Charlie's angelic persona gives way to 'Mog the Mutinous' and boldly goes where Garfield and Biggles never went - he climbs up the Christmas tree ... 

Christmas celebrations in Marmalade Mansions came to an abrupt halt the year that Charlie arrived. Biggles and Garfield were veterans of the Christmas countdown and knew exactly what was expected of them. After a wobbly start in their first year – when they were excused because of their age and lack of experience and maturity – they always helped with dressing the tree. They carried out their duties seriously and took great pains to do the job right. And for seven Christmases it was a joyful and joyous experience that the three of us took part in.

While carols played in the background, I would erect the tree and begin sorting out the different decorations that were to go on the branches. Biggles and Garfield brought baubles of their choice over to me and they would be placed carefully on the tips, until the branches were covered. Finally the lights were strewn round and around and then the admiration society would sit and gaze as the lights twinkled on and off.

The first Christmas when Biggles and Garfield didn’t know any better, each morning for several mornings running, I would get up to find that they had divested the lower branches of their baubles and hidden them in various ingenious places throughout the dining room and lounge. Patiently, I retrieved the baubles and put them back and eventually tiring of the game, Biggles and Garfield got the message and left the tree alone.

They would sit mesmerized in front of it watching the lights changing colour which would reflect back onto the multi-coloured baubles causing an explosion of rainbows to appear.

That was also the Christmas when they opened all the presents under the tree because they could smell catnip somewhere. I made a mental note to keep their presents separate in future years to avoid the same scenario happening again. It was quite devastating to get up on Christmas morning to find wrapping paper ripped to shreds and ribbons and bows all over the place. The catnip mice had been discovered and played with and an attempt had been made to cover their tracks by putting the mice back under the tree!

Enter Charlie whose alter ego was Mog the Mutinous. Whether he went into a phone box to put his ‘Y’ fronts on over his trousers is debatable, (like Superman), but it certainly wasn’t for the good of mankind – quite the opposite in fact. 

At 14 weeks old he had a definite split personality; at night he was angelic and cute but during the day he was a whirling whirlwind whipping throughout the house stirring up a storm and shredding carpets, curtains and furniture in his wake.

Charlie had no idea of the etiquette that surrounded the mystery of Christmas and as far as he was concerned Biggles and Garfield were two old maids who needed to lighten up and get a life.

‘Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, you are there to be climbed by me!’ he sang to himself as he watched with his head on one side while I started to assemble the green artificial tree. It stood over 5‘ tall on its base and when fully covered with baubles, lights and various decorations, it was a beautiful sight to behold.

To Charlie, however, it was just another mountain to climb and climb it he did. Unfortunately, I didn’t have the pleasure of watching his first ascent but I heard an almighty crash from where I was preparing Christmas tidbits in the kitchen. Biggles and Garfield flew into the kitchen with ears flattened and terrified looks on their faces.

Biggles was unsure whether to laugh or not and nerves got the better of him and he started to giggle. Garfield frowned at him and the pair of them followed me at a gallop to the front room where we found Charlie lying under the Christmas tree, his little frightened face peering out from among the branches. Baubles, tinsel, trumpets and little parcels had spilled all over the place and in the few seconds it took to happen, it looked like a war had begun.

'Errrrm,’ he began to say and on seeing the expression on my face, thought he’d better keep quiet. With as much fierceness as I could manage I shouted ‘NO!’ which made us all jump as I hardly ever raised my voice. I hoped this would be sufficient in the disciplining process and I managed to extricate him with some difficulty from the tangled branches of a sorry looking Christmas tree.

Charlie looked even sorrier and he retired to the kitchen where he hid on top of the washing machine which was under the worktop. It was his retreat, a place he went to when everything got on top of him (with Christmas trees now being added to his ever-growing list of things that got on top of him). He usually had a wash to calm himself down and then he would think about the situation that had got him down and sometimes he fell asleep – so worn out was he after his experiences.

Garfield was apologetic as mentoring Charlie had fallen to him and he felt as if he had failed in some way. I reassured him and gave him a cuddle. Biggles was still beset with nervous giggles and I gave him a cuddle too to calm him down. They watched as I spent the next hour trying to restore the Christmas tree to its former glory which had, in effect, only lasted for about 10 minutes before Charlie had decided to climb up it.

