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.

La masque de la mort noire

Good news: Brentford beat West Bromwich Albion on Friday night.

Bad news: although we desperately scoured the television for a glimpse of earless Louis Catorze on the giant banner, we weren’t able to spot him.

Even worse news: Brentford happened to score just as Cat Daddy was having an intimate papa-fils moment with his boy and, in his euphoria, Cat Daddy screamed in Catorze’s face and sent the poor little sod scuttling outside.

Cat Daddy felt absolutely terrible about it afterwards and was worried about having caused permanent damage to Boys’ Club and to their special bond. But, luckily, Catorze is as thick as mince and promptly forgot about the incident within seconds.

Brentford’s next home game is on 4th July. This also happens to be the day that social distancing rules will relax, and we will be allowed to maintain a distance of “1 metre plus” should 2 metres not be possible. Nobody quite knows what this means, but any system that relies on “the common sense of the British public” must be pretty foolproof, I guess. Ahem.

Pubs will also be open from 4th July, and people are saying, “Imagine how drunk everyone will be!” Erm, they know about drinking at home, right? Or is that just us?

Anyway, although Cat Daddy and I are planning to avoid shops, public transport and people for a little longer, we have bought some new masks just in case we are unavoidably forced to deal with any of the above.

Here is mine. No further words are needed:

Fangtastic.

Éviter les contacts proches

Coronavirus is now over, and we can all go back to doing whatever we like.

Well, nobody has actually said as such but this appears to be what everyone has decided, and Cat Daddy and I are the only ones who are still poking people away with a 2-metre stick. Although, to be honest, I was like this even before lockdown and, if I could continue the rest of my life telling people to stay away from me, I probably would. (Cats, however, are welcome to approach.)

When Louis Catorze was Côned, I didn’t have to worry too much about random strangers putting virussy hands on him because Le Cône prevented him from wandering too far. However, now that he is back to “normal”, I was a little concerned about where he would go and what he would do, especially as he isn’t the brightest star in the cosmos and some of us West Londoners don’t seem to be much better. We all know that cats can’t transmit the virus to humans but, all the same, the fewer hands that touch Catorze, the better.

His latest thing is to run outside when we open the door and roll all over the pavement at the feet of whoever knocked. He did it when Oscar the dog’s daddy came to drop off some masks. He did it again when Majestic delivered Cat Daddy’s wine. And we suspect he bothered Mohamed driving the Raspberry van whilst he was unloading our Ocado delivery, although it was dark so we couldn’t see (and we were too embarrassed to ask or check).

However, it was only when Puppy Mamma passed by the other day on her way home from the shops that I realised Catorze was smarter than I thought and that I needn’t have worried. Puppy Mamma and I caught up on quarantine news with me at the door and her on the pavement and, naturellement, the little sod darted out, shimmied through the gate (which would have been impossible avec Cône) and flung himself at her feet.

Puppy Mamma: “Louis! You look so much better than you were the last time I saw you!”

[Catorze continues rolling]

Puppy Mamma: “I wish I could stroke you, but I can’t.”

[Catorze continues rolling, his body becoming more and more covered in dirt]

Me: “Ugh. Think of all the dogs who have pooed here. Still want to stroke him?”

Puppy Mamma: “…”

By the time Catorze eventually stopped and I was able to shepherd him back in, he was covered in unidentifiable, greige crud from the pavement. So it seems I needn’t have been concerned about people touching him, nor of him encouraging them to do so, as he is his own social-distancing machine; nobody in their right mind would go within 2 metres of him, let alone put their hands on his gross body.

Here he is, mid-roll, just before the filth started to collect on his fur. There was no “after” photo because, by the time he had finished, he looked too grim for words.

Both shameful and shameless at the same time.

La guerre de la planète des renards

Almost seven weeks into lockdown, and both our dishwasher and our car have packed up, the former no doubt through over-use and the latter through insufficient use. And Cat Daddy appears to be coming down with a severe case of FOSTD: Fear of Starving to Death. Every meal time, he snaps, “Don’t eat all the [insert name of whichever food is in the vicinity]”, and I swear there is chocolate in the house that he’s hiding from me, although I can’t prove it.

Louis Catorze, however, is fine and dandy. In fact, with the human race safely off the streets, all the animals are ranging from fine and dandy to running riot and having a ball. First we had those goats in Llandudno and now there are wild boar in Paris, lions on a golf course in South Africa, and, erm, some part-leopard, part-dinosaur mystery beast that absolutely nobody can identify, in Kozhikode, India: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LHBgvhD7pOE

Here in TW8, as well as the squirrels, the foxes are at it.

A few nights ago I glimpsed a baby fox on the roof of That Neighbour’s shed. Then, at 4 o’clock the next morning, I awoke to the sound of what seemed to be a vehicle being driven with a flat tyre, and I thought someone was trying to steal a car. I opened the shutters and saw two to three (I can’t be quite sure) adult foxes circling one of the neighbours’ cars, all the while punctuated with the flat tyre thumping noise.

