Tomorrow I will be back at school. So, after almost six months of spending all day, every day, at home with Cat Daddy and Louis Catorze, it will once again be just evenings, weekends and school holidays.
I am looking forward to some workplace normality, whatever that may look like. Online schooling was never going to be a long-term solution, although I am going to miss the Google Meet and alcohol pairings: Crémant pairs well with virtual staff meetings, and neat Absolut Vanilla pairs well with Year 10 French. You can’t get away with such pairings in school in QUITE the same way.
I will also miss being with my two boys. However, I don’t think the feeling is mutual, and the novelty of having me at home wore off long ago as far as Catorze is concerned. These days, if the two of them are having a special Boys’ Club moment and I so much as walk past them, he meows disdainfully, gets up and leaves. And Cat Daddy doesn’t (usually) say anything in response to this, but he gives me the eye-rolly death stare which speaks much louder than words. So, in many ways, there’s no point in me hanging around where I’m not wanted.
Good luck to everyone who is having to precariously negotiate post-Covid workplace life. As for Cat Daddy and Catorze, their days will look something like this (except with appropriately-paired wine too):
Oscar the dog’s human sister came over recently for some Louis Catorze time. They spent a lovely afternoon together, playing with cat toys and old cardboard boxes, and Catorze was on his best behaviour, the way he always is when guests come so that nobody believes us when we complain about what a psycho he is. He played happily with her and meowed sweetly every time she spoke to him. (Yes, they regularly have actual conversations, with her speaking and him replying.)
Dog Sister’s time with Catorze is also teaching her more and more about the differences between cats and dogs, as demonstrated here:
Dog Sister: “What’s that box?”
Me: “That’s Louis’s bed.”
Her: “But it says “Cats are NOT permitted …””
Me: “Yup. That’s cats for you.”
During her visit Dog Sister decided to renovate Catorze’s bed by filling it with old cushions that we were going to throw away, and now he can’t get enough of it. His upgraded bed is his new favourite place, so much so that he even stayed put here during the beautician’s first visit since lockdown, instead of following her upstairs, rolling on all her stuff and screaming at her. The best thing is that he sleeps here most of the night, which means he isn’t annoying us, nor is he out picking fights with the local wildlife.
Here he is, enjoying the handiwork of his best buddy:
A few days ago, I was woken by the sound of the council mowing the grass in the park at The Front.
As I made my way downstairs the hum of the mower suddenly changed pitch, and my first thoughts were: “That mower must have just run over some rocks, or they need to oil it or service it or SOMETHING.” I then realised that the change of sound was not the mower but Louis Catorze, screaming his little lungs out on the doorstep outside, having spent the whole night out at The Front.
It turned out that Cat Daddy, after a few too many glasses of Mâcon Villages, had not seen him dart out when he was putting the empty wine bottles in the recycling. Luckily the little sod was neither hurt nor hungry nor thirsty nor frightened, just affronted at the inconvenience of it all. And, better yet, this did not take place during the road resurfacing, as Catorze would most likely have clambered into one of the trucks left overnight and pressed random buttons for fun.
Cat Daddy, when I told him later on: “Oh dear. He actually DROWNED OUT THE MOWER with his screaming?”
Anyway, Le Roi has had cuddles galore and the entire incident has been forgotten. The one benefit of him being this dim is that nothing upsets him for very long. However, since each new memory that he makes erases a previous one, I fear that he will, most likely, do it again.
Since we implemented Louis Catorze’s Front Curfew, he has been in on time every night without fail.
Now, we know our boy and we knew something would go wrong. And we were right.
Last night we’d had the window open for several hours and Catorze had been back and forth numerous times throughout the evening whilst we watched television. Then, as curfew time approached, it dawned on us that we hadn’t been keeping track properly, and so we didn’t know whether he was in or out.
Calling him would have been pointless, as we know from bitter experience that he hides/ignores when he doesn’t want to be found. So we had no option but to sit with the window open until we were sure of his whereabouts, and we knew that we could be sitting there for several hours.
At 10:20pm, Catorze appeared at the living room door. He had been indoors and/or at The Back the entire time.
Cat Daddy was sitting nearest to the window so I asked him to close it before the inmate absconded. However, by that time, he’d had far too much of his weird cocktail* and wasn’t good for anything, so he just sat and flailed about like a flaccid octopus.
*Artisan south coast rum mixed with some of his dodgy home-made pineapple concoction. When I asked if the latter were alcoholic or not, he said he didn’t know (?).
Me: “He’s going to do a runner if we don’t shut the window.”
Cat Daddy: [Flaccid octopus flailing]
Me: “Did you hear what I said? I’ll take too long stepping over you, so it’ll be quicker for you to shut it.”
Cat Daddy: [More flaccid octopus flailing]
Me: “SHUT THE BLOODY WINDOW!”
The moment I raised my voice, Catorze picked up on the “Someone’s in trouble here” tone and, understandably, assumed it to be him. After all, it usually is. And he wasn’t hanging around to find out the specific nature of said trouble; he was out of the window like a speeding train before either of us could so much as draw breath.
So there we were, sitting and waiting. Again.
Cat Daddy and I really need to get better at this. It’s a tragic day when you’re outwitted by a cat who’s thicker than a block of wood and not nearly as useful.
We had some sad news at Le Château during the week: Louis Catorze’s sparring partner Oscar the dog, aka the Flash Gordon to Catorze’s Ming the Merciless, is no longer with us, following a sudden inoperable illness. He was 13 and three-quarters, or in his 70s in dog years.
Cat Daddy and I adored Oscar and have been quite tearful about this. And, despite their turbulent relationship, I am certain that Sa Maj also had a fondness for his canine adversary, and that he detected our sadness on the night that Oscar departed. He kindly gifted me with a cheer-up mouse the next morning although, as he was still unable/refusing to come in through the Sureflap at that point, how he brought it into the house is another one to add to the list of Roi mysteries.
For the last five years, Oscar and Catorze’s comedic partnership has made us smile more times than you can imagine. If you have been following Le Blog at length you will, no doubt, be aware of their ridiculous capers. But, if not, here are some of their best moments:
Good news: Cat Daddy has fixed the Sureflap, which is astounding as he is, shall we say, not a natural handyman. It turns out that the sensors just needed a good old clean. So we will not have to spend £150 on the snazzy space-age Sureflap with hub (although I was looking forward to the adventure of figuring it out).
Bad news: Although Louis Catorze is continuing to go out through the Sureflap, he won’t come in. Even when we turned it into a manual swing door, he still wouldn’t come in. He will either enter the house through the bifold doors if they’re open, or just stay out all night if they’re not.
When Catorze first came to live with us, it took him several months to learn to go out through the cat flap and another few weeks to come in again. And now history is repeating itself. Going out is fine. But, because of previous failed attempts to come in, he has either been discouraged from trying again or (more likely) he is so thick that he has forgotten what to do.
We have scrubbed the Sureflap with plain hot water, in case there was a cleaning product residue that Catorze didn’t like. We have sprinkled catnip in the tunnel (I’m not joking). We have tried using brute force, which REALLY didn’t go well. But, whereas he used to push the door with his head when coming in, he now won’t.
And we have checked and double-checked the way his chip activates the latch, and it has worked fine every time but one. (That one time was when we were trying the brute force method, so we can’t be sure whether the fault lay with the Sureflap, his chip or his Exorcist-style struggling and writhing.)
Next steps are as follows:
1. Further studies of exactly what happens to the latch when his chip activates it, to be sure that it’s opening properly every single time.
2. Cat flap retraining.
3. A trip to the vet to see if his chip has been dislodged. (This only happens to one cat in every 873 billion. We just KNOW it will be him.)
I will be back at school in just over a week, so it looks as if Cat Daddy will have to be responsible for conducting any cat flap retraining. I have no idea how to break the happy news to him.
A few nights ago Louis Catorze somehow wasn’t able to come in through the Sureflap, and the little sod was stuck outside all night.
If Catorze stops wanting to use the Sureflap and screams for the door to be opened for him instead – which he does from time to time – it’s hard to know whether something is genuinely wrong or whether he’s just being a lazy shite. We do thoroughly check the Sureflap for any problems – malfunctioning mechanism, duff batteries, deadly tarantulas nesting in the tunnel and so on – but we can never find anything wrong, so usually we just put it down to him being a lazy shite and ignore him. And then he starts using it again.
However, the following night, after trying several new sets of batteries, the same thing occurred and he was stuck outside again. So it looks as if Sa Maj will require a new Sureflap. And, naturellement, this isn’t as straightforward as I imagined because Sureflap has advanced significantly since we first became customers in 2012, when we had Luther.
The models from which we can choose are as follows:
1. Entry level model – lets only certain cats in but all out, up to a total number of 32 (!) cats
2. DualScan model – lets only certain cats in and certain cats out, for those of us who have both the rare ones who behave and the troublemakers who need to be kept isolated from society
3. Connect model with hub – enables you to “connect with your cat from anywhere in the world” (whatever that means)
Cat Daddy, laughing hysterically: “CONNECT WITH YOUR CAT FROM ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD?”
He has a point. If Catorze is here and we’ve chosen to be somewhere else in the world, the chances are we don’t want to connect with him.
Anyway, Cat Daddy wants to try to fix the Sureflap. However, I want to buy the super-snazzy connect model with hub. (In the highly likely event of me never figuring it out, school starts in a couple of weeks so I can always show the accompanying app to one of my Year 9s and ask them to explain.)
Whilst we make up our minds what to do, we have had to deactivate the Sureflap’s magical selective powers and turn it into a manual swing door, to allow poor Catorze to come in.
Sadly this means that any old random punter who wants to come in, can also do so. The only question is: who will be first?
Today, 17th August, is Black Cat Appreciation Day.
I know. Cats don’t quite have enough days in the year which are all about them, so what a splendid idea to make more.
Anyway, the Special Day Makers of this world are way ahead of us. We missed Hug Your Cat Day on 4th June and International Cat Day on 8th August, but we can still look forward to Feral Cat Day on 16th October, erm … Cat Herders’ Day (?) on 15th December, and – I promise I’m not making this up – Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day on 22nd January.
Now, before we start answering any of Louis Catorze’s questions, I think he owes us some answers. This is what I would like to know:
1. “Why do you always do the opposite of whatever people expect (or want)?”
2. “How do you teleport from The Back to The Front and back again?”
3. “What was it that made you so ill and, apart from the copious amounts of drugs, what made you better again?”
4. “Where did you find that enormous curly-haired rat?” (In case you missed that delightful tale, here it is. And I have one friend – YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE – who still remains very upset with me, all these years later, because I didn’t photograph the rat: https://louiscatorze.com/2016/08/14/a-bon-chat-bon-rat/)
Me, to Cat Daddy: “What questions would you ask Louis, if you could?”
Cat Daddy, without looking up from his laptop: “Why are you such a [expletive]?”
[Silence, tumbleweed, crickets]
I assume that that was his question to Catorze, and not something he was saying to me.
Here is Catorze, pondering his answers to our questions (apart from that last one). This is exactly the same face that my students give me in their speaking tests, when they’re about to say, “Répétez la question”:
A few nights ago, after I went to bed, I was kept awake by screaming, thumping, clattering up and down the stairs, all sorts. The next morning, when I found Catorze’s toy mouse on a string on the landing with the stick part broken, I had to ask Cat Daddy what the heck had gone on.
It turned out that Boys’ Club had taken a bit of a manic turn, with Louis Catorze leaping around all wild-eyed and psycho, so Cat Daddy had tried to expend some of his excess energy by playing with him. But Le Roi had played with such ferocity that he’d managed to break the stick. Then he’d grabbed the remaining part of the toy from Cat Daddy’s hand and raced up and down the stairs with it, clattering it against the bannisters as he went.
And, yes, I do mean exactly like in those old prison movies, when the inmates pick up stuff and rattle it against their cell bars.
Now, whilst the sight of a tiny black cat doing this would have been the funniest thing ever, I didn’t really want it when I was trying to get to sleep. Plus it’s bloody weird behaviour.
Incidentally, I checked the moon phase at the time of this incident, and it was waning. Which means the little sod has no excuse whatsoever.
Unfortunately I didn’t catch any evidence on video, and this will probably be one of my deepest life regrets, but here is the broken toy. I guess it’s Catorze’s word against ours.
When it’s this darned hot in the UK, two types of people emerge:
1. Those who stock up on Ambre Solaire and head straight for the beach, even if it’s a 14-hour drive and they have no air conditioning in their cars
It’s horrendous. Just foul beyond belief. Last night was so grim that I came downstairs at 3am to sleep in the kitchen, and Louis Catorze, confused by the change and/or wondering whether I had gone there to die, kept me awake for hours by clambering all over me, screaming. The only saving grace is that I don’t have to go to work in this heat. Except for, erm, today, because it’s exam results day. And, given that assessment and moderation have been completely thrown into disarray by Covid 19, today is going to be more of a cirque de merde than we ever thought possible.
People who live in places hotter than the UK: “You should try living HERE!” No, I really shouldn’t. That’s why I chose here and not there. But thank you. Your comments have been duly noted.
Cats in heatwaves are another matter entirely, and they seem to manage much better than humans. Catorze has been spending his days playing energetically with his catnip toys and sunbathing outside, popping occasionally into his shady spot in the ferns to take a break. Sometimes he joins Cat Daddy at the end of the garden, lying at his feet like a guard dog and scowling at me – an audible scowl, would you believe – should I have the temerity to approach them.
Whilst Cat Daddy and I slow-cook in bed at night, Catorze is either enjoying nocturnal adventures, going exploring as far as Twiggy the greyhound’s house, or napping in his new favourite place: on our laundry basket. I imagine that it has the double benefit of air circulating underneath AND a textured surface on which to squirm and roll. A cooling, massaging/exfoliating spa treatment, if you will.
So it’s all right for him.
But, as any cat owner will understand, it’s all about them. It’s only ever about them.
Here he is on the laundry basket, looking as cute and kittenish as can be. But we know the truth:
During my pre-Sureflap childhood, when any old random punter could – and did – wander into our home and wreak havoc, we would often find scraps of fur indicating that there had been an altercation between our cats and whoever.
Our lovely tuxedo boy, Rambo, had a neighbourhood nemesis (evil Jasper – a black cat, of course, with the most horror-movie cat snarl I have ever heard), and the two of them would have frequent bust-ups. One day Jasper’s mamma mentioned to my mum that Jasper had come home the other night with a wounded ear, and, by some curious coincidence, my mum had found blood on her back doorstep the same day.
That was the beginning of what has come to be our family mantra: “Oh dear, how awful. Must’ve been some other cat.”
Since we’ve had Louis Catorze, we have never seen any evidence of fights with other cats – apart from, erm, the time we took him to the vet with what turned out to be a fight wound, and the vet told Cat Daddy that its position indicated that Catorze was the one who started it.
However, a few days ago, Cat Daddy found this in the back garden:
Oui, Mesdames et Messieurs, this is fox fur (approximately 5cm long).
I really hope someone will be able to reassure me that fox fur can just randomly fall off in this way. Otherwise I shall be forced to consider the truly horrifying thought that … shudder … Catorze has been taking them on.
Our road is being resurfaced at the moment, and Cat Daddy has had a good old moan about the fact that the trucks have been waking us up at 7am. Even though he is retired and doesn’t have to go to work. And even though 7am isn’t THAT early.
If you have never had your road resurfaced, I’m sure you can imagine the process. And most cats would not be too pleased about it. Louis Catorze, on the other hand, is relaxed, curious and interested – most likely because of the workmen – and happily sits and listens to the trucks, swishing his tail.
The combination of machinery, toxic air and hot tar make The Front a highly unsuitable place for cats to be right now. And, naturellement, the fact that it is highly unsuitable will make it more inviting than ever. So the Front-facing windows are remaining firmly shut whilst the work is taking place, and we are taking extra care that Catorze doesn’t bolt when we open the front door. The last thing I want is to discover that he has been steamrollered flat and become one with the road surface, and the second-from-last thing I want is for the workmen to knock on the door and ask if the screaming, fanged beast, who got stuck to the tarmac mid-roll, belongs to us.
(And if I may be permitted to have a third-from-last thing, too: I don’t want Sa Maj flirting, rolling and distracting the workmen from their duties, resulting in what was meant to be a long weekend of roadworks taking a month. Trust me, he would do it without hesitation.)
