Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone…

Death has always terrified the bejeesus out of me, it has to be said. Quite frankly, I enjoy life too much to stop doing it, and (like being unable to go to that party with the rest of your friends from school) I’m simply too worried that I’ll miss out on something interesting.

Put simply, I’d rather not die if that’s OK with everyone? And if I do have to go at some point in the future (and I have heard vile and vicious rumours suggesting that will indeed be the case), then I’ve got no intention of departing this mortal coil for some substantial time to come.

That said, death is an ever-present element of – erm – life. Barely a day goes by without a famous figure – or, worse still, someone you know and cherish – popping their clogs. It’s an all-too-constant reminder that life is transient. I’ve lobbied Congress to use crack squads of shadowy figures to cover up every single death, but somehow they seem to resist my urgings. I had thought I’d been making progress with the suggestion that Elvis was really alive and well and living in Cleethorpes, but then Jacko dies and it seems that (to pervert the words of Mark Twain) reports of his life are greatly exaggerated.

It’s when famous figures die in your homeland that you realise just how much of an expat you are. For bad or worse, for instance, I probably saw Mollie Sugden more often than I encountered some family members when I was a kid, with shows such as ‘Are You Being Served’ and ‘That’s My Boy’ being on the mandated ‘shows that the kids can watch’ list. Reading about her death on the BBC website hit me hard. But eventually the shock that she hadn’t died about five years ago was replaced by a sadness that a TV icon had passed on. Which was itself then superceded by a nagging regret that there was no-one around me with whom I could share the news without having to spend ten minutes explaining who Mollie Sugden was. And you try doing that without near-constant reference to Mrs Slocombe’s pussy…

Talking of which, if Mollie Sugden needs an aforementioned pussy to keep her company (and, on the off-chance that there’s an after-life) she could do much worse than Claude, our wily and loving cat who passed away two weeks ago today. The Special One had had Claude as a constant companion for 19 years, happily receiving his gifts of dead birds, and tending to his injuries after an exciting but woefully ill-advised four storey leap a few years ago.

Tell anyone about the demise of a 19 year old cat and they’ll likely say something alonge the lines of “well, he’d had a good innings”. And indeed he had. But he was a family member to us, and the one cat who had ever managed to make me like the damn creatures in the first place. Claude shared my propensity for watching baseball when the house was otherwise empty, and now every time I turn the TV on, there’s an empty place in my lap where a warm and skinny cat should be.

As you should know by now, Brits are part human, part Vulcan. As a result, we are incapable of experiencing emotion. Any water you may have seen coming out of my eyes was the result of a nasty retinal infection, and I’ll beat you over the head with my box of Kleenex if you suggest otherwise.

RIP Claude

RIP Claude

17 thoughts on “Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone…

  1. carrie

    Awww 🙁 For most of us, our fur-kids are in fact members of the family and it is so hard to lose them. They’re ability to love unconditionally is unmatched. Even when I’ve just taken a walk to the garage, the dogs still never fail to meet me at the front door as excitedly as if I’d just come home after a long day at work. Hugs

  2. NFAH

    Our 15.5 year old family dog died a few weeks ago, and I agree about the frustrations of people thinking it matters that the animal was old! They’re still missing now! But in my absence from the homeland, the folks have already found a new recruit to the family, one who is quite spritely and lively, so there’s that to look forward to next time I’m “home” to visit them. At least the place won’t be so empty.

  3. gloria

    So sorry for your loss.

    I have BBC America to thank for the knowledge of Mollie. A few years back they broadcast “Are you Being Served,” and I was hooked. I loved Mrs. Sloacombe. Too bad wasn’t able to see more of Mollie’s work.

  4. Stephaniehc

    Our family cat, Liberty , died about 18 years ago and I still miss her. My parents still can’t face getting another pet. RIP Claude and MJ.

  5. Cocktails

    I don’t have an actual cat myself, but I’ve been regularly looking after some interlopers from next door for the past 7 years. And I know that if they died I’d be devastated. Here’s to Claude.
    And to Mollie.

  6. Brooklyn


    Unfortunately for me, I can truly say that today you have company elsewhere in Kings County.

    As it happens, the decision was made to euthanize one of our cats today in the midst of surgery when it was discovered that, contrary to expectations, the tumor the surgery was supposed to remove was in fact inoperable. He was not especially elderly by cat standards; he was 13.

    When some time has past, we will adopt another shelter cat to our collective benefit.

  7. Alasdair

    Dylan and Brooklyn – apparently this has not been a Good Fortnight for felines !

    We had our almost-13-year-old diabetic black cat – Winnie – put peacefully to sleep today … from a solid 29 pounds of muscle (think small panther) to barely 10 pounds of mostly skin and bone, finally losing his eyesight, not in pain yet less and less responsive, it was unfortunately time … even the new poly-dactyl hyperactive Paws (6 month old kitten adopted at 2 months old via Craig’s List) was basically being ignored …

    So things will be a bit quieter for the next few days as we adapt to the missing presence …

    Never fear ! Soon enough, you will have another warm (and ofttimes soggy) presence on your lap to keep you company while watching TV … except that the remote won’t change that ofttimes soggy bundle of joy …

  8. Brooklyn

    Dylan and Alasdair:

    I am reminded of the superstition that trouble comes in threes.

    Alasdair: Winnie must have been one to be seen in his heyday. Our surviving cat is 25 pounds, and he is impressive, and Winnie was almost 20 percent heavier.

  9. Dylan Post author

    Thanks everyone for the sympathy…it’s very much appreciated.

    Brooklyn and Alasdair – sorry for your loss…am slightly spooked to hear that two of the most regular commenters here said goodbye to their cats at the same time as us. Onwards and upwards, I guess. If I her of any more kitty losses from commenters though, I’m going to start believing that I have unnatural powers…

  10. William

    I like the term ‘had a good innings’, but if it was always used in this context, Monty Panesar would be dead by now.

  11. Alasdair

    Brooklyn – around here, in Glendale, we apparently have “Great Horned Owls” whose wings, like other owls, are such that their flight is silent … because of that, outdoors cats don’t usually know what’s happening until the owls’ strike grabs them and breaks their neck … we lost several cats that got outside (until we learned not to let our cats outside) – but Winnie never had any such problems … (grin) … nor with passing coyotes – they tended not to mess with him …

  12. Brooklyn


    I agree that the coincidence was spooky. But apparently it was only a coincidence since my cat and Alasdair’s both had extended illnesses.

  13. Expat Mum

    Aw. Sorry about that. My kids are desperate for a dog at the moment, and although I like pets, it’s the losses that I hate. However, I made a bit of a fool of myself the other day in the garden shop when I saw the exact replica of the dog I grew up with. (Half beagle, half greyhound.)
    I had to take her photo to send to my siblings and had half a mind to tell the young man that if he ever needed to offload her, to call me.
    And now it’s got me thinking…..

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