Mr Tiddles was the luckiest cat in the Durham! That was a simple fact. After all, Mr Tiddles only ate fresh tuna because the tinned stuff was no good. Mr Tiddles only had premium milk or cream and drank only fresh bottled water. He would certainly never be found eating something as vile as tinned cat food. Thankfully, his owner Mr Douglas had learned to accommodate his very royal demands.
Unlike his feline, Mr Douglas was a simple man who was found wearing the same jumper and chequered shirt day after day. He had no particular dietary requirements and by all accounts was a very accommodating man. He had owned Mr Tiddles only a few months but considered the cat’s demands fairly reasonable for a cat. Thankfully, being a cat lover Mr Douglas assumed Mr Tiddles had typical cat behaviour. Having owned two rather spoilt felines at his mother’s home in York he viewed felines as rather vain creatures filled with entitlement.
Little did Mr Douglas know that Mr Tiddles had his reasons for being a picky and posh cat. One could not call Mr Tiddles a snob because the cat enjoyed living in a humble little house. Needless to say, he was also an incredibly affectionate cat although Mr Douglas suspected this was because he was a ginger tabby. Mr Tiddles also was friendly with the common country cats. (He often referred to them as the pussy cat class). It certainly was not his breed that made him fussy after all he was a typical ginger tabby cat, not a high-class Persian or exotic Bengal. However, Mr Tiddles was not the average house cat.
In fact, he was not really a cat at all and his real name was not even Mr Tiddles! The feline had merely acquired the name from Mr Douglas one day. (In truth, Mr Douglas called all cats Tiddles). Prior to his life in Durhan, he had once been a human. Not just any human, a prince to the island of Woolyishire. Back then he went by the name of the Purree Prince. This was due to his ability to change into a cat. This skill had been passed on from his great Uncle Thomas who was a respectable Duke. The king, on the other hand, could change into a Wolf. Most people in Woolyshire had the ability to shapeshift, it was an island secret leftover from the ancient years of Celtic magic.
Woolyshire was a particularly beautiful island north of the United-Kingdom that was surrounded by rough waters. The people who lived in Woolyshire were proud farmers, who had been famed for their stylish jumpers. It is said if you own a sweater from Woolyshire you will have the most comfortable and fashionable clothing item for the winter. Unfortunately, the people of Woolyshire did not have many guests on their island due to the tumultuous waters that surrounded it. It was also too small to build an airport on without destroying the townspeople’s homes. To make matters worse due to the small size of the island they did not get modern technologies like the internet. Thus, with no travellers and no exposure to the outside world, the population was never exposed to different cultures. This had caused the prince much distress during his adolescence when he realised, he was not like the other islanders of Woolyshire.
The prince came to hate his name because it became used as something of a joke among his subjects and even his family. Purree was used to refer to the soft persona of his feline counterpart. His animal persona was less territorial and thus less masculine to the eyes of the islanders. It was true that he had a gentler disposition to his father and his Uncle Thomas. They were feral beasts in their animal form, who enjoyed hunting and fighting. The Purree Prince had vowed on never fighting and disapproved of blood sports which seemed to annoy his family. He could not understand why his own father hated him for wanting to learn dancing and singing like his sisters.
The older the prince grew the more he discovered that he was very different from his family. It became impossible to ignore his differences when he fell in love for the first time. Like any new love, it had begun with simple friendship and natural processes of courting. Except for one key difference. His newfound love interest happened to be a man. Repulsed by his realisation of his orientation, the prince decided to make the permanent switch to a feline hoping to block out his emotions.
When this had failed to work, he had resolved to run away from his island. Using his father’s sail-ship he made his way to Scotland and had been inside his cat form ever since. After a year of surviving harsh winters, he had arrived in the quaint town of Durham. The prince had fallen in love with the stunning cathedral, the tranquil riverside, and the cobblestone streets. It somehow reminded him of his island. Yet what had truly made him stay in Durham was Mr Douglas.
Mr Douglas was a stoutly English man with short brown hair, crooked teeth, and green eyes. He was not exactly handsome but he held a certain charm to him. He taught at the local university and lived in his own humble home surrounded by greenery. Despite his kind temperament he spent most of his weekends alone in the comfort of a chair reading a good book. Though he often volunteered at the local Food Bank in the evenings he was often found at home. He had many fond acquaintances, but nobody who understood him or loved him. Not until Mr Tiddles had arrived anyway.
The unlikely pair had met during a particularly wet summer day. Mr Tiddles had been in Durham only a few days and had made enemies with some local Tom-cats who were territorial of the land. English cats tended to hate foreign cats being in their domain and Mr Tiddles could not risk turning human again. Trying to remain in disguise Mr Tiddles had been forced to run away from the unfriendly beasts. Having acquired a few beatings, he had dashed into the nearest home he could see in a blind panic. It was, of course, the home of Mr Douglas, who took it upon himself to tend to his wounds and nurse him back to health.
