Tuesday 22 February 2011


Before I unravel my theme, for those of you with good memories and the kindness to hold on to some, anyway, of these streams of consciousness, I should like to update you on the question of the girth of my beloved cat. (Her loss of weight was last post's discourse, in case you are as confused as I must often leave you). Concurrently with the concern about her weight, it had become a matter of some urgency to look in to her means of egress and ingress. In the early summer a baby fox came in through her cat-flap and, much more recently, two great Bouncer cats. The cat flap was changed, therefore, for a magnetic one; one magnet on the door, one on the cat. The bad news: it's too stiff for Beloved to push. The good news: her appetite has improved ten-fold. Conclusion: it must be the effect of the magnet attached to her collar. Rush out and get one for yourselves. Your health will be revolusionised.

As I was going to say, however, I have been thinking about strings. If you visualise history - in a microcosm, one's own and that of those with whom we are involved - as being a village and landscape peopled by facimiles of our earlier selves and events, puppets if you will and then picture yourself and the others who shaped that village as holding the strings, you will begin to see what I mean. (I was going to say "past selves" but don't wish to convey any metaphysical significance). I would also like you to know that, in no way, is the puppets metaphore meant to suggest lifeless dolls. It's the best I can do to describe the vivid image of those whom I am bending over, holding strings in the manner of a puppeteer. At first, many people were holding the strings of that history. Gradually, most have left, perhaps to go to a better place and, as I look around, I see that there are now only one or two of us bending over that common landscape. While I, and a few others continue to hold the strings, nothing will be forgotten. Indeed, so much energy is used in the enterprise, that it is not surprising how little room remains in the elderly for remembering things of the here and now. A monumental significance is, therefore, invested in those comrades still holding their strings. There are those from whom life has diverted me, our value to one another changed or diminished. But when we recognise a scene for which we each hold the strings, an encompassing warmth runs over us and there is a richness of feeling from which non-string holders are, necessarily, excluded. But I find I am more and more aware of the strings I hold alone, gathering more and more of the ones dropped by the dear-departed. I rush to pick them up but, soon, my hands may be too full to hold any more, myself. As you know, I have spent some time living with someone of the Grandchild generation. We do hold some strings together, but few, so few. He looks across at those I am holding without him much as I would look at Napoleon's, I suspect. Of all I could imagine about being the age I am, the thinning out of comrades-in-strings was not one that occured to the 40 year old when that was the age I actually was. These thoughts were crystallised by a meeting with old college friends that I went to last week. The strings were not as long as three score and more than ten, but three score and more than ten minus eighteen: long enough. A celebrated alumnus was interviewed by a near contemporary. The interviewee gained a first in Economics and then took to the stage and became a household name. A certain amount of ringing round had been done to ensure a good audience. After all, we are talking more than fifty years and a touch of 'Who He'? In the event, the hall was full and, as you may expect, the interview descended in to chaos from the heckling in the audience. Not a string of his student past left dangling, nowhere to hide, nothing capable of being hidden. I have rarely enjoyed myself so much, dancing a jig with a cat's cradle of memories in company with other likeminded cats.

Which reminds me: why can Beloved Cat remember where food lies, where the litter is, how warm my knees are, but not that it is absolutely forbidden to scratch the furniture? See you soon.

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