In 1977, Peter Cash’s then-girlfriend Linda took up a teaching post at a school in the West Midlands and found rented accommodation in the village of Belbroughton in Worcestershire. This short collection both centres and reflects upon their times there in the first, freezing-cold months of 1978.

The Ancient Greek philosopher Socrates is reported to have said that “the unexamined life is not worth living”. These poems examine in minute detail Peter and Linda’s shared weekends in this location, bringing to life their affections both for each other and for their non-human companions – not least, a Persian cat by the name of Sable.

In the final analysis, these are poems which look for consolations in the face of minor hardship and happily find them.

Sable’s ears, as we expected,
were canker-infected.
He scratched their serious itches
with gymnastic flair!
Wire-combing his Egyptian hair,
you admonished him in clichés:
“Vast mat of a cat!
No point in being exotic
if your fur’s all clots,
your back-teeth carious …”

It took many an anti-biotic
to whiten up his arm-pit wound,
to still his lugubrious claws.
Vet-visits for supplementary shots
showed him feral, furious –
finally put him right. But

your love isn’t clinical:
these nights, you mollycoddle him
for his pleasure and for yours;
you tweak an uninfected ear,
wire-comb his Egyptian hair.

Though African gunmen pillage
their lion- and leopard-lands,
here’s one man who’s found
in a bourgeois village
– a cold and rented room –
less reason to be cynical …

Be kind, mankind, to cat.
Mankind, be just.
Tweak cold-velvet ears,
wire-comb Egyptian hairs.

What looks like trust
licks clean your hands.

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