A woman has been broadcasting the diary of her cat’s final days from a Stroud living room in the hope of making death a more approachable topic.

Ten years ago Janet West’s cat - named Grandad Joseph Conrad after the Heart of Darkness author - was dying.

As she dealt with her grief during his final month, Janet, who had raised Grandad from a kitten, found herself joining an online forum known as ‘The Old Furts Club’.

“It was a group for old cats and their ‘meowmies’,” Janet explains.

“Generally a cat's birth-mother is their 'mum' while their person-mother is their ‘meowmy’.

“Anyway, I joined this online cat group and every day during his last month, I sat Grandad on my lap, in front of my computer, and I wrote a silly story, and sent it to the Old Furts.

“When he died, the forum made a manuscript of all my stories and sent it back to me. I had to do something with it.”

And Janet did - she published The Last Diary Days of Grandad Joseph Conrad The Magnificent and Revolting in 2011.

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The front cover of The Last Diary Days of Grandad Joseph Conrad

The book takes the form of a diary, recording Grandad’s last month before he crosses ‘The Rainbow Bridge’ - heaven, if you like, but Janet says “it’s whatever you want it to be.”

All of the forum user's cats are brought to life in Grandad's entries, which see him reflect on his nine lives - whether it be his adventures on his Mighty Merkel motorbike or the time he met God - with his granddaughter Tambolina.

And his storytelling abilities earn Grandad the attention of various lady cats, who fight with each other over who gets to be by his side when he dies.

But most revered of all of Grandad's skills is 'Marmite-twirling' - or, rather, Meowmite-twirling after Janet checked in with Unilever's trademark team - where he uses his incredibly strong tongue to get the last bit out the jar.

“On first reading, or superficial reading, it’s just a silly little book about cats. But it’s not only that," says Janet.

"Underneath, it’s about people, it’s about love and life and death and pain. It’s about the journey that cats take and people take to the Rainbow Bridge.

"It helped me very much. I think it could help other people."

Janet has now released a new edition of the book and, with the help of friends Jim Pentney and Steve Podolski, has been reading it out on a podcast in the former's living room, complete with cat sound effects.

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Janet, Jim and Steve recording an episode of their podcast

The Grandad Broadcasting Corporation (GBC) have also been out on the road - to nursing homes like The Grange outside Stonehouse.

Jim explains: “The story allows people who are really quite advanced in dementia and facing death themselves to start perhaps reflecting on the animals they’ve had in their life.

“It’s approaching death but in a gentle way and hopefully supportive sort of way.

“If you’ve ever heard of Elizabeth von Arnim’s All The Dogs In My Life, it’s along those sorts of lines.”

GBC have finished reading Grandad's diary and even wrapped a specially commissioned origin story, that explains where he got his strong tongue.

They are now preparing a show based on haiku's Jim has carved on stones dotted along the canal.

Listen to Janet read The Last Diary Days of Grandad Joseph Conrad at grandad.podomatic.com.

And to buy a copy, email Jim at pentneyjames@gmail.com.

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