I didn't mention it at the time, but December was a pretty crappy month at Fatboyfat Towers. I didn't mention it because everyone else was busy walking in their own winter wonderlands, jingling their bells and dinging their dongs merrily on high.You all have your various parades. And you don't need me raining upon them.
It started on early in the month when we noticed the cat was limping heavily. Bodie was ten years old and had been with us since we'd adopted him and his brother Doyle as kittens. Doyle hadn't made it out of kittenhood, unfortunately, which illustrated to us the folly of naming any pair of animals after a well-known double act. But Bodie was relatively healthy, in a feline way.
The fact that I've used the past tense a lot in that last paragraph should tell you where this is going, shouldn't it?
It was me that took the phone call. That call. The fact that it was from The Nice Irish Vet That Katie Quite Fancies did little to lessen the blow. Bodie had an inoperable mass under his rear nearside and there wasn't terribly much we could do.
I had to go for a walk around the block. There was something in my eye, you see.
Circumstances meant that there was about a two-week period of time before we were able to take the final sad little visit to the vet. That was a horrible fortnight. We knew what was coming, but had to continue as normal. He was on pain relief, but even so he would look at us sometimes in a knowing way. I often had things in my eye over those two weeks.
People who don't have pets find this sort of thing difficult to understand. But these animals worm they way into your heart, you see. You can't bear to think of them suffering. But even more, you can't bear to think of them gone.
A week or so before Christmas we took that visit to the vet. It was very quick. Although I got something in my eye again.
Christmas passed. The house seemed empty. We went away to Cornwall for the New Year, which was a nice pasty-filled distraction.
Then last week I was looking at the local Cats Protection League website. In fairness, Katie had pretty much favourited the site and was spending much of her waking hours on it. But alongside the cute kittens at the local Centre there were slightly older cats being looked after by members of the public.
On Saturday we drove to the suburb of Harborne to meet Slinky, an 18-month-old male who'd been taken in by a lady called Caroline who makes maps for a living. I've never met a cartographer before, so that's one thing to cross off the list. As we sat next to Slinky on the sofa he purred gently and proceeded to sink his claws into my left hand in a calm and considered way. Blood dripping onto my wrist, Katie and I exchanged looks. I got the cat carrier out of the car.
Less than 12 hours later and Slinky had become Eric. This is mainly because he looks like an Eric. It is partly the effect of a bottle or two of some bloody good New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
And it occurred to me. I wasn't standing outside a house. I was standing outside a home once more.
Dammit. Something in my eyes again.