L’as de pique

The Samhain demons have delivered me a belated gift: Covid! Yes, again!

As was the case the first time I had Covid, there were signs that this wasn’t just normal winter unwellness: Louis Catorze was all over me for the few days prior to my eventual positive test. Not only did he approach me of his own accord for cuddles, but he clung onto me with his claws, wailing pathetically, when I tried to displace him. However, as a result of the utterly dreadful symptoms, I have been off sick from work, which is entirely the opposite of what the little sod wants. Since the virus led to me spending more time at home, he’s back to his “normal” self.

Catorze doesn’t like sick people, especially when they sneeze. By this I don’t mean he is scared of sneezes but, rather, in disbelief that anyone would dare to assault his eardrums with such an offensive sound. On a couple of occasions he has tentatively settled onto my lap, only to depart when the sneeze came. And, as he left, he threw me a glowering stare and what could only be described as a wicked-witch scowl.

I have since seen him leave his papa’s lap in exactly the same way when Cat Daddy sneezed.* And this time he came to me.

*Oh yes: Cat Daddy is now experiencing symptoms, too. We have had to cancel a multitude of events – for most of which we had spent money on tickets – as a result. This is not great.

Cat Daddy hasn’t tested positive yet, but it’s only a matter of time. During the torturous wait for his telltale purple lines we are playing a kind of twisted game of tennis, with one of us sneezing, propelling scowly Catorze to the other person’s lap, only for them to sneeze and return him.

It can’t be any coincidence that the tennis term “deuce” is used to refer to both the devil, and to, erm, merde. Catorze is both. He knows it. And he doesn’t care.

This is the look we get when we sneeze.

L’Heure du Diable

Louis Catorze had an absolute cracker of a night on the 31st. Because we had quite the storm raging, he spent much of his time outside on ICB. But he did pop in occasionally to sit at the top of the stairs and creepy-stare at the trick or treaters. And, when they saw him, they decided that they would rather take their chances with the storm, and left quite hurriedly.

Hallowe’en may be over, but my love affair with creepy things on Discovery Plus is continuing.

One evening I couldn’t decide whether to watch murder or hauntings with Catorze, so we went for a combination of the two: Amityville Horror House. In short, it’s about a man who murders his family and then declares that ghosts in the house made him do it. The next family who move into the house then experience all manner of paranormal phenomena, although they rather asked for trouble by keeping all the murdered family’s furniture INCLUDING THE BEDS IN WHICH THEY WERE SHOT DEAD (!).

I quote the narrator of the documentary, word for word: “According to western Christian tradition, Devil’s Hour, 3am to 4am, is the time when demons and ghosts are at their most active. Paranormal investigators theorise that the veil between the spirit world and the physical plane is pierced during Devil’s Hour.”

It’s not just ghosts who are at their most active.

I knew that there had to be a reason why our mutual friend chose 3am to bounce around on the bed, whine, thunder around the house and, erm, pop bubble wrap. (Oui, Mesdames et Messieurs: when we first moved into Le Château this actually happened.)

Since I took the decision to actively tackle my insomnia problem, I have stopped checking the time when I wake up in the middle of the night because, apparently, it can train your body to continue waking up at this time. But, if it’s because of Louis Catorze, I don’t need to check the time. I JUST KNOW.

I also know from other cat households that I am by no means the only person who experiences 3am shenanigans. The little sods are all at it. Until now I had imagined The Mothership – the mysterious, invisible vessel that beams messages to them via their microchips – to be of extraterrestrial origin, but now I know that it’s straight from hell. Satan’s control tower, if you will.

Chilling out to some goth rock.

Anyway, Catorze isn’t done with being creepy. So please think of us when you’re dismantling your Hallowe’en displays; your spookiness is over for another year, but we live with ours permanently.

This photo just screams “1st November”.

Les monstres qui rôdent autour de nous

Louis Catorze’s party month is always busy, but this October has been rammed full of things to do and people to see. Four of those people were Family Next Door, who still have Catorze’s picture hovering creepily on their knife block and haven’t (yet) reported strange noises at night and objects being moved.

Quieter than the real thing.

Daughter Next Door proudly showed me a magic 8 ball that she had received for her birthday, and urged me to ask it any question requiring a yes/no answer. So I said, “Is Louis the creepiest cat in the world?” And the ball malfunctioned. MALFUNCTIONED.

The message was just random white streaks on a background of darkness.

Daughter Next Door: “Oh. I’ve never seen it do this before.”

Neither of us knew quite what to say, but I am now more certain than ever that I won’t be trying out my new divination pendulum on Catorze, despite the giver daring me to do so. That thing will end up spinning like a rogue planchette during a séance with Satan.

Because of everything that we’ve had going on, and because our pumpkins are too heavy to lift, AND because of Louis Catorze’s unbelievably annoying habit of refusing to pose for my photos, somehow I just haven’t made much progress with his Official Hallowe’en Portrait.

Naturellement, when friends take pictures of him, he morphs into Compliant Supermodel Cat. When my friend Emily visited for our annual October spookathon weekend, she was able to capture this:

When black cats prowl and pumpkins gleam …

Although I love the classic cuteness of this photo, no way is he this sweet and obliging in real life. A picture may well paint a thousand words but, in this case, they’re all lies.

Then, with a few days to go until the big night, Cat Daddy managed to produce this:

Don’t ever invite a vampire into your house. It renders you powerless.

Ah yes. This is a far more accurate depiction. It’s like a deleted scene from Salem’s Lot which didn’t make the final cut on account of Stephen King finding it too scary, and it truly shows Catorze for the demonic hell-beast that he is.

So, Mesdames and Messieurs, take your pick. Are you like Emily, kidding yourself that Catorze is an adorable little Hallowe’en kitty (not that I can blame her, because he always behaves for her)? Or are you living in the real world?

Whilst I leave you mulling over that tricky decision, may I wish you all a Joyeuse Fête.

Hallowe’en Boys’ Club.

Le pays des bayous

One day, Cat Daddy and I would like to go to New Orleans for Hallowe’en. The voodoo, the Frenchness and the stark differences between their lifestyle and ours make it a very intriguing place to visit.

Until we make it over there, one of my favourite things to watch is Cajun Justice on Amazon Prime. It’s reality series that follows a Louisiana police department, which is not my usual kind of thing, but what makes it appeal to me are the folklore and the intrinsic part that it plays in the Louisiana way of life.

Members of the community call the police for supernatural reasons such as creepy noises in the attic, as well as for regular things such as, erm, accidentally running over a wild hog and disputing ownership of the carcass. Does it belong to the person who ran it over, or to the person on whose property it landed after the collision? The gentlemen involved couldn’t agree, and they refused to share it, so, in the end, the police lady told them that neither of them could have it and that it belonged to the state.

One day, the police were called to a dispute between neighbours who had been at war for some time; one household was “Cajun” (of local origin) and the other was “Redneck” (not of local origin) and, apparently, the two aren’t compatible.

In this case, the Rednecks’ cat had wandered onto the Cajuns’ property and “disappeared”, the suggestion being that the Cajuns had done something nasty to it. The Cajun neighbour was denying all knowledge, and, of course, the only way to prove it either way would have been finding the cat, dead or alive.

Police officer: “There’s a cat right there. [Points] Is that not y’all cat?”

[Cat strolls casually across the grass without a care in the world]

[Silence, tumbleweed, crickets]

Redneck lady, looking mortified: “Erm … yeah.”

