Last week I came across three black cats. I was out for a walk and as I turned a corner that butted onto the yard of a farmhouse, there they were. Three in a row, all staring at me. I walked away, and they followed. I stopped and they stopped. And then we all realised we had places to be and went our separate ways.
I’m not superstitious. Not really. But being Irish I hold what some believe to be irrational ideas. Or, what I like to think of as rational ideas. I won’t cut down a hawthorn bush. So frequently have I told my children that raised ground in the middle of a field with trees growing on it is a fairy hill, that they as young adults have come to accept it as a settled truth. Years ago, my grandfather told me he had once heard the banshee wail, and I’ve kept an ear cocked on dark nights ever since. That my grandfather may have had a drink is neither here nor there.
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Blacks cats as lucky or not remains more uncertain. So I asked around. Some people saw the three of them as a lucky sign. Some thought it less so. If the cats were sending a message, the future they were signalling is unclear.
Yet there is as much certainty and clarity, and forgive the Madeley-esque gear change, in the cat symbolism as in that offered by the candidates in the final, tiring weeks of the race for Number 10. And my straw poll has indicated there is also much more interest in deciphering what black cats could mean than in plotting the end of the leadership race.
Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak appear to be at the monkey tennis stage of their campaigns. And it perhaps offers more of a true version of them than they’d care to admit.
In recent days Liz Truss, after big claims about international deals and diplomacy, has blithely said she thought it best to ignore “attention seeker” Nicola Sturgeon. She may be playing to a percentage of potential voters in the membership quorum who think uppity Scots should know their place, but it’s a very costly remark. And if she wins and maintains her hardline approach towards the democratically elected leader of a bordering nation, that cost will only accrue interest.