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:

Le sapin de mort

We have the maman of all middle-class problems here at Le Château: the festive tree that we purchased for our cat is so spiky that we can’t decorate it.

Cat Daddy: “Well, you wanted a tree for him. It’s your fault.” To be fair, he has a point.

Here is a picture of the tree (below) and, as you can see, I can’t even take the packaging off the pot because the Blood-Letting Needles of Death slash me to smithereens whenever I go near.

Cat Daddy is concerned that Louis Catorze will come a cropper in the same way but, despite logic suggesting entirely the opposite, I actually trust the little sod on this one. After all, it was he who informed us that the sprawling tendrils of the butternut squash plant were riddled with killer spines when we noticed him leaping to clear them instead of just elbowing/headbutting his way through: https://louiscatorze.com/2017/09/10/attention-aux-courges-butternut/

Anyway, my options now are as follows:

1. Leave the evil tree as it is.

2. Invest in one of those telescopic picking-up devices and use it to hang the decorations from a distance.

Cat Daddy: “What about “Option 3: Leave someone else to fix the problem that YOU CREATED IN THE FIRST PLACE”? That’s what’s going to end up happening, isn’t it?”

He has a point there, too.

Trop de choses à faire

The winter solstice is fast approaching and, whilst Louis Catorze is following his natural instincts and burying himself so deeply into his igloo that I fear he might become part of it, Cat Daddy and I are doing the opposite. We have so much to do, including the following:

⁃ Buying, putting up and decorating our main tree, which Cat Daddy put outdoors one year because he didn’t want to disturb his boy’s main sleeping spot (even though he has 849 other sleeping spots) and has remained an outdoor tree ever since: https://louiscatorze.com/2017/12/15/mon-beau-sapin/

⁃ Buying and decorating Catorze’s tree (yes, Sa Maj has his own tree, although I don’t suppose he will agree to be pictured next to it)

⁃ Choosing a charity to receive the donation that we make in lieu of sending cards

⁃ Sending cards to the awkward people who don’t know about or understand the charity donation thing, and who would probably never speak to us again if we didn’t send them a card (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE)

⁃ Organising the festive menu for the day (even though we still don’t exactly know who’s coming and for how long)

It’s all a bit manic and although, at times, we wish we could climb into that igloo with Sa Maj and just wait for it to all be over, we know how lucky we are that we are able to do these things. The people who can’t, for whatever reason, are very much on our minds at this time of year.

We hope that your festive planning is going well, and that it’s bringing you more joy than stress. In the meantime, Sa Maj is still in his igloo, and he won’t be budging anytime soon.

Nos compagnons à quatre pattes

Cat Daddy and I have just spent Christmas Day with Louis Catorze’s Cat Uncle and Cat-Cousin Alfie, and we also met up with Nala the dog and her mamma a few days previously. (Gosh, that was a lot of the word “cat” in one sentence.) Nala is lucky enough to live opposite a lovely dog park and, as a result of her time spent there, she has made more same-species friends in the last two months than Sa Maj has made in his entire life. On Sunday there was even a dogs’ Christmas party in the park, with one of the dog mammas distributing home-made, dog-shaped biscuits to all canine guests.  

“How was the party?” I asked Puppy Mamma. 

“Oh, y’know: much like an office Christmas party,” she replied. “Too much noise, a couple of fights, that kind of thing.”

Oh dear. 

This kind of event would NEVER have worked for cat owners. But I do wonder what it might be like if there were such things as cat parks and we were able to meet in the same way that dog people do.  

Imagine, if you will, rows of park benches filled with ladies, some with bandaged hands due to pilling incidents that turned bad, all discussing the latest device to remove cat hair from furniture and clothes. There would be empty cat carriers at their feet as all the cats happily gambolled about in the park, chasing bugs and chewing grass. Then, when it was time to go home, the ladies would call their cats back and the cats would ignore them. 

Puppy Mamma added that she finally understood what I meant when I talked about my cat friends, as she now has dog friends. She explained how dog owners chat in the park about how their dogs have been, vet visits, the most recent embarrassing escapade etc. and generally bond through their mutual love of dogs. I get it – after all, this is what cat owners do, the only difference being that the internet is our “park”. 

