Keeri who loved humans

Keeri who loved humans
Something to say?

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Keeri - Passport for a Cat

Meet Keeri. There she is, sleeping on my front veranda in India. This kitten came to us asking for food, raucously, almost screeching at me. She knew her rights under UN regulations, I suspect. She was on the far corner of our garden wall. My son and I saw how skeletal she was and I asked him to stay with her while I ran inside to fetch milk and bread. I knew she would, at that moment, eat absolutely anything.

   'I don't want her taking up residence,' I said. 'We are leaving soon after all.' We left the food and escaped.

Half an hour later Keeri was on our front veranda step, talking about the weather, the cruelty of the human world, news in the feline towns... We ignored her. She just jumped into a lap and went to sleep.

   Me and my family , now, are definitely cat people, but we did not want another cat in our Croydon home. Two were bad enough. One, Pepper by name, strays on to the road and cars screech to a stop on either side of her. When she is lucky. One night she wasn't and lost half a hip bone. She is incontinent when scared. So about once a week there is cat-pee to clean up.

   The other, Boo-boo, my son says, is a mouth and an arse connected by an alimentary canal. She'll eat anything and needs constant food. Both think all the beds in the house are theirs and we are just allowed on them now and then. This morning Pepper woke me up at seven in the morning so she could go out for a wander.

   We named the new little one Keeri for mongoose in Malayalam. She has that charcoal-ash colour and a pointy tail. 

   This cat, now, is closer to the human genre than the others. When she sleeps on the bed, her head is on the pillow. When Saraswathy wants to remove my night-dress for washing from the bed where I have thrown it, Keeri hangs on to it. It's hers. Like a child's comforter. Saraswathy generally loses the battle.

   When visitors come, she unerringly picks the cat - people and abandons me. She is a promiscuous little one and I shall have to stand in line for her favours.

   The airlines want to know what breed Keeri is before they will transport her to England. Local, I answer. But that is not enough. Look at her, for heaven's sake. She is an unremarkable stray that can't even boast a respectable tail. But she knows how to wake up my grand daughter to play with her and run straight into a lap without brakes on, when the neighbour's dog barks.

   I am travelling next week and I face a week of jet lag. Keeri will usurp my rocking chair. I shall run around like a mad head-less rooster for her 'papers', but I can't wait to see her. I hope she doesn't mind the English weather. If she does I am going to hear about it. Loudly and frequently.

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Thatcher - an exercise in hypocrisy

Soon after Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister I went to work in Bishop Ward Boys' Secondary School, Dagenham. I was moving from Wickford, a reasonably prosperous commuter town. It was a huge culture shock, and as the years went by the shocks to the system became more and more painful.

     Bishop Ward had a catchment area, which was almost entirely employees of Ford, Dagenham. Most of the children were Irish Catholics and so was the Head Master. Many of the  parents lost their jobs as Ford closed down and we had practically a whole school living on the dole. The families were big, six and seven children in some of them, wearing hand-me-downs and looking under-nourished.

     Thatcher's England brought devastation to England's working class. She is now praised for taking on the miners, the unions... As far as I am concerned, she could have taken on anyone she wanted, if she could have done so without destroying the very fabric of British society. I think of all those workers going about saying -gi'us a job.

     We lost our industrial base during those years while she nurtured the money-men. London became a strutting city of illiterate money-mongers. The language of the media and newspapers changed, as money became the biggest news of all. Today we know what happened to that unrestrained greed and how it has affected ordinary people. I don't call them working class - where is the work for them?

     Thatcher , the milk snatcher, charged ahead, blinkers on, knocking down all industry in her wake. The mines went, the motor industry went, the steel went... British people are some of the most original and inventive in the world, but they now have to take their patents to the  United States to see them developed. We are too busy counting money.

     Thatcher had no regard for the South African black people who were being trampled by the Apartheid regime. She thought the ANC were terrorists and she cosied up to the Prime Minister of South Africa. And we are supposed to honour her with a state funeral? For that alone she should be relegated to the ranks of the unfeeling despots. And she was a despot - ask her cabinet and they will say that in private. After all, they got rid of her eventually, not the public.

     I am sorry to hear the Queen will honour her by participating in her funeral - what a sham! I wonder which Adviser takes the credit for that piece of hypocrisy.

     The celebrations in Bristol and Glasgow make me sad. Nobody's death should be celebrated. But I wonder: is it because of the exaggerated eulogising that is happening since yesterday.

     I feel sorry for Margaret Thatcher as a person. Dying in the Ritz Hotel. Oh Boy. I hope someone she loved was with her.


Sunday, 7 April 2013

Uninvited Guests

Immigration is in the forefront of news these days, parties vying with each other to prove to the paranoid majority that their policy is the most constructive - or destructive depending on which side of the population class/ line you are standing.

     Uninvited guests - what do they have to do to find favour, to be accepted?

     This was brought home to me forcefully when I got a fault in my boiler recently. The gas engineers come and go: 'Not much wrong with it,' they say. 'It's working, innit?' I am not convinced, so yet again I do a call-out.

     This time the guy who comes has a half-Chinese look, and a name to match. But his English is faultless and the accent pure East End. Second generation, I think. I sit on the hall chair waiting for him to come out in five minutes, dust his hands and ask me to sign the call-out slip. The boiler was working, so he could get away if he was so inclined.

     I had a cup of tea while I waited, read the previous day's Guardian, looked at my mail, had another cup of tea. Mmm. ??? I peered into the boiler area.

     The object had been completely dismantled, its innards spilling out over the utility room floor around the engineer. He spent hours with spanner and screw-driver coaxing it to do better. Off and on he went to his laptop to take readings. Then he went upstairs in search of the hot water system and the controls there. He fiddled for another half hour and fixed a valve that had jammed. He then called down to my daughter to put the thermostat up and down several times till he was certain the instrument communicated well.

     Then he came down and explained to me, in some detail, what he had been doing. I was amazed at his discipline and thoroughness.
     'The horrors of immigration,' my daughter said as he left. He hadn't learned the quick-exit methods. He was still carrying his newcomer's desire to impress.

     I thought of myself in this connection: when I worked in projects for the British Council I had a reputation for being the only Adviser who met deadlines. Other Advisers looked at me pityingly for this serious professional flaw - dead lines were meant to be ignored, weren't they? And why was I bucking the trend? Didn't I have anything better to do? Well, there was that too. I was a bit of a joke.

     Yet - I had come from a country where, if I slipped, there would be thousands to step into my shoes. I had to keep to the rules.

     I worked for the North Thames Gas Board briefly when I first landed in the UK. Fifty-nine pence for an hour, I was paid, and if I did well, I could be trained for a managerial role. God forbid - by the third day, I was fed up of connections and disconnections, of bills paid or in arrears. In my room at the lodgings, I had a gas meter, which ate 50p coins. Almost an hour's wage for three hours of heating. In my head also there was a serious disconnection.

     But times were good - there were plenty of jobs for the young - or even the not-so-young like me. At the big table where I fielded phone calls I was flanked by two Cambridge graduates. They were killing time till they decided how to save the world. This was 1974 and the world even then needed a quick save.

     Periodically they asked me to slow down with my files. 'You are showing us up,' one of them said. 'You work too fast.' So I took a Maths book in to read and when the supervisor was looking elsewhere. I caught up on the new Maths, which I hoped to teach. The floor manageress asked me to join the managerial trainees for the next year. I kept my head down and spent a lot of time hiding from her among the basement filing cabinets.

     Even then I knew: as an outsider I had to work twice as hard just to tread water. And so it is still with all the uninvited guests.