Les fruits d’une sécheresse

Non-Brits: check on your British friends. We are just about managing to haul our frazzled carcasses through what we really hope is the last hot snap of the year, and we are far from ok.

It’s been so hot that Cat Daddy’s iPhone flashed a warning message last Wednesday, about needing to cool down before it could work. (Ok, so he left it in the sun and forgot about it, but that’s not the point.) Our surroundings are so unreassuringly brown and parched that we have started having those conversations that old people have: “I really hope it rains, because we NEED the rain”, debating the probability of a hosepipe ban, and so on.

Not normal.

One of our water-saving measures at Le Château has been to invest the kingly sum of £8 in a washing-up bowl, which catches the water every time we use the sink instead of just letting it run down the plughole. It has made us acutely aware of how much water we use – I once discovered that I’d used a whole bowlful to rinse just one smallish pan – and, when it’s about half full, we empty it into the flowerbed.

As I thought it only fair that Louis Catorze cut down, like the rest of us, so I swapped his usual tumbler for, erm, a Chambord cocktail coupe. The tumbler holds 500ml of which he only ever drinks half, due to not being able to squeeze his silly face right down to the bottom, whereas the coupe holds half as much and is wider:

Très fancy.

Cat Daddy: “You can’t use that! It was expensive!” (Actual price of coupe: £0, because it came free with a bottle of Chambord.)

Cat Daddy again: “But that’s our favourite dessert glass!” (Actual number of desserts ever served in this glass: 0.)

The experiment failed. Although Catorze drank from it, he made the most almighty mess, which is exactly the opposite of saving water. I would far rather give his leftover water to the plants than see it all over the floor.

So Catorze is back to his pint tumbler again, and his part in our water-saving drive remains nothing, niente, nichts and nada. It’s a shame as I really wanted him to make a contribution to the planet.

Cat Daddy: “Well, that would’ve been a first.”

Why, yes, that is a piece of cobweb on his whisker, flapping in the breeze.

EDIT: To make up for his aqua-selfishness, Catorze has kindly agreed that the local wildlife may use some of his 9,983 bowls for their water. So we have dotted them around Le Jardin in shady spots and are refilling them daily. Catorze has always refused to drink from a bowl but I have a funny feeling he will start now, just to be difficult.

J’adore le ventilateur

During previous searingly hot summers, I have sat in the living room with a fur-covered animal on my lap, a blanket over my knees (because said animal doesn’t like contact with bare skin), a candle burning (because of said animal’s allergies) and the fan off (because said animal doesn’t like the breeze), all the while hating myself and wondering how I became such a pathetic excuse for a human being.

However, Louis Catorze has decided that he does like the fan after all. So I am proud to declare that I now only do three of the four things mentioned above, making me merely SOMEWHAT pathetic as opposed to an utter loser.

Here I am, sweltering in the blistering heat, whilst Sa Maj relaxes in comfort:

You just relax whilst my internal organs melt and leak out of me.

Le cafard post-vacances

Cat Daddy and I succeeded in our plan to beat the worst of the searing heat on Tuesday, and we were fortunate to spend much of the day in an air-conditioned car. However, when we arrived back at Le Château, it really was the end of days because the screaming started. Not that it had ever really stopped.

Saint Jésus, Louis Catorze has been BEYOND horrendous since our return and it’s like having the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse all stampede us at once. Is this really the same cat who received a glowing behaviour report from his chat-sitteur during our absence?

He screamed as we were unloading our bags from the car. He screamed as Cat Daddy watered the parched garden. He screamed as Cat Daddy let fly a string of Unrepeatable Expletives when it started to rain minutes after he had finished watering the garden. And, as if I wouldn’t already have difficulty sleeping with both the brutal heat and the grim realisation that all our summers could be this hot from now on, the little sod alternated between screaming, aggressive headbutting and parkour at hourly intervals throughout the night. And, naturellement, he only did this in my room, steering well clear of his papa (who was in another room as it was cooler than sleeping together).

Catorze only quietened down when dawn broke … and that was when the parakeets started. My happy holiday feeling was gone in an instant, as if it had never existed.

