Le thé parfumé

I have caught Louis Catorze nuzzling the spout of the teapot.

(Yes, although Dry February is officially over, I’m not in any hurry to hit the booze yet and am happy to stick to tea. In fact, I might even try for Dry March, too, just to see whether I continue to feel healthy and alert or whether my body eventually starts to reject the unfamiliar non-alcoholic beverages and my organs slowly pack up and die.)

I haven’t been so disgusted since I caught Catorze’s big brother Luther doing the same thing to my electric toothbrush when I’d left it to charge up on the floor (because the plug points in our old house were all at ground level). Just as I had left the toothbrush in that same spot about 768 times previously and then used it afterwards, I have left many a half-pot of tea unguarded and then unsuspectingly drunk the tepid remains.

As nuzzlers go, Catorze doesn’t simply brush his cheeks against things; he really, gets stuck in, meaning contact with nostrils, lips, teeth and all sorts. And, because of his tooth impediment and the fact that his lower lip dips downwards to accommodate les fangs, his mouth can never close fully and therefore he would have spread saliva and snot all over the teapot spout.

Now, we all know that bacteria are wiped out by high temperatures. But Cat Daddy, who is a tea expert, has taught me well: green tea, my drink of choice, is brewed at 80 degrees, whereas a temperature of 100 degrees is what’s needed to destroy bugs. And, even if I had brewed the tea at 100 degrees, leaving it to go tepid would have undone any possibility of destroying germs. In fact: tepid temperatures are like a come-hither party invitation for all things gross and germy.

Anyway, I am now scarred for life and will never, ever recover from this. As for Catorze … well, this picture suggests that he might not be too bothered:

Morning tea with a hint of cat spit.

Défense de tuer les rouge-gorges

Most people would have dismantled their festive decorations on Twelfth Night, but we barely needed to bother because the squirrels were kind enough to do much of the job for us. We can’t be sure of exact numbers but we imagine we are about ten baubles down, thanks to those pesky, thieving little sods.

However, this is by no means the end of Cat Daddy’s war against them. His latest piece of weaponry is the feeder pictured below, which allows birds to access the tasty treats but somehow doesn’t permit “pests”. Nothing is quite as passive-aggressive as a feeder that says “Here’s food for everyone else, BUT NOT YOU.”

Our favourite visitors are a pair of robins, who are so friendly that they even come to feed whilst we are doing our noisy outdoor workouts.

Photographed by Cat Daddy a fortnight ago.

We love them, and we look forward to seeing them every time we look or go outside. But we are also very nervous on their behalf, because of this individual:

Don’t even THINK about it.

Now, the last time that Louis Catorze caught a bird was a long time ago (full story featured here: https://louiscatorze.com/2016/07/16/loiseau/ ) and, as far as we know, he hasn’t caught one since. So logic would deem it unlikely that things would go awry. However, this is Catorze, he who pretty much INVENTED the dark art of doing exactly the opposite of whatever is expected or wanted. This is why we are nervous.

So we have decided to follow the advice of The Guardian (see link: https://www.theguardian.com/science/2021/feb/11/meaty-meals-and-play-stop-cats-killing-wildlife-study-finds) and ramp up Catorze’s play sessions, especially as the sunnier weather seems to be giving him a boost of not-needed energy. And, as an extra precaution, Cat Daddy has “had a serious word with him” (?).

Please keep your fingers crossed and hope that Catorze behaves himself.

*EDIT: the day after I wrote this piece, Cat Daddy overheard Catorze making “his awful hunting noise” at two birds on the feeder. Oh my.

Dormir, c’est du temps perdu

From 8th March onwards, I will be back at school.

This means that I will be able to teach lessons and attend meetings in peace, without Louis Catorze barging in and interrupting. The bad news is that his creepy kitty sixth sense appears to have informed him of the diminishing opportunities to ruin my life, and so he thought he’d put all his efforts into one final hurrah.

Yesterday I took part in a podcast chaired by my Ultimate Boss, the head of all the schools within our education group. I knew full well that our mutual friend would cause problems so I shut him out of the room. However, this failed to stem the flow of this tiny tsunami of feline psycho, and I should have taken additional measures such as having Cat Daddy supervise him, locking him in a lead-lined underground vault, that kind of thing. This was a huge oversight on my part.

I thought he might scream once or twice, but I didn’t think the little sod would have the energy/inclination to sit outside the door and keep screaming throughout the entire recording. I know. Believe me, I am wincing with shame at my own stupidity.

This will give some insight into how it went:

Ultimate Boss: “What made you all become languages teachers?”

