Tag Archives: Basil

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.

“Huh?”

“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

 

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A tout a l’heure Monsignior Basil

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.

The Basil surveying his kingdom

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.

A very young Mr Basil and a very young Andy

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.

Surveying the neighbourhood from his spare mum's door

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.

Sunbathing

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.

Not impressed by the Halloween costume!

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.

Look at my works, ye mighty

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.

A cute moment

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.

An uneasy truce

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.

Sunny days in France

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.

My beloved

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.

Why oh why…

Did I want two more dogs??

I might as well have Dog Slave and Boy Slave written on me in permanence. I do nothing but pander to the whims of the various animals from dawn to dusk.

First is Moll waking me up by wanting to get under the covers and then get out again. Because I’m blanketed up, she’s got three to get under or out of. Thus, I have to be fully awake to unwrap and re-wrap her. This is Steve’s fault for letting her sleep in the bed. Now she’s entitled.

Second is navigating cat shit. Basil no longer wants to go outside on account of the other dogs and so he’s back on litter box duty. However, he misses. Today he shat in my last box of card from The Card Factory.

Third is navigating Tilly’s ‘girlie accidents’ (according to the ad about her from her previous owners – actually, completely un-housetrained… hmmmm)  and mopping up before letting them all out, having safely secured Basil in a dog-free eating environment so that he can eat his precious cat food in peace without being molested by Saffy or Tilly. Molly wouldn’t dare, but Saffy and Tilly are greedy and their eyes are bigger than their consciences or fear of punishment.

Then comes petting Tilly after she’s weed and congratulating her on weeing outside or doing a big shit. I’m going to start congratulating everyone for shitting where they should. I might stand near my brother and go “Good Aim!” when he gets it in the bowl.

Following this, I have to then retrieve Basil from his cold dog-free buffet and settle the dogs down again.

Mostly, things are fairly calm until I need to go out. It’s not so much the going out that’s the problem, it’s the coming back. Tilly sits on the back of the settee so she can look through the window, which is very cute and thus I am heart-broken upon leaving. Then when I get back, I have not to greet Tilly until she’s weed, and fuss Saffy who barks until you do and pet Molly who I like fussing when I come back because she doesn’t wee or bark. Then they rifle through my bags.

I then have to have three dogs underfoot in the kitchen until I send them all packing. I do a good line in ‘Out! Out!’ until they all disappear, before sneaking back in. Then the whole rigmarole again.

Tilly, not being house-trained, likes to sit near the door knowing full well whenever she does we’ll let her out. Then Saffy follows her, not wanting to miss anything. Tilly used to go out to drink – both dogs are compulsive drinkers, because they’re so used to it and doing it out of boredom. Tilly goes outside to drink from the laundry basket and then comes in and wees in Jake’s room or the dining room, or the kitchen, or some other place I’ve yet to find and I mop again. Saffy barks every time she goes outside because she’s so excited to be outside and nobody has ever told her not to. So if they go out, I have to follow – firstly to inspect peeing and nervous drinking – and secondly to stop the barking and chicken chasing.

Molly also has got into the habit of sitting in Steve’s chair, behind him. The chair isn’t big enough for both of them, so Steve usually falls off the edge as Molly shoves her way in. Tilly sits near the door desperate for some extra water or a sniff at some cat food. Saffy, thankfully, is sleeping.

This is obviously not even including the walking and the fussing and the constant attention to dog psychology.

But, I must say, I love it really.

Reasons today was shite

1. I couldn’t find my medication. Boo.

2. The dog threw up on my pillow. Apparently this is my own fault for letting her eat grass. Like you can ‘stop’ the Moll eating what she wants.

3. The cat cried ALL night long. And he pissed in a corner, even though I put his litter tray in the corner.

4. The cat then pissed in the corner when the door was open and he could have gone out

5. The cat wouldn’t eat his food

6. I went to the vet to buy de-flea treatment and it cost A LOT of money. I know it’s got tick and mosquito and other stuff in it, but still…

7. In the vet’s, a little dog had been sick and then was lying in it and its owner was not doing anything

8. There were two sad limpy dogs

9. It wasn’t like Regan’s Vets at all, who are all lovely and wonderful. It was a free-for-all and all the dogs looked very unhappy

10. There was a huge queue at the petrol station, which gives me some karmic comeuppance for causing a huge queue last week

11. My engine management light has come on AGAIN

12. Our water heater has stopped working

Booooooooooooo.