Here he is, watching the birds intently but doing nothing, nichts, niente and nada about their infernal racket:

Bastard birds and bastard cat.

Un tableau noir à la lumière

Cat Daddy and I have decided, last-minute, to extend our holiday, to avoid the London heat which now looks set to peak at 41°C (FORTY-ONE DEGREES CELSIUS). Sadly we can’t stay in the eco-croft as it’s reserved, but we have booked a place in the north-east, in the same complex where KettleGate took place. It’ll still be 30°C there, but come on: 30°C or 41°C? The latter sounds like a made-up number, applicable only to Death Valley and to that place in Ethiopia with the acidic water.

Non, non and thrice non.

We are very lucky indeed to be able to do this, and our wonderful, kind neighbours have agreed to take over Catorzian duties for the extra few days. We feel for anyone who has to endure this weather covered in black fur, but not enough to go and join them in it. Sorry, Louis Catorze.

Anyway … cats and circles. We all know about that. (If you don’t, please have a look here.)

However, cats and RECTANGLES? That’s a new one to us. But for Catorze, who always does the opposite of whatever is expected or wanted, it’s absolutely perfect.

It’s not often that Catorze creates perfect moments but, on this occasion, he did. The little sod decided to position himself in a rectangle that isn’t even a real rectangle, but a shadow one cast by the trellis above him. Perhaps he understands that every work of art needs a frame, and in this case the masterpiece is himself.

Here he is, demonstrating that rectangles are, apparently, the new circles. This was taken some time before the raging inferno into which London has just plunged but, to be fair, Catorze would do this whatever the weather:

This art installation created itself.

Long et chaud été

It’s the summer solstice, and today is Cat Daddy’s favourite day of the year because of the almost-everlasting light. This year it’s mid-week, which isn’t ideal for me, but the fact that Cat Daddy is retired means he can enjoy it to the maximum without having to worry about going to work the next day.

Sa Maj also loves this time, because he is usually in peak health and there is always plenty of Important Cat Business for him to do.

Important Cat Business (a.m.).

After the squirrels chewed through our last set of solar outdoor lights, Cat Daddy bought not one but THREE new sets: a string of lights that glimmer softly across the green roof of our shed, half a dozen individual bulbs attached to the wire fence separating the Zone Occupée from the Zone Libre, and a quintet (?) of what look like fireflies in jam jars. When dusk falls, the garden comes alive.

Louis Catorze loves nothing more than to sit outside and take in the light show which, I’m sure, he thinks has been prepared in his honour. He settles in the garden long before sunset, after going about his Important Cat Business in the Zone Libre and his Rodent Duty, and he remains there long after dark, for much of the night. Sometimes he is even out all night.

Cat Daddy didn’t create the light show for Catorze. But it’s funnier for people to think that he did, so that’s what I tell everyone. And it’s certainly what Catorze believes, irrespective of the truth.

Here he is, enjoying his spectacle de lumière and wanting to be part of it. Happy Solstice to you, and I hope you enjoy your day as much as the little sod is enjoying his life.

Important Cat Business (p.m.).

Le siège royal

Louis Catorze appears to be on some sort of hunger strike. He’s eaten pitifully little since we returned from holiday, and I imagine it’s either because of the warm weather, or because he’s just an idiot. I’m leaning more towards the latter.

Everything else about him is “normal” – in fact, the other day he escaped out at The Front and screamed at a French passer-by who cuddled him and spoke to him in French – so we are not too concerned. But, obviously, if his lack of appetite continues at length, we will have to take him to the vet again. As a last resort we still have an Ace of Spades up our sleeves: one of the appetite-enhancing pills that turned him into an eating, screaming, bug-eyed maniac at the end of last year. However, it’s not for the faint-hearted, and Cat Daddy and I need time to psych ourselves up before we deploy that.

Catorze is, however, very much enjoying his alfresco Boys’ Club sessions with Cat Daddy. And – merci à Dieu – he also appears to have stopped scratching the cushions, although no doubt that will change the minute this post goes live.

