At the time of writing, the story I am going to tell has not, to my knowledge, been featured in any newspaper or magazine, or on television. I only know about it because I happened to be awake in the small hours of this morning, and caught it on BBC World Service radio.
By the time this Now and Then appears, it may have gained more general circulation. Or, again, it may not.
I didn’t catch the name of the girl who told the tale, so I shall call her Susan, because she sounded like a Susan and is obviously a splendid person, like a Susan of my acquaintance. She had been inspired to travel to the island of Lesvos and do what she could to aid incoming migrants. And there she encountered a cat.
Now there are plenty of resident cats on Lesvos, as there are on all Greek islands. If you’ve taken a holiday in that part of the world you will certainly have encountered them – hanging around tavernas and bars, cadging scraps and keeping out of the way of a waiter’s boot with practised ease. They are, it should be said, usually pretty well fed.
But this cat was different. Scrawny and sad, it also made its plight known by mewing constantly and risking the wrath of the taverna waiters. Susan concluded that it had been brought to the island by a migrant family and, given the dangers attached to the journey, it
must have been a much-loved pet.
Its owners had been parted from it at the moment of arrival and, once on the conveyor belt of their journey from one processing station to another, had been unable to stay and look for it.
Susan adopted the moggie, fed it and cared for it, all the time trying to work out how to reunite it with its original owners – who were by now almost certainly in Germany or Sweden.
After some thought and no little heart-searching, she travelled, with the cat, to Germany and set about trying to find its owners. She had some flyers printed, but – crucially – took to social media to enlist help. And struck paydirt.
After a while a family of migrants in Sweden managed to make contact with her, claiming the cat as theirs.
A Skype telephone call was set up, during the course of which the migrants called the cat by the name they had given it. It responded to that name and, shown the family on screen, reacted even more positively. There was absolutely no doubt that this was their cat.
Arrangements were made for the animal to travel to Sweden and be reunited with the family who, in the turmoil of their arrival in Europe, had lost it on Lesvos.
Why am I telling you this tale?
Well, the generally-held opinion is that we live in a rotten world, full of medieval psychopaths who want to chop off our heads, or blow us (and themselves) to kingdom come, of power-crazed leaders who will stop at nothing to get their way, of soulless corporations determined to grind every last penny out of us whilst avoiding their financial responsibilities.
All that may be true to some extent. But we also live in a world where a young English girl finds a stray cat on a Greek island, travels many hundreds of miles, and manages to reunite it with the family who loved and lost it.
And I think that story more than makes up for the “rotten” stuff.