Domestic bliss with our cat's cradle

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The Independent Online
THE CAT has rather abruptly had her kittenhood truncated. She has become a mother within the last 10 minutes. There was little noise; none of the growling and yowling that the lady who does reported as likely.

One minute the cat - I do not think anyone in the family has bothered to name her - was a ball of fight. The next, she became a little stout and seemed surprised that the birds in the garden and even the frogs quite often outran her. Soon after that, she has - for the past few days - virtually been incapable of movement. She would find herself too hot in one patch of sunlight and just summon up the energy to remove herself somewhere cooler before belly-flopping.

No nest-making. But she herself was born in a hedge, and refinement does not seem to have been zipped into her genes.

I went into the bathroom where she dropped a squawking, wet-furred creature which was nose-dived in the after-birth. The mother looked at me as though to suggest that my guess was as good as hers as to what the hell one did next. She looked - with her slanty green eyes and her snake-haunches - like an uppity nightclub chanteuse who has been told she will have to work the back loos for a while. She looked indignant. I stroked her, and she purred her gratitude that in this topsy-turvy world there was someone who cared what a girl was going through.

I have been back since. The baby was at the teat (one of, I think, six or so tiny, sharp little nodules about the size of shotgun pellet). Between the two of them they seemed to have sorted it all out. There was a vigorous slurping noise. I am hoping the young mother is now enjoyably surfing on hormones, as I remember Mrs North doing after two of her parturitions (her third turned her grumpy and harassed for a while).

Dare I go back up? Will there be more? Should I put some water down? Or should I give her a tot, as I used to give Mrs North, to be sure to kick-start the infant's delight in milk?

Frankly, I have my work to do. The unbelievably good-looking son of the local MP has asked me to appear on a sort of Desert Island Disc show on the local radio station. (I have just popped upstairs again - could not resist it - and there's another]) Bursting with pride, I picked some serious stuff (Mahler, Brahms, Gregorian plainsong, just to show posh). But the real teaser was the rock'n'roll. Bob Marley's in, without discussion. And PM Dawn, to show I'm modern.

The tyro broadcaster came throbbing through the village on his Harley to talk it over. He said that The Only Ones have become a cult band since tipped in the late Seventies by people like me (they did not achieve big success, so far as I know). I wanted them in because Mrs North used to keep me from knocking people over as I danced to their sort of neuro-pomp rock.

The youngster was a bit blank when I said I quite wanted Clover. Clover, he asked? Yah, I said, you know, Huey Lewis's band before the News. He did not say bodacious, because he is not that kind of Tory, but he was impressed. Happened that Mrs North and I used to pack a pork chop and a bottle of wine and take a train to Monmouth (just down the road from here) and go and stay at Rockfield studios while Clover was recording. Oh, a million years ago, and we lived in London then.

We rode bikes the last bit of the way, and drank a lot. Mrs North could wipe the floor with Huey at darts, drunk or sober, and I was very proud of her because they were the kind of men I would have liked to be. Air hostesses used to come down from Heathrow to Rockfield in taxis - God knows what it must have cost them - to hang out with the boys and cook amazing dinners. I called them the 'jet slags', which was not very nice. They were, quite. What it is] as we used to say.

You could fall asleep against a speaker and wake up an hour later and these amazing songs were still being made all around you. And then we would walk in the dawn by a meandering stream in open farmland, with mists rising.

It was one of the reasons I knew the borders were great country.

But I am not sure it's right to pick Clover, when there's Meal Ticket to be included. I never heard them play anywhere but Hammersmith. I am afraid to say I've forgotten the details: I know I loved the music - it was sort of ethnic country and western, and crucially sited in New Mexico and Arizona, round there. Apparently it was played the night Mrs North and I met. Certainly - and I do remember this - we often went to hear them and sometimes used to cry.

I hope the show goes well. There are only three things I want in life. One, a seat in the House of Lords; two, a knighthood (if need be - see one) and three, to be on Desert Island Discs. I see the upcoming opportunity as training. I wonder if Sue Lawley is reading this? If not, let her know there are a couple of good black kittens here if she wants one. Perhaps we could negotiate. (Actually, she can have the pick of four. The mother is fast asleep but purring in the midst of a riot of sucking.)