115:  The Turkey Cat’s Tale

“I first oped mine eyes in Constantinople,” sayt Kettie. “The best citie in all the world.

Constantinople: Sultan Murat III watches riders from his window.

“We kits lay in a storehouse.  There were  baskets and chests for my sisters and me to play amidst when our mother went to fetch our food.

“She set forth in the morning and again in the evening, always returning with choice morsels.

“There are men and boys who go about the streets with buckets of boyled or baked meats.  They call: Cat meat, Cat meat.

“We soon learnt to follow them, because good men and women would buy their wares as gifts for us.

“When we were of an age to leap, our mother took us through the gardens, of which there are many.  She showed us the walls whereon we could wait for our food to be served.

“People come with meats they’ve bought in the streets or from the cookshops.  Some have long sticks, and so passed our morsels up to us.

“Cats from palace to marketplace take breakfast there.  We also ate there of an evening, for it’s a good place to hear the newes.”

None present could believe their ears, but Kettie swore all was true.

He sayt, “It’s not onlie we who eat well.  Dogs are given meats, e’en though they’re nasty creatures.  And also the great birds that fly over the citie.  People throw pieces of meat in the air which those birds catch most skilful.

“Many of the rude and barbarous strangers [foreigners] that come to Constantinople gape and grin at such doings.  Else they buy meat and throw it to us or to the birds, but they do it for sport, not goodness.  They’ll win no favour from the Queen Cat of Heaven.”

A cat called, “When sails the next ship for Turkey?”

That made all merry.

“Friend,” sayt Kettie, “if I knew that I would be aboard and waiting for the wind.”

A lean grey tabby with an intense green stare licks her nose.
Picker.

“If Constantinople were such a paradise,” arrkst Picker, “why came you here?”

“Does not London seem a very turd-hole to one such as you?” arrkst Stealer.

“Surely, sister,” sayt Picker, “you mean a turk-hole?”

A lean grey tabby cat with an intense green stare and the tip of one ear missing.
Stealer.

But Kettie would not be provoked by these sly sisters.

“I had a mind to travel,” sayt he. “First, I friended a fisherman, who carried me across the water to Kalatas [Galata].  A town where many strangers dwell.  ’Twas there I first saw men with heads so full of wine they could scarce keep on their feet.  A foul drink, but I ate well of fish, you may believe me.

“Then I wished to see Venezia [Venice] and slipt aboard a ship.  Alas, it did not return to Kalatas, but sailed here.  I came ashore to look around, and when it were time to return I could not find my ship!

“In truth, friends, I near starved.  Whene’er I sat on a garden wall at dawn or dusk, watching for any who would bring me food, evil boys threw stones at me.

“Even at the cookshops, few would give me alms.  And other cats chased me off, naming me rogue and vagabond when they heard I had neither master nor mistress.

“In Constantinople I had no need of such protection.  Here, I learnt that all must serve another, or be accounted nowt.  And so, after walking many ways, I came to Black-Fryes and chanced to find employment in a print shop.

“My master and my mistress are incomers like myself.  They came here not by chance, but for conscience sake.  The mistress likes a cleanlie house, free from vermins, and the master has many papers in his shop that require my care.

“I eat the leavings from their table, and warm myself at their fire.  ’Tis not what my mother reared me for, but I’m content.”

All gave Kettie applauds, and sayt they hoped to hear more from him soon.


Toutparmoi - Note from the EditorKettie’s master and mistress, who came to London for “conscience sake”, i.e. their religion, are probably Protestant refugees from France or the Spanish Netherlands.

Incredible as Kettie’s life in Constantinople sounds, a surprising amount of what he says is confirmed by Baron Wenceslas Wratislaw, who went to Constantinople in 1591 and wrote a vivid account of his adventures in 1599.

Wratislaw was bemused by all the animal-feeding, commenting that: “…these superstitious and barbarous people imagine that they obtain especial favour in the eyes of God by giving alms even to irrational cattle, cats, dogs, fish, birds, and other live creatures….”

Title page of the English translation of Wratislaw's adventures, published 1862.He was, however, impressed by how horses were treated, and how young men spent time together engaging in feats of horsemanship – in contrast to his own country, where the favoured pastime was eating too much and drinking even more.

Although Wratislaw was very young (mid-teens), he’d travelled as part of an embassy sent by Rudolf II, Holy Roman Emperor, to the Ottoman Emperor Sultan Murat III. 

His relatives entrusted him to the ambassador’s care because they wanted him to learn of eastern countries.

After he’d spent nearly two years in and around Constantinople, war broke out in Hungary between the two Empires. 

The entire legation was imprisoned, and endured many hardships before they finally returned home in 1597.

(It was during this war that the Earl of Southampton’s brother-in-law Thomas Arundell was awarded the “dog collar” that Tricks’ uncle Gib found so amusing.)

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45 thoughts on “115:  The Turkey Cat’s Tale

    • toutparmoi November 30, 2017 / 1:28 am

      Poor Kettie, indeed. Particularly as he’s an accidental immigrant. But he seems prepared to make the best of it.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Chris White November 30, 2017 / 3:20 am

    That place seems wonderful for animals. We should all follow their good example.🐈🐈

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi November 30, 2017 / 5:58 am

      We should. Clearly, the cats of the recent documentary ‘Kedi’ had ancestors that Kettie and his sisters would have known.

      Like

    • toutparmoi November 30, 2017 / 6:01 am

      It does. And it must have seemed particularly exotic to travellers from Europe.

      Like

  2. Rachel McAlpine November 30, 2017 / 8:37 am

    How interesting that the same cat-friendly culture has prevailed there for um, more than four centuries.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi November 30, 2017 / 1:06 pm

      It is. And how lucky we are that Tricks wrote down Kettie’s story, otherwise we might never have known.

