Saturday 27 February 2010


Don't laugh: I have been sitting at the computer for ages, thinking about how to start a post on 'communication'. It might have been wiser to write it on 'irony'. Anyway, communication has an unending fascination for me. For decades I earned my living through it, understanding, interpreting, translating, so you may well be treated to the occasional return to it. I'll never get it all said in one. Take my cat: she presents the greatest challenge in communicating. She knows exactly what her orders to me have been. The problem lies with me: can I understand and carry them out? One of her favourite things is to have me sitting down, preferably with my legs up but even a legs -down lap will do, and then to sit on top of me. This is all very loving and seriously warm during this horrible winter, but it is also incarcerating. Anything that is not within paws reach is out of bounds.There is no question of answering the phone or getting a drink or finding a pen to do the crossword. You are as trapped as if bound by chains. Lately, she has taken to non-stop meowing soon after breakfast. When I say meowing, I really mean whining. It goes on through changed food, changed litter, strokes and nibbles - her of me, that is - and it is not until I take up one of the above positions and she is installed on top that the whining stops. I was never brilliant with whining children; how do I do better with my cat? 'It's time to get up' is not difficult to communicate. You just jump on the 'two-legs' hidden in the bed you recently slept on yourself, and then jump off again. Repeat thirty four times and, miraculously, there is food in the dish and water in the bowl before you can say"mouse". Scratching: antique furniture or any fabric are best to convey you are really cross and impatient. You have to endure some loud calling of your name and even the lightest touch of the paper on your behind, but 'she' gets what you are on about and sees to it at last. Less subtle but useful in an emergency is the hiss. Don't touch me, don't touch her, get out of my space, get out of my house can all be communicated by a hiss so protracted the breath control would shame many a robust soprano.

However, what triggered the impulse to discuss the question of communication, now, as opposed to then and from now on, was actually a comment from a two-legged one. Coming out of the kitchen the Guru started me straight in the eye and said that the dish-washer needed to go on. I was left not knowing whether this was a declaration of intention or an instruction to staff. It turned out to be the latter. What would you have done? I put the dish-washer on. Excusing my self to the angry inner me, I decided that my compliance must have been an unconscious wish to communicate my warmth towards him. I know, I know: there doesn't seem to be a polite word for the response I can feel you all communicating through the ether. I am thoroughly spoiling both the Guru and the cat.

I am having difficulties with this post and thus the irony continues. My head is reeling and my thoughts tumbling with examples, no, experiences, of communication, through words, signs, movements, music , but, for the moment, no coherent frame in which to express them. Perhaps there are too many or the subject too all-encompassing. I am passionate about it which may well explain the problem. It is notoriously hard to keep clear-headed when consumed by passion, wouldn't you say? I might just have to leave it there for now, lie down and let my cat lie on top of me. By implication, I let you know I shall be looking forward to communicating with you again, soon.


brian beedham said...

What the cat and the Guru both need is a raised eyebrow and a commanding stare from Muscha, our feline regimental sergeant-major. Shall I issue orders?

Anonymous said...

In my experience communication becomes challenging (newspeak for difficult or even impossible) when people have different styles. It is not that one doesn't understand the words that they are using (as long as they belong to one of the languages one speaks - that could rule out Cat -) but that there seems to be something missing. I suppose it goes back to de Saussure's difference between langue and parole. Without the right parole the langue doesn't mean the same thing. But how does one get parole? Well, through langue, of course, and there we are, back at square 1. Some people simply don't believe in expressive or descriptive words, for example. Which makes their parole sound very blunt to the listener who does not share that style. How to make it better? I have no idea!