Un salon chaud et confortable

It’s half term … and, in typical teacher fashion, I am sick. I’ve been all night with throat pain and, as his new favourite thing appears to be to sleep on top of me, either on my chest or across my stomach like a living belt, Louis Catorze isn’t helping.

Yesterday, after clearing his bowl, Catorze approached me and sat at my feet, creepy-staring at me. I thought he wanted more food. But, instead of assuming his usual position under the breakfast bar when I headed for his food cupboard, he pitter-pattered towards the front room.

He wasn’t hungry. He wanted us to change rooms. And we know this because he’s done it before.

I dutifully followed Catorze to the front room, ignoring the string of Unrepeatable Expletives muttered by Cat Daddy under his breath. When I reached the front room, Saint Jésus: IT WAS WARM! Gloriously so, in fact. The little sod wasn’t just being weird; he’d had enough of being cold and wanted us to join him in the warm room.

Obviously he has done this multiple times when temperature hasn’t been an issue. But I shall just pretend that he was being clever on this occasion, and that he loves me so much that he wanted me to be warm with him.

Here he is, rescuing me from the demon cold. The fact that he then benefits from a warm lap in his favourite room is purely coincidental.

“Follow moi to the warmth, Maman!”

Ils sont là!

Cat Daddy and I are feeling very smug indeed at the way in which we have used almost every last scrap of turkey. We have had turkey pie and turkey curry, and I am about to make and freeze a large batch of turkey and garlic soup, ready for when I return to my plague pit of a school in January. The only part of the turkey that we didn’t use was the giblets. Cat Daddy spent some time painstakingly boiling and chopping them for Louis Catorze, who took one sniff and walked away.

Cat Daddy: “Oh, he’ll eat it eventually.”

He absolutely will not. In fact, that’s the last thing he will do. And you ought to know this.

Ever since The Curious Incident of the Jet-Black Mouse in the Night-Time, I have been trying to figure out what on earth it was that Catorze brought in.

Oui, Mesdames et Messieurs: nothing says “The magic of the Yuletide season” quite like being TUC and Googling “black mice”, “black rats”, “black shrews” and every other black rodent and rodent-like creature known to science.

Catorze’s offering was too velvety to have been a regular mouse, too bald-tailed to have been a rat, and it didn’t have the creepy pink hands* of a mole. What WAS it? And why didn’t I think to take a picture? (Well, ok, I know why. I was a few shots of vodka under, that’s why.) After a group of so-called friends – you know who you are – scared me with stories of roof rats, I am now hoping beyond hope that there isn’t a family of these critters living in or under Le Château somewhere, and that Catorze won’t unveil them one by one at some highly inopportune time.

*If you can stand it, Google pictures of moles and look at their disproportionately huge, terrifying hands. And, if you are especially brave, Google “star-nosed mole”. This creature will blow your mind, and is the sort of thing that would keep Lovecraft awake at night.

In either horribly coincidental (I hope so) or related (PLEASE NO) news, some sort of entity, most likely a squirrel but possibly a demon, has been scratching and scrabbling outside our bedroom window in the early hours of the morning. The sound itself isn’t enough to unduly disturb my sleep at night. However, Catorze’s response to the sound most certainly is.

As you are aware, the little sod is manic anyway, and he’s just had his steroid shot which has made him even worse. But this sound triggers his Urge To Kill switch like nothing else and, after bouncing around on the bed at length, he eventually settles in his classic Rodent Duty pose, on top of my chest. I have to make sure that the shutters are very firmly closed at night because, if they’re not, he tries to pry them open to create a platform on which to jump, causing even more of a disturbance.

I had hoped that spending the festive season relaxing quietly at home would be … well … relaxing and quiet. I should have known better.

Hallowe’en spooks outside my window … and one in my house.

Roi pour toujours, éternellement

“It’s Christmas time. There’s no need to be afraid.”

Clearly Bob Geldof and Midge Ure had never met Louis Catorze; the last few days have been awful because of my flu, and the little sod has been nothing short of merciless in his demands for play. If I ignore him, he either chases his tail or attacks my blister packs of painkillers.

He is especially bad when Cat Daddy is out, snarling at his manly pink butterfly on a string the way vampires snarl when shown a crucifix. Then, when Cat Daddy comes home, he is either sound asleep or sitting in perfect porcelain cat pose, tail tucked around his neat paws, all cutesy-eyed and innocent.

He shouldn’t even be out at the moment. Black cats are for Hallowe’en and not for Christmas, right? Well, so I thought, too, until Cat Daddy and I went for our annual festive meal at our local pub (before I fell ill), and two of these were on our table:

I now realise that this was a warning.

The landlord and landlady are cat people, and they know that we are, too, so they had done this just for us. At the end of our meal, our server asked us whether the management had supplied the cats or whether they were ours. Oui, Mesdames et Messieurs: she thought we looked like the kind of people who would bring our own black cat decorations to a festive meal. (And, to be honest, the only reason I haven’t so far is because I didn’t think of it.)

Then Cat Daddy bought me this:

I will be wearing this today.

So, even at this time of year which is supposed be all Joy to the World and Peace on Earth, it’s all about Le Chat Noir. And not only do I suspect that that is exactly how Catorze planned it, but I’d go as far as to say it’s probably Phase 3 of the Chat Noir Plan for World Domination. Phases 1 and 2 are, of course, infiltrating our houses (CHECK) and mind-controlling us to do all manner of things for them (HELL, CHECK).

If Noël is your thing, I hope it’s a Joyeux one. We wish you and your furry psychopaths a wonderful day.

Happily making a nest on the present bag given to us by the Dog Family.

Que Dieu vous garde en joie, Messieurs

Merde, merde and thrice merde: I have the flu. And I don’t mean a bad cold which I’m calling “the flu” just to feel sorry for myself. I mean proper, checked-the-symptoms, can’t-sit-upright flu. I even had to cancel a pre-booked and much-needed physio appointment, although I sounded so pathetic on the phone that they took pity on me and only charged me half the cancellation fee.

Mum, if you’re reading this, no, I hadn’t got around to organising my flu vaccine. And, yes, I have learned my lesson.

Just to make things extra merdique, my flu started on the day of the winter solstice. So my party plans fell by the wayside somewhat and, instead, I spent the day TUC in the living room and drinking tea.

Louis Catorze has not left my side since I fell ill. However, he has somehow learned to emotionally blackmail me into giving him play upon demand, and he is making the most of my illness to wear me down and get what he wants.

I only found this out through a process of elimination, when I offered all the other things in response to his creepy stare – food, water, a different room, The Front, the moon on a stick, whatever – and the little sod didn’t budge, remaining statue-still and glassy-eyed throughout. I then reached for his manly pink butterfly on a string, not quite knowing what else to do, and he lost his shit, leaping a good metre in the air, baring his fangs and snarling at the toy.

Wait for it …

We play like this for about twenty minutes every day and, at the end of each session, I am more worn out than he is. And he knows full well that I will always give in, not only because the creepy staring makes me feel so uncomfortable, but also because – and this is where the blackmail part comes in – if I ignore him, he starts to play with his tail.

If you weren’t a follower of Le Blog six years ago and you have time on your hands, have a look through the archives from around November 2016 onwards, to find out why this is such bad news. Be warned, it’s not pretty reading. We want to draw attention away from Catorze’s tail at all costs.

It looks as if Catorze will have a very merry Yuletide season indeed. However, I don’t suppose we will have a single silent night.

“Papa! Play with moi.”

Toute cette immensité baignée de lumière

I love the winter solstice. Not quite as much as I love Hallowe’en, but I’m all for an occasion which is about a turning of tides. A Ctrl-Alt-Delete of the mind and soul, if you will.

Garden baubles which, astonishingly, will be left untouched by Catorzian paws.

At this time of year, I often say that I’m very lucky to have everything that I want. And this is still true. Our only real worry in life (Cat Daddy: “And our only real expenditure …”) is Louis Catorze.

As Catorze grows older, I mentally prepare myself for the fact that time will soon start chipping away at his [insert appropriate number; we’re pretty sure he has more than nine] lives, eventually whittling them down to nothing. But the little sod is showing no signs of this. He’s still as rambunctious as a kitten who has just hoovered down a cocktail of catnip and amphetamines; in fact, it’s almost as if the normal conventions of time simply don’t apply to him.

I took this picture of Catorze a couple of weeks ago, in the run-up to the full moon (during which he was more, erm, exuberant than ever before):

“Everything the light touches – including The Front where I’m not allowed – belongs to MOI.”

He looks serene and pensive but, in actual fact, he is just taking a break from an especially manic race around the house, all fangs, skidding feet and saucer eyes. Cat Daddy even had to have a serious word with him about his behaviour – and, no, it didn’t make any difference. A couple of days ago, Catorze brought us a jet-black mouse.

(No, we had no idea, either, that you could get jet-black mice. And, no, we didn’t realise that Catorze still hunted. We were hoping he’d decided to retire.)

