To James Bowen and The Streetcat named Bob
Some books touch you deeper than the others. Some cats, too.
I think the first time I saw this book was in 2013 or 14. The former was the year I finally came to England for a second time and to browse all kinds of shops for all kinds of beautiful things would be amongst my first things to do.
I remember it being on the shelve with new stuff but also I think it was already a bestseller which is why I am not sure about the exact year – I think it became a bestseller quite right away so it might have been quite shortly after the release that I came across of it but who knows.
Anyway, I felt that this is a book that I would enjoy. Well, obviously, there was a cat on the cover and it was supposed to be about this cat and a dude who was found by him and they saved each other. But there was something more, the cat’s look I think, experienced, intelligent, mysterious. It wasn’t like usual cat pictures which are mostly just cute. It was intriguing.
I didn’t buy it at that time, ‚though. I generally don’t buy books anymore as I strive to be a minimalist. I only own a few paper books from my childhood, Harry Potter series and Lord of the rings 😀 So to buy something new that I could probably seek out in a library, if I wait a while, seemed pointless. I somehow felt that it was going to find me again anyway.
So on autumn 2016 I came back to England, again. I’ve been there in between and I did see the book few times but I always felt the same – I don’t want to buy this in a paper version, I will find it somehow else. But now that I was back in London, something was different. Every other double-decker had an ad on it announcing that this book has been made into a movie. There was a picture of Bob, announcing that he will play himself (twice as cool!) and this let me know that I actually came across something more than intriguing – it was gonna be a worldwidely known, it probably already is and I am actually late. I knew I was gonna go watch the movie the second I can, if only for the cat and the happy-end cat/person love story of it and I knew that I want to read the book first and finish what had already started those few years ago when I first saw it. So just before I got onto my plane back home, I visited an airport bookshop, I found it on the shelves and once it was in my hands, I didn’t even look at the price. The clerk smiled at me mysteriously with „Enjoy it!“ and I knew that I will. And I did.
It was the first time I bought something at the airport. It was probably the first time I read on the plane. But I couldn’t even stop! Since the first sentence I was hooked and I only had to break the flow when I was getting of the plane. As soon as I was back home in quiet, I immersed myself in it once more and then again one another free evening. I was basically done within two days and it would be much quicker if I didn’t have to stop. I haven’t read anything so catching in many years and that’s quite something. It bewitched me, set me on a spin of emotions and swallowed me whole until it was finished.
And even then I wasn’t able to put the book down. I held it in my hands, touched the cover and stared into the two pictures on the covers – the front of just Bob, and the back of him and hiw „owner“ (nobody owns cat, duh) James together, Bob sitting on his shoulder – completely mesmerized and overwhelmed by the whole beautiful story and not sure what I was going to do with the emotions I had for it.
Well, didn’t take long to answer that question – as a blogger, what else was I gonna do than write about it?
I was touched by it like by very few other books. It’s a rollercoaster story. It’s thrilling, heartwarming, upsetting in some ways, it teaches and provides a sneak peek into a world that I always was curious about, the world of homeless people who are not really bad people but just had a lot of bad luck. The story has love and nostalgy and there were moments when I couldn’t help but smile or wonder how crazy it is that me and James are so alike in some ways. It was as if the book was really somehow meant for me.
I mean, of course our paths are totally different, I’ve never been homeless or alone really, or addicted to drugs (never even tried) but we had some similar experiences with loneliness, mean people or general bad luck that never seems to stop sticking to your feet, no matter how hard you try to please the karma. I too know what it is like to walk around the world imagining all kinds of worst case scenarios everytime somebody makes a slight movement or a situation gets a little weird. Call it paranoia, call it negativity, I just call it „a lot of bad experiences“ or „being cautious“ because I think that’s what it is. At some point everybody can loose the positive attitude when you had a lot of bad luck and dissapointments in your life. It is really hard to not worry when you know how everything can go sideways. Damaged goods he calls us? Yeah, that sounds right. Even if my life has been riddiculously pleasant compared to his, I have had some damage too and I can still feel it. Scars from previous mistreating and all the moment you’ve been wronged and you lost your faith in humanity, it just sticks with you.
I think that’s one of the things people can relate to strongly in the story. Many of us had rough times, maybe not the same rough, but rough anyways. We felt lonely, we were invisible and we had just no idea how and if we are ever going to get back on track. If we will ever feel human again. If we will ever be happy again. We though we won’t.
James is wondering what brings such attention to the story. It’s obviously not just Bob, although he seems to be almost made up, reading all the incredible things he’s doing. I mean, c’mon, he’s like the best cat in the whole world, absolutely spookishly clever and understanding, insanely, magically supporting and healing, and also protecting his human.
