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Schrodinger’s First Winter In Spitalfields

December 17, 2018
by the gentle author

This Thursday 20th December at 7pm, I shall be reading from THE LIFE & TIMES OF MR PUSSY, A MEMOIR OF A FAVOURITE CAT at Burley Fisher Books in Dalston as part of their Christmas late opening until 10pm


As the winter closed in, my cat Schrodinger has been discovering the manifold delights of his newly-acquired existence in Spitalfields. His previous life as Shoreditch Church cat and his unspecified origins on the streets of the East End render domestic comforts as novelties for a modest creature with low expectations.

When I first lit the iron stove, stoking it up with logs, I expected Schrodinger to go and sit in front of it at once just as my old cat Mr Pussy used to. Instead, he perched upon the sofa at a safe distance, enjoying the warmth and regarding the flames with curiosity. In less than a week, he grew in thrall to their mesmerising dance and stretched out on the rug, relaxing in the warmth.

Now he sits beside the cold stove in the morning, supported on his front legs with his tail wrapped round him, in expectation of when I will light it again. He peers disappointedly into the glass at the darkness within, hoping for signs of life, as if by wishful thinking he can encourage a conflagration. When I walk past, he raises a pitiful gaze of longing but I am consumed with my own thoughts and quite indifferent to his wishes.

Brought up in a house without heating by parents with puritanical leanings and no spare cash, it is still my custom to wear extra clothes indoors as the temperature drops through the autumn and only light a fire when the chill can no longer be resisted. I often sit at my desk writing with my coat on and shivering, reluctant to light the fire before dusk falls, so that I can make the log pile last as long as possible. My precious stash of firewood is my insurance against the arrival of the worst imaginable winter weather and I need to eke it out, lest I should come to regret my excess when the mythical big freeze happens. Such is the frugal ethos I inherited.

Schrodinger’s thinking is less nuanced. Once he slept in the cold among dusty tombs, but he has quickly grown accustomed to the pleasure to be derived from a warm hearth. If I do not light the fire, he jumps up to warm himself by pushing into the narrow space between me and the back of the chair when I am leaning forward at my desk. Then he climbs around to sit upon my lap, cosy in the tented space beneath my long coat. There is mutual advantage to this behaviour since he also keeps me warm, meaning I can postpone the lighting of the stove for longer.

Once I have completed my writing, it is dark outside and the house is cold. I leave my desk, fill my arms with logs and kneel down at the hearth to light the fire. Schrodinger follows me. He does not understand why he had to wait all day for this moment or how I could be so foolish to neglect such a fundamental task.

I believe he observes me intently in the hope that by close study he can master this task for himself and thus avoid waiting for me to do it. Yet these thoughts are rapidly dispelled, overtaken by a haze of warm stupefaction as he settles down for another long night in front of the fire while I doze, stretched out on the sofa in contemplation. Thus the pattern has been established and thus Schrodinger passes his first winter in Spitalfields.




17 Responses leave one →
  1. Amanda permalink
    December 17, 2018

    l love synchronicity. l feel connected to Schrödinger with his distinctive Dali moustache because he has padded about on the very flagstones my great grandmother Mary Anne Hannah Payne stood upon to marry in Shoreditch Church in 1850ish.
    My own ‘lucky’ black cat came to me due to a chance viewing of a rental flat in Andalucía days before his owner was due to emigrate abroad without him. l didn’t take that flat but l took the cat, No hesitation. Love at first sight.
    On our first night l wandered about wearing him over my shoulder to reassure him, trying not to cry for his sudden bewildering abandonment after 14 years. l wondered where he would be if l had not shown up.
    We lived in our icy uninsulated, marble floored apartment with futile electric heat battling the harsher Spanish winters where central heating is unheard of. Much like the GA wearing a coat, l adapted by wearing crepe soled sheepskin boots IN the house with two velvet bathrobes plus two cats as hot water bottles.

    My similar shivery training as a child with frugal old world parents, who did not ‘believe’ in central heating in our London home, bore no comparison to this intense penetrating cold, wedged between the ice topped moutain ranges of both Granada and Morroco.
    The region emptied due to the economic situation and it was time to return. My first priority back in UK, to make amends for my pets ice cold little velvety pads walking on cold marble was to quickly save for a lush fitted carpet, My natural aesthetic leanings for wood floors with oriental rugs flew out the double glazed window after the Ugg Boot Era.
    l cannot describe their curiosity and delight on that first English January day, at stepping out of their transporters for the first time onto wall to wall fluffy warmth. Just as Schrödinger must have felt on having his first glowing fire lit for him by his new Dad.
    Thank you for such enjoyable mellow reading on awakening this winter’s day. God bless both of you.

