This week I had one of those days that every expat fears. I awoke to bad news from home.
Being in Australia, there is a considerable time difference with folks back home and I am seven hours ahead of the UK. This means that when anything happens after about 4pm in the UK I am unlikely to be aware until a good eight hours later, as was the case this week.
The sad news was that my poor Mum had to take the family pet of 22 years on the dreaded one-way trip. Granted, it is not such bad news that I will have to fly home for a funeral, but it feels similar, given that I am talking about a cat.
Tipsy was a character, probably summed up best as the cat that people who don’t like cats speak of. She could be charming when she wanted food but mostly hissed at guests and freely dished out looks of contempt. Of course Mum never saw this and would regularly treat Tipsy to a dish of prawns and heap praise on ‘the beautiful one’.
|Tipsy giving one of her looks when Mum's not looking|
My brother and I on the other hand, would call “Tipsy! Praaaaawns!” into the garden and she would keenly come, only to be disappointed at the lack of prawns and cuddled against her will until she growled, or started ‘singing’ as we called it. This happened so frequently that Dad whenever he heard us giving the ‘prawn’ call would often call out “Tipsy! Lies!”
She was the source of much entertainment for my family for many years. Dad was always more of a dog man but took to Tipsy nonetheless and attempted to ‘train’ her to behave. Of course Tipsy would have none of it. Out and about running errands Mum would often get funny looks from strangers when spotted saying “Right, let’s go and get Tipsy” to us children, if Tipsy needed collecting from a stay in the cattery.
|Dad always enjoyed 'training' more than the cat did|
Tipsy had many nicknames ranging from ‘Tipsy-Wipsy’ to ‘Vomiting Cavalier’ once she and her digestive system got a bit older, and ‘Ratbag’ on account of her temperament.
Tipsy’s loss is a sadness because she was reliable in her loathing of people and as a result brought us much amusement. We realized recently though, that having reached the ripe old age of 22, she had lived at home much longer than my brother or I. For this reason and because Dad died only nine months ago, my poor Mum has, in a very short period of time, lost both the daily companions she has had for years. I couldn’t help but think this as I read her typically ‘being strong’ email telling me of Tipsy’s demise.
|Tipsy in savaging mode|
Being Far Away
Of course I was reading this email at 7.30am, which was half past midnight in the UK, so I couldn’t reach out and telephone Mum to offer any comfort. Instead all I could do was send a lame email and go to work.
We spoke later and Mum had kept herself busy all day to keep her mind off Tipsy. She had also taken comfort from the company of my two cats, who were the subject of my post The Hardest Goodbye (which you can read here) and who have been living upstairs in Mum’s house for the past two months, since an attempted venture downstairs met an ‘evil presence’ (Tipsy, in Mum’s words) and my girls are real scaredy cats.
This is emotionally hardest for Mum of course, but dealing with the helplessness that I am feeling, being so far away, is one of the things I find challenging as an expat.