But, some good news.

1. I found my pills

2. Stephen cleaned up the cat pee

3. I made a fantastic apple and blackberry crumble last night made with home-grown produce, and it was brilliant.

The Tardoire riverbed near us is completely dried up, from, as I can see, at least Agris through to St Ciers. We can walk from the submerged road up the riverbed, where we found a very weird mushroom:

Huge mushroomy thing

There’s also a dead thing that may or may not be a pine marten/stone marten kind of a thing, lots of limestone, with which we did our limestone experiment, and lots and lots of blackberries, elderberries and sloes

My father smells of elderberries

I manage to meet the same elderly village gentleman every night. It’s quite odd. He said he calls us ‘The English who walk the dog’ which I assumed was because it is peculiar for the French to walk a dog of Molly’s size – since they’re usually guard dogs. But then the next night, he was walking two dogs himself. He said one of them, Roxanne, was left by English people who didn’t have the right paper work, and we had a chat about blackberries and the grottes in the area. I like this man. He’s very chatty and doesn’t care about my half-half English/French.

Into the final stages…

I had a question from a friend on Facebook about the pet passports, and I have to say she was horrified by the expense. If I were of a less sentimental nature, I’d go with the ‘drown them…’ approach! Although it’s not a concern if you’re just taking pets out and staying out in France, it’s a dear do if you want to bring them back.

First, your dearest animal needs to be chipped. For the Molly, this is a good thing. She likes to escape from time to time and take herself for a walk. But she’s not particularly bright and forgets to come home. For the Basil, this is a bad thing. It’s hard to be incognito and ‘ownerless’ if you have a chip. In true net-geek speak, he is pwned good and proper. I own him. It says so in his passport. He has an address. He’s no longer the cat equivalent of Lee Child’s Jack Reacher. He has a home and family. The chip can be anywhere from £10 upwards.

Then, your dear animal needs to have a rabies vaccination. This isn’t that dear compared to the blood test. Our jab cost about £35 if I recall rightly. There’s some info out there on the net that says they need a booster 2 weeks later. Not as far as I know. The booster for our animals will be in three years time. I guess the second shot is just to check it’s worked… but given the expense of the initial shot, a second one seems a bit of a waste of £35 unless you really need it!

Then, 2 weeks after, you need a blood test to see if it’s worked. I guess, otherwise, you have a rabid pet?! This was the dear do… cost £70 each blood test. You can only get back into England 6 months after a clear rabies test, and they can be pretty funny about whether that’s 6 calendar months or some other calculation they’ve worked out. I’d play it safe and ensure it’s done 7 months before you’ll be bringing your pet back. You don’t want the poor little fella sitting in quarantine for a week just because some narky official has decided that it should be 6 months of 31 days or something bizarre.

Dogs also need to have their usual annual booster shots too (ours are £28. I don’t know if that’s dear or cheap, but I love our vet and I’d pay him twice as much as anyone else!)

Then, the passport itself is £40.

So… from start to finish, you’re looking at about £150 minimum. Per pet.

If you take them out to France on Eurotunnel, you don’t pay for the animal. The lovely Eurotunnel lady said we only had to keep the pets comfortable and happy – it’s their only requirement on the way out.

It’s on the way back in where it starts to get stringent! Then you need all sorts of treatments to get back in, in order to ensure there are no parasites, blood-suckers, pests and so on. I wonder why they let Mariah Carey’s entourage in with her? Maybe she should be de-loused before arrival? This goes for any number of foreign (American!) singers/actors with an accompanying cast of thousands, needless to say.

I must say, I like the little passports. They are lovely. I’m going to put pictures of Basil and Molly in the front of them (There’s a space – it’d be rude not to!) and then they are as good as people.

Given that their passport is more expensive than ours and that the most I ever paid for a jab was £33 for my yellow fever jab (LJ – Yellow Fever free since 2003) they are actually better than people. Or, more expensive anyway. Thank God Jake’s jabs are free, or else we’d be leaving him at home.

I jest. His passport is also up for renewal. This is a good thing. His previous passport picture, taken aged 5, makes him look a little …. hmmm…. simple. He’s staring at the camera with his mouth open and his dad has unfortunately given him a very nasty bowl haircut. Unfortunate. Steve looks like a criminal in his. I had a Mona Lisa smile in mine until it was renewed this year (and I have huge hair on this one, and a double chin!) so…. I need to make Molly and Basil look suitably ‘prison line-up’ ish.

