Pasta, August 2018 – August 2023

“You could talk about love
You could talk about the light
You could talk about the only time
You ever did things right
You could talk about the moon
Hanging in the sky
You could talk about the finer things
You could talk about the minor things”

Grian Chatten – ‘Bob’s Casino’

It only struck me that Pasta wasn’t there when I opened our fridge to get some milk and it made that ‘ping’ noise which I’ve been meaning to look up how to disable ever since we bought it three years ago, and waited before closing the door so I didn’t catch Pasta’s head in it, straining for the ham or chicken.

But she wasn’t there.

She passed away this week.

We became reluctant cat owners 5 years ago. The full details follow below in the ‘Pasta Experiment’, a talk I gave at Tenx9 in Belfast a few years ago.

I’ve never liked cats. My Granny had a bajillion cats in Fr.Murray Park in Dundalk when we were kids and she’d sometimes ask us to feed them, and I just remember the foul creatures hissing at me, scratching me, and generally looking contemptuously in my direction.

My Soulmate’s sister, Ger, and her husband , Liddy,  had a cat in their house in the Lake District. This cat , called ‘Phucker’, had it’s own chair in the sitting room, and sunk it’s claws into me whenever I accidentally sat in it. Ger and Dave called it something else, but it was always ‘Phucker’ to me.

Granny got a cat after Granda bumped into Erwin Schrodinger in McKenna’s, details below in ‘Whatever’. Geraldine ended up with a cat because she was possessed by a demon…true story.

The only person whoever gave me a good reason to own a cat was Fr.Grumpy while we were discussing exorcisms, details below in ‘The Devil Is a Cat’.

Pasta did not suffer fools gladly.

Pasta was always true to herself.

Pasta’s final act in our house was to have a pee on my side of the bed.

Truly herself to the end…truly evil.

We miss her terribly.


P.S. This is ‘Bob’s Casino

P.P.S. My Soulmate is doing a ‘Dip In The Nip’ fundraiser for the Northeast Cancer Research Trust, NECRET, on September 10th   with her mad mates from Emy Dippers. You can donate directly to Eileen’s Revolut, or via NECRET’s FB page.

The Pasta Experiment

I do not like cats.

I have never liked cats.

I have never wanted a cat.

I have always wanted a dog. A chocolate brown Labrador.

We have two cats. Pasta and Tuna.

My Soulmate had always felt that she had enough to do looking after me and our three Wunder Monkees, Jake, Robyn, and Elliott. At one point we did have two goldfish, Oddball and Snouty, but alas they went the way of all goldfish, there were tears, but the kids said I’d feel better the next day.

That was a long time ago.

We live in Monaghan, the true centre of the Universe, out in the country surrounded by farms , fields and hedges full of feral cats. They never came to the house for food as they wined and dined on spilt milk from the surrounding dairy parlours and rabbits that litter our landscape.

Five years ago a cat arrived at our door. I chased it, my Soulmate chased it, Elliott our youngest fed it. It returned the following day with a kitten, and the day after that with another three kittens. I hated all of them, but Elliott seemed to get great enjoyment out of them, and as his main hobby up until that point had been executing everything in sight online, my Soulmate thought he should be encouraged. She and Elliott promptly went into the pet store and came home with boxes of cat food, a little cat shed and the cat and her kittens never showed up again.

Around the same time we decided to do the Camino as a family holiday. The Wunder Monkees were 19, 17 ,and 14 at the time and were generally agreeable…except Elliott. Remoteness from a Wi-Fi connection combined with daily exercise did not appeal to him at all. So we promised him a cat of his very own on our return from holiday. Our daughter Robyn’s friend , Siobhan, had loads of cats and a new bunch of kittens, so that’s where we’d get Elliott’s cat.

I went along with it all on the proviso that I got to name the cat.

The little furball duly arrived after our return from Spain. She was the fluffiest cat we’d ever seen, so fluffy in fact that Siobhan’s family had called it ‘Fluffy’ before they gave it to us. So, naturally , I called it Pasta. Pasta had been the name of Elliott’s imaginary friend when he was two. The name stuck.

