Le pouvoir du vampire

This week I asked some of my students whether they liked dogs or cats. They said cats. This is the correct answer.

The conversation then led to our own cats, past and present, including, of course, Louis Catorze, and at the end of the lesson I showed them a photo of him. They were utterly spellbound and speechless at the sight of his magnificent vampire fangs.

“Miss, he’s REALLY beautiful!” they exclaimed. “Can we see more pictures? Can we just look at cat pictures next lesson instead of doing work?” They will never know how much I wanted to say yes to this. French pluperfect tense grammar rules or cat photos? It’s a no-brainier, oui?

Anyway, the students now appear to be under the impression that people would pay a fortune for a black vampire cat, and they are devising a Dragons’ Den-worthy scheme to get rich by breeding Le Roi and having his hypothetical Reine birth lots of fanged babies. Cat Daddy spat his tea all over his newspaper when I told him this, and said, “Bad, bad idea. One: he has freakish physical and mental abnormalities that are best not passed on. Two: females aren’t his thing. Three: he has no balls and can’t reproduce anyway.”

Good points, well made. But, as the little sod’s big day approaches, I’m with my students on this one. I think that we have been blessed with a very special gift indeed, because who DOESN’T want a vampire cat at Hallowe’en? And it is my civic duty to share this gift with the world.

Cat Daddy again: “No. It’s really not.”

Que Dieu ait son âme

I am taking a break from Le Château this weekend, leaving Boys’ Club to itself – Cat Daddy has assured me that he will “try to remember” to feed and water Louis Catorze – and I have escaped to the south coast for my annual Halloweekend celebration with my sister and her family.

It’s a tradition that we started some years ago and still continue to this day, and this time I am lucky enough to be a guest in their lovely town house overlooking the sea. My sister doesn’t have any cats but she does have a homicidal Hitchcock-esque seagull, easily big enough to carry off Catorze should it feel so inclined, who lives on her roof and who dive-bombs passers-by every now and again. So I haven’t entirely escaped from unhinged animals who want to kill me.

To help us decide what to do this weekend, we have been taking inspiration from Tina Brown’s book “Haunted Experiences in Hastings and Beyond”. The last chapter is entitled “Ghostly Animals” and, would you believe, it turns out that they’re all cats. Every. Last. One.

Oui, Mesdames et Messieurs: it seems that, whilst other animals have got the hang of the whole resting in peace thing, cats haven’t (or don’t want to). Even death is not enough to stop the little sods from driving us round the bend. I am shocked but not the slightest bit surprised.

Do you have any scary cat stories? Have you encountered any ghost cats, or have your living cats ever freaked you out with their kitty ESP, their spirit-spotting capabilities or their general creepiness? If so, I would love to hear all about it.

Le chat (un poème spécial pour la fête d’Halloween)

B9116EC7-7EFA-4767-9947-6514114EB0AFOnce upon a midnight dreary, while I slumbered, weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, sweetly dreaming, suddenly I was blaspheming,
As of some one loudly screaming, screaming at my chamber door —
“’Tis some little sod,” I muttered, “screaming at my chamber door —
Only this and nothing more.”

Ah, distinctly I was sober, for I know it was October;
And each waft of limey odour chilled me to my very core.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; — vainly I had sought to borrow
For my eyes, no sleep, just sorrow – sorrow at the screaming jaws —
Of the loud and rude shitweasel whom the demons name Catorze —
Bugging me for evermore.

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
“Votre Majesté” said I, “truly some silence I implore.
But the fact is I was dreaming, and you caused my wild blaspheming.
And so loudly you came screaming, screaming at my chamber door;
That I know full well I heard you” — here I opened wide the door —
Darkness there and nothing more.

Back into the chamber, learning that my ears were still a-burning,
All at once I heard paws turning, somewhat louder than before.
“Surely,” said I, “surely that is how the Sun King pitter-patters;
Let me see, then, what thereat is, this vile din I can’t ignore —
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore —
’Tis Le Roi and nothing more!”

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
Pitter-pattered a small Sun King, tail aloft with odious roar;
“Though thy fur be foul and gritty, thou,” I said, “‘tis quite a pity,
Ghastly, grim and noisy kitty, wandering fresh from canine war —
Tell me what the heck you want now, for thy screaming’s quite a bore!” —
Quoth the Sun King, “Nevermore.”