I couldn’t figure out how they were making the racket, as they didn’t appear to be hitting the car; they just SOUNDED as if they were. I then realised that the sound was coming from their mouths. How a fox can possibly make a thumping noise with its VOICE is beyond me but, as I learned from the zombie fox that Catorze screamed at a couple of years ago, every time I think I know what they sound like, they surprise me: https://louiscatorze.com/2018/09/30/je-suis-une-legende/

I then realised that Catorze wasn’t with me, and my heart sank at the thought of him on the loose outside with foxes gadding about. I went downstairs and turned on the outside light at The Back but there was no sign of him. He eventually appeared, soaking wet and screaming, after I had gone back to bed, and he rolled his cold, drenched body all over me which spelled the end of any hope for sleep.

At the risk of sounding like one of those panicky people who calls the vet if their cat so much as farts (and we all know at least one of those), should we be concerned about our outdoor cats under these circumstances? Traditionally foxes are said to steer clear of cats because they know about those murderous slasher claws, but I wonder how desperate they would be if they weren’t receiving scraps from restaurants and bars? Not that Catorze would make a very satisfying meal – you’d barely get a couple of canapés from his mini-rump – but that’s not the point.

I also imagine that most cats would give a gang of thumping-voiced foxes a wide berth, but we all know that Catorze does exactly the opposite of whatever is expected (or wanted).

Here he is, on the lookout for foxy interlopers:

“Dégagez!”

La performance de sa vie

Clap for our Carers: https://clapforourcarers.co.uk

What a heartfelt gesture to pay tribute to our key workers, and what a positive way of uniting the neighbourhood. Or so we thought, until Louis Catorze escaped out at The Front during this week’s clap and caused an incident in front of our neighbours.

When the clap began, Cat Daddy and I dashed outside to join in, leaving the front door open. YES, I KNOW. But, when we saw Catorze sitting on the stairs and staring in wide-eyed disbelief as if to say, “… the hell are you all doing out there?” we thought he’d stay put.

He didn’t. The little sod’s curiosity got the better of him and he pitter-pattered out. And, would you believe, Blue the Smoke Bengal escaped out at the same time.

Catorze decided to sit under a parked car and wait for the clapping to die down, and Blue caught sight of him and wandered over in a perfectly friendly and unthreatening way, to say hello. The two of them edged closer and closer together, and we thought perhaps this would be their chance to bond over their common foe of Oscar the dog … until Catorze hissed and sent poor Blue packing.

Oscar the dog’s mamma was mightily impressed that Sa Maj stood up for himself. But Cat Daddy was mortified. He later gave his boy a stern talking-to, and I overheard the words, “No wonder you don’t have any friends, if that’s the way you behave.” And he has a point. Blue is a lovely cat and, let’s face it, Catorze’s friend zone has been pretty barren since his BFF Dosti aka Ginger Impinger stopped coming by, so you’d think he’d be grateful for some chat company. We are mystified as to why he wouldn’t want to be amis with Blue, not to mention embarrassed as we get along very with with Blue’s mamma and we don’t want to add another person to the list of Neighbours Annoyed By Catorze’s Stupid Behaviour.

Catorze returned home not long after his spectacle but was soon back out again, this time at The Back, presumably to seek out Blue and make more trouble. This is not good.

Here he is, saying sorry for ruining the clap and for being rude to Blue, and trying to convince us all that he’s a good kitty really. We’re not having it.

“Pardonnez-moi?” Whatever.

Où est le jambon?

Louis Catorze’s birthday is tomorrow, and we have a bit of a Code Gris situation at Le Château: no jambon de Bayonne. And I don’t suppose the government would regard a trip to the Natoora deli in W4 to buy artisan French cured ham for my cat’s birthday as “essential journeying” (even though I do).

We did manage to order some from Ocado mid-month, but that was two weeks ago and notre cher ami will not eat jambon that has been frozen and thawed. So, although he was able to enjoy that particular jambon at that particular time, it would not have been suitable as The Birthday Jambon.

Tant pis: we have plenty of Crémant for us, and we have a playlist of around thirty songs begun by Cat Daddy and completed by Oscar the dog’s human sister. Highlights include “Dreaming of Mice”, taken from an album of relaxation songs for cats. (I’m not joking. Someone somewhere has actually decided that cats are under too much stress, and that they need to take time out of their daily grind for some meditation and mindfulness.)

Here is the little sod, visualising rays of glorious sunshine with sweet birdsong, a plentiful supply of Fabulous Fish and humans who attend to his every need. Oh no, wait … I’ve just described his ACTUAL LIFE.

If he stares for long enough, maybe the JamBonhomme will appear?

Le dîner du con

Before lockdown commenced, Cat Daddy and I had a conversation about the May bank holiday, which has always been the first Monday in May but, this year, it has been moved. That conversation went something like this:

Me: “They’ve moved the May bank holiday from Monday 4th to Friday 8th.”

Cat Daddy: “Why have they done that?”

Me, after Googling: “To commemorate 75 years since VE Day.”

Him: “Oh, right.”

Me: “You know what this means, don’t you?”

Him: “No?”

Me: “Louis Catorze’s extended birthday weekend isn’t going to be an extended birthday weekend anymore. It’s just going to be a normal-length birthday weekend.”

