Jaffa’s book of plots and plans

Jaffa liked to let you know who was boss. It was him. Always.

My previous post mentioned a scar on my left hand caused by Jaffa. A lesson my 9 year old self has never forgotten.

The lesson….

Never put a hat on a cat’s head.

Never do this…

 

Or this…..

Jaffa was always more of a New York Jets fan

Jaffa did nothing at the time of these pictures other than store them in his infinite recall lobe. He later jotted them down in his Book of plots and plans. Unfortunately, I was to feature in this book on more than one occasion.

A while after these pictures were taken, and unsuspecting child version of me tried to go to bed one night. At the time I had bunk beds and used to sleep in the top bunk. This particular night, I had a guest awaiting me on my bed. Jaffa. Looking sleepy and cute.

I picked him up to move him to the bottom bunk. Whilst holding him in one hand and trying to negotiate the bunk bed ladder in slippers, I lost my footing and slipped.

I steadied my fall by grabbing hold of the bed, and Jaffa steadied his fall by grabbing hold of my hand… with his claws.

For a second, there we were.  I was hanging from the bed, and Jaffa was hanging from my hand.

Some might think this was purely an accident, but an extract from Jaffa’s Book of Plots and Plans tells a very different story………..

Reason for plot

The indignity suffered from being made to pose for photographs in a variety of hats.

Plan

Grease each rung of bunk bed ladder with a can of acme axle grease. Wait patiently on bed for target to arrive. Look sleepy and cute. Wait for target to move me to bottom bunk, and slip on greasy rung. Break own fall by using target. In the event of plan failure, do not panic as the risk of injury to self  is minimal. Will always land on feet, and have 9 lives intact.

Plan B if the above fails

Place banana skin outside target’s bedroom door, shut off electricity supply and mieow loudly at 3am.

Jaffa's book of plots and plans

Jaffa liked to let you know who was boss. It was him. Always.

Jaffa! The indisputable leader of the gang. He’s the boss, he’s a pip, he’s the championship. He’s the most tip top, Top Cat.

 

Jaffa. My first proper pet.

The reason I fell in love with cats.

The reason I have a 2 inch scar on my left hand.

The reason I still step over the last but one stair at the top of the staircase years after his passing.

Jaffa was kind of a big deal around our street. There is no doubt he ruled it. And ruled it well. There was no crime, there was no nonsense. Jaffa had it all under quiet control.

In order to become Top Cat of the street, Jaffa first had to topple it’s current ruler. Simon.

Simon the cat. An ageing, rough, raggedy grey cat who had ruled our street for years and lived opposite our house. We had all lived under his dictatorship for far too long. Too scared to walk down the lane by Simon’s house, things needed to change. People needed to feel safe.

At the time, Jaffa was the new kid on the block. With a heart full of courage and a head full of brains he challenged Simon to a bare claw street fight one night. If Jaffa won, Simon was to hand control of the street over to him.

They met that night .

They hissed and spat with arched backs as they moved sideways past each other.

Each waiting for the other to make his move.

After a succession of  lightening quick paw jabs, the ears went down and the claws came out. There was a pounce, and suddenly they had wrapped their paws around each other and sunk their claws and teeth into each other.

They  rolled around the street oerning and kicking each other fiercely with their back paws…..In the Feline World Wrestling Federation* (FWWF), this finishing move  is known as the  ‘cottontail kick‘ due to it’s striking similarity to a bunny hop.

Yowling and wailing under a moonlit night, only one of them would emerge victorious.

That night…..Young fought Old, and Good fought Bad… But Pride fought Pride.

That night, a new Top Cat was crowned. Jaffa emerged the victor. True to his word, Simon handed over control of the street. Albeit with some reluctance, he knew he was beaten.

Ginger and grey fur littered the street from the night before,  whilst a triumphant Jaffa surveyed his new territory.

Things would be different now.

*Ever so slightly made this bit up

A family of cat philanthropists

From tattered Medieval rags, Tudor ruffs and codpieces, to Victorian corsets and parasols, the kindred blood of my ancestors all have one common trend…..  Beside them is a cat… Probably secretly planning their demise.

A lot of behavioural footprints left by parents are filled with the steps of their children.

Children who see their parents smoke are more likely to smoke themselves. Fact.

Children who see their parents acting as cat philanthropists are more likely to become cat philanthropists themselves. Also fact.

I’m a cat philanthropist, and you can blame my parents, parents, parents, parents, parents, parents, parents, parents, parents, parents for it…..

There is a saying that a home without a cat is just a house.

I don’t believe this to be true. I’ve been in plenty of cat free homes and they feel just as homely as those with cats.

The only difference is, in a cat free home, the wafer thin ham in the fridge is for human consumption, and there is no ’emergency’ tin of tuna in the cupboard.

I do believe though that a cat lovers home without a cat is just a house. My parents home, the home where I spent my childhood is testament to that. My first cat was called Jaffa. He was the first family pet if you ignore Adam & the Ants, the collection of goldfish won at a fairground… They weren’t really pets and Adam ate all the Ants after a few days anyway, so basically it was just Adam the goldfish. Not much fun.

