May 9th, 2021
Harry turned up in my back garden about ten years ago. I didn’t take a lot of notice of him at the time, because my garden is basically a jungle, and it’s not unusual for one of the neighbourhood cats to spend time there during the day.
At first, I thought he lived over the back fence, and just spent his days here, lying in the sun. He was such a beautiful cat, and I didn’t imagine for a moment that he was a stray. I just thought he was extra friendly. If I was gardening, he’d try to climb into my arms. He particularly liked to do this if I was doing something delicate, like sowing carrot seeds. I spent a lot of time pushing him away.
But he was a determined cat. And very early one morning, in the middle of winter, when I saw him catching mice in the compost heap, and eating them as soon as he caught them, I realised he was actually living in my garden.
So I started feeding him. He was pleased, but obviously wondered why it had taken me so long. And I named him Harry-le-beau. Because he really was the most beautiful cat I’d ever seen.
I couldn’t let him in the house because I had another cat at the time, Miss Mouse, and Harry didn’t want to share. So he lived outside, and Miss Mouse lived inside.
At one point, I gave him away. He so obviously wanted to be a house cat, and I was getting a bit sick of having to protect Miss Mouse from him. But it didn’t work out, so a couple of weeks later I brought him back again.
And then Mousie got sick. Kidney failure. She hung on for a while, but the day came when she had had enough, and I called in the vet.
The next day, Harry moved inside.
I’d never had a boy cat before. Are they all so affectionate? So cuddly? The girl cats I’ve had have all been reasonably affectionate. But with every one of them, there would come a time when they had had enough of patting and tummy rubs, and would let me know it. Sometimes with claws.
Not Harry. With him, it was more a case of ‘Why are you stopping? You’ve only been patting me for an hour.’
He wasn’t the boldest of cats (except when it came to wanting attention). But he had a huge personality. And at one point he had his own blog, telling fantastical tales that he swore were true.
Like all writers, he was a sensitive chap. He was allergic to fleas, and had to have a special diet, otherwise he got urinary tract infections. And I always suspected he had some sort of neurological problem. He had a very strange twitch, which got worse as the years passed.
And then one day he had a seizure. That was ten months ago. So I knew the end was coming. In March this year he started falling over, and the vet diagnosed a probable brain tumour.
He died on April 23rd, and it broke my heart to lose him. He is buried under the plum tree, and friends gave me tulips and lilies to plant around him. I miss him so much. But I wouldn’t have missed living with him for the world.
Good night, Harry-le-Beau.