To the left
To the right
and to the front

I did enter this picture on my Icanhascheezburger page. My favourite caption for it was:

“You is dismissed. I has finished with you. I has bizness to attend to.”

Des pissenlits

So Steve has finally started packing. Unlike my military-style, highly-organised packing, he’s opted for the more laissez-faire approach. I’m now up to about 100 wine boxes, all labelled, all clearly identifiable, all helpfully sorted into room-by-room groups. I may colour code them, but I think that may be too much. Steve, however, has gone for the more ad-hoc approach of finding random-sized boxes of varying strengths, styles and shape, and he’s filling them with whatever he comes across. This may not help very much with my deciding where everything is likely to go, but it will help create an exact replica of his disorganised home. I, for instance, have packed CDs with CDs, make up with make up, handbags with handbags. He’s gone for the roman coins with shoelaces with history books with lead fishing weights. It’s novel. I’ll give him that. To give him credit, it makes sense to him. Quite why he wants to bring two small safes with him is beyond me. Both of them can be carried off to be smashed elsewhere, one of them has a single-tumbler lock and the other doesn’t lock (or shut) at all. In fact, the most use they’ve been is for our baby-sitting rescue cat to hide in.

The rescue cat has a story of its own, and we’re deeply affectionate about it (apart from Jake who seems to think the cat hates him with a passion)

Some time last summer, Jake and his friend ‘found’ a kitten under a hedge and brought it down for our perusal.

“It’s dead.” Steve said, unemotional as ever. The friend gave a look of abject horror.

“Dead?!” and the kitten was all set to be launched into space which would definitely have finished it off for good. Luckily, it gave a little move just in time, Steve realised his error, ran to its rescue and relieved the young boy of his fear that he may indeed be holding a dead animal. He put it in a box and waited for me to get home, having tried to tempt it with some milk and then some water. If Jake hadn’t found it, it’d be dead. If Steve hadn’t put it in a shady spot and fed it a little liquid, likewise.

Luckily, I have charm where animals are concerned. I’ve rescued a hamster, a gerbil, several fish and my own cat, Basil, from several near-death escapades. I hand-fed Basil New Covent Garden chicken soup when he was very poorly, and I know how to sort a cat out. Poor baby kitten was covered in fleas, lice, and most disconcerting, fly eggs and maggots, which had already begun to eat him. I washed him down and raced him to the RSPCA in Salford. This is an experience in itself. There was no apparent way in, as it has to be kept under constant lockdown from the nearby druggies, and it was operating on a three-door policy, where you went through one, were vetted, then went through another. Honestly, it was worse than airport security!

There was a chavvy looking bloke in there, with, yes, a Staffie and its pups. The Staffie had killed one, and they were worried it would kill another. Probably saw the life its children would lead and decided to put them out of their misery. Leather collars with metal spikes on, hanging around offies looking menacing, and being paraded as a menace when you’re really a sweetheart dog must be enough to drive any mother to consider euthanasia. Anyway, the vet took a look and then it was my turn, with my little shoebox with the recently-named ‘Ollie’, partly in honour of Oliver Twist, the most literary foundling I could think of, partly in honour of having a sound-alike to ‘Molly’. Steve had suggested ‘Arfur’ (‘Arf-Alive) but I like to bestow literary names upon my cats, in the best T.S. Eliot style.

I was worried Ollie had broken back legs, but it was just that he was so weak he couldn’t hold them properly. And the vet gave me some rehydration salts and sent me on my way.

Ollie had to be fed the fluid with a 2ml syringe. I sponged him down, put him in the airing cupboard, kept him warm, wiped his bum, knowing that baby cats need a mummy cat’s tongue on their arse to make them wee, apparently. What  a job. No wonder I’m not maternal. And I’m not even a cat. I gave him 2ml every hour, kept him clean, powdered him with gentle flea powder, and cleaned his eyes, which were glued shut with pus and snot.

Next day, he was still sniffing and sneezing. I knew the vet had missed something. Ollie had cat flu. He had to have. I took him to my vet, Michael, who is an adorable man. He’s so gentle and kind – he’s exactly what you’d want in a vet. And he agreed. Cat flu. Probably wouldn’t survive the night. Didn’t even know if he was old enough for anti-biotics. I thought he was about 6 weeks old, but in retrospect, he was probably only 2 or 3. So I paid up a princely sum for anti-biotics, cat milk, de-fleaing drops, and took him home to start the lengthy process of bringing him back to health.

