Tuesday, October 25, 2005

CERNE ABBAS 1940-1945. (3)

Landing, The Pitchmarket, 1940's.

Tom, our big black tabby cat, had been adopted by my mother when she was living in Betty Surtees House in Newcastle, and working as a librarian at Durham University before she was married. Tom had come from the Newcastle docks, and remained semi-wild and fiercely independent.

After I was born and we had come to live at the Pitchmarket, he took umbrage and decided to move next door to The Old House, where there were other cats for company. There he stayed for some time, passing through our garden in a disdainful manner, refusing to have anything to do with any of us. Then one day he decided to return, as suddenly as he had left.

But he and I did not get on together. He would scratch me - and I, so I was told, used to hit him on the head with the coal shovel. On one occasion when Kay (who helped my mother after Pam had left to get married) was skinning a rabbit, I came in carrying the unfortunate cat: "Peel Tom", I said.

It might have been round about the same time that I remarked, while watching Nurse (the District Nurse who shared a cottage with Kay) who was also skinning a rabbit: "His running days are over, I think." (October 1944)

Unfortunately my relationship with poor Tom became so bad that my mother told my father that either I or the cat had to go. Rather reluctantly, my father decided it would have to be the cat. I can see him now, leaving the house in the morning on his way to the vet in Dorchester with Tom in his cat basket for the last time. I used to use the basket after that for my doll's clothes.

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