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


EXODUS – Catalogic 5

Wisely god buries in night and darkness
what will be the result of the days to come,
and he laughs if men are more afraid
than they need be…

Horace, Odes III 29


So there it is : I’ve got to organize a second raid on the cats’ barricade, this time it will be more complex than the first one. I have to evict Sebastian and Abe from all places where they can hide and perhaps, by doing so, make it more attractive for them to return my love and make friends with me.
So this is what I plan to do: Saw wood into the right shapes and sizes so I can plank up the support beam of my court yard roof – the préau – this in such a manner that just one opening is left for them to go in and out of their alcove. A practical problem will be to keep open some little slits through which I will be able to kill the next invasion of those wood eating insects in the summer… Then, once again, I need to find the right place in the yard to lure them away with food, this time leaving me time to perform my trick of tricks.
After they have got accustomed to their new feeding and watering spot, I shall use my last prepared plank which I have equipped with a series of nails half way in and made to fit onto that last opening. On D-Day I shall put out the ladder underneath the beam, hoping the kittens are not scared by it and refuse to go to the afore mentioned feeding spot, deciding to remain hidden inside their beam.
There will of course be cruelty. For at least three days I won’t feed them, just give them water and a little milk as if they were my little prisoners. There is the risk that they will then leave me, give up their nice red chair and that beam – as well as me, their caretaker. There is also the danger that they might meet a farmer with a gun who does not love cats… But if they just stay and get really hungry, after these few days I shall put the food out and quietly wait inside the door opening of my house till the moment they choose to be real hungry.
As expected I only manage to remain cat-cruel for just one day. So already the second night I put out the food and the kittens fall for it. I keep silently waiting, then make a run for it towards the ladder under the préau where I grab the ready hammer and the prepared plank, then shoot up the ladder and bang the opening close.
After I have performed this trick I find that even in this rather threatening situation the two kittens have run back up their climbing beam and are sitting only a meter and a half away from where I had been hammering. Saved by the bell!

As the character of each cat is unique and mostly inherited from the father, and as one almost never knows a cat’s father, even for a wise catalogician like me these young ones are imponderable. I had already decided that once my wife has come over with the brother in law, she would have to do the catching and the caging as I did not expect much closer contact between me and my little friends.
But did Abe turn out to be a cozy creature! Within two days after the successful closure of their beam house he was already purring on my belly while I was having my siesta in the court yard. Sebastian was a more difficult customer, only a week before my guests arrived did he let himself be stroked for the first time, this distantly and more than two weeks after Abe let it be. So, what a difference in character!
Then again, with human loved one you also fall first for what they look like, their eyes and bodily shapes, only then character comes into play. So with cat lovers. Abe is more subdued, although when incited by Sebastian he may run amok. Sebastian, on the other hand, is always high; he seems to be a vanguard cat, whereas Abe just the agreeing type, saying to himself: “All right, let’s go wild for a while, if that’s what Sebastian wants…”
Phrased differently: Sebastian is permanently on cocaine, eyes wild, and body in an alert stance, looking for trouble or for excitement – or for both. Abe is hash tagged to Sebastian. Little Abe is a hash cat, rather in a silly way browsing nature and mankind, sort of pleasantly surprised that all this is there without precisely knowing what it is all about.




From then on they circled me, climbed in trees and grew larger and larger. After the fury of food consumption there is always that short period of time in which they go completely crazy, ruining what they have left of my beautiful little flowers during their last raid, and breaking the stem of the only surviving sunflower. I observe, I am sad and I am happy at the same time, reduced to sheer far niente, as doing something while watching their activity would be senseless.


dw 011


Once my family had arrived in La Roche I decided to keep Sebastian with me till I would leave La Roche myself. We just bought one cage for Abe. Ever since the publication of Remco Campert’s gorgeous little book The Diary of a Pussy, a Dutchman calls these boxes Draagbare Woning – DW in short, perhaps best translated as Portable Home or PH.
Each time Campert’s Puss perceives his two servants Glasses and Trousers filling trunks and taking out the PH, she says to herself: Ah, we’re going to Frenchyland. Holidays galore.