The first two days, he didn’t move at all. He barely woke up when I was feeding him, and he was not even moving an inch during the day, just sleeping face down on Basil’s old cat cushion. I was convinced he would make it, despite what the vet said. I made another couple of trips to pick up more anti-biotics, and have check-ups, but it didn’t bode well.

Then he did a little poo.

Ollie, a couple of days later

All was beginning to look a little better. He was beginning to move from 2 ml to a 5 ml syringe, and he moved a little bit on the Thursday. He was a little cleaner, and he managed to get one eye open. Over the next week, he began to lap milk from a saucer, coaxed by me moving the syringe nearer and nearer to it. And he began to sit up and look more alive than dead. I went through many syringes, many towels, many cotton wool pads and cotton wool buds that week.

He began to move about a bit, and was kind of nicknamed Wobbly Bob. I don’t know why people who are wobbly get called Bob, but so it is. So Ollie became Ollie-Bob, and occasionally Bob Sagat (via Bob Seger!) and he began to get a lot more lively, although still very, very fragile!

Ollie looking a little bewildered

And he was beginning to follow Molly about, looking up to her like a surrogate mother. She loved it, and it made me feel a little bit sad that she’d been spayed, since she would have made an excellent mum! She was incredibly patient with him, though excited by the new addition to the family, never jealous of the time we spent with him. He even took to copying her mannerisms!

Molly teaching Ollie her best moves

He really was unbelievably small and wobbly. But one night, Ollie crept into Moll’s basket and cuddled up, and she loved it. It was like she was made to be cuddled up to by small animals. She wouldn’t move, and even when we went up to bed, she didn’t come with us, and that never happens. She always comes up to bed!

Moll's best friend

Not long after, my sister, Abi, had professed a desire to have Ollie. On one condition. He had to have a new name. My brother-in-law insisted he should be called Clint, after his film star hero (I assume!) and Ollie had to go. Not a problem. We’d come to realise, confirmed by my vet, that Clint was deaf, so Clint it was. Clint Horan. More Clint Boon than Eastwood. And he’s since lived up to the Clint Boon/Eastwood moniker by becoming a complete Manc hoodlum claw-slinging terror-mongering maniac. Now he’s in full-grown kitten hood, and although he walks around with his head on one side a bit, due to his early cat flu, and he’s balance-inept, and he’s unable to meow in any other way than making a Sweep-like squeak, we love him completely.

He’s come to rule my sister’s house. He breaks draining boards, knocks things over, terrorises anyone without shoes on and will willingly hang from you if you walk past.

Whilst we’ve been babysitting Clint, he’s managed to worm his way back into Moll’s heart, and was cuddled up next to her this morning, albeit with her under the duvet, and him on top. He eats her dog biscuits, she leaves his food untouched. He steals her bed, she sleeps in a corner. She sniffs him, he bites her head. But they’ve had this ongoing game of kiss-chase going on for days, and we’re really going to miss him when he’s gone. Still, whilst he might play well with Molly, Basil’s having none of it, since Clint seemed to think Basil was some kind of cat guru and has spent the last 4 days following him about everywhere in the house, trying to do exactly what Basil is doing, and desperate to play. But Basil is stately, now, and so he’s just put up with him, desperately trying to get some proper sleep. As if I won’t have enough animals with me without our little Clinton.

Quelle vie de chien!

So we’re preparing, and now it’s time for the animals to prepare. The Basil, a mighty and fearsome hunter trapped in a cat’s body, had to go for his microchip this morning. It’s the equivalent of an ASBO tag to him. For 13 years, he’s been collarless, ownerless, address-less: a perfect hobo. Now he’s got a permanent address and can be returned to me, wherever he chooses to wander. He isn’t going to like this, morally speaking. He’s an outdoor man by nature, untamed by society (though he only eats the finest cuts of fish or chicken, and he is partial to a comfy sofa) and now he can be returned, should he disappear. He can be tracked. It doesn’t sit well with this animal who tried to impale himself on a branch when I put a collar on him 10 years ago. It was as if to say: “Look! Do you see what your collar has done to me??! I’m going to strangle myself to death undertaking daring escapades involving trees!”

