Sent to RHU from Techtyger:
This Is A True Story. I Have Witnesses.
Way back in 1987, the year @dduane and I got married, Worldcon was in Brighton. After the con, we rented a farmhouse - “Cold Comfort Farm”, yes, really - so various people in the US who were now over in England for the con could add it to their holiday.
That meant lots of touristy stuff, and since the farmhouse was close to Alcester in Warwickshire, there were places like Stratford-on-Avon, Oxfordshire’s Cotswold villages, and of course numerous picturesque rural pubs, well within easy reach.
One of those pubs was The Falkland Arms in Great Tew…
(It’s just beyond the small dark patch of trees at the end of the lane, but is now a private residence so this is the best I could find.)(not visible: customers and / or cat.)
…and we rolled up on a beautiful late-summer afternoon then set to enjoying the facilities with much enthusiasm.
Back then (though probably no longer) they used to sell a clay pipe and a fill from several choices of baccy, to be smoked out in the beer garden. I nabbed one and a box of matches, but the main thing to catch my attention besides the beer was Pork Scratchings.
(Yum yum nom nom munch crunch scrunch scranch, absolutely deafening like the Brigade of Guards drilling on gravel, I can’t hear what you’re saying…)
Crisps are fine, especially oddly-flavoured ones (I still miss Really Ruthless Crisps, which were before their time) and US pork rinds are good too but a bit fluffy and wimpy by comparison to Scratchings, which are as the packaging warns a snack for grown-ups with sound teeth.
I qualified on all counts, so took the tray of drinks and a packet of Scratchings out to where everyone was waiting. Eventually I got around to opening the packet, looked away for a moment, looked back – and there was a cat in it, just like the OP photo, with ears back and face right down inside the pack, munching away like a horse with a feed-bag.
(Unlike this cat, she at least waited for them to be cooked.)
“There’s a cat in my Pork Scratchings,” I said to the world in general, which was unimpressed.
“Maybe it’s the free gift,” said a not-helpful person. “Looks more like it’s taking than giving,” said another, showing great powers of observation. “Complain to the management before everybody wants one,” said a third. So I laid the already-somewhat-lighter bag of Scratchings down on the bench – the cat didn’t miss a beat – and ambled back into the pub.
“There’s a cat in my Pork Scratchings,” I told the barman. He looked over my shoulder out into the beer garden, then nodded.
“Oh aye,” he said. “That’s Misty, sir. She’ll do that.”
(This is Purdy of “The Gunmakers” in Marylebone, London; you get my drift.)
I’d read the back of the Pork Scratching packet, and taken note that it contained Scratchings made of Pork and that Sound Teeth Were Required. But nowhere, even in the smallest of small print down by the e-numbers and preservatives, did it say “May Contain Cats”.
“Um. Right. So what do I do about it?”
“Well, sir, you buy three more bags of Pork Scratchings…”
“Now why would I want to do that?” Despite the fact that I liked Pork Scratchings a lot, I had a feeling I was being railroaded just a bit.
(Here’s one of the 15-strong guest liaison team at “The Bag o’Nails”, Bristol.)
“Because, sir,” explained the barman with great patience, “by the time you get back to your seat Misty will have finished the bag she’s in, and she’ll be into the next one as soon as you open it. So you open the bag after that and enjoy your Scratchings—“
“—Until she’s ready to help me with them as well, yes?”
“Yes indeed, sir. But by the time she’s done there she’ll have reached her capacity, and you can have (ta-daa! He didn’t say it, but I could hear it) The Last Bag All To Yourself!” I gave him a long hard look.
“You and Misty have shares in the Pork Scratching company, don’t you?” I said.
(Not visible - stock certificate signed with paw-print.)
“I really couldn’t say, sir. So that’s three bags, is it?”
“Oh, all right then. And a pint of Wadworth’s Weasel Widdle while you’re at it.”
When I got back to the beer garden, things played out so exactly as he described that I’m still convinced it was some sort of scam, but I’ve never managed to work out how Misty the cat persuaded the barman to play along…
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