C’était une journée d’avril froide et claire …

The pubs are now open, although I have to be honest: whilst outdoor dining in April seemed like a nice idea once upon a time, the reality is pretty grim. I have had a couple of outdoor meet-ups so far, and it’s just too cold. And, when I’ve suggested to the other person that we wait until we’re allowed indoors before we meet again, they have agreed without hesitation.

Cat Daddy and his boozy pub mates are still doing their Friday Zoom evenings, and they are very likely to continue even when restrictions are lifted. Louis Catorze attends the meetings every week without fail, sometimes screaming, sometimes just sitting on his papa’s lap and happily absorbing the male voices. The last time they met, the talk was mostly about vaccines and who has had which one. (Tim has had the Pfizer and the others have all had the AstraZeneca, thank you for asking.)

The group has recently decided to form a gentlemen’s book club, and Cat Daddy has been re-reading his favourite novel of all time – Nineteen Eighty-Four – in preparation for the next meeting. Or, rather, he has been TRYING to re-read it, but unfortunately it’s a firm “Non” from Catorze; the minute Cat Daddy sits down with his book, Le Roi is in his face, screaming, staring creepily and demanding attention. Both Cat Daddy and I had hoped that, since I’m home for the holidays, perhaps the little sod might want to spend some time with me instead, but apparently it’s a “Non” to that, too.

If Cat Daddy takes his book outside, Catorze follows him. It’s almost like the constant surveillance described in Nineteen Eighty-Four itself, and I imagine that, had the Thought Police used Catorzian pestering as an enhanced interrogation technique, they would have succeeded in getting anyone to confess to anything. In fact, I can see “Catorzian” being used in the future in the same context as Orwellian, dystopian and all the other undesirable -ians.

This is what it’s like when Big Brother is, quite literally, watching you:

He wants to be loved AND understood. One out of two isn’t bad.
The best books are those that tell you what you know already.

La carte routière

After part of the fence was painted, the solar-powered lights went back up again. And within just 24 (twenty-four) hours of lighting Louis Catorze’s night time path, like those runway lights showing planes where to land, the squirrels chewed through the wires once more. This time they chewed right at the start of the string so that only one light worked. Cat Daddy managed to fix them, but yesterday they were chewed through AGAIN in a different place. He is furious beyond belief and says that the next set of lights will be set to electrocution mode. And I fear he might make it happen.

In other news, we are now in the next phase of the “road map” announced by our esteemed leader in late February for easing Covid restrictions in England. Non-Brits: in case you’re wondering, “road map” in this context just means “list of stuff that’s going to happen”. It’s not a map, and there aren’t any roads in it. We don’t get it, either. And, yes, we also think he should have just said “Here’s a list of stuff that’s going to happen”.

As from today, we are allowed to meet with five friends outside. Now, if you have ever lived in, or been to, England, you will know how unpredictable the weather can be. Therefore planning an outdoor meet ahead of time is quite difficult if you’re actually NOT ALLOWED to dash indoors if the weather turns against you. Therefore you’d better either be incredibly lucky on the day, or have outdoor cover, or just not bother making plans. Cat Daddy and I have gone for the third option, and we are quite happy with this; we’ve enjoyed the solitude to some extent and so a few more weeks of it, until we are able to do things properly, doesn’t make much difference.

Louis Catorze, on the other hand, appears to be missing the excitement of company. He used to LOVE having visitors, especially on football days when it was mostly boys, whereas we haven’t had anyone round since Hallowe’en, when we hosted the Dog Family outside. I was pretty sure Catorze hadn’t even noticed that life had changed and, instead, thought things were just carrying on as normal … until the moment when he came running to the sound of my nephews’ voices on a video.

He was also thrilled to see That Neighbour, who knocked on our door the other day to give us a parcel that he’d taken for us whilst we were out. Unfortunately he left his front door open when he came, so things went a little, erm, awry when Catorze escaped out. But I am certain that, when the little sod ran into his house and refused to leave (twice), he meant it in a positive “I’ve missed you!” kind of way.

As you can see from the road map, we have another few weeks to go until we are allowed to see people indoors. And I think Catorze is the one who needs it the most.

Yes, there are two Step Ones. No, we have no idea why.
Dreaming of boys.

Hurler à la lune

On Thursday Cat Daddy had to pop to Chiswick at around 2:45pm, which meant that Louis Catorze was, tragically, without male company for 90 whole minutes.

Obviously waiting for Cat Daddy to return was too much to ask so, instead, he decided to seek out boys from elsewhere. And, regretfully, the only ones available happened to be the Year 11 students in my online lesson – yes, THE SAME GROUP who’d had to endure the tail shenanigans a couple of weeks ago, whilst studying the joys of the imperfect tense: https://louiscatorze.com/2021/01/14/limparfait/

The combination of irresistible male voices plus steroids (yes, he’s back on them: more about that next time) plus a full moon meant that Catorze was absolutely feral, clambering across the laptop and screaming himself senseless.

Him: “Mwahhhh!”

Me: “Be quiet!”

Him: “MWAHHHHHHH!”

Me: “Oh, for God’s sake, shush!”

[Lots of giggles]

Kid: “Aw, Miss! Don’t bully your cat!”

Merde. Not only had I forgotten to press the mute button, but the little sod had managed to convince my class that he was somehow the victim in all this.

Not long afterwards, the same kid casually informed me, “Miss, the other cats have started now.”

Me: “What do you mean? What other cats? Started what? I thought you only had one cat?”

Him: “No, not my cat. The ones he hangs out with. They’re kind of like a gang.”

Oh my.

