Mrs Ransome’s Sphinx cat Loki is aptly named. Not so much because he gets into mischief – I haven’t been here long enough to tell – but because he looks and moves like a creature from another world.

There are so many odd things about Loki it’s hard to know where to start. He’s completely hairless, of course, his skin the colour and texture of an old suede handbag; his large eyes are as luminously blue as two almond-shaped jewels, and his wiry whiskers, long tail and his great, pointed ears, together with a tiny, down-turned mouth, give him the rapt and rather melancholy expresssion of someone who can see and hear everything, even your thoughts, and wishes he couldn’t.

All this is pretty strange, but still the oddest thing about Loki is the way he moves.

To watch him leap from sofa to table to chair, you’d hardly think he was real at all. It’s all too perfect, too exact. It’s like watching an obscure Czechoslovakian animation where a stop-motion cat leaps from sofa to table to floor to the sound of a scratchy violin. And when he’s studied me from the other side of the room, when he’s paused there a while, and scanned my soul with his eyes and ears and whiskers, and decided I’m worthy of trust, in the time it takes me to click my pen he’s suddenly right there in my lap, purring so loudly the whole chair starts drilling itself into the floor.

‘He likes you,’ says Mrs Ransome. ‘Normally he hides on the roof.’

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