Caught by the River

Shadows & Reflections – Robin Turner

15th December 2008

In which, as the year comes to it’s end, our friends and collaborators look back and share their moments…

It was the words “looking for her forever family” that did it. It was a phrase weighted with the same kind of heartstring tugging power that the end of Titanic has on the weakened mind after a four day bender. There are so many other things I wish I could say maneuvered themselves into a pole position as most memorable thing this year – writing a book; waking up in hotel beds in Latvia, in Sydney and on Burgh Island; sailing to Lundy for a pint or two with my Dad; seeing Harry Hill do stand up in a pub in Chalk Farm; Edwyn Collins at Glastonbury; Bon Iver at the Social; Wales winning the Grand Slam, Calzaghe vs. Hopkins and the Manics elevated to Godlike Genius all in the same month – but, really it was a rescued cat that took top honours. She’s quite demanding like that. When we chanced upon the North London Cat & Kitten Rescue Centre and their brilliantly manipulative advert, me and the Mrs knew that Honey, a 3 and a half year old super-scaredy cat, one who’d been locked in a cage for the first 18 months of her life and had been fostered ever since, was coming home with us.

My girlfriend was initially against getting a cat. We’d just bought a first floor flat; we were trying to be good neighbours. Our first act as homeowners was to head off to Australia for a month five days after receiving the keys (this wasn’t a ludicrous act of celebration, it had been planned long before we started looking to buy). Within 12 hours of landing on the other side of the planet, we had received a call from the flat downstairs saying water was coming through their ceiling. The idea that after nearly flooding them we’d be adding a caged beast to our wooden floorboards did seem more than just a little sadistic.

Then, when we saw her and read those words on the rescue centre website, we thought, ‘fuck it’ and buggered the consequences. After a trip on the Silverlink all up the way up to Pinner, we brought Honey back to our flat on Easter Sunday. And we left her alone. She hid under the sofa for weeks, lying on top of the wireless modem (can’t be good, that), coming out when the coast was clear to feed and water herself. We’d find random acts of destruction in the morning – pictures knocked over, clumps of fur on top of wardrobes, plants de-earthed – but we’d rarely see her. Slowly, very slowly, that all changed. Six months of tentative steps turned into the occasional brush-past in the kitchen that soon became a cautious curiosity. A gradual thawing of a feline / human cold war was happening.

Nowadays, she’s a remorseless eating machine, too chunky to fit under the sofa. She’s relaxed enough to blank me when I come back from work. Although she’s still distrustful of me, she bonded with my girlfriend pretty quickly. Every morning, she impatiently waits outside the bedroom at bang on 8am, before performing a routine that involves scratching up the carpets then occupying a large amount of the bed, commanding all attention until we head off to work. Her favourite evening position is sat on my girlfriend’s neck, positioned impossibly under the chin, blocking everything from TV to esophagus. Basically, she went from being a petrified, near-feral animal to being like an over-fed, demanding petulant teenager in the space of six months. She is also almost ridiculously grateful for a warm home and some familiar faces opening the door every night. All the effort has been entirely worth it.

Outside of a great deal of cat care, seeing the trailer for Watchmen on the screen for the first time was a strangely affecting moment, a nostalgic twist on my teenage years in glorious Technicolor. It sort of reminds me of what John Peel said about The Fall – it’s reassuringly the same, only very different. 22 years after I had religiously bought each issue of the comic from a twisted freak who ran a stall in Newport Provisions Market, there it was, moving, talking, alive. Back then, I used to hide each monthly issue of Alan Moore’s masterpiece in my school bag before going to see my mates who ran Rockaway, the punk as fuck record stall 10 yards down the hallway in the market. In my befuddled teenage brain, I was convinced that a being caught with a comic book was uncool. In Rockaway terms, having Dead Kennedy’s song titles tattooed across your face was the epitome of cool. Nowadays, I’m not actually sure that either thing is that cool but I’m still glad I stopped short at getting “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” inked on my neck. I can’t vouch for whether the film will be any good or not (these things are usually crap aren’t they?) but from the bits that are up there… well, it looks like I wanted it to back then. Here’s hoping that when it’s released in March it makes good on the two decades plus of expectation.

Records wise, Fennesz’s ‘Black Sea’ has made a decisive late entry. If you’re not familiar with his records, imagine Kevin Shields properly freed from the constraining straightjacket of rock’n’roll structures, of instrumentation… well, of everything apart from the frigid squall of dirty harmonic feedback. Pretentious as it sounds, it’s utterly brilliant.

Though it has to be said, when played loud it drives cats fucking berserk.