Larry Is Persevering as Best He Can Despite Being Constantly Maligned by Both Fleet Street and the Prime Minister's Duplicitous Staff
"The two (Larry and Maisy) appear to be content with each other's company, sometimes enjoying meals together. An occasional mouse has been left on the doorstep, perhaps as a thank you."
-- a Royal Parks spokeswoman
Larry can scarcely get a moment's peace! In fact, the long knives have been out for him ever since his celebrated arrival at 10 Downing Street on February 16th and the drumbeat of disparaging remarks directed at him only has grown louder over the course of the summer and autumn. (See photo above of him looking forlornly out the window.)
The four-year-old brown and white castrated tom's tribulations began right off the bat when Prime Minister David Cameron, instead of giving him time to adjust to his new rôle and surroundings, immediately threw him to the wolves who howl both day and night on Fleet Street. Specifically, when ITV news reporter Lucy Manning tried to force him to pose for her he, predictably, scratched her arm. (See Cat Defender post of July 21, 2011 entitled "Larry Faces Many Challenges and Dangers in His New Rôle as 10 Downing Street's Resident Feline.")
Although her wounds were superficial, she afterwards carried on as if she had been hit over the head and robbed of her maidenhood. If she had read Carl Van Vechten's 1922 classic, The Tiger in the House, she would have known from the outset that "no self-respecting cat has any leanings toward a career as an artist's (or photographer's) model."
Shortly thereafter Larry was unceremoniously kicked in the posterior by a bobby posted outside the prime minister's residence. Instead of coming to his defense as any devoted cat owner would have done, Cameron shrugged off the blatant abuse as a nonevent.
"Someone showed me the picture of that, but I'm reliably informed that it was a nudge, not anything firmer," he insouciantly told the Daily Mail on June 12th. (See "Larry the Cat Makes First Kill at Downing Street...So at Least One of Cameron's Policies Is Working.")
Of late, Larry has been accused of sleeping on the job and thus allowing the mice to run amuck. (See photo below of him catching a few winks.)
Even on those occasions when he has thrown himself whole hog into the task at hand the Fleet Street crowd has belittled his prowess. "The mouse got away and was bouncing around trying to escape," an unidentified photographer, who recorded for posterity one such encounter, told the Daily Mail on September 9th. (See "Larry the Number Ten Cat Fails His First Test as Prime Mouser.") "The cat was jumping around too, trying to catch it. It kept leaping out of Larry's claws and managed to get down into a little gully."
That should not have come as any surprise to anyone even remotely familiar with the subject. Catching mice is a difficult task even for an animal as nimble and agile as a cat.
In fact, most mice escape. The value of cats lies in their ability not only to occasionally catch a few of them but to scare off an even greater number of them.
"Larry took a swipe and missed," the photographer continued. "Then the mouse ran into a bush and got away. The cat did follow but he didn't come out again with a mouse between his teeth." À bon chat, bon rat.
Since rodents spend the majority of their time below ground, it is virtually impossible for cats to even locate them let alone catch all of them. Even when they venture out of hiding they must be nabbed in the open otherwise they will scurry into tiny holes, drains, and other tight quarters where cats cannot venture. (See photo below of Larry and the mouse.)
Conditions at Number Ten apparently have deteriorated to the point that Cameron now has resorted to throwing silverware at the intruders. At least that is what Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith claims to have witnessed firsthand earlier this month at a dinner held for cabinet ministers. "Where is Larry when you need him?" he screeched afterwards to the Daily Mail on November 16th. (See "Where's Larry When You Need Him? Prime Minister Throws Cutlery at Downing Street Mice as Moggy Boycotts Rat-Catching Duties.")
Smith's verbal salvo is not only a classic example of piling on but completely unjustified as well. If he and Cameron expect Larry to keep the dining room free of rodents the very least that they could do would be to invite him to break bread with them.
The incident nonetheless demonstrates that Cameron has graduated from being a passive observer to a man of action. "I actually took a picture of one in my flat on my mobile phone, because it was looking at me," he confessed to the Daily Mail in the June 12th article cited supra. "Rats, I'm frightened of, but I haven't seen any of those."
What he has seen, if tattlers and malicious gossips at Ten Downing Street are to be believed, is cat hairs on his expensive suits. Furthermore, staffers are said to be peeved at Larry for scratching them after they have sat down on top of him.
Petty inanities of that caliber should prompt the English public to question the compos mentis of those calling the shots. First of all, most all cats shed and therefore are destined to leave behind cat hairs.
Secondly, anyone so thoughtless as to sit down on top of a cat is richly deserving of whatever they receive in return. Under such circumstances cats do not use their claws in a vindictive manner, but rather their response is more of a reflexive and defensive action.
Larry also has been accused of shirking his duties at Ten Downing Street so as to enable him to round around Westminster with a temptress named Maisy who lives in nearby St. James's Park with its manager Mark Wasilewski. (See photo of her at the bottom of the page.)
A hypocritical allegation such as that recalls to mind a scene from Hector H. Munro's short story, "Tobermory," wherein Major Barfield and others considered it great fun to call attention to Toby's amorous liaisons but responded with malice aforethought when he turned the tables on them and pointed out theirs. Besides, all work and no play would make Larry a dull cat just as it makes Jack a dull boy.
"The two appear to be content with each other's company, sometimes enjoying meals together," an unidentified spokeswoman for the Royal Parks told The Sun on September 8th. (See "When Larry Met Maisy.") "An occasional mouse has been left on the doorstep, perhaps as a thank you."
