Posted by: billpurdue | February 10, 2011

A “heartwarming” story

Don’t you think that  the phrase ‘heart warming’ is so overused these days as to be almost meaningless except to indicate that something is, well, “nice”? Well, if there was any situation in which this word is really meaningful, then it could be used to describe a book I have just read called Paw tracks in the Moonlight [Constable £7.99 978-1849011198] by Denis O’Connor.

It was in 1966 that Denis bought Owl Cottage near Rothbury in rural Northumberland. One winter’s night with snow on the ground, Denis heard a terrible scream outside from some kind of animal. Venturing out into the snow he eventually discovered a cat caught in a gin trap. He released the cat which promptly disappeared, so he chased after it. In an old barn he found the cat plus two kittens, half dead with hunger and cold. He rushed them to a vet and whilst the mother and one kitten had to be put down he decided to have a go at rearing the second kitten.

With much patience and perseverance he rears the kitten and what follows is the story of Toby Jug’s (for that is his new name) first year as the cat of the house at Owl Cottage. Toby Jug turns out to be no ordinary cat – he is taken out for walks on a lead and his favourite perch is on Denis’ shoulder. He even takes Toby Jug on a short camping holiday, along with a horse he is looking after for a work colleague. His appearance is rather different from ordinary cats and Denis later finds out that he is a Maine Coon cat, the breed originating from Maine USA, looking in some ways a little like a racoon.

Every now and then I think it does you good to read a really “nice” story, true or otherwise and this book certainly qualifies. And like some other animal stories, if you are so inclined, you may well need a few tissues at the end. Denis O’Connor has also written Paw Tracks at Owl Cottage [Constable £7.99 978-1849016407] about four Maine Coon cats which he owned after he got married.

Just Out


A couple of new books now, which I’ve found during browsing at WHS and Waterstone’s


The Disappearing Spoon by  Sam Kean [Doubleday £20 978-0857520265] looks to be just up my street. Since I enjoyed Bill Bryson’s  At Home and since Mr Kean has been compared with Bill Bryson  (“Kean has Bill Bryson’s comic touch”- New Scientist), I’m keen to read it – sorry for the pun. It is a sort of history of the discovery of the elements in the periodic table and the scientists who found them, told in a very entertaining fashion. It’s “an entertaining romp through the chemical elements” according to Try the video on YouTube

Have you ever read the hype about a new book and at the end of it all, wondered what it’s all about? Well I do have some clues as to what The Marrowbone Marble Company [Blue Door £12.99 978-0007359073] by Glenn Taylor is all about, but not a lot. I know it’s about race, class and poverty and is set in the 1950s and ‘60s, but the rest of the descriptions I’ve seen are a bit vague. Certainly it’s had a lot of good reviews and Waterstone’s in Nottingham had a great pile of them when I called in this week (even though it’s not officially out until March). So I think I’d better put it on my “to read” list.

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