Saturday, 13 October 2007

Cornucopia At Barleycorn

Oh, the love
of my Lord
is the essence
of all
that I love
here on earth.
All the beauty
I see
He has given
to me
and His giving
is gentle
as silence.
Every day,
every hour
every moment
has been blessed
by the strength
of His love.
At the turn
of each tide
He is there
at my side,
and His touch
is as gentle
as silence.
There've been times
when I've turned
from His presence,
and I've walked
other paths,
other ways.
But I've called
on His name
in the dark
of my shame,
and His mercy
was gentle
as silence.
E. White

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Gentleman Jaff With The Silky Fur

From the moment his eyes met mine, it was love at first sight, and I knew I’d take him home. I’m not sure if it was the streak of war-paint down his nose and across both cheeks, or the amazing colour of his eyes winking at me, which stole my heart.

He sat with his back to the cage, a look of disgust on his face, as if to say, ‘Why am I in this God-forsaken place? I don’t belong here, surrounded by all these mewing, scruffy specimens.’ But, in our local Cat and Dog Home is precisely where we found him.
When I squeezed my fingers through the bars to stroke him, he rose up to greet me, like the gentleman he was, and stood, tall and proud, on his very long muscular legs. His was a silky fur with soft downy fluff behind the ears. He looked every inch the thoroughbred.
For the past ten years he certainly kept the mice at bay at Barleycorn, though his favourite snacks were the voles. Hours on end would go by, while he sat, seemingly motionless, on the stone-dyke wall dividing the garden from the adjacent field, watching and waiting.
One quick pounce was all it took. Then he’d appear with his trophy, often on the doorstep, occasionally indoors, for me to praise him, after which he’d gobble it up leaving me a present of the entrails.
With his coat of thick fur and his large furry paws, Jaffa never felt the cold. Unlike our other cats, who were heat-seeking creatures, he would search out the cooler parts of the house for his catnaps, and on hot summer nights, he’d sleep in the barn, only appearing on the doorstep around five the following morning.
His morning routine would begin with a stretch of his long back, followed by his constitutional walk around the garden, where he would stop by his favourite log to sharpen his claws, and wander along the fringes of the pond to nibble a morsel of some couch grass or lap up a bowl of pond soup.
He was very much an outdoor cat, the Barleycorn garden being his jungle paradise. Here he spent his days vole watching, or hiding among the tall plants on hot days, or basking in the sunshine, or, in winter, skating across the frozen ponds. Here he climbed the rafters in the barn searching for mice. This was his domain where he was king of the jungle.
Six weeks ago, as we were preparing for a three-week trip to China, I became worried when I saw that Jaffa was drinking too frequently. A blood test confirmed he had diabetes. Just before we were due to leave, he had stopped being interested in food.

As we were going to China to celebrate the Tea Ceremony and Banquet of our elder son and his wife, I had no alternative but to leave Jaffa with the vet, who was sure she could save him. After all, he stood tall and proud, as always, and rose up to be stroked, and purred as loudly as ever.

To all intents and purposes he looked a fine figure of a puss. He wasn’t ailing or sickly. His kidneys were in good condition. But, on the morning I had to leave him with the vet, something made me run back in, open his carrier and cuddle him once more…just in case he didn’t make it.
I have relived that last cuddle in my mind many times since we came home a week ago, for, on our return, the sad news we received from the vet was that Jaffa had passed away a week after we left.
I shall miss stroking his silky fur coat; being serenaded by his purr-box song; his welcome greeting whenever I returned home; his close proximity whenever I worked in the garden, and the enriching pleasure of having him as part of my life here at Barleycorn. Ten years ago he stole my heart, and there he will remain.


Vole catcher,
Mouser extraordinaire,
Gentleman Jaff
With the silky fur,
He’s a puzzle,
Dainty eater
Friend of Rinks
Silky fur
Purr! Purr!