When I peruse the Bury Free Press there are certain must-read pages for me.
Over the years they’ve changed: In my late teens I read the Magistrates’ Courts Lists avidly, trying to spot familiar names in what we termed the ‘roll of honour’; in my early 20s I scoured the recruitment ads hoping for a decent job; then, once I had the job, the property pages were scrutinised.
But one regular item I read without fail has not changed in the past 20 years: Stray of the week.
Regular readers of this column will know I am a cat lover. But before Demetri, Loki and Peanut took over our lives 10 years ago my husband and I adopted a three-year-old feline called Harry.
I will never forget the Friday morning we spotted him. It was November 2000 and we had just bought our first house: a two up-two down with a postage stamp of a garden, but a wooden back door just crying out for a cat flap. I was reading the Bury Free Press on my coffee break when I saw the Stray of the week: a large tabby boy described as ‘volatile’ and in need of experienced owners. Undeterred, off we went to Bury’s Stray Cat Fund armed with a borrowed wicker cat basket, hoping to return home with Harry.
Duly we were taken to his pen. A sign said ‘Warning, Harry can be dangerous’ and we were told to approach with care. At this point I started having second thoughts, not keen on adopting a pet which might cause injury, however my other half was smitten. After making a donation to the charity we were packed off with a meowing cat stored in a large picnic basket (he was too big to fit in the one we took) and a chicken to cook when we got home (‘Harry likes chicken’ we had been told).
As it turned out, ‘vicious’ Harry was the most loving, doting, obedient cat anyone could wish for.
Alas, after just three years he died suddenly, but I shall never forget how he came into our lives through the Bury Free Press. And I wonder how many other houses have become homes thanks to Stray of the week.