One of the things on my ‘To Be Done’ list for this year was to republish my book
I’m delighted to announce it’s available for pre-order now, and due to be released on the 28th August. That’s two days’ time!!
The paperback version should be available sometime next month. Meanwhile, here’s the usual short story before you rush off and buy the book. 😀
I’m a dog person more than a cat person but I found the photo below (courtesy of Pixabay) inspiring.
‘Tiddles! Where are you? Tiddles! Come in now or you’ll have to stay out all night.’
The mad cat lady from No. 83 was at it again. Every night was the same. Just as we were settling down for bed she would open her front door and yell into the night for her stupid animal to come home. You’d think she would keep him in, but there again we’d never seen him so perhaps he didn’t exist.
‘I’m not sure she’s safe to live on her own,’ I told my boyfriend that night. ‘Shouldn’t we tell social services or someone?’
‘It’s none of our business. Apart from her little ritual she seems OK. Live and let live, she’s not doing any harm.’
So the months passed, and apart from her routine call to Tiddles every night I thought no more about it. The summer was nearly over when disaster struck. I loved my job as a home help, and even though it mainly entailed emptying bedpans, heating up meals and collecting prescriptions, my employer was a lovely old lady with all her faculties. Her legs might have been wonky but her mind was sharp, and we spent many hours discussing the news, debating books and films, and setting the world to rights.
‘I’ll be really sorry to lose you Jan,’ she told me one day, ‘but I’m going to have to give you a month’s notice. My son and his wife are worried about me and insisting I move in with them. They’ve bought a new house up north with a granny flat, so I’ll have someone around during the night. I’m going to miss you but I’m certain you’ll find another job soon.’
I wasn’t so sure, and with no proper qualifications it proved difficult to find alternative employment. I was used to being busy but with no money coming in and nothing to keep me occupied, life became monotonous. My boyfriend was no help, either financially or emotionally, and it dawned on me he was little more than a scrounger. After a flaming row he moved out of my flat and with the nights drawing in I was lonely.
With Christmas approaching I had two choices, wallow and be miserable on my own or do something about it. The decider was when I saw the advert in the local paper:
Help wanted to serve Christmas Day lunch for the elderly of the neighbourhood. Can you spare a few hours to give pensioners a day to remember and help them escape their lonely existence? Contact Debbie for more information on how to bring a little sunshine into someone’s life.
Who would believe old-timers with an average age of eighty could be such fun? It was lovely to hear “Please” and “Thank you,” and to listen to the light-hearted teasing as they all enjoyed their meal. Carol singing was followed by a sing-along, but the star of the show was definitely Mabel, the lady from No. 83 and her ventriloquist act with Tiddles.
The lion puppet seemed to come alive as he regaled the audience with saucy tales and had everyone in fits of laughter. A visit from Santa finished off the afternoon and after helping to clear up, I fell into step with Mabel for the short walk home. Her stories were fascinating, and gradually we built up a friendship and I began to visit her regularly.
She was born into a circus family and although I was slightly skeptical of her claims to have been the first female lion tamer, I was intrigued by the tales of her life as everything from a chorus dancer to part of a comedy act, a singer and a magician’s assistant. Although I still heard her calling Tiddles every night I had never seen him, and put it down to the idiosyncrasies of an old lady.
‘Jan, can you pop over, love? I seem to have got myself in a bit of a predicament.’
Her voice on the phone sounded shaky and unlike her usual confident self.
‘I’ll be right over. Hang on in there.’
As I opened the back door I found Mabel sprawled on the kitchen floor with her leg twisted at an unnatural angle. The ambulance arrived promptly and insisted on taking her to hospital.
‘Can I go with her?’ I asked the paramedics but before they could reply she told me in a much firmer voice, ‘No. I’ll be fine. I need you here to feed Tiddles. All his meat is in the fridge. There’s enough there for today and tomorrow. He’s down in the cellar and after he’s finished eating you’ll need to let him out to do his business, then he’ll be fine for the night. But be careful. He’s not used to strangers. Make sure you call him by name and lock the door after you when you come back up. Phone me so I know you’re OK.’
She sounded really worried but how difficult could it be to give the cat a bit of food? I found a bowl but no tins or packets in the fridge. Instead it was full with whole sides of beef, legs of lamb and other large cuts of meat on the bone, enough to last a family of four for months. Cutting up some small pieces I wondered whether to cook them first but a strange noise from the cellar encouraged me to descend the dark, uneven staircase to the basement. Perhaps the roar I heard was only the clanging of the heavy chains as I undid the padlocks on the thick metal door. Even in the dim light the place was a mess. No wonder Mabel had to call him; a cat would have plenty of hiding places amongst all this junk.
Rattling the bowl, I took a deep breath and copied her example.
‘Tiddles. Where are you Tiddles?’
As he slowly came into view from behind the door, I wondered what I had got myself into.
© Voinks April 2018