The cat you see pictured here was named Lily, AKA Mr Lil, and he recently passed away.
You might, immediately, find the name confusing, but when he was born in the middle of the night on our bed, Lady Devotea may have been mistaken about his gender, and by the time we worked it out, the name Lily had stuck.
Now, let me say that this one blemish does not reflect on Lady Devotea’s ability to divine the gender of kittens. Sure, when I met her, she owned a female cat called “Jeremy”, but that was only because the people who gave her the kitten claimed it was male.
If you’ve never owned a cat, then I guess all cats are just cats to you, but if you’ve owned more than one, you’d know that all of them are special, with unique personalities.
Skyla, Lily’s mum, managed to get “with kittens” again virtually straight afterwards, and so six months after being born with three siblings – each of whom found lovely homes – Lily became big brother to four more. Once they were born, he sat by their box for weeks and weeks until they were old enough to play with. He formed a strong bond with his new brother Amba in particular.
Now, you might say “Amba? That’s a girl’s name. Lady Devotea has done it again, but no, Amba spelled that way is an Indian male name, and as much as you might suspect that was a post-naming respelling, you’ll never be able to prove it!
So, once all but Amba had departed, we had four cats, and despite Skyla sneaking in another litter, we stuck with the four, as heartbreaking as it is to give each and every kitten away.
Both Amba and Lily looked like a huge, majestic grey and white tomcat that used to sit on a roof several houses away and survey his kingdom, so we’re pretty sure they shared the same father.
But Lily was short-haired and Amba long; Amba goofy and Lily serious and dignified, Amba liked people and Lily didn’t care for people at all apart from Lady Devotea and I.
Amba avoided conflict, and Lily loved to fight.
The only thing Lily liked better than fighting was sleeping amonsgt the autumn leaves, but more on that later.
Lily the warrior was big. He had huge paws. He also had some sort of strange warrior code. Simply put, he only liked a fight where the odds where against him.
He never took down an easy bird, he would let pigeons walk around him but would go after parrots (which he’d more or less never catch). He sought out bigger cats to fight.
And possums. A fully grown possum pair, with young in the tree, can be incredibly fierce. Lily used to set a trap. He’d ask us to fill his outside water bowl – a terracotta birdbath he’d broken off it’s stand by tipping it over – and then he’d hide behind a nearby plant and leap out at possums when they came by to drink. In the morning we’d find him beaten up but content.
He was also a fine escapologist. He’d disappear from a sealed yard and reappear at the front door a day later, looking smug.
His brother Amba passed away suddenly at only six years old in November 2013, possibly from a snakebite and possibly from a heart condition. It’s hard to tell. Heartbroken, we created our Amba tea blend that Christmas.
Lily and Skyla came with us to the UK in 2014, and back again. During Lily’s vet check to come back, a heart murmur was detected.
In mid 2016, Lily started looking unwell, and we took him to the vet. To be honest, we thought we were going to lose him then.
His diagnosis was bad: Feline Immune Deficiency, commonly called Feline AIDS, most likely from fighting with an infected cat. We tried antibiotics and feeding him fish and milk, and it worked. He returned to health but the pattern was established and he needed antibiotics every so often. But he gained weight, his condition was great and he was his old self.
One day in March this year, we thought he looked a bit unwell and kept an eye on him. But just a few hours later, we found him in a bad way in our hallway, and, like Amba before him, we had him at the vet in less than ten minutes. But like Amba before him, it was too late.
Since then, we’ve known that we would be creating a new blend to honour Mr Lil.
We were at our supplier of Lemon Myrtle when we noticed they had something we knew nothing of: Cinnamon Myrtle. We bought some on a whim.
While trying it, we noticed it looked like autumn leaves.
Remember I mentioned that Lily used to love lying in autumn leaves? He’d find a discreet spot and make almost a nest. Despite the fact he had a warm basket, he’d rather be outdoors. We used to refer to his favourite spot, under a bench, as “Hobo Corner”.
So, we knew that Cinnamon Myrtle would be part of it. Lady Devotea insisted we pair it with a white tea. Finally, we decided to add our home grown and dried apples.
Thus, “Hobo Lil” is our first new tea blend in three years. Like Amba, it will probably only be blended at our Australian operation for now.
It’s not with mixed feelings – all our feelings are sad. But we do have pride in being able to offer this small memorial to a decade of love and companionship, here and abroad, to Lily, our dear departed warrior.