One life gone


So, back from Zagreb, a wonderful city and I’m sure Croatia will make a great member of the EU… when that eventually happens. Thanks to Iva for being a wonderful host and looking after a stranger in a strange land. Quite how they manage to get their tongues around the language I’ll never know, but seems like they learn it at an early age… ;-)

Chomped through emails, checked the webstats (nearly 450,000 hits for August!), sorted the laundry and mail and all the usual post-holiday activities - one of which included getting my regular No1 all over, tapered into the neck, at Kings Barbers in downtown Maidenhead.

Updated on all the goss - the guy’s bikes have been nicked from their usual parking slot - the cops were apparently completely uninterested in helping out. Talked to Rad about a possible podcast later in the year, more details to follow in a couple of weeks.

Then back to the car, on my way I was intrigued by a small group of folk staring up at the roof of a house - a mid-terraced affair in a quiet back street. As I got closer I realized that they were looking at a small animal that was stuck near the top of the drain pipe, just under the eaves, where the pipe angles out, then up, to the roof gutter.

I was amazed as to how the young cat got there, presumably from the roof, carried away perhaps by hunting a bird but even so, it must have taken some acrobatics to get lodged in this triangle with a sloping, curved floor. It was mewing loudly with stress, as every so often it would try to change position and a claw would scramble frantically at the plastic pipe to gain some traction, to get it back, balanced precariously on its smooth plastic resting place. I reflected that it would be really cool to have similar climbing ability…

Even a cat would be hard pressed to lose just one of its nine lives from such a height; an estimated equivalent for a human of some 200ft! Neither of the neighbours either side of the pipe were in, but the next-door-but-one was there and called the local fire brigade. Much to our disappointment, and despair of the young children that were watching, the fire brigade doesn’t actually do cat rescue. No one had access to a ladder and the cat was getting increasingly desperate.

One of the children took off a denim jacket and held that up in a forlorn hope - but therein lay an idea. The neighbour-but-one dashed inside her house and brought out a spare blanket - the kind of blanket distributed by those lovely cabin staff on long haul flights.

With four corners gripped tightly, this Heath Robinson means of rescue was offered up to the cat, we started to encourage the cat to jump.

With “Here kitty kitty” and “kiss kiss” noises, we struck up a fair old clamour, the shrill trebles of the kids mixing with the bass of various men, with those women present adding - what would it be - a contralto? The regular mewing of the cat interspersed our song, like a sample from an electronic dance track. It was like being in some Beano cartoon!

Gradually the cat seemed to understand what we wanted it do. It placed a tentative paw on the bricks of the wall and shifted position. Still mewing, it seemed to be gauging the distance, heart no doubt beating even faster as it prepared to leap through the air. It’s mouth must’ve felt dry, muscles weakened, as the surge of adrenalin kicked in. Shifting a bit more, two forepaws on the vertical brickwork, hind legs and paws still wrapped around the plastic tube. It inched around, eyes firmly fixed on the blanket, our calls we hoped provided reassurance that it’d be all right. There was a telephone wire in the way; it wriggled its head past that, then its rear legs let go of the pipe, it passed the point of no return… but it then got its left hind leg caught on the wire. The mewing rate increased, it wriggled some more until…

“Here it comes!”

…it flew through the air and landed with a soft flop; plopped directly in the middle of the blanket, as if it had been trained to do so, like some Hollywood stunt cat. I wasn’t too sure if it landed on its paws though, so I can’t comment on that strongly held belief…

We cheered with relief, the cat poked its head up out of the blanket and immediately, with one bound, sprang clear to the floor and started to run. A girl of about 10 scooped it up and cuddled it; it started to relax and looked for all the world like it welcomed this comfort from one of its rescuers, knowing that it had been involved in a serious incident.

We shook hands, smiled, instant friends having achieved something we’ll all remember for a long time. Congratulations all round, thanks for the loan of the blanket, we dispersed and went our separate ways.

As for the cat? Well who knows? Only a young cat, hopefully it still has 8 more lives left…