Monday, October 15, 2018

cat chaos


I had feared the worst when I brought Julie’s cat Silk over to live at my house. What if he ran away? What if he fought with the neighborhood cats? What about my two cats?

Well, he didn’t run away and as far as I know he hasn’t been in any fights. In fact my problems have been more to do with my two cats than with him. The two Cornish Rex cats have been indoor cats all their lives, not uncommon for that breed. I used to let the black cat out on the lawn for five minutes a day so she could get some grass, but the white cat was content to snooze on my bed most of the day.

But with me letting Silk in and out, they got the idea that going outside was something worth trying. It’s now got to the point where I have to count the cats before I close the back door, in case I shut somebody outside. This morning it was fine and sunny and for most of the afternoon all three cats were tearing around in and out of the house. The big orange cat Silk walks around silently, but the black cat gives little meowing sounds as she goes past, and the white cat lets out a wail if he goes outside and realizes he can’t see me.

I finally drew a chair up to the desk outside the back door and ate my lunch there, trying to soothe the cats as they ran back and forth around me. At one stage the white cat climbed onto my shoulder (a favorite trick of his) and when I stood up he leapt onto the top of the old wardrobe.

They did go to sleep for the evening, which was no surprise -- I think they were completely tired out.

Friday, August 18, 2017

A sibling recalled

For those who didn't see the latest parish magazine, this is the text of my eulogy for my sister: 

Some of you may remember Gerald Durrell’s famous book MY FAMILY AND OTHER ANIMALS. I sometimes thought that if I wrote a book about Julie it would have been titled MY SISTER AND OTHER ANIMALS. Certainly most of you are aware of her love of animals. She started small with white mice and canaries, then cats and dogs before progressing to chickens, ducks, geese, goats and horses.

But that was just one of the many sides of Julie. From the moment I saw her in her cradle at the end of 1953, my life would never be the same. For example I saw every movie Elvis Presley made in the 1960s until she was old enough to go to the cinema alone.

There was Julie the student. She was a picture in her Collegiate school uniform, complete with hat and gloves -- heaven help any girl seen in public without them. After her years at collegiate, she attended the same school as Errol Flynn, though in a different decade. She took up archery, she sang in a gospel group, she won prizes for dressage riding. Later on she was to take up croquet. Probably not a lot of you know she did two years of law at uni, before leaving to work at the new Wrest Point casino, where she progressed from croupier to inspector. 

Julie the world traveller was another one of her hats, and she saw a lot of the world. Whether it was riding horses around the pyramids, dining at the Waldorf Astoria or going around Picadilly Circus on the rear seat of a motorcycle, she seemed to have done it all. One of her favorite destinations was Hawaii and I lost count of how many times she passed through Honolulu. In her wake she left a scattering of new friends and acquaintances, people of all types who fell under her spell.

But it wasn’t all glamor and jet-setting, though she was seen at times feeding her animals wearing a mink coat and diamond ear rings. There was the practical Julie -- when something went wrong in our house, I started wondering how we could manage without it, while Julie was unscrewing the back looking for the defective part. I once saw her build a hen house in my backyard out of some scrap timber, a roll of wire and a sheet of corrugated iron.

She had a habit of gathering up bits and pieces that might come in handy one day. Wood, metal, wire... one day she told some workmen who were clearing out a shop that they could drop off the shelving and such bric-a-brac at her house rather than take it to the tip. They accepted the suggestion immediately. 

Her back paddock remained an oasis of green grass as Lenah Valley was slowly enveloped by the urban sprawl. . The local children often called in to give the horses treats -- the horses knew this and would wait at the gate with anticipation after school let out. One neighbor told me that her visiting grandchildren would come into the kitchen every morning asking for carrots for Julie’s horses.

(In years gone by, some of the local children volunteered to watch over the animals while Julie was at work, sort of the Merry Men to her Robin Hood. One girl dashed across the footbridge during a storm and led the goats to safety before the creek flooded!)

Even the possums, considered a pest by most people, made friends with Julie. One mother possum came down with her baby in tow most nights to get a snack while Julie was outside feeding the animals.

Julie the artist was another part of her life. In the 1960s, she did a lot of painting and sketching, and a couple of her pictures hung in the dining room of her father’s hotel. She was over the moon when one of her pictures sold at an art show.  

Later on she took up photography with enthusiasm -- before Photoshop came along, she would force her animals to pose wearing antlers for her Christmas card photos. With the advent of digital photography she accumulated countless pictures of nature, animals and gatherings of her friends. At one point she was virtually the unofficial photographer here, capturing the events St John’s every week.

Julie was a regular here at St John’s from the 1970s, and she brought me into the fold ten years later. Her baptism by Alan Stubs was one of the high points of her life. I was there when she came up out of the water and I’ll never forget that smile. While she was working at Wrest Point, she stipulated that she wanted Sunday off every week. This probably surprised management, since they often disciplined their workers by not putting them on the weekend roster. But Julie was willing to sacrifice the extra money so she could worship with her church family.

And maybe that’s how we’ll remember Julie -- meandering through the wonders of this world and the next, admiring its beauty and the people and the creatures in it. She is always happy to see them, and I like to think they are happy to see her. 

I know we always were.