Last weekend I was enjoying the delights of my daughter’s garden in Bedford where Marilyn and I were cat-minding while Ali and her husband took a short break.
I’m quite sure this is not an unusual occupation for the older generation, but for me it was the first time in many years that I had had the time and opportunity to observe the behaviour of cats living in their own territory, acting out their habits and displaying their own characteristics. I soon discovered that Bonnie and Kitty are fascinating characters who made it quite clear from the outset, when they wished to be fed or to sleep, to play together or be played with.
However, as I watched them going about their daily business I was pleasantly reminded of one of the very first short stories I’d written; a story called “Orange eyes and Geraniums” which resulted from a visit to Tenterden steam railway sometime in the nineteen eighties.
The visit had been organized by the Ashford writer’s group to which I belonged. We used to meet on a regular basis at the local library to discuss our latest literary offerings and to gain valuable advice.
Although I am struggling to remember the exact details, I believe that we were joined on the train that day by the writer of children’s books, Russell Hoban. However, being so long ago I can’t be absolutely certain about the facts or even if the books he referred to were about badgers or otters, which I freely admit is quite unforgivable. I would of course be overjoyed if someone out there still remembers, or belongs to, the Ashford writer’s group and can fill in the details. One thing I can remember very clearly is that it was a fascinating and informative day and I would definitely recommend any aspiring writer to join such a group of like minded people.
However, returning to the cats, it was suggested during our railway excursion that we should attempt to write a short story using the railway as the underlying theme, which prompted me to use a station moggie as the main character. In this case it was the ‘Tenton’ station cat whose sole function in life was to catch the mice living below the waiting room floor as they terrified the ladies that used it. That is, of course, until he got much grander ideas of his own.
I suppose I’m saying that just by quietly watching the behaviour of our fellow creatures that share our every day lives, we can sometimes notice things that may well form the basis of interesting and unusual stories. I’m sure this must have happened to me on that far distant day at Tenterden station, when we were asked to find a theme relating to the railway and build it into a short story. Perhaps I just noticed an old black cat stretched out on the warm earth below the station master’s prize geraniums, and ‘Orange Eyes and Geraniums’ was born. So, I hope you enjoy this short story.
Orange Eyes and Geraniums
The bright morning sun shimmered on the mirror topped-tracks and a warm summer breeze dusted the pink and scarlet geraniums growing in old Gudgin’s flower beds by the station fence. King Cole, the Tenton station cat lay on the warm earth among the flowers waiting for the arrival of the eleven forty-five.
The crossing gates were closed across the lane, and a signal bounced to a new shape against the clear blue sky. Above the waiting room door a brass bell pinged signaling the arrival of the train and prompting Gudgin to drag a heavy barrow piled high with trunks and cases onto the platform.
“The train’s running late today” mumbled Gudgin glancing at the station clock “Coo, Coo” replied the pigeons waiting patiently in their basket to be loaded into the guard’s van and taken on another mystery trip. King Cole stirred and stretched his legs, thinking about the tin lid of milk that would be waiting for him on the engine, as well as the tickles behind his ears he expected from fireman Blakelock. The hiss of steam as the engine slid smoothly to a halt brought the station briefly back to life…..Read More