Andy Richardson: A tale of two kitties, and the boyfriend who is everywhere
We’d like a dog. But our lifestyles are too unconventional to support a canine dependent.
We realised while watching YouTube videos of huskies, the chosen pet of She Who Must Be Obeyed. Amid the tug of rubber toys, the barking for walks, the nuzzling on sofas while owners were trying to snooze, we realised an immutable truth: giving a home to a four-legged friend would be inviting the tail to wag the dog. And so we baulked.
It’s not as though I’ve not gone down that road before. Wife One and I welcomed a beautiful merle collie into our lives called Blue. He had David Bowie eyes, one brown and one blue. He looked like a wolf with an elaborate grey streak around his mane; so a prematurely aged wolf.
He enjoyed a happy tenure in Shrewsbury, accompanying his, ahem, ‘master’, on regular walks and eating whole baked potatoes without chewing them. Which saves time, if nothing else. When he first came into our lives, having been saved from the horrors of an 8th story flat in West Bromwich by an owner who didn’t realise his need for long walks, he was taken for a five-hour yomp across the Shropshire Hills. It’s fair to say owner and master both got carried away and spent the next five days looking at one another with sleepy eyes wondering whose idea it had been to exercise muscles that we didn’t know we still had.
Eventually, he retired to a house that had more time and affection that this workaholic could provide before retreating to the Great Kennel in the Sky to dream of cats and slow-running rabbits. True Blue, baby I love you.
Friends who know me well constantly muse on my 30-hour days. And though She Who Must Be Obeyed and I would dearly love a husky, red setter and collie – all three would be fine, though the food bill would be a nightmare – we realise we’ve not yet reached the stage of our lives when that would be fair to Lundy, Dogger and Viking, the dogs we have pledged to name after the Shipping Forecast.
And so, we bought cats instead. Two of them. And they are the cutest thing this side of a series of perfectly honed Love Island contestants. Choosing names took a while. She Who Must Be Obeyed came up with all the best names until I hit upon an obscure lyric by Britpop combo The Charlatans, which the gaffer mistook for a Simpsons reference.
“Itchy and Scratchy,” I suggested for our ragdoll brothers, as El Gaffer sipped her porn star martini.
She laughed. “I loved The Simpsons.”
I had no idea what she was talking about. I’d been thinking of the lyrics to North Country Boy, by The Charlatans and the bit where Tim Burgess sings: “Itchy and Scratchy come runnin’ up the alley.” And so we agreed, for entirely different reasons.
Itchy and Scratchy settled in like professional burglars in a safety deposit vault. They purred their satisfaction, meowed for more food, offered affection like Santa dispensing gifts and found their new home very much to their liking. Until Itchy got a scratch under his chin and clawed it so hard he needed to visit the vet. She Who Must Be Obeyed explained the malady to the vet nurse lady woman.
“He had an itch under his chin and scratched it too hard.”
“And what’s his name?”
“No, I know he was itchy. But what’s his name.”
“Itchy. His brother’s scratchy.”
They laughed. The stars had aligned over a silken-furred ragdoll’s chin.
My partner was relaying that story to a taxi driver while making her way to work. It was a workaday Sunday and I, typically, was doing other stuff; talking on the BBC about an event I was helping to organise. The taxi driver was tuned in. And neither of them knew I was on – until my dulcet tones penetrated the airwaves.
Suddenly, like the Voice Of God, I interrupted She Who Must Be Obeyed’s journey, my voice booming though the cab driver’s perfectly balanced Bang & Olufsen’s speakers.
She Who Must Be Obeyed instinctively looked around. Had I somehow managed to enter the car without her noticing? Had I spirited my way through the back window to sit beside her? Had I morphed into an ear worm? Was she hearing voices that would later impel her to crush all of her Bruce Springsteen cds beneath an eight-tonne steamroller. Was she dreaming this? No, I was rabbiting on on the radio while she was unwittingly tuned in. Ain’t nothing as strange as the truth.
She Who Must Be Obeyed regained her composure and continued her conversation about cats.
“It’s, it’s, it’s my boyfriend,” she mumbled as the taxi driver moaned about the unfathomable Black Country accent coming from the radio.