[Laughter from wrongly-accused Cajun, no apology given by gun-jumping Rednecks, zero shits given by cat regarding the trouble caused]

Louis Catorze would have an absolute ball if he were a Louisiana cat, so much so that I gave serious thought to taking him with us on our trip. This is what I think he would love about the place:

⁃ Searing heat

⁃ Abundant nutria (large, toothy rodents regarded as vermin)

⁃ He would be first in line to cause neighbourhood discord and waste police time (although he manages the former perfectly well here, and it’s only a matter of time before he also achieves the latter)

⁃ He would be worshipped by voodoo priests as some sort of holy deity

However, the disadvantages are rather concerning:

⁃ Alligators

⁃ Snakes

⁃ Everyone has guns

⁃ He could be mistaken for a nutria by an alligator, a snake or a person with a gun

Hmmm. Perhaps it’s just as well he doesn’t have to travel, and that the world comes to him. And that is exactly the way it should be for a Sun King.

A nutria.

Qu’ils mangent du gâteau (Partie 2)

Yesterday it was my birthday. I don’t usually have a birthday cake – the last one I had was ten years ago, and the one before that was probably as a child – but I wanted one this year. And, since I can’t bake, I decided to have one made for me.

You’d think this would be easy and that, in these difficult times, bakers would be more than happy for my business, non? Well … NON. One of the three local bakers whom I approached replied promptly and told me that she no longer made bespoke cakes (fair enough), another promised to contact me with costs but then didn’t despite me politely following up, and the third just didn’t reply at all. I messaged her on WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger, she read both messages (ah yes, the magic of modern technology and read receipts) but still didn’t reply.

Merci à Dieu, then, for Cat Daddy. He has never baked, nor has he decorated a cake, in his life. But, when he saw my predicament, he stepped in to be my dashing knight. And this magnificent masterpiece was the result of his efforts:

Saint Jésus et tous ses anges.

It may be 70% sugar and 30% food colouring, but it’s the best thing in the world. Bravo to Cat Daddy for stepping out of his comfort zone to save the day, and to my sister and nieces for making the fondant features. The cake tasted as good as it looked, and the only costs to us were the ingredients, the constant questions and Unrepeatable Expletives as Cat Daddy prepared it, and black tongues for several days.

Louis Catorze had plenty of attention over the weekend and is now recovering on his papa’s lap after all the over-stimulation. After all, he needs to conserve some mischief for the rest of the month.

Don’t overdo it! There’s still almost half of the party month left to go.
Take it easy, little sod.

Mahomet ira à la montagne

Cat Daddy’s friend Mike – one of the boys from the notorious Friday night Zoom call – has given us some home-grown pumpkins. Some are tiny ghost pumpkins that fit into the palm of my hand. The the others are the familiar, traditional orange ones, and so ridiculously heavy that I can’t lift them.

If I am to achieve the Herculean feat that is a faintly passable Official Hallowe’en Portrait for Louis Catorze, I am going to have to do one of the following:

⁃ Rely on him to come to wherever the big pumpkins may be, rather than carrying them to him when he happens to be in an appropriate place/pose.

⁃ Use the small ones (taking them to him), which will make the little sod look comically gigantic.

One of those is far more likely to yield results than the other. Although I use the word “results” somewhat loosely.

For the moment, the big pumpkins are sitting on the outdoor sofa until I figure out how on earth I can not only get Catorze to them, but make him pose beautifully. I’m going to need a little luck, and a LOT of time.

Like a hot stone massage, except … neither hot, nor a stone. Nor even a massage.
Oh dear God, no.

Le mannequin de haute-couture

After Louis Catorze’s success in modelling for the Christmas collection, Puppy Mamma decided to use him again as her photographic muse, for the launch of her 2022 autumn collection.

I did warn her that lightning didn’t strike twice where Catorze was concerned – unless, of course, it was the bad kind of lightning. But, having tried her luck once with him, with great results, Puppy Mamma couldn’t resist another go.

On the morning of the shoot, Cat Daddy decided to scatter stinky compost juice all over the garden. I know. I was doing my step workout outdoors at the time, so this wasn’t great timing. And, worse yet, I had the bifold doors open because I was listening out for the postman, and the gut-wrenching stink floated into the house and clung to every surface and every space.

When Puppy Mamma arrived, the whole house still reeked and Catorze, presumably unable to stand the stench, was asleep in the attic bedroom. I suggested that we take the props to him rather than vice versa, mainly because I knew that upstairs would smell better. However, Puppy Mamma had her heart set on photographing Catorze in the hearth and, after arranging the props in an artful fashion, she said, “It would be great if we could get Louis to sit right there, in the middle.”

Hmmm. This would have been impossible even if he were in a good mood. But after being rudely awoken from his slumber and dragged into a room stinking of rot? Non, non and thrice non.

Or so I thought.

Oh. Mon. Dieu. The little sod was flawless, and Puppy Mamma was able to take some of the best pictures I have ever seen of him. As a result I am feeling much more confident of achieving a passable Official 2022 Hallowe’en Portrait (although I may have to ask Puppy Mamma to do it). Cat Daddy is super-proud of his spooky boy, although he would punch himself in both eyes before he ever admitted it.

If you are anything like me and you start thinking about the next Hallowe’en before the pumpkins from the last one have even made it to the compost heap, you will have organised yourself a long time ago. However, if you are a normal person, please have a look here at Puppy Mamma’s handmade seasonal decorations. And below is Le Roi‘s best picture from the photo shoot.

Cat Daddy: “He never poses like this for you. In fact, your photos of him are always the worst.” Thanks for that.

Tip: to make the model more compliant, dust the props liberally with catnip. (I’m not joking. You can even see the bits on the floor.)

Quelque chose de méchant arrive

For someone who has such a deep interest in ghosts and spirits, I am surprisingly unintuitive. My mum and my late great-aunt have a long and colourful catalogue of paranormal encounters, but I haven’t seen much that couldn’t be explained in some boring terrestrial way.

However, this still doesn’t stop me from searching for signs that Le Château may be haunted. Even though it’s not. Coincidentally, almost all of these signs also indicate that a certain troublemaking black cat is at large:

⁃ Strange noises: check

⁃ Waking up at 3am: check

⁃ Furniture and objects out of place: check (as well as pulling my shirts off their hangers on Wednesday night whilst they were drying around the room, Louis Catorze is also a fan of opening guests’ cases whilst they sleep and silently flinging their stuff all over the floor)

⁃ Increased nightmares: check (both whilst asleep and whilst awake)

⁃ Disturbances in electricity: check (assuming we can count a non-functioning television among those things)

⁃ Temperature fluctuations: check (a 3kg cat can generate a surprising amount of heat when he’s sleeping on your chest)

⁃ Pets behaving oddly: HELL, check

⁃ Inexplicable voices: partial check, as there are, indeed, voices, but they are usually very explicable (Catorze screaming, Cat Daddy using Unrepeatable Expletives of the Worst Kind and That Neighbour knocking at the door to bring Catorze home after yet another escape out at The Front)

As Long Hallowe’en unfolds, no doubt there will be more of the above. Perhaps we will never know which ones are being caused by poltergeists and which by Le Roi, but I know that poltergeists would be less of a nuisance.

Here is Catorze, wishing everyone a Joyeuse Fête and reminding the world that there’s only room for one demonic entity in this house. Happy Long Hallowe’en to you all.

“From the sky will come a great king of terror” (Nostradamus).

Arroser le repas royal

After a couple of weeks of happily eating dry Orijen, Louis Catorze has decided that he would like it dampened down again.

I was worried that he was in pain and/or having difficulty eating. However, when he saw the vet for his steroid shot and I asked them to check his teeth just in case, they confirmed that there was nothing wrong with him. So he doesn’t have a medical reason for requiring dampened-down Orijen. He’s just being a shit.

It gets worse: it seems that, this time around, he wants the water chaser to be boiling, and not 70 degrees. (Don’t worry: once the water hits his cold bowl it cools immediately, leaving the food comfortable enough to eat.) And he will only eat it if the boiling water was just poured a couple of seconds previously. Longer than a minute or two beforehand and it’s a firm NON.

No doubt by the time this goes live, he will have changed his mind again about what he wants. That said, he has surely been through every possible permutation of Orijen-in-water and there’s nothing further we can add/change, other than perhaps deciding that the boiling water chaser must be made from “aged ice” (a chunk chipped off a millennia-old Antarctic glacier, flown here in a refrigerated light aircraft, melted down and poured into our kettle).

In not-much-better news, the sittings for his 2021 Official Hallowe’en Portrait have been beyond a joke. Despite the genius idea of placing the pumpkin in Catorze’s prime creepy staring position, we have had mostly grim disasters plus a couple that were passable but nothing special. I think we are going to have to cheat with the final version by Noir-filtering the hell out of a photo that Cat Daddy took earlier this year.

For goodness’ sake.
Pretending to pose but is actually creepy-staring for food.
“Joyeuse Halloween. Now feed moi.”
Artsy in a strange sort of way.
I have no words for this.

Vous aimez les films d’horreur?

Merci à Dieu: it’s half term. And the October break would not be complete without horror films.

Here at Le Château we enjoy them all year round, but they are especially pleasurable in the run-up to the best day of the year. Even Cat Daddy can be partial to the odd horror film in October, although he detests violence and gore (therefore not really getting what horror is meant to be about) and prefers to stick to the old classics or “the ones that have a good rating on Squashed Tomatoes” (which is what he thinks Rotten Tomatoes is called).

There are quite a few “Cats watching horror films” videos doing the rounds on social media and, whilst some of them are funny, it does seem a bit mean to deliberately scare cats for the amusement of strangers on the internet. What a good thing, then, that Louis Catorze is utterly unafraid of scary movies, which means I can watch what I like around him.

I have carried out extensive research with Sa Maj over the years to monitor his responses to various sub-genres within the main umbrella of horror, and my findings are listed below (on a scale of 0 to 10, with 0 meaning no reaction whatsoever and 10 indicating that his “Urge To Kill” switch has been activated):

  • Zombies: 0
  • Werewolves: 0
  • Poltergeists: 0
  • Serial killers (including screaming victims): 0
  • Demonic possession and/or exorcism: 0
  • Psycho barking dogs infected with alien pathogen: 0
  • Disfigured, cannibalistic mountain dwellers: 0
  • Creepy children and their even creepier “imaginary” friends: 0
  • Ancient Egyptian ghosts unleashed from their tombs by archaeologists who should have minded their own business: 0
  • Vampires: 2 (purring and slow-blinking, presumably recognising them as his distant ancestors)
  • Crickets chirping on a moonlit night: 10
  • Seagulls (during an episode of X Files set in a coastal town): 10

This is by no means an exhaustive list as, no doubt, there are other sub-genres that I have not yet explored. Somehow it doesn’t seem quite so cruel doing this to a cat who has no idea how to be frightened so, if you have any other suggestions that you would like me to try out on the little sod, please let me know.

Oh. Mon. Dieu.

Les bisous du vampire

People who haven’t experienced the horror joy of meeting Louis Catorze often assume his photos to be fake, because his fangs don’t look as if they should belong on any actual cat (nor, indeed, on any animal known to zoological science).

I’m quite flattered at the assumption that I would be knowledgeable enough to doctor pictures so convincingly but, no, they aren’t altered; those teeth are the work of Mother Nature and her brief dalliance with Satan. The fangs stick out permanently whether his mouth is open or closed, but how much depends on a number of things: the camera angle, the direction in which Catorze is looking, and also his mood. Yes, his mood. If he’s in a psycho, playful mood, for reasons that we cannot fathom, his fangs are more prominent.

In a way this is a good thing, because gives us some warning that things are about to go awry. However, there is nothing we can do to stop it.

Here are some of the many faces of Le Roi, taken over the course of this year, showing how much the visibility of the fangs can vary. That last one may well be recycled as his Official Hallowe’en Portrait for this year, as I don’t imagine he will be remotely compliant when it comes to posing for that later this month.

