Friendly Irish Cats and a Japanese Novel

Throughout our time in Ireland, we found ourselves in the presence of keenly communicative cats. And being catless cat people, each encounter was a joy.

The first cat to find us was at Errisbeg b&b. It’s a 20 minute walk from MacCarthy’s Bar and one of the prettiest houses I’ve seen in Ireland. (We stayed there for one night at the beginning of our holiday because Dzogchen Beara didn’t have room.)

Actually, there were two cats at Errisbeg, one of whom we met at about 2am when she jumped through the very slightly open window, (English people need to breathe at night, unlike most Europeans. Andreas has now been thoroughly trained, so whatever the weather, we open a window) padded around for a bit, then having located the most comfortable (from her point of view) and inconvenient spot (from our point of view), curled up between us on the bed. A comfortable bed, as it happens, but about a foot and a half narrower than we’re used to (Andreas is 6’5″) and therefore a little less spacious than strictly necessary. But the cat found her place and settled in. Until about 4am, when she wanted to go out. Naturally.

The other Errisbeg cat came in as we were dressing and, as you can see in the photo, distracted Andreas for a while. Then at breakfast (a particularly delicious breakfast, I remember) we caught another glimpse of our nighttime visitor. She looked rather forlorn out in the rain, but turned her nose up at the open conservatory door when we tried to invite her to join us. Cats!

At Dzogchen Beara there are many cats, but we only really became friendly with two. The big ginger and white, Marlon Brando’s Vito Corrleone in the furry flesh, remained aloof, but kept his eye on us to make sure we didn’t overstep any cat-set marks. We were tolerated, nothing more. The white fighter and the little ginger and white were friends, and as you can see, the little ginger and white became very attached to Andreas, slept with him, sat on him, and searched for him diligently on the few occasions she lost sight of him.

There were others, of course, but I’ve run out of steam now, mostly because I want to tell you about a character in Haruki Murakami’s wonderful book Kafka on the Shore. Have you read it? One of Khyentse Rinpoche ‘s recommendations, but I must confess it didn’t appeal at all me and so I approached it with some trepidation—I was on holiday after all, and Asian metaphysical mindbending wasn’t, initially, my idea of relaxing reading. But the dutiful student in me kicked in and, sighing a little wistfully perhaps, I turned on my kindle the day before we left and began to read. (I can’t start a book at an airport or in a plane, so unless I’m well into something before I travel, I just space out or reread Hello! magazine until my brain turns off altogether.)

In three pages I was hooked and am now eager to evangelize. It’s a marvellous book. My only quibble (there has to be one) is that it was translated into American not English, and somehow American slang doesn’t, for me at least, sit well with what little I know of the Japanese character and culture. American publishing is wiping out English at a rate of knots, and I don’t think anyone these days really cares. What to do?

Anyway, one of the main characters, who had his mind wiped during a mysterious incident involving flashes of light in a forest as he picked mushrooms with his schoolmates (very X-Files, but no Scully or Mulder), found subsequently that he was able to talk to cats. Of all the super-powers I’ve ever come across (and these days, that’s more than a handful), talking to cats sounds has to be the best. I think Andreas can already. And his mother can talk to birds. So I’m the odd-one out, because I can only communicate through a computer keyboard—a realization I’ve only recently allowed myself to accept. And which, I suppose, is another very good reason for regularly removing myself from my computer by taking more holidays.

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