LIVING in Cloyne with five cats, French native Emilie Peneau, who works as a marketing assistant at The Everyman Theatre, said she enjoys the life she has crafted in Cork.
Emilie, 43, has a firm passion for the arts and a deep love for animals, most notably the feline kind.
“I never planned on having five cats, they are all rescues.”
Eight years ago Emilie co-founded a cat charity with two others and said it was more successful than they had ever imagined.
“We set up Community Cats Network (CCN) in 2012,” she says. “It was set up by three people, we were volunteers with another organisation, a rescue, and we noticed there were so many cats that needed help.”
CCN focuses on trapping, neutering and returning cats to minimise the cat populations in Cork, south Tipperary and west Waterford.
In 2019, the organisation dealt with 1,300 cats and recently Emilie stepped down from the charity to give herself more time for other things.
“There is a lot involved, fundraising, administration, it is very intense, we were more successful than we ever thought we would be,” she says. “I just felt overwhelmed, it was a case of compassionate fatigue.”
The work of the charity continues to be done by the other members and volunteers while Emilie continues to care for her five rescue cats: Gypsy, Budweiser, Prospero, Lestat and Persil.
“Gypsy was my first cat, I rescued her in 2010,” Emilie says. “She was just three weeks old, I had to bottle feed her.”
Next Emilie found Budweiser. “I rescued him in 2011 from a pub, he and his brother were in a pint glass. His brother did not survive.
In 2012, Emilie added to the clan, with Prospero, named after a Shakespeare character in The Tempest. Then in 2015 a ginger kitten now called Lestat was rescued from a garden in The Glen where a bunch of kids had broken in and raided a litter of kittens.
“Lestat escaped but two of the other kittens were burnt. He was very wild, it took two years before I could pet him. He was just six weeks old when I got him and he was terrified. It took a lot of patience.
The last cat in the Peneau family is ‘Persil’, named after the laundry detergent because he was rescued from a laundrette in Midleton.
“I never wanted five cats, but I kept looking after wild ones.”
Emilie is also a member of the Cloyne Tidy Towns organisation where she enjoys planting and litter picking with the community.
“I love getting out and meeting new people, I have made a lot of friends through the organisation.”
She is looking forward to when The Everyman reopens, scheduled for August 10 in line with the Government roadmap. The lockdown has been a rollercoaster of emotion for her.
“It is great to be working again,” she says. “Obviously the death toll is very sad and I can’t help thinking of people out of work who don’t know when they can go back to work, freelancers and actors.”
The lockdown has motivated Emilie to walk more than usual, now that she is working from home and has a little extra time.
“I am a new fan of walking, Living in Cloyne, it is very scenic and the back roads are quiet and safe. There is a view from a hill onto Ballycotton Island, it is amazing.”
Emilie said she is reading more now that the lockdown has given her time and she also likes to write a bit for herself.
A fan of personal development Emilie, has a Masters in English from University College Cork and she had started a PhD in short stories, however, unfortunately, she had to leave her studies half-way through the programme.
“I had been working in a restaurant and it closed down, so I had to put my PhD on hold and go on social welfare and I never went back to it,” says Emilie
Despite never getting to finish [the PhD], Emilie said it had been a great experience that she thoroughly enjoyed.
“I was a tutor, teaching younger people when I was researching and I loved sharing the knowledge with others,” she explains.
She also got to interview Canadian writer Margaret Atwood in 2010
“It was at a conference, I requested an interview and I was very lucky. It was an amazing experience.”
Now settled in Cork, Emilie originally moved to Waterford for nine months in 2008 and ended up staying in Ireland for 12 years.
“I was supposed to stay for nine months, but I never left. Then I moved to Cork to be closer to UCC, I started renting in Cloyne and then I bought a house and now I have been here for many years.”
Although very contented in Cork, Emilie said that she recently began to miss Brittany a little more in the past year or two.
“An old boss of mine died and it really hit me, I hadn’t seen him in many years and it made me realise we are all going to die, we have to make the most of our time.”
Emilie said she misses her parents and friends and has been trying to go home more often: “I was supposed to go back this month!”
She says she adores Cork in terms of its arts culture, heritage and, of course, the Cork people.
But the east Cork resident lamented that there is no park and ride for her area and the last train home to Midleton is 10pm.
“There is a lot happening in the arts and I find the people relaxed and laid back.
“I think there is a lot of effort put into making the city look nice, I just wish public transport was a bit better.”