Californian Cats

Went into Dublin today for an appointment and then went to visit my pal Philip Casey for a lovely chat and some nice cups of tea. It was warm and sometimes sunny outside. Yippee! It felt like summer. Bought myself some Neroli aromatherapy oil. It smells like orange blossoms. When I was based in California I lived for a while in a house with an orange tree in the back garden. ‘Home’ in California was a pretty town called Palo Alto, which is south of San Francisco. There was a Vietnamese restaurant in nearby Menlo Park which I adored. The food there was gorgeous, and inexpensive. I have never found another Vietnamese restaurant to match its simple excellence. A small part of ‘Ordinary Miracles’ is set in California. And I wrote the following talk for Irish radio about Palo Alto’s cats:

California Cats

I once lived in Palo Alto near San Francisco. The occasional earthquakes gave life an edge and I joked that the town was the frozen yogurt capital of America. There were certainly plenty of yuppies. There were also loads of cats. Cute, cuddly confident cats that darted out and rubbed themselves against your legs. Cats who had never known rejection.

Their miaows were often sweet and weird…almost as though they were trying to talk. Sometimes they prostrated themselves coquettishly on the sidewalk, requiring to be petted. They flirted and frolicked. Us humans sometimes envied them. If only we too could march up to strangers and demand back rubs.

You can tell a lot about a town from its cats…and its people are even more revealing. Palo Alto’s rugged individualism meant that some of its human inhabitants had an affection deficit and popular reading included books like ‘Smart Women Foolish Choices’. If they’d offered each other a fraction of the uncomplicated warmth they lavished on their feline friends the place would have been awash with weddings and christenings and street parties.

Instead it was the Palo Alto cats who were completely unencumbered by the fear of ‘Loving Too Much’…there was a book about that too. Strolling past blossoms and palm trees I knew that at any moment one of them might demand caresses, and I would gladly give them. For one cannot feel far from home when a cat is purring beside you. in a small, sleek, and surprisingly furry town on the Western frontier.

Lots of love,


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