Once upon a time, a young girl bought a house in Bolton. There she lived for three months with a bed bought by her Gramps, an old desk for a dining table and a second hand suite to sit upon. When she was firmly ensconced in her lovely new home, she decided it was time to get a pet. Her mother knew of such a suitable animal, who was living in a temporary foster home with her friend Wendy.
One sunny day, Mr Basil arrived at Cavendish Gardens. He was most upset by the journey and never spoke to the young girl’s mum ever again. He would run away when she turned up, and it was only some years later when he was very poorly that he ever went in a car again.
His first days were spent sussing out the neighbourhood. At the time, it was cat-free, except for a very old man over the road, going by the name of Merlin. Some time later, Nimrod arrived, and after that, there was no shortage of other cats, including Jasmine, The Basil’s arch-nemesis.
He spent much of the time sitting in his nest by the door, curled up waiting for the girl’s arrival back home. He loved to sit on the windowsill and watch the world go by. The young girl met a lovely young man, Andy, and The Basil would spend much time curled up on his lap. He was always a man’s cat. He loved whiskas, but only fish flavours, and he would eat like a pig and throw up a lot, including on the girl’s keyboard. The carpet became a patchwork of Basil’s bulimic vomiting. And then he would eat some more.
The Basil grew to rule the roost. He would sleep wherever he chose, including on the girl’s bed, or in the spare room, or on the settee. Often, he would stretch out and the girl would have to sit on the floor. She didn’t mind though. She loved that he ruled her.
He loved ping-pong balls and would chase them across the floor for hours, even if they went under things. He was a very talkative cat and would always talk to the girl when she came home from work, and when he wanted food. Sometimes, he would curl up like a snail shell next to her when he was wet.
When she gave up working, he would spend many a happy hour driving her crazy by going in and out more often than a fiddler’s elbow. He was happier in the house now the neighbourhood had filled up, and was very happy to spend his days with her. He would lie with her in the garden and stretch out to be tickled. Basil’s nests took up much of the garden, all the places he liked to sit.
He wasn’t much of a bird-killer, thank the lord, and spent most of his days hunting for mice, voles, shrews and rats. Sleeping, purring, playing, trying to catch feet, sitting on exam papers, getting on the newspapers, endlessly howling for food, never eating what he’d got, jumping for ham… his days were endless fun.
When he was sixteen years of age, the young girl, now an old lady, decided to move Mr Basil to France. She fretted about her beloved, worrying he wouldn’t make it. He had to have lots of injections and he didn’t cry once the whole journey, getting out of his cage at Rouen to lie on Jake’s duvet right next to him.
Moving in, he settled quickly, never going far. He spent most of the summer lying in his favourite spot behind the barn, or howling for food. He didn’t settle too well at first, sleeping in a corner on the bed, terrified of the Moll. In the end, it was the Moll who was terrified of him. He slept next to the woman, snuggled up in her arms, every night, with the Moll at her feet.
He would wake up the girl each morning by yowling and poking her face. On Saturdays, he would sit with her whilst she knitted in bed. On Sundays he would sun himself in the garden. He was just as faddy about his food, and never was the girl more worried than when her boy was ill.
One Tuesday, he came and sat by her side in bed. He was very ill. He didn’t move all the next day, and didn’t eat. He couldn’t move and hard as it was, she knew it was time to go to the vet. The vet was a lovely man, but he knew the Basil’s hunting days were over and that it was time he went to sleep. So, on the 17th of February, 2011, Monsignior Basil “Oiseau” Tybalt the Rat-catcher closed his eyes and went to sleep.
Never has a cat been so pampered, so adored. He brought the girl happiness many, many times over. He might have been a whimsical serial killer with a penchant for mice and tuna, but he was always there, when the girl was sad. Sometimes, he was the only reason she came home and didn’t run away from everything. Once, when a kind man asked her what she had to live for, she said, “Basil.”
She’s glad he didn’t take Dylan Thomas’s advice and that he went gently into the night. May he hunt on forever.