I’m still at the bottom of my inbox, crawling my way back up. But I’m getting better! This is from December.
Here, for you, I have shared a letter from our dearest UK Cat Correspondent, Matt. Matt is dedicated, Matt is witty, Matt is the former host of many excellent barbecues and mansion parties, Matt is incredibly missed in America. It has been a year since we saw him last.
To celebrate his fidelity to the cat blog and its readers, I will simply transcribe Matt’s (educational!) letter below, and offer an image to precede that is every bit as fancy as our friend. Enjoy.
from MATT our UK CAT CORRESPONDENT
Hello there Erica! Here is something for your World-Famous Cat-Blog:
I recently came across some Caturnalia in a book I’m borrowing from the friendly people at the Stockport Central Library. Its title is Ghosts, Traditions & Legends of Old Lancashire and it is by Kenneth Howarth. Being the UK Cat-Correspondent, I couldn’t resist passing it on to the good readers of the Cat-Blog. Here it is:
Dildrum – King of Cats
This tradition was often heard in south Lancashire. A gentleman one evening was sitting cosily in his parlour, when he was suddenly interrupted by the appearance of a cat which descended the chimney calling out “tell Dildrum, Doldrum’s dead!” He was naturally startled at this sudden appearance of a talking cat and later when his wife entered the room he told her what he had seen and heard.
Her own cat which had entered the room with her suddenly exclaimed “Is Doldrum dead?”, and immediately rushed up the chimney and was heard of no more.
This time we cannot lay the blame at the pen of Andrew Lloyd Webber. There were many conjectures about these strange events, the consensus being that Doldrum had been king of Cat-land and that Dildrum was the next in line to the title.
(Howarth, Kenneth. Ghosts, Traditions & Legends of Old Lancashire. Wilmslow, England: Sigma Leisure, 1993. Print. 47.)
This is not an uncommon tale; nor is it exclusive to Lancashire. According to D.L. Ashliman of the University of Pittsburgh, (Professor Emeritus), it comes under two main folklore categories: “Migratory legends of type 6070B and tales of Aarne-Thompson-Uther type 113A.” Several of its variations are accessible on-line. To return to the printed page, Mr. Howarth later gives us this tidbit: “In Pendle, you need to be wary when a black cat walks alongside you, in case it is a witch’s familiar. However, in most other areas of Lancashire a black cat crossing your path is considered to be lucky” (123). For the fashion-conscious out there, I suppose that having a cat walking alongside you would be bad luck. How could you compete with its majesty and grace? You couldn’t help but to look worse-off than the cat. Perhaps that’s why people don’t walk their cats so much. I tend to think that keeping in step with a feline would enhance one’s own standing. Of course, the aforementioned hamlet of Pendle in Lancashire is infamous for the cruelty of its witch-trials in the 1600s. Recently there has been a spate of cat-related articles about it because a mummified cat was discovered there last week. Here are two of the stories: from the BBC – “‘Witch’s cottage’ unearthed near Pendle Hill, Lancashire,” and from the Guardian – “Pendle Hill, the mummified cat and the wonder in our surroundings.” This gives me the long-awaited excuse to transition to a difficult-to-fit-in mummified cat factoid. Christ Church in Dublin contains a famous mummified cat (apparently, it’s mentioned in Finnegans Wake, but that’s not been on my reading list). The cat in question is eternally preserved in that eternal act of cattery: chasing an equally mummified rat.
All the best, dear Cat-Blog readers!
Your faithful UK Cat-Correspondent,