Life is never a bed of roses for the Toveys and their beloved Siamese cats Solomon and Sheba. For one thing they’ve got Annabel the donkey to contend with and the thorny matter of her troublesome stomach after she overindulges on the apple harvest. More calamities ensue when Doreen and her husband Charles return from a riding course in the Scottish wilderness and Solomon thinks they have brought the Loch Ness Monster home with them. Then Sheba baffles her owners with a series of mysterious disappearances. What with Annabel adopting a cat of her own, Charles taking up the piano, Father Adams’ flying hat and Solomon’s determined efforts to catch a hare, there are endless adventures in store in this loveable, witty classic.
|Sold by:||Barnes & Noble|
|File size:||278 KB|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Raining Cats and Donkeys
By Doreen Tovey
Summersdale Publishers LtdCopyright © 1967 Doreen Tovey
All rights reserved.
Donkeys Get You Like That
Charles said the people who wrote this bilge in the newspapers about donkeys being status symbols were nuts.
At that moment we were in our donkey's paddock dealing with the fact that she'd eaten too many apples, and I couldn't have agreed with him more.
Take the paddock itself, for instance. Ours wasn't the lush green plot surrounded by a neat hedge or smart wire fence such as various of our neighbours kept ponies in. It was a rectangle so bare it looked as if we'd been visited by locusts. Criss-crossed with still barer paths leading to the various lookouts from which Annabel spied on passers-by. Surrounded on three sides by hedges which gave the impression of having had a pudding-basin haircut (eaten, as they were, up to Annabel height in a solid, unvarying line all round the field). And on the fourth side, which separated the paddock from the cottage garden, it sported a wire fence.
The sort of fence one associates with gipsy encampments.
The wire sagging where Annabel leaned on it sling-fashion, or rubbed her stomach in dreamy contemplation when she itched. Other pieces of wire reinforcing the original strands in the places where she had been discovered, at various times, trying to crawl under it on hands and knees. A hurdle gate leaning outwards at a decrepitly drunken angle because Annabel, when she felt like it, used the inside of the gate for resting her bottom on. And just at that moment, in the paddock itself, Annabel with stomach-ache.
She'd been lent to a neighbour to graze down his orchard.
Why people borrowed her when she had a record long enough to send her to Botany Bay was anybody's guess, but there it was. People were always saying could they have her round to be company to their pony for a few days, or they had their grandchildren coming and could Annabel come up on their lawn for the afternoon, or there was a nice bit of grass behind their vegetable plot and it would save them scything it if Annabel could eat it.
The sensible thing, knowing Annabel, would have been to say No to all of them. But how could we when, on the few occasions we had hardened our hearts, the enquirers looked at us as if we were discriminating against them at a prize-giving? So we would say 'Well, if you think you can manage her ...' And off would go Annabel, looking like a picture on a birthday card with her Beatle fringe, her shaggy buff coat and her little round white stomach. (Annabel is a Scandinavian-type donkey, which is why, for three parts of the year, she has a yak-like coat and is continually being mistaken for a Shetland pony or an out-size sheepdog). And we would settle down to some gardening with the feeling of parents who have, against their better judgement, allowed a small boy to go to a party and are now pretty certain that he has taken his pea-shooter with him.
They'd be back sooner or later with the inevitability of a boomerang. Annabel had chased the pony. Annabel had eaten the children's ice cream. Annabel — in the case of the grass behind the vegetable plot — had wandered on her tether rope round a rabbit hutch, pulled it over, and dragged it with her like a chain-harrow as she proceeded on her way. For once she herself hadn't eaten anything she shouldn't, but the dragging had opened the hutch door and the rabbits had had a field day in the lettuce.
Annabel in the case of the orchard grass had, on first reporting, behaved herself very well. 'Just reached an apple down here and there', said the owner of the orchard fondly. 'Nobody'd begrudge the little creature that'.
Whereupon off he pottered towards his Saturday supper, giving the little creature a pat on the rump in parting, and half an hour later we found her rolling on her back in the paddock, her coat damp with sweat, and groaning.
We didn't think it was colic at first. Not just on a couple of apples. Fearing the worst, which had become a habit with us after several years of keeping Siamese cats and two years of keeping a donkey, our thoughts flew to plastic bags. One of these, eaten by an animal, is invariably fatal. We'd been reading about it in our pony book only a few days previously. It blocks the intestines completely and, as there is no indication as to where it lies, nothing can be done about it.
We voiced our fears to our neighbour, Father Adams, who happened by just then as he usually does in moments of crisis. "Ouldn't surprise I at all', was his reply. 'Old Fred's orchard right by the bus-stop and they there hikers stuffin' theirselves while they wait as if they'm about to cross the Sahara (Father Adams had recently been to see Lawrence of Arabia and references to it coloured his every utterance at the moment) — 'tis a wonder t'aint happened afore'. With which words of comfort — on later reflection we were sure he hadn't thought any such thing, otherwise he'd have stayed and helped us to the last — he, too, proceeded on his way to supper, and I ran for the telephone.
The Vet came so fast at the thought of a plastic bag he forgot to put his boots in the car. It was a great relief to learn that it was only colic, but we felt rather guilty watching him depart half an hour later — his evening spoilt, his suede shoes covered in mud and his light, off-duty trousers marked by Annabel's flailing hooves as he felt hurriedly to find what was wrong.
He'd given her a morphia injection to ease the pain and told us to keep her on her feet and walk her about in the paddock. The danger with colic, he said, was the possibility of the gut getting twisted while she rolled. Otherwise, by the time the morphia wore off, the attack would have passed and she'd be all right.
She was indeed. The only trouble was, we hadn't been able to keep her on her feet. As the morphia took effect Annabel sank on the end of her halter like an anchor and went to sleep right in the middle of the paddock. We couldn't get her up again. We couldn't leave her, of course — just in case her gut did get twisted, or she failed to come round from the morphia, or one of the dozen or so other catastrophes we could think of occurred. So there we were. Me sitting in the field with her head on my lap. Charles enquiring every few minutes whether her breathing was all right. Donkeys get you like that. It didn't stop us realising, however — what with the decrepit state of the paddock, and people coming past and eyeing us curiously when they saw her stretched on out my lap like a scene from A Midsummer Night's Dream, and the thought that, for the umpteenth time, we'd got the Vet over at panic-point when it really wasn't serious at all — that our donkey hardly enhanced our social standing. Even though we wouldn't have parted with her for worlds.
A few weeks previously we'd had a fright because Annabel was limping. There was nothing in her foot when we looked, but, behind the hard rim of her hoof, the leathery part known as the frog looked soft and spongy to us. On one foot a bit of the frog actually appeared to be missing. Footrot, we diagnosed in alarm, remembering what a seaside donkey-man had once told us about not letting donkeys stand around on damp ground. In Ireland, he said, where they live in bogs so much, they often get soft spongy places on the bottom of their feet which can never be cured. The hoof just rots away and the donkey is fit for nothing but to be put down.
Filled with apprehension — there was a damp patch in Annabel's field and Charles said I knew he'd said often enough about bringing her in when it rained — we consulted Father Adams, who said it was undoubtedly footrot too, and I got straight on to the Vet. It had been a great relief on that occasion to find that it was only a sprained hock — how she'd sprained it when she hadn't been out of her paddock all day was a mystery known only to Annabel — but Mr Harler, having raced over after my call with visions of her feet disintegrating practically before his eyes, was a bit sharp about it.
He gave her cortisone to reduce the swelling. Advised us to keep her shut up for a couple of days so she couldn't walk on it too much. Let him know if the swelling didn't go down, of course, he said. But, if it wasn't too much to ask, he would like his Sunday in peace ...
