Is there anything more quintessentially English than listening to the cricket on Test Match Special on a sunny summer's Sunday?
I am under no illusions; England will lose this Test. But Broad and Swann have just provided fine entertainment with a plucky hour of runs. That is what I love about the English spirit. We stand in the face of almost certain defeat and battle on to the last man. It sometimes seems as if our finest hours come in adversity, in life and sport. Although I will not add 'and in love', as my partner has had enough adversity in that department in her life to find any pleasure or glory in it.
So, I suppose it is high time I explained the nature of my predicament with the cat opposite (the mother of the kittens). I have been putting it off and putting it off, but a problem shared is a problem halved, they say, so perhaps sharing my troubles with you, dear reader, will prove cathartic. I can only hope.
I am not going to set the scene with regard to my previous troubles concerning the young queen (I shudder at the term; yet it is the correct one for a lady-cat. How come a lady-dog is a bitch, and a lady-cat is a queen? Something is amiss there, methinks. However. I digress). The sorry tale of how a nefarious individual coerced me into attempting a kittnap in order to supply an horrific banquet has already been told in an earlier post, as has the severe pummelling I received from the enraged queen and my subsequent humiliation; if you require the details, you can go back to the earlier posts and check them out for yourself. There had been a brief respite of calm, following the departure of the rat from the arena, but a severe deterioration of my peace of mind began to develop from the area of the queen and her kittens several weeks ago.
My traumas had their genesis on an innocently peaceful afternoon, when I trotted out of the house to help my partner bring in her grocery shopping from the car. I always oversee such operations. My partner - and indeed anyone (workmen in particular) finds it difficult to carry out even the most basic of tasks without the benefit of my supervision. I was carefully observing the proceedings, when I heard noises from the garden across the road. I turned, to see the young queen in the garden with her three kittens. She was teaching them how to wash themselves properly after going to the toilet. It was mildly amusing, as the kittens kept toppling over as they bent around to clean their tiny bottoms.
As I smiled to myself, one of the kittens, the feisty tortoiseshell tom, caught my eye. With an enthusiastic squeal of "Hello!!", he bolted between the fence-posts, across the road and straight up to me. I stood, fixed to the spot, unsure of what to do. My instinct said 'chase', but my common sense said 'leave it'. I left it. The lad's mother leaped over the fence in a single bound, with a dreadful screech. The young kitten looked perfectly unconcerned and stared me straight in the face.
"My name is Zac." he announced. "You're a big, ugly cat!"
"Err..." I muttered, nervously all-too-aware of the rapid approach of my feline nemesis. "I'm not a cat. I'm a dog called Jasper."
"Wow! What's a dog?!"
"ZAC!" yelled the mother-cat, showing me her teeth, with her eyes glittering dangerously at me; defying me to attack her son. I didn't fail to notice the hint of fear behind her rage. Her two other kittens cowered behind her.
"And that's my brother, Milo, and my sister Sophie." he said, flicking an ear towards his little siblings. I gave an uneasy, watery smile.
"Zac!" cried his mother again, "Come away from him! NOW!" She was becoming hysterical.
I decided to make a tactical withdrawal and gave the little lad a wink.
"Better do as your mum says, son." I smiled, "Nice to meet you."
The queen stared at me, open-mouthed, as I walked back into my house. She was completely dumbfounded. She eventually turned and followed her capering and chattering little brood back into their garden, lost in deep confusion.
And that was where it all started to go horribly wrong. More terror to follow.