  2. December 17, 2018

    Merry Christmas GA to you and Schodinger.

  3. December 17, 2018

    I agree with Schrodinger, being cold is most disagreeable. Please light the stove a little earlier for poor Shrodinger.

  4. December 17, 2018

    Good to read Mr S is settling in so well.

  5. mlaiuppa permalink
    December 17, 2018

    He looks so content, lying in front of that warm fire. How can you resist lighting it for him whenever he demands it?

    As for learning to light it himself, I would hide the matches if I were you. One never knows.

    I used to have a dog that would sit in the passenger seat while I drove. His eyes were intent on the road and he always put his paw on top of my hand on the stick shift. If his legs were long enough to reach the pedals, I think I would have hidden my car keys just in case he wanted to go joy riding.

    I have heard it said that cats are much more intelligent than dogs. While there may be some dispute, I’m sure lighting a fire is much easier than driving a car and despite having no opposable thumbs, I am convinced if any cat could do it, Schrodinger would find a way to light that fire.

  6. Sandra Stewart permalink
    December 17, 2018

    Best wishes for a Very Happy Christmas to yourself and Schrodinger. My copy of your book arrived safely here in New Zealand. Thank you sincerely for your daily musings – which are shared with my friends. Aroha Sandie

  7. Fran Tucker permalink
    December 17, 2018

    Thank you for your update on Schrodinger, I am so pleased he has a warm loving home this Christmas and you have a beautiful companion.

    I too was brought up in times when houses had no central heating and it would have been unheard of to wander around in the equivalent of t shirt, leggings and bare feet ! Though we now have central heating old habits die hard and I still wrap myself up in a series of jumpers until the early evening when I light the stove that is just like yours. It is then that one of my cats who has been sitting in front of the empty stove on and off throughout the day becomes interested. Then , the fire lit, like Schrodinger he stretches out and that’s him for the evening. My other cat comes and sits on my knee, curled up, a black and white hot water bottle. What better way to spend these last evenings before the shortest day on the 21st.

    Happy Christmas and Best Wishes for 2019 to you and Schrodinger and absent friends. Thank you for all your writing thoughout 2018 … and keep warm.

  8. December 17, 2018

    What a magnificent companion! So happy that you have found one another. We have a
    large “prosperous” black cat, Satchmo, and he will “help” me today as I decorate our holiday tree.
    There will be an occasional paw swipe, he will spread out in the very
    center of the proceedings (he’s the size of a small area rug!) , he will poke his big head into the cartons of packing material, and supervise the nativity scene. Then, he will nestle under the sheltering boughs when the tree is completely decorated, his huge eyes all aglow.

    Thank you, GA and Mister S! Happy Holidays to all.

  9. Paul Loften permalink
    December 17, 2018

    I wish you well for your Thursday talk. I have thought of relating something of Schrodinger’s life to Whiskey and Brandy but I would not want them to contemplate life without our radiator, which brings some joy to their backsides on frosty winter mornings.

  10. Elizabeth Olson permalink
    December 17, 2018

    Your writing warms and inspires, like a crackling fire. Thank you from Canada’s west coast.

  11. Su Corbaley permalink
    December 17, 2018

    I would be unable to resist the plaintiff look hoping for a ‘little light of a fire, sir?’ and the rest would be history!
    Merry Christmas to you and Schrodinger.

  12. Gary Arber permalink
    December 17, 2018

    Is he prepared for the explosive shower of sparks that can come from a burning log ?
    A happy Christmas to you both.

  13. Leslie A Eaton permalink
    December 17, 2018

    I enjoy your stories of Schrodinger just as I enjoyed your stories of Mr. Pussy. (I also enjoyed your book very much.) Happy Holidays and best wishes for the New Year.

  14. Jill Wilson permalink
    December 17, 2018

    Good to hear that Schrodinger has found his way onto your lap! Warmest wishes to you both…

  15. Julia harrison permalink
    December 17, 2018

    What a wonderful post. Heartwarming ❤️

  16. Steven A Burr permalink
    December 18, 2018

    I love your cat! He almost looks like my cat except for the white on his face. I love black cats and have 2 out of 4. I’d love to have a wood stove and truly love yours how lucky you are to have that one! Keep up the great stories!

  17. Margaret Mcdermott permalink
    January 6, 2019

    Oh happy cat and a happy New Year to you both.

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