"And how has Ernie been?" I asked. It was an important question because Ernie was important. He was 91 last year when he'd been to church with us, and afterward to a splendid pub lunch in Hayle. I do not think I'd ever met a gentler man as he sat next to me, kindly interested in American things. Now and again he would doze off a bit, because of his medication. It was for pain, and Ernie knew all about pain. He'd patiently borne it for months before the doctors had discovered his spine had been fractured. Imagine that! The poor man.
So, he slept sometimes, coming back in time to catch the conversation and continue it. Clearly everybody there loved him. They clustered around to gently pat his shoulder, or comment on his suit, or ask after his 'Cattery'.
Cattery? I wasn't sure I had understood the word correctly but even if I had, what was a cattery? Very soon, I was put into the picture. A Cattery is a place to keep cats! Ernie had wanted to establish a spot where people could bring their beloved felines, to stay. He picked out a plot of land on a cliff that had a lovely a view of the sea, which I am sure the cats appreciated, and built the thing there. It was a brilliant idea, and it took off, and he had done well. And now I wanted to know how Ernie himself was doing.
"Oh," Pennie said, "I'm afraid his news is not good. He has, in fact, died." This was shocking news, and I tried to take in a Cornwall world with no Ernie in it. "But - oh no, I'm so sorry, Pennie! What happened? When?"
She said it had been in March, and that after a long hard winter, he had just fallen asleep, and then stayed there. "The Lord had compassion," she said, "and took him Home."
And so today we sat together in that same pub in Hayle, the splendid one, and thought of him. He had actually lived at the pub, because his daughter lived there, trying in every way she could to assuage his pain. But now he had moved on to the place where pain is the past, and joy a perpetual future. It was a happy kind of sadness they felt, back in March, and now I felt it too. A little piece of my Cornwall had gone.
And his Cattery? I forgot to ask about it, but I will, and let you know! It would be fun to go and find it, to admire the view and the inspiration it held for one Ernie Edward Rowe, the gentle man who had found joy in keeping Cats.
See you along the way!