I meekly removed the collar and he’s never been collared since. A collar means subservience, entrapment, servitude. And it wasn’t for him. So the ASBO tag can’t be to his liking, really. But then, little of this will be… the rabies shot (which may or may not work), the blood test, the vet runs, the long journey, ending up living with a dog.

The Basil has been to the vet three times in his long life. Once because he had an abscess, the next because he was growling at his food, and the final time because he needed his teeth sorting out. I got looks from the vet as if to say I were a terrible pet-keeper because I hadn’t brushed his teeth. I felt awfully negligent, but then I would rather be negligent than savaged. Either way, those teeth weren’t getting brushed, with or without my bloodshed. Last time he left the vet, he was seven teeth the fewer, though it doesn’t seem to have impaired his ability to savage. This time, I was made to feel like a negligent owner – nay, brutal animal sadist, for taking a ‘geriatric cat to France to live out his latter years in warmth and sun, surrounded by rats and field mice… (And let’s forget about Molly for a minute)…  and I object to this ‘geriatric’ word anyway… My nana’s 80 and she’s just got back from trolling round Barcelona with her sister… having spent the summer driving ‘the girls’ (average age, 78) around France. One man’s 80 is not another man’s. Likewise, Basil might be 14 (that’s 80 in cat years informed my vet) but he’s a long way off pissing himself and needing his food liquidising.

So I’m kind of hoping he forgives me for the long journey and the injections and the ASBO tag. I’m kind of hoping the pay-off of the rats galore, an acre of land and several outbuildings will be to his liking. I’m assuming he’ll be able to rule the manor in the style he sees fit. Though I’m terrified he’ll disappear and take issue with the Molly Dog, or that he’ll enjoy it so much he won’t come in.

I can see it now. The Basil will be in the barn with Steve, both of them coming in to be fed and petted from time to time, and I’ll be in the house shuddering with Molly Dog, begging them not to take a bed into the barn for fear we’ll never see them.

The Molly Dog has learned a new trick of late. It’s to shudder horrendously when we’re eating or when she is left without Steve. It’s entirely psychological, and somewhat pathetic. If anyone saw it, they’d either laugh or report us to the RSPCA. I’m hoping the former. It doesn’t work, this shivering. She shivered all the way through last night’s risotto and few morsels came her way. So Molly and I can stay shivering in the house whilst the men-folk enjoy the best the barn has to offer, foraging and hunting.

Though my vet (not my lovely normal vet, but some stranger!) expressed a lot of concern about taking The Basil abroad as she said he’s geriatric. As if he’d rather live out his final days in Daubhill, Bolton, in the rain, the hail, the wind and the cold, having to put up with several young upstarts including next door’s cat, Jasmine, who terrorises him! Morally, I feel I can justify the journey, knowing that he’ll love it when he gets there, even though he might hate me forever for taking him. I’m sure he’ll be fine in the barn with Steve. Geriatric indeed!

Molly Dog is a different beast altogether. She’s two years old and a complete lush. She loves car journeys and new places, and she’ll love the space. Plus, dogs forgive you instantly for anything. It’s only cats that hold grudges. You could beat Molly with a stick, and if you then said ‘Come here, girl!’ she’d run to you like you were still her best friend. Basil still refuses to go near my mum, and she only brought him here on a journey of twenty minutes some 13 years ago. He looks at her with disgust and scuttles away hurriedly, with complete disdain as if my mother had once cast aspersions about his Queen. You can throw a pill to Molly and she’ll swallow it without a fuss (similarly with stones, pebbles, small toys, plastic pirates, water chestnuts and so on) but you have to cajole The Basil by tricking him and pretending there’s no good reason at all for you to be giving him a fine cut of tuna, just that you love him.

I don’t know why I personify my beasts so. I guess it’s just that thing where they’ve got so much personality, it’s hard not to think of them in human terms. Basil is definitely cut from the Rum Tum Tugger pattern; Molly, probably, from Tigger.

How these two will get along, I don’t know. Molly’s stayed here a couple of nights, and Basil’s generally stayed out of the way, but I can’t help thinking he’ll be stopping out in the barn a whole lot once he sees he’s been forced to have a new housemate of the canine variety. Heaven forbid Molly tries to play with him. He’ll be wearing her nose as a new hat.

Anyway, pet passports are being sorted, inoculations arranged, microchips implanted, channel-crossings arranged and belongings packed. It’s more ‘go’ than ‘not go’ although I suspect my brother’s advice of ‘keep your nerve!’ will be much required over the coming year or so.