L’imparfait

So … cats ruining video calls. Always hilarious when it happens to someone else and you’re just observing. Distinctly less funny when it’s your cat, and you’re the one responsible for maintaining any vague semblance of order.

It’s not normal to have 863 examples of such behaviour, unless you have 863 cats. One cat is not meant to cause this much bother. However, this is Louis Catorze we’re talking about, so I don’t imagine anyone is surprised.

Anyway … Year 11 can be a troublesome bunch, and the graveyard shift with them (last lesson of the day, 15:00 to 16:00) is always a tough gig. It’s been particularly bad since they were told that their exams have been cancelled, yet minimal guidance has been given about exactly what will happen instead. They have taken this to mean it’s party time. Unfortunately I don’t share this view.

During one especially trying lesson last week (the imperfect tense: everyone’s favourite thing), Catorze decided to come and sit on my stomach and chest. Now, we all know that he wants me dead, and that he only has another 8 days to do the deed and have it register as a Covid death, so there is no reason for him to sit on me other than to spite me, or perhaps in the hope that I will suffocate and die. However, due to the unfortunate camera angle and the shadow falling across my body, he wasn’t fully visible to the students on my video lesson. So all they could see was his sticking-up tail sailing past the camera.

This was how the tragic sequence of events unfolded that day:

1. Poker-straight vertical tail sails past, left to right. Students say nothing.

2. Tail sails past, right to left. Students’ eyes are suddenly fixed to the screen, concentrating yet also confused.

3. Tail sails past again, left to right. Now everyone is paying attention.

4. Kid 1: “Miss …?”

5. Kid 2: “Yeah, Miss. What the …?”

6. Catorze settles on my lap/chest and now everyone can see his head. He has only ever sat in this position twice in his whole life, once last year and once in 2014. (The fact that I can remember when is indicative of its rarity.)

7. Me: “Erm, ok, so it seems we’ve got company. Alors, continuons…”

8. Kids start giggling.

9. Cat Daddy looks in (with the kids safely out of sight, bien sûr), sees Catorze on me and guesses from my French conversation that I am mid-lesson. He mouths the words “PUSH HIM OFF!” making appropriate gestures at the same time to be extra helpful.

10. It then dawns on me that he thinks I placed Catorze there on purpose. Oh. Mon. Dieu.

11. Kids giggle some more as I attempt to bluster on. No work whatsoever is done.

12. The end.

The bad news is that we have another five weeks of this until half term, and the kids have learned absolutely sod all French so far. The good news is … well … I’ll get back to you as soon as we have any.

Je me reposais, tu te reposais, il/elle se reposait …

Le menu du jour

Louis Catorze’s Thrive arrived last week week, three working days after I ordered it on Zooplus (pretty good), and a mere six days after originally ordering it on a “same-day” delivery on Ocado Zoom which never came (pretty poor).

I was about to write “Better late than never” but what a nonsensical phrase this is. If anyone ever says this to you when you’re late, they are just trying to be polite and, in actual fact, your inefficiency has probably made them quite angry. It’s only better late than never if, whilst waiting for you to get you act together, the other person made the time fly by doing something pleasant or useful and didn’t urgently need the thing you were supposed to be delivering. If they are in any way sensible and resourceful and start to make alternative plans to receive the thing you were meant to do, upon realising how shit unreliable you are, and THEN you deliver late, trust me, this is not “better” at all. “Better” would be to be honest and tell them from the outset that it won’t be happening.

(Obviously this is not what I would say to my students, as I don’t want them all saying, “Miss, you know that homework you set? Yeah, sorry but I won’t be doing it.” (In fact, I doubt if most of my lot would even say “Sorry”.)

Anyway, Cat Daddy and I now have a decision to make. We are going to have to introduce the Thrive to our mutual friend at some stage. And, given his love of doing the exact opposite of what we want him to do, we don’t want him to love the Thrive so much that he rejects the Lily’s, leaving us with up to £100 worth of product which was a real ordeal to source. Equally, if we try it when the Lily’s is almost out, he will reject the Thrive and leave us scrabbling and panicking as we were last month.

The ideal scenario would be to for him to happily tick along on a mix of both foods for a short while until the Lily’s runs out, but we know that the little sod won’t make it that easy for us.

