My English cat is now Irish: she pretends not to see what she doesn’t want to deal with

Mabel has taken to pretending she cannot see whatever she doesn’t feel like dealing with

The ants got in during the first snow – the big one – and clearly remembered their way, because they turned up again during the snow that coated Dublin the day after St Patrick’s Day. When we lived in the UK, our house there became infested with bees – a great boiling swarm of them screaming in one shrill voice – at least four times during the course of a single hot summer. I considered it a “quirk” of living in a converted barn in the country, and dismissed my own city person’s instinct to shrink away or find their invasions unacceptably officious. The bees were the least of it, really.

We would awake each morning to a small army of rabbits, their sweet little noses wiggling damply in the morning dew, busying themselves in our garden. There were hornets too, which were rather less endearing, and which featured rather more legs, chuffing through the house like heavily armed military helicopters, their thrumming wings glistening like oil on water. And there were mice. A couple of shrews. Pheasants. Once, a fox tried to eat our complacent, docile and slightly overweight cat Mabel. It stalked up toward her silkily in the long grass, scudding like a rusty little boat, its vulpine face anticipating an easy lunch as Mabel, her blue grey belly exposed to the July sun, lay on the grass obliviously, spreading gently at her edges.

We had to run outside, shouting and waving our arms about in order to convince the fox that Mabel, meaty though she may be, wasn’t worth the effort. She was far from grateful, of course. Startled by the shouting, she rolled haughtily to her dainty little feet, ignorant of the russet streak of the fox returning in a flash from whence it came. “I was napping, you inadequate clots”, her round, teddyish face seemed to say as she waddled haughtily off into the shrubs. I forgive her haughty manner, as a rule. She is, after all, an English cat.

Upfront Dublin manner

When we returned to Dublin, I had thought the menagerie which accumulated around (and regrettably sometimes inside) our barn would no longer be a feature. For the most part, this is the case. There is an extremely large black and white tomcat who hangs around outside, tormenting Mabel with his tremendous girth, crossed eyes and upfront Dublin manner. He stares through the window at goodness knows what (his eyes really are very crossed), occasionally plonking a saucer-sized paw on to the window, making a meaty noise and causing Mabel to have to do that which she would rather never do except in emergency situations – wake up.


Apart from that cat, whom I refer to as Bernard, we have had no non-human visitors till the ants, who, if I might be indecorous, are a shower of gobshites. They conduct the majority of their scavenging at night, in raiding parties of a hundred or so tiny armoured men during the chilly weather, so that I wake in the morning find them simmering fussily across the bin in search of the last of their anty sustenance. They aren’t picky really, and will make do with whatever small bits of edible gunge they can extract. Many of them get trapped inside the bin, unable to find their way out from under the lid, and they perish in the dark, forgotten by rest of the colony. I thought Mabel might do something about the nightly raiding parties, but it seems her immigration has taken full effect, and she has in fact become an Irish cat, having taken to pretending she cannot see whatever she doesn’t feel like dealing with.

Frequently, I find myself stopping to examine every black dot that dances in my peripheral vision, thinking it is an ant. About 50 per cent of the time, it is. The remainder of the times, it is merely some evidence of my inferior housekeeping skills. Sometimes, at night, I wonder what the ants are doing, and how thoroughly Mabel is ignoring them downstairs, and why it is I haven’t arranged for their categorical annihilation yet. In truth, I feel a bit sorry for those ants, having come in from the cold when spring broke its promise.