A few weeks ago I caught the tail end of a section of The One Show where a ginger cat sat on the sofa while his adopted owner answered questions from Matt Baker and Alex Jones about how the feline creature had become such an integral part of his life.
In March this year, I had taken ownership of a female ginger cat who was not co-habiting too peaceably with my grandchild. There were various other reasons why Marmalade was adopted by us but many of her previous misdemeanours have yet to be repeated at Chez Castle. My neighbours, knowing we had a ginger cat, left a book outside our door which I picked up with some curiosity. On the front cover was a cat almost identical to our Marmalade. However, his name, Bob, reminded us that he differed from our ginger cat only in terms of gender.
The book documents the paths of a vulnerable ex addict and a homeless ginger tom. From the moment I picked it up I was captivated by this heart-warming tale of hope which also introduced me to aspects of living on the streets of which I was totally unaware.
James Bowen is the young man who has fallen on hard times since his arrival in the UK from Australia hampered by fractured family links and a relationship which also seems to have fallen on hard times. I was delighted to read further into the book that Bob’s debut into the life of James also indirectly allowed the dying relationship to rekindle itself until girlfriend Belle becomes a staunch friend and even provides a home to Bob when James disappears to Australia to revive lost contact with his mother. The book is told by James with the help of Garry Jenkins and his writing skills.
How Bob endears himself to everyone he meets while out with James makes the book delightful but the longest journey is that taken by James who, aware of his new responsibility as a pet owner, begins to turn his life around. At first Bob is left at home while James goes into central London to earn money busking. When it becomes clear that Bob wants to be a part of this life, the cat accompanies him, usually perched on his shoulders but otherwise tethered by a long shoe lace. It soon becomes clear to James that he earns more money when Bob is with him and this brings problems aroused by the jealousy of others who are working the streets.
For the reader, there is a wonderful insight into life on the streets and the coping skills of those who have very little material wealth and unfortunate backgrounds. James frequently uses the internet free on local library computers, becoming adept with Information Technology despite only being capable of a hand-to-mouth existence in everyday life. He is resourceful when it comes to getting free or low cost vetinerary help for Bob. The day that Bob has a microchip inserted, James is asked if he is Bob’s owner and affirming this he recognises the importance of the role which was thrust upon him.
After returning from a visit to Australia where his estranged mother and he have established more than superficial contact, he is well rested and has put on some weight. He is now determined to come off the drugs programme completely and, after suffering withdrawal symptoms, he makes the transition from the methadone treatment and sets himself the target to get paid work. He has been a Big Issue seller in the past and so he re-establishes contact with those managing the distribution in the London area. Again Bob is a magnet especially where tourists are concerned. James is frequently posing for photographs and is aware that some video is being taken but naively he fails to realise that this is all being published on the internet. Tourists are already bringing Bob tins of cat food and actively seeking him out but it isn’t until he hears some Japanese tourists saying ‘This is Bob, the Big Issue cat’ that he realises Bob’s fame is worldwide.
There are many touching moments in the book and times when my heart raced as Bob does have some unfortunate experiences on the streets with James but somehow even when his owner is rushing around panic-stricken, we have the feeling that all will be right in the end, especially if we had already seen them appear on the One Show.
This book should be on every cat lover’s Christmas list but, regardless of your feelings for cats, it will appeal to all. I wish James good luck as he continues to turn his life around. Hopefully becoming a published author (even with a ghost writer) has already set him on a path to increased happiness and wealth.
Read the latest news and stories from James and Bob at http://www.hodder.co.uk and at Bob’s very own Twitter site @streetcatbob