Shad does the Met Fifth Avenue

For the final instalment of my New York adventure I’d like to share my experience of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Now you might think I’m a cultured cat given that I portray myself as refined and sophisticated but I’m self-taught so my knowledge of the visual arts is limited.  I’m familiar with a few famous painters like Renoir and Picasso, I’ve heard of Michelangelo and I’ve admired a poster of Le Chat Noir from 19th century Paris once in a coffee shop; but I’ve spent more time in the countryside than I have in art galleries.  I felt like a child in a sweet shop as I wandered through the imposing façade of this Gothic-revival style building and stood in the entrance hall surrounded by numerous corridors leading to halls filled with sculptures, jewellery, pottery, ornaments, textiles, costumes, musical instruments and paintings spanning 5000 years and representing cultures from all over the world.

 

I was dawdling because there was so much to see and John had to keep chivvying me on but you know how curious cats can be and I wanted to investigate every passageway.  The paintings area was split into multiple rooms dedicated to a particular artist each with a concrete bench in the centre of each room.  When I hopped on to a bench I noticed that many of the tourists were looking at me and taking pictures as though they’d never seen a cultured cat at an art gallery before.  I’m sure John thought I was spending time mesmerised by serenity of Claude Monet’s Waterlily Pond or captivated by the work of Gustave Courbet and his portrayals of people and scenes from the 1800s but really I was posing for the cameras!  Anyway, the sight of Van Gogh’s abstract portraits and still-life pictures had given me a wibbly-wobbly feeling that I didn’t enjoy so it was time to explore the Halls of Arms and Armour which displayed weapons and protective military clothing from the Roman Empire, Ancient Greece, Dynastic Egypt and the Americas.  My fur prickled as my eyes caught the stare of a dark shadow behind an enclosed metal helmet that formed part of a suit of armour worn by Henry VIII of England.  I don’t know how people moved let alone fought for their lives wearing heavy layers of chainmail and steel plates from head to toe.  There are more comfortable ways of looking stately and formidable I’m sure.

 

The Egyptian pharaohs had the right idea with their hand-woven linen robes embroidered with bold patterns and head-dresses adorned with feathers and jewels.  The pharaohs such as King Narmer or Queen Nefertiti were the most powerful person in their kingdom, head of government and high priest or priestess often worshipped in a temple such as the Temple of Dendur.  The Temple of Dendur was built during the reign of Augustus who ruled Egypt from 30BC to 14AD and was situated on the West bank of the River Nile in Ancient Nubia before it was dismantled and transported piece by piece to the United States at a cost of around 9.5 million dollars before finally being installed at the Met in 1978.  The temple is dedicated to the goddess Isis and the gods Harpocrates and Osiris and is engraved with hieroglyphs, images of the sun, the outspread wings of Horus the sky god and scenes of kings holding sceptres and the ankh.  Head held high, I strode regally between two enormous columns decorated with carvings of papyrus and lotus plants into a large chamber surrounded by a reflecting pool.  I caught a glimpse of my reflection in the still silvery water and looked up to see a vision of myself wearing a golden crown and a brightly beaded girdle waving majestically to my adoring crowd.  I would call on them to devote themselves to the miracle of nature, to the earth and all its complex forms of plant and animal life, and to support the development of wildlife sanctuaries across the lands.  Cats from every species would be free to meander through the lands and crowds would stop to gaze in awe at their furry beauty.  All cats would become a symbol of grace and poise and Shad the Cat’s silhouette would be deified in inscriptions on the sandstone walls.  What a wonderful world this would be!

Shad does Arundel Castle and Gardens

I wonder what life was like for a black cat like me in the 12th Century Norman Period in a place like Arundel Castle.  I would hopefully have been part of the Royal Court, being hand-fed haddock or loitering outside the kitchen, hoping for some scraps of pheasant from the roasting spit, while watching battled-scarred young men put on their armour and prepare to leave for the perilous Crusades.  Outside the Castle, life was hard on the streets for both humans and cats, and medieval people were superstitious about cats and persecuted them.  In fact, cats have taken a bad rap throughout history, particularly in Europe, where they were associated with witchcraft.  Yet around the same time in Egypt, cats were kept to control rat populations and protect food stores, and gradually became members of Egyptian households and were even worshipped.  It wasn’t long before the cat craze spread to India, China and other Asian countries and now I like to think they we are highly regarded pets.

Arundel Castle overlooks the River Arun in West Sussex and has a 1,000 year history spanning from the reign of King Henry I (1068-1135) to being passed to the seat of the Dukes of Norfolk and their ancestors for over 850 years.  It has been at the forefront of English history and displays a unique and priceless collection of fine furniture, tapestries and clocks dating from the 16th Century.  John and I, and a couple of other friends, wandered around the corridors and rooms, mouths open in awe at the shiny polished silverware, the grandeur of the paintings and the skilled craftsmanship evident throughout the castle.

We also took a stroll through the peaceful grounds and the meticulously kept gardens.  The gardens are divided into formal courts and have a central canal pond with water fountain, an ideal place to dip my paws and freshen up.  The gardens are imaginatively planted and managed in an eco-friendly way and there were various gateways to walk through and pavilions with seats based in oak where we could rest.  I enjoyed chasing the insects in the peach house and vinery, hiding in the herbaceous borders and taking a nap under the palm trees.  Altogether, the gardens were lovely and had a rustic charm.