Cats & Carnival
Carnival Sunday and Pandora sits on the printer and stares agitated at vibrating window. Her eyes are wide and her ears stand up stiff and alert. I close the window, muffling the sound and stopping most of the vibration but the cats still look agitated and make their feelings clear by staying in the bedroom for the rest of the day. When I go to check on them I am relieved because the bedroom is quiet and sunny and apart from the distant beat of music, they seem undisturbed. Chicken is curled up on the pile of cat blankets on the chair, while Pandora is hanging out on a pile of shoes in the drawer under the bed. They come out in the evening, no longer bothered by the noise, and spend it on balcony watching the last of the drunken revellers passing by blowing weakly on their whistles and vuvuzela’s.
Chicken came over for a cuddle and padded and turned in my lap until she found herself a comfortable position to collapse into before looking earnestly into my eyes and meowing loudly. I called Pandora to join us, not wanting her to miss out on a moment, but instead she decided to jump onto my desk and with a loud bang knock the mouse mat onto the floor followed by the mouse, that dangled over the edge of the desk hanging tantalisingly by its lead and swinging from left to right. Pandora scampered over my desk guiltily, away from the noise, while Chicken’s eyes fixed on the swinging mouse, mesmerized for a second, before jumping down from my lap and wandering over to investigate. She stopped off on the way for a cool drink of water and I watched as her beautiful mane of hair swam in the water as she drank her fill.
Talking of manes I was left with a brush and a comb for my two charges, and asked if I could give them a quick groom everyday. I was met with initial reluctance from both Pandora and Chicken, but as Chicken can’t resist a cuddle it was only a matter of time before she was getting head to paw combing, and she took it quite well, eventually letting me do her mane and her tummy. Pandora was a little more difficult and I spent a while following her around with first the brush and then the comb. Everytime I tried to comb a different bit she’d change her mind and start to walk away. Last night for the first time I managed a full comb and she even let me do the tricky bits like her mane and tale.
Over carnival I’ve had a number of cats to look after and have been getting up at 6am to go and feed and water five cats in and around Notting Hill. First on the list is Ben and old customer and rescue cat that is terrified of strangers and lives on the outskirts of Notting Hill. I’ve fed her through a couple of holidays and after making the mistake of letting me see her once, I haven’t seen her since. I search the flat for her everytime I go but she is so well hidden…anyway her owners must have had a clean out because although she squashed herself behind the bed I still found her and was able to see she was alright and give her a few treats.
My next job was four cats (2 siamese one bengal and a mystery cat) that live in bayswater, they are beautiful and apart from the one that never comes out, very friendly.
I then cycled back down Notting Hill Gate to a massive mansion of a house in Kensington Park Rd to look after Blue a lovely gentle male shorthair who lives in an amazing house. Detached and completely boarded up, it looked like it had been gift wrapped in its very own graffiti covered plywood box. The box had its own separate padlock and opened onto a path leading to an incredible house full of a mixture of beautiful art, antiquities, modern design and a really fantastic garden with a shed at the bottom that resembled Downton Abbey. Then of course there is the lovely Blue who looks serene in his surroundings even though he had ten million people tramping past his front door and vendors selling chicken to the left and right, he was so insulated from the whole thing he was totally unaffected and just wanted a hug.
Kitty, just a couple of streets away was equally unaffected and only bothered by a friend of her owners that turned up unannounced for carnival, and answered the door to me in his underpants when I showed up to feed the cats. She (Kitty) peered at me from between his legs and I could have sworn she mouthed the words ‘help me’ as I showed the guest where the cat food was kept and gave him instructions for feeding Kitty that day.
The last house I visited was the most famous and the worst (in cat terms) affected by carnival. The former home of Martin Amis (he wrote London fields and Money there) is a beautiful detached house that stands on a normally quiet and unassuming corner of the street, looking a bit like a vicarage with its own little patch of yard at the front. Next to it however is a small piece of elevated land that serves as a stage over carnival and I was to liaise with the organisers to find out the best times to get in and out to feed the cats. Becky( one of the organisers) told me there were 18 security guards just for the bit of pavement in front of the house. The owner and I looked shocked, then Becky leant forward and whispered ‘Well we do have a star line up’ and she started to list them; Mark Ronson, Shaggy, Lilly Allen and (her voice dropped as she made us promise not to tell anyone ) Mary J Blige. I was given a tour of the house filled with quirky corners and simple but well made furniture, and introduced to the three cats and their feeding routine. ‘It really gets loud in here’ said Cara, wincing at the memory of last years carnival. We arranged for my first visit to the cats on the Sunday afternoon when carnival was in full swing, and the noise really was intolerable.
The three cats took refuge in the basement, underneath beds and in cupboards but the noise rang through the house, shaking the windows, vibrating floorboards and clattering shutters . The cats were understandably terrified. I found Mimsy under the bed and caught a brief glimpse of Bruce, but Leon had disappeared somewhere and refused to come out. I put food out for them and sadly, left. I went round early on Monday before the mayhem started, hoping to see and reassure them before the madness began again, and at least get them to eat something. Happily, although they were still a little freaked out they were fine. When I contacted the owner Cara, later that day to check on them, the sound system had broken down so luckily the cats got a reprieve.
Luckily my two lodgers Pandora and Chicken were fine, staying out the way in the bedroom on Sunday and Monday and only appearing towards the evening to sit on the balcony and watch the crowds, drunk and tired, heading for home. they no longer jumped at the loud noises and watched fascinated as people urinated, danced, cried, ate, threw up and got high in front of them. By 9pm things had settled down and Chicken curled up on my tummy while Pandora sat nearby staring out of the window.
This morning the cats were up early in anticipation of their breakfast. During carnival I’ve been getting up at around six to go and do my rounds so Pandora and Chicken have been getting fed extra early in the mornings. Of course now carnivals over I’m exhausted and ready for a lie in, but Pandora and Chicken have other ideas. They start trying to get my attention by having a little scrap under the bed. When that doesn’t work they decide to have an early morning race. So at 5.15am they start to chase each other from the front room through the hallway, skidding to a halt (often with a bump) underneath our Louis XVI double bed, Every now and then I’d raise my weary head and shush or admonish them for making so much noise before sinking heavily back into the pillow and drifting off to sleep. The next time I woke the bedroom was strangely quiet but I could hear the gentle voice of Bruce withers floating through hallway
'I see the crystal raindrops fall And the beauty of it all Is when the sun comes shinin’ through
To make those rainbows in my mind When I think of you some time And I want to spend some time with you
Just the two of us, we can make it if we try Just the two of us, just the two of us Building castles in the sky Just the two of us, you and I’
Dragging myself out of bed to the gentle sound of music, I floated dreamlike through the hallway expecting possibly the Milk tray man (or less likely my boyfriend John) to be waiting on one knee with a bunch of roses and a box of chocolates. Instead I found two very cute kitties, sitting between the computer and their empty food bowls, meowing along, not quite in tune with the music. I’m still not quite sure how they managed to wake up the computer, open itunes and play a Bill Withers tune but I am sure in my half asleep and befuddled state that I saw them both smiling to themselves as I let the music play while they tucked into their breakfast of Tuna and biscuits.