What none of us realized was that Charlie, far from having a sleep on the washing machine, had quietly followed us back into the front room and was hiding behind the sofa. He was watching while I painstakingly straightened out the branches which had been bent in the fall before putting all the decorations, baubles, lights and tinsel back on the tree. I made sure the lights worked before returning to my tasks in the kitchen.

Biggles, Garfield and I left the room and I pulled the door behind me, not realizing Mog the Mutinous was about to make his second ascent. Biggles and Garfield went into the garden to take advantage of the unseasonable sunshine to walk round the flowerbeds and do what cats do. With the door pulled almost closed and music playing in the kitchen the next crash went unheard. It was sometime later that I had a strange feeling that all was not well especially when I looked under the worktop expecting to see Charlie fast asleep on the washing machine and discovered that he wasn’t there.

Charlie under the Christmas tree by Laura DummI went into the front room. The Christmas tree was once again on its side and Charlie was fast asleep under it with a piece of blue tinsel draped round his head. I had no idea how long he had been laying there and I was concerned because the lights were still blinking on and off – he could have been burned or electrocuted.

I pulled out the plug and he woke up. ‘Oh,’ he said, ‘finally! I could have been burned or electrocuted,’ he had read my thoughts. Fiercely, I said, ‘NO CHARLIE! You MUSTN’T touch the tree.’ But I could have been speaking in Dutch for all he seemed to care. Once he was free he tried to run out of the room, but I caught up with him and scooped him up. I looked into his face – he really did have such a pretty little face but he had a devilish attitude. ‘Charlie,’ I tried a softer approach, ‘do you know how dangerous that was climbing up the tree?’

He grinned. ‘Dangerous? Don’t be silly,’ he chided, ‘I’m just practicing for when I climb that big tree at the bottom of the garden. You worry too much,’ he added, before wriggling out of my arms and back into the dining room, meeting Biggles and Garfield back from their promenade.

He almost exploded with pride as he regaled them with the latest adventure of how he could have been burned or electrocuted when he had climbed up the North Face of the Christmas Tree – a feat never before attempted. Garfield looked at him with dismay. His protégée was letting him down and he was upset to see me trying to reassemble the remnants of the Christmas tree yet again. He came over and pushed a bauble in my direction by way of an apology. Biggles joined in and found another bauble which had managed to roll under the coffee table.

Between the three of us the tree was restored once again and this time before leaving the room, I checked everywhere to make sure that Mog the Mutinous had left the scene before closing the door tightly.

The Christmas tree was climbed twice more that Christmas and after the fourth time I had had enough. Sadly I put all the decorations away in their boxes and stored them in the wardrobe. Maybe by the following Christmas Charlie might have matured enough to leave the tree alone but he couldn’t be trusted in the room without me there to supervise him and I was exhausted from trying to put the tree back together again.

Biggles and Garfield looked on sadly as I packed everything away but Charlie was off in his own little world, completely oblivious to the havoc he had caused.

The following year I tried again and thankfully Charlie behaved himself. He joined Biggles and Garfield in helping me dress the tree and he chose his baubles and pushed them in my direction. Once again, the tree was beautiful and the three of them sat in front of it, watching as the lights changed colour lighting up the pretty baubles in their rainbow shades.

He remembered his narrow escapes from the previous Christmas of how he was almost burned and electrocuted although he had no idea what being electrocuted meant until Garfield explained it all to him. But it didn’t deter him - he still got into occasional mischief, the likes of which Biggles and Garfield would never have dared to do, but in spite of his naughty ways, he was becoming a beautiful cat.

Garfield had done a magnificent job in showing Charlie the ropes and although my hair was considerably greyer than when he first arrived, I had decided that he could stay after all. Having climbed up the wallpaper and abseiled down the curtains when I had the flu just after he arrived, I had despaired of his future in Marmalade Mansions. I had given him an ultimatum which had been extended several times. I knew in my heart I would never give up on him and I think, he knew in his heart, that I wouldn’t give up on him so he gave me a good run for my money.

And so the next couple of Christmases were spent happily but all that was to change with the arrival of Billy, Timmy and Joey – three little ginger brothers!

© Pauline Dewberry 2003

You can read more about Charlie's escapades when he first arrived here:

Flu and Feline Frolics


In the Middle of a World...

"In the middle of a world that has always been a bit mad, the cat walks with confidence."

Roseanne Anderson

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