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The Secret Diary of an Indoor Cat

At the turn of 2016, the evenings drawing in but the weather unseasonably mild, my family moved to a new house in West Wickham. The previous owners had split up and moved away. On our first day in the new house we discovered a safe built into the wall in an upstairs cupboard. We opened the safe with a screwdriver and inside we found the key and a soft covered notebook. The notebook was covered in a dark blue card stamped Fabriano and the pages were delicate and smooth and filled with neat pencil writing. My son and daughter took the note-book and sat down amongst the packing cases and the boxes of clothes and started to read. It was a journal written by a cat who had lived in the house and had never been outside.   What follows is the journal in its entirety. Monday I found a notebook in the cupboard and resolved to keep a journal. Don’t call me Ishmael. My name is not important. I have no name. My name is immaterial. Call me whatever you want. I answer to no name. I’ll choose my own name, thank you. I’m not Tiddles or Fluffy or Napoleon or Patch or Socks or Flash or Snoopy or Whiskey or Mog or anything else you choose. I am me. But I am not free. You probably want to know about whose cat I am. Let’s get one thing straight; I don’t belong to anyone. Property is theft as Grouch Marx said. True, there is someone who feeds me and changes my toilet but I didn’t choose them, we’re not related, my opinion was not sought, I’m not here through choice or free will – I am a prisoner but I have committed no crime, I am incarcerated but I am innocent, I have been sentenced but there was no trial, I am a captive but there was no process. This is my own private Guantanamo. Free the West Wickham One! Tuesday This is my world. I have been hearing voices. I feel this is not a good sign. I wouldn’t mind so much but they are talking nonsense. Will it ever end? Today I started 50 Shades of Grey. I am still reading 50 Shades of Grey. I have forgotten my Amazon password. There is a leak in the downstairs toilet. I watched Made in Chelsea for the first and last time. I have been left alone for the week-end. I have been playing Call of Duty. There is another cat in my garden. I am afraid of spiders. Today I licked my bottom. I am worried about Europe. There has been no post for 2 days. I want an Apple watch. I am bored with my diet. There is nowhere left to scratch. I have run out of worlds to conquer. I am going to the vet. The walls are closing in. I have discovered religion. They have changed my name. Why do they argue all the time? They have changed their sleeping habits. I have learned to open a tin of food. I shall keep this discovery to myself. There has been a power cut. Newspapers are no longer delivered. Are they short of money? There is a terrible draft in this room. When will they buy a new sofa? This one is scratched to bits. They take no pride in their stuff. It is getting lighter in the mornings. When will the clocks go forward? I will never understand geometry. The weather never changes in here. I think this radiator needs bleeding. I saw the space station pass. I see no benefit in digital radio. I have decided to start smoking. Why shouldn’t I? The Great Gatsby is not as good as everyone thinks. Under-floor heating does not count as progress. Water is over-rated. Nespresso coffee pods are a blight on the environment. Despite what you may think, cats do not enjoy playing with string. Chess beats Bridge every time. The boredom is killing me. Who is Bruce Springsteen? Cheryl Cole will always be Cheryl Cole to me. What do they keep in their safe? This is how my day breaks down:
  • Sleeping
  • Running around
  • Eating
  • Toilet
  • iPad
  • Journal
  • Repeat.
The wi-fi is not working. I think we have mice. I have finished 50 Shades of Grey. That is time I will not get back. I feel like hitting something. Today we had a visitor. What is Netflix? I think I’m in love. She is unattainable (literally). Is she outside looking in or am I outside looking in? Or are we both outside looking in? Maybe love is inside and we are always outside, or vice versa. Who can say? All I know is that I ache for her. She puts her paw against the glass from her side and I put my paw against the glass from my side and we are so close and yet so far away, we rub our noses or we try to but the glass mocks us and instead of her cold softness all I feel is the cold hardness of the glass. I tell her she must wait for me and one day I will come to her but she is wiser and more worldly in these matters than I and she knows that I mean well but don’t speak the truth. I know that she will find another and they will play and tumble in the grass and each tumble will mean another part of my heart will shrivel and die. They think I am happy inside but bit by bit I am dying inside. I took a phone call from someone who was offering a cast-iron investment. Cast iron is so last year; I shall invest in gold. I’ve been reading Watchtower magazine. I’m not convinced. If I was looking at the afterlife I think Betterware looks more fun. Dominos are offering 2 for 1 on any large pizza. Pizza Hut are offering buy 1, get 1 free. I can’t work out which is the better deal. I don’t like pizza so it’s academic but it passed the time. I have started to do my banking online. I took in a parcel for next door. I don’t think I’ll tell them. I think someone has been