One of the weird aspects of nature is how differently drugs affect the body. Cocaine and hash do have very dissimilar effects and one may, as I did, even characterize characters according to drugs taken – thus Sebastian Coke en Hash Abe. The drug used to make them sleep while travelling, on the other hand, tends to eliminate all distinction.
As Abe had never seen his PH before, he was somewhat scared by the contraption, but then again this did only last till the travel drug took hold on his tiny psyche. When I phoned Haarlem and asked how his emigration had evolved, I was told that he had been ‘out’ for the trip – simply a cute little body hanging inside his PH like a trapezist on his wires, or rather like a boxer against the ropes.

Thus I awaited my turn to go North, always against the flow of the cranes who autumnally wing their way South over the Brenne where I live. Simply because I cannot fly, we never met in the flesh, but whenever I perceive them, cackling and talkative high up there, I shout a friendly Hello! and thank them for warning me that time has come.




Sebastian became nicer after Grey Spotted Silvery Abe had left. He started crying for his lost partner in crime. They had been a tight knit set, this now showed in the sorrow for the loss of the loved one. I was the comforter.




At such moments the lack of lingual communication between cat and man is tragic and severe. Luckily this loss of Abe intensified Sebastian’s sympathy for me. Body language soothed the little beast. Whereas before it had been Abe on my belly and scurrying in front of my feet so as to make me fall, now Sebastian took over. Gentlemen’s love!

As Abe’s cage had performed as it should, I went to Le Blanc and bought a second one at the vet. The lady behind the counter looked at me as if I were a rather eccentric collector of Portable Homes. I also bought another capsule of the best. Sebastian Coke would sleep well enough during the long ride, some eight and a half hundred kilometers through France, Belgium and The Netherlands.

Desmond Morris, the renowned biologist who studied dogs and cats and human beings as if they were of the same make from the same factory assembly line, wrote amongst many other books Catwatching and Dogwatching. Julian Barnes did his own research and found that Catwatching was sold twice as well as Dogwatching. The latter was even discovered selling well at dog shows!
Barnes ponders the issue and asks himself why this is the case. Perhaps because cat-owners live in city flats with potted plants and piles of paperbacks at hand, while dog-owners live down muddy lanes miles from the nearest bookshop? Or, may be, because the dog-owner walks his dogs too often and does not have spare time to read?
I move that the true reason for this is the fact that cat watching is far more pleasant than dog watching, even by way of photographs. Period! Even when such a cat is, like my Sebastian, completely out, lying in his furry unconscious in the Portable Home placed on the floor of the car next to my gearshift.
Now and then I almost caused an accident driving the middle of this night on a desolate Autoroute to the North – absorbed for a moment in his irresistible attractiveness.
As Radiohead is singing it:

You used to be all right.
What happened?
Did the cat get your tongue…?

Sierksma, Septembre/Octobre 2017 La Roche


You cannot grasp reality only by way of logic.

Dürrenmatt, The promise


Catalogic 4

The decision has been taken. From now on I ‘won’t serve my little cats their dinner in the left barn but in the middle shed where my garden tools are stacked away. The door of the second little barn on the right, in which my mountain bike and racing bike are stored and where there is small attic ideally suited for a kitten’s hide out, will have to be shored with a hard, dried branch of hazel wood from the tree I pruned last year. That door is so skewed that the gap between wood and stone is wide enough to allow two little ones access. Can’t be.

After a few days shuttling back and forth between their hangout and their feeding place they now know exactly when food is placed there. They also know that every day, once their food is ready, I sit myself at a distance so that they don’t risk being caught. Our sympathy is, for sure, still somewhat one-sided.

Tonight, however, I shall take a different approach. A second branch of the hazel tree is waiting next to my chair which, this time, I have placed somewhat closer to the left shed, their home. Once they have gone to the garden shed for their food I jump up, throw the door of that left barn shut and also trestle this one with a stick. Cheated you, Boys!
Immediately after my retreat they come out of their feeding place to inspect what has been going on, how I’ve tricked them. I had already installed nice blankets in the food shed to make them feel at home. What more could they want?