Jaffa was a beefy ginger tom.  Strong, obstinate, belligerent, cantankerous and intimidating…. All the qualities of a good cat. Quite late in Jaffa’s life, not long after his retirement, after he’d hung up the chain of his professional duties as Mayor of the cat council on our street, we had an addition to the family. Sox. My Sox.

The story of how Sox came to live with us is a remarkable example of fate working at it’s best. Sox was mine. And I was hers. I loved Jaffa whole heartedly, but Sox was the first cat I formed a profound beautiful bond with. No better illustrated than what happened the day she passed away.

Jaffa had taught me the basics of understanding the complexities of the feline mind, but Sox polished my skills to a level of expertise.

I always got the impression that Jaffa just tolerated my brother and I most of the time because we just happened to be already living in the house before his arrival.  He could see my parents were quite fond of us, so trying to rid them of us was probably quite futile.

Sox on the other hand was genuinely affectionate. A lady. We could sense each other’s mood  instantly. We knew when a tickle under the chin or a rub against the legs would make it all better,  or whether to stay the hell out of each other’s way.  I could tell from her meiow, her brrrt and her purr exactly what she wanted and needed, and she could tell from my tone exactly what I wanted and needed.

Some advice… never laugh at a cat. Cats have the amazing ability of knowing exactly when you are talking about them and in what context. It’s usually when they are fake sleeping. One ear is tilted in your direction, one of their eyes is ever so slightly open and the tail is delicately swishing at the tip. Classic neuron receptor pose.

Don’t be fooled, as to the untrained eye, this looks like a normal sleeping cat. Behind the scenes though, there is a hive of activity. Their brain is processing everything you are saying and filtering anything they can use at any given date in the future into a long-term memory bank. It’s the part of a cats brain called the “Infinite recall lobe”.

Think twice before you regale the amusing story of when the cat stretched and fell off the back of the chair.. If it’s in earshot, it will know you’ve told. By earshot, I mean if your cat is within a ten mile radius of you, it will know you’ve told.

This is why a content purring cat will suddenly lunge at your unsuspecting hand as if someone has just screamed “Chaaaaarge” in it’s ear.. She’s just remembered that November last year you stepped on her tail accidentally when you went to the toilet in the middle of the night. She saw it as no accident.

A cat wouldn’t tell you if your skirt was tucked in your knickers, or you had toilet paper stuck to your shoe, but would surprise you with a bunch of flowers and a bottle of wine when you’ve had a bad day.

A cat won’t text or return your calls for weeks, but will then turn up at your house unannounced for a coffee and a gossip….. and not mention the 17 missed calls and 36 texts she’s ignored of yours.

A cat keeps you guessing.

A cat is the best pet in the world.

Happy St David’s Day

Happy St David’s Day!

Today the Welsh celebrate our patron saint… St David… or Dewi Sant.

My childhood memories of St David’s day are slightly bitter sweet.

Firstly, I hated wearing my welsh costume to school… Welsh girls everywhere have Lady Llanover to partly thank for that… She is thought to have championed the welsh costume during the 19th century to declare identity when it was thought to have been under threat.

This is what little Welsh girls have to endure every March 1st…

To be fair… This is a bad example… The hat was never that big usually!

Thats the bitter part…

The sweet part is that school on St David’s day consisted of a church concert in the morning and then a half day!..A half day off school!!!… Fantastic! This doesn’t happen any more, but when I was growing up, I think I was more grateful to St David for that, than I was for the miracles he was said to have performed..

This morning, it was an absolute joy to see little boys and girls on their way to school in welsh costumes,  or with daffodils and leeks pinned on their chests….

Now that I’m older, I understand more about St David, and the importance of a Country celebrating a national day… I’m proud to be Welsh, I’m proud of my Country and I’m proud of my heritage.

In the last sermon to his followers before his death, the last words thought to have been spoken by St David are…

“Do the little things in life”

A message still as important today as it was in the 6th century..

(I would have liked to have spoken more about St David, but I rather stupidly started this post at the eleventh hour (quite literally) and needed to publish it before midnight)

If the wind changes, you’ll have an apple tree growing in your stomach

I’ve already mentioned in an earlier post that I believed there was a lucky boy in Swansea who collected footballs when I was younger, so it got me thinking about other things I believed as a child.

I’ve split it into two sections. Lies I was told as a child that I believed, and explanations I conjured up in my own mind and thought them to be true.

Lies I was told that I believed. Why wouldn’t I?

“If the wind changes, you’ll stay like that”.  Believed it.

“If you eat apple pips, an apple tree will start to grow in your stomach. Believed it.

“Thunder is just God playing the drums”. Believed it.

“If you stand on your head all the blood in your body will fill your brain”. Believed it.

“I’ve got your nose”. Believed it. In fact, some uncle of mine who wasn’t really an uncle, just someone I called uncle has still got my nose.

“I’ve just heard on the news that all the strawberry opal fruits have got poison in them for girls so you’d better give me yours”. My brother told me that one. Believed it.