“Salaud!” said I, “thing of evil! – little sod, if cat or devil!
He’s a fiend that walks among us, fangèd demon with four paws –
Tell my face with mouth a-yawning if, before the new year’s dawning,
I shall see a peaceful morning sans disturbance from Catorze.
Take away this hellish racket, now; begone, thy screaming jaws!”
Quoth the Sun King, “Nevermore.”

“Be that word our sign of parting, cat or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting.
“Get thee back into le salon, sur la chaise that you adore!
Leave no cat hair as a token of that scream thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my cursèd sleep unbroken! Quit my chamber, out the door! —
Take thy face from out my sight, and take thine arse from off my floor!” —
Quoth the Sun King, “Nevermore.”

And the Sun King, fangs a-gleaming, still is screaming, still is screaming
By the basking bust of Bastet just beside my chamber door;
And my eyes have not stopped weeping: thanks to him, I am not sleeping,
And the lamp-light o’er him creeping throws his shadow on the floor —
And my peace, ‘cause of that crotte de merde who’s screaming at my door —
Shall be granted — nevermore!

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 sixième sens

I am delighted to report that Louis Catorze only escaped once on Halloween night, and that we all survived (apart from the large mouse that he brought in and terrorised the next day). But, although it’s all over for another year, the scares continue in the form of his creepy kitty sixth sense, disproving our theory that it’s directly proportional to intelligence.

Despite not being the brightest star in the galaxy, he is able not only to differentiate his staff’s footsteps from others but also to anticipate our homecoming in advance. He peacefully sleeps through noises made by the neighbours, the postman and random passers-by. But the minute he hears his daddy – or, rather unnervingly, just BEFORE he hears his daddy – he races to the front door so fast that his stupid little feet can’t keep up with themselves, and he skids around on the slippy floorboards like Bambi on ice. Sometimes he goes skidding right past Cat Daddy as he opens the door and ends up outside on the doormat and, to teach him a lesson for being such such a weirdo, Cat Daddy shuts the door on him.

Don’t worry, we always let him in again. (Well, apart from the time we forgot about him, and he ended up out at The Front, unsupervised, on the rampage for an hour.) And, a few weeks ago, when Cat Daddy remembered to let him in, he was greeted by this sight:

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He’s equally perceptive when it comes to my arrival; a few evenings ago I took a while to park the car because I reversed in at the wrong angle and messed it up. When I finally came indoors, Catorze was right at the door – and, apparently, he’d been meowing there for a good minute or two before Cat Daddy had even heard the car.

He’s a scary little freak – living with him is as if Halloween never ended – but we love him.

La sortie d’Halloween

As Halloween approaches, cat freaks the world over debate that all-important question: should we keep our usually-outdoor cats under house arrest on the night of the 31st?

My responses are as follows: do you trust your neighbourhood and its residents? And do you trust your cat? We are lucky enough to be able to give a yes to the former but, sadly, it’s a “Hell, no” to the latter; Louis Catorze ignores the rules, goes rogue when he feels like it and, quite simply, is way too much of a liability.

His big brother Luther, although quite the adventurer, fortunately hated kids. So, when sugared-up hordes of them came a-knocking, we could rely on him to run in the opposite direction.

Louis Catorze is different, and risks life and limb to escape into the jaws of danger at moments when we really aren’t expecting it. On Thursday night, for instance, when Cat Daddy opened the front door to put out some rubbish, Catorze shot out and headed straight for the fireworks in the park opposite Le Château. His wayward arse was eventually hauled to safety, but not before the indignity of being poked out from under a bush with a mop.

And, because Sa Majesté LOVES strange men, he can’t be trusted to steer clear of psychos in the unlikely event of them turning up in our neighbourhood. If he were to happen upon a gang of youths dressed in clown masks and carrying spades and bin bags, he would probably roll at their feet and then happily follow them into the woods, slow-blinking sweetly as they buried the bodies.

So, whilst the little sod will be allowed to come and go freely at The (safe and enclosed) Back, on Halloween night The Front will be as airtight and impenetrable as Kim Kardashian’s new jewellery box. I hope your furry overlords manage whatever containment procedures are imposed upon them, and that you all have a safe and happy Halloween.

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