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Poppy & Daisy:
Cats That Sailed
The South China Sea
Shae Athena Christi
Long before Poppy and Daisy came to England to live in the warm cosy Clowder Cottage their life was very different living a thousand miles away on the other side of the world. There were of three little kittens that had been born to Ping, a stray white cat in a disused rusty old car on the outskirts of rural Thailand. But back then, Poppy was called Chau and Daisy was called Yen and they had one brother called Sang.
When Chau and Yen and their brother were just four months old rumour began to circulate within the neighbourhood that the meat catchers were scowling around looking for cats and dogs to take back to their lair. The meat catchers would creep out in the night time and hide in the shadows and whichever unfortunate animal was roaming around would be kidnapped and caged and then taken back to their cave and eaten.
Ping would do her best to look after her little ones and try to keep them out of harm’s way as best as she could and told them that they should never stray too far from her gaze or wander off into the night time alone. It was only when her friend, Van, another cat in the neighbourhood, along with three dogs who had only been sniffing around in their back gardens just before their bedtime, were kidnapped, that Ping made the decision to take her children far away from the area to keep them safe.
One evening, just after the sun set and some time before the meat catchers were known to be prowling the neighbourhood, Ping took her little kittens, Chau, Yen, and Sang, a few miles out of rural Thailand and headed for the coast towards the bay where fishing boats and trawlers made their way inland after netting their catch for the day. She found a safe hiding place not too far from the fishing harbour. She had the idea that they would all live there and each morning at the crack of dawn she would sneak on board some of the empty boats to try and find some of the remains of the previous days catch. For many weeks Ping managed to steal some of the fish that had been dropped on the deck area or around the jetty and take it back for her children.
Then, one morning Ping was on a fishing vessel when her three little kittens followed her onto the deck curious as to what she was getting up to. Just as she was about to scold them for not doing as they were told she heard voices coming down the jetty and she turned to investigate. She could see six fishermen coming towards the boat that Ping and her kittens were on. Ping turned and hushed her children beneath the deck and managed to keep herself and her offspring hidden away for two days while the boat was out at sea and they ate the little food she had found that morning before the fishermen had arrived.
As the fishermen went to bed down on the second night, Ping crept out of her hiding place that was behind some barrels and made her way up to the deck. She searched for any fish that may have fallen into some nook or cranny or between any of the crates. A storm began to descend over the waters and the boat seemed to sway this way and that which was almost more than Ping’s stomach could stand. The motion made her feel quite sick but she ignored it the best she could and focused on finding her hungry kittens some food. She sniffed around the upper deck barrels only to skid across the wet planked floor when a wave slammed into the side of the boat covering her in salty sea spray.
Suddenly, one of the men stepped out onto the deck when he caught sight of Ping. He raised the alarm to the other men who had been sleeping and three of them ran up onto the deck from below. They tried to catch the unwelcome white cat and throw her overboard by her tail but, Ping managed to dart out of their way and make her way back down below deck to protect her kittens. They were her only priority. One of the men followed her but he was thrown violently across the deck before he made the stairs. A clap of thunder tore through the sky and the sea began to churn dangerously. Ping managed to get to her bewildered kittens that were by now shaking with fright at the sound of the storm, the mad rocking of the boat and the fishermen’s angry voices.
“Whatever happens, children,” panted Ping as she nudged them out of their hiding place. “You stay with me at all times. Do you hear?”
They scrambled around the corner of the darkened room and made their way towards the wooden stairs. All of the little kittens stayed close to each other when two of the men came rumbling bare footed down the steps. One was the Captain, who hit the light switch, and his eyes popped out of his head at the presence of not one but four cats aboard his vessel. He headed straight for Ping and her kittens when the boat lurched again, this time sending the two men toppling backward to the other side of the room. Ping and two of her kittens managed to keep a grip on the floor but Yen, the little black kitten, lost her footing and began to slide towards the men but, Ping managed to grab her daughter just in time and urged all of her children up the stairs and out onto the deck. She ushered them towards an empty ice-box that was half hidden beneath a sheeting of tarpaulin and told them to climb in and keep hidden. The box was only big enough to conceal the three kittens and they all began to cry but, Ping calmed them down as she gently placed the lid over the ice-box. As she did, she jumped with a start when one of the fishermen saw her and screamed out. It was the Captain again.
