La disparition du Roi

Louis Catorze had a visitor to Le Château yesterday. As is customary when Sa Maj receives his subjects I ensured that his fur was brushed, the house was tidy and that there was ample tea at hand. I even made sure I knew where Catorze was and, when I saw him asleep in his favourite spot in the flower bed (where the unholy devil-plant used to be), I was pretty confident that he would remain there until his guest arrived.

Naturellement, when she did, he was nowhere to be found. His disappearing acts are very common, but I don’t want them happening when people have come a long way to see him, laden with gifts for both of us: in this case, Châteauneuf du Pape (which, coincidentally, was the wine that Cat Daddy and I had on our first date), a huge bag of knitting yarn, and jambon de Bayonne for Sa Maj.

I searched in all the usual, and some more unusual, hiding places. I peered over the fence into the playground at The Back where, worryingly, I had seen a fox sunbathing that morning. I even checked The Front in case he had teleported there, all to no avail. We then decided to have our tea outside, during which time we heard barking next door.

Our guest: “I guess that must be Oscar?”

Good grief, even the nemesis made the effort to show himself. I then started to panic that, for the first time ever, a pilgrim would have to leave without seeing Catorze or signing the guest book. That simply would not do.

I searched again upstairs, and over the fence at The Back. I then decided to check more thoroughly among the ferns and the thicker shrubs, but was beaten back by cobwebs, spiders and – shudder – the excruciating thought that I might be stepping in cat shit.

I turned to our guest and said, “I’m going to have to poke him out. If, indeed, he’s even there. I honestly have no idea.”

So there I was, poking the various bits of shrubbery with a broom, calling Catorze’s name (minus the royal title) and hoping beyond hope that the neighbours couldn’t see or hear me. I didn’t see the little sod shimmy out, but when I heard our guest exclaim, “Awww! Louis!” I was très relieved. And not only did he shower her with nuzzles and chirps, but he even treated her to one of his very rare squeaks. (Well, I say “rare” when, in actual fact, they are quite abundant, but of course they NEVER happen when we are trying to show them to others, or when we are filming.)

So, despite the initial consternation and the indignity of la personne royale being poked out of his sleeping place with a broom, the morning was a success. Jambon de Bayonne was consumed (apart from that one bit that we left out for too long and ended up too dry for the discerning royal tongue), the book was signed and the accompanying photograph was taken, so all was well.

Sa Maj is now taking bookings for autumn. And there are still a few blank pages in his book, waiting to be filled with photos of smiling pilgrims.

Les services de secours

Yesterday a certain someone had to go for their booster jabs and, because Cat Daddy had the car and Uber won’t accept such short journeys, I had to carry the little sod there and back in his transportation pod.

It’s only a 5-minute walk but Louis Catorze’s screaming makes it highly stressful and embarrassing. And not only did I have to deal with that, but I also had to navigate us around an unacceptably large number of crottes de chien(s?) on the way. Dog walkers of TW8, you should be thoroughly ashamed of yourselves. Clean up your* shit, for goodness’ sake. The rest of us shouldn’t have to swerve around it as if dodging land mines.

*Yes, YOUR shit. Your dog is unable to pick it up, bag it and bin it him/herself, which makes it YOUR responsibility.

Anyway, this time we saw a lovely new vet whom we hadn’t seen before, and she said she’d never seen a cat so “vocal”. This isn’t the first time that the veterinary staff have pointed this out; in fact, I was once told that I needn’t have bothered ringing the bell when I arrived because they could hear Catorze’s screaming from every part of the building.

The vet also said she had checked through his notes before our appointment and “hadn’t expected quite so many of them”. I had almost forgotten about the bad old days when he was at the vet’s so often that I almost took him and a sleeping bag and moved in there, and that awful Christmas when we saw more of the veterinary staff than of our family and friends. So it’s très positive indeed that he hasn’t needed to go there in a while, not counting the time we thought he had a tick and/or Lyme disease when it was just a lump of crud stuck to his fur: https://louiscatorze.com/2018/06/24/le-syndrome-de-munchhausen/

Getting Catorze out of his pod was quite a challenge; he clung onto the inside for all he was worth and refused to let go, so the vet and I had to tug-of-war him out. He was relatively good during the eye and ear check, the thermometer and the weigh-in (although still screamed his lungs out) but totally lost his shit when he had his injection and hissed at both me and the vet. He couldn’t wait to get back into his pod and dived in as soon as I unzipped it.

