She was just a cat, and maybe not even have been a queen, but for the sake of brevity I’ll call this cat a ‘she’. In any case, I’m not sure a tom would keep himself quite this clean, even if he were semi-feral as this one is.
I came across her every morning. and most evenings. as we went on our walks around the Spanish port of Moraira, and she soon became used to my intrusive lens and would tolerate rather than welcome me as I stopped to admire her. In turn, the restaurant owners tolerated her presence, turning a blind eye as she dozed gently in the sunshine on their windowsill. Sometimes she would crouch by the doorway to the kitchens , but she knew the rules and stuck to them, as if she knew she might lose her prime sun-lounger position if she stepped across the threshold.
During the mid afternoon, when locals and holidaymakers alike lazed in gentle winter sunshine at the tables, finishing meals, enjoying brandy and coffee, the cat was in her element. She’d stalk gracefully from table to table, sitting daintily but not too intrusively beside the clients, waiting for titbits. Not for her the beseeching or belligerent ‘miaow’ – her vocal chords must have been ruined by years of caterwauling – she simply fixed the diners with a steady impenetrable gaze until at last they succumbed.
On the odd occasion that she’d permit my tentative stroking, she would utter this cracked little sound that seemed almost torn from her throat, and if I approached I had to do it carefully so as not to startle her, for she was pitiably deaf. She’d seen her best years, and what years they must have been, judging from her scars and missing ear-tip. Now all she wanted now was a gentle, warm, leisurely retirement.
One day, in an uncharacteristic display of vitality, I saw her leap from the windowsill as we approached, before scampering off in the opposite direction towards a young spanish woman who was approaching the restaurant, carrying a rucksack. The cat rubbed against the girl’s legs affectionately, almost tripping her up until she stopped and crouched down by a palm tree. Opening her rucksack, she pulled out a water bottle, and several plastic containers. This was not the casual throw-away meal that only the luckiest of feral cats might get their teeth into. This was a full restaurant service, as befitted a cat of her standing. Dishes, littered with remnants of a previous meal were carefully wiped out with a damp cloth before they were replenished with dried food, a pile of titbits and fresh water. It was good to see someone looking out for her.
We saw her almost every day for three months, and when I took my last photograph of her the day before we returned to England, I hoped that she might still be there when we return next year… still lazing, still surviving.