However, now it’s me being tricked by them. When, an hour later, I enter the courtyard with my own food and sit down at the table, I hear them scurrying inside the ridge of my préau – the attractive, skewed wooden hood which rises from the low wall separating courtyard and garden, allowing me to sit outside throughout year.


That support beam was hollowed out a long time ago by rats, wood biting insects and God knows what other vermin. The insects still return every summer, so in the end this préau will collapse. The previous owner planked up these holes with a few ornamental boards, between them however there are still slits large enough for my kittens. Not only have these two saved their own skin to relocate themselves there, they also seem to have taken their souls with them.

Migration and transmigration.

Before their departure into the wild outside of nature I need to catch those little devils, so I am now even further off from where I started. The moment I come near them they shoot up like crazy against the trunk of an acacia which I kept as a souvenir – and you never know what you can do with a piece of wood. That trunk is just visible on the left side of this photo.


Also visible are my two treasures. Especially in this spot they are enjoying life to the brim, sometimes they sleep here at night – until I come too close and they sprint upstairs. Admittedly the cat is a domesticated animal, but only in the sense that it defines its own housing and its own interior decoration. The cat never submits to someone else’s rules.
“The cat” as a New Yorker cat therapist put it delicately, “just is a cat.” The problem with this is that the cat from a human perspective is never a normal cat, one can act in a normal way. Despite all man’s cat-love there is forever an impenetrable incompatibility of the juices.

In his Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats the poet T. S. Eliot answered a lot of questions, but precisely not the one question which is invited by its title: Is the cat practical? In other words: Is there even one cat that is practical? From a human, from a humanitarian and thus from a utilitarian perspective I would say: ‘No!’

The cat is a nuisance per se, the cat is undeniably and always impractical. From the perspective of the cat this is of course completely different. Here the cat is eminently practical, always functioning in the most effective way to enjoy a dolce far niente, occasionally interspersed by an outrageous hyperactivity.

Now, from my past infatuations I remember one thing: Before you have any certainty about the reciprocity of feelings and you do not yet know whether The Other feels the same bout you, you better not know or even give her (or him) a name.
Nameless there is still a way out. Nothing is more binding than knowing the name, especially if you gave it yourself… Once the beloved has a name, it keeps swirling through the lover’s head.

So I made sure not to name my two sweety pies. In that case I would get attached to them for good and thus could not follow the instructions of my wife in Haarlem, as far letting them become Buzzard’ Feed in Nature.
But Love itself made me forget all good intentions; perhaps it was even Eliot who pulled me over. This is what he wrote in The Naming of Cats:

But I tell you, a cat needs a name that’s particular,
A name that’s peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?

This then did me in. Given the uncertainty regarding their sex, headstrong I called them Abe and Sebastian. Nevertheless, there still had to happen something drastic in order to lure them from their wooden tent. Naming them, I had now also promoted them to the status of emigrant, something I mentioned in a telephone conversation with the distant homeland. For that coming exodus ties between me and my furry friends had to be tightened, so that finally I might cage them just before their long journey in autumn.

After the unforeseen migration into the beam of my préau what is surely needed now is regular domestication, that is one about which I have something to say. Domestication comes from the Latin domus, or house. Time has come that these two find out that what is involved here is their agreement with my definition of home, not my acceptance of their interpretation of the word domus.

Assimilate! – the order of the day.

Sierksma La Roche 1 August 2016


How does fate originate?
By hiding its existence. It creeps up closer, it gets used to us, and at the moment when we recognize its visage it laughs at us. It’s too late, fate whispers.

Thomas Hürlimann, The Garden Shed


With this motto of Hürlimann in mind my reader will not be surprised that I began to recognize the face of the Cheshire Cat in the visage of my two new kittens – that cat of Alice, out there in her Wonderland, its body fading, beginning with the tail, then finally only its smile in the tree visible.




A smile of scorn it has become in my two kittens.

In the case of Hürlimann fate consisted of only one cat. “From behind the tombstone a miserable creature cautiously crawled out and was now looking at him with wide eyes.” The protagonist is a colonel who, with his wife, regularly visits the grave of his too young deceased son and who will from this moment on sneak food from the house and hide it for the poor animal. That woman would regard this as a desecration of her son …

My two cats know damn well that they have abused the cat love of this resident of 14 La Roche by transforming their invasion into my invitation. Moreover, this incompetent man is not able to determine whether the kittens are male or female. M/F until further notice – that is until the vet will have determined their sex.

