My brother Jeremy phones me.
'Erm....I just want to say how sorry I am to hear about Midge'
'...and have you thought about getting another pet?'
'No. Last thing on my mind at the moment'
I'm surprised at how many people have asked me this question. I'm surprised as well at how deeply it shocks me. How can I even think of replacing Midge? Surely it's much too soon? I feel alone and in a thick foggy cloud of mourning, like I am wandering around in heavy 'widow's weeds' but nobody else can see them. Jeremy is particularly insensitive to my feelings.
'Well its just...you know...how about a cat next time round?'
It takes me a couple of seconds to realize that he is trying to fob me off with Grub. Grub is Jeremy's needy little cat, a clingy feline version of an energy-draining friend you can never get rid of. Grub, who abides in a lean-to opposite the front door of Jeremy's cottage and who has been banned from the place because she kept peeing on the bathroom floor.
Jeremy in full salesman swing, continues his pitch before I have a chance to cut in.
'A cat is far easier to have than a dog, they almost look after themselves, in fact you'd hardly know you have one. I could put a cat flap in for you, and she could live mostly in the garage'
Since she acquired the trick of peeing indoors Grub has become the cat that no-one wants. Originally she was my sister's cat who was then passed on to my brother and for years she lived happily within his home, intense and love-demanding but fairly bearable. If you stayed the night, you would sometimes wake up, with a fright, to find her sitting on your chest sphinx-like, purring loudly and staring at you like a deranged ex-girlfriend.
But somewhere along the line she started to follow Jeremy into the bathroom and watched him aiming at the lavatory bowl. She soon became convinced, and then obsessed, that this was the thing to do. Clever cat. But not quite clever enough and even hygiene-relaxed Jeremy soon tired of mopping up the urine splashed floor. Grub was unwilling to give up this trick though and eventually found herself locked out of the cottage.
I find her situation heart-breaking and I make a point of giving her lots of attention whenever I am there.
And now every time I visit Jeremy, Grub will appear from under some sheets of tarpaulin and race towards me like a hungry lover. She thuds into the side of my leg, elongates her frame and leans in as heavily as she can. She is small and desperate. She hero-worships Jeremy but clearly anyone would do, anyone who shows her any tenderness could easily be transferred in her affections. It's unlikely that she will ever stop her internal ablutions though and who would ever take on a cat with those sorts of ingrained habits?
But I have quite strong feelings over pets who aren't wanted, particularly ones that appear to be suffering. I think Jeremy should have her put down and I have told him this many times. I think she is lonely, once an indoor cat and now banished to the outside, she looks miserable and depressed whenever I see her. She hangs around the outside of doors and windows yowling into the night. She is Cathy, wanting to come in and haunt Heathcliff (or Jeremy) with her love. Jeremy disagrees with me, has always said that animals are not like humans and that she enjoys life well enough and all that matters to her, as a cat, is that she is fed.
I tell Jeremy that I'm not interested in having her but over the next few days I start to think about Grub and how easy it would be to move her into our life. I am in the garage clearing a space for the delivery of some of my partner's things that are being sent over from America.
Over the next few weeks I will unpack and find space for them inside, re-home suits and jackets and somehow find space in cramped wardrobes, integrate socks and t-shirts and jeans into drawers, move stuff around, probably throw out a great deal to make room. And where on earth am I going to put my boyfriends guitars? How precious are guitars to guitarists? Do they need to be locked into a cupboard like shotguns, should they stand sentry in the corner of a room or can they be slid, amicably, under a bed? Suddenly there are so many other things to think about and it's hard enough dovetailing another person into ones life, let alone a deprived, lovelorn and cloakroom-obsessed cat.
But I ponder still over the cat flap and where it could go. I start to imagine a sunny summers day a few months down the line and I'm sitting in the garden chatting with my boyfriend, my son is bouncing happily on his trampoline, Grub is sleepily lounging in the warmth, under the shade of the plum tree.
Or peeing on the bathroom floor. Or inside a guitar under the bed.