Sunday, 6 December 2015

Bob and the Christmas Tree

If you're stumped for a present this Christmas I suggest you buy this book; there will be few more heartwarming...

And here is an excerpt from it, how Bob, the handsome ginger cat who decided to adopt James, the lost and struggling human, takes to Christmas...and Christmas trees. James has never liked Christmas all that much. To him, it's just a time of year, a cold, mad time of year, to survive. Bob makes him see it differently. Isn't it amazing the difference that love can make? much as I hate to admit it, Christmas is not about the presents. It's about the love.

To judge by his behaviour, not just today but throughout the past week or so, Bob was a big fan of the festive season too. It was the third Christmas I'd spent with him and I'd never see him more excited.

He had always been fascinated by Christmas trees. Our first one had been a tiny artificial tree that you connected to a USB point on a computer. He loved the twinkling lights and would stare at it endlessly, as if mesmerised. For the past couple of years, we'd had a slightly bigger tree. It was nothing special, just a cheap, black artificial one that I'd picked up in a local supermarket. It was about three and a half feet high and sat on top of an old wooden cocktail cabinet that I'd found in a second-hand shop years ago.

The tree may have been pretty basic compared to some of the dazzling ones we'd seen displayed around London in the past weeks, but Bob was absolutely obsessed with it nevertheless. Belle would always big me to put it up at the earliest possible opportunity in December. The moment it came out of its box Bob became a bundle of hyperactive energy. He loved watching it being assembled and decorated and was very particular about how this was done. Each year, when I was started dressing it up, he would stand next to me supervising. Some decorations would get his seal of approval, others would not. An angel at the top of the tree, for instance, was a non-starter. The previous year, I'd found a silver fairy in a charity shop that Belle had rather liked but the moment I placed it at the top of the tree Bob started reaching up as if to dislodge it. He had carried on until I took it down. He preferred a simple gold star. So that's what we had again this year.

Bob also liked baubles on the branches of the tree, rather than ribbons. They couldn't be any old baubles, of course. They had to be shiny, gold or red preferably. He liked fairy lights, but they had to be hung correctly so that they were concentrated at the front of the tree where he could see them.

Every now and again, I would try to put something new up, such as a chocolate ornament or a pine cone. Almost immediately, he would reach up with his paw, or failing that, jump on his hind legs to flick at it or remove it. Belle had tried to put some home-made ribbons up this year but Bob had grabbed at them with his paw and dragged them off, almost contemptuously. It was as if he was saying, How dare you put that rubbish on my Christmas tree. If Bob wasn't happy sometimes he would simply pull the tree over, sending everything crashing to the floor.

As if this wasn't bizarre enough, he was also really particular about the positioning of the tree. He seemed to like it so that the branches were all separated so that he could see inside it. I had a theory about this. In the run up to the big day, we would start placing small presents under the tree. Bob loved playing with them, sometimes even nudging them off the cabinet so that they fell on to the floor where he ripped them open. In anticipation of this, I actually put up a few empty boxes, simply so he could go through this ritual. My theory was that he hated the idea of not being able to see what presents were lurking at the base of the tree, which was why he would try to move the branches apart if he felt they were clumped together, obstructing his view. Once the tree was in the right place and correctly decorated Bob would guard it as if it was the most important thing in the entire world. Woe betide anyone who tried to touch or move the tree. If you did he would let out a deep snarl and then reposition it, which was quite something to behold. He would grab a branch with his mouth, then rotate it through a few degrees so that it was aligned at the precise angle he wanted.

This protectiveness could backfire on him at times. He would regularly squeeze himself under the tree, arching his body around its base so as to get a good look around its perimeter. On a few occasions he got himself wedged under the tree so that, when he lifted his back, he tipped it over. It was the same when he pulled it down; it was hilarious to watch. The entire edifice would topple over, sending Bob flying through the air and baubles and other bits and pieces tumbling across the living-room. Bob would then chase the loose baubles around, nudging them in a slightly demented way. Of course it was a pain reconstructing the tree so that it was in the perfect position again, but it always made me laugh. That was always an achievement at this time of the year and especially this year.

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