An old terraced house in a small village in Yorkshire has recently become my home. Probably temporarily. Probably. But you never know.
The village bears the hallmarks of an old English town that once accommodated a range of thriving industries and there’s an abandoned sandstone quarry that used to be a major employer, but the area has now relented to retail and residents, the fate of many such English townships. There’s an air of gentrification about the place too but there are still pockets of local people who shrug off the newcomers and go about their own business with indifference.
The quaint and queer high street is dotted with local shops that, strangely, seem to be mainly themed on weddings, and a few bars, restaurants and grocery shops. There’s a community hall housed within a beautifully-crafted stone building and various activities are arranged by enthused local people, from arts and crafts to exercise classes. All are welcome, they promise.
Neighbours keep much to themselves on our street. I’ve not met any of them officially but I’m sure the woman living in the house opposite who washes her windows every day is very aware that we’ve moved in. She probably knows what we’ve had for dinner. In fact, she’s probably watching me right now.
While I’ve yet to meet any local people there has been one small face I encountered at our backyard one day last week. A welcome party of one.
At the back of our house there is a small patio that opens up into an area that is shared by everyone on the street. There are a few garages and a pathway that runs through to streets on the other sides.
Stranger in the backyard
A few weeks ago there was a meowing outside the back door and when I opened it out of curiosity, I saw a little stranger, orange and fluffy, looking up at me. It stared directly in my eyes and after a few seconds, let out quite a loud and indignant meow, as if to say “I’ve been waiting here for at least two minutes, Tina, where is my tuna steak?”
I couldn’t help but feel compelled to feed the tiny ginger blighter lest he should give me a bad review among the neighbour cat community, and I fled to the cupboards to find something as close to tuna steak as I could find. A can of tuna was the best I could come up with and I opened the can, put it in a ceramic bowl and left it on the step outside.
Its head dove straight into the bowl and I slowly closed the door, worried that it might have fleas or some other feline disease I’ve never heard of, or rush in and take up residence alongside us. But there was also something pitiable about the creature. It looked a bit dishevelled and had no collar, so I was unsure if it belonged to someone or whether it was a wandering cat that made every alley its home. I could relate to that with the number of times I’ve moved in the past few years.
The cat returned the next evening and the evening after that, and we’re no closer to discovering who owns it, if anyone. My guess is that he’s simply a wanderer who begs food from friendly-looking humans behind doors every chance he gets.
So I’ve been thinking to myself that in time I might be in a position, financially and emotionally, to get another pet. One to take for walks to explore this beautiful village. There really is nothing like coming home to a tiny face that’s delighted to have you back, and my blood pressure could do with a furry friend to help calm me down after a stressful day. I’ll not be kidnapping the ginger cat any time soon. I don’t think he’s one for settling down anyway. But he’s found a couple of suckers in us, and it feels nice. I’d better stock up on tuna.
— Christina Curran is freelance journalist based in Northern Ireland.