Our school principal, a “Brother” of the Catholic “Presentation” Order gave more orders than he ever took, and in the way he behaved towards us, the word “pal” in his job had to be short for “impalpable” meaning “difficult to perceive or
He taught us Religious Knowledge every morning and Chemistry later in the day. I had problems with that. As a science teacher he filled our heads with the “scientific method” or the process of observing, forming a hypothesis, experimenting and then analysing the results or what he called “test, observe and infer”. However, every morning in his sessions with the Catholic boys he was a different person and when I asked him to explain this business about the Father, Son and Holy Ghost being one, or Mary having a baby without any intervening interjection, he first got angry and then told me and the other boys we had to “take an act of faith” on it. In other words forget what he taught us and beat us for in Chemistry class. Whenever I protested, his response was always, “You have to look at the big picture!”
In those days one of the really big pictures was the religious masterpiece of the late fifties “The Ten Commandments”. I wanted to tell Brother Jerome that I went to see the big picture and reached late so I only saw eight of the Commandments, but I had already got a cuff for being late, despite telling him the bus drivers were protesting with a “Go Slow”. As he said, he no longer trusted my excuses as I had too many and far too quickly. He thought I was like the boy whose father was so very upset by his son lying about everything that he decided to teach the boy a lesson. He told him, “Let me see if you could tell a lie without thinking. I will give you a shilling if you could do that!” The boy replied right away, “A shilling daddy? But you just promise me a dollar!” I had another one waiting for Brother Jerome but I stored it for this article. The original movie based on the 1926 Ernest Hemingway book, “The Sun Also Rises”, hit our cinema and my friend Ross gave me one of his free coupons. Ross had stolen an entire roll of yellow-coloured ones and whenever the Cinema manager switched to that colour, Ross was there with a cheaper price for entry. He was my friend so I got in free. Unfortunately, the tickets were only for the late night show so while I saw the “Rises” on and off the screen, I totally missed “The Sun Also”.
For all of us country boys, any picture, big or small, was an event, especially if one of the girls had got her mother’s (and father’s) permission to go with us. Most of the time, the big picture took place on our way back home through the dark Savannah or playing field where the grass was green and plentiful and there were galvanize sheets left on the side of the fence next to the aptly named “Ministry of Works”. I was thinking of this in terms of a 1958 movie, “Cat On A Hot Tin Roof” starring Elizabeth Taylor and Paul Newman. What had happened is that in the back of the house in which we now live, just next to a large concrete fence, is an old, green galvanized shed that remains locked. While we don’t have a clue about what is inside it, a female cat dug a hole in the grass and dirt under the shed and gave birth to some kittens. While she was smart enough to avoid the hot tin roof, the poor creature, with no Paul Newman and only one Old man around (me ), has to find food for herself and her babies. What keeps her situation from being catastrophic and acts as timely catharsis is my wife Indranie, the animal magnet (who claims this as her reason for being with me). In fact, without ever having known Brother Jerome, Indranie is now a confirmed and baptised Cat-holic.
The closest I’ve come to this particular fate (and not faith) is that I loved the catchy tunes that catapulted Cat Stevens (now known as Yusuf Islam) into stardom. Like the Calypsonian, the Mighty Sparrow, I too “fraid pussy bite me” but with or without drinking whisky, I will never declare war on the poor animal. In fact, I welcome each and all with, “What’s New Pussycat?” and find out some amazing things. There was the cat that swallowed a ball of wool and had mittens. Another drank five bowls of water and set a new lap record. I still remember the story in Britain’s “Daily Mail” newspaper: “KIDNAPPED: MP’s wife found guilty of stealing her love-rival’s cat…” Then there was the time the head of Nike’s Public Relations was speechless when asked to explain his company’s headline, “Tiger Woods Uses His Own Balls, Says Nike”. The journalist asked him, “What’s the matter, cat got your tongue?”
The cat story I still remember comes from Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Johnny was interviewing the flamboyant actress, Zsa Zsa Gabor, whose fame “lay” (and I use that word with full awareness of its many meanings) in the number of marriages in which she was a protagonist and which exceeded the number of movies in which she featured. She had brought on the set a small feline mammal and petted it constantly during the interview. She then, in seeming innocence, asked Carson archly, “Do you want to play with my pussy?” To which he replied, “You have to get that cat off your lap first.”
*Tony Deyal was last seen listening to a dog boasting to a cat that humans loved dogs more than cats because they even named an important body part, the canine tooth, after them. The cat smiled and said, “You really not going to win this one you know.”