Thursday, March 19, 2020

Kitten on the keys?

Morning. I hope you're bearing up OK and finding some way to take in the latest developments without the elevator-stopping lurch of stomach that seems to hit me whenever I open up my browser.

The most touching thing I've seen this morning is a note on Twitter from a prominent journalist, offering to look after a cat. She had one, but he has died, she doesn't really want to have a pet full time, not really, but she misses him and would be happy to take in an indoor kitty if someone needs one to be cared for, for a bit.

Our furry pals can be a cause for concern. If we can't get their normal food for any reason, they won't understand the substitute and they'll stare at us as if to say, "What do you mean, 'Essential Waitrose'?" They need to be combed and fed and spoilt. Dogs require lots of daily walking, and a routine, which is the reason we have never had one. We'd love a dog someday. (Ricki and Cosi might not, of course.)   It's a lot of work, having a pet, but they are so much part of our lives that if you're used to their company, doing without it can be, frankly, agony.

One can't predict how animals are going to react to music, and our two gorgeous Somali cats are no exception. When Tom starts practising, Cosi sits outside the door and meowls at top voice. She is a petite creature - our vet calls her a "diddi-cat" - but she can do serious shouting when she wants to, and she doesn't give up. Paganini seems the usual trigger, and whether it's the vaguely feline overtones in the double-stopping or the fact that Cosi wants ATTENTION, NOW, we will probably never know. Ricki seems to enjoy Mozart piano sonatas and, having a deeper, darker cat-voice, did once show a real fascination for the cor anglais solo in Act III of Tristan und Isolde.

More importantly, at the moment, they provide cuddles and sanity. I think they know what's going on, if not the exact latest figures of infection versus recoveries versus stringent new measures like starting to reduce the Tube service and cancelling kids' exams. Ours are not lap-cats. They used to be, as kittens, but when they were about 18 months old they suddenly decided they were grown up and were going to be dignified. This morning, though, Ricki sat on my lap and purred for a good five minutes. I'm not sure what I've done to deserve this honour. Nevertheless, cats are sensitive and we underestimate their intuitive capabilities. I think they know when we need them.

Yesterday, the big challenge I identified was the need for focus. I wonder if you're finding this as difficult as I am? I honestly have no idea how to do it. I have some actual work, with deadlines, at least for the next 10 days or so. And, with weird timing, I am on Radio 4 tomorrow and need to be up to speed on what I'm talking about, which has nothing whatsoever to do with pandemics or worldwide economic collapse, so I have to stop reading the Guardian liveblog and start swotting relevant material PDQ.

It's easy to say "get on with your work", and I'm lucky still to have anything to do. But how do you make the assessment of something planned for six months to a year's time feel real, important and relevant? How do you write that feature about a pianist and her thrilling concerts and how she's mapped out her Wigmore Hall programme? I'll find a way, because I must, but everything we took for granted has suddenly acquired an air of surrealism that is really not helpful.

The cats don't help that side of things at all: they want me to stop whatever I'm doing and play with them. At least someone in the house will stand to benefit from idle human beings. I hope that my journalist friend will decide sooner or later that what she actually wants is a cat of her own.