Le maudit hebenon

One of the glorious things about our garden is that plants just magically appear without us actually planting them. Neither Cat Daddy nor I know a thing about gardening so we very much welcome this, especially if the plants turn out to be particularly attractive or unusual.

A new and quite pleasant-looking plant recently appeared which we didn’t recognise. A family member thought it might be something called “tree tomato” and suggested popping a couple of the berries into our cooking. And merci à Dieu that we didn’t, because a bit of Googling – using the sophisticated and targeted search term of, erm, “plants with purple flowers and red berries” – revealed it to be … deadly nightshade.

As the name would suggest, every part of this plant is poisonous and if you so much as look at it, you die. This is the Hallowe’eny witch-plant of nightmares, the enemy-eliminating poison of every story book I read as a child, so frightening that I half-believed it to be of Shakespearean fiction along with hemlock (Cat Daddy: “I’m fairly sure that’s an actual plant”), mandrake (Cat Daddy: “I think that’s an actual plant, too”) and wolfsbane (Cat Daddy, tapping on his phone: “You’ve just named three ACTUAL PLANTS”).

I even asked a friend to name “the worst plant she could possibly think of” and, despite not having much horticultural experience, she said “deadly nightshade” without hesitation. (Well, her first guess was “cucumber” but I disqualified that for silliness.)

When we first moved into Le Château we were very strict about the plants we kept, because of Louis Catorze’s medical issues. But, as we started to realise just how many seeds were unstoppably air- and bird-borne, and how often Catorze pitter-pattered into other gardens with less desirable plants, we gradually became less strict. And it seemed that Catorze, despite not being blessed in the brain department, was cleverly able to ascertain which were to be avoided, such as the spiny butternut squash which he would clear with a flying leap when it strayed across the path. That said, knowing that we had the worst plant in the world in our garden – OVERLOOKING LE ROYAL NAP SPOT – didn’t fill us with joy. The little sod has shown no interest in consuming toxic matter in the past, but we know, don’t we, that if I assume or tell people that he won’t do it, he will. The deadly nightshade had to go.

So, whilst taking great pains not to dislodge any pollen, Cat Daddy snipped off the branches and dug up the roots. We can now relax knowing that the most lethal plant ever to exist won’t be shedding death-dust onto our precious boy as he sleeps. However, we feel somewhat less relaxed about future dinner invitations from that family member who told us to eat the berries, and we are drafting our list of excuses already.

See below for an indication of the the terrifying proximity of Sa Maj’s nap area to the devil-plant:

Je suis venu comme un boulet de démolition

D204A87E-B936-48E7-BD3F-F254CE20741BCat Daddy is furious because someone or something has been into the Forbidden Greenhouse and trashed his precious chilli plant seedlings. I asked if the motive for this heinous crime had been toilet use, but this just made Cat Daddy more angry as the garden provides more than adequate cat toileting areas. He snapped that he didn’t know and wasn’t prepared to dig in and find out, but that I was welcome to do so myself if I wanted to. (I didn’t.)

The sliding door of the Forbidden Greenhouse had been left open the tiniest amount, which means that the culprit was either a largish rat or Louis Catorze (although Cat Daddy has just muttered that there isn’t much difference between the two). This, along with Catorze’s penchant for sneaking unnoticed into places that he has no business being, makes him a highly likely suspect for this crime. 

The other piece of evidence in the case of Cat Daddy versus The Crown is the curious set of pawprints seen in the picture. Bizarrely, they lead INTO the scene of the crime but there are no prints leading out. This would appear to vindicate the defendant, as it’s not possible to cavort about in soil and leave with clean feet, but unfortunately Catorze has previous when it comes to this; in the past I have found muddy paw prints in the centre of our bathroom floor but none leading into, nor away from, that point. The only way of doing this would have been to levitate in, gad about on the floor with dirty paws and then levitate out again.

Cat Daddy: “If I ever catch him doing anything like this again, he’ll be levitating for sure: right off the end of my foot after I kick his arse.”

Oh dear. No further questions, Your Honour. It’s not looking too hopeful for the defendant, is it?

Anyway, Cat Daddy is now on a mission to protect the rest of his plants from further destruction: the seedlings in the Forbidden Greenhouse are now under much better protection with the door fully closed, and the outdoor salad leaves are secure behind a mesh barrier. 

So, what say you, ladies and gentlemen of the jury? Do you find the little sod guilty or not guilty?

Attention aux courges butternut

Beware of butternut squash, Mesdames et Messieurs. No, not marauding street ones wearing hockey masks and carrying chain saws, but the innocent-looking seeds that you unsuspectingly toss into the compost heap.

Thanks to the amazing richness of the soil around our compost heap, Cat Daddy and I have managed to grow a butternut squash without even trying. This is good, right? Well, the bonus dinner ingredient is quite a result, but the plant is an absolute beast, sprawling everywhere like a flesh-eating triffid and suffocating everything in its path. And nobody seems to tell you this, but both the stems and the leaves expel tiny, invisible barbs.

I should have guessed that it was a nasty plant when, instead of stepping over it or brushing past it, Louis Catorze would clear it with a massive leap (which won’t be helping his knee one bit). I thought at the time that he was just being dramatic but, if an idiot like Catorze is prepared to take such pains to avoid this plant, there is obviously a reason. Even a cautious cat absentmindedly brushing past could find itself speared but, should your cat have a more gung-ho temperament and be inclined to frolic around in your vegetable patch, this could spell very bad news indeed.

Given all the health issues we already have with Catorze, we really didn’t want to be picking painful barbs out of his skin, too. So Cat Daddy got to work destroying the evil plant and sweeping the barbs off the path (which was quite some feat given that they are invisible), whilst I chopped up the monster tendrils into more manageable pieces for the garden waste bag. All that is left now is the main stem bearing the single fruit.

And Le Roi sat and slow-blinked at us throughout these measures intended for his protection, watching us get painfully skewered and disembowelled. It would appear that he is not as stupid as we thought.

Here he is, snuggling up to the butternut squash and continuing, inexplicably, to remain a barb-free zone. I’m prepared to bet Le Château on the fact that he won’t sit this nicely with the pumpkin I have bought for his official Halloween portrait.

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Le petit coin, partie deux: cette fois-ci c’est personnel

The vegetable patch is fighting back. Or, rather, Cat Daddy is, after catching Louis Catorze digging around yet again. The sweetcorn plants were eventually salvaged – you can spot the dug-up, flung-around ones straight away as they are much smaller than the other ones – but, this time, one of the passion flower vines has gone. And by “gone” I don’t simply mean “been uprooted”: I mean utterly vapourised without a trace, as if the plant never existed.

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As you can see, Cat Daddy has taken his role of Defence Minister very seriously indeed. And, yes, those are plastic forks. One of Le Blog’s lovely followers recommended them as a protective measure, so I passed the tip onto Cat Daddy; and whilst I had somehow imagined them being placed the other way up in the earth, handles pointing upwards, I can understand why Cat Daddy chose this way, for maximum pointy surface area to threaten la derrière royale.

Will it work? It’s not looking promising, I must say. Even during the impaling process Louis Catorze was ever-present, slaloming between the sticks and forks like a prize-winning Border Collie at one of those sheepdog competitions, not even deterred when Cat Daddy tried to jab him in the arse with a stick of bamboo. So his chances of staying away now that the sticks are static, are slim-to-zéro.

So now Cat Daddy and I need to agree on our next steps should the bamboo and forks not work. My idea: citrus peel and netting. Cat Daddy’s idea: inhumane bear traps and poison-tipped barbed wire.

Le petit coin

Thanks to Cat Daddy, Le Château now has a vegetable patch. Or, as Louis Catorze calls it, “les toilettes”.

