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.

Tu peux me trouver au club

Video calls: no. Just no.

Whilst Cat Daddy insists that they are “no different from meeting in person” (?), for me they have a performance element that makes me cringe. I am not a YouTuber, for heaven’s sake. And if I didn’t want to video call when I looked normal and had interesting things to report, I certainly don’t want to do it with quarantine root regrowth and when nothing even faintly noteworthy has happened in my life.

In short, I will grudgingly accept a video call under the following circumstances:

1. If you are a work colleague and I have no choice. And an agenda beforehand would be appreciated.

2. If you are 5 years old, because you will do most of the talking and I can just listen, plus your attention span is short so the call will be over quickly.

Any other reason: no.

And if you have crazy thoughts of trying to Make It A Regular Thing: HELL, no.

Puppy Mamma is an especially naughty one for trying to trick me into video calls by giving them inventive names, but I’m not falling for it. “Virtual barbecue”? Nope: it’s a video call. “Online cocktail hour”? It’s still a video call. “Distance drinks party”? NICE TRY, BUT STILL A VIDEO CALL. So, because she hates WhatsApp/text messages and I hate video calls, we have compromised by telephoning – as in, voice calls in which we can hear but not see each other. (Younger followers: ask your parents.)

Cat Daddy, on the other hand, loves his new-found Zoom adventures. He has had a couple of video chats with his family, taking care to mention my name many times in case they wonder about my absence and think we’ve split up. And his video meets with his boozy beer buddies have been continuing every Friday at 6pm.

This week’s virtual pub conversation included the following:

1. What everyone was having for dinner that night (Cat Daddy had pasta with spinach, walnut and Stilton sauce, thanks for asking).

2. The money they are all saving because of not having to pay for cabs home from the pub.

3. How to get Simon back into the call after the host accidentally deleted him.

4. Why everyone could see Mike but not hear him.

5. Deforestation.

6. Tim’s quarantine haircut.

7. Robbie Williams.

8. The confusion of having two people called Nick in the group, and a Foolproof New System for differentiating between the two.

As you can imagine, I didn’t hang around for the duration of the conversation and just caught odd snippets. However, when I heard Cat Daddy say, “I’m going for a loo break, so I’ll leave you with my cat”, I never imagined that he would mean it literally. I should have known better (see below).

With lockdown, all our worlds have become that little bit smaller. But Boys’ Club is clearly going from strength to strength, with brotherly bonds that extend beyond Le Château and stand the test of time and distance.

Louis Catorze agrees that Tim should have left it longer at the front.

L’envahisseur inconnu

I am so, so sorry for the deluge of posts. It’s this darned cat. He just won’t stop. And I am keen to document every bit of it to make a point to all those who say, “But he’s so cute!” “He’s like a little kitten!” “I can’t imagine him being naughty!” and other such nonsense.

Last night the planets were magically aligned and we were lucky enough to get an Ocado delivery for the first time since the world ground to a halt. Louis Catorze promptly escaped out to bother poor Pankaj driving the Raspberry van, then he went on the rampage. At the same time, when I dropped some of the Ocado supplies at Blue the Smoke Bengal’s place, Blue also took it upon himself to escape out and to join Catorze on the rampage in the street.

So there we were, supposedly under lockdown, with Blue’s poor self-isolating mamma chasing him down in her dressing gown and slippers, and me trying to drag Catorze, Cône and all, out of That Neighbour’s bin.

Blue’s mamma eventually managed to retrieve her guy when he grew bored and went home of his own accord. And I retrieved Catorze when he got stuck to our lavender plant with the Velcro of his Cône, and I had to peel him off.

I know. This could only happen here.

It gets worse. A couple of nights ago we sat outside to watch the sunset and, when we came indoors, Catorze decided to remain outside. Now, we have learned our lesson from previous incidents and we didn’t want to make the same mistakes again, so we kept checking on him every half hour or so. And, every time we checked, he was on exactly the same spot on the outdoor sofa, appearing to be enjoying the solitude.

Then Cat Daddy decided to fetch him in for some unCôned lap time, but returned empty-handed and flustered.

He told me that, when he opened the door to go out, he heard a scrambling sound and saw a very large shape at the end of the garden, which took off over the top of our shed and over the fence. Cat Daddy couldn’t tell what it was because it was too dark, but he believed it to be “maybe a cat, more likely a fox, but pretty big”.

And, whatever it was, Catorze had immediately taken off after it.

Oh. Mon. Dieu.

We both stood outside and called the little sod, but were met with deathly silence. After a very stressful 20-minute wait he reappeared – mercifully avec Cône, utterly unbothered and without the slightest scratch on him – and this time Cat Daddy was the rescue helicopter plucking him from the top of the fence and carrying him indoors.

Cat Daddy: “It’s the drugs. He’s bloody stoned. They turn him into a lunatic.” This is true. Thank goodness we are now moving into the lower-dose phase, which means that he should be calming down soon.

Here is Catorze, proving that Le Cône does not hold him back:

Important Cat Business.