Brother Ron Wonders about his Potentially Damaging Assertiveness


A piece of advice: if you’re a lazy bugger like me and fall behind in your blogging, find a brother like mine. He wrote the previous blog here and, before I had time to be shamed into writing something myself, he’s sent me another. As before, it takes the shape of a plea to an ‘agony brother’ and chronicles another incident in the life of someone who’s good, nice, tolerant, patient and all the other things I’m not. However, this time it seems that his ‘Shadow Self’ (see either Karl Jung or read my book Shadow Selves) peeped through the mask. So, first, to get you in the mood, a picture of my daughter’s cat Audrey and my feet, then Ron’s piece, called


A neighbour and her husband called on us recently, introducing themselves – let’s call them Caligulee and Caligula. But it wasn’t a social call: they needed our help to find their missing cat which, they were told, was in or near our garden. The device that ‘told’ them was in Caligula’s hand. A tracking device, about the size of a playing card, beeping and flashing to indicate the cat’s – let’s call him Severus – location.

The device beeped faster as we walked down the garden. I became almost interested, especially when things took a more sinister turn. Aficionados among you will know that the thing which was sending the signal was attached not to Severus but to his collar. Caligula was showing us that, according to the tracker, the cat had to be just beyond our hedge, about six feet up. Since there weren’t any cat sounds, it was impossible not to conclude that Severus had hung himself by his collar while chasing a bird or a squirrel. If only. I was robbed of this possibility when Caligula told us it was a safety collar, designed to pop off under any stress or pressure. So we weren’t really looking for a cat but for its collar. Four adults, up to their knees in stinging nettles, effectively clearing up the mess left by an errant cat.

Caligulee talked about Severus as one would a wayward teenager:

“He knows he’s got to be in by eight o’clock. That’s when he’s fed, on the dot. And we’ve got this cat flap that locks behind him… except, when we got home the other night, there was another cat in the kitchen and Severus was locked out. Honestly, he knows he’s being naughty.”

Then the bombshell which went some way to explaining our garden search.

“That collar and the tracker cost £100.”

And all this while, when we should have been assertively saying, “Look, we’re sorry but we’ve just got to finish butchering the pet rabbit we’re having for dinner,” we were meekly engaging with these fetishists, even to the point of my wife – let’s call her Gulliblena – saying, “If we’re not here just come in round the side. The gate’s not locked.”

But, after forty minutes, we exchanged phone numbers and promised, on our part, to keep our eyes, and gates, open. Caligula rang a couple of hours later to tell us all was well.

“He’d sneaked in while we were at yours, the little blighter, scoffed his meal and was curled up in his favourite seat.”

“Ah, bless,” I might have said, avoiding the temptation to advise that he secure the collar several notches tighter next time. On reflection, and rather like their blessed cat, we weren’t put out too much and anyway, if you can’t do a good turn for your neighbour…

… then do another one, like I did three days later. I’d just poured myself a drink and was settling down to watch the news when the doorbell rang. It was Caligula, on his own this time, but clutching his bleeper and, expecting me to echo his sham world-weary shrug which said, “It’s off again”.

I couldn’t hide behind Gulliblena, who was elsewhere. It was raining and Caligula was protected. I wasn’t, in any sense. Neatly side-stepping the chance to be adult and asking him to come back at a more appropriate time – say Christmas day – I turned up my collar and followed him and his tracker into the garden. Half way down, the beeper was excited into rapid action. Caligula sent me into where the lead/cat must be, bang in the middle of a freshly planted flower bed and, sure enough, there it was: not a bug-eyed moggy in its last throes, but £100 worth of yellow velcro.

Before you all shower me with advice (and condemnation, given what might appear to be anti-feline attitudes in this blog) I have to say that all happened two weeks ago. I haven’t heard from Caligula and the side gate seems to have remained untouched so, something in my demeanour, or something I said, must have hinted at my true state of mind and put him off. Perhaps it was the blood on my hands, unwashed since I cut myself sticking broken glass on the top of the adjoining fence.


1 comment

  1. Great post, Ron. ( I wish I had a brother to write my stuff).
    When we lived in Amsterdam a neighbour rang my doorbell one day. ‘Have you seen our cat lately?’
    I said: ‘Yes, this morning, in my garden’
    He: ‘This morning? He hasn’t been home for 3 days.’
    Three minutes after the neighbour left I see the cat coming out of our shed. He might have known ‘he’s gotta be in at eight’, but he didn’t care.
    That’s why I love cats.

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