Hubbell Siamese, owned by Anna Shafto, is a small friendly cattery nestled on the outskirts of Andover, Hampshire. I was one of the lucky few to be invited to their cat run warming party and BBQ on the August Bank Holiday Sunday. There had been a few organisational hitches along the way but nothing was going to halt this party. The weather was perfect and everything looked set for a fantastic afternoon.
I pulled up at 2pm but was pleased to find that I wasn't the first to arrive.
I was greeted at the front door by a white riot of Solanum which swarmed over the walls of the house and by Warren, Anna's seven year old son, who offered me a choice of drinks from his beautifully presented menu. Warren was the star of the day and never tired of providing drinks and food for all the guests. I have rarely met such a charming well behaved boy. He was a delight.
The small party comprised Lynne & Fred Studer (Mylynn Siamese), Sharon & Steve Homer-Wheeler (Withajay Siamese), Jackie & Larry Armstrong (Helsbels Siamese), Barbara Gould (Beesiam Siamese), Lesley & Steve Williams (Spireshadow Siamese), Julia Burgess (awaiting her first active girl), Georgina Beazeley (Mystictree Classic Siamese) and of course Anna, Neil & Warren Shafto (Hubbell Siamese). Many of us knew each other either from the showing/breeding world or from Anna's online Siamese Chat forum, www.hubbelbubbell.co.uk. Some of us were meeting for the first time.
As well as keeping our glasses permanently topped up, Warren also took complete control of the tour guide duties, showing us every feature of the new cat house & run which Stuart ( http://www.stusanimalhousing.co.uk/ ) had delivered and constructed the day before. The run is beautifully put together and is large enough to give the cats a good area for running about in. The house part of the construction is small enough to allow economic heating in the winter and large enough have space for beds, litter trays and food. The escape porch provides that extra element of safety and reassurance. Anna has decorated the area with hanging baskets and potted plants. It looks as much like an elegant summerhouse as it does a cat run. The cats in residence, Ella, Star and Miss T, draped themselves in striking Siamese poses to lend an air of “Homes & Gardens”. Occasionally they nibbled at a choice specimen of cat mint or ventured up the ramps to investigate their “day room” in a leisurely fashion. They were unperturbed by the stream of visitors to their accommodation and were a little amused I think to see us all traipsing through.
While the sun beat down leaving us all a little pink-skinned and Neil prepared the BBQ (really Anna should hire him out for functions) I asked her about the run. “I wanted somewhere for the girls to be able to enjoy the outdoors without coming face to face with the dangers of the outside world.” Anna said. “They won't live in the run all the time. They are very much members of the family and live in the house with us but now they can enjoy days outside in the fresh air too. I am thrilled with Stuart's housing and there is room for another one, running down the garden at right angles, which would be useful for acclimatising new cats into the household but that is very much a future possibility. I don't want to fill the garden with cat housing.” She said. I spoke with Julia Burgess who is about to embark on breeding and who had been unwell the previous day and nearly been unable to come. “It is great to be able speak to different breeders with so much experience.” She remarked “It's not possible to chat at such length when you are at the shows. I am so pleased I was able to make it today. I wouldn't have missed this for the world.”
There was a veritable feast of food which Neil cooked on his amazing supermarket trolley BBQ. It is hard to see how trolleys could have been designed for anything else as they also come with a convenient shelf underneath for stashing food and utensils. Perfect! We devoured marinated chops, chicken kebabs, burgers, sausages, a variety of delicious salads and topped it all off with two artery clogging puddings! Blu, Anna's elderly Golden Retriever who also attended the party, showed off her social skills by mingling seamlessly with the guests and acquired sausages and burgers with a subtlety which can be gained only through years of party experience. The cats could learn a lot from her easy sophistication and exquisite good manners.
The day was a dream of good weather, good food, quantities of Pimms and interesting conversation. The women talked about cats and cats and cats. The men, I believe, talked about motorbikes, blokey stuff and maybe just occasionally, cats! Lots more photographs of the day can be found on www.siameseplanet.co.uk
. I'm already looking forward to the Christmas party I've heard rumour of.