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Now, I am not one of those people who panics at the thought of the slightest germ, but I have a particular aversion to the rear ends of cats. So, the less I have to do with them, the better. The thought of excretory solids, liquids or gases is grim enough, but the prospect of such substances coming into contact with FOOD is absolutely the worst thing in the world.

“Relax! It’s fine! Animals poo and wee on crops all the time,” said a friend of mine. Maybe. But there’s a huge difference between an incidental bit of bird plop or horse manure in an arable field, and a demonic little beast repeatedly using your vegetable patch as his outdoor latrine just to annoy you. The sweetcorn plants that my mum gave us lasted less than 12 hours in the soil before they were decimated. Cat Daddy didn’t mince his words in his text to me that morning: “Little shitty boy has dug up one of the sweetcorn plants to shit. He’s a shitting pest.”

“At least his poo will put other cats off using the place as a toilet,” said another friend. “Your own cat’s poo is far better than the poo of a thousand random cats, isn’t it?” Erm, not really. Poo is poo, irrespective of which cat arse expelled it. Unless we’re talking quantity, of course, because a thousand cats would obviously produce rather more than one.

Anyway, the sweetcorn problem is now halved because Catorze has dug up 3 out of 7 plants and reburied them so deeply/far away that we don’t even know where they are anymore. I think we need an electric fence for Catorze. And maybe Valium for ourselves.

Le renard

Seigneur Dieu: Cat Daddy and the Virgin Media man have just seen a fox jump over the 5ft fence between Le Château and Bert the dog’s place – yup, actually OVER the fence – and disappear through a gap in the fence that separates us from the school at The Back.

Louis Catorze was in the garden at the time and, luckily, Le Renard walked straight past him, clearly not thinking him a worthwhile snack. Catorze was left unharmed but all puffed up and affronted, as if to say, “Quoi? Excuse-moi?” He isn’t scared enough to come indoors and is perfectly happy to remain out there, but I daren’t leave him unsupervised in case Le Renard comes back. The poor boy wouldn’t stand a chance in a fight against any other creature or object, never mind one several times his size. He once had a fight with a leaf that was blowing in the wind, and still lost.

Fortunately, Louis Catorze isn’t the wandering sort and likes to be wherever we are, so I don’t think we need to keep him under house arrest at this point. But I might call him in at night – or get Cat Daddy to call him, since he ignores me when I do it – just to be sure. And I might also message Oscar the dog’s folks and warn them to check their lawn, because Oscar has been known to do things with fox poo that really defy belief …

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La patrouille de France

Ever since Le Jour du Rat, rather than snuggling up with us all evening, Louis Catorze has been spending increasing amounts of time outdoors. We initially didn’t pay too much attention to this, assuming he was relaxing on one/both of his outdoor cat thrones. However, a few days ago we discovered that he is not sleeping, nor even horizontal, but upright and wide awake. And he sits staring for hours at the same spot (a gap under the fence that separates Le Château from the school at the back).

I know that stance; I recognise it from the Luther administration. It turns out that Louis Catorze is not being lazy, antisocial or whatever: in actual fact, the little sod is on Rodent Duty. Although I have not (yet) seen him haul any (more) rodents through the gap, I know that this is what’s going on.

Oh Seigneur.

His big brother Luther once brought in a mouse and it lived happily in our kitchen for months; this meant many, many nights of duty, with Luther sitting patiently, eyes glued the spot under the kitchen unit. Friends eventually started placing bets on when he would catch Mousey – yes, actual bets with actual money – with one person believing he wouldn’t do so for THREE YEARS. Luckily it wasn’t quite as long as that (although it felt like it).

The only thing that distracts Louis Catorze from his sentry post is me getting my phone out to photograph him; as soon as he sees it he runs towards me, chirping and trilling. So the photos that you see are actually of Luther, cool and resolute, thinking, “You’re going to have to come out sooner or later, Mousey. I’ve got time.”

And, eventually, Mousey did come out and was caught. I hope Catorze will not have the same success.