Skip to content

The Life & Times Of Mr Pussy

June 17, 2018
by the gentle author

Over the past nine years of publishing daily in the pages of Spitalfields Life, some of the most popular and best loved stories have been those about my old cat Mr Pussy who died last summer. So, with your help, I am collecting them into a book entitled THE LIFE & TIMES OF MR PUSSY, A Memoir Of A Favourite Cat to be published by Spitalfields Life Books on 20th September.

There are two ways you can help me publish the book.

1. I am seeking readers who are willing to invest £1000 in THE LIFE & TIMES OF MR PUSSY. In return, we will publish your name in the book and invite you to a celebratory dinner hosted by yours truly. If you would like to know more, please drop me an email spitalfieldslife@gmail.com

2. Preorder a copy of THE LIFE & TIMES OF MR PUSSY and you will receive a signed and inscribed copy in September when the book is published. Click here to preorder your copy

Below you can read the opening pages and in coming days I will be publishing further excerpts.

.

IMG_6414

.

THE LIFE & TIMES OF MR PUSSY, A Memoir Of A Favourite Cat

.

I was always disparaging of those who doted over their pets, as if this apparent sentimentality were an indicator of some character flaw. That changed when I bought a cat, just a couple of weeks after the death of my father. My mother was inconsolable and sat immobile for days. So I bought her a tiny black kitten in Mile End in the East End of London – no bigger than my hand – and I took him on the train to Devon, arriving late at night and giving him into her care.

At that moment, she transformed from a woman with a bereavement problem to a woman with a cat problem. Looking back on it, I attribute Mr Pussy’s placid intelligent nature to those first impressionable months of his life with her. Time passed and six years later, after she died, he returned to live out his days with me in Spitalfields.

I understand now how pets become receptacles of memory and emotion, and I have learnt that this is why people can lavish such affection upon animals. Mr Pussy’s age measured the time since I lost my father and, as he grew into maturity, my father’s memory lived through him, while his distinctive personality reflected my mother’s own nature. I held him in trust for her and in memory and love of them both.

.

* * *

.

I think back to when I woke one night and decided to get a cat. It was just a few weeks after my father died and I had been lying thinking of ways to console my mother. The funeral was over but we both were still enveloped by the crisis. I decided a cat was the answer, so I set out to find one that day and take it with me on the train to Devon, as a gift for her. Yet I hit a blank at once when I rang a pet shop and discovered that cats cannot be bought. I spoke to cat charities and they could not help me either. They told me they required an inspection of the prospective owner’s house before they could even consider offering me a cat.

As a child, I owned a beloved grey tabby that I acquired when I began primary school and which died when I left home to go to college. The creature’s existence spanned an era in the life of our family and, at the time, my mother said that she would never replace it with another because its death caused her too much sadness. Yet I always wondered if this was, in fact, her response to my own departure, as her only child.

Now my father was dead, she was alone in a large house with a long garden ending in an orchard. It was an ideal home for a cat, she had experience with cats, so I knew that at this moment of bereavement, she needed a cat to bring fresh life into her world. I called her and discussed it, hypothetically.  She told me she wanted a female.

I rang veterinary surgeries asking if they knew of anyone giving kittens away, without any luck. Working systematically, I rang every pet shop in the London directory, asking if they knew anyone wanting to dispose of kittens. Eventually, a pet shop offered to help me, as long as I could be discreet, they said. They had rescued a litter of kittens just a few weeks old, prematurely separated from their mother and abandoned on the street, and they needed to find homes for them urgently. Naturally, they could not sell me one because that would be illegal, but maybe – they said – I could give them something to cover the costs of taking care of the others?

So I went to the pet shop in question, in a quiet street around the back of Mile End tube station. It was mid-afternoon and the light was fading. I was planning to go to Paddington directly afterward and catch the train to Exeter. As I approached the shop, my heart was beating fast and I recognised my own emotionalism, channelling my sense of loss into this strange pursuit. I entered the shop and there on the right was a cage of kittens, all tangled up playing together. Instantly, one left the litter and walked over to the grille, studying me. This was the moment. This was the cat. A mutual decision had been made.

I asked the owner if I could have the black one that was now clawing at the mesh to hold my attention. The shopkeeper assured me the cat was female and, after a short negotiation, I gave the owner forty pounds. Becoming distressed when it was time for me to leave, “You will take care of it won’t you?” he implored me, tears dripping from his eyes.

Startled by his outburst, I walked away quickly and got onto the tube just as the rush hour began. The tiny creature in the box screamed insistently, drawing the attention of the entire carriage. It screamed all the way to Devon and that night I lay in bed clutching the animal to my chest, as the only way I could find to lull it enough to sleep. My mother christened it “Rosemary” and the cat grew calm under her influence, as she sat by the fireside reading novels through the long winter months.

The next summer, I moved back to live with my mother in the house where I grew up – when it became clear she could no longer live alone – and I discovered the new cat had fallen into all the same paths and patterns of behaviour as my childhood tabby. But when we sent the cat to the vet for neutering, there was a surprise – they rang to inform us it was a tom cat, not a female as we had believed. The name ‘Rosemary’ was abandoned, instead we called him ‘Mr Pussy’ in recognition of this early gender confusion.

