Happy New Year from the House of Gusto, where we specialise in creating problems for ourselves, and then complaining about them! This year has kicked off in fine style, with a wonderful country holiday featuring daily trips to swim in the sea, huge and delicious meals with friends and restful afternoons on the verandah. A perfect life, you might say, if not for the issues of Sleep and Cats.
Why the italics, you might ask. What has Gusto done to merit that? Nothing. Gusto is being an exemplary feline. It is the jellicle cats that are the problem around here. The cats created by T. S. Eliot in his 1939 book of poems Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats and made more annoying to the power of infinity by Andrew Lloyd-Webber in 1981. You see, about three months ago May Blossom, Garnet and I tagged along with Other Jess to a Year 6 Production of Cats at the school where she works. It was pretty amazing. And just like that it became, like Singin’ in the Rain and before that the song ‘1234’ by Feist, a complete obsession for May Blossom.
We downloaded the soundtrack and listened to it on every car trip. On Christmas morning she burst into tears upon discovering that Santa had not brought the DVD of Cats. (It was under the tree, but it was labelled to her from Macavity). Once she opened it, she was set, and only opened her other gifts after being threatened with Cats being switched off if she didn’t, the little ingrate.
Cats influences our every waking moment around here. In the rare moments she isn’t belting out one of the songs or doing her Cats makeup with chalk, we are subjected to questions about the plot, which is, to be frank, paper thin. Basically, there are a lot of cats. They are called jellicle cats. There is no explanation of why or what jellicle means. They all get together once a year and dance at a jellicle ball. At the ball, the oldest, most senior cat, a big fellow called Old Deuteronomy, announces the name of a cat who will be reborn and pass to some sort of heavenly place called the Heavyside Layer (again, no explanation of what that name is about). Seems like a pretty shit ending to a party, if you ask me: hello, welcome to the ball! Here, have a canapé. Later, one of you will die.
So lots of the cats sing songs about the other cats, and we learn about Skimbleshanks the Railway Cat (cue a long-running dispute between May Blossom and me about whether his name is Skimbleshanks or Skimbleshanksthe), Mungojerrie and Rumpleteezer (naughty robber cats), Magical Mr Mistofelees (a magician cat), Bustopher Jones (obese compulsive eater), Jennyanydots (annoying do-gooder who makes mice learn to sew), Rum Tum Tugger (bit of a ladies’ cat), Grizabella the Glamour Cat (old whore, who — SPOILER ALERT– is the one who goes to the Heavyside Layer in the end, after torturing everyone with a too many renditions of ‘Memory’) and Macavity the Mystery Cat.
These jellicle songs about these jellicle cats are frighteningly catchy. They stick in your jellicle head like nothing else in the jellicle world, and after three months they make you want to cut your jellicle ears off and mail them to Andrew Jellicle Lloyd Jellicle Webber.
On the subject of jellicle ears, Garnet has had one ear infection after another for the past six months and it has reached the point where we are have been referred to an ENT to Sort This Shit Out. Poor little guy. He has an almost constant red throat and inflamed ears. It’s led to lots of comfort breastfeeding at night and sleeping in our bed, which has been okay except many nights now he wakes every hour to feed and my wits are scattered about me like lego, stabbing my husband in the foot whenever he takes a step towards me. Baby sleep problems are only problems when the situation is no longer working for you, and it is no longer working for us. However, as no fewer than three medical professionals have told us this week, you can’t sleep train a baby when he is sick, so until we get him really well again, we can’t do much. Arrgh.
It’s very lucky he is so jellicle cute. Garnet took a few tentative steps over Christmas. Then I left him with a babysitter for one day last week and came home to a fully fledged walker. He is so proud of himself. He can also tell you what a dog, cat, fish, tiger, duck, bird, chicken and gorilla say. And he can, of course, pick up the DVD cover of Cats and shout ‘Cats!’ Let that be a warning to you, other parents and future parents. Be very careful about what you expose your children to. One outing to a school play may seem harmless enough, but before you know it you’ll answering to the name Jellylorum and accepting that it wasn’t your three-year-old who left the lids off the felt-tip pens but in fact a criminal mastermind cat called Macavity who is the bafflement of Scotland Yard and the Flying Squad’s despair.