Pasta was an indoor cat…or at least mostly indoor. She was permanently indoor for the first few weeks until she got her various shots. And would then venture out occasionally. She did all of the kitten things, being cute and what not, but I didn’t fall for any of it. The rest of the family fawned over her , constantly taking photos, and marveling at her climbing prowess and ability to do bugger all in a cute fashion. She would allow Elliott to pick her up, she’d sit in his room while he did his homework, she’d laze on his bed when he was at school, she would sit on the back of his chair at mealtimes, she was devoted to him. I could see right through her, the manipulative she-devil.

She got away with murder.

I wasn’t allowed to put the decorations on our tree at Christmas, because I’d do it wrong. Pasta was allowed to climb to the top of the tree and knock off various family heirlooms to rapturous applause and much photography.

In the New Year Pasta and I simply seemed to settle into our mutual loathing.

And then a few months later a little black kitten, with white socks and a white stripe on her chest, appeared at the kitchen window. Pasta hated her with an intensity that shocked the rest of the family, but I knew was always there. She hissed and clawed at the window whenever the little black kitten appeared, but if she happened to be outside when the kitten arrived she would bolt to the safety of the house where she became brave again.

My Soulmate warned us all not to feed the kitten. We had a cat of our own and certainly didn’t need another one.

I fed the kitten.

My Soulmate chased it away.

I fed it again.

I don’t think that I fed it simply to annoy Pasta, although that was certainly part of it. I fed it because it was so affectionate and grateful, unlike Pasta who wouldn’t spit on you if you were on fire.

My Soulmate kept chasing it away , and marvelled at it’s persistence…until she discovered that Jake, Robyn , Elliott and I were all feeding it surreptitiously. She eventually agreed that we could keep it, as long as she named it. I’d been calling it Orca because it was black with flecks of white and loudly suggested this as it’s name, but no, she was called Tuna.

Tuna’s arrival in the home prompted a change in Pasta…she became even more evil. The rest of the family said that she was just being territorial. Nope, evil. When she terrorized poor Tuna the others simply said that they were ‘playing’…Nope, evil.

They eventually settled into their respective territories in the house :

Upstairs was Pasta’s.

The stairs were Pasta’s.

The kitchen was Pasta’s.

The sun room was Pasta’s

But the sitting room was Tuna’s…and Pasta’s.

Another change came over Pasta, she became nocturnal. Sort of.  She would happily sleep inside all day and then look to go out at night , but return around 11 or midnight looking to get back in. Sometimes she’d stay out all night. Perfect ! I didn’t have to look at her and Tuna could relax wherever she liked.

But a year later she changed again. She would go out in the evenings, come home at 11 or 12, but then look to go out again at times varying between 4.30 am and 5.30am. She would paw at our bedroom door until one of us got up, staggered downstairs, and either opened the front door to let her out, or wandered into the kitchen, fed her, waited for her to finish, and then let her out.

I hated her even more.

Pasta knew I hated her.

Pasta walked past the open bedroom doors of Jake, Robyn and Elliott to scratch at ours. I’d give out to the kids for not letting her out. They all said that they didn’t hear her. My Soulmate said that she only heard Pasta when she would run and jump at the door to get our attention. Pasta overheard this. She never jumped at the door again, she pawed at it gently, but consistently, knowing that I’d be the only one to hear it…I’m a notoriously light sleeper, having to remove ticking clocks from other peoples homes if we visit. Pasta knew this.

How did Pasta know this ?

Pasta had been studying me.

Now she was experimenting.

She would paw at the door at 5.00am , scamper ahead of me downstairs sitting on the little window beside the  front door  indicating she wanted to go outside. When she felt that I’d got the hang of that she would scamper ahead of me and go to the utility room just off the kitchen where I would absent mindedly pour a packet of food for her. If I dared to go back to bed , she would wait until I settled back to sleep before pawing at the door again and leading me to the front door.

Then when she was happy that I could follow basic instruction she changed it up. Now she would paw at the door , hide under the armchair on the landing and observe me wander downstairs to open the front door and stand there, in the freezing morning darkness in my boxers, waiting  on a cat that was sitting halfway down the stairs testing me to see how long I’d stand there in the cold…2 minutes.

Sometimes she would send Tuna to do her bidding to see if I would respond. I did.

And then she cracked it. She stopped pawing at the door at all. I would then wake up wondering where she was and if she was alright.

Now we have settled into a routine. Pasta goes out in the evening, comes back before midnight, I wake before 5.30am, unbidden, and let her out. Then when I get up to start my own day at 7.30am she comes back in and stares at me until I share my poached egg with her.