Because the back support cushions are so thick and sturdy – much more so than the old ones – he can sit on the top edges and survey his royaume. He can see all the way down the garden, right to where the Zone Occupée meets the Zone Libre, which means that Rodent Duty can be conducted with a comfortable, soft surface beneath la personne royale instead of having to sit on the ground. I am sure you will agree that this is far more fitting for a king.

Here he is, having outdoor fun with his papa:

In his happy place.
Watching the sunset.

Londres est en flamme

Louis Catorze does not like sitting on bare skin. He favours fluffy blankets or denim, merci for asking.

He is also not a fan of, erm, the fan. It’s not the noise, but the breeze; he seems to find it quite annoying and moves away, flicking his ears and muttering obscenities under his breath, when I direct the airflow towards him.

So here I am, in a 30+ degree heatwave, sitting beneath a fluffy blanket and with the fan OFF, with the equivalent of a fur hot water bottle on my lap, to allow said fur hot water bottle to relax in what he believes to be comfort. I don’t know which is/are flowing faster: my sweat or my tears.

And, before you say anything, I bet you would all do the same (not for Catorze, obviously, but for your much nicer cats). In fact, I’m pretty sure you have done worse.

“Switch this on and I’ll slice you up, chère Maman.”

Le pollen toxique

Regretfully, this year my usual arsenal of weapons doesn’t seem to have made much of a dent in my hay fever, despite me preparing myself early. The start of the season was delayed, but I feel that it was the same for everyone. And it is now in full swing.

If you suffer from hay fever and have outdoor cats, it may help to wipe them down. The best way of doing this is with a damp towel, but Louis Catorze isn’t a fan of this. So, instead, a good old brush every evening gets rid of cruddy, gross fur and means that he scatters much less pollen onto our furniture and bedding. Brushing regularly also has the added benefit of improving the soreness around his eyes (we have no idea how, but it does).

Cat Daddy thinks that keeping Catorze off our beds would be much more effective, and he probably has a point, but I would rather know where Catorze is at night than wonder if he’s scrapping with Donnie, goading foxes, harassing neighbours or, most likely. doing a bit of each.

Here is Sa Maj, about to be brushed by Cat Daddy. Unlike his previous grooming devices, including the FURminator, he absolutely loves this brush, which Oscar the dog gave him for his 10th birthday. Because he has the short-term memory of a swatted gnat and doesn’t remember what the brush is for, he runs when he sees it coming … but, once the brushing starts, he flops onto his back and purrs like a revving motorbike.

“Fangs very much, papa.”

Le renard peureux

It’s the summer solstice. Usually, by this time of the year, we are not even close to hitting the heady heights of 28+ degrees – that tends to come in July/August – but this month has been a hot one.

However, the one good thing about it all is that cat mischief is inversely proportional to soaring temperatures; it’s simply too hot for cats to misbehave. And we imagine that Donnie has been feeling it, too, since he hasn’t been round in a while. Apart from, erm, last night, when he showed up and started a yowling match with Louis Catorze in front of our horrified dinner guests. And that time when a neighbour whom I don’t even know had to break up a fight between the pair of them. Oh, and that other time when I was awoken by that awful cat fight sound, and I looked outside to see their unmistakable forms on the fence. (Yes, it was definitely them. I know their silhouettes like I know my own name.)

Sa Maj has been flopping languidly around Le Château and Le Jardin, spending inordinate amounts of time at his Rodent Duty station (the gap by the fence separating us from the Zone Libre). He was outside with Cat Daddy the other day, happily pitter-pattering around, when the birds in the Zone Libre started screeching.

Now, we all know full well that, when birds screech in unison, it’s never good. Anyone with any brains would run in the opposite direction. So, naturellement, Catorze decided to run into the Zone Libre to investigate.

It was Foxy Loxy.

Cat Daddy was powerless to help on the other side of the fence, and all he could do was stare (and curse the fact that he didn’t have his phone to take a picture). Then, unbelievably, Foxy Loxy took one look at Catorze … and fled.