I cared for my mother until she died five years later and I had to keep Mr Pussy away from her room eventually, because the presence of a cat became too threatening for her in her paralysis. Mr Pussy skulked around in disappointment and revealed an independent spirit, running wild, chasing moorhens through the water meadows of the River Exe. But then one day, I picked Mr Pussy up and sat with him on my lap in the cabin of a removal truck as we made the return journey to London for good.

.

.

CLICK HERE TO PREORDER A COPY OF THE LIFE & TIMES OF MR PUSSY

.

14 Responses leave one →
  1. Robin permalink
    June 17, 2018

    I just lost my sweet dog on Monday 11/06. His name was Tyson, he was a Ginger. I could write volumes on his personality alone,I will call it Mr. Ginger.. I will settle for donations of £500.each to start. Sounds pretty awful doesn’t it?Because it is.Funny boy that he was,I don’t think I could sell his “stories” for the moon right now….He was my little lad. I am broken. I LOVED him.

  2. June 17, 2018

    Dear GA … I went to Spitalfields Open Gardens yesterday . Encountered some people I knew from our blog course and spoke to others whose lives had been enhanced by Spitalfields Life. As we reminisced two ladies also told me that in their opinion your tribute to Mr Pussy was the best of all your wonderful stories. I think I agree with that.

  3. Dianne permalink
    June 17, 2018

    Hello Gentle Author, whilst not in a position to help finance your book, I do want to encourage you to put Mr Pussy in a book of your making.

    I so enjoyed hearing his tales as he reminded me of a much beloved black cat who adopted us when my children were young. He was named Cole and came into our hearts just as Mr Pussy did – clawing up at the side of a cage to get out to us and we nearly lost him as he attempted to stage a break out of his box in the middly of a main road. He was with us for 14 years and I swear he greeted us with a “helloooo” when we walked in the door from work each night. Whilst at times aloof and a typical cat, at other times he was loving and comforting so I just know how you felt on losing him. They leave indelible marks on our souls – how lucky are we?

    All the best and may your book bring comfort to you, Dianne

  4. John Barrett permalink
    June 17, 2018

    Cats are not just pets they are family members, we live with them remember that then everything will be fine. Even our health benefits from loving pussy. We/I had 2 Russian Blues they liked their hols in Cornwall they were not left out of the frame. They did like duvets warmth and big cuddles. Parting with them one can become inconsolable with grief. However there is always a young pussy waiting in the wings-get him. One cat even went to war and was awarded the Dickens VC he is buried in a London Pet cemetery. I like GA’s new venture you will invest in something special and be part of this exciting project meet new friends ending with a pussy party time, perhaps with lots of fizz- I wish. Poet John Poet Soc, also a Bus Pass Poet

  5. Jacqueline Mulligan permalink
    June 17, 2018

    I’m so sorry I didn’t know Mr Pussy had died last summer. Last summer marked the end of my long marriage & since it’s end our rescue cats all four of them have helped me and my daughters through all the changes. These changes are still working their way through and like you are beloved pets encompass the changes in their timespan with us. I hope you find another cat.

  6. Georgina Briody permalink
    June 17, 2018

    Following on from Bob Ball’s comments, I too went to the Spitalfields Open Gardens yesterday and must add that I bless the day I found ‘Spitalfields Life’ on line. Spitalfields is such a special place for me.

    Anyway back to cats! As an owner of several rescued cats over many years, and now a rescuer and fosterer for a cat charity, I keenly followed Mr. Pussy’s antics and felt for you GA when he died, such a void is left. The stories you told about him brought me much hilarity and joy and I wish you all the best in your new book venture.

  7. Richard Smith permalink
    June 17, 2018

    A heart warming tale GA. Thank you for telling us about Mr Pussy. Our lives are enriched and improved by the pets we keep.

  8. Alison Felstead permalink
    June 17, 2018

    I was very pleased to read this post, and have placed my advance order. Thank you for all your posts on Mr Pussy, which were always a pleasure to read.

  9. Donald Thomasco permalink
    June 17, 2018

    Dear Gentle Author,

    I have always enjoyed reading about Mr. Pussy. Will this book be available for purchase in the States? I always enjoy your writings and pictures.

    Thanks!!!

  10. the gentle author permalink*
    June 17, 2018

    You can order it direct from me to be shipped to the USA

  11. Debra Matheney permalink
    June 18, 2018

    Ordered my copy. I have three well loved cats who are the source of constant entertainment and comfort in our home. I grew up with pets. My husband of 32 years did not but has adapted well to ours over the years. He carries the girl cat to breakfast each morning, cooing to her in a tone admiration and devotion reserved only for her.

  12. Leanne Teves permalink
    June 18, 2018

    How can it be a year already since I cried about HRH Mr. Pussy?

  13. June 18, 2018

    I own a Susan, double of Mr P. Having, over the years, lived with a long hair, a tabby, a black and white and a white and patchy, I now believe that black cats are a quite different proposition. I can see why people fear them sometimes. Her complete self-possession and unbounded confidence are very pleasing.

  14. mlaiuppa permalink
    August 11, 2018

    Oh, I’m so sorry to hear of Mr. Pussy’s passing.

Leave a Reply

Note: Comments may be edited. Your email address will never be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS