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.

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.”

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.

Elle fait une liste, elle la vérifie deux fois

Lockdown came to an end earlier this week. Cat Daddy, Louis Catorze and I are now in Tier 2*, which is the worst of the lot – yes, even worse than 3 – because it’s not quite normal life, yet not enough is in place to make it worth the bother for our hospitality industry.

*For non-Brits who aren’t familiar with the system, Tier 1 = alcohol, Tier 2 = alcohol but only with a pasty and a side salad, Tier 3 = no alcohol, no pasty, no side salad.

We have been granted five days over the festive season in which we can do what we like (not exactly what’s been instructed, but it’s what will happen) and, as we have seen before, any plan which relies on the common sense of the British public is doomed to fail. So Cat Daddy and I have told our families and friends that we won’t be seeing them. We’ve got this far and we just don’t see the point in chucking it all in now.

I am the one who takes charge of buying the gifts every December. Cat Daddy does so many of the boring chores and errands on a daily basis that it’s only fair I pull my weight just once a year. And, yes, I do realise that the fact that we’re even able to buy gifts makes us very lucky indeed. The other day, Cat Daddy asked me how I was getting along.

Me: “Oh, I’m almost done. I just need to get the animals’ presents.”

Him: “Sorry?”

Me: “Presents for Louis’s friends.”

[Silence, tumbleweed, crickets.]

Whilst it’s something of a stretch to suggest that he has any friends, it’s lovely that we are among like-minded animal lovers who understand animal gifts. That said, each pet has very different requirements so it’s not as simple as one would imagine:

1. Cat-Cousin Zelva: not keen on wet food.

2. Cat-Cousin King Ghidorah: likes Sheba (poultry variants) at the moment, but will have changed his mind by the time this post goes live.

3. Cocoa the babysit cat and his sister Chanel: are used to exotic delicacies such as, erm, squirrel and parakeet, and so nothing we could give them would ever feel like a real treat.

4. Blue the Smoke Bengal: is under strict orders to lose some poundage, so food-based gifts are out.

5. Nala the dog and Gizzy the [insert name of species]: sensitive tummies.

In short, festive shopping for pets is COMPLICATED.

Luckily, Louis Catorze is the simplest of the bunch: we don’t buy him anything. Now, before you feel sorry for him, hear me out. He doesn’t know it’s the festive season and, if he did, he wouldn’t give a hoot.

*EDIT: HOOT VERY MUCH GIVEN. After I drafted this post, Cat Daddy went to investigate a commotion in the dining room and discovered that Catorze had broken into the animals’ gift storage and was chasing Blue the Smoke Bengal’s catnip fish around the room. I don’t imagine Blue will want it now that it’s covered in Roi spit so, since the poor little sod hasn’t been well, we’ve decided to buy something else for Blue and let Catorze keep the fish:

Thou shalt have a fishy.

C’tait la veille de Noël

'Twas the night before Noël, and in Le Château
A creature was screaming; quite why, we don’t know.
No stocking was hung by this cat’s human slaves.
(Saint Nick only visits the ones who behave.)
The well-behaved pets were all snug in their beds,
While visions of summertime danced in their heads;
Cat Daddy with red wine and I, with my gin,
Had just settled down to watch “Holiday Inn”
When, out at The Front, there arose such a clatter.
We sprang from the room to see what was the matter.
Away through the hallway we flew to the door,
Our lightning-quick feet barely touching the floor.
When what to our wondering eyes did appear,
But an evil, horned demon with devilish sneer
And the foul, rotting odour of sulphur from hell.
We knew it was Krampus, the beast of Noël.
More rapid than eagles his goblins they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
"Now, Beelzebub! now, Lilith! now Azazel and Adrian!
On, Pazuzu! on, Satan! on, Lucifer and Damian!
To the top of the porch!” we then heard Krampus shout.
“Let’s grab that bad kitty, then get the hell out!”
And then, in a twinkling, they heard small paws plod:
The soft pitter-patter of one little sod.
As they drew in their heads and were turning around,
Sa Maj down the hallway approached with a bound.
He was jet black in fur, from his toes to his head,
And he screamed bloody murder, which filled them with dread.
His razor-sharp fangs were both shining bright white. 
He looked like a vampire preparing to bite.
Sheer terror filled Krampus and his entourage
(Despite this loud kitty not being that large)
And the shrill, piercing screams made the goblins’ ears bleed;
First they froze still with shock, then retreated at speed.
And, putting his fingers inside of his ears,
With a terrified whimper, eyes filling with tears,
Poor Krampus sprang back, to his team gave a yell,
And away they all flew just like bats out of hell.
But we heard him exclaim, ere he flew out of sight:
“Even hell hath no demon like that little shite!”

