Sunday, 13 January 2013

Big cat

We used to live near a large area of scrubland. It was like a huge shallow bowl, too marshy and low-lying for housing, but useful for taking the dog for a walk and for dumping stolen cars. Actually I only ever saw two burned out cars there, so it wasn’t a regular occurrence. Woodpeckers, owls and foxes were much more common.

A footpath skirted our side and and because the land was low as damp, it tended to fill with mist at night. Another reason for not building there I suppose. It was quite a sight in winter moonlight, with black, skeletal trees sticking up out of a sea of mist. 

This could create some odd effects in the morning or late evening too. Walking down into the bowl in the morning, the air would suddenly turn chilly as soon as you left the footpath. Coming back was almost like walking into a warm room.

Sometimes, while walking the dog late at night, I’d stand on the footpath and watch the mist swirling under the moonlight. It would roll up towards the path, break over it like a silent wave then roll back again into the darkness. I wish I'd taken a few photos, but never did.

If you ever saw the film The Fog, then it would probably cross your mind if you ever stood on that footpath under the moonlight. There were only a few street lamps too, which added to the eerie effect. I enjoyed watching it, but the dog didn't seem too interested. No imagination.

One night, quite late as usual, I was walking the dog and happened to glance down into the mist. Maybe I’d caught a movement out of the corner of my eye.

I saw what seemed to be a huge cat trotting through the long grass. The dog took no notice, but he was getting old by then, so that didn’t mean anything.

Although startled be the size of the thing, I realised that it was probably an optical illusion. Because of the mist and lack of clues as to scale, my brain had miscalculated the cat's distance and it was actually nearer than I thought. So it seemed to be much bigger than it should. 

It was an impressive illusion though. I now see how some of those folk tales about big cat sightings could have arisen. 

By the way, startled is playing it down a little.


Angus Dei said...

Did sme poo come out AK:)

Many years ago (back in the seventies) we took a caravan holiday dahn in Devon which was very like the scene you describe, we used to watch the mist and as the sun warmed up the valley and the fog dispersed we were confronted by-thousands of rabbits, not quite the same but I see where you are coming from.

Anonymous said...

More water with it, AK, that's my advice!

Demetrius said...

CHESTERTON WARNING. Tomorrow, Monday at 2.10 p.m. (for goodness sake) the first of ten episodes of fifty minutes on BBC1 of the Father Brown stories. What they will be like, who knows, but it might be worth a look if only to see how well or how badly they do it.

Sam Vega said...

Ah, yes, that foggy scrubland bowl in South Derbyshire. It was one of a few places we could walk the puma of an evening, once the sightings triggered all that publicity. Rarely anyone about at dawn or dusk. She loved it.

Macheath said...

Where's your sense of Zeitgeist?

Instead of musing quietly on the potential for optical illusion, you should have rushed to e-mail the local paper, extrapolating wildly in the manner of the woman who came face to face with a 'lion' in a Bedford housing estate.

'I’ve seen enough National Geographic programmes to know it was on the prowl'

Demetrius, though it might be worth a look, personally, I'll be sticking to the books, which are among the ultimate in literary comfort food for cold winter evenings.

I do wonder, however, why they chose to put it on during the afternoon. I can only conclude that, now they think everyone has 'catch-up TV' in some form or another, the actual broadcast time is largely irrelevant.

A K Haart said...

Angus - maybe the rabbits had been ganging up on the big cat?

David - water? Never drink the stuff. Does it count as part of our five a day?

Demetrius - thanks for the reminder. I intended to record them but it slipped my mind.

Sam - maybe that's what caught my eye - the glint of a rhinestone collar.

Mac - Curses - I could have claimed some kind of post-sighting stress disorder too.