Anyway, trying to work that out will be the next task in this fun-packed project. As if I don’t have enough to do, what with recovering from Covid, going back to work, teaching a new timetable to a new set of classes, and so on.

He likes to keep us wondering. Mainly wondering “What the hell …?”

La livraison vitale

The perks of online teaching: last week I met my Year 11 students’ cats and dogs. I loved them all but my favourite was Tobo (“like hobo but with a T, Miss”), a tabby point Birman so enormous and so fluffy that, when he was picked up, his human sibling disappeared in all the fur, and all you could see were his fingertips and the top of his hair.

In other news, I often start my posts with “Merci à Dieu et à tous ses anges” but, today, I mean it more sincerely than ever: LOUIS CATORZE’S LILY’S KITCHEN MARVELLOUSLY MATURE ARRIVED BEFORE WE RAN OUT.

No more will I be bullied and intimidated by a screaming, psycho hell-beast. Nor will I have to spend countless hours sifting … although I must admit I had enjoyed singing “Come on, let’s sift again like we did last summer, yeahhh let’s sift again like we did last year …”

Buying obsolete cat food from an off-grid, Dark Web vendor is just like buying drugs: you can never guarantee that what you’ll get is what you wanted, and there’s not much comeback if it all goes wrong. However, because I know my gear, I was able to spot the little details that didn’t look right and eliminate the dealers suppliers that were clearly shonky. And it turns out that all the checking and cross-referencing was worth it, so a word of warning: there are SEVERAL third party sellers out there who display the wrong photos and/or the wrong product description and/or the wrong ingredients list (or no list at all).

Now, I am not proud of giving my custom to Lily’s Kitchen. I don’t like it that they told me they wouldn’t be changing their recipes, only to do exactly that. But the little sod eats their food, and that has to come first at the moment. And our Dark Web purchase, whilst only a temporary fix, has bought us a little time to figure out how the heck we are going to change the food of a cat who doesn’t like food and whose old food no longer exists.

Cat Daddy: “He’s a f***ing ungrateful ****. Our next cat is going to have Cool Cat Club food from day one. No more of this f***ing b*******.” To be fair, he has a point.

Anyway, Catorze’s uneaten food found a new home with Cocoa the babysit cat and his sister Chanel, ans they love it. Please see below for pictures of them tucking in.

If you have a cat, please check out the Cool Cat Club. We love everything about them: their ingredients, their brilliantly responsive customer service, their ethics, EVERYTHING. The fact that the stupidest cat in the world declined their food should, if anything, be a diamond-standard endorsement equivalent to a Michelin star:

https://thecoolcatclub.com/?r=mvMcQ6JPh50D

It’s a OUI from the other Chat Noir group members.
Nom nom!

L’éveil des sens

On Monday night, our esteemed leader announced another national lockdown. Yes, he’s already shut schools once, then reopened them. Now he’s shutting them again. Are we all keeping up so far?

Although I no longer have to drive to work, getting up on a January morning is quite the most depressing thing ever. And, on a few occasions, the darned Lumie Bodyclock has failed to wake me up properly. Sometimes the light works but the sound doesn’t. And sometimes neither work. It is the most user-unfriendly gadget there is.

When/if the alarm goes off, there is no button to switch off the sound without also deactivating it completely. All you can do is turn the volume down – and, if you go too far and turn it right down to zero, again it deactivates the alarm and so you have to reset it. If you DON’T turn the volume down, the stupid tropical birds sing all day.

The last time this happened and I angrily pressed random buttons for no reason, the FM radio button – which had not worked at all previously – chose that very moment to decide to work, giving me Matt Hancock’s voice talking about vaccines. Quite frankly I’d rather have had the goats, and I think the rest of the country is with me on that one.

Cat Daddy thinks I’m just too thick to have figured it out, but the people leaving the reviews did warn me that it was, erm, problematic. However, like an idiot, I thought I would just learn to live with it. Which, I admit, was a bit thick of me.

Luckily our mutual friend has been on hand to alert me to the fact that it’s time to get up. A minute after my alarm is supposed to go off, he starts purring and bouncing around. It would be better if he did this once at wake-up time, and not also at random intervals throughout the night for no reason. But, as he is making the difference between getting up on time and not, I’ll take it.

