How one man and a cat found Hope on the streets.
Occasionally I like to pick up a feel-good book just for the hell of it so I chose this one. It is the story of a young man from a broken home who ends up on the streets of London, trying to break a drug habit and busking to get money to survive.
One day when he gets home he notices a cat just outside his flat. The cat is in a fairly bad way, his fur is straggly and he looks half-starved. Bowen takes the cat in and the story begins from there with Bowen telling the tale of how the cat recovered and helped his recovery. Now those among you who are cat fans will realise that he did not take the cat in, the cat, who received the name of Bob, chose him and trained Bowen appropriately! Bowen takes Bob to the vet and has him checked over and all seems reasonably OK, just food and proper looking after really required.
Over the next few days, when Bowen goes to work, the cat follows him until chased off as a cat would be a nuisance whilst Bowen is busking in central London. Anyway this continued for several days until Bowen gave in and allowed Bob to go with him – see how the training is working? Bowen gets a collar lead for the cat to keep him safe but Bob’s preferred method of transport is on Bowen’s shoulders. Travelling by bus to his busking spot Bob is fascinated by what is happening in London and spends the journey with his nose up against the window. Once in his busking spot Bob takes over the guitar case as his ‘basket’ for the day and thus begins the legend of the Street Cat named Bob.
The book takes us through the trials and tribulations of busking in London, where it is allowed and where not. How people treat buskers; some good, some bad but mostly ignore them. However the appearance of Bob changes that. People, mostly ladies, slow down to look at the cat, stop to pet him and often drop a few coins into the kitty (so-to-speak). Bowen’s take on each day goes up substantially when Bob is with him and life starts to change for him. He decides to stop being a busker after being chased away from his patch once again. He decides to become ‘legitimate’ and start to sell the Big Issue.
Bowen goes through the vetting and gets his picture for his Big issue Seller card and asks to have Bob included in the photograph. At first this is refused as there are rules about not allowing dogs in pictures, but there are no rules about cats, so the picture is taken with Bowen and Bob. They both are then given a provisional patch to sell to ensure that they are able to take on the job, and it is a job, of Big Issue seller.
Again, life selling Big Issue on the streets of London is no picnic and there are jealousies and mental issues from other people which have to be dealt with, along with the drunks. By this time though Bob has become famous, but Bowen has not realised this. A tourist had taken some video of Bob the Big Issue cat and posted it on YouTube, which attracted many more people along to see the now famous cat.
Bowen now realises that he has to get a grip of his life and get rid of his drug addiction – see how the cat is getting him trained? He decides to go for a process of stopping his methadone prescription which involves going ‘cold turkey’ and he finds the real meaning of “kicking the habit” as his body reacts to not have its daily dose of drugs. I hadn’t mentioned before but Bowen is an Aussie, OK I know, but it is not all that bad! He goes home to meet his Mum and make up for lost years but soon feels the draw back to London and Bob, who he had to leave behind with a friend. The reunion of Bob & Bowen is one of the feel-good parts of the book and just proves that it is the cat who is really running this show.
The fame generated by Bob on YouTube and getting drug free brought changes to Bowen’s life and it was suggested that he write this book. I have given a little taste for the book without trying to give away too much – but I did say it was a feel-good book so go figure as our colonial cousins would say.
The book describes life as a down and out in London; the life of a cat in central London, being chased by dogs whose idea of fun is to see how many pieces he can rip cats into, drunks, junkies and plain mental cases. But it also covers the good aspects of life; how people took to Bob and how it changed Bowen’s life around. There are good days when Bob earns a special treat because they have earned some extra money to other times when Bob has to be taken to the vet as he is seriously ill. It is a good tale of two soul-brothers coming together and getting on with each other in their own way. Basically it is a tale of friendship.
For non-cat lovers I would suspect that this book sits in their 2 Ms Winos level but really it is up there with the good reads so I am giving this a fine, healthy 3.5 Glasses
A Street Cat named Bob by James Bowen published by Hodder & Stoughton
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