Dedicated with thanks to Matt, Claire and Lorraine
It being a really busy road – well, you know what Cockfosters is like at the best of times and today it’s pouring down – we were lucky to find a parking space so easily. “If you take her straight into the vets, I’ll sort out the parking meter,” I say.
So ActorLaddie sets off with Willow in the cat-carrier – heck, that’s seen better days. The carrier, that is, not Willow, who has been remarkably trouble-free in her sixteen years. So far.
The parking meter takes me a wee while to figure out. You have to feed it with these metal disk things called coins; they have a certain novelty value but I don’t see them catching on. Ticket in car, check. Car locked, check. Mask on, check. And off to the vets.
“I’m with the chap who has just come in with a cat,” I tell the receptionist.
“No-one’s come in with a cat,” she says to me. “We’re expecting Willow but no-one’s come in.” I go back out, look up and down the parade of shops but there’s no sign of a cat in a carrier with an elderly actor that’s seen better days. There is a sign for another vets down at the far end of the parade of shops. Could he have headed down there, by mistake? I ring his mobile and, eventually …
“Willow’s escaped from the carrier,” gasps ActorLaddie. “She went under a stationary lorry, run across the Cockfosters Road and down some side street. We’re trying to find her.”
And there’s the empty cat-carrier, bust lock and all, on the kerbside of the A111, trembling a little as the lorries thunder past. I pick it up, belt across the pedestrian crossing and try and work out which way to turn. A Rastafarian is heading towards me. “They’ve gone down that way,” he yells at me and points at an alley. “I’ve just checked down these houses but no luck.” I guess he’s figured out that a single woman in possession of a cat-carrier must be in want of a cat.
As I go into the alley, a traffic warden is coming out. “They went that way,” he says to me, pointing at some back fences. “I need to get on now. Sorry. Hope you find her.”
The alley turns and then runs between the backs of shops on the left and suburban garden fences on the right. A small group of people are looking over and through fences and calling Willow’s name. “The postman saw the cat go into this garden,” says one young chap – Matt by name, I learn later. “But we can’t see her now.”
A young woman – Claire – shows me the direction ActorLaddie has taken. “He’s going round to the front doors of these houses – Gloucester Gardens. I’ll carry on looking this way.” Claire, Matt , Lorraine from the t-shirt printers whose workshop opens on the alley, and I all exchange numbers – we’re going to have a Christmas meetup, if you’re free – the postman gives me directions to Gloucester Gardens and off I go, waving the empty pet carrier and yelling ‘Willow’.
It takes a good five minutes to circle round to Gloucester Gardens and, to be honest, I’m not hopeful. I guess the next step will be to knock on doors. And then, maybe, notes? Perhaps posters on lamp-posts? What are we going to tell the kids? When I can see ActorLaddie in the distance, I start yelling out Willow’s name and I keep yelling out Willow’s name. And then, she answers.
At least, I presume it’s her. I guess other cats are available but this does sound like her meow. I keep calling and she keeps meowing – she’s on the other side of the street – under one of the cars parked on that drive. There, under a big black 4 by 4, squawking at me. “Found her!” I yell.
I can’t get to her and she ain’t budging. ActorLaddie arrives from one direction; Matt from the other. We surround the car but Willow looks settled in for a siege. The owner of the 4 by 4 joins us with provisions – he’s still wearing his pyjama trousers so I guess we’ve interrupted him working from home. He barricades one side of the car with a bin and I give Willow a shove with a broom and Matt pins her down with a rugby tackle. Then we parade back to the main road – well, not the chap in the pyjamas – arriving eventually at the vets, steaming and much relieved.
It turns out that she has an ulcer on her right eye. It looks pretty nasty and she’s not impressed by all the drops and jabs. We’ve come home with three different sorts of eye-drops and additional medication for her food. Back to the vets on Monday – this time, it will be in a solid metal cage guarded by the SAS.
It could be, the vet warned us, that the ulcer will lead to a melting of the cornea. This sometimes leads to a loss of vision in one eye.
That is sounding horribly familiar. In recent weeks, Pa has been down a similar road; having had a series of ulcers and corneal melts in his right eye which has now been officially ‘retired’ by Moorfields. But you didn’t find him scampering between lorries, and over garden fences, and under ridiculously large cars. He Was Brave – and he didn’t even get a sticker to say so. We’ll be getting him to have a word with Willow.