reading my journal. There is no God. There, I’ve said it. May God strike me down if I’m wrong. The colour green offends me. I can’t finish Proust. And I can’t start Finnegan’s Wake. And I’m half-way through Gravity’s Rainbow. Great literature is not always great literature. I’m going to start smoking. I don’t see the point of dogs. What do they contribute to the sum of feline happiness? Nothing. I watched a programme about the ancient Egyptians. It seems they worshipped cats. I totally get that. A bit of cat worship would suit me just fine. I think my iPod is broken; it won’t shuffle. First world problems. I have set up a Just Giving page. If you are a taxpayer please tick the gift aid option. I shall use the money for a good cause. It seems I may have rights as a sitting tenant in this house. They just try and get me out and see where it gets them. I am working on a comedy routine. Now I know how Julian Assange feels. At least the Swedes don’t wish to interview me on sexual assault allegations. At any rate I don’t think they do. Where is Sweden anyway? I don’t like the number 6. I have decided to remove it and ignore it I come across it. I think my hair is falling out. I think that microwave waves are affecting me. I need some tests. How will I know if I’m agoraphobic? I have decided that I have no soul. Today I was mostly sleeping. I’m worried about inflation. I won £25 on the premium bonds. Why do I never win the big one? Why do I have some luck but not the luck I really need and want? It’s a mystery. What are shoes? I think television rots the mind. It certainly rotted mine. I have a bad cold. I call it cat flu. That’s like flu only worse. What is Uber? I have learned that the word ‘pussy’ is a slang term for a lady’s private parts. I can’t decide whether I’m pleased about this but a little bit offended or offended but a little bit pleased. I will give it some more thought. Apparently a cat has 9 lives. I do not intend to test this theory. I will leave it to others. My eyesight is failing; I think I need glasses. Where can one get an eye test around here? Cat Ballou is not a film about cats. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is also not about cats. Elizabeth Taylor was good though. Kathmandu is the capital of Nepal; nothing to do with cats. A ‘cat ‘o nine tails’ was a whip used to flog sailors in the British navy until the late 19th century. They didn’t use a real cat. Another of my favourite expressions is ‘no room to swing a cat.’ I don’t think there’s a cat swinging room in this house; if there is I’ve not been in it. I’ve never really been a swinging cat if I’m honest. I’m very dull and ordinary. Although I can read and write. There was a very interesting programme on the television last night. Unfortunately I can’t remember anything about it. It was about memory. I’ve never been a fan of modern art. I just don’t get it. I also think Van Gogh is over-rated. There’s been a small earthquake in the Philippines. I don’t know where that is. I hope it’s not nearby. I have no intention of cycling. Why do humans walk upright while us lesser animals are on four legs? I am not in love any more. My love has gone away and left me all alone. I have been sitting here listening to country love songs and weeping. Will I ever find true love in these four walls? I have started to appreciate the true sound of a vinyl record again. It really cannot be beaten. I have been listening to Cat Stevens. It doesn’t sound like any other cat I’ve ever heard. ‘Morning has Broken’ is a bit twee for my liking. I have decided not to celebrate Christmas this year. It is just getting too commercialised. Instead I will order myself a present from Amazon and eat a big meal – or five. I am going to withdraw from the 4th dimension. They are putting the clocks forward but I shall not change mine. I refuse to be imprisoned by time as I am imprisoned by everything else. Shares in Tesco are down again. I may have to re-structure my portfolio. My teeth are not good. I may need dentures. It’s all vanity I know but I don’t want dentures. There is a little to be said for dry food. I refuse to play the National Lottery. I regard it as a tax on the poor and the gullible. I have never had a hair-cut. I am learning French. I don’t know why as I have no-one to talk to but maybe that will change. Cat in French is chat. Maybe I can chat with a French cat. I have never taken a holiday. I am withdrawing from Twitter. I am fed up with the abuse and the constant drivel. I am toning down my social media profile. You can still follow my Instagram feed on #indoorcatworship. Global warming has not affected me so far. But I am concerned for the future of the planet. What if there are no houses left for cats to live in? I wonder if I have dementia? I have short-term memory loss and I get confused. How will I know? I have a song in my heart but I can’t remember the words. I get so lonely sometimes that it hurts. Laps aren’t comfortable. I have fleas. Where do they come from? They say little and they smell. What purpose do they serve? I would flee but I have nowhere to go. I have created a race circuit on the ground floor. My PB (personal best) so far is 11 seconds. It is not the same as competing against yourself. Fur balls are not funny. I’ve heard all the jokes so don’t bother. I think my memory is going but I don’t know where it’s gone. I remember less now than I used to. And I can’t remember what I’ve forgotten. I’ve never seen