      What puzzles me is that animals often seem to have been treated very badly in Elizabethan England, yet the English are now a nation of animal lovers. Can a culture do a turnaround in a couple of centuries? Or did more than the outspoken puritans disapprove of the treatment animals received?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Rachel McAlpine November 30, 2017 / 2:49 pm

      Exactly. This is a conundrum. Or the Turks were just centuries ahead in their national consciousness.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Timi Townsend November 30, 2017 / 1:06 pm

    In truth, I must agree with Turkey Cat. . When I lived there 11 years ago, people were still kind to cats. Every day we fed over two dozen in our courtyard, mostly feral, but one mother cat and her kittens adopted us and lived inside.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi November 30, 2017 / 1:09 pm

      Have you seen that delightful documentary ‘Kedi’ about Istanbul and its cats?

      Liked by 1 person

    • Timi Townsend December 1, 2017 / 11:33 am

      Thanks, is it online, do you know?

      Like

    • toutparmoi December 1, 2017 / 12:33 pm

      Check out this link, which offers some viewing options. I don’t know what the costs would be.
      https://www.kedifilm.com/
      I saw it in our Film Festival last year, and it went on general release after that.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Timi Townsend December 1, 2017 / 12:41 pm

      Thanks, I’ll check it out, although with my lagging computer, it might not be viable. Maybe smartphone?

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 1, 2017 / 12:48 pm

      That could do it, though some of the stunning city vistas wouldn’t look so great.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Timi Townsend December 1, 2017 / 12:47 pm

      Oh, it is on DVD, so I ordered it! 🙂

      Like

    • toutparmoi December 1, 2017 / 12:50 pm

      Good! You’ll probably want to watch it more than once 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • Timi Townsend December 1, 2017 / 12:51 pm

      That’s what I figured, being such a fan of both kitties and Istanbul! ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • Timi Townsend December 6, 2017 / 2:09 pm

      I got the DVD of Kedi and watched it tonight. Oh, it made me so homesick for Istanbul! ❤ Thanks for telling me about it! 🙂

      Like

  4. M. L. Kappa December 1, 2017 / 3:32 am

    Lovely post! And lovely painting! In Greece we often call Istanbul Constantinople still…

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 1, 2017 / 9:05 am

      I’ve never visited Istanbul, but I find the accounts of early European travellers there fascinating. Sultan Murat III was a great patron of the arts.

      Like

    • M. L. Kappa December 2, 2017 / 1:01 am

      It still is fascinating. You walk in the grand bazaar and the faces in the crowd are the same as the were all those years ago. You imagine yourself surrounded by Phoenicians, Syrians etc. And of course, the minute the stall holders hear you speak Greek, you’re invited in, given tea etc. And I’m not even getting started on the sights…

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 2, 2017 / 1:37 am

      Istanbul’s definitely on my “to see” list.

      Like

  5. Claudio LeChat December 1, 2017 / 7:45 am

    You have really captured the feel and atmosphere of the symbiotic world revealed by the doco “Kedi”,in which the cats and people go about their daily lives. I too,am intrigued by how the English attitude towards animals transitioned over the centuries. Conversely and sadly, from what I have read, the status of cats in Egypt has diminished.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 1, 2017 / 10:15 am

      Kettie told his tale well. And did well not to be led into speaking ill of London by those trouble-makers Picker and Stealer.

      Like

  6. chattykerry December 3, 2017 / 4:32 am

    I can confirm that even today both street cats and dogs were treated well in Istanbul. I was surprised because dogs are considered unclean in the Koran. Even in Egypt, my neighbors shared their Ramadan feasts with the dogs and cats. I looked longingly into a dish full of saffron chicken…😁

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 3, 2017 / 10:44 am

      Baron Wratislaw also refers to the Turks’ dislike of seeing wild birds in cages, and says they would buy them from the sellers and set them free.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Dave Ply December 3, 2017 / 8:53 am

    Ok, you’ve convinced me, just put “Kedi” in the Netflix queue.

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 3, 2017 / 10:51 am

      You’ll enjoy it! Not only the cats and the people, but the splendid city views. It’s a relaxing, leisurely watch – good after a busy day.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. kidsofthe50sand60s December 4, 2017 / 8:35 am

    I have just re-read and thoroughly enjoyed the last few posts. I and learning so much about Elizabethan Britain! May the story never end!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Christine Valentor December 4, 2017 / 2:34 pm

    Fascinating! I did not know about Wenceslas. Poor Kettie, to live in the luxury of Constantinople and then be reduced to his bad treatment in England! I am with the Turks, respecting cats and all animals 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 4, 2017 / 3:14 pm

      Wenceslas’ story is remarkable, full of the glamour, excitement, and brutality of his times. I kept thinking, as I read it, what a great doco it would make for the History Channel. He’s such a vivid writer, and was fortunate in his English translator – who, I guess, is probably related by descent or even a direct descendant.
      The book’s downloadable free from the Internet Archive, which is my go-to for old texts.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Christine Valentor December 4, 2017 / 4:23 pm

      I was wondering if it was a free download! My go-to also. I’ll have to check it out!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Léa December 4, 2017 / 9:31 pm

      It was the divas that demanded a reblog and Happy Cats = Happy Human…
      Seriously, your posts are so much fun! They had this human convinced at MEOW! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    • toutparmoi December 4, 2017 / 9:33 pm

      Just so long as the Divas don’t expect you to offer them their snacks on long sticks while they sit lofty on a wall…

      Liked by 1 person

    • Léa December 4, 2017 / 9:51 pm

      Never. They are very tolerant of this mere mortal… 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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