1. Binky’s Dreaming of a Not-so-Slight Christmas
In which Lemington Soot delivers a Yuletide announcement
And Binky Blowbottom responds with a less-than-merry denouncement.
It was Christmas Eve in the Soot residence – that’s 11 Palmist’s Path for those of you who haven’t been paying attention – and Binky Blowbottom, Lemington Soot’s prominently-paunched, mustard-yellow cat, was looking forward to Christmas.
It wouldn’t be long now. He was quite beside himself with excitement. Why, he had even broken wind four times that morning in eager anticipation of the great event.
Binky loved Christmas. He adored it. He was particularly partial to celebrating its occasion by snoozing indoors in front of a roaring fire, now and again arising to eat, before resuming his spot for a spot more sleeping, then breaking off to munch some more morsels. And so on.
You get the gist.
All of which he could do at any time, of course – season permitting for the fire. Although, Lemington had once caught him pouring paraffin into the grate on a hot July afternoon. Summarily prevented from proceeding further and questioned on the matter, Binky had attested to feeling a slight chill in his hindquarters, conceivably brought on by the starvation diet his master had forced on him. Being inexperienced in all things inflammatory, he had simply been doing his level best to resolve the situation with the limited resources available.
Nevertheless, despite their being normal, reasonable and cherishable endeavours in Binky Blowbottom’s daily regimen, there was something extra special about snoozing snuggly and eating, and eating some more with concomitant snuggly snoozing, during the festive period.
Yes, Binky Blowbottom loved Christmas. He loved the Christmas tree Lemington could be relied upon to purchase. Not one of those fake, plastic monstrosities, but the real deal, cut down a long time prior to its prime and propped up in the living room entirely for Binky’s gratification.
There it was now, standing stoically several feet away.
One year, not long since being a kitten, Binky had spotted what he confidently categorised as a field vole in one of the upper branches. Spurred on to investigate, he discovered that not only was it merely a hideously disfigured angel – possibly owing to Binky having rapaciously chewed on it a couple of days earlier, having announced he didn’t like the way it was raptly venerating heavenwards, and ‘it smells funny’ – but also that the tree was ill equipped to accommodate his myriad dimensions and prolific proportions. Even as a nipper, Binky had been plenitudinous. The tree gave way under the strain, and henceforth Binky was under strict instructions to steer clear. He had given Lemington a contemptuous look, shooting back, “Suits me fine. Wouldn’t go up your stupid tree again if you paid me”. Which was somewhat childish. But he was, essentially, little more than a child.
And, really, he did love the stupid tree. He loved the multi-coloured lights that flickered off and on across its expanse. He absolutely could not understand those dullard humans who favoured plain old boring white lights. The same ones who invariably disdained tinsel. Tacky, they called it. Well, Binky guessed that just about made him a tacky cat. Why, at this very moment he was rocking a lovely silvery length of the stuff, tossed around his neck as a rather elegant, makeshift scarf.
Binky was also wearing his Special Binky Christmas Hat, which was actually your bog-standard Santa hat, distinguished purely by its being perched atop Binky’s bonce and having two specially tailored ear holes for his specially tailored ears. It fitted very snuggly-snug, and in combination with the scarf, he was sure he looked quite the raffish dandy. With a touch of the rakish. Raffish and rakish.
If such fashionable flourishes became too taxing, due to legions of female felines banging at his door and imploring him for a date down the local fleapit, Binky had the option of getting away from it all, climbing into his extra-large (it would need to be) Super Special Binky Stocking – for that special toasty effect.
Binky certainly did love Christmas. He loved the decorations, especially attempting to swing from paper chains that hadn’t the remotest intention of supporting his not insubstantial weight and would much prefer he quit with it already.
He loved the holly and the ivy, just as long as they knew their place and didn’t get too close when they were both full grown – wretched vegetation!
