Mr Fox and Mr Bird

First published on Anglo Info – but it’s my only news. Apologies if you read both!!

The naming of cats is a difficult matter…

It was as inevitable as karaoke at a Japanese bar…

Mr Basil passed away last Thursday. He was my child – my petulant, spoilt, lovely boy. I cried buckets. We buried him on Sunday underneath one of his favourite trees, complete with everything he’ll need for Cat Valhalla. He might not have died in combat, but he was a fierce warrior, and I like to think the Valkyries escorted him to sit outside Valhalla and there he sits.

Yesterday morning, I’d decided I needed new cats. Sure, I could do with a bit of time grieving. I keep looking over to the windowsill, seeing a reflection and thinking it’s my boy. But we have mice and a home for cats, so Sunday was as good as any day to place an ad on the wanted section of Anglo Info.

Within minutes, I had several offers. Some were a little older, or a little young, or a little far away. But a very kind lady was the first to reply and the deal was done. I’m a great believer in kismet.

“I’ve got two cats on offer.” I said to Steve.

“Hmmmm.” He smiled beatifically from the corner. I could read his thoughts. He thinks we have enough animals. He thinks we don’t have money going spare. He remembers Mr Basil’s spraying when we arrived here, and the way I pampered him. He remembers that animals can be hard work. He looks at Tilly, asleep in her basket and I can see him thinking ‘we have enough trouble’. But we don’t.

I showed him a picture.

“Hmmmm.” he said.

Not convinced.

But he loved The Basil, even though he hadn’t known him very long. He liked it when The Basil curled up on his pillow. He liked the whimsy and I’m inclined to think he felt a kinship with the petulant one. I think maybe he was more sensitive about Basil’s passing than I was. However, I’m accustomed to losing what you love. I’ve taught thousands of kids who I’ve loved dearly and let go on to college or work. In fact, on my first teacher placement in a primary school, I realised I could never spend full weeks with kids who I would grow to become too attached to. It would break my heart. I much prefer things that are brief and a little distant, because I know I’m going to find it hard to let go.

The Aged Parent arrived this morning. I’ve decided to call my dad this in honour of “Great Expectations”

“I’m picking up two cats later,” I said.

He smiled fixedly at The Man. The kind of smile that says: “Can’t you stop this madness or at least reign it in? You aren’t building an ark you know, or running a rescue centre, and could you not keep a tighter hand on this mad girl?”

The Man smiled fixedly back. The kind of smile that says: “Not a chance. You’re her father. You should have beaten this out of her as a child.”

Both of them smile fixedly at me. The kind of smile that says: “You’re several sandwiches and a pork pie short of a picnic.”

I smile. I’ve got cats to pick up at lunchtime.

Linda, their previous mum, had been ‘brought’ them by some other strays she feeds. Trouble is, like many of us, she’s a little short of cash when it comes to feeding the feline five thousand, though I could see she’d love to.

And when I saw them, I knew why. They’re beautiful!

I’d a conversation earlier in the day with a French client – a feline friendly guy. We talked about cats we’d loved and lost. I described the new ones to him.

“They’re ginger.” I said.


“Hmmm. It’s a cat colour. We call it ginger. Red.”

He didn’t know what colour it was in French, but it’s decidedly not gingembre. He laughed as if it was the silliest thing I could have said. Turns out it’s cannelle or roux. Cinnamon. Not sure why it’s funny to call them gingembre but okay to call them cannelle, but there you go.  We went a whole conversational detour around The Spice Girls (Ginger Spice, of course!), why we think Posh Spice would be better to embrace an inner bitch and stop trying so hard, why kids in England are bullied for being red-haired. Turns out we both have red-haired mums. He was proud of his mum’s flamboyant hair colour. I have a friend who jokingly said if she had a child and it was ginger, she’d drown it.

Anyway, the two boys were asleep on the swing when I got there – and as soon as I approached them, they purred, licked my hands, nuzzled me… I was smitten.

Truthfully, I wanted the privilege of naming an animal, and I was kind of glad she’d held off naming them. It’s such a… personal thing. I had a couple of names in mind. Basil had been named before arrival, and he was definitely a Basil, not a Baz or anything else. I liked to stand outside shouting him like Sybil Fawlty. His name became a little like Oiseau – and I’d already decided one of them would be called Bird as a kind of loose namesake. Birdy. Good name for a cat. Plus, we’re watching re-runs of The Wire and I love some of the characters in that.

The trouble lay with the other name. I liked Bubbs to go with that, but neither cat was a Bubbs. I thought about Mac for a bit, like McVities Ginger Nuts, but it didn’t work either. Linda had mentioned something about calling one of them Fox or Foxy for his marmalade colouring and it seemed to work really well. Foxy would keep his name, and Birdy would be my other little cat. Foxy and Birdy. Fox and Bird.

It works.

And so I ask you to bid welcome to Foxy Loxy and the Birdman of Alcatraz, our new resident predators.

Please don’t smile fixedly at me. I’ve had enough of that for one day. Just indulge me a little like The Aged P and Steve


2 thoughts on “Mr Fox and Mr Bird

  1. “You’re several sandwiches and a pork pie short of a picnic.” Funniest expression ever! But you’re not!

    I’m glad you’ve got Foxy and Birdy now…looking forward to pictures (most of my cats when I had them were gingers…two were named “Nicky”).


    P.S. I absolutely love “Fawlty Towers”, and do a passable “Sybil” impression myself!

    1. They’re gorgeous. Steve’s already giving me the look since they had the temerity to do a poo and to knock some plants over in the lean-to, but hey-ho. I get the ‘several sandwiches and a pork pie short of a picnic’ look all the time!!

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