‘But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?‘
From T.S. Eliot, The Naming of Cats
This week’s optional theme, ‘what you are good at’, is the sort of thing to send me into a flap and then a non-Euclidean spiral. I don’t think that I am good at anything. I asked my husband, who said some very nice things (evidently I know how to find places and am patient.) But it still feels uncomfortable to claim such qualities.
So I have decided to be random and claim to be good at naming cats. I base this on a statistical sample of two: Falance Boo and Loki-Pancks Gobbolino. Falance came to live with us when my daughter was six. Her suggestions, such as ‘Rainbow Princess’, were rejected on the entirely reasonable grounds that (a) he was a boy, (b) he would be taking up residence on a rather rough East London estate and (c) they were rubbish.
‘Falance’ comes from a lovely book called The Witch’s Boy. He is a magical cat who agrees to become a man. I like it because it’s unusual: we’ve never met another Falance-cat. A few people mis-pronounce it as Valance and I can only assume they think it is a tribute to the home of the Krays, Vallance Road, a few minutes walk from here. ‘Boo’ came from her desire for him to have a middle name: he used to jump out a lot. Falance is a black and white British shorthair – or moggy – and the most unfriendly, stand-offish cat in the world.
It was heart-breaking, watching my daughter’s attempts to cuddle him or get him to sit on her lap. Worrying that she would become permanently disfigured or infected by claw attack, I fell for the ‘Get a Burmese; they’re like dogs’ line. We did and he is.
‘Loki’ is of course the mischievous/evil Norse god, who ultimately brings about Ragnarok: the end of the world. The cat works tirelessly towards this, not least by regularly chewing through any power cable left outside of a locked cupboard.
‘Pancks’ comes from the character in Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit. The BBC series was on when the cat arrived, making the same weird sound in his throat that the brilliant Eddie Marsan did in his portrayal.
‘Gobbolino‘ is another witch’s cat: one who just wants to live with a family and be loved. For reasons still far from clear, Loki-Pancks has come to be known as ‘Piggle’…
‘But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover–
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.’