“Would you like a kitten, Kirsten?”

The kitten was chasing a leaf in the summer of 2005. Or a twig. A habit she kept for life. One of my payroll colleagues scooped her up, she fitted in one hand, as I came by on my lunch walk.

“Would you like a kitten, Kirsten?” Wendy asked me. They were standing just outside the main building of the Willem van den Bergh Institute where I worked as a journalist, writing about all the terrific things the dedicated staff did for the hundreds of people with special needs who lived here. Some of them only needed a bit of structure. They worked in the restaurant or garden. Some of them could do no more than enjoy music, or be in the fresh air as they were wheeled round the enormous grounds bordering on the dunes of Noordwijk, a coastal town in the Netherlands. Ideal grounds for a lunch walk if you were stuck in the office most of the day.

“I might indeed want a kitten,” I replied to my colleagues as we had had to put our Kapitein to sleep about a month ago. I called Wim. He immediately said yes. I had already named the kitten Willem after this special place. Wim disagreed with the name, my colleagues loved it. They brought Wilma a box with newspaper clippings to lie on and stuck stripes of cellotape on top to stop her from escaping while I bought her some cat food in the tiny shop on the grounds.

The kitten didn’t mind they only had cans for adult cats. She gulped up the food and went to sleep. She didn’t try to escape when she sat in the box on the passenger seat as I drove home. She slept through intervals of eating and drinking to the next day when we took her to the vet. The vet told us she was about 9 weeks old, weighed 99 grams and was not a boy… Wilma it was then.

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it’s nice to meet you. This is Wilma. She was called Willem for a day.

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