“Mwaaaaah!”

Ultimate Boss: “How have you adapted your methods since we shifted to online learning?”

“Mwaaaaah!”

Ultimate Boss: “What impact does language learning have on cognition?”

“Mwaaaaah!”

And so on.

Anyway, my poor colleague who is responsible for our media communications will now have a job trying to edit the screaming from the final piece.

And the worst thing is that, throughout the recording, nobody acknowledged the interruption. With hindsight, it would have been less awkward had someone said “What’s that noise?” I would have replied, “Oh, just ignore it. It’s only my silly cat!” and we would have laughed and carried on. But, conversely, in the same way that fear makes demons and poltergeists grow more powerful, saying nothing made it worse; clearly everyone, including Ultimate Boss, thought, “I don’t want to be the one to blink first.”

After SIXTY MINUTES of this excruciating torment I finally opened the door, imagining a feeble Catorze weak and withered from thirst, but the little sod ignored his water and came straight to my lap. He could have sought cuddles at any point during my lunch break, my free period or even, at worst, a normal lesson with students (yes, even that same Year 11 class, AGAIN, would have been preferable). But, naturellement, he didn’t want them then.

Here is Catorze, pictured immediately after the harrowing event. And, if you feel like listening to my podcast about the importance of languages in a post-Brexit world, don’t bother. Just record the next cat fight that you hear and play it on a loop for 60 minutes, for the same overall effect.

“Je ne regrette rien.”

Compassion pour le diable

Louis Catorze really has surpassed himself this time with his dark arts and sorcery.

It was 6pm and, once again, he had eaten around his pill leaving it untouched in his bowl, so I had no option but to dig it out from inside the Pill Pocket and Greco it to him. I decided to grab him whilst he was on our bed – better a static target than a moving, screaming one – and this was the sequence of events that unfolded that terrifying evening:

1. First Greco attempt: spat out.

2. Second attempt: spat out.

3. Third attempt: little sod not only spat it out but rolled on top of it. And there was no unrolling him.

Yes, I know that he only weighs 3.5kg (or thereabouts). Yes, I know that I weigh considerably more. But this is Catorze we are talking about; if he doesn’t want it to happen, it won’t.

4. Fake-stroking in an effort to make him unroll.

5. Purring but no unrolling.

6. More fake-stroking.

7. Purring but no unrolling.

Eventually I gave up and decided to go back downstairs. At this point Catorze decided to join me and stood up to stretch.

The pill was nowhere to be seen.

I. Looked. Everywhere. It was neither in the folds of the duvet, nor on the floor, nor stuck to Catorze’s fur (and I made sure of this, patting him down like a prison officer searching an inmate for a concealed shank). Rien, nichts, niente, nada.

THE SPOOKY LITTLE FREAK HAD MADE HIS PILL DISAPPEAR. And we still haven’t found it.

I am nowhere near competent enough to take on this kind of devilry. And Catorze knows this perfectly well.

“Pleased to meet you. Hope you guess mon nom.”

La langue anglaise

During this half term break, I began an online course to learn how to teach English as a foreign language. If you are a non-Brit who has chosen to learn English, you are a true hero. Every part of the English language, without exception, is an absolute horror. However, these were the worst parts for me:

Firstly, none of the terminology is the same as it is when I teach French. So what I call the imperfect is the past continuous, and what I call the pluperfect is (I think) the past perfect. Are we all keeping up so far?

Secondly, adjective order is a thing. Native speakers somehow instinctively know what sounds right, for instance, “Louis Catorze caught a huge, fat, brown rat” rather than “… a brown, fat, huge rat”. So size comes first, then shape, then colour. But there are other categories, too: opinion, age, origin, substance and use/function, e.g. “Louis Catorze caught a horrible, huge, old, fat, brown, English, curly-haired, sewer-dwelling rat.” If someone were to give me the words I am sure I would be able to order them correctly. But if they were to ask whether origin came before or after substance, I wouldn’t have the faintest idea without checking.

Thirdly: conditionals. These are quite the most awful things ever. There are four of them altogether and, just to make our lives harder, instead of calling them First, Second, Third and Fourth, we call them Zero, First, Second and Third. So if you see/hear an example and you recognise it as the fourth of the four types that you studied, in actual fact it’s the Third. The third is the Second, and the second is the First. I know. I KNOW.

Zero Conditional is used for something that is factually true all the time: “If I teach online lessons, Louis Catorze misbehaves.”

