The Continuation of Cats



This picture, from a series by Miyoko Ihara/Rex Features about her grandmother’s cat, Fukumaru, reminded me of something about the continuation of cats.

A few years’ ago, I decided to learn the piano. I was the teacher’s last pupil (which may or may not be significant) so my struggles with “Peasant Dance” can no longer be laid at her door.

My teacher’s cat was of a whiteness that would be fine and dandy anywhere within the Arctic Circle. In Surrey everything could see him coming from miles away. My displacement activity, faced with the major challenges of “Study” which involved a lift-and-drop move of the left hand from the safety of middle-C, was the white cat. I watched as he shuffled on the newly-dug earth of the garden below and finally stretched out, ridiculously white with the sun on him.

“Study” took some time. The evenings were drawing in by the time I was on “Study – Chords” (page 9). Below, the cat gleamed palely in the dusk. My teacher explained they like the warmth of the earth and, to re-focus me on what was under my fingers, promised he’d come in later.

Two weeks later I was on “Peasant Dance” (page 8) after we’d realised “Study: Chords” was a step too far. The cat went into the shadows and was nowhere to be seen. I can only vaguely remember “Peasant Dance” although some residual muscle-memory might kick in if I sat down in front of a piano keyboard . When I left, in darkness, the cat had not come in. My teacher, kindly, patient and encouraging about “Peasant Dance” was firmer on my offer to go out and look for the white cat. It knew what it wanted she said. Thank you, but no. I realised the cat did not want to be found.

In the way of cats it kneaded a comfortable place in the laps of all of us who have grasped, dragged, thumped our way to fleeting moments of peace. Now, increasingly uncomfortable, it withdrew, a little bored, perhaps, with even a minor negotiation with a world of bowls and catflaps. 

A white cat, glimmering against warm, dark earth, moving from the staccato rhythm of waking and sleeping, to the unbroken legato of the life glimpsed in sleep.

Very little of my attempt to learn the piano remains. I learned a lot, though, about the continuation of cats.

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