Walter the cat started out life bedraggled and tiny, a still born runt of the litter who turned out to be alive. The owners of his mother lived in the old terraced red brick houses behind the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle. In light of his scrawny appearance they christend him Thin Lizzy, a theme they continued in naming the other kitten my family acquired Chubby Checker on account of his comparative bulk.
The owners of Walter and Smokey’s mother had contacted the Cats’ Protection League offering the kittens to a good home. We, after a suitable period of time after the passing of Mothball, had contacted the Cats’ Protection League seeking a kitten. Due to beliefs about the differing nature of male and female cats we were hoping for two female kittens. The owners of Walter’s mum misjudged the sex of the kittens as did we. From the litter we chose two girls who seemed inquisitive and adorable. Thin Lizzy, scrawny with bulging eyes and a sniffing nose, and Chubby Checker, a ball of fluff chasing anything that moved. As soon as we had left Denton Holme with the kittens the names had to go, and it would not be long before the kittens’ sexes would also be revised.
The now nameless kittens took well to their new home, Randleson House, near the Moat in Brampton. I don’t know if they could, but we never cast our minds to the fate of their mother and siblings. The two kittens immediately became a part of the family as far as my sister and I were concerned. A visit to the vet determined them both as males. I would never refer to them as Toms.
As we got to know them better names presented themselves. Smokey bore a resemblance to the Smokey the Bear poster I had on my wall. The name Walter came fomr nowhere, but immediately suited Walter, a quirky unpredictable and eccentric kitten. For a short while in 1990 Walter hid under the assumed name of Bacon (or was it Streaky) as a visitor to the town from Tanzania was also called Walter, and we were unsure if a cat sharing the same name would seem somehow rude or strange.
Early memories of Walter and Smokey are Smokey waking me up in the morning biting my chin or toes, and Walter climbing up a trellis in the back yard.
When the two cats went to the vets to be spayed/neutered (for which I felt terribly guilty) I brought them home on the way back from school. They were both terribly uncoordinated after the anaesthetic and I watched in mirth as the walked into walls and jumped off the table forgetting to land on their feet.
Walter took to perching on my shoulder as I walked around the house.
At some stage Smokey disapeared. I spent a weekend hunting for him up the Moat, and was devastated by the loss for some weeks. We speculated that he had got trapped down a rabbit hole, caught in a snare, or that he and Walter had come to an agreement that one must leave and Smokey had lost and gone off to find a new home.
Walter loved the Moat. He would come with us on walks all around. One time Mark and I were walking up there late at night and drunk. We heard a rustling in the leaves, and a running noise. Mark had a tendancy to become afraid, but it turned out to be Walter. He led us around the Moat that night, galloping back and forth, showing us various things, and giving us a glimpse into his nocturnal excursions. He also used to go for walks with Edna and her dog, Bobby.
Once Walter disapeared for a couple of days. We thought he might have met a similar fate to Smokey, but somehow I discovered that he was locked in a garage, and the owners had gone on holiday. I found out who was looking after the house whilst they were away, and we located a key to free Walter.
He got into numerous scrapes. Once he arrived home with some large pus filled holes in his hide. We pictured him carried around in the maw of some strange Cumbrian beast before he made his escape. The pus burst onto me and his favourite sheepskin rug shortly after.
Another cat came into the area and began to challenge Walter’s dominance. This cat, a big fluff ball named Moe, even invaded our house, via the cat-flap, on a number of occaisons, until Dad chased him around the house, drenching him with the plant mister. Walter got his home territory back, if a fraction of his previous empire.
Then Dad moved to South Cumbria and Walter acquired a new world, much more rural.
…to be completed…