TSP070: Of cats and men

November 5, 2013

It was a cold, cold night in Oxfordshire, and as the clock struck midnight a little man peeked out of my coat pocket and surveyed the room in front of him.  Rarely had he ever beheld such a glitteringly decorated room: mirrors sparkled in the light of passing cars, chandeliers gleamed and shiny worktop surfaces glimmered.  With a cry of joy he cast wide open the pocket flap and hauled himself out onto the adjacent chair.  Shimmying down the chair leg, his pink and green-striped bobble hat wobbling pleasantly from side to side, he reached the floor with sheer delight, excited to have ended up in such a dazzling location after what had been a really rather rotten day, hopelessly lost in the garden centre.  Brimming over with glee he gave a little hop, clicked his heels together and was promptly eaten by the cat.

In the morning I awoke to find a tiny little head, about the size of a potato, presented to me at the end of the bed by a very self-satisfied and proud-looking mog.  Normally I wouldn’t have minded and after tossing the head casually into the bathroom bin I’d have just got on with my day – had my shower, eaten my breakfast, got dressed (yes, in that order), brushed my teeth, tousled the cat’s head and left for work at a canter.  But not today.  Today, this was the last straw.  It’s happened 40 days in a row.  FORTY.  On the spin; consecutively; without a gap.

I don’t actually know where he finds them.  In my head I give them all a back story.  I assume they must be in the house already because I lock him in at night.  The thought that there might be an infestation of little men somewhere under the stairs, or in the laundry room, or up the chimney, makes me shiver a little, so I prefer to imagine that they come in on my clothes.

This one looked like a Norman.  You’d think it was pretty hard to tell anything at all from just the disembodied head of a tiny little man who’s been mauled by a cat with a salivary gland problem, but I think you can read a lot about their personality.  Norman would have played cribbage, and smoked a pipe, and howled at the moon when lonely or sad.  But although he would have been an introvert he would still have had more friends than Dennis.

Dennis’ head was the meanest looking one I’ve ever seen roll past my bedroom door at six in the morning; gave me quite a turn.  Day 23.  I’d only got up to nip to the loo, when that scampering animal went zooming by in pursuit of its latest plaything.  A great scowling face, purple bloodshot eyes, one huge solitary fang and an Iron Maiden tattoo right across his nose.  And the little man’s head looked pretty grim too.  Probably spent most of his life on the run from the authorities.

I’ve never kept a head, but I’ve been tempted to take one in to work and show the guys.  More for a diagnosis rather than to brag.  I wonder if anybody else has seen anything like them, or if they know what they are.  Gnomes, elves, Borrowers – whatever they are I’m pretty positive they’ve never been documented on the TV; there’s probably a show in this for Attenborough or Packham.  I’ve started to keep a diary of my first impressions just in case it comes in handy when they set up base camp in my front garden to start the filming.  I do sketches and everything – nothing special, just little pencil drawings to try and capture the essence of their personalities.  Stick men, really.  And I don’t draw the facial features – just the shape of their head on a stick body.  A friend of mine is a nephrologist – he says you can tell a lot about someone just by feeling their scalp.  So the drawings should be adequate.

One day I plan to stay up all night and watch the cat to see what he does, where he goes, where he finds the little men.  It’s hard because I’ve got a medical condition that means I have to take strong sedatives and so it’s almost impossible for me to stay awake through the small hours.  I expect you’ll ask why I don’t just set up a camera – but I have, on numerous occasions.  And every time the cat makes a beeline for it and puts the lens cap back on, so all I get is hour after hour of sheet black.  That in itself is probably impressive behaviour enough to submit to the wildlife people – or You’ve Been Framed.  Even when I’ve mounted the camera close to the ceiling to get it out of his reach, he manages to reach it.  He runs right up the wall – you can see the claw marks in the morning.  I’ve repapered the hallway twice in the last month.  If he does it again I’m putting subway tiles up – they seem to be all the rage on the DIY shows right now, so it should look bang on trend and also be much easier to wipe clean.

If it happens again tonight (which I expect it will, given recent performance) I’ll post a picture on this blog – if the cat lets me, of course.  Right now I’m off to Sainsbury’s for a spot of late-night shopping.  I’m all out of potatoes again.  I buy a whole load every other week it seems, but they just all disappear.  I reckon it’s the little men – they climb out of my discarded overalls, leave the odd bit of earth here and there on the carpet as they wander into the larder, munch their way through a spud or two and then get got by Dougal.  It’s a sad way to go, sitting quietly, eating a potato.  Nothing noble or impressive about it.  But such is life.

Phrenologist, sorry – my friend is a phrenologist.  Heads, not kidneys.

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