When Saki finds that “these beautiful creatures are so fantastically assimilated into our culture, albeit maintaining their highly developed wild instincts”, he hits onto, as they say, the poodle’s core. In Goethe’s Faust the Devil disguises himself as a poodle. We now know that the poodle again disguised himself as a cat and that the cat as such must be a demonic entity.
This is an ancient belief.

That magnificence novel by Robert Menasse, Die Vertreibung aus der Hölle – Exile from Hell – begins with an Autodafe in Madrid in which the Inquisition is publicly crucifying a cat. Cat and devil are sleeping on the same pillow, have hands and paws on the same indecent belly. Meanwhile my neighbour in La Roche, Mme Besnoit now deceased, was like so many people in the country utterly terrified of cats, even without knowing of their ancient bond.

There has been research done about the link between cat, plague and this delusion of faith. The name of this historian I have unfortunately forgotten, but he should be awarded the Nobel Prize for History – if it would exist.

He found a tight link between the eradication of cats at the time of the European Inquisition and the outbreak of the plague. People killed off cats en masse. That disease is, as we now know from medical research, always insidiously present. However, when man removed its natural enemy – the cat – from its natural cycle that rat ran amok and got free reign to invade the towns. The plague was the result.




Pest boils on the body of Grünewald’s Crucified Christ

This close relationship between cat and devil you will also find in James Joyce’s story The Cat and the Devil, probably an apocryphal narrative from France which he rewrote for his grandson. In it, the Devil promises the mayor of Beaugency to build, without costs, a bridge over the river. However on one condition: the soul of the first one to cross that bridge would belong to him.

The mayor tricked the Devil, as once did that man in Bergman’s The 7th Seal who overturned the chessboard on which he was playing a match with the Evil One. This in the hope that He would forget about his family who would in the mean time be fleeing.




The Devil laughed sneeringly, showing of his splendid memory by agonizingly slowly putting the pieces back on the board in precisely their former position. In the time it takes Him to do this, in their covered wagon the man’s family is disappearing on the horizon behind which the Devil can no longer reach them.

In Joyce’s story the mayor of Beaugency takes a cat on his arm. “The animal looked at the mayor, as cats in the town of Beaugency had the right to look at the mayor.” When the cat had enough of observing his mayor, it began to play with the man’s chain but the mayor had now come at the bridge’s end. “He put the cat down on it, and before anyone knew what was happening, he threw – splash! – a whole bucket of water over the cat.” The beast, like a hare, ran across the bridge toward Devil and jumped into His arms..




Call it with Goethe: des Pudels Kern – the pointe of the story.




So now I feed my little loves who will soon have to find their place in this wide, wide world. Buzzard Food…




Every day I begin to feel a little bit more like a devil. I also have the impression that those two have a vague suspicion of this. However, this may be a projection from a very bad conscience.
First however, I still need to drive them out of my, I mean: their garden shed, which in itself requires a devilish plan.

Sierksma, La Roche 31.7/2016

CATS GALORE Catalogic 2


Early morning, two days after the longest one, there is total crisis in La Roche. Only a fortnight ago, on that other Longest Day, we celebrated the Allied Invasion of France which rid us of the Krauts, les Boches or what have you. Great day.

Now there is another kind of invasion, if not a tsunami. This time: cats! Instead of one Shandy Grisaille, there were suddenly three cats in my yard. Shandy turns out to be one hell of a proud mother with two kittens. So that’s why, when cuddling her, I had felt these little pinpoints. Tits! Yet, so dry that only looking back could I define them as such. Besides, I am a decent man. So dried out this mother must have been…

And so right had been my British friend who had indeed spotted one of these two cat children some days ago. Catalogical all this.

