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  • Writer's pictureWendy Turbin

Feline Inspiration, or "Who needs sleep anyway?"

Tabby cat Li'l Ern with paws crossed
Keeping the author sleepless-on-sea

I love dogs, but I am owned by cats. This is feline opinion and I’m never going to change it so I might as well save a lot of trouble and agree.

Currently, my master is a tabby – a small chap, getting on a bit now, but still a cat with a singular view of how his life should be organised. Mainly this concerns food on demand, the best seat in the house, frequent fussing – only when he chooses – unlimited access to the outside world and a general understanding that the world revolves around him.

Fair enough.

The tabby cat in Sleeping Dogs is modelled on this cat, particularly the pretending it never happened episodes, and a great deal of washing.

My own cat also sees ghosts.

It’s true I don’t really know what he sees because, like the pets in Sleeping Dogs, whether living or otherwise, he can’t speak in words. Actions certainly can speak volumes. When Little Ern stares at nothing in the corner for a good long while it is spooky. Sometimes, his hackles raise slowly and sometimes he seems content to watch. When he blinks and walks away after a few minutes, is it because he’s bored with watching nothing? Or has the spirit he’s been communing with simply faded into the walls?

When he chases nothing around the house at 3am it is less spooky – but sleep deprivation has its own creative rewards – at least that’s what I tell myself as I drag myself out of bed in the morning.

Sadly, Little Ern’s been terrorised by a marauding neighbourhood feline, a monster twice his size and with ten times his aggression. His lack of teeth makes his defences less than effective, and Ern is now reluctant to venture into the garden without a human to act as bodyguard. His toothless state has impacted his life in other ways. I won’t go into the details of how he’s taught himself the game of “gum-a-mouse” but fortunately it’s mainly practiced on toys as he’s slowed down now too much to catch his own.

He has a litter tray as befits an elderly gent in need of private facilities, but why use that when you can get your slave out of bed at 4am to keep watch over you in the garden? Then do it again two hours later by mewing persistently and pathetically in rising scale till it can be ignored no more. It must be breakfast time, and the bowl of food provided at 4am in case you starve has been…well, left out since 4am. No self-respecting cat would eat such stuff.

Lucky for me, I do have some of my better ideas in the small hours of the night when woken by Little Ern’s imperious demands. This is when knots unravel in the unconscious mind and free-range thinking comes into play. The relaxed state between sleep and waking is highly conducive to dreaming up the unexpected – which is what I like my novels to be. It’s sometimes a boon for a pantster like myself who backs her characters into blind corners with no idea where the exit is.

In my work in progress, currently entitled ‘Penny 2’, I’ve reached that tipping point where the snowball is pretty much at the top of the hill – but I need a special something to push it over the ridge and then, with luck, I’ll freewheel to the end.

With April now upon us, I’m hoping Little Ern’s night-time antics will give my brain a nudge.

A snappy title would be nice!

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