He may be an old boy, but he is still the one true Sun King.

Joyeux Solstice à vous tous.

Préparer Noël, Préparer Noël

You know that part in Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” when the kids’ presents turn into hideous, nightmarish monsters?

Yeah, well:

“Boys and men of ever-y age, do you want to see something strange?”

Oui, Mesdames et Messieurs: Louis Catorze has claimed, as his new bed, my nieces’ and nephews’ presents bag. Luckily each item is individually bagged, keeping them safe from the horrors of cat hair, flea poo and whatever else (I daren’t even think too hard about it). But that’s not the point. He has 9,062 other beds. He doesn’t need more beds. And he certainly doesn’t need something that was never designed to be a bed, as his bed.

Part of me has a good mind to wrap him up and send him along with the other parcels. But that would be too cruel, even to the ones who have been naughty (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE).

It’s a good thing we are happy to have him as our gift this festive season. I guess someone has to.

La vague de froid

London is in the grip of a cold snap*. And – merci à Jésus, à Marie, à Joseph et au petit âne – Louis Catorze’s bald patch appears to be growing back slowly. The timing is great; no more will he step outside and leak heat into the atmosphere like a runaway steam engine.

About 1% better than it was.

*Non-Brits: a cold snap, by definition, is a short period of exceptionally cold weather, but we just like saying “cold snap” and would still say it even if it lasted for months or years. Somehow, saying “We’re having a bit of a cold snap” seems less whiney than just saying, “God, it’s bloody freezing”.

Frosty leaves, soon to be squatted upon by the Catorzian rear.

Whilst most of us are shivering under blankets in our living rooms, not daring to crank up the heating for fear of being slapped with a massive bill, Catorze is out. I had hoped to take some photos of him gadding about in the snow, but this has proven impossible because he tends to favour all-night excursions, going out after I’ve gone to bed, then clattering in at 5am, freezing cold and screaming.

Why he didn’t walk in the snow-free channel on the left, is beyond me.

And, far from his nocturnal shenanigans wearing him out, they are like a shot of adrenaline. We are exhausted by his attention-seeking, screaming and constant demands for play, and Cat Daddy is quick to remind me that at least I get to escape to work, whereas he’s stuck with him all day long.

I know. It’s a sad day when rowdy teenagers are regarded as an escape.

One of my friends: “It’s probably because of his steroid shot. Didn’t he only have it last week?”

Me: “Erm, no. It was a month ago.”

[Silence, tumbleweed, crickets.]

Me: “In fact, he’s due to have another one next week.”

[Stonier silence, more tumbleweed, chirpier crickets.]

At least the little sod is having fun. I’m not sure I’ll be saying the same of myself, after two weeks of being stuck at home with a ‘roid-high Roi.

On the lookout for mischief and mayhem. If he can’t find any, he’ll create some.

Louis, il fait froid dehors

Louis Catorze is ready for the festive season. Now, you wouldn’t expect this of a black cat with vampire fangs, but we know it to be true because, when we invited Family Next Door over for a pre-Noël lunch at the weekend, the little sod pitter-pattered into the dining room and let out the maman of all screams.

Baby Next Door: [Lots of delighted shrieking, bouncing and arm-waving in her high chair when she caught sight of Sa Maj]

Daughter Next Door: “Louis!”

Cat Daddy: “Oh, was that him? I thought it was part of the music.”

Yup, Andy Williams or Dean Martin or whoever it was whose Christmas song we were listening to at the time, really missed a trick by not having screaming felines as backing vocalists.

In other news, it’s very cold now. I, of course, love this, because it feels like proper winter rather than our country’s usual tepid, damp-weather greyness, but I’m worried about Catorze and the heat escaping from his bald patch. Oui, Mesdames et Messieurs, it’s still here.

A few nights ago, when it was especially cold, Cat Daddy opened the front door to put some recycling out and, whereas Catorze’s usual trick is to bolt out, this time he bolted IN. Yes, he had been out there for a good couple of hours, with heat gushing from that spot like steam from a pie funnel (younger followers: ask your grandparents). No, we had no idea he was out at The Front.

Temperatures are set to drop even further this week, so it’s not a great time to be a cat with a hole in his fur. Let’s hope that it grows back soon, before we have to start considering a (very small) Christmas jumper for him.

Holey shit.