I now make two poached eggs each morning.

In a reversal of Schrodinger’s Cat In The Box experiment, yes, the one where the cat is both alive and dead until observed, in our house I am Pasta’s Human.

I am both useless and useful to Pasta while I sleep .

She decides when to open the box.

But while I dream, I run in Rossmore Park with my chocolate brown Labrador, called Spud, and we are both happy.

Please don’t tell Pasta.


My Granda met Erwin Schrodinger once. Granda didn’t know who Schrodinger was, and I’m quite sure that Schrodinger didn’t know who my Granda was. Schrodinger had moved to Ireland in 1938 and happened to find himself in Monaghan for the opening of the General Hospital at the invitation of DeValera, Taoiseach at the time. Granda was born in Monaghan, had never travelled too far, so was already there, but wouldn’t have been if Dev had anything to do with it, but that’s a story for another day.

Anyway , it was in McKenna’s on Dublin St., Home to Bona Fides, that they met. Granda was already at the bar , a pint of stout settling, nursing a Powers, and staring intently at a shoebox on the counter tied with string, when Schrodinger entered and sat at the bar a few seats away. He had doubled the number of patrons. Schrodinger ordered a Powers and after a few minutes of silence, said “Hello” to Granda.

“Pardon ?” Granda said, his eyes not leaving the shoebox.

“Sorry to disturb you, I simply said ‘Hello’.”

“Oh, yes, sorry, Hello to you too.” Granda replied. “Didn’t mean to be rude, just….” His voice trailed off.

Schrodinger moved a few seats closer along the bar. “ I have to ask, what’s in the box ?”.

“A cat, hopefully.”

“Hopefully ?”

“Yes. There was a cat in there earlier, but it’s very quiet now.” Granda still hadn’t lifted his eyes from the box.

Schrodinger looked at the box. It was large enough for a cat and it was tied with string , so if there was a cat within , it could still be there. And then he noticed that there were no holes in the box.

“There are no holes in the box.” He said.

“I know” Granda replied.

“But if there was a cat in there, shouldn’t you have put holes in the box ?”

“Yes, but then she would know that I’d bought her a cat. I want it to be a surprise.”

“What kind of surprise will it be now ?” Schrodinger asked.

“I know. I really hope it’s OK.”

“Why don’t you open it to see ?”

“Because it might no longer be a cat.”

“What else would it be ?”

“A dead cat.”

“ I see” Schrodinger said. “ So if you don’t open the box …it’s…alive ?”

“Exactly ! Thank God you said that. I thought I was going mad. Seamus ! Two more Powers there for me and my friend !” And he lifted the shoebox off the counter and placed it gently on the floor, then moved his stool closer to Schrodinger’s and they drank each other’s good health…several times.

Schrodinger woke up hours later on the train back to Dublin. He had a fuzzy recollection of meeting a man with a box, but a clear definition of quantum mechanics.

I always remember Granny having cats…lots of cats.

The Devil or A Cat

In the olden, olden days before the internet, smart phones, DVDs and God fearing respectable licensing laws it was not unusual for a bar to have a video player and on quiet afternoons to play some bootleg film so that the tired patrons didn’t have to talk to each other.

In those days, pre-1990, and probably more importantly pre-Sky Sports, it was also the tradition  that bars and pubs all across Ireland closed on Sunday afternoons between 2-4pm. This was dubbed ‘Holy Hour’.

In , I think, 1982, I was 14 and my pal Adrian’s family owned and lived above Rice’s bar on Clanbrassil St. in Dundalk and we went down into the bar on one such Sunday afternoon to gorge on Tayto Pub Crisps and pints of Coke and Club Rock Shandy’s. Adrian set up the video machine and popped in The Exorcist. I didn’t finish my crisps.

To say that I was freaked out by that film would be an understatement. It terrified me for months…and months…and a few more months.

A few years later I ended up joining the Holy Ghost Fathers, this was just a coincidence, honestly. We spent a few wonderful weeks in the old Novitiate in Kilshane House in Co. Tipperary. Oddly that old Novitiate is now a very popular wedding hotel. I almost burnt it to the ground when we spent Christmas there in 1984, but that’s a story for another day. After three weeks of confinement in Tipperary we moved to the new, smaller, Novitiate in Kimmage in Dublin and settled into a routine of prayer, study at the International Missionary Institute, more prayer, community work with the Simon Community, and a bit more prayer.