But it’s that damaged feeling I think, and the sadness of knowing that pretty much everything bad that happens to you is actually caused by bad people, or missunderstandings caused by prejucide and bad ego. It’s the injustice that some people don’t even want to believe in, but many of us experienced such things and we just need to read more stories that show how somebody else fought it. If somebody in James‘ shoes, basically weakened by all his past life, bad experiences and drugs, can fight it, then so can I, must think everyone who reads those lines. That’s why it’s so inspiring and powerful, and also it promotes the common knowledge that cats are the best, so like instant recipe for success, if you ask me.
I am also a huge cat person myself and over many years I have met many amaizing cats. They say a cat is always a personality but I learned that some are much more than others. Some are really special and unique, some became an instant part of me the second I met them and if I somehow lost them from my life, I still miss them even years later. Some of them were not mine, I took care of them for just a while – few months, a year or so – and you may laugh at me but I sometimes feel like I may never be whole again, unless I had a chance to collect all of these babies of mine into one house and then live with them forever ever after! It’s like that cheesy sticker/magnet saying about each and every cat you ever met leaving an indelible pawprint on your heart. Well it’s true, it works like that with me and those pawprints are as painful as those cats were great because I know I will never see any of them again. Maybe that’s also what I love about this story. James got his chance to not only meet this amaizing creature he called Bob, he got to keep him. I am so envious. As soon as I started reading the book, maybe even before, I felt like Bob is one of these cats even for me, which is sort of crazy, since I never even met him at all. But this kind of thing is magic, it’s spiritual, it’s beyond us. So why couldn’t it work even outside space and time?
When I read, I was sad many times. I was sad reading of all the trouble both James and Bob had ever had – and frustrated just like James of not knowing half of Bob’s secrets. I found myself staring onto the cover again and again, as if to try and break through a thick coat of mystery that even his picture had on it. I was sad that I wasn’t able to be there and help when they needed it. I imagined myself there with James when he was down and worried sick about Bob, running through streets trying to find him, my heart almost felt like pouncing through my chest and in my belly I had somewhat a ghost tension – as in ghost pain. I felt like I lived through the same as James, and maybe that’s because I have, sort of. I had my share of worries for loved cats and of pain related. The helplessness and despair. I know about the bond you can suddenly have with a completely unknown cat, I know about their soulhealing powers and I know how devastating it is to even think that you’ve suddenly lost this angel of yours. Or not just think.
And it’s crazy – what happened to James was really just a lot of bad luck. He was probably never a bad guy, he seems actually very nice and grateful for all the good which is also why it is so shocking to read what stuff some assholes put him trough. Not to say that he was always perfect, but who is? Plus to realize that all this can happen to literally anyone, not entirely by their own fault, and it mostly happens really just because of the loss of a contact with family and friends. They are what keep us above water which is why I am even more in awe reading what stuff James got through on his own. I travel a lot, live in foreign countries and I know how it can be almost impossible to get trough some things on your own – especially when the system is against you – while having a friend or a partner on your side can make the situations totally bearable – not that they don’t suck. But I’ve been in moments when only my partner kept me sane and with a hope that we will get through this. If I was alone, I’d be sobbing my breath out, more than scared, hurt, completely lost and in despair. I might not pull through. I might give up and go home because I’d be run over and helpless.
So I also often imagined being there with James, fighting to protect Bob when being attacked by bullies. I still hope all the tube staff from Covent Garden has read this and maybe realized how inhuman they acted. I hope they felt guilty reading about the pain they caused and they made it up somehow. But I worry that dicks will always be dicks.
I imagined myself yelling at all the bastards of the story and getting in a fight. It is riddiculous on one hand, I am rather a small girl and can’t even fight properly. But I know myself to be extremely protective of animals and certain humans, and I know how it can be enough. It gives you such a rush, you don’t even think. I would protect Bob, bring him and James food and clothes or blankets, I’d try do to anything to help them be safe. As I think this, though, there is also a little undertone of doubt and guilt, related to what James says in the book and what you can also see on some videos on youtube. I think when seing homeless people with animals, noone can really resist the sad thought of the animals being poor little things, being misstreated and unwell, as well as being used by the beggars. If I am honest, I have to say that my first internal reaction would be the same. I would feel sorry for Bob, wishing he had a nice and warm home instead, being safe and taken care of. I wouldn’t know, of course, that he is loved and taken care of and that James is trying his best to not only provide, but to also deserve Bob and make himself a better owner. I wouldn’t know he has a home – when you see people on streets, you just don’t assume they have a home, because why would they be on the street otherwise? This is just one of the things that the book tought me, but usually the animals I see are not in a good condition, so that could be my apology for this sort of hypocrisy, I think.