This is not the first time we have seen this; in fact, Cat Daddy has seen THREE foxes run away from Catorze. Obviously it’s no bad thing that a predator who could finish the little sod in an instant would choose, instead, to retreat. But we are puzzled and terrified that the birds’ screeching, something we thought to be a universal sign of abject peril – yes, known even to a dimwit like Le Roi, surely? – would send him running TOWARDS it.

Is there anything we can do about this? There must be some kind of training or lessons, like teaching kids the Green Cross Code? (Younger followers: ask your grandparents.)

“I hear danger! I must interfere for absolument no raison whatsoever!”

Le Grand Changement de Nourriture (Plan B Partie 4)

Oh dear. It was all going so well.

After successful completion of Phases 1 and 2, we had just started the third and final part – mainly new food alongside a tiny amount of old – when Louis Catorze decided to throw some last-minute bâtons in the roues by switching from BST (British Summer Time) to CST (Catorzian Summer Time).

If you have a cat, you will be aware that they have a Summer Time Mode: eating less, sleeping less, constantly being outside, and so on. This tends to start in late spring – although never at the same time every year, just to be extra unhelpful – and, usually, it’s not a problem.

However, I really could have done without it happening during Le Grand Changement; when I see food still in his plate, I have no idea whether this is because he no longer likes it, or it’s gone a little stale, or he has a touch of the Summer Unhungries, or he’s been having such a good time gadding about in the Zone Libre that he just forgot about eating. It could be any, or all, or none of the above.

Catorze usually eats his first meal of the day at 7am; however, now he isn’t hungry until 5pm or later. It’s impossible to second-guess how much he wants to eat and when; and, although it’s not the end of the world if his food sits around for ages before being eaten, it’s still quite annoying. (Do I count it as an uneaten/rejected portion, or not?) And, if he chooses to ignore his pills – as seems to be the case at the moment, right after I told one of his followers how lucky I am that he happily eats them – it then puts me under pressure to Greco him to even out the space between doses.

Cat Daddy has not been helping matters by keeping Catorze up late during gin-fuelled Boys’ Club sessions, stuffing up the little sod’s body clock even further. And I suspect there may be drunken midnight feeding going on, although I can’t prove it (and Cat Daddy says he can’t remember).

Anyway, Plan C – Orijen Six Fish – is on standby, just in case. At a heart-stopping £29.99 for 1.8kg it’s the priciest of the bunch, so I really don’t want to deploy this unless there’s some dire emergency (Canagan factory blowing up, Scotland gaining independence and no longer being able to export salmon to us, that kind of thing). Even my sister, who hardly ever swears, used an unrepeatable expletive when she saw how much Orijen costs.

Please keep your fingers crossed that Catorze doesn’t score a stoppage time winner by doing something else idiotic on the last day.

Don’t make us do this.

La canicule

When it’s this darned hot in the UK, two types of people emerge:

1. Those who stock up on Ambre Solaire and head straight for the beach, even if it’s a 14-hour drive and they have no air conditioning in their cars

2. Me

It’s horrendous. Just foul beyond belief. Last night was so grim that I came downstairs at 3am to sleep in the kitchen, and Louis Catorze, confused by the change and/or wondering whether I had gone there to die, kept me awake for hours by clambering all over me, screaming. The only saving grace is that I don’t have to go to work in this heat. Except for, erm, today, because it’s exam results day. And, given that assessment and moderation have been completely thrown into disarray by Covid 19, today is going to be more of a cirque de merde than we ever thought possible.

People who live in places hotter than the UK: “You should try living HERE!” No, I really shouldn’t. That’s why I chose here and not there. But thank you. Your comments have been duly noted.

Cats in heatwaves are another matter entirely, and they seem to manage much better than humans. Catorze has been spending his days playing energetically with his catnip toys and sunbathing outside, popping occasionally into his shady spot in the ferns to take a break. Sometimes he joins Cat Daddy at the end of the garden, lying at his feet like a guard dog and scowling at me – an audible scowl, would you believe – should I have the temerity to approach them.