The kindness would always be remembered and Mr Tiddles would often nuzzle into his arms filled with admiration for the kind man. The friendship had taken some time to develop. At first, the cat would only turn up for food or to run from the scary cats nearby. This was because the proud prince did not want to outstay his welcome. However, when Mr Douglas had installed a cat door for ‘Tiddles’ he felt he was truly a pet and thus a kept man. Nevertheless, the horrible cats kept returning to fight him. They would all gather at the door hissing and taunting him. All until Mr Douglas decided to poke his head through the cat door and let out a giant roar. The cats became so petrified they never attempted to hit Mr Tiddles again and soon came to be on kinder terms with him.
From that day Mr Tiddles was a loyal house pet who always liked to comfort his owner. He would often crawl onto his shoulders and nest close to his cheeks in order to read the same book. You might say that Mr Douglas and Mr Tiddles had bought each other companionship. Mr Douglas had also run away from his home and although he still spoke to his family they had never accepted his lifestyle. When they would call the cat would hear things like “Have you outgrown that phase yet dear.” The cat could relate and would all the while be praying, he would not be tracked down by the Goathroxan of Woolyshire! Lest he would be dragged home against his will.
It was during the middle of oddly out of season snowstorm, that kept residents locked in their homes, that all would be revealed. The cat would get out of the bag, so to speak. Mr Douglas was sitting alone at his table examining papers when out of the bloom he started to cry. It had been three days into the snowstorm that he realised he had spoken to nobody and he was feeling incredibly alone. His mother had officially decided to cut off all contact leaving him with only his books and Mr Tiddles for company. Despite the prince’s efforts to try and console Mr Douglas, he became inconsolable.
“Nobody will even notice if I die, will they Mr Tiddles?,” asked Mr Douglas.
Mr Tiddles worried about the state of his owner grabbed a copy of his favourite book with his teeth and attempted to drag it across the floor to cheer him up. Yet even the childish antics of Pooh Corner by AA Miles was of little comfort. Instead, Mr Douglas looked on his laptop eyeing a dating app he had joined recently. He was joyed to find one message in his inbox. Having sent a message a few days ago to a gentleman in York who was a philosophy teacher, he had hoped it was a response from him. Mr Douglas was certain there shared interest in philosophy might spark a friendship. Unfortunately, the response brutally read: In your dreams chubby! The email understandably caused him more despair for he was certain he would never find someone like him. He certainly could not afford the luxury of living the diverse city of Manchester or London.
“I will miss you if you die,” Mr Tiddles spoke nervously, having watched Mr Douglas down a large drink of whiskey.
Mr Douglas inspected the glass in panic and disbelief. Mr Tiddles insisted he take a seat whilst he explained things. Mr Douglas feeling light-headed and worried he was suffering an illness, willingly took a seat on his favourite armchair. Then Mr Tiddles launched into an explanation of his hometown and how he came to be a cat in Durham.
“If you are really a human then prove it,” Mr Douglas said sceptically rubbing his head now wondering if he was dreaming.
Mr Tiddles looked around the room wondering if the snowstorm would deter a Goathroxam. He fared his chances were in his favour and made the switch into human, for the first time in over 2 years. His time as a cat had made him leaner and he had aged handsomely. Although his clothes were now tight and ragged he still looked regal in his own special way.
“My subconscious has turned my love of cats into some queer affair” Mr Douglas laughed to himself still convinced it was a dream.
Mr Tiddles struggled to walk at first having grown accustomed to using paws, but soon he was able to make his way to Mr Douglas. Instinctively, he took a seat on his lap forgetting he was much heavier now. Then he wrapped his arms around Mr Douglas and gave him a small kiss on his cheek.
“Typical the one guy who likes me is locked in a cat form on the run from some shapeshifting monster,” Mr Douglas said in disbelief now realising with the touch of his lips it was all very real.
“I was hiding from who I am. I am not like you because you are a fighter. However, you made me realise I cannot run anymore even if it hurts.” Mr Tiddles said standing up.
Suddenly facing his father and the Goathroxam did not seem so impossible. The people of Woolyshire needed to see someone different in the land. The prince was the only one in his proud line who could do it. Durham was not so different from his home in many ways. It was a small English town and although it had more diversity and exposure to cultures then Woolyshire, it did not make being different any more difficult. Mr Douglas was a kind-hearted man who despite being liked by the community had not managed to find love. Despite the fact, many people had accepted him in this small town he had little friends and no family support.
“I am not going to run anymore I am going to stand strong. As long as I can stand still with you, I am sure I will be fine” Mr Tiddles said grabbing hold of Mr Douglas round fingers.
Mr Tiddles was not only the luckiest cat in Durham but also the luckiest man in Durham. He could now claim his name back as the Purree Prince. With his newfound pride, he could start his life. Somehow, Mr Douglas and Mr Tiddles (the Purree Prince) had finally found love.