September 10, 2010

My husband the comedian and other funny men


So when I got down to the mews today for lunch this is what I found standing beside my chair in the kitchen: 


            Oisin is finally home from his fabulous holiday** but since he’s been gone an entire fortnight there was serious catching up that needed to be done.  This proved to include various ugly threats about what penalties he might extract if I don’t remember my guise as a music student.***  But we also had a go at how the world should be taken apart and rearranged to attain a much higher standard than it supports at present.  There’s a lot more arts funding in our version.

            So I got back to the cottage late and in a hurry.  But I noticed my neighbour’s car was not only in his driveway but had its boot open, so I thought, ah ha, he’s there, this might be the moment for a lightning introduction. . . .

            I have to go back a bit.  About a week ago my semi-detached neighbour, whom we will call Phineas, was strolling down our cul de sac when hellhounds and I were emerging from the cottage door.  Oh, Robin, said Phineas.  I wanted to tell you, I’ve got a kitten. . . .

            A KITTEN? I did not scream, because it is a good thing to remain on friendly terms with your neighbours, however sorely they try you.  THE LAST THING WE FRELLING NEED IN THIS FRELLING NEIGHBOURHOOD, I did not continue, IS ANOTHER FRELLING CAT. 

            I did, however, visibly droop, and I believe I may have said oh dear.  Phineas looked nonplussed.  There are kind of a lot of cats around here already, I said.

            There are? said Phineas.  Phineas is a very nice man and an almost perfect neighbour, but he’s not what you’d call noticing.

            Yes, I said, firmly.  There are.  Some of them sing under my bedroom window very late at night.  What a good thing I’m not usually trying to sleep.  And your last cat used to get into my garden over your conservatory roof—and then have trouble getting out again.†

            A little silence fell.  I sighed.  It’ll be fine, I said.  But I wish you’d got a dog.††

            I have been thinking gloomily about this dranglefabbing kitten, but if I’m going to have to put up with another cat, I could at least meet the kitten while it’s still little and cute.  So the next time I saw Phineas I asked if I could meet the new addition.

            He looked nonplussed again.  I didn’t think you’d want to, he said.†††

            I sighed again.  I like kittens, I said.  I even like cats.  I’m just a little oppressed by the number of local cats already in residence.

            But Phineas had brightened up.  Come round any time, he said.  Happy to see you.

            So I went up the drive‡ this afternoon and knocked on the door.  His son, whose name really is Robin, which is very confusing, and so we are going to call him Eidolon, answered the door.  Your dad said I could come round some time and meet the kitten— I began. . .

            . . . when around the corner, coming out through the conservatory door, was Phineas, carrying a little bundle of orange fluff, which he simply held out to me.

            I took the creature, of course, and cuddled it up against me because it’s hardwired that if someone hands you a kitten you cuddle it, and it looked at me with large amber eyes and I could feel my face doing that Kitten Thing. 

            Eidolon said, gosh, he really likes you, he bites and scratches everybody. 

            Yes, said Phineas, look—and he held out his hands and forearms which are, indeed, a network of tiny red lines and gouges.  He said wonderingly, I’ve never seen him so quiet.

            This is such a set up.

            Meanwhile the small fluffy orange demon was still lying comfortably on my forearm, looking as if he never bit or scratched anybody in his life.  Woosha, I said, or something equally clever, rubbing his little fluffy orange head with my other hand.  Oh, kittens.  Gah.  Little furry things with little pointed faces.  Woosha woosha woosha woosha‡‡  Gaaah. 

            How would you like to take care of him this weekend? Phineas asked suddenly and insinuatingly.  We’re leaving in about half an hour. . . .  It’s really simple, he went on eagerly.  I’ll show you where the food is. . . .

            GAH?  BLAH?  WHAT?

            So I’ve got a frelling kitten on my conscience for the weekend.‡‡‡

            And then only a very little later this evening Niall said, Robin!  Would you please ring the tenor for a touch of Grandsire doubles on the back six!  —I don’t ring our tenor.  It’s a big frelling bell, I scare easily, I’m a jerky ringer—and you can’t afford to be jerky on a big bell—and I have ME, which means I’m always kind of trying to stay well inside the boundaries. 

            I rang the tenor.  Nobody died.  The other thing about our tenor is that it’s really a very nice bell.  It pretty well rings itself, if you don’t get in its way.  Mind you, I don’t want to turn it in, as it’s called, which is to say do anything but bong behind—I don’t want to ring a method when the tenor plays with the other bells rather than remaining statelily at the back.  But stately at the back I can probably do.  Bong.  Bong.  Niall grinned all over his face afterward.  He looked a little like Phineas after I said I’d look after the frelling kitten for the weekend.§

            And then hellhounds did not come out of their bed and mill around my feet for scraps (carefully and selectively dropped) while I was cutting up the chicken for their dinner and I thought oh nooooooo . . . because they always come out and mill when they’re planning on eating.§§ 

            And then they ate just fine.

            All the men in my life are comedians.

* * *

* He made some conciliatory mayonnaise for my supper.  Hmmph.  It’s hard to remain cranky while eating Peter’s mayonnaise.  But I’m a strong woman.  I’m up for the challenge.

** Which seems to have chiefly consisted of having their plane flights cancelled and being forced to take slow ferries.  Stay on the mainland.  Islands aren’t worth it.^

^ My slow ferry for Brittany leaves in half an hour.   

*** Finale doesn’t work?  Mozart didn’t have a computer!  Beethoven didn’t have a computer!  Verdi didn’t have a computer!   And have I mentioned that Oisin is involved in a local musical-theatre company that is going to be putting on some damn thing this winter?  I think I did tell you about it.  Because I went to their Meet the Usual Suspects rally this summer, and Oisin saw me there. 

            When all else fails he threatens me with piano duets.

            And I really must ring the cherub.  Must.  Ring.  Cherub.

† I didn’t mention Third House at all.  Another cat will be hardly noticed in that affiliate of the local mob, which, as the crow flies and the cat runs, is only the other side of our little hill.  It’s only people (and dogs) that have to go around.

†† He used to talk about getting a dog!  He could take it with him to work!  And then he decided he was going to get one when he retired!  Which was last year!

††† Apparently he had a strip torn off by our top-of-the-hill neighbour with the fancy garden.  My sympathies are a trifle . . . mixed.

‡ I have told you that Phineas’ house is twice the size of mine?  Plus conservatory.  Plus cellar.  He has a cellar.  And the garden is probably three times the size of my garden.  Plus garage.  And driveway.  The builder was going to live in Phineas’ house and make his wicked stepmother live in mine.

‡‡ Does anybody know how to spell this?  Or possibly wuhsha.  It is a not-uncommon noise to make at small furry things with little pointed faces, but I can’t find it defined anywhere.

‡‡‡ Of course I said yes.  What do you think I am, a brute?  Apparently Phineas has already entrapped another neighbour—a neighbour responsible for one of the singers-under-windows, just by the way—into occasional kitten duty, but is delighted at the prospect of developing a list of possible patsies.    

§ You realise this includes operating the correct toys in the correct manner.  Kittens must have their tiny minds stimulated and their tiny reflexes honed.

§§ Sometimes they mill when they’re not planning on eating.  But they never not mill when they are going to.  Okay, almost never.


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