La flamme qui ne s’éteint jamais

Merci à Dieu et à tous ses anges: WE ARE ALLOWED OUT. Thank you to everyone who has asked after me, and special thanks to the pub, who delivered our takeaway Christmas dinner when we couldn’t collect, and to Oscar the dog’s folks, who braved the Herculean labour of collecting my meds from the pharmacy.

Being under house arrest in Le Château hasn’t been too much of a hardship, apart from Louis Catorze’s attempts to kill me, of course. We have, however, been missing our scented candles. Usually, during the Yuletide season, the place is filled with the heavenly scent of orange and cinnamon, or a Scandinavian pine forest. This year, of course, we can’t have scented candles because of our mutual friend.

Whilst it’s highly doubtful that they contribute to Catorze’s allergy problem, we don’t want to take any chances during a time when everywhere is shut. We have, however, resumed his daily sessions with an unscented beeswax candle, which are said to have air-purifying, anti-allergenic properties. I don’t have absolute proof that this works – although Catorze’s buddy Tau, a glamorous Bengal who also suffers from skin allergies, has had astonishingly good results with them – but it certainly can’t do any harm, and it makes me feel that I am doing something positive. And, because practice has made me better at candle-making, I am now able to turn out some half-decent ones and they no longer look like a snake that’s swallowed a cow whole.

Until now, Catorze has been pretty trustworthy around candles. I wouldn’t appoint him Fire Safety Warden or anything like that but, generally, if I leave the room to make a quick cup of tea, I can rely on everything to remain exactly as I left them.

However, with this being 2020 an’ all, the little sod decided to throw a little curveball into the mix. You see the burning candle at the bottom left of the photo? And you see the blue blanket atop the sofa on the right? You would imagine they were far enough apart to be safe, right?

The calm before the cat.

Well …

Just add one psycho vampire kitty high on steroids and you have the perfect recipe for disaster. Cat Daddy and I watched, frozen in shock, as the little sod burrowed into the folds of the blanket and rolled BOTH IT AND HIMSELF off the top of the sofa and towards the candle.

Q: How do you make a sausage roll? A: Push it.

Luckily he didn’t burn down the house (this time), but we consider ourselves well and truly warned.

Here he is having another go, although this time he decided not to make himself part of the incendiary sausage roll (non-Brits, ask your British friends) and, instead, just pushed the flammable object in the direction of the naked flame:

“Ça a l’air rigolo!”
“Ce n’était pas moi.”

Cats, candles and flammable objects: just be careful out there, everyone. 2020 isn’t quite over, and it could yet have a sting in its tail.

L’esprit de l’escalier

When I said I hoped “something positive” would come out of this year, my Covid test was not quite what I had in mind. And I am now wondering whether Louis Catorze’s uncharacteristic tenderness towards me throughout my illness was because he knew all along that it was more than just a teacher-cold. Perhaps he is more intuitive than we realise and we should be renting him out as a Covid-detecting cat, like those dogs who can smell cancer.

I am still not 100% well, although I’m a lot better than I was a week ago. He, on the other hand, is on top form: bright, alert and full of energy, to the point where I wonder if his igloo is a secret docking station where he goes to charge up. However, it seems that he no longer wishes to nurse me through my sickness and, instead, wants to finish off the job that Covid started, because he has started hanging out on the stairs, seemingly in an attempt to kill me. As with most forms of psychological torture, it is very difficult to prove this. But, trust me, I KNOW.

Now, if lounging around on the stairs is your cat’s regular habit, annoying though it may be, you know to look out for it. However, if it happens to be a new thing that they suddenly develop after six years of never doing it at all, you don’t know to look out for it because you’ve never had to. Result: a kicked arse for your cat and serious injury for yourself.

So far, I have fallen down the stairs about 532 times. Cat Daddy has only been tripped up once, although I suspect that was a mistake and that I was the real target. And it occurred to me today that, should I die from my injuries, it would be registered as a Covid death because it happened within 28 days of a positive test result. So, provided Catorze kills me before 22nd January, HE WILL GET AWAY WITH IT.

Cat Daddy’s theory is that feeling unwell is causing Sa Maj to act out of character, which may well be true – he has been subdued at times – but attempted murder is perhaps taking things a little too far. And I find it rather objectionable that I have been singled out whereas Cat Daddy has been more or less left alone. If I’m (quite literally) taken down, he’s coming with me.

Here is KramPuss the winter demon, the Grim Reaper himself in feline form, wondering why I haven’t yet hurtled to my death and wishing I’d hurry up about it.

Thank God we’re allowed out tomorrow.

“Not feeling very well” yet well enough to try to kill me and make it look like a Covid death.

Le trésor enfui

It seems I must have been on the Naughty List, because Santa’s gift to me was a positive Covid test result. To add insult to injury, the text message came through in the early afternoon of Christmas Day, when I was in the middle of opening my presents. I suppose it’s sort of funny now.