What happened certainly wasn't our fault. The previous winter we'd had a jennet called Henry over from the local seaside to keep Annabel company. Jennets, being a cross between a donkey and a horse, are not supposed to be able to mate, but Annabel and Henry had had a shot at it. With the local riding mistress as witness, as a matter of fact, after they'd broken out at two o'clock one morning and she'd found them running around in the road outside her stables. She put them in her paddock for the night and there, next morning, they'd mated. When she told us about it, saying but of course it was all right, jennets and mules were barren, weren't they, Charles recalled with alarm Henry's owner saying they were as a rule but he'd heard of a case or two in the East where they'd managed it, and we had something else to worry about.
For months we'd kept an eye on Annabel. Nothing had come of it, however. What with all the other exigencies of donkey-keeping and looking after Siamese cats we'd really quite forgotten about it. Until we shut Annabel into her shed in the paddock that weekend to rest her foot, and people came past and saw the hurdle door tied into place, and then — not having counted the months on their fingers as we had — the rumour went round the village that Annabel was having her foal.
We'd been out on the Saturday afternoon. When we came back the paddock was strewn with apples and cake. A large bag of bread was propped at the paddock gate. Another bag of bread and a box of sugar were at the kitchen door. That evening practically the entire village either called or telephoned to enquire after Annabel's health. And at ten o'clock the Vet rang up.
What was this about our donkey being in foal? he demanded. He sounded rather brusque for someone ringing up to congratulate us. Perhaps he was annoyed at not being told, I thought. Hastily I assured him that it wasn't true. If it had been, of course he'd have been the first to know, I told him consolingly.
First his foot, said Mr Harler. It was just that they didn't give cortisone to animals in foal. There could be all sorts of complications and it would be just like us not to know. When I explained that it was a false alarm — about people seeing her shed shut up and her romance the previous winter with Henry — he said that was just like us too. We certainly got no uplift from our donkey.CHAPTER 2
So Do Siamese Cats
At first sight, of course, the cats more than made up for the prestige we lost over Annabel. People who would have passed the cottage with scarcely a glance stopped as if struck when they saw them in the yard. Solomon sitting tall and straight behind the fish-pool like a statue of Bast, eyeing them with the incomparable hauteur of a Siamese tom who knows how handsome he is. Sheba beaming cross-eyedly at them from her favourite spot on the coal-house roof 'Oh look — Siamese!' they would exclaim, gazing with new eyes at this little valley cottage which, for all its apparent modesty, housed two such aristocrats of the cat world.
That was all they knew about it. Those elegant creatures, looking as if the only way they moved from place to place was in a royal litter with Charles and I carrying the poles, regularly got us into as much trouble as a posse of donkeys put together and were, just around then, involved in a feud with a black and white tom.
He was an immigrant from a neighbouring village.
People knew who his owners were and he'd been taken home to them several times with the suggestion that they have him neutered. Miss Wellington, a neighbour of ours who worried about these things, even offered to pay for it. His owners wouldn't hear of it. Apparently they liked a feline Captain Blood around the place. Old Butch wouldn't be the same if they did that, they said, fondling his black and white bullet head affectionately. Too right he wouldn't, and the valley would have been a far more peaceful place in consequence. As it was he'd be back within hours, looking up his girl friends and fighting with the boys, and Charles and I, when we knew he was around, had to keep a non-stop watch on Solomon. Other cats, after one encounter, had a wholesome respect for Butch. Solomon, our black-faced Walter Mitty, had the idea that he, not Butch, was Captain Blood and was prepared to fight till he dropped to prove it.
Why a neutered Siamese — particularly one so gentle-natured as Solomon, who would kick heftily at my arm with his back legs in play and then, worried in case he'd hurt me, look at me anxiously with his deep blue eyes, and thereafter kick deliberately wide so as not to touch me, should have such designs to be a fighter was inexplicable, but there it was. As a kitten he'd defied, and had to be rescued from, practically every cat in the neighbourhood. As a cat his howls — as of someone being sawn in pieces and if we didn't hurry up we wouldn't have a Solomon at all — sent us haring up the valley invariably to find that it was the other cat who was cornered. Solomon was merely practising psychology; telling his opponent what he'd do to him if he dared to move an inch.
