Bob the Street Cat changed the life of a busker fighting to get rid of drugs. And the other way around: James Bowen is a man who changed the life of a tomcat who was in bad shape. Karita Jalava from Helsinki returned from London for the fourth time where she visited the hood of James and Bob. The Twosome has brought changes to her life as well.
There is a queu swirling around the corner on Islington Green Street starting from the outdoor of Waterstones bookstore. Karita Jalava is a lucky girl. She has traveled from the capital of Finland to London only to participate the publishing of a book and gets a queu number for the meeting.
People starts to whisper. The voices turns shouting and screaming.
- It felt like in a rock concert. James and Bob showed up, remembers Karita that afternoon in July 2013.
Media and journalists have arrived from USA and South-Korea, they are also interviewing fans of Bob. Fans have gathered from all over the Great Britain to attend to the bookpublishing and signing event. Monika has come from Germany and Tomoko all the way from Japan. Karita is the only one from Finland.
-The founder and Admin of our group in Facebook Martin Pickett came up the name Bobite which means “bitten by Bob”. There came up the idea who will change their profile name to bobite. I made the change right away – was the first one – and the others followed, laughs Karita, who is one of the active members of the facebook group Make The Movie “A Street Cat Named Bob”.
The screaming starts again. James was seen on the second floor balcony of the bookstore having a cig. Karita is lucky again: she gets pics.
- We hugged when it was my turn to get signature and the pawprint from Bob. I gave James the Kalevala (Finland's national epic) in English. It all happened so fast since there was a queu with a few hundred people so there was no time to talk anything else but I could wish him good luck and take care.
Karita met also the literature agent Mary Pachnos. She had great news. They had made a deal with a finnish publishing company of the book A Street Cat Named Bob. It could be published in finnish next Spring. Finally!
Karita had to catch breath between the bookshelves. Suddenly James and Bob leaves the bookstore and goes by her.
- Bob had to go to the Islington Memorial Park to do his business.
This was not the first time when the cat lady from Helsinki gets to meet the fab 2some. It all started two years earlier on London Heathrow airport.
- I was at the bookstore and found the pocket book with a ginger cat on the cover. He reminded so much of my late beloved Kalle The Garfield. The book was published a few months earlier and since I am a cat lover I had to get the book.
On the back cover there is a story how James Bowen found an injured cat in the hall of his housing support building. He has no idea how his life is about to change forever. But how can he look after a cat since he has trouble taking care of himself?
A Street Cat Named Bob has sold over Million copies in UK alone, in Germany even more and World wide about 5 million copies. The story of James and Bob has been translated into 37 different languages.
Fortunately the flight is one hour delayed. Karita gets tears in her eyes even reading the first pages and funny parts about Bob’s behavior gets the giggles.
At the “Rock concert” on July the 4th 2013 was the publishing day of The World According to Bob. The following events and story of James and Bob. James has published 6 books already – 7th is on its way next Autumn – and there is also coming the movie of their story.
- I fell deply in love with the story because it is true and warm and describes the fond and affection between an animal and human. At the beginning no one I knew had ever heard about them. I made up the first finnish Bob fan page on Facebook. I sent emails to newspapers and magazines and also to the publishing companies to get the first book translated.
The World According to Bob is a sequel to A Street Cat Named Bob. It follows up their every day life and the birth of the first book. At the end of the book they enter Islington Waterstones bookstore on the day of the publishing day of the first book. Will there be anyone there? Hopefully a few gets sold.
- As I read it I got chills on my back. I have been there in the same bookstore!
But the first real rendezvous was March 2013 when Karita was visiting London with her grand-daughter. Had seen Madame Tussaud’s Wax museum and other sights.
- I had seen on the Google Maps the places on Covent Garden and Neal Street where James and Bob used been busking and selling Big Issue magazine. I wanted to visit there but did not reveal that to the girl.
Finally they arrived on Neal Street. The tourists from Finland walked on the street and noticed that there were a bunch of people ahead. All looking down. And yes, there was also a long dark haired man standing in the middle of the crowd.
- Then I saw the guitar and….. omg!! It was close I didn’t get on my knees and thanked all the Saints – it was my wish and dream from the start and it came true! The girl was ok but I got all freaked out! Can’t be true! Be careful what you wish for because it may become true!
