cats in hats

Greta Balsillie and Kit the 20 yr old cat Pic Brendan McCarthy 280508

*Photo by Brendan McCarthy

Anyone who has ever worked with a photographer will be familiar with the refrain: Just one last shot!

Some journos have been known to roll their eyes in sympathy with subjects folded into poses by some fiendish photographers’ origami while being told to “relax and look natural”.

But, really, reporters are just as bad.

The world is arguably a safer, more dignified place now that photographers and journalists up against a 24-hour multimedia news cycle have less spare time to collude.

Take for example this photo of a cat in a hat taken by my mate, Walkley award-winning photographer Brendan McCarthy

Kit – the cat in question – was about to turn 20; a goodly age and, while not extreme, beyond the average life expectancy of an indoor domestic pet cat.

It was with the full consent of owners Greta and John that we put the hat on the cat for a story titled Party Animals about people celebrating their pets’ milestones.

Kit seemed strangely oblivious not only to the hat, but the flame of the candles and we all suspect that – while in no apparent pain – he had cat Alzheimers at that point.

Several years on, this makes me think of my mum’s nursing home and the wisdom of putting party hats on old people, but that’s another story.

Kit, none-the-worse for the experience, went on to eat much of the cream off the specially-commissioned cake and live another two years whereupon his loving owners had him cremated.

He’s sitting on the mantel awaiting the day he rejoins them.

Only now there is another feline in the family and Greta jokes there may be “more cat than me when they scatter all the ashes”.

Where is this going, you wonder?

It’s meeting people like Greta and John and cats like Kit that’s the real joy of this job.

For me it’s not politicians, not celebrities, not the headlines, the terrible tragedies but the small stories of suburban life that are fascinating.

They say we can never really know what goes on behind closed doors, but journalists – blessed with a professional pass key – often get a pretty good glimpse.

Pick a door, any door.

Just this week I’ve interviewed a successful small businesswoman who, having pre-purchased her own coffin, uses it as a coffee table in a Gothic-themed living area featuring a life-sized sensor movement-activated zombie and a black fridge.

Yet, from the outside, her home in a brand new estate looks as blandly beige as its neighbours.

Then, travelling to another job, I spied in the front yard of an outlying property a life-sized giraffe peering into the second storey window of the house.

Now most people would consider entering a stranger’s property to quiz the occupants about giant garden ornaments downright rude, if not trespassing.

Fortunately Leon and Menya were happy to explain how they decided to commission a six-metre tall giraffe as a retirement gift to themselves after ruling out an overseas trip because they didn’t want to leave their pet dogs.

Gerard cost $10,000, but they reckon he’s worth every penny because every time they walk into the kitchen or lounge room and see him looking back in like something out of Africa they feel happy.

People … every one of of them with their very own story… priceless

* Photo by Brendan McCarthy first published Bendigo Advertiser May 31, 2008

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