November 8th is an important date in Helmickton: the anniversary of the fateful night when Hubcap brought home a little, lost, hungry kitten he’d found crying pitifully in the garden of the empty house next door. That was back in 2011; and six years later, Henry Wowler has grown into a large and extremely solid (7.2 kg) citizen of local cat-world - not to mention the apple of his besotted Mummy-cat’s eye.
We’ve had our ups and downs together, like all the worry when, at the age of two, he was diagnosed with a Grade 2 heart murmur, then the subsequent relief when it cleared up all by itself, without (thank goodness) any of the stressful and costly input from a feline cardiologist as recommended by the vet.
From tiny bat-eared foundling in 2011...
...to fat-cat monster in 2017!
I certainly never expected that the youth who used to sigh and moan about being stroked would grow into a fondle-junkie who’ll wriggle about on his back, waving his paws and purring hysterically while I rub his dewlap (or sporran, as Daddy-cat calls it) and bury my face in his tum-fur. (Indeed, I never expected to take such a liberty with any cat without sustaining severe facial lacerations, but Mr Wowler seems to love it - see below left). Nor, given his ferocious reaction to all other cats except Ginger next-door-but-two, did I expect he would make a little friend; but amazingly, he seems quite taken with our new young neighbour Jake (below right) – at worst, mildly impatient with his frequent presence around the house and garden, and at best, sociable and playful. Maybe being ginger around here is the cat equivalent of freemasonry, or maybe they’re all part of the same extended, incestuous feline family – I don’t know, but it makes a nice change to see him having fun with another cat instead of trying to chase it away or kill it. And it just goes to show – even after six years of living together, our cat-son is still capable of surprising us!
Yesterday was an excellent day for Herstory, spent introducing a lovely group of military history enthusiasts from Buckinghamshire to the Wars of the Roses. We began with a walk around Sandal Castle; unfortunately the inner bailey is still inaccessible due to unsafe stairways, and due to the consequent lack of maintenance, the monument is now heavily overgrown with weeds and bushes and looks very unsightly.
Nonetheless, the group had lots of questions about the site, Richard of York and the battle of Wakefield,
The waning sun over Cock Beck valley - it's always a pleasure to see the battlefield in different seasons and different times of day
Hubcap regales our visitors with the story of Towton's terrible rout
(their main periods of interest are the Napoleonic wars and World Wars One and two, so this was largely new to them), and at least they were able to round the limited visit off with lunch at the splendid new café recently opened in the former visitor centre – it serves a good range of hot and cold dishes as well as snacks, and we’re resolved to treat ourselves to a meal there during our winter holiday.
Afterwards we went on to the Crooked Billet, where Hubcap performed ‘Arming the Archer’ for them in the TBS portacabin; then after a brief look around Lead chapel, we headed into Towton to walk the full Battlefield Trail. We were blessed with a beautiful wintry afternoon for it – bracing, but not as raw and windy as we’d expected, see above left – and we really enjoyed conducting such a friendly, interested party around our beloved battlefield. I was also delighted to sell them 28 books (my largest single day’s sale for a long time!), and to receive not only a generous guiding fee but a generous £30 tip – and perhaps sweetest of all, the compliment that of the numerous battlefield tours they’ve done, they thought Hubcap and I were the best guides they’d ever had. It gave us a lovely warm glow of pride and satisfaction, so we went off to celebrate with a slap-up dinner back at the Billet: Chicken Kiev, roast cherry tomatoes, potatoes, spinach and basil for me, and shin beef with mash and red cabbage for Mick – both utterly scrumptious, and I was glad we’d had a full day of hiking out in the cold to justify eating our massive heaping platefuls!