I couldn’t hear any other cats, but the kid appeared to be telling me that random neighbourhood ones had started to gather and/or respond. So either Catorze’s screaming had drifted through the open window, compelling his comrades to come to his aid, or the cats had detected the general full moon madness and had picked that very moment to have some fun. Or maybe it was both. Anyway, given the choice of doing any work or laughing hysterically at the double cat cacophony, the kid chose the latter. And his classmates soon followed suit.

The phrase “You couldn’t make this shit up” was INVENTED for me/this household/cats/Catorze. Here he is, psyching himself up for more of the same:

“Où sont les garçons?”

L’éveil des sens

On Monday night, our esteemed leader announced another national lockdown. Yes, he’s already shut schools once, then reopened them. Now he’s shutting them again. Are we all keeping up so far?

Although I no longer have to drive to work, getting up on a January morning is quite the most depressing thing ever. And, on a few occasions, the darned Lumie Bodyclock has failed to wake me up properly. Sometimes the light works but the sound doesn’t. And sometimes neither work. It is the most user-unfriendly gadget there is.

When/if the alarm goes off, there is no button to switch off the sound without also deactivating it completely. All you can do is turn the volume down – and, if you go too far and turn it right down to zero, again it deactivates the alarm and so you have to reset it. If you DON’T turn the volume down, the stupid tropical birds sing all day.

The last time this happened and I angrily pressed random buttons for no reason, the FM radio button – which had not worked at all previously – chose that very moment to decide to work, giving me Matt Hancock’s voice talking about vaccines. Quite frankly I’d rather have had the goats, and I think the rest of the country is with me on that one.

Cat Daddy thinks I’m just too thick to have figured it out, but the people leaving the reviews did warn me that it was, erm, problematic. However, like an idiot, I thought I would just learn to live with it. Which, I admit, was a bit thick of me.

Luckily our mutual friend has been on hand to alert me to the fact that it’s time to get up. A minute after my alarm is supposed to go off, he starts purring and bouncing around. It would be better if he did this once at wake-up time, and not also at random intervals throughout the night for no reason. But, as he is making the difference between getting up on time and not, I’ll take it.

Catorze’s Cat Grandpa used to say that electronics were only as good as the human being programming them. He may have been right, but I need something better than the person who made it, and better than me, otherwise there’s not much point.

Worryingly, does this mean that Catorze is better than me, the Lumie Bodyclock AND the person who made it? Oh. Mon. Dieu.

“Réveille-toi!”

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.

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.”

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.

On doit être un œuvre d’art

The big day is finally upon us. And I am ignoring Cat Daddy’s suggestion of giving Louis Catorze an extra pill tonight “just for a treat”.

Covid has done its utmost to destroy Hallowe’en but, here at Le Château we have A Plan. London moved into Covid Tier 2 a fortnight ago, which means no mixing indoors with other households, but outdoor meeting is still permitted (up to 6 people). So Oscar the dog’s family will be joining us outside for venison sausages cooked on the barbecue, and they plan to dress for warmth rather than for scares but will apparently be wearing, and I quote: “head outfits”. The mind boggles.

Catorze has also done his best to ruin Hallowe’en by becoming ill with his allergy (not that he notices or cares). As a result Cat Daddy and I have had the following conversations at least 463 times in the last few days:

Him: “Don’t we usually have a seasonal bouquet of flowers at Hallowe’en?”

Me: “Yes, but we can’t this year.”

Him: “Because of HIM? [Unrepeatable expletives]”

Him again: “Don’t we usually have black scented candles at Hallowe’en?”

Me: “Yes, but we can’t this year.”

Him: “Because of HIM? [Unrepeatable expletives]”

And so on …

Every year I attempt to persuade Catorze to sit for an official Hallowe’en portrait, and every year I fail because the little sod won’t comply. So, this year, because it was too important for him to stuff up, I decided to take matters into my own hands and implement foolproof emergency measures.

Behold his Official 2020 Hallowe’en Portrait (below), painted by my friend Victoria Watts, whose details are at the bottom of this post. C’est magnifique, non? The best thing is the fact that you can instantly tell that it’s Catorze; there’s no mistaking the deranged eyes, the messed-up whiskers and, of course, the fangs (which are slightly exaggerated here, just as I asked). This proves beyond any doubt that the “All black cats look the same” brigade – of whom Cat Daddy is a vociferous member – don’t know what they’re talking about.

Official.

I adore the portrait. And it’s just as well I had it done, because this was the best result of Catorze’s numerous failed photographic sittings with me:

Unofficial – and I needed the black pen markup tool to colour in his conspicuous pink arse.

On that note, happy Full Moon Hallowe’en to you all.

Please check out Victoria’s Instagram page pet_portraits_vick to see her fabulous work. Prices start at £75 for an A5-sized piece.

La reprise

Tomorrow I will be back at school. So, after almost six months of spending all day, every day, at home with Cat Daddy and Louis Catorze, it will once again be just evenings, weekends and school holidays.

I am looking forward to some workplace normality, whatever that may look like. Online schooling was never going to be a long-term solution, although I am going to miss the Google Meet and alcohol pairings: Crémant pairs well with virtual staff meetings, and neat Absolut Vanilla pairs well with Year 10 French. You can’t get away with such pairings in school in QUITE the same way.

I will also miss being with my two boys. However, I don’t think the feeling is mutual, and the novelty of having me at home wore off long ago as far as Catorze is concerned. These days, if the two of them are having a special Boys’ Club moment and I so much as walk past them, he meows disdainfully, gets up and leaves. And Cat Daddy doesn’t (usually) say anything in response to this, but he gives me the eye-rolly death stare which speaks much louder than words. So, in many ways, there’s no point in me hanging around where I’m not wanted.

Good luck to everyone who is having to precariously negotiate post-Covid workplace life. As for Cat Daddy and Catorze, their days will look something like this (except with appropriately-paired wine too):

“She’s gone. Merci à Dieu!”