It’s been a hell of a year.
When I celebrated the impending arrival of the incoming year on December 31st 2019, I, like, everyone else had no idea how 2020 would develop, plunging us into the darkness of the deepest crisis in 300 years.
Early in the year, the media was focused primarily on the passage of the Brexit withdrawal bill through parliament, and the news that the Duke and Duchess of Sussex would be withdrawing from their roles as Major members of Royal Family UK PLC.
Flybe, the British regional air carrier, the largest in Europe, was in meltdown, and looked likely to go into receivership.
The leader of the opposition, Jeremy Corbyn was sailing turbulent, if not stormy waters in the Labour Party leadership contest, and British Airways had recently suspended all flights to and from mainland China.
News of Coronavirus was just starting to penetrate the public consciousness with the first two confirmed cases in the UK happening on the 31st January.
This news was, to some extent, overwhelmed with the reporting of the UK formally leaving the EU.
Storm Dennis had ravaged the UK, but we picked ourselves up, dusted ourselves off, and started all over again.
On the 5th March, news of the first UK death from CV19 elevated public awareness to a greater extent. People were now hearing more and more about the virus, and there was an almost surreal atmosphere across the entire country.
Flybe finally went bust, and panic buying swept the UK, with supermarket shelves being stripped bare.
One of strangest things, was that toilet rolls seemed to be high on the panic buyers’ list of essentials, despite the fact that CV19 was widely publicised as an upper respiratory tract infection, rather than a gastric condition.
It seems there really is nothing more eccentric than a Brit in a pandemic.
Furlough, a word unfamiliar to many of us was now being bandied about, and the country moved into full lockdown.
I am fortunate. I live in a lovely country district and was able to use my legally approved one hour of exercise to explore the local area, which includes several nature reserves, a National Park
It was around about this time that SWMBO1 started talking about doing something for other less fortunate individuals. She has always been a gentle, caring person, and after a few conversations, I finally agreed to offer a home to an immigrant.
Over the next few weeks, we prepared, and made sure that we had bought a new bed, and some bedding, and laid in some stocks of extra food. We had been told that the young guys early childhood had been one of deprivation and sadness.
Abandoned to try and survive on the middle eastern streets as best he could, he was used to fighting for every scrap and morsel in order to sustain himself, frequently sleeping under an old car for protection.
A vicious street fight resulted in a serious jaw injury, and the subsequent infection led to the loss of over half his teeth. Luckily, he was taken in by some kind benefactors, who paid for him to see a medic, and after some dental extractions, a massive dose of antibiotics, and some inoculations, he was sent back to the kind family that he had put him up.
Eventually, it was arranged for him to come to the UK, and the paperwork was finally completed and he was granted the right to residency, and was cleared to travel.
So, on a bleak November morning, SWMBO departed for Heathrow Airport in order to pick him up from the reception centre.
I was enjoying a coffee (what’s new?) about three hours later, when I heard the car pull into the drive.
I was a little apprehensive about my first meeting. Would we get on all right? Would he fit in, or would he end up treating the place like a rubbish dump?
Well, when he walked in, I was taken aback. He was slim – maybe even a bit underweight, and wearing a smart coat. He started speaking to me, loudly, and none of it made any sense.
He was clearly hungry, so I set a loaded plate in front of him, and he laid into it as if he had never eaten before.
He was clearly tired, and so after eating he slumped on the sofa, and fell deeply asleep.
He has now been living with us for about five weeks, and he has settled in nicely. He now treats the place as his own, and is putting on weight nicely.
He and I have spent a lot of quality time with each other. He doesn’t speak any English, and I certainly don’t speak his lingo but body language is truly international and we have developed a really good relationship.
He often snugs up next to me on the sofa, watching TV with me. I don’t really object. Quite a bromance in fact. He has got into the habit of staring deeply into my eyes, and often pushes against me, maybe a little harder than he should.
Oh. Maybe I should add at this point, that our legal immigrant is a street cat – rescued from his sad and lonely life under the desert sun.
We have named him Monty, after Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery 1st Viscount of Alamein who commanded the Eight Army during the North Africa campaign in WW2. His troops were known as the Desert Rats.
It seemed appropriate, as he is an Arabian Mau. The colour of molten caramel, sleek, well-groomed and very placid.
Plus, he has no underfur, so he doesn’t moult, and he used a litter tray from day one. How lucky am I?
He now greets me when I open the bedroom door with VERY loud cries. Not mewing like a normal domestic cat. Almost a wail. I wonder if he learned it from the early morning calls from the minarets?
This talking goes on until I can place his food in front of him, which he eats very tidily – virtually no spillage – unlike other cats that I have known who seem to throw it everywhere.
Anyway, the little chap has fit in nicely, to the point that he now shares my office with me, and has discovered every location in the house where the hot pipes run under the floor.
All I have to do now is teach him English.
I may be some time…
Note 1 SWMBO – She Who Must Be Obeyed