Frankie is my 17 year old cat. I thought she was a Persian but discovered at the cat show, she’s actually a Blue Russian! (What a noble name, sounds like the title of a spy novel). Not knowing anything about cats before getting her and going on the physical appearance of people, I’d always thought Persians had pointy noses and Burmese had flat ones when, in fact, it’s the opposite. I got her in 1994. I’d mentioned to a number of my colleagues that I had a problem with rats. I could hear them running about in the roof at night. Then one of them, Monty, called me into his office and showed me a box containing cute little fluffy things. His dog had killed their mother and so he wanted to give the kittens away. I was torn. It was only a few weeks before I was leaving for Germany to attend my first international conference and I was renting out my cottage during the festival. I contacted the prospective tenants and asked if they’d mind looking after a kitten for the two weeks. When they said they would mind, that sealed it and Frankie became part of my life.
She didn’t help matters, though, during those hectic days before I left for the conference. My mother was visiting and we were all packed up and ready to leave for the airport when Frankie disappeared. At least that’s what I thought. My mother said she’d probably curled up somewhere to sleep since she’d just eaten. I didn’t believe her and wasn’t going to leave until I could see Frankie. I literally searched high and low. I actually climbed up on the roof thinking she had made her way up through the chimney and eventually found her under the duvet on my bed (she was so small we hadn’t recognized the bump for what it was). So, my mother was right – those were the days!
Frankie is a girl. At the time I gave my animals androgynous names and pretended that Frankie was short for Francesca when in fact she was named after Frankie Frendericks, the Olympic silver medallist sprinter from Namibia. My dog was called ‘Tootsie’. Having seen what confusion this gender-neutrality can cause, I decided to go for a really girlie name this time, hence Tinkerbell.
Even though she could fit into the palm of my hand, Tinkerbell, started ruling the roost from the beginning. It took a few days for Charlie (the schnauzer) to discover a new play thing. Frankie has taken much longer. She made herself scarce refusing to come out of my mother’s bedroom (to which she had been banished now that Tinkerbell was sleeping in mine) and sent out loud growls whenever she came across the new intruder. Frankie also developed severe leg problems. She could hardly walk and when you touched her she literally screamed. I thought Frankie’s time was up. She is 17 after all and felt really guilty – I’ve killed my old cat by buying a new one!
The leg problems resolved themselves and Frankie did eventually come round to accepting Tinkerbell as part of the family. Only yesterday I took a photo of them, Tinkerbell finally having achieved her goal of snuggling up to her bigger sister.
One of my five jobs is a project I’m doing for the Department of Social Development documenting the social and demographic profile of the Western Cape. They are paying well but I had to jump though many hoops, registering with Trade World something all service providers to the government have to do and standing in queues for hours to get a tax clearance certificate and a month delay in my first payment. I’m working my butt off to get the project finished but it does feel good to be using my academic and research skills again.
All for now.