Archive for February, 2010

Tat of a cat

“So, you like cats then?” asked the artist, stroking gentle lines of fire across my skin.

“Yes, I do.” My hackles rose, and I suppressed a twitch, along with the urge to ask him if he was particularly fond of swallows.

I do, indeed, like cats.  But not enough that I feel the need to advertise the fact by permanantly etching one into my skin.  This is my first tattoo (it may well be my only one) and it does represent something important to me.  Not the image itself, but the fact of its existence.  The image was just one I quite liked the look of; it could have been anything.

It happened to be a cat.

I asked myself why I felt so defensive about my choice of picture.  Doesn’t everybody have their own reasons for the pictures they choose to decorate themselves with?  A cat could symbolise many things: grace, independence, fertility, any interpretation one could think of.  So why did the artist assume it represented nothing more significant than my fondness for the feline species?  And why did I feel patronised by that assumption?

Lots of people like cats.  Lots of people like dogs, too.  Some people  like snakes.  Even spiders.  But every time I mention my cat, or my liking for cats in general, I get the Eye Roll.

“Oh, you’re one of those.  A Cat Person.”

A what?  When I had a pet hamster, was I a Hamster Person?  A Goldfish Person, when I had a goldfish?  Why does ownership of a cat somehow define me, in some people’s eyes, as a type?  A stereotype?

I know the stereotype.  And it’s uniquely female.  There are no male Cat Persons.  There are men who like cats, of course.  Hemingway for one; David Baddiel for another.  In Collette’s short story “The Cat”, a bride finds herself competing with a cat for her new husband’s affection.  But I’m willing to bet none of these men (real or fictional) ever felt the need to defend their affection for the creatures.

So why should I?


On muses

You may be wondering why there was no update here yesterday.  I was puzzled myself, until I received the following on the back of a postcard of Whitby Abbey:

Weather is here,

wish you were lovely.

Sincerely, your muse.

OK, obviously I received nothing of the sort.  I spent most of yesterday sewing bits of fabric onto a vest while watching back-to-back episodes of Rome.  I didn’t post anything, because I honestly couldn’t think of anything to post; clearly, my muse took a short holiday.

There are no such things as muses, any more than Santa Claus, god or fairies (except on the Isle of Man, where they are pretty common and tend to cause trouble if not placated).  A muse is a convenient metaphor for inspiration; however, metaphors, especially for writers, have a habit of taking on a life of their own.

I wonder how many of my writing friends have anthropomorphised muses.  Casee Wilson refers to hers in her song “Midnight Blues” with the fantastic line “Cuddled up to my insomnia and waiting for my muse”; Stephen King goes into a fairly detailed description of his in “On Writing”.

King speaks of his muse as the janitor of the basement in his head where “the ideas come from”, an analogy I love.  Mine I like to see as the sort of sulky teenager I never quite was; my own personal Tyler Durden.

She wears silver jewellery and too much eyeliner; too much makeup altogether, frankly.  The sort of girl who might be pretty, if she’d only have a good wash and some decent clothes, and for goodness’ sake, smile properly, you’ve got such a lovely smile, and comb your hair for a change.  And don’t look at me in that tone of voice, madam.  You know.  That sort of girl.

The sort I was always too afraid of offending people to be.  Someone who knows she’s a walking cliche, and doesn’t care; someone who goes out of her way to cause trouble, partly because it makes her feel important and partly because nobody can make a difference in the world without pissing people off once in a while.  She cares passionately about things, and people, and causes; and hides it (poorly) behind a wall of contempt and cynicism.  She blurts out inappropriate remarks because she thinks they’re funny.  When nobody laughs (and sometimes when they do) I feel embarrassed.  She doesn’t.

I hope she comes back soon.  I miss her.

New for Spring!

Alex wears

wool and mohair jacket,

£915, and wool gauze

trousers, £635, both

Yves Saint Laurent;

cotton bra, £95,

Margaret Howell, cotton

knickers (just seen), £6,

Marks & Spencer; hips

like knives and

bird-boned wrists,

model’s own.

Cintia (left) wears

plastic dress, £13,10, and

leather belt, £320, both

Jil Sander;

fear (just seen) by

Models One, from a


See directory

for stockist details.


I dream that I can move things

with my mind.

It’s called telekinesis.

I know this

(in my dream),  I know

it’s a dream, and yet

I’m improving. Getting better.


I think

a preposition is

a good thing

with which to end a sentence.

(But not today.)


if I’m not supposed to be here, would you

keep all these toys


for me to play with?


and I said

take it, it’s yours, I don’t

need it, I don’t

use it

I don’t want it anymore

and he said


Eliot missed him in his listing

Of  different types of cats

Practical isn’t the word I’d use

In fact, he’s a bit of a prat.

Misjudging and mistiming

Completely misses the chair

A startled blinking heap on the floor

With a distinctly affronted air.

He stumbles and falls, then licks his balls

In a vain attempt to distract

I meant to do that all along!

No really, my pride’s intact!

While other cats can balance

With perfect control and poise

On fences, on railings, in trees and at home

Without falling or making a noise;

He walks into solid objects

I don’t mean to be unkind

I’ve never seen another cat

Who could strangle himself on a blind.

You may have noticed

Ok, I kind of cheated with those last 2 posts.  Both were poems I wrote some time ago, and the point of doing this is really to get me into the discipline of writing.  I know I’m writing now, obviously, but this is kind of meta-writing – writing about writing, and about the thought process that goes into it, which seems kind of self-indulgent, if not downright masturbatory.

Then again, one of the aims is to write whatever comes into my head – and seeing as what I’m thinking about now is trying to get back into writing again, that’s what seems to be coming out.  I’m sorry.  This must be terribly boring for you.  I will come out with something original tomorrow.  Really.

If it helps, what I’m thinking right now is “Is masturbatory really a word?  More to the point, is it a word I should be using in a blog my dad’s going to read?”

You said that you’d always be there

For me, that you alone care

But today you won’t even stay

With me in the queue when I pay.

I saw in your eyes the fear

Disappear when the test came out clear

You never saw how my relief

Was tempered by something like grief.