“There it is! Grab it and throw it overboard,” he hollered, his eyes bulging out of his beetroot coloured head.
Chau, the little white cat with the charcoal splodges on her coat, managed to pop the lid open slightly with her paws so she could see properly. She and her siblings watched aghast as one of the men grabbed hold of Ping’s tail and ran to the side of the boat and tossed her into the angry sea. The kittens gasped and wailed desperately for their mother when their noise alerted one of the men. He turned to see Chau’s little pink nose poking out from under the lid of the ice box.
“Well, what do we have here?” he hissed as he stepped forward to investigate. Two of the other men followed him and as he ripped the lid off the box they stood and saw three little heads staring up at them from inside.
“Get rid of them,” demanded the Captain nodding towards the dark sea.
His colleague lunged forward to scoop up the box when an enormous wave slammed into the side of the boat sending all the men and the ice box skidding in different directions. The cold sea water sloshed across the deck causing everything to move around like random chess pieces. Chau, Yen, and Sang held on tight to each other when another wave hit and it threw two men overboard along with the ice box containing the terrified kittens.
They splashed into the cold water and it almost took their breath away. The ice box had fallen away from them as they had hurtled through the air and now it was bobbing across a wave being swept out further to sea.
The two fishermen who had fallen into the water were fortunate enough to make it back to the boat and were hauled back in by their colleagues. Around every side of the vessel bobbed wooden boxes, a barrel or two, ropes, dead fish, and fruit such as apples and bananas. There was also a lifebuoy floating further away from them.
The kittens splashed and gurgled trying to find something to cling onto but the angry waves kept removing everything from their grasp. They were now in danger of drowning.
“Mama, please help us,” they choked as the water rushed over them pushing them under the surface of the water. All three kittens were being driven apart from each other and the panic was overwhelming.
The boat was now sailing away from them but a few moments later, Chau and Yen managed to find each other but they couldn’t find their brother, Sang. The two sisters latched onto a thick wedge of white polystyrene that was floating close by which had been used to pack the fish in frozen ice. Yen was the first to scramble up onto the lid before she helped Chau onto it too. For a few moments, the two little sisters sat shivering and shocked by what had just happened to them. Suddenly, they heard their mothers cry coming from somewhere in the dark of the angry black waters. Then, it disappeared and they heard no more and Chau and Yen began to cry inconsolably.
What the two girls didn’t know was, Ping had found her son, Sang, and propped him inside the lifebuoy to which the little boy tied the rope braiding around his little paws. While clinging to the lifebuoy herself, Ping desperately tried to search for her two little daughters in the now raining dark. The following morning a passing cruise ship caught sight of the mother cat and her little boy as they desperately clung to the drifting lifesaver. They stopped the course of their enormous ship and scooped up the wet and weary animals and took them both on their course to Australia where they went on to become national celebrities. But, it broke Ping’s heart that she never saw her two girls again but she was glad at least that one of her children had survived the awful incident.
While Ping and Sang were on their way to Australia the following morning, Chau, the white cat with the charcoal marks across her back and the side of her face, and her sister, the all black coated Yen, drifted in the doldrums of the South China Sea and ended up bobbing like a cork from a wine bottle on their polystyrene lid hundreds of miles off course from where they had come. They ate a couple of pieces of the dead fish that had fallen off the boat that Yen had scooped up the night before and drank from the shallow pockets of rainwater that had collected over night in the corners of the lid. For another day and a night, they managed like this and bickered and baked under the hot sun. During the early evening, they were even circled by marauding sharks keen to take a bite out of them and the two kittens were just about to give up when a passing British merchant ship sailed into view and saw the two little kittens flopped out and dehydrating on their polystyrene life saver.
