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.

La guerre de la planète des écureuils

We appear to be living in not one but TWO horror movie sub-genres at the moment:

1. Post-apocalyptic dystopia.

2. Erm, those films in which the protagonist offends the wrong people and receives a warning message daubed on their house.

Not content with annoying the magpies, the parakeets, the foxes and the dogs, and despite being Côned, Louis Catorze has now pissed off the squirrels. And this was their grim reminder that they are not to be messed with:

We have seen news stories about nature reclaiming the planet now that we humans have retreated into our homes (for example, those goats in that town in Wales: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/uk-wales-52109712/coronavirus-goats-take-over-deserted-llandudno) and it seems that our answer to that is the squirrels. They are the new gangland bosses who rule the lawless streets of TW8, and they appear to have teamed up with the magpies and the parakeets to form a united force against their common foe: cats.

(It also doesn’t help that relations between Cocoa the babysit cat and the squirrels are acrimonious, to say the least. He can name murder, actual bodily harm, kidnapping and unlawful imprisonment among his crimes against squirrels, so you can’t really blame them for not liking cats.)

Not only do the squirrels seem bigger, cheekier and more prolific than ever before, but they are also noisier. Yes, squirrels have a NOISE, which is a new, and not especially pleasant, discovery to us. We have heard the abrasive part-chatter, part-rattle during Catorze’s supervised exercise yard sessions – with the little sod occasionally meowing back – and now we realise that it wasn’t just an incidental squirrely sound but a battle cry. And I dread to think what Catorze said in return. I had hoped it might have been a friendly “Bonjour” but, under the circumstances, this seems unlikely.

These are dangerous times indeed, Mesdames et Messieurs. We have been told that we must stay at home to remain safe, but I feel anything but safe knowing that the squirrels KNOW WHERE WE LIVE.

*EDIT: 48 hours after Cat Daddy cleared up the above mess, the squirrels returned and did the same again, presumably because we talked. Shit just got serious.

Le coach personnel

We are very lucky to have a garden that we have been able to transform into a mini fitness area. Any kind of outside space in London is a precious gift but, at this time, we appreciate it more than ever.

Trying to work out at home with Louis Catorze around has had, shall we say, mixed success. I will start with the positives:

The whirring of Cat Daddy’s stationary bike and my clunking and stomping on the exercise step would scare off most cats, but Catorze happily sits and slow-blinks through it all. So he can be a part of our outdoor exercise experience, which is rather nice (at least in theory). He is mildly curious about the exercise equipment, but not excessively so; he is yet to stick his face into the spokes of the spinning bike wheel and have his whiskers chopped off, and I have only kicked him once whilst doing the step workout.

However – and there just has to be a “however”, doesn’t there? – his creepy, silent staring during our workouts is like having a passive-aggressive personal trainer who has such contempt for us that he can’t even be bothered to shout. Yet, just as I start wondering whether the yelly drill sergeant style might be preferable, Catorze proves his versatility by demonstrating that he can do that, too. When I do my sit-ups he pitter-patters around me, up-tailed and screaming like a fire engine. But, trust me, this is no emergency service coming to my aid: this is a great white shark circling his prey, hoping I will hurry up and die so that he can have Cat Daddy to himself.

Here is the little sod, taking a rest between reps (mine, obviously, not his) on top of my jumper and my resistance band, with his disapproving face on display for all to see:

“Fais cent pompes. Puis meurs.”

La vie en quarantaine

This turbulent period of time seems to be bringing out the furthermost extremes of human behaviour.

The good: Everyone in our street is sharing provisions (responsibly) and looking out for each other. And, last weekend, we had a quarantine barbecue with Oscar the dog’s family – them in their garden, us in ours, separate food and drink – of which the highlight (for us, probably not for them) was Oscar stealing three stuffed vine leaves from their table when nobody was looking, and letting his innocent human sister get the blame.

The bad: Most of the population of TW8 don’t give a hoot about social distancing. They stride along in the middle of the pavement, expecting the rest of us to move out of their way and not noticing or caring whether we do or don’t. We have seen many walkers and sweaty, virus-propagating runners with zero regard for the two-metre rule, happily letting us step into oncoming traffic to avoid them whilst they remain steadfastly on course for their new personal best. We have also seen not one but TWO cyclists, on separate occasions, cycling along the pavement whilst looking their phones. I used to think the reason why people in TW9 and W4 look down on us is because our neighbourhood is less posh. Erm, it’s not that.

