MARGARITA THE CORFU TREE TOP CAT
written by Colleen Woodward & Michelle Demetra Aukett
Written from a real-life situation because when we were escorting an art group to Corfu, we happened to spot Maria walking with her ladder to feed Margarita in her tree house. Maria relayed the story to Michelle in Greek (of course) and we were so inspired we thought it a tale well worth telling. So over a leisurely Corfu lunch in one of the town’s lovely squares after a carafe or two of local wine, hereby is the tale with a little ‘poetic licence’. We dedicate this story to our lovely grand daughters Dimitra Synodinopoulou and Emily Rose Woodward.
Margarita was born one beautiful evening in a most unusual place, in a Tree!
This was no ordinary tree, but a beautiful old tree on the island of Corfu and a tree that had upstairs and downstairs and would protect Margarita as she grew older and wiser. She did not realize that this is where she would spend nearly all of her life.
One day, Margarita’s mother disappeared and she was left to fend for herself. She was still a tiny little kitten, and she realized as she waited for her mother to return, that she was all alone.
But one day when she was lonely, hungry and crying for her mother, a head popped up and said “Margarita, as this is what I am going to call you, I have brought you some food”.
Of course, Margarita was terrified as she had never seen a human so close before! But the gentle voice of Maria, coaxed her into coming closer. Oh! the smell of that food, it smelt really good. Slowly she came closer and realized that Maria was there to help her. She slowly crept closer and started to eat the food. Maria was talking to her all the time in her lovely gentle voice, so she knew that she was quite safe.
But even though she knew that Maria would not hurt her, she refused to come down the tree to eat.
So every morning, Maria would prop up a ladder, which was the only way she could reach a suitable branch to lay the food for Margarita’s breakfast.
It was very difficult trying to eat off the branch of a tree, so Maria made her a landing out of wood, so she could balance herself and eat like a lady! She now had a dining room all to herself. Well not exactly because when she finished and there were tidbits left over, the pigeons would arrive and help themselves. But she did not mind as she was full and contented.
At first, the pigeons tried to get her out of the tree so they could eat her leftovers by prancing and fanning their wings. When that did not work they tried flying in and out of the tree to scare her away, but she refused to budge. The pigeons got tired of all this play, it was very tiring and they were hungry, so they decided just to eat and keep a watchful eye out for Margarita, in case she decided to attack! But she never did.
Margarita, did not mind the pigeons coming and eating parts of her food, she enjoyed their company and the pigeons then understood that she would not hurt them. Living up in the tree, she had never learnt to hunt.
Margarita received another surprise when Maria also returned in the evenings with her ladder, and brought her more tidbits and this was usually her favorite dish, fish! This was one food the pigeons didn’t care for and so never bothered her in the evening. Anyway, they had all gone off to sleep.
But this was the time that Margarita loved, not only did she have her fish, but she had the view of the loveliest park on the island! This was fun, because you could see all the humans parading around in their colorful clothes. She would listen to the chatter of the children below her tree. They would call….”Margarita, Margarita, come down, come down”, but she would not come down.
Margarita was a very clever cat, not only did she speak Greek but Maria taught her some English too. When she stopped being afraid of Maria, she would snuggle up to her, when she said these strange words, “kiss, kiss Margarita”, and point to her face. Oh well, I guess she wants me to give her a lick! So she would reward Maria with a lick and tenderly rub her face …it was her way of saying, thank you for looking after me, Maria!
Margarita’s tree was very old and had many branches and so Margarita decided that she needed to organize her home – she found two entwined branches, where she would go lay in the sun and clean herself, she called this her sunning room.
She found another old branch, so gnarled from age that it had formed a round hole and so this she adopted as her bedroom and this is where she slept at night, especially in winter.
Then she realized that she had to keep her home, the tree, clean and so she found another spot away from her sunning room, dining room and bed room, that she could use as her bathroom. So, Margarita had her tree all organized, but she still refused to come down no matter how Maria tried… Maria was worried because winter was fast approaching!
The years went by and Margarita grew into a beautiful white cat, with a beautiful black beauty spot on her face, just like a film star. Still she refused to come down from her tree.
In summer she would prance around the tree being admired by the tourists holding cameras and lights would go ‘pop’ and Maria would laugh and say, “Kiss Kiss Margarita” and she would snuggle up to her with a lick and a face rub! She would hear the tourists call, “Margarita, Margarita, where are you” and she would turn to look and wonder what on earth they wanted. For me to come down from the tree, no way!
Then winter would come and things would slow down. Oh, but the cold, it was rather difficult to hide in a tree with no leaves. But she had her special spot when the rains came, her gnarled hole, where she could lay all nice and snug and dry and warm!
What a delight when spring came and her home started budding leaves and she could laze around in the sun again, watching the fishermen laying out their morning catch to sell at the market, and watch the island wake up from its winter sleep.
Oh, how I love this tree, thought Margarita, she had so many memories, of being abandoned, of meeting her mate, Tom, who eventually left her because he did not like living in a tree, the tourists calling her lovingly to show herself and the ever faithful Maria, her life-saver, who looked after her summer and winter, asking nothing in return except a few licks on the face.
But as years went by, time was running out for Margarita, she was getting old and so was Maria who didn’t know how long she could carry the ladder backwards and forward anymore. Little did she know that the sands of time were catching up to her and her life was about to change forever!
