Too Slow

By Clarke, Jeremy | The Spectator, July 27, 2002 | Go to article overview

Too Slow


Clarke, Jeremy, The Spectator


I've moved back into the Buddhists' house. I'm looking after their one-eared rescue cat while they sail their yacht back from Sardinia. I was lying on the kitchen floor in my Calvin's shadow-boxing with this cat, when he lashed out unexpectedly and drew blood on my face and arm.

It was a measured combination of blows, executed with speed, accuracy and a kind of lordly arrogance. He stabbed the tip of my bugle using a single claw as a stiletto, then he raked my shoulder with a full set. He slipped his attack past my guard faster than I could register it almost, let alone evade it. As a purple-belt karateka, my first reaction was one of admiration. Speed, accuracy, technique and controlled ferocity of that high order are the stuff of a martial artist's dreams.

My nose and my shoulder dribbling claret, I tried to slap him back. Bruiser fled out through the back door, through which I could see my next-door neighbour looking over the hedge. Tom looked as if he wanted to speak to me. I went out and faced him across the privet. Tom's wife died last year and he's still in a state of shock. This morning, however, he seemed even more of a zombie than usual. `You were making a bit of a racket last night, weren't you?' he said. `It took me quite a while to nod off again, you know.' His horribly bloodshot eyes bore witness to his statement. At two in the morning we'd been staggering about the living room to Rod Stewart and I'd whacked the volume right up.

Tom is a kind-hearted old man and my apology was readily accepted. `What happened to you, anyway?' he asked. I nodded at the one-eared cat crouched in the flowerbed. `Ah,' he said. Tom had looked really awful and I regretted my thoughtlessness. Before I went out I left a milk saucepan-- full of raspberries on his doorstep.

Then I drove to the Britannia Royal Naval College, Dartmouth, to the Britannia Beagles annual Puppy Show. The beagle pups, three at a time, scampered around on an immaculate lawn inside a small rectangle of white palings. The two mauve-faced judges wore dark suits and bowler hats. Everybody watching wore a wicker hat of some description and there were military uniforms dotted about in the crowd. The upper-class accents were so rarefied and drawling that at first I assumed everyone was plastered. …

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