Rob saw a slow-worm crossing the railway track today. Ed, Flo’s long-lost brother, used to bring me slow-worms, slightly chewed but usually alive. They are various colours – not just plain grey, but brown and gold and pewter, even pink. They live in the dry-stone walls behind the mind-your-own-business, All sorts of creatures live in this verdant stuff – voles and mice, lizards and toads.  We’ve had many house crickets this year too – green ones with turned up tails, like scorpions – and larger brown ones. I keep finding them staring at me from the curtains, watching me in the bath. The cats have frustrating times chasing them – the novelty of the leaping escape is beyond them.

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Alfie Azhurradin, named after the Indian cricket captain of the time, has a new bad habit – he doesn’t actually have any good ones – he pees in the bath. He’s the only one of our three cats who uses a litter tray. I keep it just outside the back door  so that he doesn’t even have to get his paws wet in the rain, but he has taken a sudden liking to the bath. He is the most timid of our cats, frightened of his own shadow – he cringes at our reflection in the glass door, flinches at every sound. He leads an exciting life, seeing ghosts, hearing monsters, fearful of anyone on two feet. He’s fine if you are sitting down, he’ll even jump on your lap, but get up and walk and he’ll flee and hide under the bed – or pee in the bath. He disappears on the silver cedar deck. His fur is creamy as seagrass, brown-striped like pitch pine, tawny as an owl. He is like a thrush’s breast, a kestrel’s yellow breast, as if fire smoulders in sooty embers.  I must stop!  I really cannot praise his coat too highly. I do love tabby cats.

Hawke’s Point 2003

Slow-worms and Alfie Azhurradin

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