The last time I saw Glispers “Pompidou” Gizmo was 10th February. You know how sometimes you get a feeling, and you think something’s changed and it’s not changing back? I had that the following morning.
I had fed him on the Monday, but on Tuesday morning there was a curious silence, where usually he would be battering at the back door. I would normally hear his catty bellow two floors up, but today, nothing.
Several of us had looked around the local vicinity, down the back gardens, around the stream, in the sheds, greenhouses and dustbins. We asked each other if he’d been seen, and added ‘he might turn up, you never know’, but we all knew.
He’d been a presence in our lives for over ten years, stray, or spare, or shared, one of the first faces we saw after we moved in. A consummate survivor, he could hear the opening of a door at half a mile, and belt back to demand food. I think he had several friends, but no real home.
The stories behind his being homeless varied: had he been abandoned by a previous owner; did they move and he came back; did he run away from unloving owners? We didn’t know. Just knew that he was always there, always up for a snack, and always vocal.
Lizzie next door took him in for a while, to live with her and her own cat, but it only lasted a few months. He was terribly anti-social, and would break things, eat everything, couldn’t be trusted, and when Lizzie got a dog, he was pushed out again. It was sad, but understandable. Our own cat, a nervous rescue, would have packed his spotted handkerchief if we had taken in Glispers, so I was guilty of being uncharitable too.
He did, however have places to stay. We made him a very comfy wind-proof bed from a large box, foam cushions and blankets in the greenhouse. He also slept in the rabbit hutch next door (the rabbits sleep in burrows), and I suspect, in the farm buildings opposite. He would sometimes burgle people through their cat-flap, only to be chased out later. But he had no real home.
He did have a bit of a reputation as being vicious, and yes he had sharp claws and fabulously healthy teeth. But he was actually quite sweet, and if you came at him from the right angle, or with heavy sleeves or gloves, chainmail perhaps, you could squizzle his head for a while.
If he did strike you, you knew about it, and children in particular were warned to stay clear. You learned to be quick to move out of his reach. He was long-haired, some sort of Persian cross, and had terrible matted dreadlocks, which I think hurt sometimes. Made him a bit grumpy.
Although not a Tom, he could also be a bit of a bully to the other cats, but by no means was he top-cat over them all. He was fairly good at hunting, catching rats and mice, but particularly effective at catching fledgling blue-tits, which did not endear him to anyone.
Of course all this made him a target; many of our neighbours really disliked him. Buckets of water and handfuls of gravel were often thrown. But I grew to like him a lot, I admired his ingenuity. Still, I was surprised quite how upset I was when he’d gone.
As he got older, he tried to get inside during the winter, and although I felt mean, I didn’t let him in. He was getting on a bit, and a vagrant life must take its toll, so I was beginning to come to terms with the fact that I might find him cold and stiff one morning in the greenhouse, in his cushioned box. But I wasn’t prepared for him just never to be there again. That I wouldn’t know what had happened to him. That I wouldn’t know if he’d been scared or in pain, or if it had been quick. I berated myself for not having been kinder, for keeping him outside, although I know it would not have worked. I cried for ages, and serve me right.
So Goodbye Glispers, Pompidou, Gizmo, it was pleasure to know you.