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A Shameful Attempt at a Blatant Bribe

Thursday, 26th April, 2001

Dim the lights. Cue the 'Imperial March' from 'Star Wars'. Try not to quite fall off the edge of your chair. It seems that my 'million words or bust' concept is being threatened by a sinister third party force. 'Ooooh!' I hear you cry.

I have to admit that I'm surprised. Not that there's a factor trying to interfere with my new routine, but rather at which one it turned out to be.

My kitten.

It's five o'clock in the morning and I would much rather be asleep. My eyelids are held up by the power of will alone and my brain is stuck in powersaving mode. Someone move my mouse and kick me back into reality.

Partly this is my fault. I admit it! I stayed on for a refreshing drink after an hour of floundering around a badminton court last night, at a time when I would normally be dragging my heels off to the land of nod. And once I was home, I spent an hour on the phone, thus taking advantage of my best friend's rare day off and raising a finger to the concept that time zones to your left really screw you around when you sleep early.

That left me under five hours to sleep... but five hours isn't terrible. It's enough to keep me going for a day until I can catch up tomorrow night. Isn't it?

Well, not when my kitten decides to be friendly at half past three in the morning. One moment I'm deep in REM and the next I have a kitten brushing her whiskers over my face. Blip! Welcome back to instant reality. This is more effective than caffeine, folks - I ought to find a way to bottle it.

You see, she has two distinct phases of behaviour: either she's friendly or she's mad. There's no grey area in between - this kitten isn't interested in those sort of subtleties in character. She's either wide eyed and glaring and chasing round the room like she was David Coulthard, sharpening her claws on whatever she can find, causing no end of audible chaos; or she's curling up on my lap requiring my services as cuddler, stroker and scratcher.

Of course, just as I start writing for a set hour every day to force myself into the writing routine, Pern - for that is her name - seems to have set her own routine too. She settles in my lap for the duration, which wouldn't be too bad except it's nigh on impossible to ignore a bundle of warm fur in your lap, which instantly becomes one of those distractions that this unearthly hour is supposed to avoid.

One blank moment with no sentence in mind while my brain reboots and I'm supposed to have to sit here like a lemon waiting for it to boot back up again. I'm not supposed to divert my few remaining thoughts to an upturned Pern face silently demanding attention. Damn cute face it is too.

But such is the life of a man with a cat. There are large differences between cats and dogs, and many of them. Dogs require attention too, but it's on your terms. If you want to get on with something, a dog will let you - unless of course you haven't let it out in the past three days and it's in danger of rupturing something.

Cats know that they're in charge. Pern is the boss and I'm her personal slave, here to serve her every whim. If she wants her chin scratching at 3:30 am, then that's what I'll do. Her mind is a bald starship captain. There's a Picard in there deciding what should be done and when, and then it's 'Make it so!'

Dogs are pets, just like goldfish and hamsters, but more stupid and more loyal, like a quarterback with a crush. Cats aren't pets - they're companions. They'll be happy to accompany you through life and be with you through thick and thin - if it fits into their social calendar, of course. Perish the thought that they would lose their priorities.

What makes it worse is that I don't have the sort of chair that allows me to comfortably sit with my knees up for an hour on end. It's one of those ergonomically designed things with a couple of padded seats in the appropriate locations on which to rest my knees and plant my backside. Pern, of course, doesn't deign to notice such small trifles. She just wants a lap to sit on. 'Make it so,' she decrees.

The ace up my sleeve is that I have to set my bath running at 5:40 am, so that I can leave the day's writing and leap delicately into water hot enough to warm my cockles after a night spent in a house with no central heating. The thing is that Pern has a bizarre water fetish.

Here, try it. Come on round to my house and run a tap. Ting! There she'll be, quicker than a flash. I think she took lessons from the roadrunner. After all, it isn't such a far cry from 'meow' to 'meep meep.'

She doesn't want to get wet. Perish the thought! She just wants to hover on the edge of the liquid. She'll perch herself on the rim of the sink and lean over so as to investigate what's coming out of the tap. Every now and again she'll slip just a fraction and get her paws wet and leap away... and then she'll be back for more of the same.

She also refuses to drink fresh water. I could fill up her water bowl daily, as of course I used to before I realised her requirements. Fresh water obviously doesn't appeal to her palate. She'd much prefer to lap up bathwater, especially if I'm in the bath at the time. The contents of the washing up bowl are a common delicacy too.

But back to the bathroom, where Pern is balanced neatly on the side of the bath, angling her head underneath the cold tap so as to lick away any obvious moisture. Then she'll sit and watch it. As soon as a stray drop has the audacity to fall, she'll swat it away, often discovering that her aim isn't as good as it could be and her paw is wet again. Or, of course, her aim is fine, and her paw is still wet again. It's a lose-lose situation, but that doesn't stop her.

I get twenty minutes of movement time, when my limbs are able to stretch and readjust while Pern keeps watch over the taps, and then the bath is ready, the day calls my name and I cry adios to writing until tomorrow.

Now, kitten mine, this one's about you. Let me sleep tomorrow morning, OK?


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