Invisible fangs.
Just a hint of fangs.

Le coussin du lion

We all know that Louis Catorze opens portals to hell and communes with evil spirits on a daily basis, not just in October but all year round. This isn’t great but there’s not much we can do about it, and the last thing we want to do is have him/them feed on our fear, so we largely ignore it and hope it will go away.

So what better way to show one’s devotion to the Sun King than to, erm, send him a gift that encourages him to do it even more? Lucky Catorze received this fabulous cushion a few months ago, but somehow it seems fitting to feature it now. LOOK AT IT:

He doesn’t need the board or the planchette: he just does this with his MIND.

Me: “Don’t you think this is SO him?”

Cat Daddy, without looking up from his laptop: “That cat’s better-looking.”

Anyway, Catorze absolutely loves his gift although, being the Sun King, he does insist on us gradually moving it across the sofa as the sun moves. And it seems to have become like a docking station from the Underworld, with Catorze sitting there to power up for his next bit of mischief. Not really what we need at the moment but we are powerless to stop it, and I suspect that, if we burned the cushion and buried the ashes in a faraway churchyard, it would only reappear on our sofa the next day, as pristine as the day it was made and with Sa Maj perched atop it.

Here are some pictures (below) of Catorze going from regal to oh-good-grief in a matter of seconds.

Thank you, Cathie, for this lovely gift!

Thou shalt adore the king …
Even when he washes his arse.

Une heure de plus

October is here and, as you are no doubt aware by now, this month fills me with pure and absolute joy. However, any minute now, the black cats of the world will collectively lose their shit. That bit isn’t going to be quite so joyous.

Louis Catorze is glossy-furred, full of energy and READY.

This year we have been blessed with a long Hallowe’en. Thanks to Daylight Saving Time coming to an end and the clocks going back by an hour on Sunday 31st, we have an extra sixty minutes of the big day. Somehow this fits perfectly with the whole idea that, during these periods when the veil between the worlds is thin, time does not function as it should.

Unfortunately it also means we will have an extra hour of Catorze’s nonsense. Not only is he a natural conduit for all things evil, irrespective of the state of the veil, but merely being in his presence appears to make time malfunction; if he is doing something idiotic and we are willing him to stop, time can stand still.

Last year he surprised us all by actually NOT misbehaving, mainly because he was having so much fun attending to Important Full Moon Hallowe’en Cat Business in the Zone Libre that he just forgot.

Let’s hope he’s not planning to make up for it this year.

He’s so ready that he’s even dressed for the occasion with a cobweb bracelet.

La Cape d’Invisibilité est de retour

Cat Daddy and I returned home from the cinema not long ago, to be greeted at the door by Louis Catorze and his raspy screaming. Yes, his voice is different since his surgery; whereas he used to sound like a whiny child whose mummy had just told him that he couldn’t have any ice cream, now I would describe his sound as “chain-smoking drag queen”.

I even wonder whether the sounds he makes mean different things now, like those people who wake up after an operation or a head injury and are able to speak a new language. My friend Lizzi thinks Catorze is now Russian, and I can’t say I would be remotely surprised if this were true.

Anyway, after his initial bonjour/Привет, the little sod disappeared back upstairs and was gone for ages. It’s unusual for him to be absent at length at that time of the night, so eventually I went to look for him to make sure he hadn’t crawled under a bed and died of some horrific post-surgical complication.

He was nowhere to be found.

Cat Daddy: “He must be there somewhere.”

Me: “Trust me, I’ve looked everywhere. There’s nowhere left to look.”

Cat Daddy: “I suppose as a last resort you could try The Front, but I know he’s not there. I saw him run back upstairs.”

I opened the front door.

There he was. And, no, we have absolutely no idea how he is doing this.

Autumn is only just getting started. And I fear that the same may be said of Catorze.

Be afraid. We certainly are.