Sunday, November 05, 2006
We were on our way to the beach this morning, when my mobile telephone began to ring. It was my brother, Mark. He called to tell me that poor Babsy had died in the early hours of the morning. She was ten years old.
Babsy was a dear cat. She had the most wonderful nature, the most darling cat I've ever known in my whole life. She didn't want for much, just food (lots of it), someone's lap and to be stroked. She would happily sit for hours with human company, purring constantly.
Babsy was born to my Mother's neighbour's cat on Good Friday, 1996. Within a couple of weeks, my Mother's neighbour, Barbara, had promised all six kittens to various people, one of whom was called Angela Leggitt. I told Barbara under no uncertain terms was she to give a kitten to this awful woman. She'd already been banned from keeping a dog after going away to Spain for two weeks, leaving her aged pet tied to the washing line in her back garden.
"What am I supposed to do?" asked Barbara.
I told her to tell Angela the kitten she'd promised her had died. Of course, that still left Barbara with a problem of finding a home for it. I told her I'd take it. Babsy came to live with me shortly afterwards.
Only a year later, Babsy brought her own litter of five into the world, Sadly, one died after a few days, it having had a cleft palate. Babsy was such a good Mother. I'd let her out into the garden to do her business and she'd come running back straight away to tend to her young family. We found homes for all of the kittens, bar one, Baby, a lovely ginger tom cat with whom I'd fallen madly in love. I kept him.
In 2000, I moved to Edinburgh and in with Ian in his first floor flat. This was no place to keep cats, especially cats that were used to spending as much time as they liked in the open air. Mum suggested Babsy and Baby go to live with her, which they did. Mum already had a cat called Smokie. Smokie liked to show Babsy and Baby who's boss. She put up with the new-comers, but never really took to them, it must be said. Perhaps because she was an old lady. Smokie was born in 1987. She's now nineteen years old.
Still, Mum loved all the cats, very, very deeply.
She was too upset to speak with me on the telephone this morning. I left it until after lunch before calling her and having a wee chat. I'd asked Mark if he could arrange for Babsy to be cremated and her ashes spread on Turbary Common next time I'm in Bournemouth. When I spoke to Mum, she said she'd prefer Babsy to be buried in the front garden, so she's closer to home. Someone will arrange this tomorrow, I'm told.
I wish I could be there, but I simply can't.
I broke my heart when my brother called me earlier on. I knew what he was going to say. I just knew it. He hardy ever calls me at all. When he does, it's always with bad news.
Babsy had been ill since I was in Bournemouth. Mum took her to the vet the week after I'd left. She never came home.
No-one seems to know what took her, but I have a feeling it was some kind of cancer. Probably in her lungs. She could hardly breathe, her heart was racing and she'd not eaten in a while. I knew she was ill when she began to refuse food. Babsy loved to eat. As long as there was food in her bowl, she would sit there and eat. Eat, eat, eat - until it was gone.
I keep crying. I just can't help it. I feel so terrible for not being there and feeling helpless. I loved that cat so much, so dearly, so tenderly. She was the most wonderful cat I've ever known in my entire life. She was fabulous and I'll never forget her.
It's spooky, you know. She was born on Good Friday. She had her kittens on Easter Monday. She died on Guy Fawkes Night. She made sure no important aspects of her life, and death, would ever be forgotten. As if I'd need a date of note to remember poor Babsy. Sometimes known simply as her given name, sometimes Babsu (pronounced Babsoo), sometimes Babs and sometimes Babsalina.
Babsy: I'll never forget you and will always love you, you wonderful, gentle, loving, perfect, clever cat.