Cat Daddy is not remotely amused; in fact, he’s livid that he’s now stuck indoors with me for the next few days and can’t go on any walks or bike rides. The isolation time is ten days from when symptoms started so we don’t have THAT long left although, bizarrely, I had none of the classic symptoms: no temperature, no continuous cough, no loss of sense of taste or smell, just what I believed to be an especially brutal teacher-cold. I only bothered to take the test because a family member had also tested positive in mid-December, with cold-like rather than text-book Covid symptoms.

In short, Louis Catorze is the only one of us who is allowed out. And he is making the most of this by, erm, burrowing deep into his winter igloo.

In other, equally rubbish news, our glorious outdoor winter wonderland has been vandalised by the depraved squirrels, so we can’t even enjoy that during our period of house arrest. They’ve chewed through our solar-powered outdoor lights, and the other day we caught one red-handed/pawed/clawed (no idea what one would call whatever squirrels have on the ends of their creepy little arms, and I daren’t Google to find out) trying to make off with one of our baubles:

Not really in the festive spirit.

Some of the baubles have been fully unhooked from the virginia creeper; in fact, we watched in horror as this chunksome thug did exactly that, before flinging it into That Neighbour’s garden. Other baubles have been snapped off, leaving the gold wires and the little clasp things dangling pointlessly on the bare twigs. It’s hard to say how many we’ve lost but it’s four that we can prove, and no doubt countless others that we can’t prove … at least, not until our neighbours do their springtime planting, when they will wonder what the heck’s been going on when they dig through the soil and unearth thousands of buried baubles.

Now, are the squirrels so dozy that they think the baubles are food? Or perhaps they are just feeling the magic of the season and want to make their dreys look pretty? Either way, Cat Daddy refuses to dismantle our display because he’s “not giving into bloody vermin”. He has installed a Squirrel Stick by the bifold doors at The Back, to pick up and poke threateningly in the direction of the thieving varmints when they come by.

Luckily there is a cat who has noted the problem and who is doing something about it. Sadly it’s Blue the Smoke Bengal and not Catorze.

Here is Blue (below), doing his civic duty. Catorze, meanwhile, has been in his igloo, doing sod all.

Blue on Squirrel Watch.

Bien fourni en stéroïdes

My teacher-cold is taking no prisoners. The last time I had a cold of such severity was in 2015, when I remember trying to soldier on at school and the poor kids looking at my face and visibly flinching.

Louis Catorze is usually a terrible nursemaid with a very low tolerance for sick people; if he hears a sneeze, he meows disdainfully and pitter-patters off, chattering* away. But, on this occasion, most unusually, he has been glued to my lap throughout my illness. I imagine that to mean one of the following:

1. The positive energy of the strengthening sun is finally filtering through to the Sun King, filling every fibre of his being with love and joy.

2. The apocalypse is nigh.

*Yes, he does the bird-chatter sound in response to sneezes. You don’t need to tell me how bloody weird this is, because I know. However, this is Catorze, so anything goes.

He, however, is doing very slightly better. I know, I know, “better” is relative, and he still looks shite compared to most cats, and his recovery seems to be very slow this time around (probably because he’s an old boy now), but I can see that his eyes are looking a little less raw. Something seems to have clicked into place, most likely the copious amounts of drugs.

I received this email (below) a few days ago. Cat Daddy didn’t understand why I found it so funny. However, I thought it was the most hilarious thing in the whole world and, likewise, anyone who went partying in the 1990s will KNOW:

Younger followers: ask your parents. Older followers: ask your kids.

This message prompted me to check Catorze’s supply of gear and, as it happens, he WASN’T sorted for Christmas. I counted his remaining steroid pills and he only had enough to last him until that strange, time-forsaken period between Christmas and New Year, when nobody knows what day it is and when things ordered, and arrangements made, just vanish into the ether. So I thought it prudent to order a further supply, especially as it needs to be tapered down gradually and you can’t just stop dead. Not unlike heroin, in fact.

Anyway, Cat Daddy collected Catorze’s stash from the vet the other day, so we can breathe a sigh of relief. And Sa Maj remains “not very well” yet well enough to annoy the heck out of me. I lost count of the number of times he woke me up the other night, bouncing around and screaming, but I estimate it to be between 742 and 766.

My wake-up view. You don’t want to hear the sound.

L’or, l’encens et la myrrhe

The winter solstice is here, but I’m not really feeling the Yuletide joy. Firstly, my teacher-cold – the same one that had been threatening to hit since September but stayed simmering below the surface, enough to annoy me but not enough to warrant time off – finally broke through on the last day of term, just in time for the holidays. And, secondly, we were put into Tier 4 a couple of days ago. If you didn’t even know there was a Tier 4 you’re in good company, because neither did we. In fact, none of us Londoners did until a few hours before it was announced. In short, this means that the Five-Day Festive Free-For-All is cancelled, so we will all be spending the celebratory season like Kevin McCallister: home alone. (Younger followers, ask your parents.)

