Cats, as well as music, play an important part in Julie’s story.
Someone Aunt Astrid knew bred Siamese, I learned. Peeko, as runt of the litter, was the last to find a home. It marked him out as unwanted and special. Hence a kind of love-hate relationship between the two of us came about, which laid down my lifelong affection for cats and devotion to cat ownership. I identified with him.11The Sibling
Leaving behind her secret outdoor life, Ivory entered the house through cat flaps in the outer and inner conservatory doors, making straight for the sitting room which we occupied, aiming for the kitchen, and by implication, the food bowl. She darted like a frightened rabbit, stopping suddenly in her tracks as though by the application of hydraulic braking, sensing the presence of someone new, someone who perhaps shouldn’t be there at all. Her wide gold eyes held mine. I smiled, made cooing noises, until the eyes widened even more, a look of comprehension, followed by fear, entering the expression. Then she was off.
‘Go on,’ Arthur cajoled, gently pushing Ivory towards me. I leaned forward. She sniffed my hand and let me rub her cheek, at the same time emitting loud, rusty purrs. Then she retreated to the sanctuary of Arthur’s leg.
Arthur tried again. The same thing happened, and again. Each time the purrs grew louder and we seemed to be making progress. I had to remember her roots in the wild, the way she was brought into her own adopted family, where she’d stayed ever since. And I was reminded of mine.
TomTom had come to me before Mum went into the rest home: she’d loved the black, almost Burmese-looking kitten, wrapping himself, as she said, around her heart. He was, I’m sure, the reincarnation of Peeko, both having manifested tumours over the left eye in their final weeks. It really had been time to initiate my search into the past, a transition from one era to another.
‘There’s a black cat following you!’ a tavern proprietor, who knew us, called out as we emerged from a cobbled side street…We turned and saw – yes – there was indeed a cat behind us. A TomTom lookalike. It meowed.27If Only
The English Channel provides a backdrop to much of Julie’s younger life.
She wanted to be there, waiting on the beach, towel in hand. She longed to enfold her child as she emerged from the greenish-blue water that foamed on the yellow sand. The little girl in the pale blue swimsuit and white floppy sunhat, windswept fringe of gold peeking through.
Then I thought of the portrait – of course! – it was the answer.
Me when I was two years of age, wearing one of Aunt May’s dresses, sewn by hand, in bright emerald cotton with small white dots. The child, and the dress, were visible from the waist up. Behind the subject, a coastal seascape near where I spent my early years.15Little Girl Lost
More photographs: Alice, Philip, Aunt Lorna and Uncle Henry, Mum and Dad, Brandy the cocker spaniel, me with ruffled curls. At the beach, in the lea of a windbreaker, which failed to keep the sand away; I could still taste the granules in our sandwiches. A secret hummed in the breeze, lay hidden behind sealed lips, revealed elsewhere.30Song Without Words
Good luck Julie Wetherby, this promises to be a compelling read.
Opened the packet containing the book and proceeded to read it from cover to cover.
Powerful new book on the experience of being adopted and searching for who you are.