Tambril, The Reincarnating Cat

Tambril, The Reincarnating Cat

43 The Story of Tambril, The ‘Reincarnating’ Cat

In 1967 I was knocked out by fumes in a bathroom.  Or perhaps I was simply struck by the finger of a cosmic messenger.  I really don’t know.  I collapsed and my forehead hit the bath a ringing blow.  It felt like a loving kiss.  I lay on the floor wet, cold and absolutely unable to move.  The light coming through the window was indescribably beautiful, like the light of Heaven pouring into a cathedral.  I realised, strangely calmly, that I was dying and was overwhelmed, astonished by the beauty.  

In 1977 Caro and I had taken over a burnt out house in Islington.  We had a mass of dry-rotted wood in the garden ready to burn, but overnight there had been torrential rain and we had to take the pile of wood apart before we could burn it.  Inside we found two tiny, soggy kittens.  I don’t know if the one looking up at me was the one we kept, but I was forcefully struck by those glazed, staring eyes.  A girl who I thought of as strange, who happened to be in the house, I’ve no idea why and she was never there again, took one of them away.  Ours grew into a wild, delinquent creature obviously suffering from its terrible childhood.  For ages he had no name and Caro and I were happy with that but Roger and Lucy came to stay and when Caro and I returned from a holiday they informed us our cat had a name.  She had been doing something typically delinquent like tearing off dustbin lids and Roger, in emulation of Dennis the Menace’s dad in the Beano, had yelled “Dennis!”  And so the name stuck.  After a while Dennis had kittens but she never got to be called Denise.  Dennis eventually moved with Caro to Summerhill Road, Tottenham, and that is where Caro and I split up, although we were in touch quite a bit afterwards.  

It was perhaps 1981, I was in a Bedford van with a load of sannayasins returning from a, in those pre-Aids days of innocence, typically exuberant massage course in Leeds.  But the finger of something had it in for us, probably Christian Science.  We blew a front tyre on the A1 at 70 mph while manoeuvring in the fast lane.  It was a particularly spectacular crash.  A person behind said the van turned over three times.  That we all stepped out seemed a miracle.  The van was full of heavy speakers and five loose people.  One had a broken ankle and I had some cracked ribs from a robust Sannayasin’s foot skateboarding the last long slide on me, and the back of my hand was scraped where I’d held it, quite unconsciously, between my head and the road.  We were taken to hospital and, after several hours, completed our journey by train.  As soon as I got back I rang Caro to tell her my story but before I could utter a word she said, “Dennis is dead.”  That afternoon she’d been run over by a car.

For about six months after that Dennis, glossy and beautiful as she had never quite been in life, came to me in dreams and as she left she would always part from me in the same way, kissing my forehead where it had slammed into the bath all those years before when I thought I was dying.  

I had recently moved into a house with sheds out the back and a considerable population of cats whom I used to watch as I sat pondering my stories.  I began to give them names, Oddspit, who was incredibly mean.  I have seen him, lying sunning himself on the tin roof, spring up to try to catch a passing bird.  There was The Chancellor, magnificent, with rich thick fur.  I had around ten names written on a piece of paper pinned to the wall intending them for a story.  About a year had passed since the last visitation from Dennis.  Now a new cat started to appear in my dreams, and left me as Dennis had, by kissing me on that part of my forehead.  This cat had a similar glossy magnificence to the dream Dennis, but was a completely different colour, a dark tortoiseshell, and its name was Tambril.  I was, even then, struck by the similarity to the word tumbril, the carts used in the French Revolution to take the aristocrats to the guillotine.  Despite this dark association it was a fabulously beautiful and warm-hearted cat.  I started using her in my emerging cosmic novel, Fantasia of Light and Shadow, and she became the cat companion of the first and final goddess who lives alone at the centre of the Everything.

