The news you’ve all been waiting for—Horace was delivered without complications on Monday. I wasn’t required to sign so I couldn’t say what was written on the delivery man’s docket. I never received the alert to tell me when the post was considering delivering Horace, nor the one to be sent the day before to warn me to block the whole morning so as to be at home when the doorbell rang. What I did receive though was the alert I’d already scratched from the list of propositions: a message to let me know that:
“Your parcel, Horace, has been delivered.”
I hadn’t seen the utility of that particular attentive detail. I was sorta aware he’d been delivered since I was the one who like opened the door and without me or my next of kin, the postier couldn’t have delivered the parcel…
This, by the way, is Horace. The real, live (well…) furry one.
Fine-looking animal, isn’t he? He lies next to this chimney in the sun. Or in the gloom as this morning when there was no sun. He doesn’t give a toss. This is next-door’s roof as seen from our bathroom window. Our bathroom which is actually windowless at the moment since Finbar tried to leap through it after a cat (Branwell) waiting to come in.
The height of the roof has been cunningly designed to give cats easy access to our place. A small leap even a geriatric or bone idle (Horace) cat can manage no problem. Beneath the window is a handy ledge, cunningly designed to give cats easy access to our bedroom window in the event that the bathroom window is closed. This is often the case at night.
Our roof has its share of feline residents too. We have installed roof windows to give them easy access to the bedrooms on the second floor. They tend not to come in intentionally, but occasionally drop through when their curiosity makes them lean over too far. There’s a broom on the landing to chase them downstairs and out through the front door. I don’t need to describe what happens when they meet Finbar on the stairs.
Last night we had a storm. Storms don’t frighten me, never have. I have always loved watching the lightning and listening to thunder growling. Jumping at a crash right overhead is the nearest I ever get to enjoying the thrill of fear. My dad was like that too, though my mother was terrified of storms and if ever we were out when one broke she would insist that we hide somewhere until it was over. Only now, forty years later, can I begin to understand her terror when our flight home from a childhood holiday in Rome was delayed because of a terrific electric storm.
The storm last night was a pretty feeble affair, and no doubt wouldn’t have even stirred me from my deep four in the morning sleep. What did wake me though was a very large, very frightened dog bursting into our bedroom looking for reassurance and somewhere to hide.
My husband started humming ‘My favourite things’ from The Sound of Music and joked about the possibility of the children appearing one after the other in the doorway. No chance. An earthquake wouldn’t wake any of them. Dog though was terrified and had to be hugged very tight for the duration. During a storm the cats disappear into their hiding places, as cats do, but Finbar needs physical contact to reassure him that the world isn’t coming to an end.
As I lay awake playing mother to a trembling hound, I thought about the relationship of early people with the power of nature, and whether what was going on in Finbar’s head was in any way similar: with the proviso that human fear was modified by reverence and awe, which I don’t think play much of a part in Finbar’s psyche.
In my current WIP veneration of the forces of nature, especially the destructive ones, is central to the antagonists’ mindset. The Scyldings are based on early northern European people; they don’t have our scientific knowledge, or our modern scepticism. Most of their reactions are pretty basic and brutal, but they fear what they don’t understand and seek guidance, albeit grudgingly, from an adept of the occult.
Sometimes an intelligent animal’s reaction to a phenomenon can be taken as an indication that early people may have interpreted it the same way. The need to hole up somewhere at night, the relief when the light comes back in the morning, the reluctance to go out in the cold or great heat, the fear of thunder, hail and torrential rain, heaving seas and strong winds, all of these seem credible reactions for my Scyldings as well as my fearful dog.
The ancient Celts, if the Romans are to be believed, feared only one thing: the sky falling on their heads. Is that what Finbar fears too? And don’t even we, modern, sophisticated sceptics, feel something similar when we hear about asteroids, or another rogue state installing nuclear missiles?