Tango and Rhumba

It was a sad day when our beloved Tiger the tabby cat died in Martin's arms in the car on the way to the vet to be put down.  Our 'tuttofare' Craig, almost a member of our family, was with him to the end. Tears were shed. The next night a doleful Craig, our American Buddhist musician housekeeper from Baltimore, placed on the dinner table a cat magazine with 'British Blue' breeders at the back. Craig knew that I had fallen in love with my next door neighbour's 'British Blue' and so had done a little research on my behalf without saying a word.

The only local breeder was in North London and had a blue and cream boy for sale. Pedigree, bien sur! Off we sped to view the specimen of 2 weeks. It was evening and a difficult journey by car to way out north London from Notting Hill in west London but we were highly motivated. A house without a cat is not a home!

We arrived to find a run down boring suburban semi and were invited into the kitchen with an odd circular wooden bar in the middle. The owner was a copy cat version of my cat lover friend June so I felt I already 'knew' the woman!

We were invited to view the baby blue boy upstairs with his mummy. The first floor heated room smelt very catty as the door was permanently shut. I ignored the cream ball of fluff and looked at the blue ball instead. You couldn't really see what you were getting for £200 in the late 80s but we knew he would grow into Tango, the beautiful. We nodded our acceptance and exited from the clawing smell of the room.

Having just lost my Tiger, the moment I saw the tabby curled up on the kitchen chair, I just had to go and miao 'Good Evening' like the Madwoman of Chaillot. Stripy, as he was called, responded and so I picked her up. Judy, the breeder, suggested I take her as a gift as she had just wandered in through the back garden and settled in. No, I wanted a 'British Blue' not a tabby cat but Judy insisted over a cuppa saying we could 'borrow' him for the weeks before collecting Tango after his jabs and if I changed my mind then he could be brought back.

How could we refuse as our home was no longer a home? I named her Rhumba to go with Tango! She was so scared in our large pink and black basement kitchen/diner not leaving the kitchen to venture out into our enticing tropical garden.

Weeks went by and of course she had to stay so when baby Tango arrived Rhumba became the surrogate mummy. They were inseparable and loved each other. Tango was miao less, we have no idea why so Rhumba 'spoke' for both of them when it was feeding time. Tango would arrive first at the bowl but not begin before looking around for Rhumba. They slept together with Rhumba suckling her baby blue boy.

One evening I was cooking when Tango raced in from the garden.

     'How are you?' he squeaked to me.

Astonished I told Martin the cat had spoken and he told me in no uncertain terms that I was off my head. Well he was a magician after all and our house was magical!

A week went by and Martin was in the kitchen before dinner at 19.00 for some reason. Tango raced in and repeated again the same 'How are you?' squeaking excitedly. This time I was not so mad after all. Tango never spoke again!

Years later we moved to Brighton with three large vans of possessions and both cats to a huge Georgian house in Hanover Crescent. The garden was an full of rare old English roses so I had to add a few architectural plants. The cats raced around and were happy in their new abode.

One midsummer 2 years later, after our wedding anniversary party, there was no Rhumba. Gone forever. Perhaps catnapped?  Gone presumably over the back garden wall that had a lane between Hanover Crescent and Hanover Street owned by no one. I leafletted with her photo and description plus a reward from house to house in Hanover Street. We got a few 'sightings' but nothing concrete. I even got a fortune teller to 'feel' the vibrations of her photo. She claimed she was in the neighbourhood alive and happy with her new owner.

Tango went into depression. He stood alone by the bowl looking around and waiting to eat but no Rhumba came. Then he totally bonded with Martin, rather than myself who had bonded with Rhumba. He spent most of the day watching Martin on the computer and even sitting on the keyboard and his desk. This was his home up on the third floor never mixing with other cats, only Martin. He was an Aristocat after all! He never once jumped up on to Martin's lap and hated to be picked up.  When, after 25 years we divorced, Tango went with his master and died in his arms a year or so after he could no longer jump up on the desk just before Martin died of leukaemia four years ago. 

Written in the excellent Sarris restaurant in Rhodes Old Town. 20/4/17.


Wikipedia - 'British Blue' shorthair
Wikipedia - Tuttofare is the equivalent of a Man Friday/handyman
Cambridge dictionary - Man Friday