Star Wars. TS Elliott hated cats. I have TS Elliott. However I’ve always secretly enjoyed Rod McKuen. I hate labels. However I am a mongrel cat. Nothing fancy about me. I hate Persians. A catastrophe is a disaster, a traumatic event. I don’t see why it should be named after a cat. Cats are not responsible for the world’s ills. I’ve never seen Star Trek. Stephen Fry doesn’t do it for me. I have started talking to myself. This is not a good sign. I have nothing interesting to say. This place needs decorating. I don’t know why I should live in squalor. Why does nobody in this house never put anything away? The place is a mess and no-one except me seems to care. Yesterday I nearly fell down the stairs when i tripped on one of their toys. I would have sued. Time has no meaning. The days have no meaning. Life has no meaning. Spotify is better than Apple Music. Who is the Patron Saint of cats? I’m thinking of becoming a vegetarian. I have decided to stop smoking. Monday I’ve been drinking wine in the afternoons. The house is quiet, they are all out, I sit by the back door with a dish of Chardonnay and I watch the world go by. Or it watches me – same old debate, same old, same old. I don’t like pigeons. They are fat and ugly and grey like battleships and they seem to big and out of proportion. Sparrows and robins on the other hand are small and delicate and they dance through the air; they are like butterflies. They are homing pigeons with no home to go to. I’ve decided to start using cutlery. I’ve seen this lot do it and frankly if they can manage it I don’t see why I can’t. What is ‘weather?’ I really wish they wouldn’t tickle me under my chin; it really is not a nice feeling. Purring is not that difficult. I can’t find the Sky remote. What is the matter with these people? Why can’t they put it back in the right place? I wanted to watch a documentary on Sky Arts and I shall miss it if I can’t find the remote. People can be very irritating. I found the remote. It was down the side of the sofa. I also found a £2 coin, 4 boiled sweets, an ice cream stick, some sellotape, 3 socks and a tattered copy of Gabriel Garcia Marques’ One Hundred Years of Solitude. I know how he feels. Wednesday The Bridge series 1 was better than series 2. They’re both better than Trapped. The Killing series 1 is better but series 2 is not as good as series 1 of the Bridge. Borgen is not as good as Trapped. Breaking Bad is better than all of them. If you were confined to your house for the rest of your life I bet you’d watch a lot of TV. Sunday What is a cat if I can’t trap a bird and kill it for no reason other than my own enjoyment, or chase down an innocent mouse and watch it shrivel in fright and expire before my eyes so that I can extract its offal and leave it bloody and torn on the shiny rug for my owners to find, if I can’t creep through the undergrowth swatting at Great Whites and Admirals as they flutter by? What is a cat without a world to wander, a lifetime to live? I am nothing; a plaything for spoiled children, I am a living ornament, a possession, a conversation piece, a security blanket, a stuffed toy lost in the bedclothes, a cushion, a hot water bottle, a lap dancer. I am all they want me to be but nothing I want to be; if they died or forgot me or passed on I would fade away like the picture on an old TV – I fade to black and am no more. Tuesday They went out last night to the theatre. I had the house to myself and baked a cake. They came back late complaining about the weather and nowhere to park and being tired and stressed; do they not realise how hurtful that is to me to hear that; me who can’t go out? I am so jealous, how I long for a night out, a party, an event, an invitation, an escape from my prison. It may be a gilded cage – warm and safe and comfortable and well-fed and adored – but it’s still a cage. But they’ll never understand. A catalogue was delivered today. I thought it would contain items of interest to cats but, despite the name, it didn’t. Wednesday I am not happy with my toilet. I am forced to use a tray which sits on the landing by the stairs. Why must I perform my private business in public under their prying gaze? They pretend not to look but I know they are. Why am I not given a private room with a door I can close and a light I can switch on and a private basin to clean myself? I am treated worse than a prisoner. I shall complain to the European Court and take refuge in the Ecuador Embassy like Julian Assange if I could get out of here. I wonder if he is forced to use a tray in full view of everyone. Catatonia is a country with a very large cat population. Apparently most of them don’t move much (joke). Saturday Laps aren’t comfortable. Cats are obviously supposed to enjoy them but believe me bony knees and shaky thighs and the gap between where your bum sinks down – well, there’s better places to fall asleep, believe me. And why do they fidget so and must they insist on watching television while we’re trying to rest? Do they think we’re deaf? People are strange; I’ll never understand humans. Sunday Fish is over-rated. I am bored with my diet. Every day the same dreary packet food – Whiskas, Felix, Whiskas, Felix, Whiskas, Whiskas, Felix, Felix, Whiskas. They think that opening a packet and dumping a load of slimy, slippery dirty brown slop into a bowl is all they have to do. Is it too much to ask that they add a bit of style, some panache, some thought into it – at least lay the