My friend gave me a wonderful piece of Nigerian fabric. A total of 5 yards in length, it’s a lightweight cotton, probably shirting fabric, with small motifs woven into it, and was white before being dyed in indigo with a cassava resist. The artist has painted dark navy stripes across it; the last yard or so is handstamped with dancing figures. Lovely! In Africa this cloth would have been worn intact, wrapped around the body. I’ve made my friend a scarf by cutting a 2 yard length along the selvedge with the happy figures on one short edge, and myself a shirt but enough fabric remains for another garment. Such a treasure must not be rushed, it must be sewn to best advantage. Should it be used as is, or should another fabric be paired with it? I took it outside to check colour against other fabrics, and
immediately my trusty little helper leapt onto it.
Introducing Raki, a cat of dubious parentage, but of impeccable taste for the finer things in life. He is a Van cat, a breed known for many centuries in the Lake Van region of Turkey. His ancestors would have been brought to Greece at least at the time of the Ottoman Occupation, but probably well before then by Crusaders, traders, pirates and various others who journeyed for whatever reasons across these parts. Raki is now 6 years old, named for the Turkish drink Raki which turns white when added to water, and found by us 3 days after the Argo replica sailed. We were crossing a supermarket car park in Volos when he caught my eye. Pitiful. There is no other word. Pitiful. Under a car, in the blazing heat, tiny and filthy. He would not have lasted through the day. I scooped him up. Husband was not thrilled…cats we have a-plenty.
We shopped very quickly, Raki clinging to my shirt front, then drove the 45 mins to our wonderful vet (not then yet in practice) in the upper village near our home on the Pelion Peninsula. She estimated him at no more than 3 weeks old, pointed out that his tail was broken but would possibly not need amputation, and was doubtful that he would even survive. We continued home, with Raki’s piercing shrieks growing ever more hoarse. Once into the house, I placed him on the floor, and he immediately ran to the breakfast remains of the other cats which clearly weren’t suitable for an unweaned kitten. What to feed him? No such thing here then as infant kitty formula. I improvised, and fed him 2-
hourly, day and night, on a mess of baby porridge, water, evaporated milk and a scraping of yoghurt, squirted all over us both in a syringe. Why the yoghurt? I had some notion that it would provide healthy bacteria to his horribly disturbed digestive tract.
His belly was huge, hard, round as a tennisball. Worms. But he was too young and weak to deworm at that time. He had sparse hair, was very dirty and riddled, absolutely crawling, with fleas. His ears were full of mites, and his little body had numerous bites. He was a sad and sorry-looking soul, all big eyes and ears. I bathed him in baby shampoo – had to do it twice, so dirty was he and so numerous the fleas, their eggs and other detritus. He objected. Loudly. But I was thrilled to hear that feistiness! These photos were taken almost immediately after he came into the house, but even then he was establishing his place in the order of things. Or maybe I should say our place in the order of things.
He is like no other cat I have ever owned, and I have had cats all my life. It’s not just his physical characteristics, for his fur is unlike that of other cats – it’s a dense pelt, soft as silk and only one layer of hair. He seems to be self-cleaning in that his fur never gets tangled, in spite of his mad adventures through the garden, the olive trees, and the indigenous vegetation on the property. He is extremely energetic, playful and fearless and shows absolutely no sign of the more sedate behaviour of the other cats, all of whom become impatient with him very quickly. He loves water and considers it an obligation to assist us in the bath or shower. But it’s his affection and devotion that make him truly special. He is ever-present. It’s as simple as that. He accompanies us and our dog on our walks, often having to be carried back when he gets too tired, he involves himself everywhere and all the time, he’s vociferous, inquisitive, determined and very loving.
Oh, and Husband adores him.