Charlie’s Ark

And then there was a cat.

Just over two weeks ago, the Jordanian government announced all flights in and out of the country would be suspended within the following couple of days. My friend Clarisse was among the vast exodus of foreigners who chose to make their escape at that point. Instead of a final month in the Middle East, she suddenly had less than twenty-four hours, in which time she had to pack up two years’ worth of belongings and organise the cat’s travel documentation.

The extremely handsome and very grumpy cat Jafar

When I arrived at her apartment the wine was already open and Francesco had gone out to hunt down a second suitcase for her.

“Are you any good at packing?” she asked me, looking a little panicked. And in that moment, I knew it was my time to shine. ‘Am I good at packing?’ I scoffed to myself. All these years living out of bags and coping with the daily game of Tetris on the narrowboats in London – this was a moment I was made for.

Amid my skilful clothes-folding, we began to focus on the cat. Taking animals out of the country is fairly straight forward but there are a number of boxes to tick. One of the final steps is permission from the government. Usually a simple procedure – not so much when you only have a few hours left before your flight. After phone calls between the vet and attempts to get through to the airline to see if he could even travel on her flight, as well as a champion’s attempt at suitcase packing and a few obligatory glasses of wine (it was thirsty work), it was decided Francesco would take the beautiful but total bastard of a cat Jafar (aptly named after the villain in Disney film Aladdin) until he could be brought to France.

I should point out that Jafar and my dog hate one another. Nebo likes cats because he was around a bunch when he was a puppy, but they generally despise him. Jafar is no exception. In fact, it’s quite incredible the extent to which Jafar expresses his hatred for the dog each time we visit. In his defence though, he’s a house cat with no experience of other animals – and Nebo can be extremely annoying.

Pigeon flyers observe a man breaking curfew rules as he walks along the street below them

The three of us dropped Clarisse off at the airport the following day and drove back to loot her food cupboards and collect Jafar.

The initial few days seemed to go great – Francesco was sending us selfies of the pair of them together and he appeared to forgive the occasional stink coming from the cat’s litterbox in exchange for the new companionship. He was even optimistic about his cat allergy.  

But the happy ending wasn’t meant to be. Five days later, Francesco’s allergy had become unbearable and antihistamines were doing diddly squat, so Jafar has joined my dog and the three-legged foster puppy in my apartment. I feel like I’m running a small zoo.

The two dogs spend a vast quantity of their time play fighting – this is after Nebo could barely even brave looking at the puppy when she first arrived. When they’re not scrapping, the cat is taking great joy in chasing Nebo around the apartment or the puppy is barking at this strange feline form tormenting her silently from the hallway. It is chaos but it’s hugely entertaining. I am incredibly grateful for the garden, however.

The other night the cat refused to let Nebo in to the bedroom – Nebo sleeps on the rug at the end of my bed but Jafar has also claimed it as his domain. In the end, the only way I could pacify the situation was by having both animals actually on the bed with me, one on either side, forced to sleep very much squished between the two of them. Luckily, it was a chilly night so the extra body heat was welcome.

The animals are creeping closer to one another, day by day. In fact, I’ve just spotted Jafar stretch out his front paw in an attempt to touch Nebo’s tail as I write this. It could be a love story by the end of the lockdown, who knows?

Jordanians implement social distancing measures (sort of) to purchase bread from the local bakery

This lockdown malarkey is going alright, in fact, it feels as though it’s going fairly quickly. I’ve been lucky to have work and the animals to keep me occupied. Four days after the total lockdown was implemented, the government eased the restrictions. We’re now allowed out on foot to buy essential supplies from 10am until 6pm, at which point the awful wailing sound of the siren tears through the city to signal the small freedom is now over. It looks set to last like this until the middle of April at the moment, possibly longer.

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