I instantly collapsed, went straight to bed and put the covers over my head. After two hours in this position my first decision was to pack up, leave a note for the British friend and race back to Haarlem in The Netherlands. Too many troubles on my mind, and now this…

Of course this felt like a coward, not so much trooping my colours as fleeing from them. Thus, in a fit of downright despondency, still in bed and feeling wasted, I phoned my wife in The North. I never use my cell phone, which is only there to check on whether me mum has died, in which case I have to return to The North. Now I was even using the damned machine in bed. My wife is cat wise and I was also in need of some serious support. She gave me unpleasant guidance, counsel I did not expect from her. Perhaps, though, also encouraging this coward.

“Have the mother sterilised; wait a while, then have the two little ones ‘helped’; feed the set and put them out in nature where they will have to fend for themselves; after all, there are millions of wild cats doing the same thing…” So: Buzzard’s fodder…



One of Siné’s cats


After this sermon I turned into jelly. My physical as well as mental condition was not fit to cope with both cats and the wife’s suggestions. So I stayed in bed some more, miserably pondering existence in general as well as mine in particular. I had nightmares while awake, telling myself the story of the Cheshire Cat over and over again, the animal now disappearing in the buzzard’s beak. Then I began to shiver with an outside temperature of 34 degrees Celsius.

Then I began to feed the whole menagerie, having turned into a triple bigamist because Love did befall me. The mother and her two kittens became the centre of my universe. Not, however, without now and then cursing the bastard who must have dropped these three into my hameau because he wanted to go on holiday with his family… I was split in two, not fit for the enormous responsibility, also feeling a victim while at the same time considering myself blessed with these three.

Then, for a full 24 hours, they were gone, not however after leaving my beautiful gravel paths as their cat’s box: shit galore, mixed with those little stones, it won’t take long before I have to order new ones…

Then, still not having seen them, suddenly their food was gone. Somewhat later I hear them eating inside the barn. The mother, however, seems to be lost. That famous mother love appears to be no longer than a finger. Again they have chosen my left shed as their new house. A mystery, those cats – is what they say. I think they’re stupid.

Still, I have to continue with my noisy little jobs, cutting the grass, repairing the mower – and that sort of things. At such moments no cats are to be seen.




The next day I see them peep at me from out of the shed. Four little eyes out of two small furry balls, observing me like I was the Martian. I behave quietly, sit myself in the court yard and have them get accustomed to this customer. Ethology – the study of animal behaviour – is what I wanted to read in university before I finally became a would-be social philosopher.

If they do not come to consider me as their companion, how will I ever ‘catch them’, let only cuddle these awfully nice furry friends?

I feel more and more an animal myself, all is turning into a beastly carnival. Last night, suddenly aware that I did not refresh their water and milk, I went out of bed into the dark night and did so. Back in bed I found that, unwittingly, I had brought back with me a bunch of ants into my bed. Damn them – and the kittens!

That very moment of cursing my new addition to the menagerie I also thought about the fact that since I have become the guardian of my new cats I did not put out new rat poison, this being to dangerous for the little ones. Would I also have visits again from specimens of that species?

What needs to be done is teasing them out of that shed into the garden shed. However, I have now found out that there is a rather large space between the wall and the high cupboard which I installed in there to put away paint, brushes and other stuff. That is where they sneak away when I arrive. I am not able to get behind that cupboard any longer. They have their hide out inside their hide out…

So one day, I shall have to seduce them with food placed further away in the court yard to then, suddenly, make my move, close the shed’s door and barricade it. Christ – my daily existence is now completely determined by either cat activities or cat pondering. I am not myself, have started to think like a cat and thus run the danger of becoming one.

Although, danger? I once wrote that, in my next life, I would not mind returning as a cat. But of such things one thinks while writing, romancing that is.

Their mum, Shandy Grisaille, seems to have gone for good. One fears the worst.

Sierksma 6/30 June 2016



Cats – it has been well said – will be cats, and there seems nothing to be done about it.

Wodehouse, Company for Henry 1967

“Leafing through an Encyclopedia –this time the French Larousse – I stumbled upon strange things.” This I wrote in my notebook. I was looking for the precise meaning of the term passé défini, this in connection with a passage of Roland Barthes about the préterite – another such brain teaser.

