9th August HAPPY EIGHTH BIRTHDAY, HENRY WOWLER!
Yes: eight years ago, give or take a day, (we don’t know his exact birth-date), Henry Wowler arrived into the world – and, three months later, into our lives, little, lost and crying for his mum. Within a week, the feather-light waif had filled out into the fastest-growing, grumpiest kitten I’d ever met. After one prolonged, deafening burst of relief on the night Hubcap rescued him, we barely heard another purr for the next eighteen months. He just threw himself, with grim determination and tireless energy, into hunting and martial arts training; and though he insisted on plenty of lap-time, moaned and complained if he was touched (most disheartening for a fond foster-mum).
So I’m pleased to report that middle-age has mellowed him (you can see him on his seat here, enjoying the garden). As a (very) solid citizen in his prime, the Wow will happily summon me from whatever else I’m doing to come and administer fondles. He likes being groomed, and especially loves a belly-rub to send him to sleep in the morning; unlike other cats of my acquaintance, Henry never savages my hand when I do this, and even (ultimate cat-parent indulgence!) lets me bury my face in his tum without fear.
It’s great that he’s now so contented – he seldom swears at us these days - although Wowler-world is not without its dramas. His yowling arguments with the neighbours often end violently; I don’t know if Henry wins, but he often comes home with scratches on his nose, scabs in his fur or, on one recent memorable occasion, a neatly-pierced ear we could see daylight through.
And he still likes the thrill of the chase; I’m always braced for the results, intact or fragmentary, to be strewn round the kitchen, or the more lasting nuisance when he lets a live rodent escape behind the units. But despite these unsavoury habits, I wouldn’t be without him!
Yes, Happy Birthday, Henry, and may you have many more of them. And I’ll close this little tribute with some good news: my cousin Donnas is making good progress with the illustrations for my forthcoming children’s book, Henry Wowler and the Mirror-cat; the illustration below left shows him sitting in front of the mirror which features in Chapter 3, Cat on the Wall. I’m delighted to say the first chapter has been well-received by trial readers - so I’d love to mark his ninth birthday by having the book ready for publication! Watch this space for details.
Being aficionados of good costume drama, Hubcap and I have keenly followed the BBC’s long-running Poldark series, the last-ever episode of which was aired last night. Five years ago, I began to watch it with great curiosity, having missed out on the ‘Poldark Phenomenon’ of the 1970’s when the original series became cult viewing; although my parents were fans, and I vividly remember my school friends talking about it, lending the books around, and having crushes on its star Robin Ellis, I never got into it myself.
Watching the first episode to see what all the fuss had been about, I was instantly hooked (which may have had something to do with Aidan Turner playing Captain Ross Poldark!).
It helped that, as an adult, I have a much greater understanding of the historical background to the story - American War of Independence, French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars – than I did as a young teen, and, as a former re-enactor, could really appreciate the superb authentic sets and costume. In fact I enjoyed the first series so much that I asked for the full set of novels for Christmas – and was astounded to discover that there are twelve in all, published by Winston Graham between 1945 and 2002.
I was delighted that the TV series adhered pretty faithfully to Graham’s main storylines, and immediately understood why the books became so popular – interesting, complex characters, exciting plots, tangled romance, and a lovely, clear, unpretentious style. Eager to see how the stories I’d now read would be realised on TV, I was also extremely curious to know how it would all end; given that the written saga spans nearly 40 years, the later volumes are more concerned with the doings of the adult Poldark offspring, because Ross and Demelza are knocking on a bit by 1820, when the final instalment, Bella Poldark, is set (it appeared in print the year before the author’s death).
We duly sat glued to the screen when the fifth and final series began, after the fourth ended on a note of high tragedy and drama. For me, this marked a turning point in the saga - I didn’t enjoy the subsequent novels quite so much, even though they’re just as well-written and gripping; the TV version, which departs in many ways from Graham’s story, I liked a lot less. Just as well-cast, performed and produced, the plot seemed thin and implausible compared to the original, and the conclusion rather rushed, (yes, I did stay with it to the end to see what happened).
People (like Hubcap) who haven’t read the books might accept this final series more at face value – he thought it was OK, if far from the best. And to people who haven’t either seen or read Poldark, my advice is: do both! Whether or not I already knew the story made no difference to my enjoyment of Series 1 – 4; the stars, scenery, sets and costumes are all so gorgeous to look at that the programmes stand as creative achievements in their own right, and well worth watching just as all the books are well worth reading. So if you’re not already immersed in the latest Poldark Phenomenon, all I can say is, ‘get in there – it’s great!’