And he loved his Special Binky Advent Calendar. On the down side, it featured the same crummy pictures each year, of an itinerate array of clods sporting drab, rudimentary garb, sauntering about unspecified foreign climes – maybe Wales – and up to really rather inane activities: mingling with sheep, star gazing, loitering around stables. And not a TV in sight. Whatever did they do with their free time? Thank heavens for civilisation! Yet, on the up side, there were not only crummy pictures behind the doors to this calendar. These doors also concealed delights the like of which Binky’s digestive system dared not even dream. Delights that were inexplicably replenished every December. Delights that were, in point of fact, his most favouritest, most deliciousest, most scrumptiousest Tasty Treats. The one drawback being that his rotten, dirty, stinking, no-good master let him open a measly one such door each day. A right nativity Nazi, Lemington Soot was.
On the subject of which, there was the thorny annual issue of Binky’s Christmas list. While Binky loved Christmas – we may have established this detail by now, but I think it bears emphasising, given the tribulations to follow – he wasn’t best pleased with his master’s mealy-mouthed attitude to gift giving as it related to his truly. Lemington, a diminutive human-ish individual covered from head to foot in hair, and thus classified in Binky’s book as some kind of weirdo, seemed perfectly happy with the odd present from his Auntie Acacia, or some dusty volume of forteana courtesy of his fogeyish friend Orestes Senior. Fine. Fantastic. Fabulous. But that didn’t mean Binky had to suffer a similar shortage of Christmas goodies. What did Lemington think he was, an easily-satisfied simpleton? What was with those inferior pet stocking fillers, the ones with balls and bells and nauseating pet “snacks”?
There was also a banal ritual whereby Lemington would give Binky a mouse toy, and Binky would ignore it, not even deigning to sniff at it sniffily. Lemington would say, ‘Go on, it’s got catnip on it’, and Binky would reply, ‘Go on, boil your head. And while you’re at it, how about attending to my Christmas list?’ Lemington would reply that he lacked the funds to buy that much steak, and he most assuredly didn’t have a refrigerated warehouse to store it all in. Binky would call him a cheapskate, and his conduct proved what was patently clear: that Lemington didn’t care about his precious pet one little bit. And besides, what about out all the other items? That was only demand number one. Lemington would tell him it wouldn’t do to have a cat in the garden using an iPhone, or playing with a remote-controlled Batmobile (‘CAT-mobile!’ Binky would wail in protest), or doing the rounds of the canal on a pedalo (‘For the fishies!’ Binky would entreat). Binky would then, as a rule, signal his contempt for Lemington by being sick. Copiously. And would then add that he was sorry he didn’t have time to wrap it up and put it under the tree, but it was the thought that counted, and there was more where that came from if Lemington was on best behaviour. Binky being, unlike his master, a generous and tenderhearted individual.
The subject of presents also customarily initiated discussion of the delicate personage of Santa Claus. If you’re a small child reading this, well, you probably shouldn’t be for a start and most likely it’s past your bedtime, so I am duty bound to at very least advise you to inform your parents immediately and request due chaperoning, as this story gets unutterably ghastly in places. But apart from that, and if you’ve ignored my warning in the previous sentence, try not to be too distressed by the views Binky Blowbottom is about to express. They’re his alone, and do not represent the sentiments or opinions of management.
Binky’s conversations with Lemington on the status of Saint Nick usually went along these lines:
Binky: Santa Claus doesn’t exist.
Lemington: Why do you say that, Binky?
Binky: Cos he never brings me anything. I know for a fact, as the stuff I get is always rubbish, so it must be from you.
Lemington: Binky, have you ever considered that Santa might have very good reason for not bringing you any presents?
Binky: Such as?
Lemington: Such as, because you haven’t been good this year? Or last year? Or the year before?
The ‘Pah’ commonly preceded a hacking, retching noise, swiftly followed by a flurry of feline throw-up: a luxury selection of hairballs and stomach contents that would find itself enveloping whatever section of floor, furniture, workspace or part of Lemington Soot that was within a three hundred and sixty-degree rotation of Binky’s head.
