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Archive for the 'McLeish' Category

My epiphany

Sometimes I could take hatchet to myself

May 1st, 2016


When my brother died unexpectedly from a stroke, I was living in a cottage on a farm in the Trossachs. It was famous for several things in the neighborhood and for one thing in the wider world, which was that a nineteenth-century classic novel had been written there in an ancient barn. I don’t believe that myth for a moment, but what I do believe, because I saw them, was the thick ropes of ancient spiders’ webs which festooned the inside of the barn. The farm was locally famous for the farmer’s wife: for her beauty, for riding around the lanes on her stallion, for her abduction from boarding school at the age of fourteen, and for her scandalous adultery. She bred rare and heritage sheep and goats and used to sing arias to their offspring at seven o’clock in the morning right outside my windows, where the nursery pen was. She had a beautiful voice.

She was half middle-class farmer’s wife and half crazy gypsy, with a pack of dogs as her familiars. At the time I lived there, she had eight sheepdogs, who followed her everywhere. (The last I heard, she had twenty-three, which doesn’t surprise me one bit.) At that time only two of the eight were “rescue” dogs; she hadn’t become as famous (or notorious) as she is now. One of these couldn’t inhibit his barking due to some trauma in his previous existence. She warned me (after I moved in) not to worry if I heard the dogs barking in the middle of the night, that the one with no inhibitions set the others off, and as she suffered from insomnia, she used to walk about the farm in the middle of the night. The other rescue dog had an even nastier habit. He liked to swing on the horses’ tails, and this idiotic woman used to stand and watch him doing it, driving her favorite horse demented, and complain all the while that he was pulling the hair out in clumps and the poor horse hated it. “Why don’t you stop him then?” I asked. “Oh, I couldn’t do that,” she replied. “He’s had too much telling off in his life.”

kittenb&wIn the cottage next door to me lived a woman whom I always thought of as Catwoman. She had a spooky affinity with cats and even looked as if she were turning into one, with thick hair like fur on her legs and torso. She lived with the farmer’s wife’s son, who was almost twenty years younger than she was. (I haven’t got room to unfold that tale, dramatic and unbelievable as it was.) One day several months before my epiphany, Catwoman told me she had discovered that the feral cat who lived in one of the newer barns had had more kittens. Unfortunately, she couldn’t take any more in herself, because her tiny two-room cottage was already heaving with two dogs and three cats, and Bunny (the boyfriend). So I agreed that I would take the kittens, as long as she and Bunny caught them.

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Posted by: The Editors
Category: All Animal Issue, McLeish | Link to this Entry

Author profile

December 1st, 2002

Rosemary McLeish was born in Glasgow in 1945, moved to Yorkshire as a child, lived in London from the ages of eighteen to forty, and moved back to Glasgow in 1985 and started writing and painting. She has an academic husband and two cats. Most of her immediate family emigrated to Canada in 1969 so she visits the Pacific Northwest frequently. Her Black Lamb column is called Glasgow Kiss.

Posted by: The Editors
Category: McLeish | Link to this Entry


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