In 1983 I found myself unexpectedly in Cornwall and met Denise, who lived alone at the Wellbeing Centre, which she had created in a large, old school.  Denise read my book and was taken with the name Tambril, the cat of the final goddess.  She decided to acquire a cat and asked her friend Kay who ran a cattery.  She took a great fancy to a young cat, a tortoiseshell, but discovered it was one of two that were considered inseparable and which had been promised to a farmer’s wife.  The farmer’s wife came to collect her cats but one of these `inseparable’ cats had gone missing.  Never mind, said the lady, she’d take one and come back for the other another time.  That evening the farmer said no way were they having two cats so Denise was told that the cat she fancied was available after all and she collected her.  Kay was away on holiday and no-one knew the cat’s name so Denise called her Tambril, which almost immediately got shortened to Tammy.  When Denise next met Kay she asked her the cats name and Kay said Tammy.

I used to tell people this story, saying it was my reincarnating cat story and of course reincarnation is all about the mysteries of death and it is strange that the cat’s name reminded me of something which I only associated with death and death which was premature or violent.  Tammy lived ten years and contracted a growth and after four operations Denise sadly had to let her be put down.  Before she died Tammy would talk to me in dreams.  She had a very clear, high voice.

“What’s the matter?” she said.

“You’re not well,” I said.

“I’m not that bad,” she said.

After her death I had dreams of her turning into a teenage girl, finely built, like a ballet dancer.  She had that same high, clear voice.  Perhaps Tammy the cat had decided, in her next life, to be human.  

And there has been one more element.  While visiting Denise after Tammy’s death she pointed out marks on the window.  At night Tammy would stand in the window box and bat moths and leave muddy smears.  These marks were not like that but almost like streaks left by a small clawed hand, something neither cat nor human.  I attempted, not very successfully, to photograph them.  We now know they are caused by a male chaffinch apparently attacking its reflection in the windows.  This seems to be territorial behaviour, the bird attacking an apparent rival.  We once had a chaffinch attacking our car in a lay-by.  When we moved the car a few feet it stopped and when we moved the car back it attacked.  It is interesting the spooky feelings those marks first evoked, as though ghostly hands had been laid upon you.  Perhaps everything in this story is the result of similar misperception.  If so, I would like to know what a true understanding is.  At the moment I see only a strange set of events.

It took me years to notice some of them so it will not be surprising if they have escape you.  Even now you may notice something I’ve still missed.

1967, the collapse, the bang on the head and the belief that I am dying and finding unexpected beauty.

1977, finding two kittens one of whom is taken away by a ‘strange’ girl who I never saw again.  (In 1983, Tammy is one of two inseparable kittens one of whom is taken away by an unknown ‘farmer’s wife’.)

The kitten is called Dennis.  Then Dennis has kittens but she is never given the obvious girl’s name Denise, although it hovers in the wings, is present but hardly ever spoken.  (Denise is, of course, the lady in Cornwall who acquired Tammy, who I did not meet until 1983, although we had been paralleling for decades: Aldermaston 1961; Liverpool 64 – 66 and in the 70s she ran a children’s centre in a house administered by SCH for whom I worked, and I might well have worked on that house.)

1981 I had my only serious road accident on an afternoon when Dennis is killed by a car.  

Dennis appears in dreams and on leaving kisses the spot where I received the blow the only time I thought I was dying.  (Paralleled in the real accident where, in the long final slide, only my hand stood between my head and the road.)

After a gap of as much as two years a new cat appears called Tambril.  The name reminds me of a word I associated with death, and premature, violent death.  In leaving the dreams Tambril kisses me on the same spot. I incorporate her into the novel I’m writing, called Fantasia of Light and Darkness, about how to create a universe if you haven’t got one already.

1983 I meet Denise.  She reads my novel. She acquires a cat and in emulation of the novel calls her Tambril whom we immediately call Tammy, which turns out to be the name she is already known by.

This story already existed as my reincarnating cat story before Tammy died.  After her death in my dream she seems to be changing into a human. or perhaps that’s the nature of dream creatures, we share a common universal being.


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