So, while Binky Blowbottom did so, ever so, very much love Christmas, there were also a few things that got on his wick about it. All of which were others’ faults. And, more specifically, the fault of that master of his. Who was about to foster further ill-will with his pet, and precipitate this particular escapade.
Binky was taking a load off, concentrating on the taxing task of reclining in front of the television, when Lemington entered the living room.
‘Merry Christmas Eve, Binky!’ he greeted seasonally.
‘SHHHHHH!’ snarled Binky, with an undeniable odour of the obstreperous. ‘I am trying to watch Scrooge. It’s my favourite Christmas film. Well, apart from the ending that is. Idiot has to go and spoil it all by being nice, cheerful and chummy to everyone. And then, he adds insult to injury by buying a big turkey, the biggest there is, and giving it away to that useless doormat of an employee and his mewling brat. I mean, what kind of numbskull throws away a perfectly good turkey? What kind of numbskull doesn’t make sure the very best and biggest turkey available is cooking delectably in their oven on Christmas morning?’
‘I really couldn’t say,’ said Lemington, who really probably could, actually. He was amused by Binky’s acid reflux, but could already foresee a tempestuous exchange on the horizon, approaching fast.
‘Apparently,’ professed Binky professorially, ‘it has also been adapted into a novella. I’ve half a mind to see if it ends more satisfactorily, ‘cept I’ve got no time for any of that reading nonsense. It’s a good thing I can rely on you to feed me properly at Crimbo, that’s all I know.’
Binky was referring to how Lemington Soot, in the interests of peace on earth and goodwill to all men and their pets, even hirsute men and their heavyweight pets, made an exception to his ‘No Binkys at the table’ decree on Christmas Day, and allowed him to partake of dinner with all the trimmings. In part, this was because Orestes would also be visiting – although, this year he was in absentia, and Lemington still hadn’t heard what he was up to – and Binky could be trusted, out of his sneaking respect for the old man, to show a modicum of restraint and a minimum of table manners. He would even pause for Lemington to say grace before shovelling a great slab of turkey and stuffing and bacon rolls and roast potatoes and cranberry sauce and pigs in blankets and parsnip into his mouth.
Binky was not offered sprouts, however.
Binky shunned vegetables on principle, unless they were extremely appetising and in some way incorporated meat. Likewise, fruit. And yet, he was passionate about mince pies with rum butter. And Christmas cake. They didn’t count, since all that sugary sweetness and icing and pastry masked the dread taste and texture. He didn’t even feel the need to regurgitate the raisins and other root-based matter at a later date.
No, the reason for the sprout-free diet was entirely practical. Sprouts gave Binky wind like there was no tomorrow. So much so, they nearly blew him into next week. One Christmas – the one Christmas he’d tried them – the trumping had got so bad, Binky had been banished to the garden. Even then, the effect was as if a violent thunderstorm were wreaking havoc on the local ecosystem, in concert with a powerfully toxic gas leak or ruptured cesspit. A fine green mist hung over the surrounding fields, imploring the grass to give up the ghost and leading to a spate of emergency evacuations by hedgerow inhabitants who were all set to settle down for EastEnders. Such was the pervasive odour, the incident in turn gave rise to a cruel neighbourhood anthem, appropriated from a popular beat combo’s festive ditty: ‘Last Christmas Binky blew off a fart, By the very next day it had palpably decided to stay.’ Which didn’t scan and was rather vulgar. But then, it was a rather vulgar neighbourhood.
‘Yes. About that, Binky.’
Lemington’s tentative tone made his beloved feline instantly suspicious. Why did he expect some bad news was about to advance from his master’s imperceptible lips?
‘What? You’re not banning me from the table again? I told you I have no idea how the litter tray ended up face down in your bed. Or how that jobby got there. Certainly wasn’t me.’
‘No, no. Nothing like that.’ Although, now Lemington recollected, that was a significant black mark against Binky there.
