The Cat Lady of
It was 1974 and I lived on
the third floor of Alexandra Mansions, West End
Green, West Hampstead, London. Property prices
had soared and so I could not afford to buy in
London NW3, Hampstead Village, my dream
My flat was bohemian.
Tongue and Groove wood pine wood walls was the
fashion and my flat was covered in ethnic
handcrafted trophies and textiles from travels in
Morocco, Brazil, Greece and Poland. The flat was
very mystical and colourful. The bedroom had been
designed by a Brazilian interior decorator from
Sao Paolo who had been one of my English language
students. It was turquoise and purple with
material attached to the walls and cascading from
the central Moroccan light from the draped
My French fiancÚ Philippe
Amos had moved in and painted Greek influenced
icons on the pine walls in the lounge and
decorated the antique wardrobe in the bedroom.
No room to swing a cat! But
that was the problem, there was no cat in my life!
How I yearned for an affectionate pussy!
One evening I wandered into
the local pub on West End Green next to the fire
station. I got into conversation with a young
girl and told her I longed for a pussy. A Mrs Hoe
was the immediate answer as she lived in
Catlandia around the corner.
Off we went round the bend
literally. We arrived at an ordinary looking
house in the dark. The girl had a key. I think
she lived on another floor in the same house. The
hall reeked of cat pee! Mrs Hoe lived in the
garden flat and was recovering from a hip
replacement operation. She was a nurse and had
been married to a Chinese doctor - hence her
We entered the pussy galore
large studio. Mrs Hoe was in bed with about six
cats nestling around her prone body. She didn't
seem surprised that a stranger had entered her
"I've brought you a
cat lover who wants a cat", announced the
girl. "No cats here", Mrs Hoe replied,
looking me up and down making up her mind if she
was going to accept me or not.
I wandered round stroking
pussies on the mantelpiece, on shelves, on top of
cupboards like an idiot saying Miao to each one.
I was in a Catlandia Wonderland. And I was Alice!
The room stank! I had to go
out into the patio. There in the darkness of a
moonless night, I saw a huge greenhouse with all
the windows covered with newspapers. The cats
housed inside had scratched the newspaper away to
look out perhaps at their indoor neighbours. I
strained to see inside in the dark of the night
and saw pairs of bright eyes looking back at me
caught by the light from the studio meters away.
When I came back into the
room having had a cat fix, I was smiling. Mrs Hoe
had brightened up.
"Well, you could
borrow a cat for a week and see if he likes you".
I hastily agreed. I was attracted to a tabby
called Stripy. I already knew I would change his
name to Sesame.
She gave me a bowl, a
collar and a carry cage and off I went around the
bend to my lair three flights up to heaven.
Sesame and I lived happily
for a good year. He would run up the bedroom
wardrobe and peek out at me in bed parting the
turquoise material to Miao at me from high up.
In 1975/76 I rented out my
flat to spend six months in America and six in
Mexico to a gay doctor ironically at the same
hospital as Mrs Hoe. It was a proviso that he
should look after Sesame but if he was ill or
there was any problem, then he should contact Mrs
Six months later when I was
in Mexico, I received a letter from Mrs Hoe
saying that Sesame had come back into the fold
and that she had given him away to the owner of a
house in Sussex with a big garden.
Bye Bye Sesame. I was
devastated and did not have another cat until
many years later when another tabby, Tiger, came
into my life.