The cat, the tree... and the bird.

I watched a cat get beaten up by a bird the other morning, well I say it was beaten up. It was more sort of knocked around and chased a bit. But if I started with "I saw a cat get knocked around a bit by a bird the other morning" it would have lacked impact and you may not have read this far.

Assuming of course that you have.

Maybe I'd be better off telling you what happened. I'd been putting in an all night shift, occasionally the mood takes me to work "right through". Normally about ten hours with a little break in the middle to chill out. Well the night had been pretty busy and I'd pushed on through till about five thirty in the morning when hunger and thirst forced me to "have a mo".

I popped into the garage on Smithdown Rd (which is staffed by the most cheerful attendant you are ever likely to meet at five thirty in the morning. A classic case of someone making the best out of a bad lot).

I bought a dodgy sandwich and a bottle of water and drove around the Sefton Park and pulled over right by Greenbank Drive.

The park is always gorgeous, but especially so at that time of the morning, it tends to have a nice misty look to it and occasionally if you are lucky you can see a couple of foxes mooching around (I'm that sad that I still get a buzz out of seeing a fox, I know they are vermin etc... but come on! It's Mr Fox! They are lovely!)

Anyway, there I was, door open, radio off, sniffing my sandwich (I wasn't going to leap straight in) when out of the corner of my eye I saw a cat sitting under a tree watching me. It was about thirty foot away and seemed to be "having a mo" also.
Out of nowhere (well actually out of the tree above but seeing as the cat wasn't looking, and is unlikely to be reading this I think its fair to say as far as he (or she) was concerned it came out of nowhere) a massive blackbird swooped down and quite literally knocked the cat over and then flew off.

Poor old puss jumped up and hopped around sideways a couple of times and then stopped and stared at me. Now I am no expert on cat body language but I know for a fact that cat was saying
"What...the fuck... was that?"

I actually found myself shrugging and said out loud "you must be in his spec mate!"
The cat regained some composure and sat back down when the bird swooped down and did it again, this time not just swooping, this time it did a bit of pecking and flapping its wings at poor old puss who was trying to get away and failing miserably.

After a moment the bird flew back up into the tree and puss took a couple of steps away and sat back down, he was looking even more confused and even a tad embarrassed.
I broke off a bit of sandwich and held it out to him and eventually he wandered over and sat about five feet away sniffing the air. I tossed him some tuna and he ate it and did that cat thing of not looking at you, in a kind of

"oh, over there looks nice"

sort of manner.

I tossed him a bit more tuna which he (or she) ate and that did the trick of at least getting a slight nuzzle on the back of my hand. And then puss set off back to the tree.
I swear he almost sighed as he did so.

I almost felt sorry for him and did say out loud

"she's not worth it mate!"

But he (or she) didn't listen and he (or she) sat back down under the tree and watched me from there.

I drank my water and tossed the sandwich in the bin (best place for a Monday morning garage sandwich) and set back off for a couple more hours of work.

It was only when I was driving that I thought of the old lady and her husband who I met many years ago when I was a copper.

It was late night Newton Le Willows, probably about three am midweek. Now I think it would be fair to say that Newton Le Willows at three am isn't a hotbed of crime, it's more Dock Green than Hill Street, so any job that came out on the radio would be seized as a means of staying awake.

A report came in from a neighbour reporting shouting from next door. I was the first car at the scene and after some concerted banging on the front door I was surprised to be met by an oldish bloke, about mid seventies wearing a pair of trousers, vest and braces.
He'd had a pint but was polite and after initially not wanting to let me in he stepped aside.

I went into the living room, it was one of those that is full of brass and rugs. Sat on the chair was a sparrow of an old lady. Pink flannel dressing gown clutched tight to her throat, furry slippers peeking out from its hem.
She was clutching a tissue to her nose and I could see it was red with blood.

To cut a long story short I ended up arresting the old guy, I let him dress and put him in the car and lodged him at St Helens for assaulting his wife.
He was a bit put out but came quietly and never spoke in the car or when in front of the custody Sergeant other than to politely answer questions about his name etc.

"Lodge him Shoey"

said the Sarge, so I walked the old guy to his cell, at the door, as he took his shoes off he said

"What happens now son?"

I told him I would go and get a statement from his wife and that then I'd interview him and someone else would make a decision what would happen after that, I said

"Do you understand"

"Yes, I'm sorry son"

"Don't be sorry, we'll sort it out"

"I just snapped"

"Don't tell me here, we'll talk about it on tape"

"There is only so much you can take"

I shushed him again and put him in his cell, I made a quick notebook entry and then drove out to see his wife. When I arrived she had dressed and had regained some composure.

"So what happened?"

"It's all my fault"

"No, you mustn't blame yourself love, it's easy to blame yourself, you've been assaulted, nobody should have to put up with that"

"No, it is my fault, I started it, I always start it... he lets me hit him, I batter him... I've done it for years, I hate him for it, tonight he hit me back, he's never done it before"

To say that that wasn't what I was expecting would be a understatement. I was dumbfounded.

She told me they had three kids, had been married for fifty odd years and that he had never raised a finger until that night. She told me that he had come home and fell asleep in the chair, that she had woke up and come down and that they had argued and that she had slapped him.

And, for the first time ever, he had slapped her back.

"I deserved it, I wish he'd done it years ago, I'll not make a complaint, I'll tell them I walked into a door"

There are times when you are a copper, and I am sure many police officers will have felt this way, when you just don't have a clue what to do next.

And as I sat there that night on that couch looking at that little old lady who could have passed for tweety pies grandmother... I didn't have a clue what to do next.

I can remember staring at my statement forms for a moment and then scribbling down some stuff about her not wishing to cooperate with the police. With hindsight, I maybe should have locked her up for assaulting him, she had just confessed to it.
But I knew that wasn't going to happen.
I told her I was going to go back to the station to speak to her husband and I left.

At the time Merseyside had a zero tolerance policy when it came to domestic violence, an excellent tactic of everyone being arrested and interviewed which resulted in some good work being done.
But as I sat opposite that gentleman, gentle...man in the truest sense of the word, in the interview room that night, with the duty solicitor as he "no commented" his way through all of my questions I felt like giving him a hug.

He was ashamed and tired and looked very very old.

I gave him a lift home so that he wouldn't have to wait for the buses to start and as we drove I told him what his wife had said, I told him he didn't have to put up with it. I told him about various charities that could support him and his wife to find different ways to communicate without violence, and, to be honest he didn't say that much back to me.

As we pulled up outside the house he thanked me and said

"I've put up with it for fifty years, there's not many left to go now, I'll be okay son, thanks"

He then got out and walked up the short path to the front door.

The cat under the tree made me think of him, the cat could have just walked away and found another tree to sit under but it didn't. Something made it go back there and sit down and wait for the next onslaught from the angry bird.
It had the whole park to sit in, but that tree, and that bird were where it had to sit.

Strange things cats.