“I guess it must be easier to suss people out as you’re meeting them in person and not online,” I said to Puppy Mamma, “but how do you avoid the freaks?” 

There have to be SOME freaks in Dogsville, right? The whole world knows, of course, about the 60% or so of cat people who are total weirdos, not always in a good way, and I suppose that, as someone who tells people that my cat is French and has his own visitors’ book, I am one of their merry number.

“Easy,” Puppy Mamma told me. “You get to know what time the undesirable people or the undesirable dogs are going to be in the park, and you just avoid going at that time.”

If only it were that easy in the cat world; how wonderful to be able to avoid one particular attention-seeking, punctuation-dodging nutjob – YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE – simply by refraining from logging on at certain times. That said, what a pity if the human were pleasant but one had to steer clear of them because they had an undesirable dog. This is utterly unheard of in cats. Whatever their issue, however naughty or stroppy or psycho they may be, undesirable cats are simply not a thing. 

Cat Daddy: “Really? I can think of one.”

If a genie were to grant me three wishes, I would wish for that cat park – yes, even before wishing for a lottery win, world peace or more wishes. And, should you ever see cats pitter-pattering about your local green space and a group of slightly harassed-looking ladies in jaunty scarves, helping themselves from a free Crémant fountain, you will KNOW. 

Le retour de l’hiver

Louis Catorze’s list of winter solstice gift recipients is mercifully short, due to the fact that he doesn’t really have any friends. There are a few characters to whom he likes to spread some festive cheer, although the reality is that he doesn’t mix with most of them or even know them at all. I think anyone who has ever had any kind of social media account can relate to this. 

Anyway, Sa Maj’s “friends” are as follows:

  1. Oscar the dog (a Yorkshire terrier and the Flash Gordon to Louis Catorze’s Ming the Merciless)
  2. Cocoa the babysit cat (a larger and rather more photogenic version of Catorze, minus the scary teeth)
  3. Cat-Cousin Alfie (a tabby with a voice like a dog’s squeaky toy)
  4. Cat-Auntie Zelva (a black and white kitty who looks like Mr Potato Head from Toy Story)
  5. Nala the dog (the Cockapoo featured in this year’s Hallowe’en entry of Le Blog)
  6. Noah the dog (a Cavapoo who loves brass bands)
  7. Zoox, my workplace dog (a Hungarian wire-haired Vizsla – no, I had never heard of them before, either – with a knowing, almost-human face)

Cat Daddy: “But, of all these animals, he’s only actually met one. And that one hates him and wants him dead.”

C’est vrai. Zut. 

I am the one who takes charge of the buying, because Cat Daddy doesn’t approve of gifts for pets. (“Bloody ridiculous! What the bloody hell is this world coming to?” is, I believe, what he said.) If you are around the same age as me, you will recall that, during our childhood, the only pet gifts available were one generic festive stocking for cats and one for dogs. That was it.  Now, of course, things are different. Cat clothing, anyone? Novelty beds? Advent calendars? (I’m not joking: Google them.) 

Anyway, as this time of year is all about thinking of others, we will be buying for the little sod’s friends but donating what would have been his gift money to Lilly’s Legacy, one of his favourite rescues. If you would like to do the same, their PayPal address is lillyslegacy@hotmail.com. 

Wishing you all the joys of the winter season, with love from me, Cat Daddy and Louis Catorze. 


C’est le moment le plus merveilleux de l’année

It has started to feel très festive here at Le Château now that Louis Catorze’s tree is in place. (Yes, you have read that correctly: in addition to our main winter solstice tree, he gets his own mini one.) Decorating it is no mean feat, as the Pine Needles of Death are razor-sharp and, therefore, affixing each bauble is pain. And, yes, I do, indeed, see the tree as a cruel yet accurate metaphor for Catorze’s life, with him sitting atop all smug and loving himself, and me desperately scrambling around trying to adorn it with more and more lovely things, only to have my efforts rewarded with repeated stabbing. 

Anyway, now that it’s done, it looks rather splendid. We don’t usually buy him any gifts, though, because he already has so many things – or, as Cat Daddy puts it, “this house is full of his shite”. And, besides, buying a tree AND gifts for a cat might be considered a bit over the top. 

We have less than a week to go, and so many things still left to do. Luckily for Catorze, all he has to do is sit around and watch us do it all.