There’s a rather handsome but long suffering ginger tomcat that lives just down the road from us. He would do justice to any Lewis Carol book or even qualify to have a poem written about him by T S Elliot leading to a starring role in a musical by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber. There are very good reasons why Leo – for that is his name – is so long suffering.
Firstly, our feline friend has a propensity to squat beneath the bushes by the side of the quiet road which runs past the house where he resides along with his team of acolytes. Secondly he has a pronounced limp (that’s pronounced ‘limp’) which resulted, I’m given to understand, from an argument with a branch of an apple tree.
Now here’s the problem. On at least three occasions a week, somebody will spot a brooding ginger cat limping along the road, and, forming the impression that it has been hit by a car, and in spite of Leo’s protestations, they very public spiritedly take him to the nearest vet - who goes by the name of Mr Crisp. Yes I know – you couldn’t make it up! He must cost a packet – and here I must resist the temptation to indulge in any further attempts at punning humour.
Because he earns his living by being kind to animals, it’s very difficult for Mr Crisp to take the grimace off his face and explain how this situation occurs on a number of occasions each week and would they kindly take the damn thing back to where they found him. So then, having expressed his thanks, he then phones the owners using a number that by now he knows by heart and they in turn come and retrieve him.
No wonder poor Leo and his acolytes are so brooding. All concerned must be at the end of their tether and of course this explains why there is now a notice at the garden entrance, showing a handsome picture of a ginger cat, which proclaims:
‘MY NAME IS LEO – PLEASE NOTE THAT, ALTHOUGH I HAVE A LIMP, I AM NOT INJURED – I ENJOY SITTING UNDER THE HEDGE WATCHING THE TRAFFIC – PLEASE DO NOT TAKE ME TO THE VET – I’M FED UP WITH IT, ALONG WITH MY OWNERS AND TOGETHER WITH MR CRISP THE LOCAL VET.’
This really hits my funny bone, but it also occurs to me that there must be many times in our lives when we form entirely the wrong impression. What is worse, on most occasions we don’t even realise it.
I’ll give you an example. When the kids were younger we used to drive down to the South of France and stay for a couple of weeks in a pre-erected tent. One year, some friends of ours came down with their young children and stayed in a tent next door to ours.
I remember very clearly when, on one occasion as the youngsters we being put to bed accompanied by the setting sun, I heard a bellowing female voice coming from our friends’ tent next door. I turned to Mrs A and said: “Crikey, Peggy’s really giving David a hard time in there.”
The holiday progressed and a good time was had by all.
Except that over twenty or more years later, we were having lunch with our friends and there we were reminiscing about our distant holidays in the South of France and suddenly Peggy said: “I’ve always wanted to tell you this, but once when we were on that holiday and the kids were being put to bed, I heard you say to Jan that I was really giving Dave a hard time. Well I’ve always wanted to tell you that actually I wasn’t. I was simply reading the kids a Rupert Bear story!” It was Rupert that was giving Bill Badger a hard time!
I was mortified. I’d ruined her life – actually I hadn’t, in fact she found the whole thing quite amusing. In turn, I was quite impressed by how somebody could build so much artificial aggression into a rhyming couplet. But the point is that she had carried that degree of positive hurt with her for so many years and she had been longing to find the right moment to get it off her chest. Luckily we are still good friends, so it didn’t really have any effect.
But it does make one think about how careful we should be with our actions. Sometimes things are not what they seem. Sometimes people are reluctant to reveal their innermost thoughts. Sometimes we are too self-centred to notice what’s staring us in the face. How many impressions do we get wrong out of sheer misinterpretation?
More than we are ever really aware of I should imagine. So maybe it’s worth remembering that should you at any time come across a seemingly injured ginger cat with a limp, just think twice. It might have more lives than you think!