When Sigoth and I moved into EBL Towers some years ago it was a house in a poor state of repair. It cried out to us for TLC, and we tried to oblige. Let me tell you, when we moved in, not only did it need a new roof, new windows, new wiring, new plumbing and new floorboards (there was a hole in the floor of one bedroom), but it also needed quite a bit of elbow grease to cut through to its inner beauty.
We moved into the house during a blizzard, so it was a little fraught. We used up all our salt on the path to help the men move the furniture and books up the precipitous slope. They had to haul most things round the back because the front door key jammed in the lock. Sigoth took a hacksaw to it and we broke it open eventually, and so slept the first night in our new home with the door wedged shut against the snow until we could fit a new lock in the morning.
My dears, there were nupboards in the cupboards, hiding in the darkest recesses and getting a little snarly when invited to move along. In the end they succumbed to the superior logic of our cleaning products and trudged out the door with all their possessions tied up in spotted kerchiefs and slung over their shoulders on a stick. There was certainly wailing and gnashing of nupboardy teeth but we insisted.
Indeed, there were even ghairs on the stairs, mostly in pairs.
“It’s not fairs,” I told them, “so don’t get airs. If you pay your way, then you can stay.” But they said nay, so I set snares.
Nupboards and ghairs dealt with, we turned our attention to other squatters. There were mice in the attic, although oddly not in the kitchen. We left the starlings and sparrows under the roof tiles for the added insulation. Sigoth was on deportation duty both for mice and spiders. The latter were especially large, with fangs that dripped venom, and almost certainly had black belts in arachnid martial arts. They exhibited traditional Yorkshire grit; if we asked them politely to vacate the premises they would give us the eye, multi-faceted, and reply “Aye ‘appen you’d like that, ‘appen I won’t.” So Sigoth would rugby tackle them to the ground and drag them, protesting all the way, to the exit. Once outside, the more determined of them would sit on the windowsill or doorstep with a placard and play the mouth organ into the small hours of the morning. It was really most trying.
Other visitors were more welcome however. Neighbours appeared at random intervals offering coffee and sympathy. One such person was Rose, and one morning she called to suggest we might like a break and a beverage at her house. We agreed.
Rose lived a couple of doors down but as I mentioned there had recently been a blizzard and winter yet held its sway with an unyielding grip. A hundred yards without coat, boots, scarf and gloves was simply not an option. So I pulled on boots and coat, wrapped a scarf about my neck and dug into my pockets for gloves, because on days like that all you need is gloves. Indeed, gloves is all you need.
As I put my hand into my pocket its contents wriggled, then leapt out and dashed away. I screamed. Helpfully, Sigoth and Rose doubled up laughing.
The wocket from my pocket had vanished under the sideboard. It had plenty of options from there, so coming quietly was way down its list.
“You can borrow Lacy!” Rose suggested brightly and rushed outside to fetch her. Lacy was one of her cats, an evil-tempered, horribly beweaponed fiend of an animal and legendary for her wocket-catching prowess. The body count outside Rose’s back door each morning looked like the aftermath of the Fall of Mordor. Rose saw these gifts as evidence of Lacy’s affection, because she is mad; the rest of us saw them as proof of Lacy’s suitability as an alternative to the national nuclear deterrent.
Sigoth and I felt a twinge of guilt, but agreed to Rose’s proposal. We had tried hard to prevent the field wockets from invading the kitchen and didn’t want this one letting all its friends in while our backs were turned.
Rose was calling Lacy outside, and Lacy duly warped into view after a fashionable delay, just to make it clear she was choosing to come and see what the fuss was about, and that she was not, in fact, a dog. Rose picked her up and crooned the magic spell that prevented her from taking demon form in the company of humans, then placed her on the floor next to the sideboard. She pointed at the corner and said “Wocket!” loudly. Lacy looked at Rose with a sneer, then started to lick her fur. After that she wandered about the kitchen for a bit, showing a keen interest in many areas which were notable for their lack of wocket.
“She’s just settling in,” Rose hissed to us. “She hasn’t been in here before.”
We waited expectantly. Lacy went to sleep in front of the Aga where it was warm.
After a while Rose picked her up again, at great personal risk, and took her home. Sigoth and I concocted a Heath Robinson contraption and managed to catch the wocket and take it outside. It was a field wocket and had only popped in to escape the blizzard, so it waved a fond farewell and we never saw it again. It never even sent a card.
We didn’t mention the incident again to Lacy. It seemed polite not to.
What can I tell you? Cats are crazy people.