There are a lot more I’m sure, but I want to move on to ideas and logical explanations I had for things in my childhood mind.

A mind when it was easier to think, yet harder to understand.

A mind before Scepticism set up camp there, met Cynicism, married her, then she moved in too, giving birth to Doubt, Suspicion and Knowledge not long after.

Everything I believed made sense at the time, and seemed the only reasonable, plausible explanation.

Where babies come from

When I overheard conversations like “So and so has had their baby, is was 6 pound 4″…. I used to think that Mammys and Daddys had gone up to Heaven at night to choose their baby and had paid £6.04 for it. I thought Heaven was littered with babies with price tags on them, and you just went up, chose which one you wanted, paid for it and came back down. A simple purchase from God. Once you’d paid for it, it was yours to keep. Forever. I also thought that Heaven looked like my attic because whenever I heard anyone talk about it, they always pointed upwards and gave the impression it was really high up. I knew the sky was high up, but I was more savvy than to think you get babies from the sky! The next highest thing I knew was my attic, so I just presumed that Heaven was everyone’s attic.

Waving or flashing your lights at drivers to say thank you.

Whenever we went on a car journey, I was always amazed at how my Dad always seemed to know where we were going. At the time, my world consisted of my house, in my street. I didn’t know how to get anywhere other than to the top of my road. I used to get quite scared that someday when I grew up, I’d be expected to know how to get to places. What if I got lost?… But then I used to think it’s OK because I’ll know plenty of people everywhere I go, just like my Dad does.

The etiquette of driving is if someone lets you out, or you give way to someone, you or they give a little wave, or a little flash of the lights to say thank you. Just a little grateful acknowledgement. Now, as an adult, this really annoys me when people don’t! As a child when this used to happen, I thought that my Dad had seen someone he knew, because you only wave to people you know. You’re not supposed to speak to strangers, so therefore you’re not supposed to wave to strangers either, or flash your lights at them. You only wave to people you know. I was amazed that my Dad knew so many people wherever we went.

 

Clouds

I  believed that planes could land on clouds, and that’s where people went on holidays. That’s why they always came back with a tan, because they’d been closer to the sun.

The nit nurse

When the nit nurse used to come to school, pull your ribbons and hair slides out and run her horrible aged hands through your hair until she’d made you cry and you couldn’t get a comb through it, I used to think she was evil. Now as an adult, I understand. The nit nurse was indeed evil. But I also believed if a child had eggs in their hair it meant that in a few days they’d hatch. Once they’d hatched they’d have birds nesting and flying around their hair. I thought that would be brilliant.

I’m sure there are a lot more, and I’m hoping this post instigates some childhood memories for those who read it. What crazy things were you told as a child, and what did your wonderfully imaginative, innocent, naive childhood mind believe?

The lucky boy from Swansea who collected footballs

Somewhere on the banks of the river Tawe in Swansea, there once lived a lucky boy. He was about my age, I never knew his name, but he had blond hair and always wore a striped t-shirt and shorts.

When I was growing up, this lucky boy used to collect footballs belonging to my brother and I.

I haven’t thought about him in a long while now, but I pass the river every time I visit some good friends of mine. This week, whilst driving past, I thought back to the time the lucky boy collected our footballs.

It’s the early 1980’s………

In the Swansea valleys there is a little village called Cwmtwrch. The river Twrch, one of the tributaries to the river Tawe runs through it. Next to the river in Upper Cwmtwrch, there is a very special house.

In this house live some of my earliest childhood memories.

This house once belonged to my Grandparents, my Mamgu and Dadcu.

When I close my eyes, I can recall details of that house that are clearer than the room I’m sitting in right now.

Having an older, sports mad brother meant that from a young age I was always being cajoled into playing football, cricket, tennis….. the list goes on.

Coaxed with promises of  ‘We’ll play what you want to play later’, I was ushered outside with a ball of some sorts.

Being a five-year old girl, my football skills weren’t exactly brilliant, and inevitably, the ball would end up going over the white-painted wall, down towards the river.

At this point, my brother and I would scramble over the wall ourselves to see how lucky we’d been.

At best we’d find the football nestled between some rocks. At worst we’d find it slowly making its way downstream.

Next, we would rush down to the riverside armed with big sticks, stones and steely determination that we weren’t going to lose this one.

At this point, my grandmother would appear. I’m sure it must be innate in all mothers and grandmothers alike, that they make an appearance when a child they love is doing something hazardous.

Hazardous that is, through the wiser and more weathered eyes of an adult, but perfectly normal through eyes yet to learn and understand danger.

‘Alan!  Bethan! Get out of that river and get back up here now!!’

Defeated, we would climb back up and stand on the bank of the river, our Grandmother’s arms around us. Helplessly watching as the river, and it’s newly claimed prize snaked out of sight.

Our Grandmother would then always say to us…

Never mind, there’s going to be a lucky boy in Swansea today who’s going to find your football’

 

That, is how I know of the existence of the lucky boy on the banks of the river Tawe.

Despite envying him for most of my early childhood, that lucky boy will always have a special place in my heart.