Le meurtrier? Quel meurtrier?

We have had something of a Clouseau-style whodunnit mystery to solve at Le Château: a trail of pale feathers leading from our garden and through the gap in the fence, then coming to an end in a massive pile of feathers in the middle of the Zone Libre.

Now, I know what you’re all thinking, but this is not Louis Catorze’s MO. The absence of a body meant that it was highly unlikely to have been him – although my sister did suggest, horrifyingly, that perhaps he had hidden it and was saving it to whip out at some inopportune moment later. (We have had cats in the past who were partial to the Big Reveal; I recall my sisters relaxing in the living room one day, when one of our childhood cats jumped behind the television and dramatically unveiled a spatchcocked crow, as if to say “Ta-dahhh!”)

After our grim discovery, Cat Daddy and I spent the rest of the evening opening cupboards and lifting things very cautiously indeed, just in case the remains of a bird came spilling out. Then Blue the Smoke Bengal’s mamma messaged us to say that she had found a half-eaten pigeon under her bed.

Merci à Dieu. Rather her than us. Clearly the pigeon had been caught on our property, hauled through the hole in the fence and killed/devoured in the Zone Libre, whilst our useless cat was doing … what exactly?

Cat Daddy was quite happy about this, because he hates the pigeons as much as he hates the squirrels. Since he and I had been feeding Blue the previous week whilst his mamma was away, Cat Daddy was convinced that the ridding of one of our most prolific garden pests was a thank-you to us, and he asked Blue’s mamma if he would maybe consider doing a couple of squirrels next. (Despite looking like a chubby teddy bear, Blue is a terrifyingly adept hunter. He is well ahead in the neighbourhood squirrel-killing contest with a total of two, versus Cocoa the babysit cat’s one and Catorze’s, erm, zero.)

So we can now start opening cupboards normally again, safe in the knowledge that the bird carcass is Blue’s mamma’s problem and not ours. That said, Cat Daddy is mildly embarrassed that Catorze had to get someone else in to do his job. Is he lazy and inefficient beyond belief … or just being a typical member of the aristocracy and delegating the hard work to his subordinates?

“Voici mon jardin. Now clean it up.”

Le restaurant à la carte

Cat Daddy’s Avian Apartheid is working: the larger birds have given up trying to eat from the bird feeder, and he could not be more delighted about this. His favourite visitors are two pairs of pretty goldfinches who come every day, multiple times.

During his Friday night Zoom call with his boozy pub mates (yes, they’re still doing it, even though they’re allowed to go to the actual pub now), one of the lads told him that you can buy finch-specific bird feed. I know. So Cat Daddy then bought a huge 863kg sack of it.

Now, of course, he is complaining that the goldfinches like the food too much, because he is having to refill the feeder more often than before. It’s quite surprising that four such tiny birds manage to chomp through so much food in such a short time but, if he makes the choice to cater for particular birds’ dietary requirements, he surely can’t be too shocked that they, erm, eat the food?

Anyway, the good news is that, despite the fact that the finches have caught Louis Catorze’s eye, he appears to make no attempt to catch them. He sits and stares intently from a distance, and that’s as far as it goes. And we are glad about this.

Catorze definitely sees himself as the apex predator. But he also knows that he can’t be arsed to do anything about it.

Merci à Dieu: he’s leaving well alone.

Les pies qui chantent

According to the creepy old magpie rhyme, seven indicates “a secret never to be told”. In this case, it’s not much of a secret: Louis Catorze is on the other side of the fence, winding them up, and they’re all cackling at him. If you zoom in, you can even see the bottom right one with its beak open, mid-caw:

Seven against one doesn’t seem like a fair fight.

Cat Daddy was so concerned that he actually went to look over the fence to check that his boy was all right. Not only was he perfectly fine, but he didn’t even appear to care about the apocalypse unfolding around him. The skies were darkening, the avian army was gathering, and all the while Sa Maj was happily slow-blinking away in the Zone Libre, enjoying the last few remaining rays of sun.

The same kitty sixth sense which informs him of when I am about to give him medication, somehow failed to alert him to this. In fact, WE were alerted long before Catorze was. I don’t think I will ever understand this.

Worse yet, I have just discovered that the French version of the creepy magpie rhyme says “Sept pies: enterrement”, which isn’t especially reassuring.

I really don’t want any trouble … yet I fear that is exactly what I will get.

Les grands oiseaux

Cat Daddy’s war against the wildlife is intensifying. Not content with issuing a fatwa on the squirrels, he is now after the birds. Or, to be precise, the large birds.

Apparently, when he set up the bird feeder, he “only wanted small birds to use it”. In fact, its construction doesn’t permit large ones to feed, so I thought he would be satisfied with that. However, the messier of the smaller birds – starlings, I’m looking in your direction – drop bits below when feeding, and it is here that the larger ones take advantage. I don’t feel we should discriminate, especially as we can’t do anything about the extraneous matter that falls on the ground nor the undesirables that gather around it, but Cat Daddy disagrees. And he is cross with Louis Catorze for not doing his bit to deter said undesirables.

Cat Daddy is that grumpy old man that our parents warned us about, who sits by the window with a stick. Sometimes he runs out brandishing his stick, calling the pigeons rude names. And, occasionally, he watches Catorze out there and talks to him the way the Formula One teams talk to their drivers through their Bluetooth headsets, except that Catorze can’t hear him. (And even if he could, he would ignore.)

This is the sort of thing I hear on a daily basis:

Cat Daddy: “Fat bastard pigeon. Come on, Louis, do something! No, not the chaffinch! That’s one of the nice birds! Noooo, don’t go after the nice birds! God, what’s the point in having a f***ing cat?”

Cat Daddy’s most recent addition to the arsenal is this ugly green netting (see picture below), which he claims is to protect the strawberry plants but we all know that it’s to stop the larger birds from picking up scraps that fall beneath the feeder. He has also placed some bamboo canes there, all poking out at various sharp angles for extra menacingness.

This is all going a bit Mad Max. Even Catorze is genuinely fearful of how it will all end.

We dare you, large birds.

Défense de tuer les rouge-gorges

Most people would have dismantled their festive decorations on Twelfth Night, but we barely needed to bother because the squirrels were kind enough to do much of the job for us. We can’t be sure of exact numbers but we imagine we are about ten baubles down, thanks to those pesky, thieving little sods.

However, this is by no means the end of Cat Daddy’s war against them. His latest piece of weaponry is the feeder pictured below, which allows birds to access the tasty treats but somehow doesn’t permit “pests”. Nothing is quite as passive-aggressive as a feeder that says “Here’s food for everyone else, BUT NOT YOU.”

Our favourite visitors are a pair of robins, who are so friendly that they even come to feed whilst we are doing our noisy outdoor workouts.

Photographed by Cat Daddy a fortnight ago.

We love them, and we look forward to seeing them every time we look or go outside. But we are also very nervous on their behalf, because of this individual:

Don’t even THINK about it.

Now, the last time that Louis Catorze caught a bird was a long time ago (full story featured here: https://louiscatorze.com/2016/07/16/loiseau/ ) and, as far as we know, he hasn’t caught one since. So logic would deem it unlikely that things would go awry. However, this is Catorze, he who pretty much INVENTED the dark art of doing exactly the opposite of whatever is expected or wanted. This is why we are nervous.

So we have decided to follow the advice of The Guardian (see link: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/feb/11/meaty-meals-and-play-stop-cats-killing-wildlife-study-finds) and ramp up Catorze’s play sessions, especially as the sunnier weather seems to be giving him a boost of not-needed energy. And, as an extra precaution, Cat Daddy has “had a serious word with him” (?).

Please keep your fingers crossed and hope that Catorze behaves himself.

*EDIT: the day after I wrote this piece, Cat Daddy overheard Catorze making “his awful hunting noise” at two birds on the feeder. Oh my.

L’horloge hantée

Louis Catorze is absolutely MANIC at the moment. He sleeps from late morning to late afternoon and is in full-on play mode after that, thundering around the house and being a nuisance. I now have to make sure my knitting bag is fully zipped to the end, because Cat Daddy has caught him jumping into the open bag and thrashing around, tipping my darning needles all over the place. And his uninvited appearances at my online lessons have now become more regular; yesterday was another day of students screaming, “Miss, I can see his tail! Miiiiiiiiss! MIIIIIIIIISSSS!”

It’s a full moon tonight, which partly explains it. But I also suspect that Catorze might be communing with and/or summoning evil entities from somewhere, which isn’t ideal.

In other, possibly related news, the Lumie Bodyclock saga continues, and I have discovered that the way to get it working is to turn the sound off. Yes, I know, this is exactly the opposite of what should happen, but nevertheless it’s what DOES happen: when the display says “Audio off” and there is an image of a musical note with a line through it, this indicates that both the alarm and the light function ARE ON and will work exactly as they should in the morning.

I have also discovered that, during the few minutes just before the alarm goes off, there is some sort of sound inaudible to human ears. I don’t know what it is (obviously, on account of it being inaudible) but Le Roi has detected it, in the same way that cats’ hypersensitivity picks up on all manner of things indiscernible to us. You know that moment when your cat stops what they’re doing and stares, wide-eyed, at a blank patch of wall behind you? It’s the audio version of that.

Here he is listening intently to it, whatever “it” may be, and confirming my view that cats are creepy as hell. What he can hear is most likely the tropical birds on a much lower volume. But, equally, it could be demons or poltergeists.

“Is anybody there? Chirp once for OUI.”

L’enfer, c’est les chats noirs

The good thing about having a black cat is that, when they raise hell, you can pretend it was some other cat and not yours. And the chances of anyone proving otherwise, beyond all reasonable doubt, are slim. If they raise hell at night it’s even better, because the darkness hides them and therefore there is zero proof.

However, Little Sods’ Law decrees that a black cat is most likely to raise hell as follows:

1. In broad daylight.

2. When the entire neighbourhood is at home to witness the carnage.

3. When the cat is sporting a unique piece of headgear making it impossible to mistake them for anyone else.

I turned my back for SECONDS to put the kettle on, then heard the most God-awful shrieking. When I went to investigate, I was met with this:

At least they’re 2 metres apart.

The screeching was coming from the green parakeet pictured on the wires, who was hollering at Louis Catorze with all its might. Yes, Catorze is on Oscar the dog’s territory. No, I have no idea how he got there. And, yes, he now has a new self-harm wound which means he will be Côned for EVEN LONGER until it heals.

He is now sleeping off the excitement in the living room, right where I can see him. I, in the meantime, am Googling animal cages (size: XS) and wondering if they can deliver within the hour.

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?

Les perroquets verts

Cat Daddy and I have decided that we aren’t making the most of living in London, and that we ought to do more London things. To be honest, this is by no means a recent revelation. We have known this for some time, and it became especially apparent last year when I took a French friend on a Thames boat trip: “There’s a nice building. No idea what it is. Look, there’s another nice building. No idea what it is …” and so on. 

We have a book about strange and unusual sights in London, and, to my surprise, when I consulted the “South West London” section for things to do and see, I discovered that the Angry Birds were listed as one of the “attractions”. Yes, THOSE Angry Birds. Or, as Cocoa the babysit cat calls them, “main course”:

https://louiscatorze.com/2018/08/20/les-oiseaux-furieux/

Last year they drove us absolutely insane with rage with their screeching and, on one occasion, when I couldn’t stand the racket anymore, I looked outside to see that the Louis Catorze was winding them up. Now, it seems, not long after discovering the extent of their célébrité, they have started to drift back. Cat Daddy spotted a couple the other day on the telegraph wires behind Le Château, and they may have come back to nest and feed but it’s more likely that they’re looking to lay their vengeance upon Catorze.

Given that birds are able not only to recall the faces of individuals who have wronged them but also to encourage their bird friends to give said individuals some grief, I really hope Sa Maj will mind his own business this time. After all, a small, black cat with vampire teeth and a voice that could strip paint is pretty distinctive, and there’s no mistaking him for some other (nicer) cat or vice versa.

The Angry Birds can be found on page 266 of Graeme Chesters’ “London’s Secrets: Bizarre and Curious”. Their location is listed as Richmond Park although, in reality, they can be found all over West London and, rather like the Aurora Borealis, encountering them is more due to chance than anything else. Should you happen to meet them, it’s probably best to deny that you’ve even heard of Sa Maj.

Here he is, reminding them of who’s king around these parts:

Séparés à la naissance?

Mesdames et Messieurs, I would like to call upon your collective Cat-Shazam skills to identify a miscreant. Is Cat Granny’s new residential home cat, Brook (first picture, taken two weeks ago), the same cat that ruined her 90th birthday party by turning up uninvited and then killing a bird in front of horrified guests (second picture, taken just before the incident last April)? 

The case for the prosecution:

1. They have the same unusual markings and the same wayward eyes (one pupil pointing east and the other west).

2. The new care home is directly next door to the location of the birthday party, which effectively places Brook at the scene of the crime.

The defence:

The defendant and the cat caught at the crime scene differ significantly in, erm, body shape (and this is actually a flattering picture of Brook; in real life he is much, much fatter).

The prosecution again:

Bearing in mind the care home staff’s comments about Brook’s voracious appetite and his ability to source food from unknown locations however much they restrict his diet, it is more than likely that he would have gained some poundage since Cat Granny’s birthday. 

(This isn’t great for Brook, but it makes me feel much better about my own festive chub.) 

I know what *I* think but would love to know your views, members of the jury. Do you find the defendant guilty or not guilty of the crimes of trespassing and avian murder?