From a high window of an old house in west Dublin the grey hulk of a large animal was visible, recumbent on a path that wound through a garden overgrown with tall grasses, ivy and nameless decorative growths profuse in their wildness.
A badger? In the early dawn light the colour seemed right for a bulky beast, crouched and shapeless. More than 50 years before, one had been noticed slouching by a wall in this place where there had been a field or two, a river and bovines munching about the ruins of an old water mill.
Surely there were no badgers roaming here today? Correct. A slight turning move by the form revealed the raised head of a very large feline. This was truly an enormous cat, yes, grey as a badger, big as a collie dog.
I opened a window, clapped hands, let out muffled shout - it was 5am, better not waken the neighbourhood - slammed the window shut. Ignored! The animal, which had been gazing fixedly into a pile of undergrowth-draped stones and old timber, turned its head slowly towards the sound. It casually gazed up at the window-knocking and gesticulating - garden songbirds beware! - then slowly and deliberately banged its tail on the path like a tiger waiting to pounce.
I have seen many semi-feral and wild cats over the years - I had a domestic one that thought it was a dog - but never such a specimen as this with cloak-like coat fully visible when it stood and padded off silently towards a gated exit. I almost expected a howl of defiance or at least a throaty growl.
I have discouraged many cats lurking after birds over the years but have never spotted any as formidable looking as this grey beast.
When I lived at Sutton, near Howth, with hundreds of wading birds in my vista, there were two 'wild' cats, with long body fur, on the prowl. One was marmalade, abandoned as a kitten in a house move but fed by kind people, the other a black-haired creature which, like the tragic human in Beckett's novella The End, had a home in an upturned rowing boat.
The black one usually fled at any human approach; the marmalade was called Lionel and fancied smoked salmon and liked to pat down chair cushions for a resting place. All are long gone to the great cat heaven in the sky.
Neither of these cats was like TS Eliot's Jellicle Cats with "cheerful faces which liked to practise their airs and graces".
And certainly not like the badger-beastie that pounded its tail at human annoyance as dawn broke one grey morning last week.