Catorze’s Cat Grandpa used to say that electronics were only as good as the human being programming them. He may have been right, but I need something better than the person who made it, and better than me, otherwise there’s not much point.

Worryingly, does this mean that Catorze is better than me, the Lumie Bodyclock AND the person who made it? Oh. Mon. Dieu.

“Réveille-toi!”

Le sac à tricot

Merde, merde and thrice merde: Zooplus have sent me the standard post-Brexit “Due to high volume of orders …” let-down email. So Louis Catorze may receive his Thrive in the next few days, or he may not. This is not good.

Meanwhile, Catorze is a rampant screaming machine, and he’s eating faster than I can sift. Thank goodness the second dose of appetite-enhancing medication is optional; if this is his behaviour on just one pill, there’s not a chance in hell he’s getting the other.

After a mammoth mega-sift at the weekend, I have managed to figure out that we have enough of Catorze’s food to last until Wednesday. So, if the Thrive doesn’t come before then, we will be trapped with a starving psycho hell-beast who would think nothing of tripping us down the stairs, then eating us alive, feet first.

So we had to devise an alternative plan … and, much as it hurts me to admit this, we were forced to hunt down the last remaining packs of the obsolete Lily’s Kitchen Marvellously Mature and buy them from an off-grid, Dark Web vendor. We know it was wrong, we were drunk when we did it, and we felt dirty afterwards. But the thought of him not liking the Thrive and us not having a back-up – or, worse, THE THRIVE NOT COMING AT ALL AND US RUNNING OUT OF FOOD ENTIRELY AND HAVING TO GRECO HIM WITH BRANSTON PICKLE – was just too much.

In other news, to cheer myself up from all the cat food chaos, I decided to treat myself to a knitting bag, because my knitting stuff was strewn all over the dining room table and Cat Daddy was starting to complain about it.

Cat Daddy: “What kind of bag did you end up choosing? What does it look like?”

Me: “It’s blue, with skulls on it.”

Him: “Skulls?” [Snorts with laughter]

Me: “What’s wrong with that?”

Him: “Well, it’s just that … knitting is the least goth activity ever.”

Me: “Well, would you rather I’d got one with flower pots on it? Or cartoon bumble bees? Or kittens playing with balls of wool?” [I wasn’t making these up; I had seen all of the above during my quest for something cooler.]

Him: “Evil kittens maybe. Black ones. With fangs.”

Well, this is the closest I was able to get to a knitting bag with a black, fanged devil-kitty on it. And, naturellement, our mutual friend is doing what he does best i.e. exactly the opposite of what we want:

So much is wrong with this photo.

Les jeux de faim

Since the vet gave Louis Catorze an appetite-stimulating pill, he has been perma-hungry and perma-screamy. But, because of Ocado Zoom’s dismal failure to deliver, he has no food. This is not an optimal combination.

So I have spent both the end of 2020 and the start of 2021 hand-sifting through dried cat food pellets and painstakingly separating the small golden ones from the large brown ones, like a downtrodden PA to the stars arranging the M&Ms into colour order for my OCD rock star boss. And it has been every bit as awful as it sounds, especially as I am going to run out very shortly and I don’t know what to do if my next plan doesn’t work.

Worse yet, Catorze has been pacing up and down as I sift, screaming at me to hurry the hell up. Sainte Marie, Mère de Dieu: I thought his normal screaming was bad, but this new medication has turned him utterly demented. The only thing that stops him, of course, is me getting my phone out to video him. Then, when I put down my phone, he starts again, and obviously I can’t film and sift at the same time so you’re just going to have to take my word for it.

Luckily I have had my beloved husband, Cat Daddy, at my side throughout this grim process, supporting me with helpful comments such as “Well, he never asked for his food to be changed in the first place” and “He’s being like this because he’s picking up on the tension from YOU”.

After seriously considering making Catorze eat the New Year’s Eve Branston pickle (see previous post), we continued our search for LITERALLY ANY high-protein fish-only food which would arrive quickly, and this was not as straightforward as it may seem: even Amazon don’t have anything suitable that they can deliver before next week. Eventually we managed to order some Thrive (the same product that Ocado Zoom didn’t deliver) from Zooplus and it will arrive in 1-3 working days but, in the meantime, I shall be sifting.

I have discovered that singing whilst sifting serves the dual purpose of making the task about 0.1% less boring and helping to drown out Catorze’s infernal screaming. And, interestingly, there are many songs that work well if the lyrics are adapted. My personal favourite is “Sifting the night away” (Sam Cooke), apart from the line that goes “Everybody’s feeling great”, because obviously that’s not what’s happening here: Catorze is ravenous and also infuriated at what a slow and inefficient sifter I am, and Cat Daddy and I just want him to shut up.

I hope your 2021 is going better than ours.

Panning for gold.

Une nouvelle année, des nouvelles conneries

2021 is here. And, whilst most Londoners were sitting at home wondering what tier we might be in today, Cat Daddy and I were taking Louis Catorze to the vet. Yes, again.

Although Catorze’s skin is looking much better, so much so that we have reduced his steroid pills to one a day, his appetite has been down lately. I didn’t call this in sooner because nothing else suggested that he might be unwell: he has been alert, playful and full of energy. The day before the vet appointment, he even broke into the attic crawl space, thrashed around like a psychopath and, somehow, managed to switch on the light. Until then I’d had no idea that this space even had a light.

We have seen Catorze approach his feeding station only to stare at his bowl as if it were some alien life form, then stare at us. Because he’s so odd anyway, it’s hard to know whether something is wrong or whether he’s just being his usual stupid self but, as he’s lost weight, we thought it best to have him checked.

As bad luck would have it, instead of our usual vet, our appointment was with the vet who saw Catorze when I thought he had a tick and it turned out to be just a lump of crud stuck to his fur. He’s perfectly nice, but I was so embarrassed by that incident that I had hoped never to have to see him again. So how typical that the last dregs of accursed 2020 would find us face to face again, after more than two years of avoiding him (and doing a fine job, I might add).

In the waiting room, I chatted to the daddy of a black Labrador called Dexter. Apparently Dexter had been “trying to bark at all the cats coming in but, being just a puppy, he doesn’t have a voice yet” (his daddy’s exact words). One look at Catorze, however, and he found it. It was throaty, deep and deafening. And clearly Dexter’s daddy had seen enough horror movies to know that, if the dog is unhappy with someone or something, that’s a signal to get the hell out.

Anyway, there is nothing whatsoever wrong with Catorze, and his weight loss (from 3.71kg on 23rd November to 3.29kg now) is because he’s gone off his new food. Yes, he ate it happily at first, but this is Sa Maj we’re talking about; nobody knows why he does the stupid things he does. Cat Daddy and I are very disappointed as we love everything about the Cool Cat Club, and we so wanted this to work. Hopefully they will understand that this isn’t a reflection on their product, and that cats are just imbeciles.

By the time we got home, Catorze’s vet-administered appetite-stimulating pill had kicked in. But, once again, he went to his plate and just sniffed and stared. Then, when I sifted through his 30-70 mix of old and new food, giving him the pellets of old food only, he ate them.

So then we had a problem, because his old food has been discontinued.

After frantically panic-Googling high-protein cat food I discovered that Thrive have a dry food product, although none of the sellers were able to deliver anytime soon. The fastest and cheapest delivery was, unbelievably, on Ocado Zoom, a grocery delivery service for disorganised brats who want stuff within the hour. I remember once laughing at a friend for using this service, and no doubt she will giggle when she learns that I, too, joined the throng of disorganised brats.

Unfortunately the pack of Thrive was 50p below the minimum order quantity, so I asked Cat Daddy if we could add anything else to the order. Apparently we needed, erm, Branston pickle. (Non-Brits: ask your British friends.) I was concerned that the driver would wonder what special kind of disorganised brats we must be to need Branston pickle and to need it RIGHT NOW, and I was right to be worried because, when the delivery arrived, it contained Branston pickle and nothing else.

The evening was topped off by Catorze putting his best efforts into screaming his guts out whilst I was on the phone to Ocado Zoom asking what had gone wrong. The poor lady on the phone was saying, “Oh my God, your hungry cat! I can hear him! I feel so bad!”

Whilst the rest of the world reflects, dreams big and sets goals, all we want in 2021 is for our cat to eat the bloody food. Any food. NO, NOT THE OBSOLETE FOOD, FOR GOODNESS’ SAKE.

Bonne Année from the little sod.

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.