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Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Epiblog for the Feast of St Plegmund

It has been a busy week in the Holme Valley, especially since it contained nine days this time, instead of the more usual seven. Actually, most of my weeks feel as if they contained nine days, but this one actually did.  We are getting ready to go on holiday. Need I say more? The problem is threefold. The process of getting the camper ready to roll always takes longer, much longer, than our hopelessly optimistic and naïve estimates; if the weather’s nice, we’d rather sit in the sun than traipse in and out loading up the camper, whereas if it’s raining, we’d rather sit inside by the stove than traipse in and out loading up the camper, and finally, the camper itself normally has a few new quirks and foibles up its sleeve (I know it doesn’t really have sleeves, I’m not completely mechanically stupid) which crop up when least expected and delay us still further.

Last year was rather a magnificent example of the latter problem, when a small but spectacular fire engulfed the dashboard and filled the cab with smoke as we drove off. Deb did a u-turn after 600 yards we ended up back in the driveway and were stuck there for a further week, which cheered us up enormously, as you can imagine.

The thing is, real life, such as it is, doesn’t stop. The fates, the Norns, the Lords of Misrule, Big G, Old Nobodaddy, or whoever is currently in charge, don’t say “oh, well, they’re trying to get away on holiday, we’ll cut them a little slack…” if anything, the opposite is true.

Matilda, meanwhile, is enjoying all the doors being open, so that makes one of us.  She’s developed several new skills, one of which involves going out of the cat flap, round the side of the house, onto the decking, along the decking through the back door of the garage, into the lobby, out of the side door, down the wheelchair ramp, turn left across the front garden, down the side of the house, and back in through the cat flap. And rest. And repeat. 

Misty seems also to have picked up the going-away vibe and as a result has been much more skittish than usual.  She’s a bit like Tig used to be, when she used to make sure that, if the side door to the camper was open, she packed herself, by jumping in and settling down, even if we weren’t actually going until two days hence.

So, it’s all been a bit fraught.  The outside world, such as I have seen of it, via the prism of the news media, is growing ever more insane by the day.  Donald Trump is undoubtedly the Antichrist, you heard it here first.  I shouldn’t be at all surprised if, one day, someone unglued the back of his toupee and found it said “666” underneath.  Here in the UK, the Labour Party seems much more concerned with splitting itself into the People’s Judean Liberation Front and the People’s Liberation Front of Judea (a Monty Python reference, M’Lud) than in seriously opposing the Tories, who are still trying to deal with their own self-inflicted trauma, the Brexit vote.  Meanwhile, UKIP are having their own leadership contest, or they would be, except that the front runner apparently forgot there was a deadline to be nominated, so missed it.  Let’s hope this year the UKIP Christmas party isn’t being held in a brewery somewhere.

The madness of the world was most manifest, however, in the bloody murder of the French priest, Fr. Jacques Hamel, by murderous thugs purporting to have been acting in the name of Islam.  In the week, I did something almost unprecedented for me: I wrote a separate blog just about this one subject.

I did it because the crime pointed up very sharply for me what might be called “the problem of evil” once again, and I was determined to nail it down and get it out of my system.  I failed, of course, but we both had a damn good wrestle, the problem of evil and me. Never wrestle with a pig – you both get muddy, and only the pig enjoys it.  I’m not going to rehearse it all again here, and neither am I going to cut and paste it into this blog. If you want to read it in all its turgid glory, it’s the previous post.

The problem of evil remains, and it was given another outing on Saturday, when something in the real world blew up on me which was the main reason there was simply no time to write a blog on Sunday.  Well, that and the holiday preparations, see above.  During the course of an evening on Facebook on Saturday, it emerged in a series of messages that my neighbours had been out looking for abandoned kittens along our road.  Apparently a feral cat had been seen carrying her kittens into one of the gardens along our stretch, but unfortunately she was knocked down and killed on the road outside, on Friday evening.

This meant there were an unspecified number of kittens out there somewhere, who hadn’t been fed for almost 24 hours, and would never be fed by their mother again. Clearly the outlook wasn’t good.  I trundled out to the front and looked around with my police torch. Nothing. When Granny came by to pick up the dogs, she nosed her car into the driveway and swung the headlights around on full beam. Nothing.  Debbie went out into the back garden, and checked all around the shed and under the trees and in all the bushes using the Fenix lantern. Nothing, again, nothing.

I must’ve had about an hour’s sleep on Saturday night, if that, worrying about the kittens, out there in the dark. On Sunday, I made a determined effort that I would try and help by getting the two major animal welfare charities in the UK with an interest in cats, involved. I started with the Cats’ Protection League, now known simply as Cats’ Protection. The number rang out, but it was a Sunday. I posted details of the problem on their Facebook page, and then rang the RSPCA 24-hour animals in distress line. They were – as usual – as indeed they have been every time I have ever had to call on them for any help of this nature – completely bloody useless.

On Sunday night, I heard some good news.  Five kittens had been found, under a shed in the back garden of the empty house three up from ours, and had been taken in by a neighbour, who was hand-rearing them until they were old enough for solid food.  I take my hat off to her. It was no hardship, it was a metaphorical hat. However, hand-rearing five kittens is no easy gig.  They need to be fed every three hours, day and night, plus, until they learn to do it themselves, you have to manually stimulate their nether regions to encourage them to do a poo. Initially, I heard that the CPL had refused to help and had referred my neighbour back to the RSPCA (here we go again!) but fortunately this turned out to be duff gen, and two local branches, Huddersfield and Dewsbury, are supporting her in her thankless task.

In a way, that act of charity sort of neatly bookended the senseless idiocy of Fr. Hamel’s death. I am not being naïve enough to claim that the one cancels the other out – far from it, but it did at least go some way to restoring a little bit of my faith. As I lay awake on Saturday night – actually it was Sunday morning, and at 2AM I had actually stuck my head out of the conservatory door to listen in the quiet hours of the early morning in case I heard any plaintive mewing – anyway, as I lay there, I kept churning the quotation from Raymond Chandler’s Playback through my brain.

"Is God happy with the poisoned cat dying alone in convulsions behind the billboard? Is God happy that life is cruel and that only the fittest survive? The fittest for what? Oh no, far from it. If God were omnipotent and omniscient in any literal sense, he wouldn’t have bothered to make the universe at all. There is no success where there is no possibility of failure, no art without the resistance of the medium. Is it blasphemy to suggest that God has his bad days when nothing goes right, and that God’s days are very, very long?"

I was back to being in a world where bad things happen to good people for no reason and totally at random.  I’m not claiming that the finding of the kittens restored my faith – that would be a leap of faith too far – but I did come to realise again, as if I’d forgotten, that any kitten’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in catkind. If a cat is killed or goes missing, that involves me, the same as if Larry the Cat from Downing Street and all the cats in Battersea Dogs’ Home were washed away by the sea. Therefore seek not to send for whom the kit mews, it mews for me.

So. That’s why there was no blog on Sunday.  Today is the feast day of St Plegmund, erstwhile tutor to Alfred the Great. Meanwhile, we bash on.  Close ranks, and carry on, but not too close, in case the buggers send another HE round over. I may be going on holiday soon. Or not. Only time will tell.  I don’t know where I will be this time next week, but then, that’s nothing new. Granny and Katie will be too busy pandering to Matilda’s every whim to write this on my behalf, so there may be a short intermission. I’ve finished the eikon of St Therese of Liseux, who said, apparently, “My heaven shall be doing good on Earth”. I rather like that. It should be the motto of all cat-rescuers, who are – of course – themselves the unacknowledged saints of our times.

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