L’imparfait

So … cats ruining video calls. Always hilarious when it happens to someone else and you’re just observing. Distinctly less funny when it’s your cat, and you’re the one responsible for maintaining any vague semblance of order.

It’s not normal to have 863 examples of such behaviour, unless you have 863 cats. One cat is not meant to cause this much bother. However, this is Louis Catorze we’re talking about, so I don’t imagine anyone is surprised.

Anyway … Year 11 can be a troublesome bunch, and the graveyard shift with them (last lesson of the day, 15:00 to 16:00) is always a tough gig. It’s been particularly bad since they were told that their exams have been cancelled, yet minimal guidance has been given about exactly what will happen instead. They have taken this to mean it’s party time. Unfortunately I don’t share this view.

During one especially trying lesson last week (the imperfect tense: everyone’s favourite thing), Catorze decided to come and sit on my stomach and chest. Now, we all know that he wants me dead, and that he only has another 8 days to do the deed and have it register as a Covid death, so there is no reason for him to sit on me other than to spite me, or perhaps in the hope that I will suffocate and die. However, due to the unfortunate camera angle and the shadow falling across my body, he wasn’t fully visible to the students on my video lesson. So all they could see was his sticking-up tail sailing past the camera.

This was how the tragic sequence of events unfolded that day:

1. Poker-straight vertical tail sails past, left to right. Students say nothing.

2. Tail sails past, right to left. Students’ eyes are suddenly fixed to the screen, concentrating yet also confused.

3. Tail sails past again, left to right. Now everyone is paying attention.

4. Kid 1: “Miss …?”

5. Kid 2: “Yeah, Miss. What the …?”

6. Catorze settles on my lap/chest and now everyone can see his head. He has only ever sat in this position twice in his whole life, once last year and once in 2014. (The fact that I can remember when is indicative of its rarity.)

7. Me: “Erm, ok, so it seems we’ve got company. Alors, continuons…”

8. Kids start giggling.

9. Cat Daddy looks in (with the kids safely out of sight, bien sûr), sees Catorze on me and guesses from my French conversation that I am mid-lesson. He mouths the words “PUSH HIM OFF!” making appropriate gestures at the same time to be extra helpful.

10. It then dawns on me that he thinks I placed Catorze there on purpose. Oh. Mon. Dieu.

11. Kids giggle some more as I attempt to bluster on. No work whatsoever is done.

12. The end.

The bad news is that we have another five weeks of this until half term, and the kids have learned absolutely sod all French so far. The good news is … well … I’ll get back to you as soon as we have any.

Je me reposais, tu te reposais, il/elle se reposait …

Le vétérinaire, c’est le bon dieu

I have been back at school for just over a week. My hands are drier than desert sand due to all the washing. None of my school shoes fit, having being abandoned since March, and I’m forced to wear them in again as if they were new shoes. The school roof leaked during lockdown, which dissolved the labels off the science chemical bottles and now nobody knows what’s what. And the top floor – regretfully, where my classroom is situated, next to the science labs – bears the stench of damp, decay and death. But, apart from that, everything has been fine.

Meanwhile at Le Château, a certain someone went for their annual booster jabs yesterday. Any pet owner will know what a joyous occasion this is.

This is how the sequence of events unfolded:

1. Woke up to find Louis Catorze lying on top of me, which is most unusual, and realised then that I had not locked Sureflap to keep him in. (Had we purchased snazzy new model with hub, this could have been done from our phones.) Lay trapped under Catorze knowing that if I so much as THOUGHT TOO HARD about locking Sureflap, little sod would read my mind and dart out before I could even blink.

2. Successfully managed to beat him downstairs and lock Sureflap.

3. Catorze couldn’t get out. Whining started. Ignored him and drank tea.

4. Bagged him up in transportation pod.

5. Set off for appointment, telling Catorze things like, “It’s going to be fine. We’ve got this.” Because whining fell silent at that point and transportation pod doesn’t look at all like an animal carrier, people in park heard/saw me and most likely thought I was talking to myself, like those motivational guru ladies who stand in front of the mirror and tell themselves “I am a warrior woman” every day.

6. Whining restarted. Although quieter than screaming, psychologically it’s much, much worse. Screaming animal = unhinged or has rabies = not your fault. Whining animal = in torment = you are an animal abuser.

7. Arrived at vet practice and handed over Catorze like a bag of heroin. (We aren’t allowed in with the animals, so we have to mask up and hand them over to another masked person as if doing a drugs drop.)

8. Whilst waiting outside, briefly imagined what vets are like when we’re not present. Wondered whether they morph into Cruella de Vil. Visualised vet brandishing massive squirty syringe and yelling at Catorze, “And this is for all those times you clawed my staff and kicked them in the face, you little shit!”

9. Vet returned bagged Roi and informed me that he had been “very well-behaved”. Unsure whether she meant “compared to most cats” or “by his own abysmally low standards”. Thought it best not to ask.

10. Walked home in silence, wondering whether vet might have swapped Catorze for a psychotic changeling. Decided that psychotic changeling would be less trouble, and kept walking.

11. Walked past about seven or eight dogs in park, who took one look at transportation pod and started barking all at once. Realised that I probably had the right cat.

12. Arrived home and Catorze had forgotten how to use Sureflap again.

This is what I brought home from the appointment. Catorze or psychotic changeling?

Yup: looks legit to me.

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!”

Maille après maille

Puppy Mamma and I have really been up against it this week, not only because we are back at school but because our knitting project was due.

Despite always telling our students not to leave things until the last minute, we haven’t managed to follow our own advice on this occasion. Stupidly, we didn’t take into account the fact that our knitting designs are a sort of spiral shape working from the inside outwards, and so the larger outer sections take more time. We should have organised ourselves with this in mind, but we didn’t. (Cat Daddy, looking at our work: “You couldn’t figure that out? Even a 5-year-old could have managed that. Jesus.”)

And, of course, just when I was under pressure to finish the most time-consuming parts, and just after I bragged about him being a good boy who leaves my work the hell alone, Louis Catorze remembered that he is a cat and decided to interfere. Here is the little sod (below) the night before the deadline, arsing around with the wool whilst Cat Daddy egged him on and took photos.

Apologies to our instructor, who has now received not one but TWO parts of our project covered in animal spit. And, teachers, if you’re marking assignments of any kind, however much you think you can trust your students, wash your hands afterwards.

C’est pourquoi je vais à l’école

The summer holidays give me a very accurate insight into what it must be like to be a cat: sleeping late, having no concept of time and whiling away hours on pointless rubbish. Now, of course, the new school year is imminent and I am stressing out like crazy about how I can possibly be expected to teach kids when my brain has rotted away through lack of use.

For Louis Catorze, of course, there is no such rentrée anxiety, and next week will just be another week in his ridiculous life of doing nothing and then having a rest afterwards. (Cat Daddy: “No danger of him getting brain rot, though.”)

Good luck to all teachers, support staff and students who are going back to school next week. And please spare a thought for Sa Maj, who will not be budging from here: