Rendez-vous avec Le Prince Bleu

A few days ago I invited one of my neighbours – Cat Mamma of Blue, the Smoke Bengal – for Crémant and cheese. And, yes, I am fully aware of the middle-classness of every bit of that sentence.

If I’m honest, I did have an ulterior motive: Louis Catorze has no friends – Cat Daddy’s theory is that word has spread about how boring Catorze is, and so no cats want to stop by – and I had hoped that Blue’s Cat Mamma would put in a good word for him. Blue and Catorze would be the perfect match: similar in size despite Catorze being, erm, eight years older, similar in their puppy-like behaviour, similar in their goading of foxes (ok, maybe that’s not such a good shared trait), and they even have a common history of itchy skin problems. It’s a beautiful friendship waiting to happen, non?

It’s highly likely that Sa Maj and Blue have already met, not only because of the proximity of their respective gardens (yes, I actually typed “THEIR gardens” and somehow it seems to fit so I’m just going to leave it) but also because they both slip out into the school at The Back and hang out there. If you were a cat and there were one other cat in the huge expanse that is the playground, you’d greet them, wouldn’t you? Well, ok, I personally wouldn’t; as an introverted human person who can only deal with written interactions, the last thing I would do is approach a stranger from a distance just to say hello. Nevertheless I like to think I have raised my cat to be a little more convivial.

Cat Mamma lives just about close enough to be able to shout loudly from our garden and be heard from hers but, despite calling for Blue at regular intervals during the evening, he didn’t come over (although Catorze did, because the stupid doughnut thought she was calling HIM). So she went over to fetch him. Yes, she actually went home, picked him up and brought him to the front door. Blue was perfectly happy about this, incidentally, and he does know the way home from both The Back and The Front.

Sadly the fledgling friendship failed to take off as we had hoped (or even at all). Sa Maj, who was outside at The Back, obviously made use of his creepy kitty ESP and picked up on the fact that he had a caller at the front door. In his keenness to greet him, he came clattering loudly through the cat flap and the noise made Blue nervous, so Cat Mamma had to carry him back home. My parting words to her may or may not have been, “Please keep trying to persuade him. But don’t make Louis sound desperate …”

Please keep your fingers crossed for this friendship, and let’s hope that these two will embark upon lots of exciting adventures* together.

*Not too far from our houses, and without crossing any roads.

Toujours autant de pluie chez moi

Autumn is here! And that, invariably, means rain, but it doesn’t stop it from being my favourite time of the year.

Now, we all know that Louis Catorze doesn’t respond to anything in the way that a normal cat would, but his love of the rain is something that I find especially freakish. He loves it so much that he doesn’t simply linger outside if caught in a downpour: he will actually run FROM INDOORS TO OUTDOORS when he hears it. Imagine Lieutenant Dan from Forrest Gump when he’s on the boat, and that will give you a startlingly accurate image of what Catorze is like during a storm. Normal pets are usually hiding under the bed and praying for it to be over. Catorze, erm, isn’t.

If he’s not hunting – which he often is, as there is something about the rain that either flushes animals out of their hiding places, or flips Catorze’s “Urge To Kill” switch, or both – he will just shelter under our outdoor table and watch the rain, like this. (See video below, at the end of which you can just about catch Cat Daddy’s “Ugh!”) Sometimes Catorze will sit like this for hours.

Do any of your cats do this?

[Silence, tumbleweed, crickets]


La place d’un chat est au sommet

A few nights ago I glimpsed Louis Catorze jumping from our fence post onto the roof of Oscar the dog’s folks’ new extension. As they weren’t home, I didn’t feel any urgent need to drag his arse down (not that I could have done so, even if I had wanted to). Then, as Cat Daddy and I settled down to watch television, we kind of forgot about Catorze.

Cat Daddy went into the kitchen some time later to make tea, then returned looking perplexed (and with no tea). “I don’t understand it,” he said. “I can hear Louis screaming but I can’t see him. He can’t still be on next door’s roof?”

He was. And he was stuck, meaning he had probably been screaming for about two hours. 

I went upstairs and leaned out of the guest bedroom window to try and grab the little sod, but he remained just out of reach, screaming himself silly. Cat Daddy then pulled open the kitchen Velux window and climbed onto the worktop in a second attempt to rescue him, but Catorze did the same again, pitter-pattering just out of reach and his screams ringing out across TW8 like an air raid siren. (The aborted rescue mission is pictured below.)

“I don’t know what to do,” Cat Daddy sighed, wincing visibly at the screaming. “If he’s refusing to come to us then I’m tempted to just leave him there, but he’s disturbing the whole neighbourhood’s peace. It’s embarrassing.”

I then went out into the back garden and called Sa Maj. I knew he wouldn’t come running and leap into my arms like nice cats do in romcoms, but I had no other ideas and, somehow, it seemed more useful than laughing and taking photos doing nothing.

When Catorze heard my voice coming from the garden, it was as if he only then remembered how he had got onto the roof in the first place. With each step punctuated by a scream, he pitter-pattered towards the edge of the roof, jumped back onto the fence post, picked his way gingerly along the top of the fence and then down from the brick barbecue. He was then promptly fed and watered and spent the rest of the night purring away on his papa’s lap, as if his misadventure never happened.

Cat Daddy: “Cats are meant to have a sense of instinct. Surely he can’t be so thick that he just FORGOT to retrace his steps? Thank God [Oscar’s folks] weren’t home.”

On this occasion, no. But it’s only a matter of time until he’s stuck there when they ARE home, his screams flip Oscar’s “Urge To Kill” switch and the neighbourhood comes to a standstill once more.

Apologies in advance to the good people of TW8, especially the Dog Family.

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 short 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:

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. This one was posted just before our dinner. It got better after that:

*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.