When Butch came on the scene, however, it was a different matter. Butch wasn't intimidated by Oriental war-songs and bushed-up tails and somebody walking sideways at him like a crab. Butch just pitched in and fought. To our amazement, Solomon fought back. He came home with bleeding ears, with scratches on his face, occasionally with blood on his sleek cream chest — it made no difference. The very next time he heard Butch's troubadour love-song filtering down the valley — so small and high-pitched compared with a Siamese voice that, as Charles so often said, you'd hardly think Butch had the wherewithal to be a tom if we hadn't seen him swaggering past in the wake of his song like a miniature Minoan bull — and Solomon was off.
Sheba, on the contrary, was in. In and watching, Rapunzel-like, from the safety of the hall window. Sheba had once been bitten on the tail by a tom. She'd had an abscess the size of a tangerine on her rear as a result and hadn't forgotten it — until the day we were sitting on the lawn having tea.
Solomon was in the vegetable garden, which we'd cased thoroughly for signs of Butch and decided was safe for a while. Sheba — we didn't know where she was, except that it wouldn't be far away. No bold adventuress was Sheba. No further than the garden wall and run if a strange cat spoke to you was our blue girl's motto for safety. So we finished our tea, and Charles lay back in his deck-chair and said 'Now for five minutes' relaxation' — which is a favourite saying of his and one usually guaranteed to set things moving like a depth-charge — and sure enough, no sooner had he said it than there was the sound of a tremendous catfight and round the corner, and on to the lawn, rolled what appeared to be a large fur comet. It was going so fast we couldn't distinguish its component parts, but we had no doubt as to who they were. We were up, leaping the flowerbeds, shouting 'Solomon!' at the top of our voices to let him know help was at hand and hoping Butch wouldn't hit him too hard before we got there, when the comet suddenly stopped. Butch was there all right — a cowering, chastened Butch, with his head flat to the ground to escape the flailing paws. But his opponent — we nearly dropped when we realised it — wasn't Solomon. It was Sheba. Caught, presumably, sun-bathing in the yard and determined to defend her virtue to the end. Even as we watched she drew back, landed him a right-hook bang on his nose, and Butch disappeared over the gate.
Sheba fled indoors to consider her shame. Solomon arrived as fast as his legs would carry him from the vegetable garden, enquiring which way did he go and what — sniffing interestedly at Sheba — had he Done? You'd think they'd be glad that after that Butch never darkened our yard again. But no. Half an hour later Sheba — having apparently thought it over and decided that Butch had been paying her a compliment — appeared sleekly purring through the kitchen door and went and sat on the back gatepost in case he wanted to see her again. What was more, any time after that she heard Butch's boy-soprano in the distance, instead of running into the house for safety she nearly fell over herself rushing out of it to stand on the post and crane her neck up the lane to see if she could see him. While Solomon sat night after night in the open drive gateway, waiting for Butch to come by so he could fight him and complaining loudly, every time we spoke to him, that Sheba had spoiled everything as usual and why we kept her he didn't know.
Excerpted from Raining Cats and Donkeys by Doreen Tovey. Copyright © 1967 Doreen Tovey. Excerpted by permission of Summersdale Publishers Ltd.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Contents1 Donkeys Get You Like That,
2 So Do Siamese Cats,
3 To Horse! To Horse!,
4 Solomon and the Loch Ness Monster,
5 The Bread Line,
6 When Winter Comes,
7 And Spring is Far Behind,
8 Music Hath Charms,
9 Getting Things Moving,
10 Annie Mated,
11 How to Light an Aga,
12 Vitamins for Everybody,
13 Comes the Spring,
14 Putting a Foot in It,
16 Like Solomon only Horse-sized,