point? No doubt human beings like my two-faced master find it necessary to keep diaries in order to display in a darkened room that true character so assiduously hidden from the world. But among cats both our four main occupations (walking, standing, sitting and lying down) and such incidental activities as excreting waste are pursued quite openly. We live our diaries, and consequently have no need to keep a daily record as a means of maintaining our real characters. Had I the time to keep a diary I’d use that time to better effect; sleeping on the veranda.”

        He also has good things to say about the pottiness of poets. It’s a book written in the voice of a cat, a satire on Japanese society . The first book (of 3) is particularly good).

  5. Pingback: Bugwoman’s Third Annual Report | Bug Woman – Adventures in London

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