Therein lies a possible explanation as to Larry's lack of alleged productivity at Cameron's residence. Perhaps he is too busy keeping the mice at bay in St. James's Park in order to have much energy left for dealing with those at home.
It does seem odd, however, that Ten Downing Street always seems to be as overrun with mice as Three Skeleton Key was in a classic episode of "Escape" from the golden age of radio. Since mice do not live on thin air, the only logical conclusion is that there must be plenty of food left unattended for them to eat.
The Palace of Westminster has an identical problem but at least Lord Brabazon is forthright enough to place the blame squarely where it belongs. "If you were a mouse, you would rather eat the crumbs of a smoked salmon sandwich than poisonous bait," he testified to the Daily Mail on March 5, 2010. (See "More Parliamentary Fat Cats Needed Fast.")
C'est-à-dire, Cameron, his family, and cabinet ministers could very well be every bit as sloppy in their bowls and cups as their counterparts in parliament. After all, the rich and powerful never have been known for either their fastidiousness or frugality.
Just as importantly, custodians at Ten Downing Street need to be doing a far better job of cleaning up after the self-important slobs as opposed to packing off all the blame on Larry. As everyone surely knows by now, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
In Manhattan, for example, the problem is not so much mice as it is cockroaches and conscientious apartment dwellers soon learn never to leave so much as a crumb lying around and to promptly remove all unwanted leftovers to the curb outside before retiring for the evening. That is the only way that those pests can be kept under reasonable control.
Perhaps most revolting of all, Ten Downing Street is continuing to behave as if it begrudges Larry his daily rations of kibble, tuna, and milk. For instance, the prime minister's staff never seems to waste an opportunity in order to inform the public that not so much as one pence of its hard-earned money is being spent on his upkeep.
The only thing that rather obvious public relations ploy accomplishes is to make the prime minister and his subalterns look cheap and silly. That is especially the case in light of how all governments piss the lion's share of their citizens' money against the wall without so much as a second thought. Doubtless to say, many English citizens would much rather pay to feed a cat than to pony up for some of their government's numskull spending extravagances.
Most shocking of all, however, is Cameron's notorious cheapness. Anybody with his money easily could afford to feed, shelter, and medicate a hundred cats without feeling so much as a twinge of financial uneasiness.
Since neither Cameron nor the Exchequer have shown any willingness to foot the bill for Larry's minimalist needs, that deplorable impasse has necessitated the tapping of other resources. According to the November 16th edition of the Daily Mail cited supra, it is actually the prime minister's staff that has been saddled with the job of purchasing Larry's food. If that is true, they then would have an ulterior motive for conspiring to undermine his credibility with both Cameron and the public.
The Daily Mail may have gotten it all wrong in that a fundraiser held on September 7th reportedly took in enough money in order to satisfy Larry's nutritional needs for a year. The event also raised an additional £300 for the Battersea Dogs and Cats Home in south London which back in January rescued Larry from the streets. (See The Independent, September 7, 2011, "Diary: May's XXX-Rated Problem.")
Costumier Angels of Shaftesbury Avenue also has volunteered to donate an unspecified portion of the proceeds from the rental of its feline outfits toward Larry's upkeep. It additionally is planning on honoring Maisy with a costume that resembles her.
It probably is not worth very much but at least for the time being Cameron is standing by Larry. "I'm a big Larry fan," he proclaimed to the Daily Mail in the June 12th article cited supra. "We have got a big mouse infestation in Downing Street and Larry has caught some mice."
Even if the rodent problem ultimately proves to be too much for him to handle, it always is possible that Larry's value as a political prop may save his job. "I'm sure he will be a great addition to Downing Street and will charm our many visitors," Cameron predicted to the Daily Mail on February 17th. (See "Don't Mess with Me! Downing Street Ratcatcher Takes over Cabinet after Seeing Off ITV Reporter.")
Nevertheless, it is disconcerting that neither Cameron nor his staff view Larry as anything other than a ratcatcher and a bargain basement public relations prop. All cats are sentient beings with their own individualized personalities and lives. They accordingly deserve to be treated as such and not as objects to be disposed of as soon as they have outlived their usefulness to their owners.
Perhaps Larry will be able to not only continue to swim with the sharks but, more importantly, to win over Cameron and his family. Historically speaking, however, prime ministers have not always been kind to cats.
The legendary Humphrey, who found favor with both Maggie Thatcher and John Major, was unceremoniously given the sack by Cherie Blair. (See Cat Defender post of April 6, 2006 entitled "Humphrey, the Cat from 10 Downing Street Who Once 'Read' His Own Obituary, Passes Away at 18.")
Due to Gordon Brown's alleged antipathy toward all animals, a cat named Sybil, owned by Chancellor of the Exchequer Alistair Darling, was treated even more shabbily. (See Cat Defender posts of September 19, 2007 and August 13, 2009 entitled, respectively, "After a Dreary Ten-Year Absence, Number 10 Downing Street Has a New Resident Feline and Her Name Is Sybil" and "Sybil, 10 Downing Street's Former First Feline, Dies Unexpectedly from an Undisclosed Illness.")
Another thing that Larry has going for himself is Cameron's political affiliation. Generally speaking, conservative prime ministers have tended to be more predisposed toward cats than their counterparts in the Labor Party.
It is precisely their utter disdain for both the animals and Mother Earth that exposes the so-called more liberal members of the ruling classes around the world to be utter frauds. After all, it was the communist Mao Zedong who declared the South China Tiger to be an enemy of the people.
Photos: Daily Mail via the Press Association (Larry at the window), Daily Mail via the Associated Press (Larry sleeping), Daily Mail (Larry hunting a mouse), and Politics Home (Maisy).