PEOPLE 259 – MY BROTHER GEORGE (MONO)
March 24, 2017 10 Comments
Photo credit: Elsie Pinder. Click onto this image to open a larger version in a separate window, and click onto that image to further enlarge it.
Now, you’re thinking, just when I thought FATman couldn’t get any weirder, he comes up with this! More to the point, what’s he on? And yes, I do know, now, that there’s Life on Mars …
So, what has happened to warrant this really quite unreasonable outburst on your part? Well, you’ve found a post entitled My brother George only to find that, on opening it, there is the picture of a cat. Could happen anywhere in the blogosphere. Probably happens in some places all the time … Well, here’s the story.
I’m an only child, with all that entails. And I was born into a household that consisted of my parents and a big tom cat called George, who was then around two years old. So he was there, he was with me from the beginning – and he apparently used to stand up on his back legs, put his forelegs on the side of my pram, and stare in at me – probably wondering if he was allowed to eat me. I had no siblings and so, in effect, he was my brother. He was two years older than me, and he was always, always there throughout my boyhood. And he died at about the age of 15 – that is, when I was 13 – and even now, 54 years later, I think of him, often, and I miss him – which must say something.
And I have remained with a great love and appreciation for cats, and have been very close to some really big ones in East Africa – and fantasised about having a Cheetah as a pet – what beauty, what grace, what presence! But no, before you ask, I’ve never again owned a cat of any sort – for no particular reason I suppose; things have just turned out that way.
George would sometimes stay out all night, around the garden and countryside in which was set our hilltop house. And, after some of these nocturnal forays, a favourite memory is of the means he devised of getting back into our home’s warmth before our family was generally up and about. From our back lawn, he would jump up with that the ease that cats have onto the top of a wooden fence, probably about five feet off the ground. Moving along the top of this fence brought him onto the glass roof of our conservatory which, mercifully, could support his weight. And so across this glass roof, and up to the top of another, steep roof, which was just below my bedroom window.
And in all weathers, exposed as we were to the western gales coming in off the Atlantic, George would perch on the ridge of that roof, reach up with one foot, put his claws out, and bang on my window. And this little boy would be out of bed in an instant, calling to him to hang on and, opening the curtains, look down at him being buffeted by the elements. Holding onto the window for dear life with two hands, I’d open it and he’d jump nimbly up onto the sill.
And there was one final obstacle for him, for in those days I was an avid collector of rocks, minerals and fossils – a prelude to becoming a professional geologist in later years – and the window ledge was covered in my geological samples, each with a neatly typed label >>> and he would come in across that window ledge without disturbing a single thing. Impressive is simply not the word.
And, since this is the only memorial that this long-dead little creature is going to get – this creature who now lives on only in my mind – I must tell you this. Simple question – what did George eat, what did he exist on? Well, apart from whatever he may have killed or found outdoors, indoors he did pretty well! I can’t remember if there were tinned cat foods around in the 1950s but, even if there were, they weren’t for him! For my father was a butcher, who would bring home vast amounts of raw beef for him – he probably got through more steak than anyone else around! And if he couldn’t have steak, my mother would buy cod from the fishmonger, and serve it up to him cooked piping hot, along with a crushed up tablet of Tibbs healthy cat medicine! We were a middle class family who – then! – had some money, and my parents evidently thought cod beneath us, as we always ate plaice – and it was only later on in life, after I’d left home, that I found cod was pretty damned good too!
Mostly I loved George, but I recall a few times when I was unkind to him, and I continue to regret those times bitterly. But, two great truths – first, I was young, unformed and uninformed then, and had not the compassion I now feel for all creatures. And, second, I know only too well that the past cannot be rewritten, it is immutable, unless of course you’re a politician.
This photo was taken by our neighbour Elsie in her garden. She loved George too, and always welcomed him. And she gave this photo to my mother, who kept it with her for the rest of her life. Elsie died, aged 86, in 2005. My mother preceded her by two years, and so this picture has passed to me – and I am delighted to have been able to scan it and present it here.
We all have our own beliefs, and one of mine is that, after death, there is only oblivion.
But, should that not be the case, I wonder where George is now?