But no matter what I thought, I would never speak it out loud or even start a hate talk to the person. I wouldn’t know a thing about his situation so how could I? On the contrary to the dicks, I’m not a dick and I realize the difference between buskers and beggars which is why this all was a bit of a heavy reading to me. ‚Cause I don’t get it. Maybe it is because England doesn’t really have that many actual beggars. In England, even really poor and homeless people look mostly decent and are very different to beggars as they make money through their art, whatever it is, and they actually work – because it does require a lot of work. While in my country, homeless people are just homeless beggars on streets. In horribly soiled clothes, stinky, bad health, sometimes drunkish odor. They just come around and beg, with hands out and all sorts of stories to say, asking for money for „train“, „food“, whatever, but you still know it’s a lie. How can anyone not see the difference? I never ever saw buskers as the same thing.
Me and by bf tried busking in Brighton and it is NOT easy. I can’t imagine doing it every day for living, even if I was really musical and good at it. Imagine being there for hours. Having to always give your best no matter the mood or weather. Having to sing out loud for a whole day and the next one too. Being haunted by the Damocles‘ sword because if you don’t, you have nothing to eat. Having to do the first and last to draw people in. And being spat at and given looks all the time. And now imagine having to worry about a cat on the leash on top of that, worry about dicks coming and scaring it or even doing something to it.
I consider buskers artists. I think they are cool and they are the soul of the streets. I wished from the first time that busking was in Czech Republic, too – it never was before! Only in the last few years it came and there are now even some legal zones where to do it. Tourists can now hear and see music on the streets, we never had this before, and I love it. They all do.
Which is why I am shocked to learn that so many people in London treat buskers this bad. Even if you don’t like their looks of music, you have to understand that they are working hard to make that money and that they probably need it to live. And that it’s hard for them. I just can’t understand what kind of person would give somebody like that a hell and why. And the jail set up? What the hell, people? O.o
To bring this all to conclusion, this is for James:
I wish your trouble is over. I wish you get back all of your identity and a normal, happy life that you never will have to be ashamed of and that your past will be past, to you or anyone. I wish you financial security and for you and Bob a lot of luck and health so that you stay together for ever after because you deserve each other and you belong together. You have been through hell and had to be really strong to get out of there, but you made it.
I wish that it doesn’t change you. I can’t imagine what a sudden fame like this does to a person, even a good one. And since you spent so much time being invisible and down, it must be twice as bad knowing that all this is basically because of Bob. It must be hard for you to be the second one and I hope that you never have bad or jealous feelings towards him. I know you love him and all but it must be hard. I wouldn’t be surprised, I wouldn’t blame you for feeling that way, but it would be sad to corrupt such a great relationship. Maybe I am way off here and that’s not even a possibility at all! 🙂 I mean it well, anyway. I just had that thought. I think it still makes me sad to think that people are like this – they only noticed you when there was a cute cat around. I mean the story is cute and all, but in a way also sad.
Anyway. It is clear that Bob chose you as the human to take a good care of him from now on and he was willing to do his part of assisting you to become the good and secured carer. He was a blessing for you, a gift and a responsibility to take care of him in return and you did your best. I wish it stays that way, these amaizing animals deserve us to make their lives better. And you deserve all the happiness in the world and I wish you just that. It might have been frustrating to have the people be kind to you kinda of only because of Bob, but rest assured that you are not invisible anymore and you are not alone. I hope you feel like a proper person again by now and the world sees you that way. I hope you will never hear an insult on your way of living again and that you will have a job and life that fits within the society’s and most importantly yours perception of „proper“ and purposeful. You now have friends and fans all over the globe – not just Bob, you too. You are both amaizing and thank you for sharing your story with us.
I wish that the world is changed by this book for better. The world of buskers, street citizens etc. – I hope that this will help them bring a little more justice, fairness and kiindness to their days. I already saw that it did, a little – a guy in one video said how it changed his perception of Big Issue sellers. I hope that this will work on a bigger scale.
Had I read the book earlier, I’d probably make an effort to meet with you and Bob in person – you can be sure that the next time I am around, I will. Not sure if you will be still somewhere on the streets but will look it up. Boy, I just imagined all the lines of people bringing Bob treats. Enough to supply a small charity, eh? Hope you will continue doing such great work taking care of him, and that all the fame and interviews won’t cause him to gain a ton over the treats 😀
And I also wish for the other good and kind characters of the story to be rewarded by universe. They do deserve to be repaid their kindness. They might have thought it wasn’t much but I know that to you it was. Every little act of humanity feels like Christmas when you have been let down many times. A miracle, a lot of miracles actually had to happen in order for this story to take a good turn for good, and to be delivered to public.
And for that I am thankful.