The ugly: Cat Daddy and his boozy pub mates have been regularly meeting for drinks via Skype/Zoom/whatever. I don’t join in – video calls are my idea of torture, even with people whom I like – but I eavesdrop for the comedy value. Because they are all, erm, blokes of a certain age, the first 15 minutes of their virtual meets usually sound like this: “Tim, turn your microphone on.” “Pete, do you know that you’re sideways?” “Why are some of us in circles and some of us in squares?”

Louis Catorze’s life, on the other hand, continues as normal. He has Lily’s Kitchen Fabulous Fish aplenty – which, Cat Daddy remarks, will also serve us well if we run out of food and end up having to eat Catorze* – and we just about managed to squeeze in a jambon de Bayonne order before the curtain fell on Ocado. The only slight change for Catorze is that Le Jardin is now Le Fitness Suite with Cat Daddy’s stationary bike and my exercise step. Other than that, c’est la même chose. And, despite having been Côned for much longer than anyone ever thought possible, the little sod is happy and enjoying life.

We hope that you and your furry overlords are all managing to stay safe. If you are local and we can help you in any way, please let us know.

*Don’t worry, we would never actually eat Catorze. Mainly because there is barely any meat on him.

“Cat Daddy has prepared a dish of chat farci au poisson fabuleux.”

Se gratter sans ongles

Damn this horrid little sod. Anyone would think he didn’t want to get better.

Last week we found Louis Catorze with suspicious new sore patches on his face, indicating that he had found an inventive, secret way of scratching (again). For days we puzzled over how on earth he could possibly have done it, given that he is supervised 99% of the time due to his wicked and untrustworthy nature. Then we discovered that, during his sessions in the exercise yard, he had been darting out of sight behind the shed and scratching himself on a bunch of sticking-out bamboo canes.

We never bothered checking up on him when he went there because it’s only a tiny crawl space the same length and width as Catorze, and we knew that Le Cône prevented him from going far. The space is pictured below, and you can see the offending bamboo canes just above and to the right of him. Cat Daddy has now moved the canes but I’m pretty sure that, even if we put them on the moon, Catorze would find them.

Our vet practice closed last week to minimise the risk of spreading the virus. The W5 and TW3 branches are remaining open for emergencies only – and, no, the irreparable damage to both our sanity and our will to live still doesn’t deem this an emergency – so we really can’t afford to have this turn bad. It seems we are going to have to ramp up our surveillance even more intensely, and possibly even – gasp – reintroduce the full Cône when the inmate is out of sight.

Cat Daddy explained to his boy the other day that we all have to live with constraints during these difficult times, however much we dislike it.

Catorze replied with a “Mwah”. Sadly I don’t think it was the good kind.

Caught you, you little shite.

Les mains sales (Partie 2)

I am sure that you already knew this, Mesdames et Messieurs, but hand sanitising gel and cats don’t mix. In short, it’s because the former contains alcohol and/or tea tree and the latter are prolific lickers (especially of things that we don’t want them to lick).

If you’ve had to use hand sanitising gel during an unavoidable trip out, it might be a good idea to wash your hands normally with hot water and soap or hand wash – not with more gel – before you stroke your pets. Admittedly it’s unlikely that you would transfer enough gel for them to do themselves serious damage, but we have enough to deal with right now without having to add vet visits into the mix.

We use liquid soap from Scent Trail (see link below), who are kind enough to custom-make a fragrance-free version especially for Louis Catorze. They are a small U.K. business who are very mindful of animal welfare, and I am sure that they would appreciate any orders at this time.

https://www.scent-trail.co.uk/ourshop/cat_584899-Liquid-Soap.html

Ugly hands need washing, too.

Les petites pilules irrégulières

I don’t know whether collecting Louis Catorze’s medication from the vet is something that most would class as an “essential journey” but, yesterday – BEFORE the announcement from our esteemed leader, I might add – it was essential to us.

The little sod’s next steroid shot is due in the first week of April and, because we have no idea what state the world will be in by then, we contacted the vet to ask about a tablet version that we could administer at home. Catorze is quite hit and miss when it comes to pills – sometimes he will happily eat them in a Pill Pocket, sometimes he won’t – but we can’t risk injection time coming around and us not being allowed to leave the house.

We walked the seven minutes or so to the vet practice just before 6pm, when we knew the streets would be quieter, having paid for the pills over the phone beforehand. When we arrived, the nurse put down the bottle on the doorstep and I picked it up after she had closed the door. It’s all quite surreal and strange, like some post-apocalyptic horror film, and the ominous sense of dread increased in triplicate when I realised that it wasn’t just one or two pills but a course of two a day, for two weeks. Oh. Mon. Dieu.

Here is Catorze, using his quarantine time to project some very artistic shadow shapes with Le Cône. Please stay safe, everyone.

And that’s why they call him the Sun King.