Skip to content

Remembering Mr Pussy In Winter

February 21, 2021
by the gentle author

Today is the last day of our Valentine’s sale with all titles in the Spitalfields Life Bookshop at half price until midnight. Half of our titles are sold out and others are running low, so – with weeks of lockdown yet to come – this is the ideal opportunity to complete your collection.

Enter the code VALENTINE at checkout to claim your discount.

CLICK HERE TO VISIT THE SPITALFIELDS LIFE BOOKSHOP

Today I remember my old cat, Mr Pussy. The biography I wrote of him, THE LIFE & TIMES OF MR PUSSY, is included in the sale.

On dark winter nights, Mr Pussy seldom stirred from the chimney corner. Warmed by a fire of burning pallets, he had no need of whisky to bring him solace through the dark hours, instead he frazzled his brain in a heat-induced trance. Outside in the streets, Spitalfields might have lain under snow, the paths might have been coated in sheet ice and icicles might be hanging from the gutters, but this spectacle held no interest for Mr Pussy. Like the cavemen of ancient times, his sole fascination was with the mesmerising dance of flames in the grate. And as the season descended towards its nadir in the plunging temperatures of the frozen byways, at home Mr Pussy fell into his own warm darkness of stupefaction.

When Mr Pussy grew old and the world was no longer new to him, his curiosity was ameliorated by his love of sleeping. Once he was a brat in jet black, yet he became a gentleman in a chenille velvet suit, as tufts of white hair increasingly flecked his glossy pelt. One summer, I noticed he was getting skinny and then I discovered that his teeth had gone which meant he could no longer crunch the hard biscuits that were always his delight. Extraordinarily, he made little protest at this starvation diet, even as he lost weight through lack of food. I learnt to fill his dish with biscuits and top it up with water, so that he might satisfy his hunger by supping the resulting slush. And through this simple accommodation – plus a supplement of raw meat – his weight was restored to normal and he purred in gratification while eating again.

Once Mr Pussy was a wild rover, ranging over the fields in Devon, disappearing for days on end and returning proudly with a dead rabbit in his mouth. Yet in the end, he did not step beyond the end of the alley in Spitalfields and, in sub-zero temperatures, he only ventured outside to do his necessary business. Sprinting up the stairs and calling impatiently outside the door of the living room, he was ever eager to return to the fireside and warm his cold toes afterwards, sore from scraping at the frost in the vain attempt to dig a hole in the frozen earth. Like a visionary poet, Mr Pussy acquired a vivid internal life to insulate himself against the rigours of the world and, in the absence of sunlight, the fire provided his imaginative refuge, engendering a sublime reverie of peace and physical ease.

Yet Mr Pussy still loved to fight. If he heard cats screeching in the yard, he would race from the house to join the fray unless I could shut the door first and prevent him. Even when he had been injured and came back leaking blood from huge wounds, he appeared quite unconcerned. Only two small notches in his ears persisted as permanent evidence of this violent tendency, although I regularly checked his brow for tell-tale scratches and the occasional deep bloody furrows that sometimes caused swelling around his eyes. But I could stop him going out, even though it was a matter of concern to me that – as he aged and his reflexes lessened – he might get blinded in a fight one day, losing one of his soulful golden eyes. Since he was blissfully unaware of this possibility, I had no choice but to take consolation from his response when he could not eat, revealing that Mr Pussy had no expectations of life and consequently no fear of loss. His nature was to make his best accommodation to any exigency with grace.

Be assured, Mr Pussy could still leap up onto the kitchen counter in a single bound. He could still bring in a live mouse from the garden when he pleased and delightedly crunch its skull between his jaws on the bedroom floor. If I worked late into the night, he would still cry and tug on the bed sheets to waken me in the early morning to see the falling snow. When the fancy seized him, he could be as a sprightly as a kitten. Come the spring, he would be running up trees again, even if  – in the darkest depth of winter – he only wanted to sleep by the fire.

When I was alone here in the old house in Spitalfields at night, Mr Pussy became my sole companion, the perfect accomplice for a writer. When I took to my bed to keep warm while writing my stories, he was always there as the silent assistant, curled into a ball upon the sheepskin coverlet. As the years passed and Mr Pussy strayed less from the house, I grew accustomed to his constant presence. He taught me that, rather than fear for his well-being, I needed to embrace all the circumstances and seasons that life sends, just as he did.

