TUVOK, SAREK and KHAN

Mr Tuvok

As we understand it, Tuvok must have first seen the light of day in 1996, and turned up at Cat Call, run by the estimable Julie Child, in 1997, the year that Sybilla and I were married and purchased our first house together. He was one of two cats along with Neelix, a huge tabby ball of fur and fire, that we took home. Neelix made the young Tuvok’s life a misery for the two weeks or so that we could bear it – they did NOT get on – until Neelix was thankfully rehomed on a big farm outside the town and Tuvok became ‘the one’, putting on weight, fur and attitude at an alarming rate to become one of the most handsome cats we’d ever come across. He loved the house and the choice of beds and exploited them fully.

And then … a phone call from Cat Call and a hasty ‘yes’ over the phone, and in comes he, bold Mr Sarek, stricken with the kittenish squits but immensely lovable. Will Tuvok mistake him for a snack? Tuvok had already proved his martial prowess – the first thing he ever killed was a magpie, even getting it through the catflap and upstairs before dispatching the poor bird. Not to mention the mice. No need to worry as it turned out – Tuvok proved his maturity and sweet nature (unless you’re a mouse) by becoming the small and ginger Sarek’s ‘uncle’, shepherding him around the shared garden and keeping him from harm, teaching him all the things a young cat needs to know and shielding him from the attentions of the legendary and fearsome ‘Burmese’ Earl, Tuvok’s sensei in the fine art of cat-fu, most lethal and graceful of the martial arts.

Other highlights of our time at Cambridge Road include Tuvok’s tendency to escape from the enclosed area to the leafy alley at the side, then squeak miserably until someone came for him, and the beginning of his unique brand of bed rotation from room to room of the four-bedroomed house, giving each bed a week or so before changing to another. Oh, and the night he walked past a dinner table full of guests with a live mouse in his mouth – only the tail visible, curling and uncurling …

And so to Adelaide Road and 90′ of garden, which Tuvok (Bruce Wayne) and Sarek (Dick Grayson) exploited fully. Tuvok loved the garden, but always loved it more if we went out with him. There were fights (two big tabbies down the way), nicknames (Smoky and Tiger from Harold next door), foxes under the shed (Sarek played with the cubs while Tuvok and the vixen looked on) and pizza bloodbaths (we were eating the pizza, in came Tuvok with a freshly torn ear courtesy of the tabbies and shook his head vigorously – result, extra sauce). When we had the loft converted, first up the ladder was Tuvok to explore the new area, only to decide that we’d done it so he could take starlings up there to eat and promptly take over the ‘far from the madding crowd’ old armchair – the chair is still here, and it misses him. With an extra floor for chasing, the house was seldom free from yelps and yowls as the two of them shot up and down. Less beds to rotate on but what a garden …

New house, new games at Mount Pleasant Road. Four bedrooms (rotate, rotate) and a courtyard garden where Tuvok straightway made his presence felt with Stig, Jumble et al in a tight knit community of local cats. Like all cats Tuvok loved the sun, the sheds, the alley (with echoes of Six-Dinner Sid when he saw a sucker) and the stairs (all four flights).

It was here that the final drama unfolded … Tuvok disappeared in February 2005, an event so out of character that we were nonplussed. We never thought him dead but could not see any reason for his leaving. When we finally got the call from the Celia Hammond Trust (thanks again) and learned where he was found (Lamberhurst) there was only one thing that could have happened – foul play. Tuvok would not have wandered there himself – he was Hastings born and bred, so I hope we never meet the people who must have taken him for his beautiful looks, then kicked him out when he got sick … you have to live with yourselves, just like the farmers whose house he finally ended up at too weak to fend for himself, who by all accounts left him unfed and going downhill fast, finally calling the CHT to ‘put him out of his misery’ … thanks a lot, folks. I’ve never met a farmer I liked, and there’s the proof I’ve been right all along.

And so he came back, weak but willing, and then there were three. Khan for all his awesome power was always deferential to Tuvok and both Khan and Sarek elevated him to the position of a Brando-esque Godfather – which I think he rather enjoyed. Even though his health was up and down like a yo-yo (heart problems, thyroid cancer et al) he was still a great cat and still loved the sun and the beds and the garden and us, I think. When Sybilla’s father came to stay Tuvok made a beeline for him, sensing a kindred spirit, and had to be fended off with the Daily Mail. His regular vet Saskia and his new vet Warwick were always, I think, a little astounded by his fighting spirit and his wonderful, grumpy acceptance of indignity for the sake of health.

He’s gone, and the house seems a bit empty, but in no way will he ever be forgotten. Sleep well, buddy.

