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!”

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.

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!”

Les rats de ville

Our pubs are officially open from today.

However, Cat Daddy and his boozing buddies have decided that they won’t be heading back to the Cock and Bull* quite yet, and that they will continue their virtual drinking meets for the time being. This is great news for Louis Catorze, who loves the Friday night Zoom sessions with the boys, and even better news for me as I get to listen to their captivating chats and tell you all about them.

*I haven’t made this up. This is the actual name of the pub where they used to meet pre-lockdown. I KNOW.

Anyway, for those who are interested, their most recent meeting of minds consisted of the following topics:

1. Eric Clapton

2. Playing whole albums on Spotify/Deezer/Apple Music/whatever, versus only playing selected tracks

3. Who has the biggest car (Tim, Mike and Simon fought it out between them and couldn’t agree, so the conclusion remains inconclusive)

4. Plastering, and the fact that you can (apparently) now get paint which is the same colour as plasterboard

5. Lawn bowls

6. Sutton Beer Festival 1975, when (apparently) a naked lady climbed to the top of a marquee and a naked man chased after her

7. Pete’s summer house/shed, and whether it should be called a summer house or a shed

8. How much salt everyone adds when they’re cooking

In other news, just when we thought it couldn’t get any worse, CANNIBAL RATS. Oh yes. 2020 has already given us blazing infernos (Australia), raging floods (UK), a plague of locusts (Somalia) and a killer virus (erm, everywhere) but, if you drew “cannibal rats” in your workplace sweepstake as the next thing to go wrong in the world, you may well be in the money. On the positive side, the reopening of pubs may draw the little critters away from residential areas. But that’s about the only good news that there is.

Be warned, this link is a darkly comedic yet horrifying read:

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/jun/29/summer-of-the-cannibal-rats-hungry-aggressive-highly-fertile-and-coming-to-our-homes?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Thank goodness for Catorze and his relentless hours of Rodent Duty. Ok, so it’s not great that he brings them into the house, but I guess a dead rat in the house is somewhat preferable to a live one running freely and making little ratty babies. (There were many, many things in the above link that made me shudder, but “highly fertile” was by far the worst.)

Here is the little sod, having adopted an elevated position for a better view and continuing to take his civic duty very seriously indeed. So, good citizens of TW8, we can sleep soundly in our beds this summer.

All along the watchtower.

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.

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!”