Posted on December 25, 2015: A whole series of books later, former busker and bestselling author James Bowen still loves to talk about his beloved cat Bob. Theirs is exactly the kind of Christmas miracle story that makes you all warm inside in this festive season.
A hopeless heroin addict on the downward spiral is accosted by a miserable, injured stray cat who turned up at his doorstep one night. The two, reluctantly at first, form a bond. This bond sees them recover from injury and addiction, become homeless and piece their lives together by busking on the streets of London. They were a hit with the public at their regular spots in Covent Garden and Piccadilly. And then, a news reporter from the Islington Tribune wrote about the unlikely duo and changed their lives…
James has recollected and recorded his eventful, inspirational journey with Bob in three books, A Streetcat Named Bob, The World According to Bob and the most recent A Gift From Bob. He’s also written a picture book imagining Bob’s life before he met him called My Name Is Bob. The books are international bestsellers topping bestseller lists in the UK and the US.
In 2014, film producer Adam Rolston and his London-based Shooting Script Films announced plans to turn A Streetcat Named Bob into a movie. Shooting for the feature film is already underway with an intended release in 2016. British actor Luke Treadaway is playing James. But who plays Bob?
We caught up with James on the sets of the to find out, “Bob actually plays himself a lot more than we thought he would – but the director saw his potential. There are several handsome ginger cats on hand for the stunt work, though,” he explains.
Thirty-six-year-old James met Bob for the first time when the cat turned up at his door, cold and injured in 2007. “I was surprised because you don’t often find a stray cat in your doorway. I was low at the time and so was he because he was injured. I guess he knew I was trying to help him when I took him to the medical center and we bonded from then on,” he recalls of that first meeting, “I called him Bob because there was a famous character in a 90s TV series called Twin Peaks. There was no alternative!”
Bob was unlike any of the other pets James had previously had in life. “I grew up with cats and dogs. But I never had one like Bob – he seemed an old soul from the start. Maybe I met him in a previous life,” muses James, “Bob chose me and I didn’t argue – I guess we both needed companionship and I definitely needed someone else to care for. He gave me a reason to live, and he has made a huge difference to my life. I like to think I saved his life too.”
He inserts a word of caution about rescuing animals off the streets, “You must be careful when you rescue an animal. They must suit your lifestyle and where you live. Rescuing is good though – but try not to buy from a pet shop.”
Bob’s a natural
It was almost like Bob was destined for stardom. He would accompany James on his busking routine to their regular spots in Covent Garden. Bob would sit or sleep in his guitar case and up the cuteness quotient of the performance. Bob even came up with a trademark move for James and him. “One day I just leaned down and he jumped up!,” says James about their captain-and-parrot pose together, “I am quite tall, so he gets a good view of the world, and he doesn’t have to worry about being trodden on underfoot. I have to wear the right jacket though or either his claws go through to my shoulders, or he slips and slides a bit!”
But neither the fame nor the comfort and luxury that comes with their new life have changed James and Bob’s relationship. “Bob rises about it all, and no, not in a million years did I ever consider life taking the turns it has,” smiles James, “We still look out for each other. We don’t have to go out in the cold, busking, though, and we are a lot warmer.”
And what can we expect from the international star busker and his world-famous ginger cat in the New Year? “I’m sure if Bob could speak about his future he would say he wants nothing more than a fire to curl up near and a rug to curl up on,” says James, “Me? I have lots of ideas and plans and we’ll have to see which ones sort themselves out first!”
A Gift From Bob by James Bowen is available from Hachette India. Photograph by Garry Jenkin, courtesy Hachette UK.