My month as a cat mum, winning the Costa and crazies on Capitol Hill
By Monique Roffey
Christmas for a Buddhist
I fully converted to Buddhism three years ago. Prior to my conversion there’d been years of meditation and Dharma. Even so, you cannot get rid of God. “He” never really disappears and that’s okay, even though now, spiritually, I tread a very different path.
Because of God, I bought a tree. Work that one out. Buying a tree is actually a pagan ritual and harkens towards the natural world and celebration of the solstice. The Buddha became enlightened under a tree and then came out of the forest and often taught in woodlands. So the tree ticks two spiritual leaders: Jesus and the Buddha. Now that’s a whole other piece of writing.
My Christmas was spent quietly, walking in Victoria Park with friends, masked to the hilt; Zooming and Whatsapping family and friends. One huge present under the tree from my brother: a portrait of Yemaya, an African Goddess and mermaid.
New Year I spent on retreat, morning meditations, afternoons studying the suttas and the story of the Buddha’s life and a puja every evening. Together, some 300 of us, online, from all over the world, meditated into the New Year. A good thing. I landed in 2021 grounded and ready to face what was next in these tough times.
In October 2020, I adopted an 8-weekold kitten and named her Fancy. Yes, a lockdown pet companion. You could say that. On the other hand, lockdown gave me the courage to do something I’d been wanting to be for years. A cat mum. Of course, she has many other names: fancy-pants, poo foot, fish breath, fluff-bag, and others. She is half Russian Blue and half tabby and extremely pretty.
Quickly, she settled in, and even more quickly became my muse and Facebook star. Over a thousand people have watched her grow and navigate her first months with me and her transformation from tiny clumsy fluff-ball kitten to an agile young cat. She became a FB star overnight and there were calls for her to have her own Instagram page too. Now, three months on, we have learnt each other’s ways. While I write this she is asleep in my in-tray. Best thing I’ve done in years.
Early in 2021, on 4 January to be precise, I heard the news that my new novel The Mermaid of Black Conch won the Costa Novel Award 2020.* Published by indie publishers Peepal Tree Press, this is a huge “yes” – not just to my novel, but to the independent publishing sector who vie against all the odds to get writers’ work out there. I’m thrilled and still pinching myself.
The novel is about a young woman who’s been cursed, exiled and banished to live in the sea for eternity, and how she is caught and tries to find a new life for herself in the modern day Caribbean. There’s a big catch scene and, of course, lots of mermaid sex.
Then, two days later, the scenes of the riots from Capitol Hill. I hear the QAnon Shaman isn’t eating much in prison as he only eats organic food. Ha. Trump now impeached again, and banned from Twitter. Good. And yet his megalomania is still intact. Let him be banned from public office for good and let America heal its ideological rifts, which has its roots in so many mounting inequalities starting with slavery. And let Biden get cracking with a vaccination programme, climate change and a new green revolution in industry, which will generate jobs for hundreds of thousands. We will remember the Trump years forever as a time we lost our innocence.
Monique Roffey is a Trinidadian born British writer. Her most recent novel, The Mermaid of Black Conch, (Peepal Tree Press) won the Costa Novel Award, 2020. On 26 January 2021 Roffey’s “utterly original” novel was pronounced Costa Book of the Year. She is a Senior Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University and a tutor for the National Centre for Writing.