Doris Lessing, cat person extraordinaire

Of course, Doris Lessing was a person extraordinaire, as well as a cat person extraordinaire.  But she loved cats too, she wrote a book called “Particularly Cats”, after all, about her cat experiences.

Doris Lessing

She died in 2013, but this is a photo of her taken in 2006, a year before she was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.   She was a one-off, in the best sense – insightful, courageous, far-thinking and willing to take risks.

She could be challenging to be around for any length of time, it seems. Her cat book is a case in point: there’s no comfiness – she doesn’t put her cats to sleep when the time comes, they don’t pass on, and they most certainly don’t go to the Rainbow Bridge (which is where my cats are). No, Doris’s cats are “killed”, if its necessary.

My copy of Doris Lessing’s book

I’m sure this has something to do with her childhood circumstances: in the inter-war period, the 1920s and 30s in what was then Rhodesia, out on a farm. It was idyllic, in her memory, but of course it wasn’t a life that would coddle a little girl.

I met her once, very briefly; she came to the Brighton Festival to give a talk on another writer, though when the talk was finished, nearly all the Q&A was about her own work. She was perfectly willing to do a signing afterwards, and she stopped in her tracks, for a moment or two. I’d brought a hard copy edition of one of her science fiction books, The Sentimental Agents in the Volyen Empire. Its a great book, very witty, very funny, and reads a bit more like Monty Python than anything else; she was really pleased someone had brought it along. It was brilliant to bring a spontaneous flash of pleasure to those eyes!

I saw a documentary on TV about her last year, hosted by Alan Yentob, entitled The Reluctant Heroine, in which she’s described as “alarming, radical and strange” by Hermione Lee.  People’s wariness around her is summed up in the film by a little exchange in her kitchen a few days prior to this, as a cat arrives at the interview wanting to be let out into the garden, and Alan Yentob picks it up:

Doris: “That cat could easily bite.  She’s not a sweet little pussy.”
Alan: “No, I didn’t think she would be.”

It cracked me up …

Cley Next The Sea, Norfolk

I was there earlier this month, meeting up with family, and we had a great time there.  I took an hour or so out from family meet-ups, however, to wander about with camera in hand, looking for cats worthy of worship.  And I found quite a few.


Aristocratic cat

There was this one, a panther I suppose, guarding the entrance to a house that was right on the main road.

Sculpture at Pinkfoot Gallery

The Pinkfoot Gallery window was dominated by this simple, beautiful sculpture.  I decided to use the photo that showed my reflection, I quite like the effect.

Cat at Letheringsett Mill

The mill is water-powered, a couple of hundred years old, and guarded by this little black cat.  This is the closest I got.  That cat is good.

Cat stickers!

And they are just stickers, the kind you can get in any poundshop.  But they were fresh, and they were placed at adult height, so I thought it would be much wiser to co-operate with the universe than not.

Windvane at Cley

I thought the windvane was pretty special.  It’s on the trackway that leads to Cley Windmill, if you’re in that neck of the woods.

“I can see you”

This lovely black and white cat was in a local gallery, and saw this dog outside.  It was a nice dog.  Very quiet, very civilised.  The cat was much more determined.  This is what happened next:

“I always get my way”

I told the nice man in the picture I was going to put it up on my blog, he was quite happy.

Clover Greetings, from a photo by Richard Clover 2009

And finally, this is a greetings card I bought at the bookshop – a Clover Greetings card, from a photo by Richard Clover.  And it shows the cat that lives in the bookshop, who’s worshipped by all and sundry, including me – adorable!  They got so many requests for photos, they had the card commissioned, and she still holds court today, six years after this photo was taken.

Wonderful cats.  Wonderful place.


A new home for my cat blog

This is my new cat home online!  Right here, on the doorstep.  I’m writing other things too, and Real Life has definitely got in the way, but I love cats too much to not write about them.

Today, for instance, a neighbour called round: his little tortoiseshell cat is very pregnant, and didn’t come home last night.  He thinks she may have slunk off somewhere to have her kits in private, and I can understand his thinking.  She’s so bouncy and inquisitive, I thought she was a male kitten!

Anyway, my shed is falling apart, and has lots of nooks and crannies for a pregnant little cat to hide, so we had a proper look in there.  No joy yet, but I’m keeping an eye out.

In the meantime, I wanted to make a new banner for this new website, which used to be a basic level WordPress site.  It’s still basic WordPress, of course, but at least I have hosting now.  Hosting cats … I like it.

The banner here, by the way, is a detail from the statue of Dick Whittington and his cat outside the Guildhall Art Gallery in London.  The Gallery’s closed, but the statue lives on.

I have quite a few posts to transfer onto here gradually, and I’ve also been doing a lot of poking about the country and the web, looking at cats.   The results will be on here, pictures and designs and research, all of it.

In a couple of days, I’ll post some photos I took last week, in Cley Next The Sea – cats galore, of all sorts.  I loved it, I hope you do too.