[Silence, tumbleweed, crickets]

Him: “So you’re objecting to honouring war veterans and remembering the dead, because it interferes with our cat’s long birthday weekend?”

Me: “I’m not objecting. I’m just saying.”

Cat Daddy: “And besides, you don’t work on Mondays. I don’t work on Mondays, or any days come to think of it. And Louis CERTAINLY doesn’t work on Mondays, or any days.”

Me: “…”

Him: “So whether or not the Monday is a bank holiday makes absolutely no difference.”

To be fair, he had a point.

Now, of course, things are rather different. Not only is a bank holiday of even less consequence, but even the normal week days and the weekends run into one another and we have lost all grasp of time. And our plans for the party of the decade are now shot to hell, which is probably just as well for our friends because I was going to invite them over under some random pretext, then announce that they were here for Louis Catorze’s 10th birthday, by which time they would be trapped and unable to leave.

Anyway, my challenge now is to plan a quarantine birthday party menu whose ingredients can be sourced from places other than the supermarket (too virussy / too many stupid people who won’t respect the 2-metre rule) or Ocado (delivery slots are rather like total solar eclipses, only happening once every 375 years or so).

And Catorze says we can choose any cuisine, as long as it’s French:

“Bring me some of your finest jambon de Bayonne, Monsieur.”

31 jours plus tard

The U.K. has now been locked down for a whole calendar month (we think). And being in quarantine with Louis Catorze seems to be generating more blog material than ever, which was inevitable as I am now spending 23+ hours a day with the little sod instead of just evenings and weekends.

Whilst Le Blog has been a positive focus for me during this turbulent period, I feel guilty writing about my cat and generally getting along fine when, across the world, others are not doing fine.

That said, Cat Daddy and I are very grateful for our situation and try to demonstrate this by doing small things for people around us. And we are lucky enough to live in a street where others have the same attitude. We are all helping each other, checking on people, supporting the few local business/services that are able/allowed to stay open, and so on. And, every Friday at 11am, the residents of our street put food parcels on our doorsteps, and a lovely neighbour – helped by Cat Daddy last week – collects them and takes them to the local food bank. If it’s really true that these circumstances have made nice people nicer and nasty people nastier, it’s very important indeed to propagate that positivity.

People who didn’t experience this pandemic – or who are too little to remember later on – will, someday, ask what it was like. What did we do? How did we keep our spirits up? Were we negative and pessimistic or did we try to seek positives, however small, despite the difficulties?

Not only will I proudly declare that I did my best to follow the rules and was one of the good guys, but I shall refer people to Le Blog and tell them that my cat brought some relief into people’s lives. Although, admittedly, he did this by making them think, “It could be a worse; I could be locked down with him”.

Also: planning, writing and editing every entry, and taking accompanying photographs, made me STAY THE HELL AT HOME.

Here is Catorze, watching people outside and judging the ones who don’t appear to be members of the same family:

“Ça ne fait pas 2 mètres!”

L-A-V-I-E-C-O-N-T-I-N-U-E

The government announced a couple of days ago that the U.K. is due to remain locked down for “at least a further three weeks”. Not that anyone knows what this means. Three weeks from the date of the announcement? Three weeks from when the first three weeks came to an end? In fact, when DID the first three weeks come to an end? When did it all even start? What day is it today? When’s Christmas? Nobody knows anything anymore.

To be honest extending the lockdown has been a relief to me, not just because I think it’s far too soon to turn us loose again, but also because – dare I admit it – I am enjoying the solitude and not having to deal with people and their stupid shite. I am the world’s biggest introvert so, when I first heard that I had to stay at home and that everyone had to leave me the hell alone, I thought it sounded great. A few more weeks of it? No problem. Where do I sign?

It has just dawned on us that, lucky though we are, Catorze is luckier than the pair of us in terms of the infringements on his personal liberty (i.e. none) and the other lifestyle sacrifices he has had to make (also none).

Here are some examples:

1. Hair: unattractive root regrowth for me, and an unintentional fauxhawk for Cat Daddy – not that I am complaining about this as I love this new look and think he should keep it forever – yet Catorze is still brushed daily.

2. Beauty salon treatments: none for us, yet Catorze has his Aveda Tulasāra facial brush.

3. Stress-relieving massage: none for us, yet Catorze has neck, face and shoulder rubs upon request. If the requests are ignored, he screams and headbutts with his Cône until we comply.

4. Food: compromises and enforced inventiveness for us – not long ago I made leftover pasta pie, which is pretty much as it sounds and of which Michel Roux would definitely not approve – yet Catorze’s supplies of Lily’s Kitchen Fabulous Fish and jambon de Bayonne remain unchanged.

5. Going out: Cat Daddy and I can only leave the house once a day yet Catorze goes out about 837 times – Cône and all – just because he can. And he can also sunbathe outside of the home if he wishes to do so, without having people tut and criticise because sunbathing isn’t exercise.

Yes, the little sod has been Côned ever since lockdown began. No, it has not stopped him from doing any of the things he wants to do.

Cat Daddy told me recently that we should keep a regular diary of our time in quarantine. Erm, I think this is it.

Check on your friends. Especially Côned ones.