IT was a rather eerie coincidence that last week I mentioned my friend Terry in the column and a day later I had a telephone call saying he was in the UK and was coming down for the weekend with his wife and another couple. I hadn't seen him for several years and he lives in California.

Thank goodness it was a polite mention - although he now knows the column is on the Internet so I had better be careful.

I'm still trying to find out how he managed to go through the Saltash tunnel twice on the way down.

It was late, admittedly; the traffic had been rather bad on Friday night and he seems to remember crossing the Tamar bridge into Saltash, following my instructions to turn right at the first big roundabout, then going through the tunnel in the Plymouth direction, turning around somewhere near the entrance to the bridge and going through the tunnel again. We've all tried to work out this strange route and have failed.

Come to think of it, I sent them back around Dartmoor, because it was a beautiful day and I thought they would like to look at the moor. For all I know they could have taken a wrong turn and even now be on their 57th circuit of Princetown.

Having four strangers in the house, and missing my daughter and the children who were away at the same time, has sent the cats a bit crazy.

As all cat owners now, they are sensitive creatures and any change in the household is noticed immediately.

Firstly, there are fewer people around to feed them. Both have perfected the art of pretending that they are on their last legs and need just a tiny morsel of food to bring them back from the brink of starvation.

I know people say that cats, unlike dogs, will only eat when they are hungry, but close observation of my two belies this.

They have sussed that the most willing victim of their ploys is my grandson who is frightfully proud of himself because he can now open the little flat Felix one-meal containers. I only discovered this when the two 12 meal boxes of Felix disappeared in three days and the ginger cat was seen staggering away from his fifth chicken in marrowbone whatsit in an hour.

With their faithful servant away they have had to put up with a sensible feeding routine from old hard heart here.

I was expecting retribution in the form of small piles under the tele, shredded loo rolls (a favourite form of revenge) or my cat's favourite of sneaking up behind me when I'm in the garden and jumping on my back when I'm bending over which then causes me to straighten up in alarm (he's no light weight).

This gives him an excuse to slide gracefully down my person with claws out.

Strangely enough there was nothing of this, unless you count sleeping on a pile of white newly dried laundry after having apparently been rolling in coal dust (and we don't have a coal fire so it might have been worse).

When my visitors arrived they came in for the inspection tour. Their behaviour differs from person to person.

A week before we had had another visitor and the ginger cat had disgraced himself by sneaking up to her while she was sitting on the sofa, wrapping his front legs around her ankle and proceeding to kick with his back legs. The visitor, who obviously thought his intentions were on the same lines as those small terriers who take a fancy to your legs for romantic purposes, tried tactfully to shake him off without obviously kicking him into touch, not easy with a very large determined cat with sharp claws.

I was glad he didn't give a repeat performance, especially when one of our visitors said she used to be afraid of cats but had gradually got over it. Having a determined ginger moggie attached to her leg might possibly have brought the trauma racing back.

Unfortunately, and there's usually an unfortunately with cats, the grey one decided to go bedroom visiting in the night and our poor visitor woke in the wee small hours to find something ghostly with staring golden eyes sitting on her chest. I suppose the only saving grace was that he hadn't brought her one of his hedge kills to admire nor had she woken up in the morning to find a pair of miniature lungs on her pillow.

I said to Terry in the morning that the appearance of a ghost cat reminded me of his famous cat who came back from the dead story, which he still shivers at, and still swears is true.

His family had once had quite an old cat which became ill and had to have an operation. Sadly, a call came to say the cat had not survived the ordeal. Terry says he accepted the offer to dispose of the cat's remains because he couldn't bear to see the children getting even more upset with a home burial (in my experience children find it easier to deal with if pets are given an appropriate sending off in the veg plot).

Anyway, several weeks later the cat appeared in the garden, looking very sorry for itself and sending the household into a state of terror.

Was it a ghost? Had it come back to wreak terrible revenge on a family who now had a new kitten? It wasn't and it hadn't, and it transpired that the cat had actually run off from the vet and not died at all.

A story straight out of Stephen King and perhaps it's just as well Terry didn't wake up and find a grey ghost kneading his chest in the middle of the night.