First Conditional is used for something that is likely but hasn’t happened yet in this case: “If I teach this online lesson, Louis Catorze will misbehave.”

Second Conditional is for something hypothetical yet still with a predictable consequence: “If were to teach an online lesson, Louis Catorze would misbehave.”

Third Conditional is for looking back, possibly with regret, at something that didn’t go as planned: “Had I not been teaching online lessons, Louis Catorze would not have misbehaved.” (Well, we all know that he would have just found another way/reason, but you get the idea.)

There are also Mixed Conditionals which can refer to regrets over actions which continue to affect the present: “Had Louis Catorze behaved during that online lesson, I would not be crying into a vodka bottle right now.”

Anyway, I now need another week off to recover from my training. And Catorze did his best to ruin it – screaming, headbutting the laptop, the usual nonsense – but what he didn’t know was that it consisted of pre-recorded videos, not live Zoom calls. So, although he could see and hear Alan and Joe (his two favourite trainers), they could neither see nor hear him.

Here he is, smug in the belief that he humiliated me in front of actual people (again), when in fact I had the last laugh:

He couldn’t give a hoot about English and expects everyone to speak French.

L’appel du réveil

Apparently U.K. pubs may open in April, but without alcohol. I KNOW. I’m not even drinking at the moment (because we’re doing Dry February) and I still think it’s a stupid idea.

When I am drinking, I far prefer to do it at home; I can have the wine that I want instead of being forced to have Compromise Prosecco, I always get a seat and there’s no queue for the bathroom. Yet Cat Daddy and I often reminisce about pubs and wonder when we will be allowed to go back. (I am talking about Covid, by the way; we haven’t been barred.)

A few nights ago, we remembered one particular occasion which was most certainly blogworthy but, for whatever reason, I didn’t write about it at the time (most likely because Louis Catorze had already done 652 stupid things that week and there wasn’t time/space). That night I returned home from the pub early, leaving Cat Daddy out on the rampage with our friends (and, more worryingly, with my debit card).

Unfortunately we had only taken one key with us and I had brought it home, so Cat Daddy was keyless. Not only that, but I forgot to leave him a spare one in our secret safe place. By the time he came home and realised that he couldn’t get in, my phone had switched to night time setting so all his calls went straight to my voicemail. Not even his knocking at the door woke me up, which was very unusual.

Merci à Dieu, then, for Catorze. For where our lack of organisation, our technology malfunction – even though it was, in actual fact, functioning as it should – and my uncharacteristic sleep-deafness let us down, his ear-imploding screaming saved the day. I came downstairs in the early hours to investigate the God-awful sound and found him sitting by the front door, psycho-eyed and puffed-chested, alerting me to his daddy’s predicament with all his might.

Cat Daddy later: “I don’t understand why he sat by the front door and screamed at me. Why didn’t he go upstairs and scream at you?”

I don’t suppose he needed to. I heard him. And so, I would imagine, did most of the street.

Yes, neighbours, THAT’S what that noise was. Sorry about that.

“Au secours!”

Les draps de l’hiver

I really ought to have learned my lesson by now: spot-on flea treatment, plus clean sheets (Louis Catorze’s favourite brushed flannel ones) on our bed, plus bedroom door accidentally open, were never going to be a happy combination.

The cheeky little sod moved like lightning after the treatment to run upstairs and roll the liquid off from his neck onto the bed. And here he is (below), having done the evil deed, looking très confortable.

Cat Daddy: “He’d better not be on my side. Or anywhere near my pillow.”

[Silence, tumbleweed, crickets.]

Shocked but not surprised.

Les oignons font pleurer

Merci à Dieu: it’s half term. And what better way to round off the last week at school than with the second attempt at the French speaking tests that I’d had to discard the first time around because Louis Catorze did not respect the test conditions.

This time it was the kids who stuffed up the task for various reasons, so I ended up having to ditch these, too, and mark the previous test pieces containing the Catorze screaming as they were actually better. As I was playing them back, Catorze strolled in and meowed every time he heard his voice on the recording. YES, HE WAS REPLYING TO HIS OWN SCREAMS.

In other news, someone has been digging up Cat Daddy’s onion plants, and he’s not too happy about it. Unrepeatable Expletives of the Worst Kind have been used, multiple times.

Can you guess the identity of the number one suspect? I’ll give you a bit of time to think about it, as this is quite a tricky one.

Me: “Maybe it wasn’t him.” (I know, I know. As soon as the words were out of my mouth I knew how stupid this sounded.)

Cat Daddy: “Go and look at the hole.”

