There's a house I've visited a couple of times recently, carrying out some work for the owner. In the course of this work, I have needed to go in and out of the house many times, and usually did so through a conservatory leading into a kitchen.
The household includes a cat, which is usually found in the conservatory, either scoffing food or having a snooze. As I am a stranger to the home, said cat normally scarpered when I journeyed through his (I think) world, escaping via the hole where the cat flap should be or hiding in some dark recess of the conservatory.
Every time I visited the house.
Every time I walked through the conservatory.
I even took to talking to the cat to reassure him that I meant no harm but, presumably, the cat assumed that this was a bluff and was having no part of it.
Exit cat, stage right or left, take your pick.
But the very next time I went back through the conservatory... every single time... the cat would be back again.
Today, the story was the same, despite the fact that I now knew the cat's name (which I will not reveal here to save his embarrassment). Personalised and placating banter from me cut no mustard with the cat.
Until the very last time, as I was leaving the house at the end of the task, I said goodbye to him and he sat still, didn't even move a muscle. Smugly thinking to myself that I'd built some bridges with the animal, I was just about to close the door on my way out, when I heard a noise.
Slowly turning around and gently opening the door once more, I looked at the cat. Yup, he was still there. Obviously awake. Not scarpering. Then I heard the noise again. It wasn't coming from the cat.
I scanned the room slowly. At the opposite end of the conservatory, perched on a shelf, was a Blackbird. Moreover, a Blackbird whose state of anxiety had just gone up a notch or two, with the addition of a human to its list of woes.
Leaving the door wide open, I stepped over the now-rooted-to-the-spot cat, moved around to the other end of the room and managed to coax the blackbird towards the door, hoping that in its fear of me, it didn't forget the greater danger from the cat. As luck would have it, the bird was all over that plan and made good its escape, bursting forth through the doorway and alarm calling as if every Sparrowhawk in Orkney was on its tail.
I looked at the cat, who gave me a stare in return. A stare that said, "See that hole where the cat flap should be? That flippin' bird hops in here every day and pinches my food!"