Stonnall People and Places
Micky the Vicarage CatA slightly sordid story of a somewhat scurrilous specimen
by Julian Ward-Davies BA Hons
One day, early in 1956, it became clear that Tim's name was somewhat inappropriate, because suddenly 'he' had company in 'his' bed, namely a litter of five kittens. Tim took great care of her babies, clearing up their mess, keeping them clean and very well fed.
Micky's birthplace - St Werburgh's Vicarage, on the corner of High Lane and Hayward Road, Burslem.
Image © Julian Ward-Davies
Each one was given a name and, within weeks, new homes were found for all of them, except one, the only tabby one - Micky. He - and, no, there was no mistake this time - was about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime.
Micky moving on
On the due day a few months into 1956, my father's black Rover 75 set off for Stonnall, with several passengers: my father the driver, my mother, me and Micky, who was still only a kitten. By the time the car pulled into the vicarage yard, Micky was looking decidedly out of sorts, but happily he recovered very quickly, took readily to his new surroundings and began to thrive.
An example of a black Rover 75 of the day, Micky's favourite car - in more ways than one.
Original image by:-
Charles01 - Ref CC BY-SA 3.0 https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4630440
And thrive he did. Fed on a diet of Kit-e-Kat, supplemented, no doubt, with the occasional rodent and bird, Micky grew into a veritably enormous example of his species. He was huge. Goodness only knows where his genes had come from, but his size was exaggerated by an annual growth of long and thick winter fur. This served him well in those far-off days when the arctic circle descended over Stonnall in the darkest months of the year, but there was a downside. In springtime, moulting all that extra fur would cause problems, of which more later.
Micky adapts to country life
Micky was very friendly, affectionate and loved being picked up and petted. He was as happy as a lapcat as he was exploring all the hedgerows, fields and farmyards around the vicarage. Yet there was another side to his personality: Micky was a tomcat and that meant that he would inevitably encounter enemies on his excursions around and about. Micky was a warrior and loud, nocturnal sounds of feline confrontation and battle reverberated frequently in the area surrounding the vicarage. Caterwauling, hissing, the unmistakable sound of catfights and his torn ears showed that he squared up fearlessly to his foes when need be.
The Hamlet of Thornes - Micky's happy hunting ground.
Image © Julian Ward-Davies
Micky in his element
Micky gets scrubbed up
As soon as his bath was finished, Micky was quickly wrapped tightly in a towel, because we knew what was going to happen next. Micky was taken outside and as soon as he was released from the towel, he shook himself violently. Everything within a few yards was showered with the resulting spray. Micky then loped away, a mixed look of disgust, outrage and abject despondency on his face, as if thinking: "She put me in water! She put me in WATER!".
Micky takes aim
For years, Micky's tyre-squirting activities baffled me. Why did he do it? Was he just relieving himself? Was he scent-marking? Was he practicing deterring his enemies when they might approach him from behind? Then one day the truth dawned on me. Micky realised that the car was frequently a moving object and, that when he marked the tyres, his scent would be unwittingly wafted around by my father, here and there and, indeed, everywhere he went on his travels. Cat genius. Absolute, pure cat genius.
Micky goes to school
The old Stonnall School - Micky was an uninvited guest.
Image © Julian Ward-Davies
A little later on in the day, a distinctly cat-like, particularly malodorous smell began to rise in the school. The reason for this became clear eventually. During break time, Micky had emerged from his hiding place when there was no-one around, discovered the sandbox and decided that it was a good place to leave his calling card, which he carefully covered up of course, using the skills he had acquired in the vicarage garden. It was in a way a pity that he had performed his ablutions so discreetly because, later on, one of the children was heard to say: "Please Miss, why has somebody put Plasticine in the sandbox?".
Micky grins and bares it
As soon as Micky realised what was going on, he became fascinated with all the fluttering, hopping and pecking and would sit on the windowsill looking out completely transfixed. He would then bare his teeth and make rapid chewing motions, as if imagining a feast of his own - a bird feast. The birds, of course, never took any notice and carried on with what they were doing.
Micky comings and goings
On entering, Micky usually had just two things on his mind: food and sleep. After a meal, Micky would have a quick clean-up and then take a nap, on the floor directly in front of the Rayburn if he was feeling a bit chilly, or on somebody's lap if all the chairs were occupied. If unoccupied, in a considerable display of unmitigated self-importance, the most comfortable chair was selected for his repose. Unfortunately for Micky, he competed directly with my father for this privilege and he would often find that his catnap would be somewhat rudely interrupted.
Micky the cat burglar
There was a problem with the pantry door: it would rub against the floor tiles at several points in its arc of movement and fairly robust force was needed to open and close it. On this occasion, somebody failed to close it completely and it was left stuck ajar, only by a couple of inches, but that was enough for a determined cat burglar to squeeze through and then help himself to a tasty bit of Christmas fare, much to my mother's fury.
For all his misdeeds, Micky was a lovable rogue. Care was taken when the family went away on holiday, sometimes for two weeks at a time and local girls were employed to make sure that food was put out for him every day. On returning home, it was only necessary to shout out his name a few times in the garden for him to emerge from the bushes, tail up and obviously very pleased to see us.
It was probably these experiences that enabled Micky to acquire the taste for independent life. Sometimes we would not see him for two or three days and eventually these absences became more prolonged and frequent and extended to as much as two weeks at a time.
© Julian Ward-Davies 2016
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