Portrait of the Author's Cats

Bobbin, seen here in something of a frenzy.

Bobbin, seen here in something of a frenzy.

Some years ago now, I attended a talk for authors on How To Promote Your Book. The speaker made the now common-place assertion that as an author of a newly published book “you can't just sit back”. This phrase has now become almost as much of a cliché as the traditional lament of authors who find their book has disappeared without trace within a month of publication, that “they” (the publishers) “did nothing at all to promote it.”

At the talk, the speaker went on to expand on various aspects of publicity and what an author could do to help matters along. It was suggested that in the brief author-biog on the inside cover of your book, you should never, ever say that the author “lives in London (or where-ever) with two cats”. This was apparently a big mistake. “Nobody cares about your cats!” the speaker told us in no uncertain terms.

Sitting in the audience I was gripped with embarrassment. The fact that I lived in London with my family and our two cats was exactly what I had just put in the author-biog in the inside cover of my latest book. I suspect I was not alone in my discomfort either, since it was quite usual for authors to list their pets in their biogs at that time, which is probably what had provoked the speaker's rebuke in the first place.

Older now, I'd like to think I'm relaxed enough to post pictures of the kitchen cupboards in our house, on which, also some years ago, I painted stylistic portraits celebrating the three cats that have lived with us over the past thirty-five years or so. Maybe nobody does care about my cats, but I am happy to admit that I do.

Leah, Queen of Cats

Leah is depicted crowned in a decidedly heraldic manner. Our first cat, Leah had already been dead for some years when this remembered likeness of her was painted. She had acquired something of a mythical status within the family by then, and was commonly referred to as the Queen of Cats. Her less majestic foibles, such as bringing a succession of young rats into the house and releasing them unharmed, to scurry away under the fridge, had largely been forgotten.

Tansy, paw raised to touch your arm

Tansy, one of the two cats already mentioned above, is seen here in a typical pose, her front leg extended in what looked alarming like a stiff-armed Nazi salute. Far too loveable to have really been a Nazi, Tan came to utilise her leg extending technique to good effect. She developed the habit of creeping up silently behind any one of us and then reaching out a paw to gently touch the chosen person on the back of the arm, thereby scaring the bejeezus out of them. She too is now buried in the garden, alongside the Queen of Cats, having gone to her rest in 2011.

Bobbin and the bee

Bobbin, Tansy's litter-mate, and at the time of writing the lone survivor of this trio, is shown with a bumble-bee, as a reminder of the time she tried to eat one that had made the mistake of flying in through the open kitchen door. Bobbin came away from the encounter with a comically swollen face. The bee, I fear, was less fortunate. Now, nearly twenty years later, Bobbin has become an ancient and cantankerous creature. However, in order to show her contempt for the notion of learning from one's errors, Bobbin is still capable of making the occasional half-hearted swipe at a passing bumble-bee.

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