I have a confession. It’s with a heavy heart that I have had to make the decision to rehome my three remaining cats.
Susie and Sweetie are 17 and 16 and frail; I can’t risk them being torn to shreds by Gracie. Minstrel isn’t old but he is huge and no match for three border collies. Also, the cottage in the Dales doesn’t allow cats and I’m not in London often enough to look after them.
The only person who said he would have them is David, which has earned him a huge number of Brownie points that have yet to be redeemed as I have been so tired while also re-reading Julie Myerson’s Something Might Happen. He already has Prudence, and they will be company for her. I delivered them last Wednesday, along with several months’ worth of high-quality food. I handed him Sweetie’s thyroid medication and detailed instructions on how to syringe a small amount on to the back of a teaspoon, and caress the inside of one ear each morning while she concentrates on her Gourmet pâté. He worried me slightly
when he said, ‘Which one’s Sweetie?’ And, ‘I don’t have a teaspoon.’
‘You are joking.’
‘No, sadly not.’
It has all got me thinking. I’ve spent a lifetime being upwardly mobile: if ever a teaspoon went awol from my perfect set, I would turn the house upside down, send cameras down drains and open an official inquiry. I would go on property websites and dream of owning a huge house with land. When I got the huge house with land, a garden, barns – dear God, at one stage I even had a wood and two lakes complete with a jetty – I discovered that I spent every moment of every day dissatisfied because there was always another task waiting to be completed. I could never enjoy my Georgian mini mansion in the Dales because I was always too worried about bills and what needed doing.
The house had come with a beautiful set of garden furniture in a perfect spot overlooking the River Swale, which was partly the reason I bought it. In the four years I lived there, till I lost it, I think I sat there twice, for barely a minute. Agitated.
Now I am in a two-up two-down cottage with a courtyard garden – no lawn to cut with a mower that always came out of the garage with a brand new problem – and a one-bedroom flat in London for work, for the first time in about 30 years I am able to relax. If I see a mansion for sale I think, ‘That’s 27 windows to clean.’ I no longer go on French websites, looking at falling-down châteaux; it was renovating a barn in Somerset that set me on the road to ruin.
I am no longer a slave to my home. Neither is perfect, but isn’t perfect another way of saying, ‘hard work’? I’ve found out the hard way that the only thing that matters is what’s inside your head. I no longer feel the need to impress anyone. My mania for perfection was what stopped me ever getting a boyfriend, too: I was never quite ready. There was always room for improvement.
Anyway, I’ve just been arranging a night out with David. He then said, ‘I’m going to check my account soon. Give me an hour.’ He’s the only person I’ve ever met who doesn’t bank online.
‘Why do you need to do that?’
‘I’ve only got £32 left in my account and want to check that’s not gone too – otherwise I can’t come.’
It’s strange, but at last I’ve found the one thing we have in common. We have both lost everything (can you believe I’m dating someone who once lived in a hostel?). All we have now is each other. I no longer even have my cats.