La renaissance du soleil

Louis Catorze’s Cat Granny passed away last month, and Cat Daddy and I have been thinking about her during our traditional winter solstice reminiscing. She was the best mother-in-law imaginable and would always take my side in an argument with Cat Daddy. In fact, she would always take my side even if there had been no argument, and at Christmas she would give me better presents than the ones she gave him. Her words to me when we announced our engagement were: “Well, he’s always been a very nice son to me. I just HOPE he’ll be a nice husband to you.”

She left us on Remembrance Sunday, which was a very important day to Cat Grandpa, and I can imagine him hurrying her along on that morning and telling her she’d better get to him before 11 o’clock.

Cat Granny loved cats, although I don’t have any decent pictures of her with Louis Catorze as he preferred hanging out with Cat Grandpa at Boys’ Club. But they had a lovely relationship, and she was one of the few people who didn’t mind stroking him when he had just come in, cold and wet, from a thunderstorm. She would always be there with the cuddles, whilst Cat Daddy and I flinched and shuddered when Catorze came near us with his gross, drenched fur.

Cat Granny is pictured below with Brook, the enormously fat* cat who lives in her residential home and who is the same cat that ruined her 90th birthday party by catching a bird in front of horrified guests.

*I must add that the residential home staff do not overfeed him. As anyone with a greedy and determined cat will understand only too well, he goes out and manages to find food – and clearly rather a lot of it – from somewhere.

Moments after this photo was taken, the delightful scene was ruined because Brook dug his claws hard into poor Cat Granny. Cat Daddy and I had to delicately unpick the big sod and hoist his considerable bulk off her body, which was quite some challenge, demonstrating yet again – not that we really needed reminding – cats’ innate capacity for spoiling things that were perfectly lovely before.

I hope that Cat Granny and Cat Grandpa, wherever they may be, are surrounded by cats (but maybe better-behaved ones than naughty Brook). And Catorze, Cat Daddy and I wish you all a wonderful winter solstice.

Le calendrier de l’avent

I am usually quite a stickler for tradition when it comes to advent calendars: I don’t like chocolate, Santa, North Pole animals wearing clothes, excess glitter, mini bottles of alcohol (just give me one large bottle) and DEFINITELY not Disney characters (shudder).

I like plain, normal windows with no weird gimmicks and genuine midwinter symbols with pagan roots, such as mistletoe, holly and deer. I even once went through a phase of buying a special winter solstice advent calendar every year, despite the two notions not really being compatible, but I eventually stopped buying when it dawned on me that it was essentially fewer windows (it stopped at 21) for double or triple the price of a normal advent calendar.

These windows in my current calendar certainly defy tradition, as cats aren’t usually a Yuletide phenomenon (apart from this scary Icelandic one who eats naughty children: https://www.iizcat.com/post/4373/The-Christmas-Cat-of-Iceland-a-giant-terrifying-cat-that-gobbles-up-children-if-they-039-re-bad). Yet I am sure you will see why I found them very pleasing indeed:

Les lumières de Noël

What a surprise when I returned from work the other day to discover that Cat Daddy had set up a magical winter wonderland here at Le Château. This was especially cheering after our trip to Paris last weekend (yes, the same trip that was postponed in the summer when I injured myself trying to de-flea Louis Catorze: https://louiscatorze.com/2019/08/05/aucun-sejour-a-paris/ ) had to be cancelled because of train strikes in France. It seems that, one way or another, the French are determined not to let us go.

Anyway, we now have:

1. Cool white lights at The Front which Cat Daddy has fixed to “epilepsy” setting (possibly to stun Catorze when he tries to escape)

2. An outdoor tree with warm white lights at The Back

3. CATORZE’S TREE

Oui, Mesdames et Messieurs: despite all his protests against giving Sa Maj his own tree, Cat Daddy braved the Blood-Letting Needles of Death to decorate it and has lived to tell the tale.

Here is the tree in all its splendour. And here is Catorze showing his gratitude in the only way he knows how: