• Martin Henson


Moving to the Dordogne has been full of wonderful experiences; the people, markets and countryside among its many charms - even cats! When we took on the house, we were told that a kitten had recently appeared in the barn. No-one knew where it had come from - it didn't even have a name. We’d already been introduced to Findus and Honey, two big old cats who bask on the sun terrace. The kitten was yet to be seen.

That first evening, as we sat and sipped chilled rose, we couldn’t believe how beautiful and quiet it was. Bernard, our golden retriever took his cue from the two cats flopped at our feet, as we gazed across hills dotted with cows, sheep and woodland, the silence broken one or twice by ducks navigating their final approach to a nearby pond.

Just as the wine began working its magic, the calm was broken by a thrumming blur that flew across the terrace and skidded to a halt in the middle of the table. A jet black kitten with dinnerplate eyes stared at us, its back arched and a slightly crooked tail pointing to the sky. Spotting a pen a few inches away, it pounced on it, constricting it with its front paws whilst thrashing it to death with its back paws, flinging it into the air, batting it onto the decking, then jumping down to continue the war at ground level. After a few minutes the pen was released, but in no time the kitten was back on the table looking for its next victim - a cork, followed by a tissue, then a tea-light holder. Bernard briefly raised his head at some point during the performance, but clearly decided it was too much for him.

The kitten then decided we were worth investigating. Within seconds, he was all over us, at one point curled French beret-style on my head. Then on my shoulders, trying to bury his head under my jumper, finally resting upside-down in my lap. The mildest tickling of his tummy ignited the most glorious loud purr. Having left Billy, our own cat behind in England, with the addition of this tiny, high-octane kitten our new French team was suddenly complete; Debbie and me, Bernard, Findus, Honey and kitten. Or Bean as we decided to call him.

Our French Bean. He is hilarious. A positive force that just makes life better - he only understands optimism and opportunity. Unaware of his size, he bounces through long grass like a tiger, leaping at butterflies, bumblebees and flattening dandelions. And then he’ll sit in your lap and purr like a Rolls Royce, just as he is now while I type. Occasionally looking up with a little face so contented, it’s impossible not to love him.

From Friday Afternoon Distractions by Howells Henson

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