C’était une journée d’avril froide et claire …

The pubs are now open, although I have to be honest: whilst outdoor dining in April seemed like a nice idea once upon a time, the reality is pretty grim. I have had a couple of outdoor meet-ups so far, and it’s just too cold. And, when I’ve suggested to the other person that we wait until we’re allowed indoors before we meet again, they have agreed without hesitation.

Cat Daddy and his boozy pub mates are still doing their Friday Zoom evenings, and they are very likely to continue even when restrictions are lifted. Louis Catorze attends the meetings every week without fail, sometimes screaming, sometimes just sitting on his papa’s lap and happily absorbing the male voices. The last time they met, the talk was mostly about vaccines and who has had which one. (Tim has had the Pfizer and the others have all had the AstraZeneca, thank you for asking.)

The group has recently decided to form a gentlemen’s book club, and Cat Daddy has been re-reading his favourite novel of all time – Nineteen Eighty-Four – in preparation for the next meeting. Or, rather, he has been TRYING to re-read it, but unfortunately it’s a firm “Non” from Catorze; the minute Cat Daddy sits down with his book, Le Roi is in his face, screaming, staring creepily and demanding attention. Both Cat Daddy and I had hoped that, since I’m home for the holidays, perhaps the little sod might want to spend some time with me instead, but apparently it’s a “Non” to that, too.

If Cat Daddy takes his book outside, Catorze follows him. It’s almost like the constant surveillance described in Nineteen Eighty-Four itself, and I imagine that, had the Thought Police used Catorzian pestering as an enhanced interrogation technique, they would have succeeded in getting anyone to confess to anything. In fact, I can see “Catorzian” being used in the future in the same context as Orwellian, dystopian and all the other undesirable -ians.

This is what it’s like when Big Brother is, quite literally, watching you:

He wants to be loved AND understood. One out of two isn’t bad.
The best books are those that tell you what you know already.

Le grand écran

It’s almost 12 weeks since lockdown began and, merci à Dieu: NO MORE VIDEO CALLS.

I’ve had to deal with a number of them for work, of course, which is fine because there’s an actual point and because there are actual new things to say, but gone are the social video calls which make me feel stressed and uncomfortable. People are FINALLY getting the message. And at least I have never had to endure the abyss of doom that is the Zoom dinner party, with people watching me ugly-eating on a screen. UGLY-EATING. ON A SCREEN.

Louis Catorze, on the other hand, is becoming quite the video call expert. A couple of weeks ago he marched up to my laptop and screamed at a poor kid to whom I was giving an online taster lesson, with a view to him choosing my subject for the next stage of his education. (I don’t suppose he’s massively tempted now.)

The little sod did the same thing on a NATIONAL work Zoom call with 600+ delegates, although I might have got away with that one as one of the speakers’ cats (a lovely, plushy tux) also appeared on camera and put on a longer and more visible show. So, had anyone asked about the screaming, I would have just blamed that cat.

And he did the same thing for a third time to a class of 15 students, stopping one kid mid-sentence. And, without thinking, I told Catorze to let the kid finish, then said to the kid, “Sorry about that. He talked over you, and that is unacceptable.” When the kid, who is known for dominating lessons with his long monologues, continued with what he was saying, a second kid groaned, “Nooo. Let the cat talk!”

Catorze’s favourite moments, however, are Cat Daddy’s video calls with his boozy pub mates, which continue to take place at 6pm every Friday. I imagined that, perhaps, he liked to sit next to Cat Daddy on the sofa and passively absorb all those male voices. (As you know, Catorze loves boys.) However, Cat Daddy revealed to me that, in actual fact, Catorze switches into full-on flirt mode, purring, rolling and and having his tummy rubbed. Whilst, erm, a bunch of men watch on their webcams.

I have no words for this. But maybe we should be charging money for it.

Anyway, for those of you who are interested, last week’s boozy pub chat consisted of the following topics:

1. Women.

2. The reopening of the Porsche showroom.

3. Golf.

4. Women.

5. Interest rates on savings accounts. (I had originally written just “interest rates” for this point, but Cat Daddy peered over my shoulder, tutted at my inaccuracy and made me change it.)

6. Cloudy beer.

7. The enormous relief when Simon finally fixed his WiFi problem (with some help from Johnno).

Sa Maj thinks Simon should have tried switching off the router and then switching it back on again.

Tu peux me trouver au club

Video calls: no. Just no.

Whilst Cat Daddy insists that they are “no different from meeting in person” (?), for me they have a performance element that makes me cringe. I am not a YouTuber, for heaven’s sake. And if I didn’t want to video call when I looked normal and had interesting things to report, I certainly don’t want to do it with quarantine root regrowth and when nothing even faintly noteworthy has happened in my life.

In short, I will grudgingly accept a video call under the following circumstances:

1. If you are a work colleague and I have no choice. And an agenda beforehand would be appreciated.

2. If you are 5 years old, because you will do most of the talking and I can just listen, plus your attention span is short so the call will be over quickly.

Any other reason: no.

And if you have crazy thoughts of trying to Make It A Regular Thing: HELL, no.

Puppy Mamma is an especially naughty one for trying to trick me into video calls by giving them inventive names, but I’m not falling for it. “Virtual barbecue”? Nope: it’s a video call. “Online cocktail hour”? It’s still a video call. “Distance drinks party”? NICE TRY, BUT STILL A VIDEO CALL. So, because she hates WhatsApp/text messages and I hate video calls, we have compromised by telephoning – as in, voice calls in which we can hear but not see each other. (Younger followers: ask your parents.)

Cat Daddy, on the other hand, loves his new-found Zoom adventures. He has had a couple of video chats with his family, taking care to mention my name many times in case they wonder about my absence and think we’ve split up. And his video meets with his boozy beer buddies have been continuing every Friday at 6pm.

This week’s virtual pub conversation included the following:

1. What everyone was having for dinner that night (Cat Daddy had pasta with spinach, walnut and Stilton sauce, thanks for asking).

2. The money they are all saving because of not having to pay for cabs home from the pub.

3. How to get Simon back into the call after the host accidentally deleted him.

4. Why everyone could see Mike but not hear him.

5. Deforestation.

6. Tim’s quarantine haircut.

7. Robbie Williams.

8. The confusion of having two people called Nick in the group, and a Foolproof New System for differentiating between the two.

As you can imagine, I didn’t hang around for the duration of the conversation and just caught odd snippets. However, when I heard Cat Daddy say, “I’m going for a loo break, so I’ll leave you with my cat”, I never imagined that he would mean it literally. I should have known better (see below).

With lockdown, all our worlds have become that little bit smaller. But Boys’ Club is clearly going from strength to strength, with brotherly bonds that extend beyond Le Château and stand the test of time and distance.

Louis Catorze agrees that Tim should have left it longer at the front.