Adrian Sturrock: ‘My wife wanted a cat, but I’m the master of this house. So we got a cat’

Last week, the cat took it upon itself to use our bed as a litter tray. Being we‘ve been forced to buy a new one, we’ve decided to go king size (bed, not cat). I’ve since been informed by my wife that our new mattress has a better memory than me. I feel I’m being attacked from both directions.

     ‘I couldn’t help noticing that he went on my side of the bed,’ I say, sulking.

     ‘You’re just being paranoid,’ Nat tells me. ‘Perhaps he’s not feeling well.’ She picks him up and cuddles him into her lap. The cat sits there, protected by its owner, giving me that glance that sits somewhere between disinterest and ‘Screw you’.

     ‘I don’t think I’m being paranoid,’ I say, ‘I think he was making a point.’

     ‘And what point would that be?’

     ‘That he doesn’t like me; the same point he was making whilst peeing into my shoe the other week. And that he feels he can do whatever he likes, as long as he has you to protect him.’

     ‘Does he need protecting?’

     ‘Not so much from me as from my laminator at work,’ I say.

     ‘Don’t be horrible,’ she says.

     I think about the cat, spread flat, laminated, starfish-shaped, framed and hung on the living room wall. ‘A homage to revenge and Damien Hirst,’ I think to myself. It’s the first time I’ve properly smiled since the bed incident.

     ‘I can hear what you’re thinking,’ she says.

     ‘I bet you can’t,’ I say.

* * * * * * * *

Nat has volunteered to pay for the replacement bed, being Maurice is, after all, her cat. I consider this only fair being I’ve already paid in so many other ways for agreeing to have him.

     ‘I know the bed thing was unfortunate,’ she says,’ but isn’t he cute.’

     ‘You do realise that ‘cute’ isn’t so much an attribute as a weapon of choice,’ I say.

     ‘But look at his little button eyes,’ she coos.

     ‘Think about how different living forms have evolved and mutated over time in order to exploit their environment,’ I say. ‘Certain monkeys have developed strong tail grip for climbing … Other animals … well, I can’t think of another example right now, but that ‘cute’ cat face evolved with only one intention – to manipulate free board and lodging from gullible humans.’

     Maurice has moved off Nat’s lap and is now busying himself carefully draping layers of hair over my side of the sofa. I glare at him. He stops what he’s doing, looks directly at me and, without losing eye contact, proceeds to lick his bottom.

     ‘Well I’m not going to lower myself by reverting to your tactics,’ I tell him.

     ‘I don’t think your spine would allow you too,’ says Nat.

     ‘Fair point,’ I say.

* * * * * * * *

 

When the new bed arrives, it takes me an age to drag the enormous mattress up the stairs. It hadn’t occurred to me that the frame would arrive flat-packed and that I’d have to put it together myself. I had also not anticipated how many individual pieces a bed frame could possibly be made of. Did Nat also order a book case or something?

     Being she won’t be home for another hour, I decide to surprise her by having the whole thing up and running by the time she walks in.

     The cat is sitting at the top of the stairs, watching my struggle with all the pieces.

     ‘You’re banned from the bedroom,’ I inform him, as I shuffle various bits of bed past him.

     ‘Meow,’ he says.

     ‘Don’t think that I don’t know what you’re saying,’ I reply.

     I pour the entire contents of the bed frame into the centre of the room and stand back to stare at it all. I’m holding the instructions (for what they’re worth) in my hand – a four-page onslaught of tableaud mimes, designed to avoid the manufacturer having to go to the expense of printing clear instructions in different languages. They’re basic and badly drawn – ‘just like Donald Trump,’ I mumble to myself. I smile as I consider the possibility that I may have said something funny.

     I’m hoping the instructions aren’t going to throw up the need for too many tools. Toolboxes are things that other people’s dads have. I’ve never actually owned one. My entire tool collection comprises of the back of my shoe (for hammering things into other things) and duct tape – a leftover from my gigging days, used to hold crates together and to tape down trip hazards on stage – and not, as my wife has suggested on occasion, to keep the audience from being able to leave.

     Luckily, the only tools needed turn out to be two Alan keys (thank god for Alan!) and something resembling a child’s home-made spanner – both of which the bed manufacturer has included in the small plastic bag that is taped to the leg of the headboard. So, here we go.

     After much swearing and two bruised fingers, the bed is … bed shaped. I’m quite proud of my work. I push at it, to see if it rocks. It doesn’t rock. Success.

     I bring in all the other furniture that I’d left out on the landing to give myself space to work, and make up the bed with the new duvet and bedding that the cat had made it necessary to buy. Finally, I place a vase of freshly cut flowers on the bedside table, on Nat’s side, and a silver tray with a bottle of wine and two glasses in the centre of the bed.

     ‘Just in time,’ I say to myself, as I hear the front door open. ‘Hello’, I shout down to Nat.