This picture, taken last spring, demonstrates perfectly why the road needed resurfacing and also why Catorze can’t be trusted unsupervised at The Front:
Louis Catorze remains relentlessly and unnervingly punctual when it comes to his Front Curfew (10pm on weekdays and 10:30pm on weekends). He has never been late, not once, not even by a minute. It’s actually getting creepy now.
On Tuesday night, when we were a little later than usual after watching Brentford play Fulham in the EFL Championship play-offs (don’t even ask how that went), Cat Daddy decided to grant his boy a late pass until 11pm.
Me, as Cat Daddy opened the window: “Would you remind him that he has to be back by 11pm?”
Cat Daddy: “What, you actually want me to say it?”
Me: “Yes, please.”
[Silence, tumbleweed, crickets]
Cat Daddy, to Catorze: “11pm, please.”
Catorze, as he bounded out: “Mwah!”
Cat Daddy, muttering under his breath: “[Unrepeatable expletives]”
Unusually, instead of hanging around on the window sill, this time Catorze took off down the street, and I was convinced that that was the last we would see of him that night.
When Cat Daddy put out the recycling, he could just about make out Catorze’s silly shape rolling undignifiedly all over the pavement outside the gate of number 35 (or thereabouts). But he knew the futility of trying to herd him back in, because the little sod would only dart under a parked car and there would be no retrieving him from there.
We had no choice but to make some tea and sit with the window open, steeling ourselves for the fact that this could be a long night.
Then, before we knew it, the little sod was back. I checked the clock and it was 10:57pm.
We haven’t the faintest idea what to make of this. Yes, we are pleased that he is sticking rigidly to the rules and doing as he’s told. But we’re also bewildered. And terrified.
After Louis Catorze’s biopsy confirmed that his skin problems are due to an external allergen, I decided that beeswax candles should become a permanent fixture here at Le Château. Have a look at this link if you fancy finding out more about their air-purifying qualities: https://candles.lovetoknow.com/Beeswax_Candle_Health_Benefits
We usually get our beeswax candles from Cocoa the babysit cat’s mamma, but her beeswax is a very precious, seasonal, small-batch product. So, because her candles aren’t available all year round, we tend to save them for special days. And, after a number of hits and misses with other ready-made beeswax candles, I decided to have a go at making my own for everyday use.
Now, I had some reservations about doing this, for the following reasons: firstly, and most significantly, I don’t have a great record of handmade things turning out well. Secondly, many years ago, I had a horrible work colleague who made candles, and this was a hobby that the 25-year-old me regarded as deeply uncool. Whenever she was mean to me, my friend Jamie would attempt to cheer me up by saying, “Don’t be upset. She’s an idiot. Plus she makes candles for fun. FOR FUN.”
(Incidentally, karma gave her a hefty slap around the chops during one summer heatwave. All her carefully-crafted candles, stored away in her hot attic, melted together into one massive, waxy lump, resulting in inconvenience and mess for her, and the biggest laugh imaginable for me and Jamie. Revenge isn’t always a dish best served cold; sometimes searing heat will do just fine.)
Never before did I imagine I would now be doing that very same deeply uncool hobby. But here we are. And it’s all Catorze’s fault.
Cat Daddy: “You’re making candles? You used to ridicule your friend for doing that.”
Me: “SHE WAS NOT MY FRIEND.”
Cat Daddy: “And you laughed at her when she put her candles in the attic and they all melted.”
[Silence, tumbleweed, crickets, then giggles from me]
Oh, come on. Anyone who claims not to find that funny is either a liar or dead inside.
Anyway, pictured below is my first attempt at a rolled candle using a Lammasy harvest-coloured natural beeswax sheet. Also pictured are the ten wicks that I ordered, which I imagined would be, erm, approximately as long as an average candle, but each one turned out to be 5 METRES LONG. So everyone I know will be receiving handmade beeswax candles for birthdays and Christmas for the next 734 years. Whether they want them or not.
It’s hard to know whether Catorze approves, as his “I approve” face is the same as his “Just go away and die” face, but I shall assume the former even though it’s most likely the latter.
I know that you don’t need to be told about not leaving pets unsupervised with burning candles, but it’s worth repeating. Especially if you have a pet who is known for doing exactly the opposite of what you want.