You may also like to read

So Long, Mr Pussy

Click here to buy a copy at half price

13 Responses leave one →
  1. February 21, 2021

    Your book, a Present to my family of cat lovers this last Christmas…

  2. Lyn Hamilton permalink
    February 21, 2021

    I adored reading this lovely account of the life of Mr Pussy. We now have a black rescue cat of our own. He is ten years old and I see so much of Mr Pussy in him. Best wishes from New Zealand

  3. February 21, 2021

    My eyes fill with tears reading about Mr. Pussy. This summer it will be four years since Mr. Pussy left you. Rake care, dear G.A.

  4. Richard Smith permalink
    February 21, 2021

    What an excellent companion Mr Pussy was. “He taught me that, rather than fear for his well-being, I needed to embrace all the circumstances and seasons that life sends, just as he did.” A valuable lesson.

  5. Mark permalink
    February 21, 2021

    Mr Pussy is jet black, just like the cat that owns us.Pumpkin.
    Our familiar!
    You got a great replacement tho’ but G.A.

  6. February 21, 2021

    How lovely to hear about Mr Pussy again, I look at my own beloved cat and worry as the years go by perhaps we should be more like our cats, and just live. Love to Schrodinger.

  7. February 21, 2021

    Greetings from snowy Boston,

    GA, it is always a delight to be reminded of the life and times of Mr. Pussy.

    Beautifully phrased –“Like a visionary poet, Mr Pussy acquired a vivid internal life to insulate himself against the rigours of the world and, in the absence of sunlight, the fire provided his imaginative refuge, engendering a sublime reverie of peace and physical ease.”

  8. paul loften permalink
    February 21, 2021

    I already have a copy of The Life and Times of Mr Pussy and would recommend it to every cat and animal lover.
    Reading, today your beautifully written remembrance, it evokes within me a memory of the day of the arrival of Brandy Branston as a kitten at our house . Brandy was the runt of the litter. So tiny and weak we did not think he would make the car journey home from his Enfield birthplace to East London . But made it he did and after a meal which revived him,l found a comfortable spot , on the neck tucked behind my daughters long hair. His arrival, twelve years ago at first sight caused an anguished cry and a long deep moan from our resident cat Whisky. He was trying to tell us something, and we later discovered that class does definitely exist as an issue in the world of cats. Whisky is a cat with breeding , good manners, elegance poise and discernment. For him a lap is not required
    Brandy is a cat that you could best describe as Baldrick in Blackadder. Trying forever to get into the dustbin. Grunting and snorting when cleaning his fur and impossible to shift from your lap. They are complete opposites, but strangely enough get on very well .Baldrick, sorry Brandy has settled in very well as the underling and hero worshipper of Whisky. Whisky has first dibs on the food served and Brandy is pushed aside without complaint from his bowl when Whisky feels like a bit more . That is the understanding they have reached. Brandy is only there because Whisky has allowed it . I can see quite clearly that Mr Pussy was a cat of considerable status and breeding. I am all for equality however I am not so sure that even if they read the collected works of Karl Marx, it would not change the ways of our wonderful companions

  9. February 21, 2021

    I always cry when I read about Mr Pussy. So sad we have to lose our animals.

  10. Pamela Traves permalink
    February 21, 2021

    Mr. Pussy was a Lovely Cat. I must have the Book.🥰😘😊💖🐱‍👤🐱‍💻🐱‍👓

  11. Jill Wilson permalink
    February 22, 2021

    Lovely to read about Mr Pussy again. My new (ish) black cat could be his doppelgänger but he has a different way of blissing our in front of the fire – Bezzy’s preferred position is to lie on his back with back legs apart and front legs in a begging position, while checking that everyone is looking at him (which of course we are!)

  12. February 24, 2021

    What a wonderful remembrance of Mr. Pussy. I loved so much all the stories you wrote about him. Greatly enjoyed and still do reading The Life and Times of Mr. Pussy which I acquired when it was first published.

  13. Margaret Mcdermott permalink
    February 24, 2021

    Mr P ussy I still miss you even though I have my own beautiful black cat to keep me company during these terrible days of self isolation.I fear I bore him but he is too polite to say so and gives me frequent reassuring pats.

Leave a Reply

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

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS