Our house is a very, very, very fine house
With two cats in the yard
Life used to be so hard
Now everything is easy
‘Cause of you…

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Our House

Si tu n’aimes pas faire l’amour qu’avec un seul home, alors, c’est que tu n’aimes pas faire l’amour.

Margueritte Duras, Les petits chevaux de Tarquinia

Catalogic 6 – read the other 5!

There you go, at a speed of 130 km/hour through the deep dark night, leaving behind your fatherland for ever. This time the two cats, Sebastian and Abe, did not have a visa or a passport – or any document establishing their identity or good health.

When we brought in Matz from Bretagne, years and years ago, he had been vetted by the vet and his papers were in perfect order. No fear of being held up at the border which, at that time, was not as porous as it is now since we have the European Community.

What, then, is a porous or for that matter an open border? The French are still calling Abe’s and Sebastian’s country of destination a Narco-État – Holland, a Drug State in which, so they believe, everybody is rolling around in hash and coke and heroine all the time. That there are many more people dying from drug abuse in France than in The Netherlands they tend to forget, also the notion that there might be a causal connection between their own rough attitude towards drugs and these deaths…

Now, of course, I was taking Abe out of the country. So if he were a threat to France, drug wise or ISIS wise, I would be doing them a favour. So I decided not to go to the vet this time. The migratory problem would not be so much French as Dutch: would Sebastian and Abe be able to integrate in a Dutch home, and in a country where lately rather unpleasant politicians are talking about “closing our borders for those foreigners” and about “keeping high our Dutch values and our Dutch Identity”?

As I do not have the foggiest as to what this Dutch identity might be, and as the main problem will be integration into the society of our own cats – what the heck! Integration by the way would be good enough, assimilation is not required.



Sarah and Soof

There are only two cats left out of the stable of animals that inhabited our home, the rest of the ménage has died in the last few years, one of the reasons why I argued for the arrival of these two fresh animals. Red Soof is so old, that she does not really care anymore. Sarah is also old and has glaucoma which prevents her from even recognizing me and the wife, let alone the newcomers.

Not to forget the fact that France is far less animal friendly than The Netherlands and England are. In France people think of an animal first of all from a food-perspective. For the Dutch, animals are primarily mates. Rudy Kousbroek, a keen observer of the cat race, once wrote a little book in which he explained that for him the whole of mammal species was divided in two: those animals that possess the caressability factor and those who do not.

Now inside the subspecies of those caressable, the cat surely occupies poll position. This is why many of us cannot do without cats and perhaps also why many cats cannot do without us humans – after all those who caress.

Once we arrived in Haarlem – Sebastian and me that is – the very moment the two Frenchies came together they teamed up again. Abe had been here already for almost four weeks. Bien enchantés de se rétrouver ensemble… From then on Sebastian took the lead as he had done in La Roche. He seemed to stay lean from pure inquisitive exhaustion. Abe on the other hand could still go wild, now and then that is, but had decided that living in my wife’s lap was the reason why he had been brought into this world.




Up till now – that is: two days before I shall leave Haarlem again for another half year in ma Douce France – Sebastian is still as crazy as before.




Trying to keep him out of the study and the bed room has become a martial art in itself; you cough once and he has slipped in. He is still eating my fingers when I do not instantly cuddle him, even though I seem to have been doing nothing else all these months.

Abe on the other hand becomes more and more a little Dumbo. Food has primacy in his universe. When the other three have finished with their breakfast he feigns to follow them into the house, then sneaks back into the kitchen and finishes off whatever is left in the dishes.

The moment my wife is cooking he will come into the shrine of the kitchen and place himself elegantly so as not to miss a thing.


BRAM 001


They have finally arrived in the Promised Land. The only thing which is missing in this Utopia is language. There is a little poem by the Dutch cat lover Frans Pointl which ends like this:

…if they looked at me so set
I do presume how well they knew –
that gaze of helplessness
because they do not grasp
man’s speech.

In my younger days I wrote a little piece on Animal Talk which ended like this:

At home my wife and I talk to our cats in their language – at least the language of which we presume it is theirs, so full of arbitrary and high-handed accents and all those most dubious terms. The seldom guest in our home thinks we are crazy. The cats by the way do the same, because unknowingly we speak their language complétely false. This however they do not tell us.

The torment of the mystery of cats – to be sure that they can talk, however still to be confronted with their incessant silence. Now and then I know the moment has come. An answer will be given, at last their meowing will transit into understandable talk! Alas.

Once their time had come to be castrated, Sebastian and Abe had to be moved into their respective Portable Homes again. They were not averse, as if they had undergone the metamorphosis of sedentary into globe trotting animals.

Once at the vet, though, there came our surprise. Both Abe and Sebastian turned out to be female. A case of Trans gendering? Should I rewrite my whole series of Catalogics? Do these two need a new name?

I’ll tell you: Being a cat lover is both a blessing and a burden.

Sierksma, Haarlem 30.3.2017


Author: rjsiersk

Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats. The reader, interested in my writings on aesthetics, literature, and sociology, may want to open, where various pieces are published.

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