Captain Bridgeshaw welcomed them aboard and he soon became their sole provider on the ship and he would feed them and make sure they were okay. He named the white cat Fluff and the black cat Sooty. For almost two whole years all three of them were companions. The two little kittens grew into adult cats and they became quite accustomed to the sailor’s life and nothing could keep them away from a life on the ocean waves as they sailed back and forth between England and the South China Sea.
Even Mrs. Bridgeshaw, who adored them, couldn’t keep them at home when it was time for her husband to head back out to sea. Whatever Captain Bridgeshaw and his wife, Mary, did to keep them both at home the two little sisters always managed to slip out and find their way down to the docks and board the merchant ship unseen.
The first time Captain Bridgeshaw’s ship left the UK mainland since having Fluff and Sooty come into his life, it was not seven miles into his journey when he stood out on the platform of his bridge and looked down to see them nonchalantly pottering over the deck. Even the other sailors became accustomed to the two little feisty felines and having them aboard gave them a sense of a home from home.
Every morning and every evening Fluff and Sooty would sit near the prow and watch out for incoming storms. A pair of red and black butterflies who had made their home on the ship would often flutter by and Daisy would be the one to chase them through the aisles of the shipping containers and try to shoo them off board but, they ignored the feisty black cat and they just continued on their way.
A seagull would often come to join the cats and keep them company which amused the Captain and the sailors immensely. In fact, the seagull and the two cats had quite a unique relationship in which they would trade his freshly caught fish for their crunchy cat biscuits.
This went on for almost two years when one early freezing morning in February, Sooty, the black cat with the glossy coat, meandered out across the deck to take in the crisp air. The ship sailed over the North Sea and Sooty watched the mainland loom into view as if under a grainy cloud. Fluff came out to join her leaving a small pouch of cat biscuits on the deck and began rubbing the sleep out of her eyes.
“Has Selwyn come by with the fish yet? I’m starving,” she yawned as she stretched deep with her bottom up in the air.
“Not yet, no,” replied Sooty as she now laid flat on her belly and stared dreamily out at the real life watercolour painting on the horizon. She could see Tynemouth Priory in the distance protruding out of the shroud of fog that rolled out from the river Tyne.
Then, the pair of them heard an annoying scratching sound coming from one of the nearby containers. It was Sooty who was the first to catch sight of the pesky rat that scurried between the skyscraper towers of steel elongated boxes, weaving down one lane and then another.
Sooty looked at Fluff and Fluff at Sooty.
Then, they both exploded into action and began chasing the rat across the deck in the early grey morning light. Then, the rat jumped up onto the ship’s side and it seemed to be antagonizing the two girls. Sooty was furious at the vermin’s audacity to mock both the cats with his presence. She dived towards it and Fluff followed her but, the rat scurried off the ledge like a lightning shot. Sooty was horrified to see she had gone over the side and quickly somersaulted herself around and instinctively caught Fluff’s tail who had managed to grab hold of the side before she too went over. Fluff tried to grip harder as Yen pulled at her tail.
But, it was too late.
They both toppled backward towards the freezing, iron grey North Sea. Fluff could see as she fell that the rat was sitting back on the ledge and smugly waving at them both as the unlucky cats plunged deep into the freezing water. They both thought they would never resurface again. When they did, they both flapped and flailed, panicking that they had nothing to hold onto this time but each other. The water almost swallowed them both up as they watched the enormous hulk of the merchant ship pass them by like a sailing mega mountain.
“I can’t keep my head above the water,” spluttered Fluff, her teeth chattering madly with cold.
