I’m watching Chaplin sniff with disgust at his cheap cat food. He looks up at me from his dish with a grimace that can only be described as contempt and his meows now sound distinctly like swearwords. This is a cat who has tasted venison, salmon steaks and had catnip cigars in his paws at the flick of a whisker.
This is also a cat known for leaving bipeds who fail to meet his needs.
But he wore me down. He came in, lay on the chair and now kicks me if I take up too much room on the settee. I had thought he was a stray; he was dirty, dehydrated and desperate. When a man the size of a weightlifting wrestler turned up at my door asking for him I knew this was not the case; but Chaplin had no time for this man’s tears and, as he kneeled down to stroke him, looked at this bubbling biped the same way he looks at me now over a pile of, admittedly rancid-smelling, cat food.
He has since become important company as I struggle with the isolation that unemployment brings. He endures my complaints about a lack of money, sits by me as I fire off letters to MPs and creditors and urges me to sit in the garden when I would prefer to go to bed. Mind you, we’ve shared many an afternoon nap as well.
I do hope he hasn’t spotted someone else who can provide the food and treats he knows he deserves.
Unemployment leads fairly quickly to social deprivation and relying on a cat for company. It’s impossible to meet friends when you don’t have the bus fare. You don’t want people to keep paying for your lunch, which is a kindness that can only go on for so long. You can start to run out of things to say as people moan about their bosses or their workload. You can’t talk about recent purchases, what’s on at the cinema, who you met in the pub. And you feel self-conscious when you moan about your own poverty – so you end up stuck at home.
I get my giro on Tuesday and will ensure Chaplin has a supply of his favourite Dreamies: an expense I can cover more easily thanks to the recent generous gift of a case of wine for me. I’ll buy them on return from my “mandatory meeting” at Job Centre Plus, organised swiftly following correspondence from my MP and IDS about The Canterbury Tales. I’ll let you know how that goes …
People I have IMd: 4
People I have seen in person: 0
Places I have been: Job Centre Plus and the corner shop