I am writing my column this week in the Blue Mountains, with a cup of tea and Marmite toast, huddled in front of the heater.
My friend and hostess has popped out to the shops to buy some supplies for tonight’s dinner party and I am dressed in pale pink silk pyjamas, her fluffy slippers and a Uniqlo puffer parka.
I clearly do not know how to pack for cold country weekends. I packed sneakers, but no socks, pyjamas but no dressing gown, sweaters but no scarves.
I do not even have a big long length comfy cardigan, which I now realise is the pivotal piece for a weekend away: alternatively shopping, cooking and avoiding my friend’s cats. I am not a cat person. They scare the bejesus out of me, every since my Mum took me to visit her friend who had a mean Siamese cat.
I was about seven, looked at the cat and whispered to my Mum that it was staring at me, could the lady please put it outside?
The answer was no, she won’t do anything, she’s adorable, she’s different to other cats, the universal answer from cat owners who refuse to see their cat is actually the devil.
While Mum and her friend disappeared onto the balcony for a wine and Kool cigarettes, I settled down to my book, looked up and saw the cat, its beady eyes fixed on me. In a daring swoop it jumped from a cupboard and dragged it claws down my cheek, drawing blood.
Understandably I have not trusted a cat since, and of course, don’t they love me. I am catnip. Mountain people seem to be cat people. So in a room full of partygoers, sipping on their red wine in front of the fire, I’m the peculiarly dressed one praying please cat don’t come near me, please no, while some malevolent feline decides my leg is the one it will rub its odious coat on.
My friend has two dogs, two cats and a horse, but there is one cat in particular, Ralph, who was sent to earth to terrorise. It is a Maine Coon cat, a breed that even to me, a cat hater, is magnificent to behold. It is the largest of the domestic cats, not unlike a small lion, and apparently very gentle and loving according to Google, but I am convinced this is just part of the worldwide cat conspiracy.
This cat is scary. It flung itself at me twice on our first meeting, breaking a lamp in the process. It even has to be separated from the other animals. So the house operates under a complex system of opening and closing various parts, with my lovely hostess putting up signs saying: “Warning, cat inside!!”
Last time I stayed, I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, and left my door ajar. When I got into bed, I felt Ralph leap on.
It was like When a Stranger Calls. And I wasn’t dressed for it.