People object to crossing breeds, but that particular cross is handsome and without the viciousness of some chows. Above all, it can be trained. When everyone sat down to eat, the dog went quietly to lie down in the corner. There was not a sound. It did not look appealingly from one to the other for food. No wimpering. No movement. We were able to eat our meal in comfort and calm. His behaviour was a revelation. After the meal we all fed the dog, finding tit-bits, stroking, patting and encouraging, yet during the meal there was peace.

The next day we refused to allow the dog to go. My father had to meet his friend and tell him that the dog was in custody and could not be released. What arrangements were made I never knew. Certainly the man never got his dog. Jock stayed with the family until he died of old age, by which time we were almost grown up.

Our cats were another story and came later. One day my father arrived with two cats in baskets. One, Tigger, was a handsome ginger and the other, Soo, a smooth-haired, black female. They had come from Peter Warlock the composer. To us Peter Warlock, with his pointed beard and buccaneering look, was a cult figure, always in the Radio Times. He was the musician Philip Heseltine who suddenly changed his personality, grew a beard and wrote different music. His house was always full of cats and my father had apparently offered to look after two of them. It was only later that I learnt that Peter Warlock had died and much later that it was probably by suicide. In Philip Gray's biography he talks of Peter Warlock putting a saucer of milk out for his kitten the night before he died. Soo may have been that kitten for she was tiny when she came. Strange to remember this in Peter Warlock's centenary year.

The cats could not have been more different in nature: Tigger out marauding, while Soo was almost always at home, not unlike Peter Warlock's two different personalities. Sometime after she arrived Soo produced a nest of kittens which she kept moving until we learnt not to worry her. This was the first of many litters so presumably there are by now many descendants of Peter Warlock's cats in Muswell Hill.


Peter Warlock

 

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