I’ve really been in a funk the last week about the Tucson shooting and Jared Loughner. Everyone knows the mental health system is a mess in the US, and I thought that it might feel a bit easier being over here, that it might not look as bad, but it actually looks worse. Not being in the thick of it all the time makes things seem even more dire. From here the US looks like one big giant mess–the kids at home for the weekend while the parents are away. Luckily, someone came to cheer me up and we’ve had a guest in our home for the last two weeks:

The Murphy.

This little black kitty was hanging out by our front door two weeks ago, and he was so friendly that we were able to pet him, which is a first for our neighborhood. I’ve been trying to befriend cats here for six months, completely acting the part of the crazy cat lady, calling to scrappy alley cats who’ve disappeared under a car, while people inch away on the pavement. C. usually stares into the distance with a tolerant yet mildly vexed expression, waiting for the display to be over.

Anyway, I fed the cat some tuna since he seemed a bit hungry but not starving or anything, and his coat was in pretty good shape. Someone had taken care of him, but he wasn’t wearing a collar and didn’t appear to be neutered. As there are so many outdoor cats around, though, we left for the grocery store. When we returned, black kitty was still there. As we were bringing our bags in, he just walked through the door and started scoping things out inside. He seemed to like the look of things, and we hung out with him for a while. C. looked sort of nervous though, and wanted to put the cat out for the night. He opened the door, and after a while, the kitty walked out. But two hours later, quite late, he was back, crying and scratching at the door. It was cold, windy, and raining, and I couldn’t take his cries, so I let him back in and tried to set up a bed in the downstairs bathroom. He screamed when I shut the door, so I decided he’d sleep in the spare bedroom, and I’d sleep in there, but he started coughing–really loud and raspy like a sick pterodactyl. Needing to get a few hours of sleep, I finally gave up the ghost and opened the door to see if he’d go back out in the early morning. He did, but was back in a few hours, and I let him in again.

C. and I took him to the vet’s to see if he was microchipped, and he wasn’t. No cat like him in their Lost Cat book, and nothing online on the site. Nothing in the local cat charity window either, where people put flyers of their lost cats, or on the pet store bulletin.

So. We got a litter box and decided he would stay with us for a bit, at least until his cough got better. He was small and didn’t seem like he wanted to be outside.

After a few days he was calm enough to sleep upstairs in the carpeted hallway, since C. is mildly allergic and can’t have cats on the duvet. He’s been a wonderful companion this week sitting on my lap and keeping me company. Right now he’s leaping around with an elastic hair-tie, which I’ve found are a cat’s greatest joy. They can pick them up and toss them in the air, bat them and carry them all over. He’s been playing with it now for about a half hour, which is like a month in cat time.

We had a tough time naming him, but are going with Murphy. Other names considered: Marmite, Leadbelly, Pitch, Matte, and Oskar. We realize that someone may still claim him, but for now we’re happy to have the guest and I’m thrilled to have cat company again. (Miss you so much, Toby.)

Today I got a scare when passing a house nearby when I saw a flyer they’d put up with a picture of a black cat. Fortunately, when I stopped by later to inquire they said he had a white bib, and Murphy’s completely black. Plus, the other cat’s only been gone for a week. So. They do choose their owners, don’t they, much more so than the other way around. Having been restored to the happy status of Cat Mom, and with the sun coming out this week, England feels a little more than just where some of my stuff is and more like a place that could be a nomad’s home, for now.

My So-Called Glamorous Life

Along with the jealousy some folks have expressed when I tell them I’ve moved overseas is this bizarre assumption that my life is automatically somehow glamorous and star-studded. I don’t really understand this. Is it because falling in love with someone from another country is a bit of the ordinary? Because of the extremity of the change? Or what?

Well, this post is just for anyone who might have pined, even momentarily, for the diamond-spiked grass that invariably grows in abundance in Kent, the Garden of England.

Here’s how a “glamorous” evening really goes. The night in question: London Zoo for C.’s work Christmas party, December 22, 2010

The first query: what to wear as plus one to semi-formal event.

The first issue: most female party-goers will be between the ages of 23 and 27, from France, devoid of a gram of fatty tissue, model-gorgeous, and fluent in ten languages. Ok, maybe just three, but still. I may as well go in a gingham tablecloth, spouting lines from Hee Haw.

Weapons of choice: an old but great little black dress, Spanx (ladies, give me a shout-out if you have a pair), vintage bag, and heels.

Problem: the London Zoo in late December right after a freak snow/ice storm. Heels and ice+darkness could = embarrassing old lady wipe-out surrounded by horrified Francophone hotties.

Solution: demand that C. find out what’s on the docket for the evening, and try to gather what the other ladies are wearing.

Problem #2: Company likes things to be a “surprise.” Awesome. Surprise trip to hospital for broken ankle? Yay! Committing major espionage, C. discovers talk of a trip to one of the indoor animal houses. Exhale. No major trek around giraffe house with flashlights, wearing l.b.d., heels, and safari hat. Could be safe.

Problem #3: Ice and snow have now melted to slush in our town, and temps have dropped precipitously, which will require very warm outfit for trek to C.’s office. The trip will take at least an hour and a half and will involve a few walks, a train, and a bus.

Solution: Wear one outfit through slush to train then through the frantic pilgrims flocking to the pre-Christmas shopping mecca of Oxford Street, and change at C.’s work bravely prepared for bathroom onslaught of 25 year-olds in spiked heels and ultra-trendy dresses sans Spanx.

Strategy: Don mask of “mature” womanhood, i.e. “I have been through it and yes, little missy, you will too.”

Problem: Cannot find vintage bag, Spanx, or overnight bag to carry semi-formal wear to C.’s office. Do not want to travel to zoo with something less appropriate, such as plastic carrier bags. Backpack is also ratty.

Solution: Go up into loft to look for bags and Spanx, which looks exactly like a pair of beige underwear (or pants, for UK readers), and could be any-fortheloveofallthingsholy-where. Driven by some sort of newlywed hormone that makes one want to appear especially appealing to new spouse for his first holiday company event, I journey to the loft, armed with a flashlight and a vague, recently-acquired knowledge of the loft light’s location. The ladder rocks as I creep up, and I flash to an image of me in crutches for the next three months. There’s barely room for the ladder, and it wobbles on the slanted floorboards and against the railing. One must perform a gymnastics sort of vault to get up at the top of the ladder, hopefully avoiding planting both hands in insulation.

Once up, I dig through every box and every suitcase. No Spanx. No vintage bag, no overnight bag. Just books, some starting to get damp, which makes me panic. Now in a Hollywood “save evening or save books quandary.” Cannot leave them up here to ruin, but bringing them down will take forever.

Added crisis: The clock’s a-tickin’! I should be getting dressed right now, but instead am performing Medevac for books, bringing down small stacks, and hoping I don’t break my neck.

Will our heroine make it to the zoo intact? Find out in the next installment of My So-Called Glamorous Life….

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