     ‘Hello. Where are you?’ she shouts back.

     ‘I’m up here.’

     I hear Nat’s steps on the stairs and prepare myself for her admiration of my handiwork.

     ‘Hello,’ she says, as she enters the bedroom. ‘Ooh, I see you’ve …. Oh!’

     ‘It’s the new bed,’ I say. ‘I’ve put our new bed together.’

     ‘Yes, you’ve … that’s a very short headboard … compared with the …’

     I follow her line of vision. ‘It’s … it’s back to front, isn’t it,’ I say.

     ‘I think it might be,’ she says.

     I look around me. With all of the rest of the furniture now back in the room, there’s no space to rotate the bed the full one hundred and eighty degrees it needs in order for it to face the right way. Nat closes the bedroom window in order for the neighbours not to hear how proficient I have become at swearing over the last hour or so. She moves across the room and hugs me. ‘You’re my favourite idiot,’ she tells me, and holds me close.

    From over her shoulder, I see the cat sitting by the bedroom door. I swear I’ve never seen a cat actually smirk before.

* * * * * * * *

Adrian Sturrock: ‘Travelling at a moderate pace along a mostly deserted coast road – this is my first clear vision of 2019’

We’re at a New Year’s Eve party with a group of people we don’t know, wondering at which bottle of wine this situation became a thing. We’ve been roped into playing one of those weird parlour games in which we have to take turns offering up a Christmas or New Year related fact about ourselves that our partner did not previously know.

     ‘Ok,’ I say, ‘at the age of eight, I played the Angel Gabriel in the school nativity play. I was handed two monologues and the opportunity to see the majority of my school friends looking up to me while on their knees, dressed as sheep. This was quite probably my introduction to narcissism, something that I have continued to cultivate since.’ 

     ‘And he’s not even joking,’ says my wife, mock-accusingly (leaving me to assume that the ‘mock’ bit is implied).  

     ‘Was this a pivotal point in your life?’ asks a guy sat to my left, dressed in a white tuxedo. (Note to self: never assume that anyone could ever look good in a white tuxedo.)

     ‘Well, the following year, I played one of Bob Cratchit’s daughters in A Christmas Carol,’ I add.

     Nat looks up at me: ‘Really?’

     ‘It was an all-boys school,’ I remind her, ‘so, needs must.’

     ‘And how did you feel about that?’ tuxedo man asks. There is something resembling concern in his expression.

     ‘Well, in retrospect, I wouldn’t choose that particular dress again, but at least I did learn to walk confidently in heels.’

    In my periphery vision, I see Nat quietly smirking into the distance.

     ‘And were you a particular fan of Dickens?’ asks tuxedo man’s wife, clearly trying to step away from any cross-dressing reference.

     Nat discreetly places her head into her hands.

     I glance at the lady, accusingly. ‘Look, I was a struggling young actor; I had to eat somehow. And, anyway, what happens in the dressing room stays in the dressing room.’

     ‘… And this is how a double entendre can be so easily fashioned into a single one,’ says Nat, to pretty much anybody who still wants to listen.

     This was the point at which the game seemed to fall apart a little.

* * * * * * * *

Nat and I have a code word for ‘Let’s get out of here’. I’m not going to tell you what it is, for obvious reasons, but it was designed to be notoriously difficult to slip into general conversation, thus adding a further level of fun to our escapes.

     Within minutes, we are out on the street, Nat having pretended to go to the loo, and me having made out that I was just popping into the next room to get ice.

     ‘How did that happen?’ I ask, as we zip around the corner and head for the beach area, where New Year’s fireworks are due to take place in just a few minutes.

     ‘Wrong place, wrong time?’ she suggests. ‘I think we were just taken by surprise while we were busy getting our drunk on.’

     ‘Well, I don’t know about you but, personally, I’m glad I had my drunk fully on. Imagine having to endure that party sober.’

     Down on the beach, crowds are congregating, Champagne bottles and flutes in hand, set to welcome in a better year. We have our 12 grapes to midnight ready, as is the Spanish custom.

     ‘Are you really going to eat a grape every time the church bell rings?’ Nat asks.

     ‘Or choke trying,’ I say. I hand her a small bag from my pocket. ‘And here’s yours.’

     ‘Oh,’ she says.

     No sooner have I passed her the bag than the bells begin to chime. Fireworks send colours into the sky, and the munching of grapes commences, followed by loud cheers and a band starting up on the staging area to our right.

     ‘Tomorrow’s going to hurt,’ I say.

     ‘It’s already tomorrow, today,’ says Nat.

* * * * * * *

I slowly come to inside a taxi that is taking us to the airport. We are travelling at a moderate pace along a mostly deserted coast road. The driver has the radio on low, presumably to keep himself awake at this early hour. The sun is rising over the Mediterranean, throwing off reds and golds across the horizon line. This is my first clear vision of 2019.