In better news, someone has sent Louis Catorze a Yuletide gift, but I have no idea who it is.

The card bears the words “From one crazy cat lady to another” which, frankly, doesn’t narrow it down in the slightest. And I know that the sender also has cats (although this doesn’t narrow it down, either) because there were puncture marks in the Dreamies packet. I am lucky enough to know several people who would be this thoughtful, yet most of the prime suspects have denied all knowledge.

If you were responsible and I have not yet accused you, I would have got to you at some point, I’m sure. There is the small matter of a certain someone having to be good in order to deserve presents, but nevertheless I am very grateful to you for thinking of the little sod. Thank you so much!

Incidentally, I still have the Black Cats calendar that I found on my doorstep in 2016, and my quest to find the mystery giver was unsuccessful. So, whilst we’re on the subject of owning up, it would be nice to know who left that, too, so that I may say thank you.

Wishing you a magical winter solstice. Brighter days are coming.

“They knelt before the king and offered precious gifts.”

Plus de place à l’auberge

The Yuletide season is a time for thinking of those who are less fortunate. And, in the spirit of this philanthropy, Louis Catorze has decided to offer his Château to another living creature as a warm refuge on these cold winter nights.

Despite Catorze’s best efforts to sabotage my knitting, I managed to complete one scarf of the set of two and I have now begun the second. However, I came downstairs yesterday morning to discover this:

Ugh.

Oui, Mesdames et Messieurs, this is snail juice. AN ACTUAL SNAIL HAS SLITHERED ON MY WOOL. And you won’t be surprised to learn who was responsible for bringing the snail into Le Château. I can’t prove that it was him, but I know it (which is starting to become a very common refrain when it comes to crimes of the Catorze kind).

Now, I realise that I should probably have put away my knitting. However, in my defence, of all the catastrophes that could befall unput-away knitting, I don’t think any reasonable person could have foreseen this. Had Catorze trashed the scarf and trailed wool all around the place and out through the Sureflap, yes, I would have taken full responsibility for not learning my lesson from the first time. But this? COME ON.

Before the “Maybe It Wasn’t Him” brigade start piping up, trust me, it was him. The little sod is very well known for having all manner of wildlife hitch a ride on his fur when he comes in from outdoors, and he really is so slow that the slowest animal on earth could slither up to him and climb aboard. The fact that the snail juice is only on the wool, with no trail leading up to it, is highly indicative of said snail having been brought in and deposited there – as opposed to coming in of its own accord – and, somehow, scooped away again. Unless snails can switch on/off their juice at will?

The lack of trails also means there are no clues whatsoever as to where the snail may now be. So it’s highly likely that we will find its gross mess elsewhere at some stage. This is not good.

Anyway, I am now having to cut off the snail-juiced parts of the wool and attach on a clean part of the ball. This isn’t great because, as most crafters know, the fewer knots that are in a piece of work, the better. And I now have even less time than I had before, to complete a task that was already on a very tight deadline. But, if my maths serve me correctly, if I manage to knit 852 rows an hour between now and the 25th, I might just about make it.

Here is our mutual friend – all charged up from having climbed into a box of tissue paper at 2am that same day and thrashed around like a shark attack victim – giving his usual number of hoots, which is none:

“Pas mon problème.”

If you fancy some more gastropod-related fun and games, please see below:

https://louiscatorze.com/2016/04/03/la-limace/

https://louiscatorze.com/2017/09/18/les-escargots/

https://louiscatorze.com/2019/08/12/la-joie-est-un-escargot-rampant/

La douleur est le poison de la beauté

Louis Catorze is continuing to be “not very well” yet, curiously, he appears to be well enough to do all manner of idiotic things that unwell individuals should be neither able nor inclined to do.

A few days ago we had a visit from the beautician. This was, at the time, within the permitted guidelines for tradespeople who can’t do their jobs from home, and we were both fully masked up throughout the treatment, bien sûr. Now, of course, things are different because we go into Tier 3 this morning, and this means she is among the non-essential services who can’t operate at all. At least I think that’s the case. Nobody exactly knows.

Anyway, as you are aware, Catorze and the beautician get along very well, but this friendship was born from somewhat, erm, troubled beginnings. The first time they met, there was an incident* which would have put most people off ever returning here again, but they have worked through this and are now the best of buddies.

* https://louiscatorze.com/2018/03/23/une-vision-de-la-beaute/

When the beautician arrived, she went straight upstairs to get ready whilst fetched her a glass of water. And, as followed, I could hear feline screaming, the like of which I have never heard before, interspersed with laughter.

It turned out that they were just saying hello, because it had been a while since they last saw one another (pre-Lockdown 2.0). During my leg wax, Catorze happily pitter-pattered around, up-tailed and chirping, sniffing at the beautician’s bag and generally being interested in what was going on. However, Catorze being Catorze, he really did pick his moment – when the more, erm, personal waxing began – to stop being all cute and kittenish and to start being downright embarrassing and creepy.

Lying in your pants, with one leg pointing east and the other west, whilst a masked, gloved stranger smears hot wax on your lower portions, is already awkward beyond words (and I am wincing at the fact that my mum will read this). But having a vampire-toothed cat sitting right next to your head and screaming in your face throughout the proceedings adds a new level of awkwardness that I have never experienced before (apart from the last time Catorze did this). Ok, so it took my mind off the pain but, dear God, the embarrassment.

Luckily the next time I see the beautician will be sometime in the new year. I was going to add “ … by which time she will have forgotten all about this” but she won’t. Nobody in their right mind possibly could. This kind of thing is standard Catorze, so much so that it would almost be weirder if he behaved himself.

Here he is, right up in my face during my treatment, taking a brief break in between screams:

“You’ve missed a bit, mon amie.”

Ça commence à beaucoup ressembler au solstice d’hiver

2020 really is the year that keeps on giving, right to the bitter end: our tree was supposed to have been delivered last week but, the day before the scheduled delivery, the supplier called to let us know that their shipment of trees wasn’t up to standard and therefore they were very sorry but they wouldn’t be delivering.

Now, compared to what we’ve already experienced of this cirque de merde of a year, no tree is hardly the end of the world – at least, not for us. But, for the poor tree man, this is just the worst thing ever; as well as his business being royally shafted, he was having to call every customer to let them know that Christmas was ruined, and I can imagine one or two of them being quite bratty and princessy about it.

He sounded so upset and frustrated, and we felt so bad for him, that we told him not to worry about refunding us. And, instead of our usual outdoor tree, we have decorated our bare virginia creeper skeleton with baubles and lights. If you followed Le Blog last year you will know that one of our household traditions is for Louis Catorze to have his own indoor tree, so we have brought in our potted bay tree from The Front for him, just in case you were concerned about him being treeless this year.

Cat Daddy: “Literally nobody was concerned about that.”

So we have our outdoor winter wonderland at The Back, Catorze’s bay tree in the living room, and a stunning wreath made for us by Puppy Mamma at The Front. And, whilst we were putting it all up, somehow the Yuletide spirit seemed to give Sa Maj a much-needed burst of energy after a day or two of slumpy inactivity (most likely powering up for his next bit of mischief) and, throughout the whole process, he pitter-pattered around us, bug-eyed and screaming.

We are so looking forward to the winter solstice and to the lighter days which will, we hope, bring a happier year.

Catorze’s special tree, with bespoke decorations.
Puppy Mamma’s super-stylish handmade wreath. She managed to keep the dogs’ chops away from it this time.

J’adore la laine

I am in a race against time to knit a set of scarves by 25th December. A late start (my own fault, I know) and a series of wool catastrophes have resulted in me running way, way behind schedule. Obviously this means I could do without any individuals larking about with my knitting. That goes without saying, non?

Imagine my dismay, then, when I came downstairs yesterday morning to this:

Why?
Also: how?

My first thought was that Cat Daddy must have had too much wine the night before and somehow ended up tangled in the wool. Cat Daddy was shocked and a little insulted when I asked him this but I still maintain that it was not an unfair assumption, especially as there was an empty wine bottle and glass on the worktop (see first photo).

This only leaves Louis Catorze, and he’s supposed to be ill. He’s also not supposed to be on the worktop, and I’m profoundly disappointed that my mastermind idea for keeping him off – placing him there to give him his medication – seems to have run its course after many, many years of success.

Anyway, I have now lost precious knitting time by having to instead spend it untangling the mess, and the chances of our friends receiving the scarves by Christmas are diminishing faster than our hopes of a Brexit deal. The culprit is relaxing on his daddy’s lap, without a care in the world:

Catorze is all out of shits to give.

L’émoticône du chat noir

Most people would not regard an iOS update as the most exciting thing on this earth. And who can blame them? It’s boring as hell.

However, with the recent iOS 14.2 there are around a hundred new emojis, including … fanfare … a black cat!

Oui, Mesdames et Messieurs, it’s been a long time coming. I’d have thought it would be top of the list of Hallowe’en emojis – it has always struck me as odd that they had zombies and vampires OF DIFFERENT GENDERS, yet no black cat – but it’s here now, and that’s all that matters.

And, best of all, it’s in a classic, up-tailed Catorzian pose, so it really does look as if it were made with him in mind.

Spot the difference: