I am so thrilled to share a guest blog from author Simon Packham! It is entitled The Importance of Cats! As a cat lover, I can fully appreciate Simon’s post. In the story, Archie’s cat is a main character.
THE IMPORTANCE OF CATS
When Archie Ebbs and his family are evicted from their house and placed in a temporary Bed and Breakfast hostel for the ‘statutorily homeless’, one of the things Archie finds most upsetting is being separated from his beloved cat, Dinger. Like most B&B hostels, Manton house doesn’t allow pets.
I’ve had two cats in my life. Zippy, our childhood Burmese (named by my sister after she had her tonsils out) and Pax, a ginger Tom. who’s been part of our family for the last sixteen years.
As a rule, I never base my characters on real people. It’s safer not to! And I’ve noticed that whenever I’ve tried to squeeze things that actually happened into a book, my editors have nearly always suggested I remove them, on the grounds that they don’t feel realistic.However, I can exclusively reveal that Dinger the cat is based entirely on a slightly more youthful version of our very own, Pax.
Pax actually started life as a child control strategy on a family holiday to Cornwall. Children and long car journeys are not necessarily a recipe for tranquillity. But by ‘sharing nicely’, ‘making your sweets last’ and generally not trying to kill each other they could win ‘kitten points’. All they needed was a hundred points for the kitten and twenty for accessories. It was probably one of the calmest holidays we’ve ever had. And I still can’t believe they fell for it!
But it did mean that when we got home, we had to go and buy a kitten. We were only just in time. Pax was the last cat in the litter. And I can honestly say, it’s the best forty pounds we have ever spent. There’s something tremendously calming about having a cat about the house, even if he does bring in the odd rat, mouse and – on one memorable occasion – slice of pizza.
Both our children are now in their twenties, but one of their first questions when they phone is, ‘how’s Pax?’ That’s because he was such an important part of their childhoods. Whether itwas ‘helping’ with their homework, starring in their home-movies, providing the inspiration for King Pax and the Cat Next Door, listening patiently to their worries or serving as a kind of living, purring hot water bottle, Pax was always there for them.
That’s why I knew how important Dinger would be for Archie. And why not being able to take him to Manton House would be almost like losing a part of himself. No spoilers. But I also knew that to give Archie the happy ending he deserved, I’d have to do everything in my power to reunite him with his lovely cat.
So, it’s only fitting that I should leave you with one of Archie’s cat jokes:
Q: Why does Dinger hate laptops?
A: They don’t have a mouse!
And there’s nothing Pax likes better than to sit in the garden with a good book.