It was too small to have been the work of the foxes, and too neat to have been the squirrels.

Cat Daddy: “And before you blame the foxes or the squirrels, can you explain how they might have also dug up the chard that I was propagating INDOORS? Did they sneak in, dig around and then sneak out completely unnoticed?”

Oh dear.

Anyway, Catorze is the picture of innocence and says we can’t prove anything. What is your verdict?

“It wasn’t moi.”

Neutre, comme La Suisse

When it snows in the U.K. – which is nowhere near as often as non-Brits would imagine – most people swear firm allegiance to either Team Youpi! or Team Non.

I am very much Team Youpi! I love it. I appreciate that it’s not much fun when you have to actually go out and do things, but I would rather do battle than have no snow at all.

Cat Daddy is Team Non. This stems from when he used to run his own business and the snow meant severe disruption to their deliveries. One December, when Royal Mail couldn’t cope, he actually put a customer’s parcel in the car and personally delivered it so that they would have it in time for Christmas, just like a latter-day Santa.

Also, many years ago, I made Cat Daddy take me to the cinema during a yellow – or possibly amber? – weather warning, and I remember him muttering Unrepeatable Expletives of the Worst Kind as he flung a blanket, a spade and bottled water into the car for our journey. Yes, I made him drive to the cinema with me, in the snow, to see a film he didn’t even want to see and which was the sequel whose original he also hadn’t wanted to see. And, no, it wasn’t even a good sequel. They never are.

Now, you’d imagine Louis Catorze would side with his daddy, just to make me feel outnumbered and spited, but in actual fact he is neutral. Whilst he doesn’t spend extra time outside because of the snow, nor is he one of those cats who puts one paw onto it and then aborts their mission. He just goes about his normal life – whatever “normal” may be – in exactly the same way that he would if there were no snow.

Yes, a cat who is neutral to snow. It’s not normal. Trust me, I know. But I guess this is just another of the many [insert appropriate noun here because I can’t think of one] that make him so [insert appropriate adjective here because I can’t think of one].

Here is the little sod, entranced by a recent snowfall:

“Il neige!”

Then Cat Daddy opened the window wider and lifted him up so that he could get a better look:

The Pest from the West (of London).

Au bord de la rivière

On Saturday, Cat Daddy and I watched our beloved Brentford play Middlesbrough away.

Louis Catorze always sits on his daddy’s lap during football matches (no great surprise there). However, Cat Daddy tends to become very animated and over-excited, and Sa Maj doesn’t approve of this. In fact, he doesn’t even approve of mild animation and excitement. Cat Daddy has to be a statue, and anything else is unacceptable.

This was the sequence of events during the match:

1. Middlesbrough goal just a couple of minutes in. Unrepeatable expletives from Cat Daddy, moderate fidgeting from Catorze.

2. Brentford goal. Cat Daddy shouts “Yesssss!” sending Catorze springing off his lap and darting into a corner, meowing disdainfully.

3. Catorze returns but to my lap this time, not quite trusting Cat Daddy after his outburst. However, this only lasts about 0.3 seconds and he’s soon back in his happy place.

4. Start of second half. Spirited conversation from Cat Daddy. Catorze doesn’t like this and twitches and squirms, all the while glaring contemptuously at his papa.

5. Second Brentford goal. Cat Daddy says “Yes!” in a deliberately muted fashion. Catorze is off again, meowing disdainfully.

6. Cat Daddy: “[Unrepeatable expletives.] I was really careful that time!”

7. Catorze returns, whining like a dog. Cat Daddy picks him up and roughs him up a little, berating him for being such a complainer. In actual fact his complaining voice and his normal voice sound exactly the same.

8. Middlesbrough defender slips on the wet turf – ironic since the home commentators had earlier suggested that we southern wimps wouldn’t be able to cope with the inclement northern weather conditions – resulting in a third Brentford goal. Cat Daddy can’t be bothered to restrain himself on this occasion and goes all out with the cheering. At this point Catorze has had enough and leaves the room, remaining absent for the fourth Brentford goal and the full-time whistle.

9. Catorze returns – freezing cold and damp – in time for Cat Daddy’s post-match FaceTime call with Cocoa the babysit cat’s daddy, clearly unable to resist the allure of another male voice. And, when Cat Daddy says goodbye, he takes Catorze’s tail in his fingers and waves it at the camera.

I have always been mildly offended that Catorze never chooses my lap during football. However, if the price to pay is not being allowed to even speak, I think I’m happy to leave the boys to it.

Hoping The Bees don’t score anytime soon. Or ever.