Café Crem

Art, Music and Words around The Coffee Table

Watson and the Flying Birdcage

Sometimes an animal touches your life in an unforgetable manner, and within your life their memory takes on the status of legend.

When people say, “I’m a dog person,” or “I’m a cat person” I tend to remain silent. I’m a people person. It doesn’t matter terribly much if the person is wearing human skin, or wearing fur, feathers, scales or shell.

If reincarnation is true, then Watson’s last two lives were probably those of an Anglo-Indian colonel and a  Royal Bengal Tiger and he wasn’t much impressed by his current body. It had limitations he wasn’t used to and it frustrated him enormously.

Arriving with us as a half-wild former stray, he was about five or six months old when the Cats’ Protection League decided we were suitable custodians, and he spent the first two days lurking under furniture, convinced the Fuzzy wuzzies were going to get him. His first interaction with me was to bite right through my hand when I attempted to move him from a bed I was trying to make. I think he was very surprised when he glanced back that my hand was not severed from my body.

After that I think he resigned himself to his new life. Initially we had to show him a lot of things we imagined were instinctive to cats, like climbing. We spent a drunken Sunday afternoon after church demonstrating the art of scrambling out of the walled yard at the back of our two-up, two-down in the back streets of Middlesbrough. He watched us intently for an hour and then had a go. He suddenly realised his current body has certain advantages over the one he was remembering, and effortlessly leaped to the top of the wall and stayed there, master of the back alley till sundown.

Our first Christmas presented a problem. Having only a motorbike meant that the journey from the north east of England to the home of my parents in East Anglia was going to be too long and cold and there’s nowhere on a Superdream for a cat basket. So we chose to take the train. As far as Watson was concerned, he really didn’t see why he had to be in a basket and he sulked with us the whole way, though he did choose to schmooze with anyone who came along and admired him perched in his basket on the table in the middle of the train. Us, he gave the cold shoulder to.

Arriving, we allowed him to explore my parent’s house just as soon as he felt like coming out from under the bed. Clearly this was an outpost of the Fuzzy wuzzies too, and he would leave such mundane matters to the troops(us). Emerging for some light tiffin, he sauntered down the stairs and his hunting instincts were alerted by a chirping sound. Damn, no gun. However, Watson had discovered that his current body needed no firearms to bag some rather impressive kills. He’d dragged in rats half his size before, so a mere budgie was not a concern.

The difficulty was the cage. Henry was suspended about six feet up, in his cage, from a bracket on the wall. Since I have seen Watson leap twelve or more feet in single jump, this wasn’t a problem.

The first we knew of this was a terrible crash, a yowling and a frantic(and triumphant) cheeping sound from Henry. As we made our way down the hall, Watson came streaking out of the living room and back up the stairs to his hideout. In the living room was a mess of bird seed, feathers and grit, but Henry was safe. The cage had separated from its base, as it fell , and much of it had clearly hit Watson. Henry was still on his perch, though the cage was upright and parted from the base, and he was clearly very pleased with himself.

The remainder of our visit Watson was very cautious. Every time he ventured outside and a bird flew overhead, he ducked, covering his head with paws, as if expecting it to come with cage descending. He did return to Henry’s room, sitting on the arm of a chair, calculating angles and velocity, but made no more moves. The following year, we returned, and the silent war of attrition continued, and he made no move. The third year we returned, this time complete with baby and a car, and he was ready. As soon as he was allowed from his basket, he headed straight down to the living room and stalked in.

We hadn’t had the heart to tell him that in the intervening year, his adversary Henry had passed on and had not been replaced. All his plotting was in vain.

By way of compensation, he went out the first night we were there and killed the robin my mum had been feeding. It was a hollow victory after so many years of planning.   

I loved that cat, you know.

by Viv


January 28, 2009 - Posted by | animals, Cafe Literati, family, fun, humor, life, love, personal, Viv's Short Stories, writing | , , , , , ,


  1. Great story, Viv! It reminds me of the heartbreak we suffered some time ago, and recorded for posterity in these hallowed pages SEE HERE. I’m most definitely not an animal person in any way, having never owned a dog or cat, nor particularly wanted one, I was totally unprepared for what happened. I fell in love, that is WE (for Miki was as daft as me) fell in love with a little stray dog we chose to name Gypsy. We wanted to adopt her, but with all our travelling, it just wasn’t to be. I can’t speak about her here, just check out the picture in the article. (((sniff)))

    Comment by kevmoore | January 28, 2009

  2. […] is the original post: Watson and the Flying Birdcage « Café Crem Related Reading: Multicultural Odysseys: Navigating the New International Politics of Diversity […]

    Pingback by Watson and the Flying Birdcage « Café Crem | | January 28, 2009

  3. I read your post about Gypsy a while back while surfing your archives. It was indeed heartbreaking, but the good thing about that is you have a heart to break, if you know what I mean.
    Watson was a true legend among family friends and acquaintances; he spooked a lot of people because he was so clearly more than just a cat. He exhibited extraordinary intelligence beyond that of normal cats(i shall write about him again) and a very feline sense of intuition about people. He also was capable of using human speech, which I appreciate is beyond most people’s belief, but I swear is true. And yet, he was felled by bladder stones, that mundane killer of ex-Tom cats.
    When he died, my Dad, who is NOT a cat person, cried for days, and said, later, he had thought Watson would never die, that he was somehow indestructible and immortal. I’ve seen one friend cower in terror of Watson, and ask me to light his pipe for him in case the sudden movement triggered an attack. This was a nine pound ginger tom, not a half ton Bengal tiger.
    Oh and he loved curry. Not precisely a cat trait, is it?
    Oh dear, I’m all teary-eyed now. He’s been gone eight or more years and I miss him every day still…
    I also just sent in my book proposal…fingers crossed guys!

    Comment by viv66 | January 28, 2009

  4. Can someone explain to me what a pingback is and what it does? I am confussled!

    Comment by viv66 | January 28, 2009

  5. Hi Viv!
    A pingback is when somebody in a blog’s entry makes a link to another entry, in the same blog or another blog.
    For example when I write Bubble Boy, I always make a link to the previous Bubble boy episode. This appears as a ping back in the comment thread.
    Where the pingback comes from here, I don’t know. But research a little bit, you will find it. I’ll do it myself if you don’t find it.
    Unfortunately I am terribly busy right now, many things to do, but I will later on read your story, from which Kevin said at once how great it is.

    Comment by Miki | January 28, 2009

  6. Don’t worry about it Miki.
    I’ll find it or not; not important now.
    Have a great day, busy or not!

    Comment by viv66 | January 28, 2009

  7. Watson sounds like an incredible cat! Wonderful writing, Viv.

    Comment by shelleymhouse | January 28, 2009

  8. If you humans are confused about how to get the most out of the blog world consider how poor little canine me feels. Like your well-written story.

    Comment by sandysays1 | January 28, 2009

  9. hello Sandy!
    Are you a labrador? Watson liked labradors..they made excellent draught excluders when lying in front of a fire!
    Shelley, thank you. He was a unique animal, and none of the cats we have shared our home with have been like him at all. His skills included: unlocking the cat flap, turning on taps, opening doors, opening the fridge, second guessing humans, and acted as a barometer for who was worth admitting to the home and who he preferred not to have there. He was a relentless hunter, bringing in massive rats. I shall write more. Even all these years after he passed, I think about him every day.

    Comment by viv66 | January 28, 2009

  10. Yes, this is a wonderful story wonderfully written. Viv. Great humour too. You make Watson very present within only a few lines, and much more than a cat character.
    I enjoyed it a lot and I will look forward to read more of them.
    Perhaps there is something very special in this kind of cats… Watson reminds me a lot of Cat Astroff, which I mentioned in the other thread.
    Both would do a great team… of detectives perhaps… but I see your Watson much more as Sherlock, and Cat Astroff as Dr. Watson!

    Comment by Miki | January 28, 2009

  11. Hi viv66,

    You’re close, I’m a Golden Retriever. We’re a little more frivolous than Labs but I think you’d love us too. You’d probably get a laugh out of my latest post, since you know canines and our habits. In it I put forth the argument that the Butt Sniff should replace the Hand Shake as the universaal greeting.

    Comment by sandysays1 | January 28, 2009

  12. Miki, Watson was a real character, of whom I will write more. He brought up four kittens and a puppy, and gave dignified space to an elderly dowager cat who was beginning a slow decline into feline dementia. All our boy cats have been named(almost by accident) for the sidekicks of famous detectives. William was the only exception being himself named for William of Baskerville(connections!) from the Name of the Rose. Our current boys are Lewis(Morse) and Robin(batman).
    Sandy, I love retrievers, resembling one myself. Where is your blog so i may go and giggle! My dog Holly, despite being brought up by cats, approves of the butt sniff idea.

    Comment by viv66 | January 28, 2009

  13. I love Morse! we are currently looking at him (and Lewis) every night… we had purchased the whole series 2 years ago for Christmas, I didn’t know it before. And now we are looking at it again!
    Because of Morse,I wanted to see Oxford and our trip to Scotland in Summer 2007 should have lead us to Oxford as the first stop in the UK. But as we were on the ferry we saw on the TV that Oxford was completely under flood waters and we could not go there! It was so frustrating…

    Comment by Miki | January 28, 2009

  14. As a Cambridge girl(well I grew up near there) I’d say forget Oxford. Cambridge is a little bijoux cityette, everything crammed into a small space in the Fens. They don’t get floods there because they’re used to living around waterways. It’s the only city I know where you find cattle in the city centre( I don’t count the town Moor in Newcastle!)
    I do a pretty good tour too!
    And another reason to avoid Oxford: the terrible murder rate….

    Comment by viv66 | January 28, 2009

  15. Do you mean

    this town?

    We were there on the same trip, on the way back from Scotland… it was indeed wonderful! but still not very sunny as you can see…

    Comment by Miki | January 28, 2009

  16. And i still want to go to Oxford… Kevin promised me to invite me to one of these big dark beers which Morse is drinking all the time!
    Funny with the murder rate!

    Comment by Miki | January 28, 2009

  17. Indeed, Cambridge! I shall post a pic of me in action…

    Comment by viv66 | January 28, 2009

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