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?”
“Dépêche-toi!”

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?”

Le dernier mois

It’s December and, whilst we haven’t had any snow in London, it’s cold.

Louis Catorze is firmly back in his autumn-winter igloo. He has been known to spend all day in there, even foregoing food and drink (I am not overjoyed about this) and eventually crawling out at 9pm, all dishevelled and blinking at the light like a little cave gremlin, to sit on his daddy’s lap. For a while we were quite worried about him and almost whisked him off to the vet, but now normal service has resumed and he’s back to screaming and being a shite.

Cat Daddy: “Maybe he wasn’t ill. Maybe he’s so thick that he just forgot to wake up” (?).

The igloo, which was gifted by one of his beloved pilgrims, has been in the living room for a couple of months but he didn’t set paw in it throughout that time, no doubt because the weather was so mild. However, the Arctic blast brought by Storm Arwen was obviously too much to bear, and he has now retreated so deep inside that there’s no budging him. (Catorze is notoriously difficult to shift from his igloo once bedded in; if we need to get him out, for a vet visit or a pill, for instance, Cat Daddy has been known to pick up the entire igloo and shake it, like shaking vinegar over chips*. Catorze clings on for dear life and eventually exits the igloo with all the urgency of a very viscous, gloopy, screaming sauce.)

*Non-Brits: ask your British friends.

Cat Daddy and I are both quite happy that Catorze has rediscovered his igloo. As well as giving us some peace at night, it also keeps him out of mischief somewhat (Catorze, I mean, not Cat Daddy).

Here is the little sod, enjoying his cosy bed:

He’s in there somewhere.

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).

L’or, l’encens et la myrrhe

The winter solstice is here, but I’m not really feeling the Yuletide joy. Firstly, my teacher-cold – the same one that had been threatening to hit since September but stayed simmering below the surface, enough to annoy me but not enough to warrant time off – finally broke through on the last day of term, just in time for the holidays. And, secondly, we were put into Tier 4 a couple of days ago. If you didn’t even know there was a Tier 4 you’re in good company, because neither did we. In fact, none of us Londoners did until a few hours before it was announced. In short, this means that the Five-Day Festive Free-For-All is cancelled, so we will all be spending the celebratory season like Kevin McCallister: home alone. (Younger followers, ask your parents.)

In better news, someone has sent Louis Catorze a Yuletide gift, but I have no idea who it is.

The card bears the words “From one crazy cat lady to another” which, frankly, doesn’t narrow it down in the slightest. And I know that the sender also has cats (although this doesn’t narrow it down, either) because there were puncture marks in the Dreamies packet. I am lucky enough to know several people who would be this thoughtful, yet most of the prime suspects have denied all knowledge.

If you were responsible and I have not yet accused you, I would have got to you at some point, I’m sure. There is the small matter of a certain someone having to be good in order to deserve presents, but nevertheless I am very grateful to you for thinking of the little sod. Thank you so much!

Incidentally, I still have the Black Cats calendar that I found on my doorstep in 2016, and my quest to find the mystery giver was unsuccessful. So, whilst we’re on the subject of owning up, it would be nice to know who left that, too, so that I may say thank you.

Wishing you a magical winter solstice. Brighter days are coming.

“They knelt before the king and offered precious gifts.”

Ça commence à beaucoup ressembler au solstice d’hiver

2020 really is the year that keeps on giving, right to the bitter end: our tree was supposed to have been delivered last week but, the day before the scheduled delivery, the supplier called to let us know that their shipment of trees wasn’t up to standard and therefore they were very sorry but they wouldn’t be delivering.

Now, compared to what we’ve already experienced of this cirque de merde of a year, no tree is hardly the end of the world – at least, not for us. But, for the poor tree man, this is just the worst thing ever; as well as his business being royally shafted, he was having to call every customer to let them know that Christmas was ruined, and I can imagine one or two of them being quite bratty and princessy about it.

He sounded so upset and frustrated, and we felt so bad for him, that we told him not to worry about refunding us. And, instead of our usual outdoor tree, we have decorated our bare virginia creeper skeleton with baubles and lights. If you followed Le Blog last year you will know that one of our household traditions is for Louis Catorze to have his own indoor tree, so we have brought in our potted bay tree from The Front for him, just in case you were concerned about him being treeless this year.

Cat Daddy: “Literally nobody was concerned about that.”

So we have our outdoor winter wonderland at The Back, Catorze’s bay tree in the living room, and a stunning wreath made for us by Puppy Mamma at The Front. And, whilst we were putting it all up, somehow the Yuletide spirit seemed to give Sa Maj a much-needed burst of energy after a day or two of slumpy inactivity (most likely powering up for his next bit of mischief) and, throughout the whole process, he pitter-pattered around us, bug-eyed and screaming.

We are so looking forward to the winter solstice and to the lighter days which will, we hope, bring a happier year.

Catorze’s special tree, with bespoke decorations.
Puppy Mamma’s super-stylish handmade wreath. She managed to keep the dogs’ chops away from it this time.

Elle fait une liste, elle la vérifie deux fois

Lockdown came to an end earlier this week. Cat Daddy, Louis Catorze and I are now in Tier 2*, which is the worst of the lot – yes, even worse than 3 – because it’s not quite normal life, yet not enough is in place to make it worth the bother for our hospitality industry.

*For non-Brits who aren’t familiar with the system, Tier 1 = alcohol, Tier 2 = alcohol but only with a pasty and a side salad, Tier 3 = no alcohol, no pasty, no side salad.