Mr Sarek

Mr Sarek, seen above with his blackest best buddy Mr Khan in the blue room at 16 Mount Pleasant Road (l) and on the old rubbery chair with his sensei, Mr Tuvok, at Adelaide Road … [all pictures by Hannah Walker]

Just after Sybilla and I were married, we had just one cat – the estimable Mr Tuvok – and although we didn’t realise it so strongly at the time, compared to later years, one cat is NOT ENOUGH. Tuvok needed a buddy, a confidante, someone to play chasums and biteums with. And so … the Force was called upon, and sure enough the telephone rang – it was Julie from CatCall – and a cat basket duly (Julie?) arrived, with the smallest, sweetest and gingerest kitten within – Mr Sarek!

Mr Sarek’s good-naturedness improved the lives of every human and every cat that he came into contact with – even, I suspect, the ‘Kray Twins’ Jumble and Stig next door at Mount Pleasant Road. He was always ready for a stroke, for a tickled belly, for a chase and for a heaped bowlful of something tasty.

Very few things ruffled his fur – he would give us the cold shoulder when we’d been on holiday, but never for more than an evening or so; he was never the biggest fan of the old flea treatment to the back of the neck, so much so that he developed an almost telepathic awareness of our intentions, at which point you wouldn’t see him for dust; he loved a lap but wasn’t always in the mood for a carry up or down stairs – out would go his four limbs in all directions, and his small, sharp claws would carve the word ‘STAHP!’ in one’s abdomen, albeit gently.

His other superpowers included climbing straight up any fence or wall at speed, a purr powerful enough to wake anyone from a deep sleep and propel them to the cat food cupboard, and a perfect impersonation of a parrot on Mrs Walker’s shoulder, usually just in time to obscure the most vital moments at the end of the film.

One memorable Spring and Summer in Adelaide Road, a vixen made her lair under our shed at the end of the long garden (we miss that garden) and raised four cubs. We saw her come and go, and wondered which of the conflicting stories on the internet was true regarding foxes and cats co-existing. However, one magical morning our fears were allayed in a wonderful fashion when we saw, bold as brass, the vixen and Mr Tuvok (Sarek’s best friend and sensei) watching with interest as the four cubs and Sarek (four reds and one ginger) played happily in the garden, running, jumping and standing still in a harmonious arrangement that humans seem unable to match even with their own species.

In the grand tradition of Gillibrand, Ginger Billy and the lost kitten of Dalberg Road, Sarek was a true ginger, and proud of it, and we are poorer for his passing – he and Tuvok have both gone on to better places and brighter days, where the woods are endless and the mice just that little bit slower …

Mr Khan

Look at that handsome poonum. This big, bold, black boy came to us from CatCall in 2005 under the nom-de-plume of ‘Tinkerbell’, having been rescued after his owner could not look after him. He was no ‘Tinkerbell’. Amidst Julie’s protestations about his sweet and gentle nature and eminent suitability, he came home with us to Mount Pleasant Road during the period when Tuvok went missing.

He and Sarek became fast friends immediately, and shared many a warm and sunlit bed together, or explored the surrounding gardens as Hastings’ best-looking tag team. When poor old Tuvok, careworn and mistreated, returned, the triumvirate was complete, and despite his enormous size and power, he deferred to Tuvok, understanding that Tuvok was at less than 100% – Tuvok became the elderly Don Corleone to Khan’s Sonny.

Three became two with Tuvok’s passing, and something was missing. Enter Ezri the she-kitten, and the most marvellous relationship sprang up between them, with the boys as doting uncles to the small-but-lethal girl, and with Khan embracing the role of sensei to Ezri in the garden dojo, teaching her all she needed to know in the fine art of Cat-Fu, skills she uses even now.

And on they went, in sun and snow, rain and wild wind, down happy years and snug nights. Sarek was called to join the divine army of ex-Walker cats last year, and after a suitable hiatus, in came Tiberius, small (briefly) then huge, part friend and part nemesis to the old fellow, Khan, who wrassled as best he could …

A dog got into the garden. Ezri and Ty were cautious enough to make themselves scarce, but the garden was Khan’s and like the gunslinger he always was, he would not back down, so he stepped outside like Gary Cooper in ‘High Noon’. A massive battle ensued, with Sybilla trying to get between them (and eventually succeeding, at great personal cost) and brave Khan leaving his last remaining canine in the filthy beast’s flesh, or so we hope. From this trial, Khan never fully recovered, but continued to do his best despite his failing health and advancing age. He was a fighter to the end, gumming nurses and vets alike and never losing that steely glare that said, ‘One step nearer and you’ll be sorry …’

He’s gone now, and we shall not see his like again. Ty and Ezri are a little subdued, as are we, but Tuvok and Sarek will be glad that the old team is back together …

Vive le Khan!