“Hold onto my fur. We’ll be okay. We have to be. We can’t go now,” said Sooty, herself choking on the sea water and her eyes revealing a deep sense of panic. They both quickly began to tire and could no longer hold their heads above the surface when finally, they both slipped beneath it accepting their watery fates.
Suddenly, something grabbed the fur on the back of their necks and they were both scooped out of the sea with a ferocious speed. Both Fluff and Sooty found they were flying across the North Sea towards Tynemouth Priory, each hanging from the large beak of a seagull, and blowing about in mid-air like a pair of knickers on a washing line.
After a cold windy flight, Fluff and Sooty were laid down on the grass around the ruined shell of the Priory. It was their seagull friend, Selwyn, and his wife, Mildred, who had scooped the two hapless cats out of the bitter watery soup that had almost claimed them a second time. They led the two cats to a large puddle of rainwater to get the burn of the sea salt out of their throats and their seagull friends flew off to find a piece of fish for the cats to eat for their breakfast.
For two months Fluff and Sooty made their home near the Priory and lived the life of feral activity when, one day, they were snatched by some animal catchers in a van and they feared their days were numbered once more. But, these animal catcher’s were not like the ones they feared back in Thailand.
They were soon taken off to Patter-Paws Animal Shelter and checked over by a vet and kept in a warm pen where they both bedded down together in their plush igloo beds. They were then assigned new names once more. The white cat with the black marks was now called Poppy and the silky black cat was now called Daisy. It wasn’t long before a lady with cotton wool black hair popped in with the manager of Patter-Paws and was told that the two stray cats were found near the Priory in Tynemouth.
The nice lady came into the pen with them and got acquainted with the two little sisters who had sailed thousands of miles from the South China Sea and soon they were purring and climbing into her lap as if they had finally found a home.
“I’ve been looking for the right cat after my Jellybean and Butterscotch passed away last summer,” she said with a warm smile as she stroked their heads and held them close. “I’ve always had cats and the occasional dog or three, you know, but, I think it’s high time my home was filled with animals again. My house isn’t a home without pets and I think it’s fair you both be adopted together.”
That very morning their new owner, Ellie Rowntree, placed the two newly adopted cats into a cat basket and then into her mint green Morris Minor Traveller. They both meowed and hissed their disapproval of being locked up all the way to their new home. Once they arrived, she let them out onto the kitchen floor and allowed them their own time to get used to their new surroundings. Ellie’s home had been empty of pets since her elderly cats, Butterscotch and Jellybean, had passed away the previous year and it had been quite lonely for some time at Clowder Cottage without a pet or two to love and care for.
As Ellie went to the hearth in the lounge and tended to the fire that had died down, Poppy and Daisy sniffed about the kitchen, nosed about upstairs in the bedrooms, and even sniffed around the toilet. Then, they pottered downstairs and out of the cat flap onto the patio in the cottage garden which was ice cold beneath the pads of their paws. They heard some strange quacking noises coming from a miniature teardrop caravan that had pale blue and lemon polka dot bunting hanging from its window frame and half open door.
Poppy, the white cat with the black imprints on her coat, bolted over to investigate the noise and was met with a squawking honk on her delicate nose.
“Do you mind?” squawked the gander. “How dare you poke your nose into our home!”
Daisy, the black cat, backed off from the irritated male goose, unnerved she might lose an eye from that enormous angry beak of his. Poppy tottered backward and held her head down as she rubbed her pink little nose on the back of her paw.
“We were only curious. There’s no need to be so rude,” answered Daisy as she physically nudged her sister away from the two geese who were now coming out of their small caravan.
“Rude? Me? I wouldn’t be so if you were not so rude, to begin with,” honked the gander irritably.
“Okay, Podsy, you’ve made your point. I think they understand now,” replied his wife as she looked over to Poppy who looked quite hurt by Podsy’s angry outburst.
Ellie ran out of the kitchen door and over to the ducks and hushed them back into their little caravan.