For the first time ever, Sa Maj has broken the 3.5kg barrier and is now 3.62kg. And it seems that those extra 12g make all the difference, because I pinged my back badly carrying him home. I was worried that I would have to call Oscar the dog’s folks or even That Neighbour to come and carry the pod the rest of the way, but luckily I managed to grit my teeth, soldier on and finish the job. Our neighbours are the most wonderful and patient people and would have helped without hesitation, but I can’t think of anything more awkward than having to approach them and say, “You know that animal who torments you and ruins your peace and quiet? How do you fancy carrying him home so that he can continue doing it?”

Catorze is absolutely fine, having forgotten about his ordeal already. Mine, however, is just beginning.

Le maître de la scène

Cat Daddy and I invited That Neighbour and his wife for dinner the other night. Yes, THAT Neighbour; the one who is always having to escort Louis Catorze home when he escapes at The Front and causes carnage in the street.

To be honest we had been putting it off because, although they are thoroughly lovely people, we’ve been so embarrassed by Sa Maj and his behaviour that we haven’t been able to face them. We were going to wait until the little sod started to behave himself but, of course, that jour de gloire never came and, before we knew it, 4 years had passed.

Anyway, after the greetings, the hors d’œuvres and our initial shock at the generous amount of alcohol they’d brought with them (although we all know the reason why they need it), the topic of conversation inevitably got to the small, black, toothy elephant in the room. Mind you, this was unavoidable because said elephant presented himself as loudly as possible, screaming, purring and nuzzling That Neighbour’s legs (although, rudely, he ignored Wife of That Neighbour). Luckily they are animal lovers and they have been taking all his shenanigans with good humour. For now, at least.

During dinner Catorze disappeared. Then the howling started. The longer it went on, the less cat-like it sounded and, pretty soon, it was more like something you’d hear in the haunted Transylvanian woods outside Castle Dracula.

Wife of That Neighbour: “Is that … MEOWING?”

That Neighbour: “Yes. Is it Louis?”

Cat Daddy, hurriedly opening more wine: “No, it’s definitely not him. It must be some other cat. Here, let me top you up.”

The conversation turned to Brexit, then to my and Puppy Mamma’s knitting woes, then to Wife of That Neighbour’s absolutely brilliant true story about the time she knitted the pink jumper worn by a household-name pop star in an iconic music video*. Throughout all this, the howling continued and Cat Daddy poured more and more wine. By the time we got onto climate change, so much wine was flowing that nobody noticed or cared about the howling anymore. And, when Sa Maj reappeared (and, coincidentally, the howling stopped), That Neighbour sang that “Louie Louie” song to him and gave him a big cuddle.

It’s hard to know whether this means that he’s forgiven him his trespasses, or whether it was just the wine. Probably a better indicator is That Neighbour’s choice of musical links posted on social media, which, consciously nor not, often seem to channel Catorze. The first one was posted just before our dinner, and the second a few days after:

*Can you guess the pop star and the music video? Think of a charismatic, cat-loving British frontman – in fact, he’s known for having had quite a few cats, and my mum knows all their names – and the song is most likely the rousing anthem Catorze hears in his head every time he escapes at The Front.

Maille après maille

Puppy Mamma and I have really been up against it this week, not only because we are back at school but because our knitting project was due.

Despite always telling our students not to leave things until the last minute, we haven’t managed to follow our own advice on this occasion. Stupidly, we didn’t take into account the fact that our knitting designs are a sort of spiral shape working from the inside outwards, and so the larger outer sections take more time. We should have organised ourselves with this in mind, but we didn’t. (Cat Daddy, looking at our work: “You couldn’t figure that out? Even a 5-year-old could have managed that. Jesus.”)

And, of course, just when I was under pressure to finish the most time-consuming parts, and just after I bragged about him being a good boy who leaves my work the hell alone, Louis Catorze remembered that he is a cat and decided to interfere. Here is the little sod (below) the night before the deadline, arsing around with the wool whilst Cat Daddy egged him on and took photos.

Apologies to our instructor, who has now received not one but TWO parts of our project covered in animal spit. And, teachers, if you’re marking assignments of any kind, however much you think you can trust your students, wash your hands afterwards.