Whilst Cat Daddy and I slow-cook in bed at night, Catorze is either enjoying nocturnal adventures, going exploring as far as Twiggy the greyhound’s house, or napping in his new favourite place: on our laundry basket. I imagine that it has the double benefit of air circulating underneath AND a textured surface on which to squirm and roll. A cooling, massaging/exfoliating spa treatment, if you will.

So it’s all right for him.

But, as any cat owner will understand, it’s all about them. It’s only ever about them.

Here he is on the laundry basket, looking as cute and kittenish as can be. But we know the truth:

“Très confortable, merci for asking.

La récolte

Yesterday was the hottest day of the year so far, with Heathrow (6 miles away) hitting 37.8 degrees. Louis Catorze dealt with this by, erm, escaping out to the south-facing, waterless Front when Cat Daddy returned from the food bank. When I retrieved him two hours later, he had leaves stuck to his fur and was screaming his guts out. Then, when the sun passed to The Back, he went there to sunbathe when the temperature reached its peak.

In other, better news, it’s the festival of Lammas today, which is traditionally a celebration of the grain harvest, bread and baking. So how wonderful it is that we have recently discovered wheat – yes, ACTUAL WHEAT – randomly growing in our garden at The Back.

Unfortunately we only have five stalks which are barely enough to yield a teaspoonful of flour, not that I have the slightest idea of how to turn it from grains into flour. Plus I don’t even really like baking and am spectacularly bad at it. But free food is free food, non? So I intend to treat our wheat stalks with love in the hope that they will multiply, but we will need to take into account the Catorze risk factor. He has never shown much interest in that particular part of The Back before but, now that I want him to stay away from it, we all know what he’ll do, don’t we?

This is what we have (x 5).
This is what we want to end up with.
This is what Catorze will see when he looks at it.

We know absolutely nothing about cultivating wheat, so are very much open to advice. And, should you know – and be willing to share – the secret of keeping a cat who always does the opposite of what you want, from doing the one thing that you don’t want him to do, we would be very grateful indeed. (We’ve spent 6 years trying to figure that one out, with zero success.)

If you fancy entering into the Lammas spirit but your baking is anything like mine, you might like to check out the link below from Cocoa the babysit cat’s mamma. I highly recommend her Hen Corner courses and, should you attend an in-person course (with safe distancing and hygiene measures in place), you will actually get to meet Cocoa and Chanel!

https://youtu.be/TbeqNddE7FM

Une créature de la nuit, comme celles dans les BD

Now that summer is properly here, Louis Catorze is permanently out. And by that I don’t simply mean he is spending more time outdoors than he used to. I mean we never see him, EVER. Sometimes Cat Daddy has even had to cancel Boys’ Club meetings due to low attendance, which is unheard of.

Occasionally, when I go to bed, Catorze comes up with me and cuddles me until I fall asleep. But this is not a loving gesture; this is more like a teenager making sure his parents are properly asleep before sneaking out for some illicit partying. Once I’m asleep, Catorze is back downstairs bidding his papa a friendly “Bonsoir” and then he’s out.

As for what he does when he’s out, that rather depends on whether or not we can see him. If he’s in our garden, it’s not hard to monitor his activities which are usually as follows:

1. Rodent Duty (see below for a photo of him surveying the gap in the fence that separates the Zone Occupée from the Zone Libre)

2. Arguing with the local wildlife (see below for a photo of him taken just after I intervened in a scream-off with an absolutely furious parakeet)

Rather more worrying is what the little sod gets up to when we CAN’T see him. Quite often he disappears eastwards across the shed roofs and we hear mid-distance barking, which most likely means he has got as far as Twiggy the greyhound’s place about ten houses away. And I really don’t fancy his chances of outrunning her.

Most cats start to slow down when they reach double figures, but Catorze appears to have taken his lead from The Lost Boys* instead. He has mastered both sleeping all day and partying all night and, due to his diminutive kittenish stature, he ticks the “never grow old” box, too.

It’s fun to be a vampire.

*Younger followers: ask your parents.

Playing Whack-a-Rat.
He says the parakeet started it.

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.