“I see you’ve met Podsy and Pickle then, you two,” she laughed as she bolted up the lower part of their caravan door but allowing the top half to be left open. Podsy immediately swung his long white neck over it.
“The insolence. They cause the ruckus around here and it is I who is locked up like a felon in my very own home? How dare you, woman,” honked and hooted Podsy quite put out by his owner’s behaviour.
“Oh, please be quiet, Podsy, you’re so noisy this morning,” said Ellie at her pet goose’s irritable honking manner. “I should have introduced you two first. I’m sorry.”
Poppy and Daisy gave a look towards each other that read, Better stay out of his way!
Ellie then coaxed them both back into the cottage and made them a delicious snack of chicken broth with a side serving of warm goat’s milk. The two cats then pottered into the lounge where Ellie had made them both thick cosy beds in which they could doze in front of the toasty warm fire. Once they settled in and basked beneath the comforting heat for almost an hour, Ellie got up and walked into the kitchen to make a cup of tea and have a slice of Victoria sponge cake that she had made the previous day.
“I think I could get quite used to this, you know, Daisy,” purred Poppy as she cleaned her front paw and wiped it over her ear.
Daisy looked up and smiled as she felt the warmth of the crackling fire emanating throughout her body.
“Me too, Poppy, me too. No more sea water and sailing for us. It was much too dangerous,” she replied.
Poppy smiled and rolled on her back before curling up into a ball of sweet dreams and constant purrs.
It wasn’t too long before Poppy and Daisy both felt they had become an important part of the Clowder Cottage household. Ellie loved them deeply and they loved her in return. They even got used to Podsy’s regular tantrums and found that his wife, Pickle, was really quite lovely. Most weekends, Ellie’s granddaughter, Bronte, would stay over and they would all three of them go out into the farm fields that surrounded the property and have adventures together. And although there was no sea or large sailing vessels around for some miles they felt very happy where they were. It was all a far cry from their original life in Thailand as they tried to avoid the meat catchers and angry fishermen.
But often, Poppy and Daisy would talk about their beloved brave mother, Ping, and their little brother, Sang, and wondered if they too had been saved by a passing ship and were both now living a wonderful new life in far off lands just like they had been lucky enough to. They preferred that story as it was a much more positive outcome.
As the two cats became permanent residents at Clowder Cottage, Daisy would regularly take her place on the dry stone wall and watch over what she declared her domain, her kingdom, and Poppy would happily saunter off over the surrounding countryside getting up to much mischief as she was inclined to do so but, what made them both feel the most secure in themselves was, at the end of every day, after every adventure, they had a real home to go home to and it was all theirs forever more and nobody could take that away from them.
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Tom Potato: The Cat That Ran Scared
Life for Tom Potato has never been easy. Before he arrived at Clowder Cottage, he lived a rather complicated life with neglectful owners in County Durham. After he’s injured in an accident, his owners dump him in a bin, where he’s found and cared for, but that only provides him minimal relief.
Before long, he learns that not even an adoption can save him from his troubles. The placement isn’t any better than his previous life, and he runs away. But running away doesn’t help him to escape the fears he carries with him and his inability to fit in with those around him.
As he tries and fails to navigate his lonely world, he unwittingly finds himself in an animal shelter, where his life takes a dramatic and heart warming turn.
Follow Tom Potato as he tries to find his way in the world.
A short story prequel from the Tails From Clowder Cottage Series Long before Poppy and Daisy found a new home at Clowder Cottage, they lived a very different life in Thailand. One act of bravery by their mother sent them on a whirlwind adventure across the South China Sea, where sailors, sea captains, dangerous storms, and one pesky rat leads them through the most eventful days of their young lives in and out of the water. Follow their high seas adventure and cheer them on as they say goodbye to their homeland and encounter new, exciting, and sometimes, dangerous experiences, meeting a cast of quirky characters along the way. Can they survive the seas and make it to their long-awaited destination?