‘Phew. You had me worried for a second.’
‘No, it’s something else. Nothing to be alarmed about. Just that I’ve decided not go with turkey this year. I’m having a nut roast.’
Binky could scarcely believe his ears.
‘NUT ROAST?!’ he exclaimed, before spitting his heartfelt sentiments over the carpet.
That was Binky again.
Then, once more with (additional) feeling.
‘Yes, I thought I’d go vegetarian, seeing as they didn’t have any organic birds at the butcher’s. So…’
‘Don’t worry, though. I’ve got you a tin of Catti-Patti. Turkey and Stuffing flavour. Mmmm. Yum-Yum. Eh?’
Binky was nonplussed. ‘I’ll tell you what. I’ll eat it if you do too.’
‘Don’t be silly,’ tutted Lemington. ‘You normally eat food out of the tin.’
‘Yes. Proper food. Like skipjack tuna. And sardines. I’m not having that Catti-Pukey. You think you can just serve me up any old muck? You’ve gone too far this time!’
‘Oh, do stop overreacting. You can have some Special Binky Gravy with it. And you’ll still get dessert. And some mulled wine later.’
‘Mulled wine! I’d rather drink from the septic tank.’
‘What’s this?’ Lemington was staring at the floor.
‘Eh?’ Binky couldn’t see anything.
‘Is this yours?’
‘Whassat, then?’ What was the Malignant Soot on about now? Binky was of the view that the topic under review had been unnecessarily side-tracked.
‘Yes, it is yours. Look.’
Lemington was holding out a humbug.
‘You’ll be laughing on the other side of your face when I hurl on it,’ warned Binky, with not inconsiderable vehemence. ‘Every Christmas you ruin things! You don’t even put an orange and an apple in my Super Special Binky Stocking, to go with my choccy lump-lump mixtures.’
‘If I did, would you eat them?’
‘No, you wouldn’t.’
‘Then you’d do it just to spite me. And then you’d suffer explosive diarrhoea.’
‘What nonsense,’ scoffed Binky, waving a dismissive paw. ‘I can’t even spell the stuff, much less have an attack of it.’
Lemington disappeared into the kitchen. He was back moments later, clutching a tin.
‘Look, Binky. Here’s the Catti-Patti. It’s gourmet, see. None of that nasty jelly. Proper, tasty food.’
He handed it to the discontented kitty.
‘Oh yes, so it is.’ Binky gave it a cursory glance and promptly hurled it as his owner.
He was impressed with the way it rebounded off Lemington’s forehead.
Then, coolly rolling off the couch so as to avoid its return trajectory, he stood chunky but firm. ‘Well, if it’s going to be like that, I shall simply have to procure myself a prize pullet.’
‘Be my guest.’ Lemington knew full well Binky was exceedingly lazy, and that there was fat chance of his fat cat making good.
‘You doubt me, huh?’
‘No, no. You go ahead. You’ll have to prepare it yourself, of course. If you do get hold of one.’
‘I, unlike some people living in his house with me, whose names begin with ‘Lem’ and end in ‘ington’, am an excellent chef. I merely choose to let my talents go unnoticed most of the time. You mark my words. Before the night is out, I shall return to this place with the largest, juiciest, most succulent turkey you ever did see, and you’ll be begging me for a solitary scrap of it!’
And with that, Binky Blowbottom, Esq., gathered himself up and propelled himself from the room, a trail of tinsel flowing in his wake.
A short interlude passed, and he poked his head back round the door frame, making venomous eye contact with Lemington Soot, who was now warming himself by the fire.
‘You’re the worst owner EVER!’ yelled Binky.
Then he was gone once more, slamming the front door behind him.
Lemington sighed. It was going to be one of those Christmases. Like every Binky Christmas.
Tomorrow: Chapter Two of Binky Blowbottom's Christmas Spirit!
Tomorrow: Chapter Two of Binky Blowbottom's Christmas Spirit!