The Tree was Margarita’s life, she had never climbed down from the tree, her four paws had never touched soil, she had no idea what it felt like, she had never walked down the streets of Corfu – she had always watched from above the comings and goings of the Corfu people, she watched the couples laugh and cry, the children playing and laughing, she watched them grow older, she had watched the parades, the sunsets and sunrises, winters and summers, so many seasons. She had seen sadness, but also love and joy from her tree and this was about to end!
One morning, Maria arrived with her usual breakfast, but had a strange looking box in her hand, nothing to do with me thought Margarita and got stuck into her breakfast, licking her whiskers clean, she suddenly felt very, very tired, oh dear, I need to sleep and promptly fell asleep on her branch dining room….
When Margarita woke up she was in a strange place, to her horror she was not in her tree! Looking around she realized that she was in a room, but where was her tree and what was she standing on. Her paws felt cold, this did not have the warmth of her tree. Then she found a warm blanket and settle down on it to wait. Maybe Maria will come to bring me food and take me home to my tree!
Maria did come with food for Margarita and explained to her that she had a new home in a proper house and that is where she was going to live now. Margarita cried and cried. Maria tried to comfort her but she would not stop crying. After a few days passed, Maria took Margarita out into a beautiful garden with borders of lovely flowers, with beautiful fragrances and healthy green grass in the centre.
It was the perfect setting and Maria put Margarita gently down. When her paws touched the grass, Margarita was alarmed because she had never walked on grass before! The wind was different and fanned her fur in a different way to when she was in the tree. She was not exactly happy about it. She was frightened, this was a different feeling altogether, she was out of her comfort zone!
Margarita longed for her tree and did not want to leave the room, Maria was beside herself, explaining that since she was getting old she needed more warmth from the winter and she could fall out of the tree and hurt herself. Hmm, fall out of the tree, indeed! Maybe if I sulk some more she will take me back to my tree. But Maria, didn’t take her back to her tree.
And so the days, went by and Margarita refused to eat, winter came and she stayed huddled in the room, and only left the room when Maria forced her to walk around the garden.
Maria knew that she had to do something drastic, otherwise Margarita was going to die and so one morning she locked the door of the room Margarita was in and disappeared for quite a while.
Margarita also got worried because this was not like Maria to leave her alone for so long and lock the door. Later in the morning she heard some strange noises in the garden. What on earth are they doing? Margarita tried to climb up on the bench to see what was going on but the window was too high for her to see! Oh well, I am sure Maria will come soon to feed me and settled down for a nap!
The noises strangely stopped and suddenly, Maria was at the door. “Margarita, Margarita, I have a surprise for you”, and she swooped her up in her arms and said in her ear, “look what I brought you”.
And Margarita looked up and my goodness, she could not believe her eyes, as there was her Tree – right in the middle of the garden! She sprang out of Maria’s arms and shot up the tree, dancing around the branches, hugging the tree, kissing the tree, she was so excited she nearly fell out of the tree, but Maria’s sturdy hands caught her.
“Now, now, Margarita, this is a new tree I bought for you, so that in the summer you can live up in the tree and in the winter, you live in the room to protect your old bones from the cold.”
And so the deal was made. This new tree would never replace her old one, but she loved it and since it was not so big and old, it was easier for her to run around the branches and not to have to climb so high, and any time she wanted she could go into the little room and also find comfort and warmth. Not only that, she had the most wonderful view, where she could see the park and just over the garden wall she could watch the children passing, and the little tourist train taking happy people by.
Maybe she has a lesson to teach us all, that if we just live happily each day someone will look out for us, and feed us, and we do not need anything else but the cover provided, and share what we have, peacefully with others then we would all live in a perfect world, like Margarita blissfully in her tree….happily ever after. Copyright ©
It was whilst staying in Zakynthos with Michelle on this trip in 2000 that the idea of starting up a Greek wholesale travel company to send Australian tourists to see beautiful Greece.
And so it ensued, we did start Mediterranean Holidays and Tours which has been a very successful travel wholesaler with many satisfied customers for now 14 years. We started with Pilot J in Athens as our contact and then made the best decicision to join with Siva Travel Athens as a brilliant provider of services to clients. Michelle just in passing conversation said to me as she wished to return to Athens to be nearer her boys and family, “Do you think we could get Aussies to come over to Greece in groups” to which I replied well maybe one or two a year, but nothing too major. Anyhow when I was flying home business class for a change back to Sydney a few peach belini’s convinced me this could be implemented. So with another flight back to Zakynthos to set up our planned tour company, design a logo, register etc, then production of our first brochure in 2001 and Michell flew out to Australia and we had travel agent meetings and promotions all up the east coast of Australia.
It was fortuitous that when I was having reservations (literally) about such a huge setting up task, I heard a motivational speech at one of our travel conferences by author Bryce Courtenay who recently passed away, but he said unquote……
“The power of one is above all the power to believe in yourself, often beyond any ability you may have previously demonstrated. The mind is the athlete, the body is simply the means it uses to run faster or longer, jump higher, etc. First with the head, then with the heart, more than mixing brains with guts, it means thinking beyond the powers of normal concentration and daring your courage to follow your thoughts.”
So if you have a passion for something and want to achieve something badly, follow your heart and throw yourself wholeheartedly into it with every ounce of being you have” and so that is what I did in starting ‘Mediterranean Holidays and Tours’ from scratch.