Geoffrey Shryhane’s Wigan World

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I SAID “yes”when every fibre in my body wanted to say “no…not at any price”.

“Yes, of course I’ll look after your two cats,” I told my family a couple of weeks ago. Then the time came and off they went into the skies for a well-earned adventure.

The arrangement was that I should pop round on feeding duties twice a day. The cat flap was fine for one cat, but not the other. He never got his head round the mechanism.

Day one was fine, as was day two. And three. The cats were there always waiting at their feeding bowls. Wailing. Big hopeful eyes.

But when the black and white one stopped eating I took the view he’d be OK the next day. He wasn’t. He looked sorry for himself and still refused to eat. Or drink. Slept all the time.

I hear you asking, “Did you take him to the vet?” I have to tell you I didn’t because in strange circumstances he becomes utterly vicious. A hell cat and a half. The scratch marks on my arms are still visible. Other than that, he’s fine. Mostly.

But as his disinterest in food continued, there was no choice. In the surgery all hell was let loose and although it’s impossible to believe, it was totally impossible for the vet to examine the said hell cat.

The burst of yeowling and spitting and scratching proved one thing. Black and white cat wasn’t at death’s door. The anxiety and worry of it all sent me rushing for a double Vimto. Mi nerves were in tatters and for days I had the vision of family returning home and me saying: “Cat’s dead. He’s in the feezer.”

The following day, the family arrived home and ill-cat didn’t buck up. Vet again, a quiet sedation, tests which proved nothing suspicious.

Three days later he was fine. So had he eaten a bad mouse or was it just a serious case of feline fretting?

We’ll never know. But what I do know is that I hope I never have to look after him again. Mi nerves are still wonky.

GLORIA had just arrived back from the bookies. She lit a cig and just when she didn’t want to hear it, the doorbell rang.

Doorbell … in fact, it had been out of order for two years. Gaining entry was a knuckle-damaging knock. Gloria glanced through a gap in the curtains and said: “Oh ‘eck no.”

It was her old mate Betty in a seen-better-days anorak, curlers and a Capstan full strength dangling from her lips with their dab of orange lippy. Might have been nicotine.

The trouble was that when Betty came for half an hour she usually stayed until bedtime. Gloria knew the score.

“Betty,” enthused Gloria. “Come in luv. There wuz me just thinking about you and ‘ere you are in’t flesh.” It was a rancid lie.

Gloria, still trying to catch her breath: “Oh I’m in a right tiz-waz.(wheeze). A proper tuck.”

Betty, feigning sympathy: “Wot’s up cock. It’s nor ‘im (husband) agen is it?”

Gloria: “No, although ‘e ‘as been a reet sod. No it’s our Burt’s lad.”

Betty: “Wot, yer Jason?”

Gloria: “ Yeah, ‘im. Oh, ‘trouble e’s caused. ‘es 19 now, and ‘e were a right rip at schoo. Now they’ve noticed a funny smell in’thouse every time Jason’s bin’t loo.”

Betty: “Well that’s usual in’t it? We all……”

Gloria chips in: “No not THAT smell. We’re sure he’s smoking……”

Betty: “Well that’s not unusual is it?”

Gloria: “Shurrup for Gawd’s sake. It’s a smell of whacky baccky.”

“Betty: “Whacky wot? Wot’s that when it’s a’tome?”

Gloria: “Pot. ‘Ash. An illegal drug.”

Betty: “Oh THAT. Cannibis yer means. Don’t worry chuck Mi mother takes it for ‘er arthritus. In fact, I ‘as a drag misel when Burt drives me overt’thedge.”

Gloria: “Bloody ‘ell. I wish folks would keep us in’t loop.”

WASN’T summer superb? Not this summer. Last summer.

I’m crest-fallen to tell you what you already know – that this summer has been a big disappointment. In future years, we won’t recall it with affection.

It’s not been a washout. It’s not been too hot or too cold. In fact, it’s not been anything.

My misty memory recalls an uplifting summer of 2014. Endless days of sunny and warm weather which put us in a good mood. We – or do I mean I – sat out on that rusty old lounger for hours, adjusting the brolly every time the sun threatened to fry me.

Warm afternoons turned to balmy evening … and still we chatted, or finished a book, or had another drink whilst the chores waited.

We’ve had little mice in the rockery at No5 for almost four decades. And come the dusk, they literally do come out to play. But one stray sound sends them darting under cover.

Optimists say there’s still time for an Indian summer… long days of sunny warm weather.

Hope springs eternal, as they say.

For more from Geoffrey, buy the Wigan Observer, out every Tuesday.