James playing the guitar and Bob sitting in front of him like a Buddha Statue. Then James lifts Bob on his shoulders like so many times before on the same street while busking.
The ITV was filming a program of them. It is all staged because the Fab Twosome did not have to be on streets anymore.
Karita tells James the most: she is a huge fan from Finland, read the book “a few” times. Karita gets to cuddle Bob a little.
- It was a turning point in meeting them. I would not have gone so much into this story if I hadn’t met them. That is the thing which I believe had something that was ment to happen.
Going back to the Islington Waterstones bookstore and the first meeting of The Official Bobites. The Admin of the group Martin Pickett said it can’t stop now.
He came up the idea of the first Bobfest Charity Event and was to be after a year. So be it!
- We started selling tickets to the first Bobfest on May 2014. All one hundred tickets were sold out at once. There were 2 other finnish bobites coming along and also my friend Sirpa.
Bobites organized raffle and auction to benefit The Blue Cross organization. Blue Cross provides free medical care for the pets whose owners can not afford expensive vet treatment. Blue Cross also helped James nurture Bob back to health from his injuries. Blue Cross received 8.000 pounds from Bobites.
- The book My Name Is Bob had just been published and James and Bob held a booksigning on Kingston-Upon-Thames, about 40 miles from Islington where the first Bobfest was to be held on the same day. Sirpa and I went there to give James the brand new finnish edition with about 40 signatures and greetings from finnish fans. Sirpa got finally the chance to meet them. Because of the long queu there was no possibility to take a photo together but they made an exception for us - thanx to Garry, smiles Karita.
For this years Bobfest was sold twice as many tickets and there came bobites from about 20 countries, all four continents. On May 23th at Islington Assembly Hall comes an announcement:
James is arriving. You all have to sit down at your tables and he will go around meeting everybody.
- Well...... Who sat - and who didn't! I haven't laughed and cried like that in so many years as much as I did during that evening and those days in London. The Big Event of Bobfest ad the Bobite meetings were full of Purring Emotions of Cat Homans. You can not describe it properly - you have to feel it!
Well - Karita tries to explain anyways! She says the best ways to describe of all the feelings and emotions that went on at Bobfest was the moment of silence and the video compilation in honour for our beloved departed 4-legged family members gone on the Rainbow Bridge. Maria Carlton sung the beautiful song No One But You by Queen.
- Also when during James sitting by the table signing the books, photos, flags etc. Gloria Macari came on the stage and performed a lovely touching song And Then Came Bob. Gloria had read A Street Cat Named Bob and wrote the beautiful lyrics in inspiration of the book. Her son Dominic Ferris had composed the beautiful delicate song. It is made of a video that shows James and Bob's life before the first book was published.
This time the target of fundraising at Bobfest was for the Big Issue Foundation. Big Issue is sold on the streets all over England by the homeless people. They buy the magazine half price and sell it for 2,5 pounds. The foundations is helping homeless people by providing them showers and helping them with medical and other problems. James and Bob used to be the vendors of Big Issue.
The other fundraiser target was the Bob's World Cat Cafe. It will not become a traditional cat cafe but it will be helping people to adopt homeless cats and kittens. Also there will be lectures of taking care of animals. In writing of this the cafe challenge has raised over 151.000 pounds. The origin goal was 125.000.
- I thought this will be the end of my journeys to London. But no! I have the ticket for the Opening Night Party as an avec with belgian bobite. I have also gotten a Perk sold for raising the money for the cat cafe. The photo of my Kalle will be on the cover of the Kittie Mosaic Meny.
Describe us what kind of person James is judged by these meetings?
- James is sensitive and shy, good manners, not at all proud. He likes to talk and hang out with people and is always very friendly and polite.
And Street Cat Bob? What kind of cat he is?
- I have seen Bob in a crowd of people and he is so calm and serene. Sitting like a Buddha. I have also wondered how he stands of the scarfs around his neck and not try to remove them. Well Bob is Bob, laughs Karita.
The Ultimate Finnish Bobite has lots of funny stories and memories so there is plenty of laughs but then something gets her very serious.
- My own daughter was a drug addict for two decades just like James and she is the same age as him too. The similarities between them two touched me deeply. I drained into James's world. By reading the books I have understood my daughter's life more as well.