Like every village in the Garfagnana, Italy, the cobbled streets of Vitiana were patrolled by disease-riddled, though very cute, feral moggies. This one particular moggy was a scrawny wee tabby kitten, with stunted legs. One of many. He may never have stood out from the crowd if it had not been for the wopping great abscess over his right eye.
The abscess grew, as did our concern. So we soon caught him and took him to a vet for inspection. It took the vet, her assistant and myself, to hold down this miniscule ball of furry fury. Alas, the infection had eaten away his whole eyeball, and so began the adventure of the Piratino.
That all happened in the summer of 2004, when he and his siblings were still very small. They grew, and one by one they died. Until there remained just two. The pirate Lord Nelson – insanely courageous, short-legged, one-eyed, yet still extremely handsome. And Baby Grey the spitting image of their very pretty mother Mamma Grey. They hung out with their cousins Minster, Mo, Dobi, Gollum, Ronina, and a mystery kitten Tiddler. Over the summer we watched, fed, and got to know the individual characters of this group of ruffians.
At some point in the winter of 2004/2005 Lord Nelli, who had not grown much, had a life changing experience. The weather was bitter cold and snowing, and Nelli had disappeared. We presumed he had perished in the cold. A few weeks later he reappeared with ambitions. From that moment on, everything he did in life was designed for one purpose only to be an indoor cat.
They came as a pair. Nelli and Baby. Everywhere Nelli went, Baby cautiously followed. Nelli instantly became soft and trusting. With Baby it took years to earn that trust.
Nelli was utterly fearless. He had nine lives and he was going to use them! He befriended anyone, and stole many hearts. He turned us green with envy when he shared his time and affection with others. He marched in to open doors, exploring houses, like he owned them all. He owned the world.
That one eye grew large. That one eye showed such emotion. That one eye showed his moods. And oh what moods. That one eye made me fall helplessly head over heels in love.
Nelli the loving when he chose to love you, there was no choice but to be loved and love back. He would smother you in kisses and purrs all over your face. Soggy ones.
Nelli the purr machine. He purred like his life depended on it. And he purred so easily. I only had to look at him across a room and he would purr. That purr filled my heart with joy. That purr cheered me up and out of gloom many a time.
Nelli the mischievous he could find a game with anything, an elastic band, a loose thread, laundry hanging on a clothes horse, feet under the duvet, invisible mice. Trees were for climbing. Space was for racing around in. Small objects were for pouncing on. And other cats were for winding up. Particularly his brother. Baby was the best toy of all.
Nelli the aggressive. There was also the other extreme, the dark side of Nelli. He could have foul moods, which he took out exclusively on Baby.
Nelli the adventurous. Unlike most cats, he didnt seem to have an inbuilt satellite navigation system. Nelli often followed people who said hello to him, but then couldnt find his way home.
Nelli the drama queen. All of Nellis behaviours seemed exaggerated. Full of passion. He was an Italian cat after all. He was our prima donna. The world was his stage, and life was never a dress rehearsal.
When they were four years old I moved back to England, and brought the two loves of my life with me. Nelli and Baby went from being the lucky two ferals of the village, to being fully fledged pampered indoor mogs. It was suddenly just the two of them. No extended family.
Watching their behaviour in this new situation was fascinating. Nelli had clearly been allowed to think he was top cat in Vitiana. Perhaps because of his disability. In this world of two, Baby suddenly became a man. Nelli threw his weight around and insisted he was the dominant cat. Baby just quietly got on with being the dominant cat. Nelli challenged him over and over and over and over. Baby would ignore the challenges, over and over and over.
This last year has been full of battles for our little Lord Nelli. He has had so many health problems which we faced one at a time. Nelli has fought and won so many battles in his life that I think I believed that he was invincible. He used up all his lives. The last battle was just too big.
Would Nelli have entered our lives if hed not lost one eye? Would his personality still have shone through if hed had two eyes? Did having just one eye lead to such an enormous character? Or did we help to nourish the character by paying him so much attention? Im so thankful that Nelli only had one eye, else I might never have known him. Where ever you are now Nelli, I hope there are trees, lots of trees.
My two peas are oh so sweet
The sweetest peas you ever could meet
When I come home they love to greet
They dance around, its such a treat
My two peas are oh so mushy
The love they give is just so gushy
They kiss and purr until its slushly
And if ignored will get quite pushy
My two peas they love to play
No matter what the time of day
Unless there is a sunshines ray
In which they will prefer to lay