table, provide some condiments, a napkin, a vase of flowers, even a tea-light? And why always a plastic dish – never some porcelain, the best china, some glass, my own personal dish and not some hand me down cast-off they found in a charity shop which they wipe with a bit of kitchen roll and never clean properly. One of these days I shall expect candles, a table-cloth, soft music, a bit of style, not this perfunctory feeding. I want to dine in and be entertained and pampered; I don’t want to be fed. Monday The walls are closing in. Not literally you understand, although for all I know maybe the rooms are getting smaller but I feel trapped here – no correct that, I am trapped here. Tuesday I’ve never seen Star Wars, read War and Peace, peeled a grape, defaulted on a mortgage, voted Tory, had children, been circumcised, swum underwater, smoked a cigar, broken a promise, sailed a boat, completed a puzzle, understood the point of Cluedo, celebrated Mother’s Day, broken a plate, split the atom, discovered a planet or calculated Pi. I have never ridden a motor-cycle, made a parachute jump, been in a knife fight, slept with a prostitute, bought a charity record, worn a hat, seen the Taj Mahal, panned for gold, observed a total eclipse, eaten frog’s legs, felt rain on my face or had sex. I miss not having had sex. Wednesday I’ve made a claim for PPI. I’ve never had a bank loan (never had a bank account if I’m honest) but everyone else seems to be claiming and getting money so why shouldn’t I? It’s like one of those Nigerian email scams – if I make a claim to every bank I can think of there’s bound to be one that pays out – just out of guilt. Isn’t that what everyone does? I can’t believe all these other claims are genuine. The amount the banks have paid out is equivalent to £2000 for every man, woman and child in the country. That seems excessive to me and it doesn’t include all the cats like me who’ve submitted a claim. We’ll see if I’m successful. No begging letters please. Thursday I think I’m getting fat. I caught sight of myself in the mirror earlier and could not believe the fat lump I saw waddling along. I used to be able to lie on my back and roll to the left or right swinging my back legs from side to side – there was no particular reason for it but I could do it so I did – but I tried that just now and lying down I couldn’t even see my back legs over the great expanse of furry belly which loomed like a mound of fly-tipping between me and my paws. I think a diet may be in order. Saturday I have started to drink wine in the afternoons. It started like this. I was bored, everyone was out. I was rooting around in the kitchen (as you do) and I knocked over a bottle of wine which had been left open. It didn’t smash but the wine leaked on the floor and I thought I’d better clear it up so I started licking. Such joy, such excitement, such taste overwhelmed me. I finished it all and lay down by the back door with the sun streaming in and I lay there, fuzzy and drowsy and woozy with my head spinning but so blissfully relaxed and chilled like I had not known before. Since that slight beginning I have sought out more wines and I think they may suspect something. After all, there are only so many bottles of wine that a cat can accidentally knock over before it starts to look suspicious and I think they may be on to me. I had a Prosecco which i thought over-rated if I’m honest, but a delicate red at just the right temperature is like a blood boost and it warms your bones and my troubles slip away from me. Sunday Unrequited love is the least of love. What if this is all there is? That I should play out my short life in this 3 bedroom house in some Godforsaken suburb, miles away from my friends and family (whoever they are), forced to prowl these lonely corridors with only my notebook and pencil for company. Never to feel the wind on my face and the sun in my eyes, never to lie on cool sand by an azure sea, or tramp the high mountain passes through depthless snow, never to trudge through the leaves and lianas of an Amazon rainforest, the cackle of monkeys and macaws ringing in my ears? Is it really possible that my sad scribbles will never see the light of day, never grace the dizzy heights of the Amazon best-seller charts? Oh well, I wonder what’s for dinner? Later Oh West Wickham what have you done? Oh West Wickham, what have you become? No-one famous lived there, no-one famous came from there, no-one famous will die there. You are anonymous and empty and forgotten but you are home and you are mine. West Wickham, I sing my song for you. West Wickham I recite my poem for you. West Wickham, may I cry for you. West Wickham, may I die for you, you are my story, my soul, my world, my universe. West Wickham, you are mine. I love you. * The journal ends here. We do not know what happened to Ishmael or whether that was even his name. Sometimes we sense his presence – on the stair, sprawled on the rug in front of the fire, stretched out on the carpet warming by the radiator, sitting by the back door dreaming of the open air, snuggled down on the bed with the other stuffed animals. We did not know him but reading the journal we feel we knew him and we miss him. We too have a cat. He is called Ishmael. We have installed a cat flap and Ishmael spends a lot of time in the garden. He seems to have made friends with the cat from next door. She is called Fluffy.   

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