 I hadn’t thought of The Exorcist in ages and then one idle Sunday afternoon, after we’d used up our weekly three-hour allowance of TV on Fab Vinny’s MTUSA, I was looking for something to read in the Novitiate’s library and there it was. An old paperback version of The Exorcist. I took it down rather confidently from the shelf and thought, ‘I’m older, wiser, safer, holier…on hallowed ground. I think I’ll have a read, a laugh, and banish it from my system forever.’

I think I got as far as the bit where the priest falls down the steps and, with trembling hands put the damn book back on the shelf and went to bed…leaving the lights on. It troubled me that I was troubled by this story, but fortunately a few weeks later we had a retreat, led by a retired missionary priest and I took the chance to have a word with him about my misguided and irrational fears. He was a grumpy old soul, who we knew was kind behind it all, but always looked as if it caused him physical pain to smile.

We sat together in Fr. Boyle’s office in the Novitiate, in Cypress Downs. Again, oddly this building is no longer a Novitiate, or owned by the Holy Ghost Fathers, I believe that it’s a close of semi-detached houses now. It’s destruction was again simply a coincidence of my one time residency, not a direct result of it. And yes it does seem uncanny that both buil dings no longer serve their original purpose…shortly after my departure…but there were other forces at work…common sense being the strongest amongst them.

Where were we?

Oh, yes, we sat together in Fr. Boyle’s office in the Novitiate in armchairs, either side of the fire. After a few forced pleasantries I eventually got to my crisis of faith.

“Are you familiar with The Exorcist, Father?”

“Book or film?” he asked.

“Both, either, I guess.”

“Yes”, he answered, “like most of these things the book was much better than the film, but both had their flaws.”

“Of course”, I said “but what did you think of the subject matter itself?” This was where I desperately wanted him to say that it was complete rubbish and that Jaws, now there was the type of film we should be worried about.

“Again, the writing was quite good in the book, and the exorcisms were realistically portrayed, the make up put me off in the movie.”

I went pale. He asked if I was OK?

“Not really” I eventually replied,” what do you mean realistic?”

“Well, in my experience, the ceremony itself was accurate and the conversation, or interaction, wasn’t a surprise…” He stopped, he’d noticed the look of terror on my face. ”What ?”

“What do you mean ‘in your experience’?”

“I’ve performed an exorcism, several in fact.”


“That’s the spirit!” he said, laughing.

“I really wanted you to say that the whole thing was a load of rubbish.”

“Listen, they took place a long time ago. They rarely take place at all now, and any that do are perhaps more of a mental condition. Electricity has chased out a lot of shadows.” He smiled.

“Is there anything I can do to protect myself?”

“Yes, you can get a cat.”

“A cat ???”

“Yes, a cat. If you want to know what real evil is, get a cat. Everyone can put up with a cat. And I can’t ever recall a case of demonic possession when there was a cat in the vicinity.”


“I’m not entirely sure, professional etiquette, I imagine.”

And with that he stood up, gave me a blessing, and I left. I slept that night, and most nights since, never thinking of The Exorcist.

I left the Holy Ghost Fathers long before ordination, but 10 years after I left, the group of us that had started out in that Novitiate together had a small reunion in the St. Helen’s Hotel in Stillorgan. Only two out of the 15 of us had made it the whole way to ordination. Over dinner I relayed the story about The Exorcist and Vinny, one of the priests, burst out laughing.

“That was you?” he blurted out.

“How do you mean?”

He went on to say that about five years after I’d left he  had attended a lecture on exorcisms given by my very own Fr. Grumpy. At the end of the lecture someone in the audience asked him what would he advise someone to say to a parishioner who was afraid or terrified of the idea of exorcisms. Fr. Grumpy smiled and said that you tell them anything that will take their mind off it and calm them down. He then told them from the stage of a young novitiate that he’d once counselled about that very irrational fear, and that he’d simply told him to get a cat, that there was a professional etiquette between the devil and cats that only one of them could torture a household at any one time. The audience had laughed.

The whole table of my former confreres were now laughing. Bastards.

Eventually Vinny dabbed the tears from his eyes and stopped laughing long enough to ask

“Did you ever get a cat?”

“Two” I answered and the table erupted in laughter once more.

Author: paul

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