He was born in Seattle and had to take the plane to come and live with us. A call from the airport to say “we’re on our way” was completely dominated by this tiny kitten’s frantic mews, desperately wondering what was happening to him. He meowed constantly during the two-hour flight. Even now, if he travels by car, even though he’s allowed to wander round freely, he still meows constantly and piteously.
His full name is Lewis Moebius Pussy-Cat. The reason will have to wait for another time. He’s big, as cats go, though not fat, and extremely fluffy. He was chosen as a ferocious male who would attack our squirrel problem at its roots. In reality, though, he gets on very well with the squirrels, asking solicitously about their families and their nut stocks. Despite the complete failure viewed from a mission perspective, we love him dearly.
We haven’t had the heart to ask him to fly anywhere since, and so he has never been to London Heathrow’s Terminal 5. It’s a pity, because T5 is really a great success. Once they got past the problem of sending all arriving baggage to Milan – an easy mistake to make – it has worked efficiently and, as airports go, is quite a pleasant place. In truth, it’s really a shopping mall that happens to have the odd flight arriving and departing. The concept has been around for a while – there’s a department store in Asakusa, Tokyo that contains a main-line railway station. On the third floor.
Strangely, the airport designers had been watching too many movies about the jet-set, rather than looking at the actual passengers. They filled the terminal with shops for millionaires – Hermes, Dior, Bulgari, Gucci, Caviar House – and not shops for the great masses who travel packed twelve across in the back of the plane. Real jet-setters fly from a tin shed on the south side of the airport, which is the terminal for private jets. If they absolutely must mix with the hoi polloi, they travel first class and are filtered off into their own exclusive lounge immediately after spending two hours battling with Heathrow’s appalling security system.
So the super-luxury shops are indeed slowly disappearing, and the ones that remain seem pretty empty. Wandering through the terminal one Christmas, connecting between San Francisco and Paris, I paused outside the – completely empty – Prada shop, and saw this beautiful pair of high-heel, peep-toe slingbacks. Any pair of high heels gets my attention. There’s something especially delicious about peep-toes, those red-painted toenails peeping out tantalisingly. And slingbacks also have a teasing, now-you-see-me-now-you-don’t quality. Even seen in the window, these shoes just radiated quality and sexiness. I imagined my love wearing them, elegant as always in these beautiful creations. I took a picture, gawped at them for as long as I dared, and went on my way, wondering whether she would like them as much as I did.
A week or so later, we made the reverse journey, travelling together this time. I pointed out the shoes as we walked past the Prada store. Little encouragement was required. A few minutes later, and considerably poorer, we left, proud possessors of our first pair of Prada shoes.
As always when we travel together, we had to make some arrangements for Lewis. When he was a brand new pussy cat, we had two friends who were happy to alternate as his holiday homes. We’d put him in the car and he’d meow continuously until we got there. But he’s so cute that he sowed the seeds of his own downfall. Every time they saw Lewis, they’d say, “We must get a cat of our own“. And so of course, eventually, they did. The social life of cats is a very strange thing, and it’s always a bit risky to force them to be together. So no more holiday homes for Lewis. Now, we have a neighbour come by to feed him.
But cats are social animals, in their own way. Lewis badly misses his female human when she travels. Left on his own at home for an extended period, he gets lonely and depressed. So it’s not surprising that he should make some feline friends. We kept seeing the same grey cat hanging round in the garden. Then we saw him in the house, which coincided with alarming reductions of the level of catfood in the bowl. At a neighbourhood party we ran into his humans, who live a few doors down the street, and heard the explanation. His name is Maui, or to give him his full name Maui Wauie (a particularly excellent variety of marijuana, in case any of you are as naive as we were). Don’t ask. Anyway, Maui has a feline cohabitee, who is overweight. On the vet’s advice, his humans put both of them on reduced calorie catfood. No doubt Maui was grumbling to Lewis one day as they sat admiring the squirrels. Lewis, being a kindly cat, said “But why ever don’t you come round to my place? I have absolutely delicious catfood, and I’m sure my humans won’t mind.”
The Prada shoes are even better in reality than in the shop window. They are made from a patent leather that has extraordinary depth to it, sensual, rich and luscious both to look at and to feel. The shape is exquisite, the way it effortlessly moulds my love’s foot, adding pooise to her entire leg. Everything about these shoes is just perfect – and very sexy. Just as with a bottle of first-growth Bordeaux, you wonder whether the extortionate price can possibly be worth it – until you try. Then you know.
Once you get a couple of friends together with a good meal, it turns into a party. Everybody wants to join in. In the small hours, when the humans are supposed to be sleeping, the raccoon comes into the house. He knows how to push open the pantry door, how to nibble through unopened bags of catfood. One night, sleeping badly, I first saw Maui slink past my armchair.
Then, visiting the kitchen, I saw the raccoon waiting outside for this pesky human to get off to bed.
But three is an awkward number. For one thing, you can’t play a decent game of cards. We think the skunk joins in too. Just once, we caught the skunk lingering outside the back door. Not all skunks stink – this one didn’t – and if you can overlook their propensity to spray you with persistent and foul-smelling gunk, they’re quite cute. I’m sure that one night we’ll find the four of them, huddled round a bowl of catfood, cards in paw, playing bridge or maybe poker.
The shoes are so gorgeous that, with one exception, they have never been worn outdoors. It would just be such a shame to risk damaging them. Their one outing was to a family wedding a few months ago – that was such a special occasion that it seemed to deserve them. Most of the time they spend on display, as much a work of art as the Japanese prints they share the space with.
Expensive, but worth every penny.
The author, his lovely wife and Lewis Moebius Pussycat all reside reasonably close to San Francisco. It is fair to say that they all love beautiful shoes.