That annoying moment when you remember yet another soul you’ve forgotten to name in your book acknowledgements...

For a few hot, sticky days in Elche, Spain, Calcetines (Socks) the cat was my constant and calming companion. I tend to be wary of cats, and my pennies can take a while to drop. Many’s a time he cried to get into my temporary bedroom and insisted on lying tight against my legs while I edited my book manuscript. After a while he would suddenly spin round and put his paw on my arm. Claws straight in.

It took me a while to realize that instead of being a stealthy scratch attack, this wee animal had been showing affection or indicating a feeling of safety. The scratches I incurred on these many occasions were in fact made when I involuntarily jerked my arm away. As I became used to the repeated action and stopped myself from reacting, it was clear Calcetines did not intend to scratch me. He lay his paw on my arm, and looked at me soulfully. He didn’t mean for his claws to cause pain. He seemed to need to communicate somehow that he felt comfortable and content in my company, and this was his way.

I was staying with a friend at the time. I made dear and wonderful friends while living in Aberdeen for the first half of 2013. I had various accommodation problems and my kind friends Fran and Tom took me in. They made a difficult time not only bearable, but fun. I moved back to Belfast, stupidly just in time for the July Twelfth Fortnight the year of the ‘flag protests’. We continued our bond by engaging in Skype-facilitated synchronized ‘Fringe bingeing’. (If you haven’t seen Fringe, give it a go – it’s ace! Must work on a comparative analysis with The X-Files, particularly surveillance, syndicates and patriarchy in seasons 5 of both series.) That summer we also arranged to meet in Elche, Fran’s home town, in September. I stayed with her sister. Adelina is a fantastic photographer with a cat called Socks, because his fur colours make him look like he is wearing some.

The feline creature took quickly to this oddly-spoken stranger. Adelina’s then-partner explained to me – if I remember correctly – that Calcetines was around 2 years old and had been a rural stray. It seems he had been abused, perhaps treated cruelly, possibly abandoned. When he figured that a new person was safe he showed affection or just had to be nearby. He liked doing his own thing too, of course.

It was easy for a non-cat person to misunderstand his intentions. He always looked hurt and confused when I reprimanded him for scratching me. Perhaps, though, it was my broken Spanish that troubled him. We became accustomed to one another’s oddness, and I’m told he cried at the door of that room for quite a few days after I left. He was an unforgettable editing companion.

Espero encontrar mis calcetines algún día.


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