For the people who knew him, I’m putting this up to mark and witness and mourn the fact that Spangle has moved on.
Paula and I got Spangle and his sister Tilly back in 1994, traveling to Scotland in the quest for a Burmilla, after meeting Jane Johnson’s superb cat Iggy. We were only intending to return with one — and Tilly declared herself ready and willing to come home with us, immediately, right now, look my bag’s already packed — but found ourselves unable to leave without taking the small, grey, very shy one too.
As kittens they insisted on sleeping together on my lap while I worked. As they grew, this meant I had to learn to sit in a half-lotus for hours at a time. Tilly eventually determined that the radiator was an even better option, especially during long, cold London winters, but Spangle had a much stronger work ethic. For a decade, Monday through Friday, he spent most of each day either on my lap or on the second chair I put beside mine, from nine until five o’clock, at which point he’d get up, stretch, and jump down, as if to say — “Okay, we’re done here. What’s for dinner?”
For a long time, visitors thought we only had one cat — Tilly, who’d get right up in their faces and make it clear she required being taken seriously. But Spangle gradually relaxed into himself, and when Nate came along, it was Spangle who first accepted that this oddly huge, bald kitten was evidently here to stay, and worth becoming friends with. It was because of Spangle that Nate’s first word was not “mum” or “dad”, but “cat”.
Spangle would sleep under the covers in bed with me. When I went away, he could pile up his toys on my office chair to await my return. He would lie on Paula on the sofa with his paws tucked under, smiling up at her, looking like an advert for contentment and unconditional love. When he was young, he would leap up from the floor into my arms to be held. He had a strange, soft little miaow, as if trying to express abstract nouns, like “fate” or “autumnal equinox”. He was extremely partial to fish and chips and Peking duck, and firmly convinced that all ironing boards were the agents of Satan. He and Tilly were house cats throughout their lives, but Spangle never once even tried to escape: he was happy in his house, and he made it our home.
The hardest thing about the decision to move to California five years ago was knowing that our cats were too old for the journey. Tilly was already frail and died a few months after we left, but Spangle steered affably into a new phase, living out his retirement with my father, improving his life every day as he had ours. I’m more grateful than I can say to my dad, and Tes and Eleanor, and my Aunt Sheila, for looking after him, and giving him those extra years of comfort and love. My dad said yesterday "I've known a lot of cats, but he's something else". That about covers it.
I’m trying not to be miserable because Spangle had a very good, very long and very happy life, and reflected that back into the lives of the humans he knew. I’d like to believe that he and Tilly are snoozing together somewhere warm now, as in the picture below. I know that’s fanciful, but there are times when you’re allowed to be fanciful. This is one of them. And if feeling like this is the cost of having known him, then it's worth it a hundred times over.
Goodbye, my friend —
You were the best cat.
March 1994 - November 2015