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Thursday, 27 November 2014

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I don’t think this is claws for concern

Big day, Wednesday – for predatory, knot-tying types. It’s Leap Year day and a momentous date for women with designs on marital bliss.

Okay, so a lifelong state of unbridled delirium stretches optimism a bit. But hopeful girls who’ve grown sick of waiting, can take the initiative, hook the groom, book the church and set out on the aisle-altar-hymn journey which follows vows to love, honour and cherish the guy now under that beautifully manicured thumb. Or so tradition goes.

“Yeah but you’ve to find one worth the effort first,” commented a fellow cynic, with a special knack for disappointing realism.

“True,” I agreed, staggering up from my one-knee rehearsal position. “And they’re rarer than black panthers in cat-flaps.”

But hey – hang on there just one little minute.

There’s apparently something rustling in the nether regions of old Carlisle. Around Rockcliffe’s rural bits, to be more precise, a big cat is tiptoeing through fields and woodland.

Eyes gleaming, glossy feline fur shining in the half-light. He’s a handsome, slinky puss and no mistake. Just like Jungle Book’s Bagheera – but less talkative and not as yet inclined to break into song.

He’s causing a stir to equal the one which rose with thunderous roars and guffaws when Carlisle was lately officially declared uncannily happy.

But he doesn’t appear to mind. Like all cats, he relishes his superiority and carries on stalking regardless.

A number of people have raised their heads above parapets of embarrassment to confess to having spotted this black panther – and his paw prints – while out and about on their routine travels and daily business.

True to happy Carlisle form, they’ve been roundly ridiculed, of course – particularly by those posting on the News & Star’ online message forum. But being men and women of firm principle, they’re sticking to their stories.

They know what they saw – or rather what they didn’t see. It wasn’t a Labrador and it didn’t answer to calls of “Here, Kitty, Kitty.”

It must have been a panther.

Spooky, eh? And true too. Must be. It was in the paper. So was Carlisle’s newly-identified happiness rating – so laugh, you blighters. Believe!

There are several theories about how big cats came to be roaming Britain’s countryside under cover of protective remoteness. Some of them are even credible.

Sightings were first reported soon after the Dangerous Wild Animals Act of 1976 made it illegal to keep untamed pets in garden zoos. Oversized kitties have been making appearances ever since.

Rich, private collectors of exotic cats, such as pumas and panthers, freed their untamed pets into the countryside to avoid prosecution – heartlessly diverting their collecting attentions to Ferraris and Lilliput Lane cottages.

Once liberated, the cats did what all cats do. They made toilet messes in other people’s gardens, let dogs take the blame, mated, had kittens and frightened the life out of early morning country bus drivers in Cumbria. Simples.

“That’s daft,” scoffed the aforementioned sceptical lady. “They couldn’t adapt to the cold.”

“Why not? I did.”

You see where I’m going with this? Not to Rockcliffe, obviously. Little cats make me sneeze. Who knows what hissy-fits a big one could bring on?

But I wouldn’t mind predicting that stalking his way to a cat-flap near you soon might be Bagheera – not quite so tuneful but just as athletically handsome and with raging appetite for a (large) can of Whiskas.

You’ll know he’s there when the sneezing starts and your lazy Labrador runs for cover. Take a picture, call the media, sing him a happy Mowgli song and if Bagheera forces you to leap up from a kneeling position and postpone that proposal for another four years, think yourself lucky.

There never was such a thing as a lifetime of unbridled bliss.

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