We have been granted five days over the festive season in which we can do what we like (not exactly what’s been instructed, but it’s what will happen) and, as we have seen before, any plan which relies on the common sense of the British public is doomed to fail. So Cat Daddy and I have told our families and friends that we won’t be seeing them. We’ve got this far and we just don’t see the point in chucking it all in now.

I am the one who takes charge of buying the gifts every December. Cat Daddy does so many of the boring chores and errands on a daily basis that it’s only fair I pull my weight just once a year. And, yes, I do realise that the fact that we’re even able to buy gifts makes us very lucky indeed. The other day, Cat Daddy asked me how I was getting along.

Me: “Oh, I’m almost done. I just need to get the animals’ presents.”

Him: “Sorry?”

Me: “Presents for Louis’s friends.”

[Silence, tumbleweed, crickets.]

Whilst it’s something of a stretch to suggest that he has any friends, it’s lovely that we are among like-minded animal lovers who understand animal gifts. That said, each pet has very different requirements so it’s not as simple as one would imagine:

1. Cat-Cousin Zelva: not keen on wet food.

2. Cat-Cousin King Ghidorah: likes Sheba (poultry variants) at the moment, but will have changed his mind by the time this post goes live.

3. Cocoa the babysit cat and his sister Chanel: are used to exotic delicacies such as, erm, squirrel and parakeet, and so nothing we could give them would ever feel like a real treat.

4. Blue the Smoke Bengal: is under strict orders to lose some poundage, so food-based gifts are out.

5. Nala the dog and Gizzy the [insert name of species]: sensitive tummies.

In short, festive shopping for pets is COMPLICATED.

Luckily, Louis Catorze is the simplest of the bunch: we don’t buy him anything. Now, before you feel sorry for him, hear me out. He doesn’t know it’s the festive season and, if he did, he wouldn’t give a hoot.

*EDIT: HOOT VERY MUCH GIVEN. After I drafted this post, Cat Daddy went to investigate a commotion in the dining room and discovered that Catorze had broken into the animals’ gift storage and was chasing Blue the Smoke Bengal’s catnip fish around the room. I don’t imagine Blue will want it now that it’s covered in Roi spit so, since the poor little sod hasn’t been well, we’ve decided to buy something else for Blue and let Catorze keep the fish:

Thou shalt have a fishy.

La renaissance du soleil

Louis Catorze’s Cat Granny passed away last month, and Cat Daddy and I have been thinking about her during our traditional winter solstice reminiscing. She was the best mother-in-law imaginable and would always take my side in an argument with Cat Daddy. In fact, she would always take my side even if there had been no argument, and at Christmas she would give me better presents than the ones she gave him. Her words to me when we announced our engagement were: “Well, he’s always been a very nice son to me. I just HOPE he’ll be a nice husband to you.”

She left us on Remembrance Sunday, which was a very important day to Cat Grandpa, and I can imagine him hurrying her along on that morning and telling her she’d better get to him before 11 o’clock.

Cat Granny loved cats, although I don’t have any decent pictures of her with Louis Catorze as he preferred hanging out with Cat Grandpa at Boys’ Club. But they had a lovely relationship, and she was one of the few people who didn’t mind stroking him when he had just come in, cold and wet, from a thunderstorm. She would always be there with the cuddles, whilst Cat Daddy and I flinched and shuddered when Catorze came near us with his gross, drenched fur.

Cat Granny is pictured below with Brook, the enormously fat* cat who lives in her residential home and who is the same cat that ruined her 90th birthday party by catching a bird in front of horrified guests.

*I must add that the residential home staff do not overfeed him. As anyone with a greedy and determined cat will understand only too well, he goes out and manages to find food – and clearly rather a lot of it – from somewhere.

Moments after this photo was taken, the delightful scene was ruined because Brook dug his claws hard into poor Cat Granny. Cat Daddy and I had to delicately unpick the big sod and hoist his considerable bulk off her body, which was quite some challenge, demonstrating yet again – not that we really needed reminding – cats’ innate capacity for spoiling things that were perfectly lovely before.

I hope that Cat Granny and Cat Grandpa, wherever they may be, are surrounded by cats (but maybe better-behaved ones than naughty Brook). And Catorze, Cat Daddy and I wish you all a wonderful winter solstice.

Trop de choses à faire

The winter solstice is fast approaching and, whilst Louis Catorze is following his natural instincts and burying himself so deeply into his igloo that I fear he might become part of it, Cat Daddy and I are doing the opposite. We have so much to do, including the following:

⁃ Buying, putting up and decorating our main tree, which Cat Daddy put outdoors one year because he didn’t want to disturb his boy’s main sleeping spot (even though he has 849 other sleeping spots) and has remained an outdoor tree ever since: https://louiscatorze.com/2017/12/15/mon-beau-sapin/

⁃ Buying and decorating Catorze’s tree (yes, Sa Maj has his own tree, although I don’t suppose he will agree to be pictured next to it)

⁃ Choosing a charity to receive the donation that we make in lieu of sending cards

⁃ Sending cards to the awkward people who don’t know about or understand the charity donation thing, and who would probably never speak to us again if we didn’t send them a card (YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE)

⁃ Organising the festive menu for the day (even though we still don’t exactly know who’s coming and for how long)

It’s all a bit manic and although, at times, we wish we could climb into that igloo with Sa Maj and just wait for it to all be over, we know how lucky we are that we are able to do these things. The people who can’t, for whatever reason, are very much on our minds at this time of year.

We hope that your festive planning is going well, and that it’s bringing you more joy than stress. In the meantime, Sa Maj is still in his igloo, and he won’t be budging anytime soon.