C’est pourquoi je vais à l’école

The summer holidays give me a very accurate insight into what it must be like to be a cat: sleeping late, having no concept of time and whiling away hours on pointless rubbish. Now, of course, the new school year is imminent and I am stressing out like crazy about how I can possibly be expected to teach kids when my brain has rotted away through lack of use.

For Louis Catorze, of course, there is no such rentrée anxiety, and next week will just be another week in his ridiculous life of doing nothing and then having a rest afterwards. (Cat Daddy: “No danger of him getting brain rot, though.”)

Good luck to all teachers, support staff and students who are going back to school next week. And please spare a thought for Sa Maj, who will not be budging from here:

J’adore harceler les chiens

Now that the Forbidden Greenhouse is no more, it is super-easy for Louis Catorze to shimmy out through the gap in the fence and hang out in the school playground at The Back. Previously he would have to pick his way delicately through the various piled-up bikes and gardening implements, but now he just slips through in an instant. And he loves it.

Unfortunately we have discovered that Catorze pitter-patters the length of the fence that separates the houses from the playground, and Oscar the dog can sense this. Oh yes: it seems that Oscar doesn’t need to see or hear Sa Maj to get angry with him, and that one whiff of his tantalising lime* scent on the other side of the fence is enough to send him into a frenzy. And, of course, he has no way of squeezing through himself to send the little sod packing. So he is left looking like an utter lunatic, appearing to bark at the fence/bugs/thin air, when we know that, yet again, it’s highly likely to be Catorze’s fault.

So now we can add that to the ever-expanding list of increased opportunities for Sa Maj to annoy poor Oscar. We could, of course, block up the hole in the fence, but there are numerous ways of getting through from other neighbours’ gardens. And, should Sa Maj have an unfortunate encounter in the playground with foxes or marauding teenagers, we would rather his route back to Le Château be straightforward. So there is nothing we can do about it. except keep apologising repeatedly to la famille Oscar.

I shall say it again: it’s a good thing we are such good friends with them.

*Yes, Le Roi smells of lime with a hint of flowers. Nobody knows why, but he does. No doubt you will have questions, so please see below (although don’t expect any answers):

Discovery of the lime scent: https://louiscatorze.com/2016/02/17/quelle-est-cette-odeur-agreable/

More lime: https://louiscatorze.com/2016/03/11/dou-vient-ce-citron-vert/

The citrus mystery continues: https://louiscatorze.com/2016/03/19/la-menthe-au-citron-vert/

The hilarity of the failed test: https://louiscatorze.com/2016/06/27/la-creme-de-menthe/

Une pelote de laine emmêlée

Nala the dog’s Puppy Mamma asked me if I would like to join her at a knitting class.

My brain: “What? Are we, like, 103 years old? It’s the dullest old-lady hobby ever, all our friends will laugh at us, and the things we make will look like shite.”

My mouth: “Sure, why not?”

Interestingly, it turns out that I was only 1/3 mistaken: knitting is actually a very therapeutic and relaxing craft. You go into the class feeling enraged as hell with, say, your cat’s latest display of bastard behaviour, and come out feeling utterly unburdened and content.

I was right about people laughing at us, though. (To protect the scoffers’ identity I shall refer to them as “Cat Daddy” and “Puppy Daddy”.) And the things we’re making do look like shite. Well, our other group members’ stuff is fine, but Puppy Mamma and I have each had rows unpicked by the instructor as they weren’t up to standard. And, when we were meant to be knitting a square, Puppy Mamma somehow ended up with a sort of asymmetric pentagon.

We also found out that it was a knitting COURSE, not a single class. And, because each group member is making one small section of a single larger item, and therefore attending just one session would mean letting down the team and not completing our project, we’re now trapped in our woolly prison, doomed to a lifetime of being laughed at and making things that look like shite.

Anyway, between us it seems that our animals have defied tradition somewhat. Everyone knows that it’s cats, not dogs, who play with balls of wool, yet I am delighted to report that it was Nala who caused mayhem. (This is because we have knitting homework every week. No, we didn’t take our pets to the class, but only because we didn’t think of it.)

Here is Nala being a cat, and here is Louis Catorze being, erm, whatever it is that he is. And, yes, I did warn our instructor that Puppy Mamma’s section of our project would have dog spit on it.