Serendipity it is called – to find something that one does not seek and then bring this either deliberately or unintentionally in conjunction with what you were looking for.

In this case the strange thing turned out to be a lemma on cinema in which the so-called plan Américain is explained. Never heard of that notion before. It concerns the shot of a person, framing him just above the head and at the bottom mi-cuisse – so mid-thigh, which in a Western focuses the eye on the gun of the hero. And of course on his second gun.

Of this Américain frame as depicted in the encyclopaedia I wanted in my turn to take a picture which I would use as an illustration in a piece on Barthes’ préterite. In the encyclopaedia John Waye takes the honours, with that American frame just above his hat while indeed shooting him right through the thigh.




I never made it to that Barthes piece, but this is why it all had to end up in this small series on Catalogy.

At the moment when I pressed the button of the camera, a – methinks – sweet little cat shot out off my left little shed. The creature scared me shitless for a sec, then lingered at the gate of the courtyard and disappeared. The recording of John Wayne was already done, so the shock had no subsequent effects on that.

A practical form of double serendipity, you might say. I not only stumbled on John Wayne, but is also on a cat. Later on you will see how everything came to be connected with everything else. Wayne’s gun and my cat.

Wit a rather meaningless Psssst did I chase the animal out of the courtyard, afraid as I was that I might lock it in once it would decide to hide again in that shed. Already two days earlier I had seen the skinny creature in an equally volatile mood. It shot across the little road in front of the house of my deceased neighbour Vergnes, into his unkept bushes. Skittish is the word.

The animal had to be a female. The frailty, but also the posture and a lack in her anxious attitude of male airs suggested this.

So I put some milk ready at the gate. The saucer – a stone support for a little flowerpot – went empty without me having seen her. The next day two saucers stood there, this time in the quiet garden shed which I would leave open from now on, filled with cats’ dry food and now real cats’ milk. What can one do?

Later I would write: “This sweetheart of a cat is still a problem. What if I temporarily leave? Or in November, when I leave for good? But what can I do – she is dehydrated and starving.”

Meanwhile, she got a name: Shandy Grisaille. ‘Shandy’ came from my girlfriend, who probably had Tristram in mind. However, her fur is gray and certainly not ruddy, not like ‘ginger’ as in the shandy drink. Grisaille seemed like a beautiful and appropriate name, especially as the name for a loved one. For in those few days I got madly in love with her.

Making a portrait was not possible at first. Whenever I had my device ready and came near her she left. Starved as she is, she remains skittish and is waiting to go to the saucers until I’m gone.

I think I now know where she bivouacs: In a little barn of the Parisians who have not come here for months. I saw her slip away this morning, when I raced my bike along the little road down our High Rock. So that sleepover in my shed had been for once. Her hotel is out there, she takes food in my restaurant.

Yet we have become friends since a few days. That much praised love which goes through the stomach – what else! After her dinner and sometimes in between snacks, she comes to me, obviously enjoying my cuddling. Here she is. Hope you guessed my name:




It even goes so far that she does not realize that the courtyard and préaut might constitute her domain, but not my home. That difference she does not understand. And when a cat does not understand a difference, that’s it!

Just like she first occupied the shed, she now wants to invade the house through the front door – as if it has always already been hers. I beg to disagree. She is a welcome stranger, but I do not welcome a genuine incursion into my private territory. So, now the door must stay closed all day, high summer or not.




She lies down once more, visibly at ease so it seems. Then, of a sudden, she has disappeared for a day from the yard. I fear the worst – a farmer’s gun, the road down below high La Roche…

From then on she makes a quick neighbour call to consume her food and drink. After two days my friend who comes along occasionally with her car, informs me that she saw a kitten at the entrance of the hamlet. Just visibly sliding – according to her that is – into a crack under the shed of the Parisian neighbours.

Wishful thinking, I guess.

We go out to the river below Sauzelles, for a picnic and for a game of chess. So many troubles there are in the head, I have to get out of myself. My friend Ton with his lung cancer in Amsterdam. Me and myself in not really good shape. Sleep deprivation. The troubles of life – and now we also have to take care of one whole cat added to the ménage.

Sierksma, La Roche June 2017