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.

L’oiseau libre

This cheeky sod (see photo below) has been hanging around for a number of days now, nibbling at the sedum flowers at The Front. He is a very distinctive dark colour, so I am 100% certain that it’s the same pigeon coming back repeatedly.

Like most of the world, I am not a fan of pigeons (or “winged sky-rats”, as I have called them for most of my life), but I don’t mind him too much as I can’t imagine just one pigeon would be capable of decimating our entire sedum crop. Cat Daddy, however, is livid. He has kept the window open in the hope that Louis Catorze may poke his head out and remind the feathered interloper whose Château this is … but, of course, now that we actually WANT him to go out at The Front, he won’t do it.

The window was open for a good few hours this afternoon and Sa Maj didn’t budge from his important nap. And, naturellement, in the few minutes AFTER the pigeon’s departure (of his own accord), he was in and out about 378 times.

Cat Daddy: “Typical. I don’t even know why you’re surprised.”

Incidentally, the stick sticking up under the pigeon is bothering me greatly. I took a number of photos and the stick was not visible in any of the other shots, yet it’s far too neat to be something I drew by accident using the Mark-Up tool. Could we have … a ghost stick?

Un peu de honte est bientôt passée

We now have two new people to add to our “We Owe You An Apology/Explanation Because Of Louis Catorze” list: Basil who came to install our new front door lock (Embarrassment Rating: Level 4), and Lee the tiler who is doing our front path (Embarrassment Rating: Level 8).

Catorze started screaming from a distance the minute Basil started his work and, when it was finished and Basil was demonstrating how to use the lock, the little sod – still out of sight – ramped up the volume. Basil stopped the demonstration mid-sentence and said, “Sorry, but … what IS that?”

Me: “Oh. Erm, that’s our cat. Sorry about him. He loves visitors so he’s just excited that you’re here.”

At that point Sa Maj pitter-pattered into view, up-tailed, psycho-eyed and screaming. Basil looked at him and said, “Aw, are you excited? That’s nice but, unfortunately, I’m going to have to go soon.”

Catorze: “Owww-mwaaaahhhhhh!”

Basil: “He said “Oh, why?”! Didn’t that sound just like “Oh, why?”?”

It actually did.

Anyway, despite the drama, Sa Maj now has a new friend. And it seems that there was a reason for the screaming other than just to greet Basil: I later discovered that the little sod had brought a mouse (his second of the day) and left it in the place from where his distant screaming had originated. And that place happened to be right in the middle of Lee’s route from The Front to his tile-cutting machine at The Back, so he absolutely had to have seen it.

As if things couldn’t get any worse, after I’d picked up and bagged the mouse, I hung the bag over the outside tap at The Back, out of Catorze’s reach, with the intention of disposing of it in the park bin after Lee had gone. But then I forgot about it. And I hadn’t tied up the bag very well so, in the highly unlikely event of Lee not having noticed the mouse the first time, he certainly would have done so when he took the bag off the tap to hose down the patio.

So, at best, Lee thinks we have a mouse infestation and are too lazy to clean it up. And, at worst, he thinks we put dead mice in bags and hang them around the house for fun.

Cat Daddy: “Or both. It could be both, you know.”

La joie est un escargot rampant

Cat Daddy and I were met with this scene when we came downstairs yesterday morning. The photos do not do it justice and, in real life, it was more horrifying than I ever thought possible:

Oui, Mesdames et Messieurs: this is snail juice. And, judging by the huge amount of ground covered in just one night, you would imagine a full-on gastropod party with several attendees. But a search of the area revealed just one culprit, and not a very large one at that (shown below with a 20p coin for scale). You can even see some of the sofa fibres stuck to it:

I have questions:

1. How did it get into the house? (Cat Daddy: “I think we both know the answer to that one.” And, regretfully, he has a point, because Louis Catorze has previous when it comes to bringing in slugs and snails. In case you missed the worst incident, here it is: https://louiscatorze.com/2016/04/03/la-limace/)

2. In the extremely unlikely event of Catorze not being responsible for bringing in the snail, why the flip didn’t the little sod try to stop this carnage? (Cat Daddy had no response to this one.)

Anyway, the snail juice was promptly cleaned up, with Cat Daddy philosophically declaring, “It could have been worse. At least it’s not bird shit.” (This is true. But it doesn’t really help.)

It’s a tragic day when the slasher-clawed killing machine that is your cat not only fails to stop the slowest animal in the world from wreaking silent havoc overnight, but most likely gave it a helping hand by carrying it in in his mouth or letting it hitch a ride on his fur. And, short of keeping Catorze in a cage for the rest of his life, I don’t see how we can prevent this horror from happening again. Any advice would be gratefully welcomed.

Le maudit hebenon

One of the glorious things about our garden is that plants just magically appear without us actually planting them. Neither Cat Daddy nor I know a thing about gardening so we very much welcome this, especially if the plants turn out to be particularly attractive or unusual.

A new and quite pleasant-looking plant recently appeared which we didn’t recognise. A family member thought it might be something called “tree tomato” and suggested popping a couple of the berries into our cooking. And merci à Dieu that we didn’t, because a bit of Googling – using the sophisticated and targeted search term of, erm, “plants with purple flowers and red berries” – revealed it to be … deadly nightshade.

As the name would suggest, every part of this plant is poisonous and if you so much as look at it, you die. This is the Hallowe’eny witch-plant of nightmares, the enemy-eliminating poison of every story book I read as a child, so frightening that I half-believed it to be of Shakespearean fiction along with hemlock (Cat Daddy: “I’m fairly sure that’s an actual plant”), mandrake (Cat Daddy: “I think that’s an actual plant, too”) and wolfsbane (Cat Daddy, tapping on his phone: “You’ve just named three ACTUAL PLANTS”).

I even asked a friend to name “the worst plant she could possibly think of” and, despite not having much horticultural experience, she said “deadly nightshade” without hesitation. (Well, her first guess was “cucumber” but I disqualified that for silliness.)

When we first moved into Le Château we were very strict about the plants we kept, because of Louis Catorze’s medical issues. But, as we started to realise just how many seeds were unstoppably air- and bird-borne, and how often Catorze pitter-pattered into other gardens with less desirable plants, we gradually became less strict. And it seemed that Catorze, despite not being blessed in the brain department, was cleverly able to ascertain which were to be avoided, such as the spiny butternut squash which he would clear with a flying leap when it strayed across the path. That said, knowing that we had the worst plant in the world in our garden – OVERLOOKING LE ROYAL NAP SPOT – didn’t fill us with joy. The little sod has shown no interest in consuming toxic matter in the past, but we know, don’t we, that if I assume or tell people that he won’t do it, he will. The deadly nightshade had to go.

So, whilst taking great pains not to dislodge any pollen, Cat Daddy snipped off the branches and dug up the roots. We can now relax knowing that the most lethal plant ever to exist won’t be shedding death-dust onto our precious boy as he sleeps. However, we feel somewhat less relaxed about future dinner invitations from that family member who told us to eat the berries, and we are drafting our list of excuses already.

See below for an indication of the the terrifying proximity of Sa Maj’s nap area to the devil-plant:

Aucun séjour à Paris

Cat Daddy and I had planned a short break in Paris to celebrate his retirement, and we should be there right now. But, because I have wrecked my bad shoulder whilst attempting to restrain Louis Catorze for his spot-on flea treatment, we have had to cancel.

Now, I don’t suppose I can fully blame Catorze for this as it was probably too soon after my surgery to book a holiday anyway; I am still struggling to do most of the things required/desired during a city break (walking, carrying a bag, taking public transport, sitting at a table to eat, etc.). Plus we know how awful Catorze is when given medication, so I should have asked Cat Daddy to do it instead of doing it myself. I suppose there are worse places to spend time than Le Château, but it’s annoying beyond belief to see how remorseless Sa Maj is for his part in making things worse: after the incident he pitter-pattered to his bowl, had a light amuse-bouche of Lily’s Kitchen, then napped in the flowerbed all afternoon (facing away from us rather than towards us, with the spot-on stain very much visible on the back of his neck as if to taunt us).

Luckily for me Cat Daddy has been very understanding indeed, and he has assured me that he is happy for us to relax at home this week. He even made me chateaubriand* with smoked Stilton and creamy mushroom sauce to cheer me up (and I told him that it half-worked so he’s making it again tonight). Catorze, on the other hand, couldn’t care less what we do. Here he is in what is now his own private garden on the sedum roof, like some evil warlord planning his next missile strike:

*With the â or without? I have agonised over this and spent countless hours researching, yet the internet appears to be telling me that both are possible. Which, frankly, is as lame as a competition in which “everybody wins”.

Nous sommes sans cesse mis à l’épreuve

We are just a couple of days into Cat Daddy’s retirement, and already I’ve had it with the males in this household.

It’s bad enough that Boys’ Club seems to have taken a darker turn and gone underground – and by this I mean Catorze purring and cuddling with Cat Daddy when I am not around, then disappearing if I try to join in the fun and eventually reappearing and picking up from where he left off if I go away again. But now they are both colluding to ruin my film-watching time, and this is utterly unforgivable.

I have known for some time never to watch a film with Cat Daddy if he’s seen it before but I haven’t, because he ruins every minute by saying things like, “Ooh, this bit’s really good!” or by providing some inane, plot-spoiling commentary. However, I now also know never to watch a film with him if neither of us has seen it but it’s based on a true story that he knows but I don’t. (In fact, this is exactly the same thing as the first scenario, so I should really have figured this out long ago.)

Last night we watched that film about those two racing drivers who didn’t get along, then one of them was hurt in an accident and the other one felt bad. Cat Daddy drove me mad with rage by randomly dropping in pieces of Formula 1 trivia and telling me who was going to win/crash/die next. In the end I stopped the film halfway through.

Me: “Right. Have you finished? Because I’m not starting the film again until you stop talking. If you have anything more to say about Formula 1, say it now and get it over with.”
Cat Daddy: “I was only trying to give some context.”
Me: “I don’t want to hear the context right now. I just want to watch the film. You can tell me the context afterwards.”
Cat Daddy: “Ok. Sorry.”
Me: “I’m serious. No more talking.”

[I pick up the remote to restart the film]

Catorze, jumping onto my lap: “Mwahhhh!”
Cat Daddy: “Bwahahahaha! Just as you say “No more talking”, HE pipes up!”
Me: “BE QUIET.”

[Catorze sticks his tail and arse in my face and blocks the screen]

Me: “Move!”

[Catorze moves, but only to turn his body the other way around so now I have the other side of his tail and arse blocking the screen]

Catorze: “MWAAAAAHHHH!”
Cat Daddy: “You see? Louis appreciates the context.”

And so on, and so on, until what would have been an excellent cinematic experience – and which might even have made me like Formula 1 – had it not been for their stupid interruptions, finally limped to an end.

Mesdames et Messieurs, this sort of thing is no longer just an isolated, silly incident in my life. This is now my actual life.