21 December 2010

Street Cat Diaries

hello blog! sorry I haven't spoken with you in ages (and that I keep drafting posts and then leaving them unpublished because I am Filled with Doubt).

tonight as I drove home along the City West link I was amazed and delighted to see what looked like a huge rising crescent moon, but was actually the full moon in almost total eclipse, golden against the lilac sky, and perfectly poised, from my perspective, centred above the arch of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

it was a gorgeous sight, but no less thrilling to me than seeing the street cats in Marlowe Street a little earlier this evening.

'Street Cat Diaries' was the name suggested by Facebook friend Tim Roberts for a blog about Sandy and the other street cats of Marlowe Street Campsie, who I got to know in September 2009. I didn't actually blog about the kittehs, only posted about them on Facebook a lot, which I now regret, cos it'll be hard to retrieve all the status updates and comments to put the story back together.

wow, it's just struck me that Sandy befriended me more than 15 months ago now. and I first glimpsed her and her five sisters in February/March 2009, when they were probably two or three months old.

in the interim, I began feeding them occasionally; gradually got to know them; gave them names (who knows what their real names are? but I named them for my convenience, and so my friends would know who I meant more easily than if I said "the other short-haired blonde one, not the really friendly one"); bought more and more cat food so I could feed the six sisters and various toms every night; was banned from feeding them on the property (I was renting a flat in a small block where the 90-year-old woman who'd had the flats built 40 years ago still resided, and the property manager, her daughter, visited once or twice a week); realised the catlings were going to be reproducing soon; started to trap, desex & release them; and became firmly attached to one of the second generation kittens, who befriended me despite his mother being so frightened of and hostile towards humans that the neighbours across the road called her Hissy, and I called her Dragon.

friendly, brave Treasure and his at-first frightened sister Rosy now live with me, in a pet-friendly flat that I moved to after the younger landlady gave me notice, as does their cousin, Sandy's daughter Fern.

... (intervening chapters to be compiled/written later) ...

anyway, today was an amazing, intense day in many ways. I hadn't seen Tabby or her daughter Shadow for ages, and was really worried that something bad had happened to Shadow (e.g. dog attack or hit by a car), because she'd seemed in good health, and usually came running to greet me and ask for food whenever I visited Marlowe Street. So when I pulled up by the park in Marlowe Street and saw first Sandy, then Tabby, then Shadow, I was thrilled!

the three cats gulped down a 400g tin of Whiskas between them, and had some dry food too. Sandy was happy to play & smooch with me, Shadow let me stroke her (as long as I stroked her when she had her back to me - seeing a hand come towards her scares her too much), and Tabby even let me stroke her once (but I desisted after that, cos it obviously upset her).

while I was feeding those three, a woman stopped to admire the cats, and asked me about them. I told her that the cats had been born in 'that backyard over there', and the people living there had sort of fed them, but then left them behind when they moved out. the woman was impressed that I had fed them every night for six months or so while living nearby, and that I came to Campsie every week or two to feed them since I'd moved away (personally I feel privileged to know the kittehs, and I miss Sandy a lot).

we had a great discussion about how animals have feelings too, cats being related to lions and leopards (who can run very fast) and that cats aren't obedient like dogs, but they can still be very loving. the kittehs meanwhile were eating, washing, looking at me for more food, playing (in Sandy's case), and taking cover in the nearby 'jungle garden' when other people walked by, specially if there were several people at once, or a dog being walked.

Shadow eating - pic taken in early November, when she still had her winter coat, so wasn't quite so obviously thin.

the woman was so moved by seeing the skinny, scared cats eating and letting me stroke them, that she gave me a packet of frozen coconut juice, which she explained to me was frozen fresh in Thailand, shipped to Australia, and only available in Chinese food stores. I was very touched, and thanked her - not sure if coconut would agree with me (does anyone know what the salicylate level of coconut is?) but can give it to someone - and it was handy to use as a cold pack, given that I was about to go shopping for things including perishables. we bowed to each other, and she continued on, while I stayed and played with Sandy some more, then went looking for Smoky, who had had the flu the last couple of times I saw her.

there's now only one house out of the three that the cats used to live around that still welcomes them (and me when I come to feed them), so I went to their backyard and called Smoky. Sandy of course came too, so when Smoky appeared, I gave her as much of the sachet of wet food as I could, while giving Sandy little bits, and stroking her to distract her. I know Sandy could've done with more too, but Smoky hadn't had any, and my darling Sandy is a bit of a mean girl even when she's not starving, and all her sisters are wary of her smacking them, even Smoky, who is the next toughest of the litter. one of the guys came out of the house just as Smoky was finishing the last remnants of fishyness, and she and Sandy both bolted - I guess not all the current human residents are on good terms with the kittehs.

After that I went to the post office and picked up lots of lovely goodies from my PO box:
a CD of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy from a friend (thank you, Andrew!); two books from Twelfth Planet Press that I'd bought online in their 12 Days of Christmas Sale - two novellas in one volume, Siren Beat by Tansy Rayner Robers and Roadkill by Robert Shearman, and a collection of short stories by Deborah Biancotti, A Book of Endings; a tiny wee teddy bear figurine that my sister bought for my aunt & had posted to Campsie to make sure she could get it before Xmas; sundry newsletters, catalogues & appeals from charities; and a Christmas card from a friend in Wales.

my favourite chicken shop is in Campsie too, Lefkas Chicken on Beamish Street, where I bought the last half chicken (phew! my kittehs at home would not have been pleased if I'd come home from Campsie without chicken!), and the lovely proprietor Joanne wished me a merry Christmas "and your mum and your sister too", and said if we wanted a chook for Xmas, we'd need to order it (note to self: check with Becca; probably order chicken).

Rebecca has planned a yummy menu of things that will be pretty and easy for our mum to eat (Mama only likes soft food now), so I went to World of Fruit in search of white sweet potato, then wandered around Woollies for ages getting lots of groceries, and finding other ingredients for a red, white & green salad for Xmas lunch - Becca is very creative with food. actually, Becca is very creative generally. have a look at her dolls' house blog http://rebeccascollections.blogspot.com/

I'd already spent much longer in Campsie than I'd planned, but Shadow, Smoky and Tabby were waiting by my car when I got back from shopping, so I gave them some more dry food, and one of the wet food sachets I'd just bought on special at Woollies, and spoke with a teenage boy who was fascinated by the cats. I wondered if perhaps he was autistic, as he was mostly not speaking or making eye contact, and focussed a lot on picking up twigs from the ground and breaking them into same-sized pieces. He watched the cats, and listened when I told him how the cats were related, and agreed when I said that they were very hungry, and quite scared of people, but that one (Shadow) might let him stroke her while she was eating. he stroked her very gently, and let Smoky and Tabby eat in peace. he was still crouching by the cats and breaking twigs when I drove off.

when I got home I thought about going out again to watch the full moon and the eclipse some more, but was tired and wanted to get the cats indoors, feed them, feed me, ring Mum & Rebecca, and ring my potential flatmate about the house we've applied to rent. Treasure and Fern were very happy to come inside (Trezh especially once he smelled the chicken) but Rosy was flitting about in the garden and had no intention of being shut indoors. so Trezh and Fern and I had chicken, I rang Mum and Becca, then my friend who I've been flat-hunting with rang me.

She is feeling very unsure about the place that we've been offered. I am still half-disbelieving that I've finally found somewhere to move to when my lease is up in a few weeks. after two months of looking, hundreds of listings viewed online, scores of details read and photos examined (did you know that 'neat and tidy' means small, and 'original condition' means needing repairs?), about a dozen properties visited, and four applied for, I'm in! except that my friend is blind, and therefore moving is a Very Big Deal for her; anywhere she lives has to be close to public transport; and she doesn't have to move right now, as I do, just wants to be closer to lively cafes and interesting shops than where she is now. As the cute, semi-detached house we've applied for is not particularly close to the station or the local shops and cafes (of which there are a good number), she's not sure if she wants to move at all. But she kindly agreed to co-sign the lease this week, without which I'd have no hope of getting the place, and continue to think about the move over the next week or so. if she decides to move, great; if not, she'll let me know so I can start looking for another flatmate, and hopefully not have to pay the whole rent for too long.

After that, I just wanted to go to bed, but went outside to look for Rosy, who was still having fun romping around in the garden. at least this time she rolled on the ground to invite a tummy rub, rather than running of somewhere I couldn't catch her. I obliged with a tummy rub (she has gorgeous soft fur), and just as I picked her up to bring her in, my landlord let his collie out for her night-time wee, and she rushed barking at me and Rosy. Rosy struggled to get free and run, I hung on and ran for the door to my flat, Rosy scratched me but I managed to get her inside and slam the door shut, and turn to say "no!" firmly to Nessie the lovely collie. Nessie was very disappointed not be able to play with (read: chase and possibly bite) Rosy, but happy to have a scratch around the ears from me. Rosy was relieved to get away from the Big Barking Dog, resigned to being inside, and very happy to have some chicken.

if you're still reading this, well done! you have great stamina :-)
I enjoy blogging, but am not much given to short, frequent posts (as you can probably tell) - despite being tired and planning to go to bed early, I'm still up at one in the morning. That's the trouble with blogging - it's writing, which I love, and which has a similar effect on me to reading a good book - everything else recedes into the distance, bodily sensations such as hunger or fatigue become unimportant, and the words and the world they conjure are everything.


Heather Jean said...

Great news about the house, I think that's definitely the best option, because even if your friend changes her mind you still have what sounds like a lovely place to live.

Misrule said...

Congrats on the house, Deborah--and you'll be that much closer to Sandy and co!

greenspace said...

Heather - yes, a semi-detached is too good an opportunity to miss.

Judy - I worked out the distance, and Ashfield to Campsie is about half the distance from Annandale to Campsie :-)

Anonymous said...

Ooh, let me know what you think about Siren Beat. I love that story so much.

(And hi, I might just add your blog to my reader, there's talk about books and cats, which is all a girl needs in life. Well, mostly.

greenspace said...

thank you, Kaia - I didn't post very often in 2010, but I hope to change that this year, and cats & books are two of my favourite topics of conversation :-)