L’iglou est de retour

I have been bouncing around the house singing “The Heat Is On” by Glen Frey (younger followers: ask your parents) because Cat Daddy has finally relented and erm, turned the heating on. I am trying not to think about how much it’s costing, but at least I don’t have to keep picking frost off my eyelashes.

And, as if by magic, Louis Catorze has rediscovered his igloo. The fact that it’s right next to the radiator is purely a coincidence.

Selfishly, I miss the little sod; I enjoy our morning routine of sitting in the living room, reading a book, with him sleeping on my lap. But Cat Daddy is delighted because it gives him some peace. And it means we will know where Catorze is when it’s time to take him to the vet on the 19th (yes, I have booked him a precautionary festive appointment, because something is bound to go wrong).

Anyway, Catorze’s igloo residency has officially begun. And this is where he will be for the next few weeks months:

He won’t be moving. Not even if the place is on fire.

Froid comme la glace

It’s December. And Le Château is a bit chilly.

Obviously, under such circumstances, most normal people would put the heating on but, these days, a quick thirty-minute blast of the central heating would probably cost us £250.

Having Louis Catorze on my lap or on my bed, even though he is smaller than most hot water bottles, provides great warmth. And, if I want an extra little burst of even warmer warmth, I put my hand on his bald spot. Yes, it’s still there, and so far we’ve only had about twelve hairs grow back. But that thing radiates heat like the surface of the sun, hopefully because of its lack of insulating fur and not because anything malignant is simmering away below the surface.

In terms of warmth, Catorze is a pleasant little bonus. It’s just a shame that anything he saves us on heating is offset by the preposterous amounts of money that we spend on his Orijen and private healthcare.

In any case, he thinks he is doing us a favour by keeping us warm. And this is the face that he gives me when he sees my hand coming for his bald patch:

Its resemblance to a heart is purely a trick of the camera. In real life, it’s not so charming.

Apprivoiser la faune sauvage

Joyeux Lendemain de Noël à tous!

Cat Daddy and I were lucky enough to make it to Christmas-by-the-sea, but hasn’t quite turned out quite as planned. I fell ill the day my last post went live, and I’m on monster antibiotics which are knocking me dead. (Mum, if you’re reading this, don’t worry; everything is under control.) So no drinks for me this festive period, and the drowsiness from the antibiotics means that I am even duller company than usual.

Although it’s been stressful, at least I don’t have Covid (again). And I would far rather be doing the pre-Christmas doctor and pharmacy relay for myself than for Louis Catorze.

The little sod is in fine form and having the time of his life with his chat-sitteur. He has been all over her ever since she arrived, following her around like a puppy, and there have been no rodents and no nocturnal misbehaviour. Apart from headbutting her laptop whilst she worked, and one minor incident when he jumped into a parcel that she was about to send and stomped around on the tissue paper, he has behaved impeccably.

Here he is (using stills from a video, since actual videos don’t seem to post properly here), excitedly opening his present from Disco the dog with the help of his chat-sitteur. No doubt he is saving up his psycho for when we get back.

“C’est pour moi?”

Il y a plus de bonheur à donner qu’à recevoir

The best thing about the school holidays is turning off the weekday alarm. Regretfully, Louis Catorze has not adjusted his. He still bounces around on top of me from 5am onwards, whining, wanting attention/food/a friendly chat/whatever. And, if I ignore him, he pushes things off the bedside table, one by one.

In much better news, after the second weirdest year ever (with the first, of course, being 2020), we are all looking forward to the shift in energy that the winter solstice will bring.

Catorze is making his list and checking it twice. However, he’s not bothering to find out who’s naughty or nice because it’s abundantly clear. I’m pretty sure you already know, too. That said, since he was a very good boy for not one but TWO photo shoots for Puppy Mamma (details of the second one will follow another time), we have bought him a couple of new toys and a bottle of catnip spray this year.

Thanks to making new animal-loving human friends and reconnecting with old ones, we have some new additions to Catorze’s Yuletide list this year:

1. Cat-Cousin King Ghidorah

2. Cat-Auntie Zelva

3. Cocoa the babysit cat

4. Chanel, Cocoa’s little sister

5. Blue the Smoke Bengal

6. Theo aka Donnie

7. Nala the dog

8. Gizzy the [insert name of species]

9. Disco the dog

10. Barney the dog, whose humans we will be visiting over the festive period (although, at this rate, it looks as if we’ll be meeting in their garden wearing masks)

11. Bandit the dog, Barney’s brother

Cat Daddy has no idea that we buy for so many pets and I don’t suppose he will be overjoyed but, by the time he finds out, I will already have bought everything (and given most of it to the recipients). Worryingly, when one delivery arrived and I said “Oh, that’ll be my chickens’ feet”, he didn’t seem that surprised.

