Showing posts with label empty nest. Show all posts
Showing posts with label empty nest. Show all posts

Thursday, 27 September 2012

A Street Cat Named Bob - the most cheering book I've read in ages

If you’re fed up with the lashing rain or feeling sad about your empty nest (sob), then I’ve just discovered the perfect book to restore your spirits.

You may have heard of James Bowen and his adorable ginger cat Bob already. The pair are a big hit on YouTube, have appeared on Radio 4’s Saturday Live and have been profiled by loads of newspapers. Bob is probably the most famous cat in London.

Now James’s book about how he and Bob found each other is out in paperback and it’s the most uplifting story I’ve read in ages. Subtitled How One Man and His Cat Found Hope on the Streets, it's a special book – even for people like me who haven't even got a cat. I tore through A Street Cat Named Bob in a few hours and it cheered me up no end as I sat in a claustrophobic Oxford waiting room.

The tale began in 2007, when James found an injured stray tom curled up on a doormat in the hallway of his block of flats in Tottenham, north London.

For days James resisted the temptation to take the green-eyed cat home with him. As he says: “…the last thing I needed right now was the extra responsibility of a cat. I was a failed musician and recovering drug addict living a hand-to-mouth existence in sheltered accommodation. Taking responsibility for myself was hard enough.”

But eventually he gave in and gave the cat a home. He named him Bob, after a character in Twin Peaks, lovingly nursed him back to health and even took him busking. The pair were soon inseparable and became a familiar sight around the streets of Covent Garden and Islington. Sometimes Bob pads alongside James on a lead, sometimes he drapes himself across James’s shoulders.

In one interview James said that Bob had saved his life. At the time he thought his remark was a bit “crass” but in the book he admits that the cat really did transform everything. Bob  helped him get his life back on track and as he declares in his acknowledgements: “Everyone deserves a friend like Bob. I have been very fortunate indeed to have found one…”

PS. James is currently working on a children’s edition of his book. Bob: No Ordinary Cat is due out in the spring.

A Street Cat Named Bob by James Bowen (Hodder, £7.99)

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

The kindness of strangers Part 1

“I can’t believe I’m leaving you in Paris,” I told my daughter as we hugged goodbye on the Boulevard St Germain.

“I’m more worried about leaving you on the metro," she replied, deftly handing me a train ticket and a bright pink Post-it note with scribbled instructions to Charles de Gaulle Aéroport.

We’d just spent two action-packed days together and it was time for me to head home while she embarked on her new student life in France.

Determined to allay her fears, I strode confidently through the metro gate (getting my suitcase wedged in the barrier in the process) and hopped on the train to Châtelet-Les Halles.

But after that, everything came unstuck. As I waited in vain for the RER (the express train that connects the city centre to the suburbs), I started to panic. My flight was due to leave in 90 minutes time and I was still miles away.

Then suddenly a couple walked past and murmured something incomprehensible. “Je suis Anglaise,” I replied – my default response when I haven’t got a clue. The man replied in faultless English and told me the train to the airport wasn’t running.  We apparently needed to get a train to Mitry-Claye, a place I’d never heard of, then catch a bus.

It sounds ridiculous but I instinctively knew I could trust the pair. I hurried on to the packed Mitry-Claye train behind them and we hurtled through the grey suburbs of north-east Paris together, past places I’d be afraid to walk alone. The man told me he was originally from Cameroon and was on his way home to South Africa from a business conference in the US. He and his wife had stopped off in Paris en route to see friends.

When we finally reached Mitry-Claye I lost sight of them in the melée. As hordes of passengers tore down the platform in search of the airport bus, a few RER staff in red T-shirts apologetically handed us a tiny biscuit each. Not exactly what you’re after when you’re about to miss your plane, but still.

I pushed my way on to the packed bendy-bus, wondering where my new friends had got to. As it pulled away I spotted them standing patiently at the barrier. My bus was full and they’d clearly been told to wait for the next one. I waved like a maniac and mouthed “merci.” I don’t think they saw me…

PS. The kindness of strangers Part 2 is here.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

Empty nest syndrome

There’s an autumn chill in the air, the garden is covered in leaves and the traffic in Oxford has resumed its usual snail-like crawl.

But this September feels very different for me. Why? Because for the first time in 16 years I haven’t got a child going back to school. I haven’t had to rush round frantically buying new shoes, files and geometry sets or doing the annual (always unsuccessful) hunt for my son’s rugby gum shield.

At the moment my children are both still at home but by the end of the week they won’t be. My daughter’s off to university in Paris while my son’s heading west to Wales (with his beloved road bike, of course).

I’m so excited for them but every now and again I find myself asking plaintively “where on earth did the last 20 years go?” It seems no time at all since my daughter, clad in a yellow flower-sprigged pinafore and matching hairband, clung to me as I took her into nursery school for the first time. And since my son was a toddler with white-blond curls and a penchant for Thomas the Tank Engine.

Now my daughter’s moving to another country for a year and my son’s excitedly looking forward to Freshers’ Week. The house is full of packing boxes, my son’s busy practising his cooking skills and my daughter’s rushing round seeing all her friends before she starts her new Parisian life.

It’s going to be very quiet around here in a week’s time…
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