A STREET CAT NAMED BOB
by James Bowen
This book gives a whole new perspective to “homeless”. It’s the story of how a stray homeless cat teams up with a homeless man and life changes for both of them.
James Bowen was a young man with an unsettled past. Born in England, he moved to Australia with his mother after his parent’s divorce. He was a rebellious teen, much of it due to his mother’s ceaseless moving from place to place. She was restless and always strove to better positions which required much travel. James was often left alone and was unable to cultivate friends as a result of the constant moves. To make up for this she would yearly take him to an extraordinary vacation, which was usually meaningless as again he so often was left alone in expensive hotel rooms.
In an attempt to become a musician he returned to England, formed a band and after moderate success began on a spiral downfall. In the interim he had reconnected with his remarried dad, but theirs was a turbulent relationship. Eventually he started drugs to obliterate his circumstances and became an adict, finally hitting bottom by living rough on the streets. Homeless, sleeping on pavements, he existed in a haze until finally coming to the realization he had to do something.
He enrolled in a government sponsored drug rehabilitation program and the long, long road to recovery began. He started “busking” on the streets to earn a living. Unfamiliar with the term, I had to look it up and discovered that “busking is the act of performing with a musical instrument on the streets for voluntary donations”. James played the guitar.
He started doing this slowly until it became a regular daily job. He was able to secure a very low income and tiny apartment with his earnings. No one would hire him for a regular position in his current condition. Determined, he controlled his will to forego drugs and conscientiously fought his urges by remaining on the program. It was during this very difficult and depressing time in his life that a furry creature joined him.
As he was returning to his apartment one cold day after busking he noticed an injured and bedraggled orange tabby lying on a doormat down the hallway. He went over to pet it and the cat responded in a friendly, purring way. Thinking he might belong to someone, even though there was no collar, he left the skinny unkempt tom where he was.
The following morning, the cat was in the same place. Needless to say, James ended up tending to it. He first took it to a government sponsored vet. The scratches and bruises were treated and all that remained was regular feeding to bring it up to par.
James occasionally watched a series called Twin Peaks which had a main character named Bob in it. He thought the cat reminded him of this character so thus the feline was named “Bob”.
It wasn’t long before he realized that Bob was no ordinary cat. Knowing he was a stray, he tried unsuccessfully to let him go back on the streets after he was all better figuring he would not be happy living in a tiny apartment. Several times he would leave him closed out of the building as he went out for the day busking, but when he returned home Bob was waiting for him. After several days it was inevitable that the cat was there to stay.
As time progressed the two formed a strong bond. Not wanting to be alone, Bob started following James when he went to earn what he could for the day. No amount of shooing would stop him. One day as James hopped onto a double-decker bus and sat down on the back seat, he saw a blur of orange fly in and there was Bob, seated next to him. There was no getting rid of him! Bob was his to stay!
James finally had no choice but to relent and tied a string around his neck and let him walk along his side. It was the only way to keep him from getting hurt by vehicles. When the tom gave signs of wanting to be picked up, he reached down and hoisted him on his shoulder where he nestled comfortably watching the world go by.
James walked to his regular place in Covent Garden and started to set up. With his guitar case open on the pavement he started to strum and sing. Usually, pedestrians would quickly walk by him, avoiding eye contact, and once in a while someone would hurriedly toss a coin into his guitar case.
However, today people were actually looking at him and smiling and even dropping coins, lots of them. Finally, it dawned on him that they were admiring Bob who was curled up very contentedly in the middle of the guitar case! And so began the saga of the duo partnership.
James was able to earn enough money to set himself up selling the Big Issue which was a weekly magazine made available to street people to sell. They had to purchase them at a reasonable cost and then sell them at a specified personal location so as not to interfere with others doing the same. They were able to keep their earnings which were very modest. If they didn’t sell what they had purchased they were stuck with the loss. It was to give them a sense of business to prepare them to eventually be able to venture out into the world to proper jobs.
Countless hardships were encountered along the way to recovery. Problems seemed endless with the weather, envious buskers and other Big Issue sellers, always on the verge of losing electricity and heat, rigid station keepers and much more. Yet these were supplanted with the many new friends they made and the fame that slowly began to follow them as Londoners and tourists alike started posting the two of them on social media. Unbeknownst to James, Bob’s popularity had spread worldwide, as people shared pictures and videos of him doing his little tricks or simply being his charming self.
Total recovery was arduous, but with Bob at his side, James succeeded. This is a true story of life on the streets. It makes one humble to realize what many of these people go through and how some pull out of it with a dire determination to leave it behind them. It’s a feel good story – at the end! – Marilu Shellie
Note: I no longer see homeless people as beggars if they are performing or peddling. I marvel at their stamina and can only wonder what brought them to this stage. I try to help out by volunteering at our Church’s soup kitchen. I also bring countless meals to a rescue mission for homeless men who are so grateful when they see me arrive. I pray to God that He will help these people find their way out of their positions as He did to James. May they all find a “Bob” to see them through!