(Yes, I do mean actual chickens’ actual feet. Apparently they are Barney and Bandit’s favourite.)

As well as giving small gifts to his animal friends, Catorze will be giving his usual winter solstice donations to Lilly’s Legacy (PayPal: lillyslegacy@hotmail.com) and All Cats Rescue. Despite being a selfish little sod at times, deep down he wants to help his less fortunate comrades. Especially at this time of year.

Joyeux Solstice from all of us.

Satan’s little helper.

Un sapin de Noël digne d’un Roi

Our Yule tree has arrived, and I couldn’t be happier. There is something about decorating a festive tree that’s wonderful for the soul.

This year we decided to try out a tree rental service (the kind of thing that we had hoped to do last year, but it all went wrong). It’s exactly as it sounds: they lend you a tree in a pot, and you return it at the end of the festive season. I arranged the delivery some weeks ago, making sure that I added it to my Google calendar as an event AND added Cat Daddy as an invitee. However, when I reminded him to wait in that day, not only did he respond with surprise as if I had never mentioned it before, but he moaned and griped as if it were the worst thing in the world.

Cat Daddy: “So I’ve got to wait in ALL DAY? It’s like being a prisoner!”

Is it ACTUALLY, though? Prisons don’t have the cheering company of a screaming vampire cat, for a start. (Although, if they did, people would try harder to stay out of them.)

Anyway, because the tree can only be indoors for 3.5 weeks, it has been waiting outside since its arrival and we have only just brought it in. Tree rental is not the cheapest option, but it means the tree won’t end up discarded on the roadside on 5th January. It also means that, unlike cut trees which some people put in a bowl of water, naughty cats can’t drink the toxic sappy water.

Usually Louis Catorze gets his own tree alongside our main one (I’m not joking; look here if you don’t believe me) but the one we gave him last year, which has been living in the garden in a pot, hasn’t survived well. Rather than buying or renting a second one for him, we decided to make our main one his. And we can do so without worry because, astoundingly, Louis Catorze has never trashed a festive tree in all his life (although he did chew one of the tags which we are supposed to attach to the tree before returning it).

Well, come on. We surely deserve to have SOMETHING go right when it comes to him?

Loving his tree.

Le plateau à fromages

Cat Daddy and I placed an order for our festive cheese board this week.

When making our selection, I was dangerously close to choosing some Comté because Louis Catorze likes it, but then I slapped myself around the chops and told myself not to be so stupid. I then recalled the wearisome time when we were still pilling Catorze, and I had to start making his Trojan Horses from Comté because he had begun to tire of Reflets de France tuna rillettes.

I often berate parents who raise fussy eater kids and yet there I was, waiting for the Comté to come to room temperature so that I could pill my cat. If you have never used Comté for this purpose – and, let’s face it, who has? – it’s not easy. Its waxy texture makes it quite hard to mould and, rather like damp sand, the more you work it, the more crumbly it becomes. Something like Brie would have much easier, but of course the little sod won’t eat that.

Eventually I took the Trojan Horse up to our bed, where Catorze was sleeping, and I presented it to him. After a couple of licks the whole thing disintegrated completely, sending bits of cheese rolling into the folds of the duvet, so I had to Greco him.

Me, to Cat Daddy, immediately after the event: “I’ve just had to pick bits of Comté out of the duvet.”

Him, without looking up from his phone: “No wonder you can’t sleep at night if you’re eating cheese in bed.”

Me: “What? Nooo. It wasn’t for me, it was for his pill. I just had to Greco him because he wouldn’t eat it.”

[Catorze enters the room and goes straight to his daddy to snitch.]

Cat Daddy, actually looking up from his phone to cuddle his boy: “Aww. I know, Louis. I don’t like Comté much, either.”

[Silence, tumbleweed, crickets.]

A week or so later, after further refusals, my Trojan Horse was finally eaten very happily when I bought a new slab of Comté. I then realised that the little sod had been refusing the earlier ones because I had used Marks and Spencer Comté and not the organic aged stuff from the deli.

Anyway, our order is pictured below, penned in the hand of the delightful Dom from the deli (alliteration entirely accidental), and we will be collecting it on the 23rd. I already know that Catorze won’t eat any of these, but tant pis pour lui.

Yes, that does say 750g (seven hundred and fifty grams) of Gouda with cumin. Please don’t judge us.
“Où est mon Comté?”