A Letter to my Grandchildren

by Mrs. Thelma Jenkins

Dear Emma and Charles,

This is a *belated `thank-you' for your belated Christmas present - the kitten which you kindly gave me on May 11th. I don't suppose many people receive a Christmas present in May, but I know your Mummy was unable to get the kitten for me. I think it is very wise that people cannot obtain kittens or puppies either two weeks before or after Christmas. Sadly, there are children who may be very excited to have a pet as a Christmas present and then, in two weeks, they have lost interest and the little animals are badly neglected.

Of course, another difficulty was that I wanted a kitten just like Tinker, the first cat we had, when your Mummy was about eight years old. (Aunty Val would say "many, many moons ago!") Tinker was a tabby, with a beautiful white shirt front. We let her have one set of kittens and your Mummy wrote a little story for the Junior School magazine called "Tinker and her kindle of kittens". Did you know that *`kindle' is the right word for a *litter of kittens? Just as we speak of a *`herd-' of cows or a *`pride' of lions, or a *`flock' of geese or a *`charm' of goldfinches we can speak of a `kindle' of kittens. See how many different kinds of words you can think of that describe groups of different animals or birds.

We kept one of Tinker's kittens and she was Aunty Val's cat - Topsy. One of Tinker's kittens was very beautiful, almost all white, and very proud so we called her Queenie. Mummy's teacher, Mrs Kee wanted a kitten and she chose Queenie, but she called her Sophie, Seraphina, Josephine, Jemima Tiddles! What a mouthful! I made up a limerick that went like this:

There once were some people called Kee,
Who came a white kitten to see
They thought her most pretty,
This dear little kitty,
And so she became Kitty Kee!

Do you know what a *limerick is? It is a sort of poem like that one. (There was once a man called Edward Lear who wrote a book of them - some better than others).

Well, continuing the story of our cats, Topsy had kittens and we kept one, called Tiger. So then we had three cats (one for each child); Tinker for your Mummy, Topsy for Aunty Val and Tiger for Uncle Martyn. Now, after many years, we have another T - Tosca, short for *Toscanini. Of course, that is the name of a famous *conductor. Aunty Val, who is learning Italian, says that the ending `ini' means `little', so while Tosca is little we can call him Toscanini. Here is another limerick, written specially for Tosca, but including your own two cats, Thomas and Oscar.

There once was a kitten called Tosca,
Who had cousins called Thomas and Oscar
And while he was teeny,
He was called Toscanini,
That troublesome kitten called Tosca!

Your Daddy told me something that I did not know, which I found very interesting. He said that Toscanini's daughter married the famous pianist *Vladimir Horowitz. Have you ever heard Horowitz playing? He was one of the greatest pianists of this century. I love to listen to him, especially when he is playing music by *Chopin.

Although Tosca doesn't have a white front, he has most beautiful *tabby markings, just like a *miniature tiger. He has black lines stretching away from his eyes, a black `necklace' under his pale chin and black `bracelets' on his tiny *beige coloured paws. He really is a very *elegant looking cat and quite wicked in his wild moods. But he knows how to play with his paws `velveted' (you can't look that up, you'll have to ask what it means). He actually patted my nose the other day with his soft little paws, and it felt lovely, but I couldn't guarantee that he would always do that!

Grandpa would have loved Tosca - he was very fond of the other cats. He used to catch Tinker by the tail (gently, of course) and say, "You're a caught cat - caught by the tail-O", but she did not mind. She knew he was only playing.

Do you remember Blackie and Tortie, the two wild, farm cats we used to see at the Cottage? They were both very old and they died last year, so now we only have a black one with a white shirt front. Grandpa called him Marmaduke, but when Aunty Iris saw him, she said he looked so *aristocratic that he should be called Sir Marmaduke. So that is his name - sometimes he is called Sir Marmaduke Montmorency - not a bad name for a Welsh cat!

Well, you will be saying that Grandma is as full of cat news as she usually is of bird news so perhaps it had better come to an end. I look forward to seeing you soon at the Cottage and hope you will help me to pick the raspberries, gooseberries and black-currants. Perhaps you will see Sir Marmaduke Montmorency - he usually comes when he can smell that we are having fish!

With my love to you all, as always,


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