Sunday 28 December 2008

The Curious Incident of the Cat in the Night-Time! - or "Spray that again!"

It was soon to be bedtime, but where was the cat?
No sight, sound or smell, as a matter of fact!
I shouted and called and rattled his toy,
the sound of his silence began to annoy.

All of a sudden a shadow loomed large
Emerging quite quickly from behind the garage.
"Good boy, where've you been" I started to say,
but the words gagged my mouth as I started to sway!

What foul rancid odour emits from your fur?
You're no better than Fido that stinking old cur!
I grabbed him quite hard by the scruff of his neck
And threw in the sink before I could keck.

Earlier on we had heard him with a certain aplomb
As he guarded his ground from a neighbourhood tom.
He sure got too close, in that there's no doubt,
To be sprayed, up close and personal before he could clout.

Back in the sink he was not willing to help
But I was determined to clean up his pelt.
He was everywhere claws, his legs all splayed out,
There was blood sweat and tears, twas a terrible rout.

He was dried with a towel to get rid of the gunk
But he ended up looking like Johnny the Punk.
His dignity in tatters, his honour demeaned
Much work to do now to get himself cleaned.

I shut the door quietly and sloped off to bed
Anointed my wounds that were bloody and red.
I scrubbed with much soap, it took everso long
But I couldn’t get rid of that horrible pong!

Next morning I arose with much fear and foreboding
Would he be sulking, his mistress forsaking?
I needn’t have worried or fretted or feared,
He was his old cheeky self – now isn’t that weird?

With regard to the smell that was like rotting pus
It no longer was obvious - at least not to us!
We go on our way with much laughter and fun
And don’t even bother when folks turn and run!

Saturday 27 December 2008

ConfusedatChristmas dot com

Well I dunno! It's getting beyond a joke now. This confusion when a cat comes in. In the dark it takes a chase round and a quick frisk to find out which one it is! Tigger is now so at home here and so sure of his welcome that he does not hesitate a nanosecond to leg it through whichever door is opened. And he's so quick. Austin can be taking a moment to decide the pros and cons of entry - you know the thing "does this mean I'm stuck in all night now, or can I negotiate a couple more minutes of freedom"?

While he is pondering this conundrum, Tigger is in with his paws in the trough, quick as you like. When Austin finally wanders in, he is astounded to see his place at table usurped by his soon-to-be erstwhile buddy! I believe that Tigger has a place set at table in about half a dozen of the most gullible neighbour's houses. That's why he is getting a bit portly. We will probably only have to wait a few more weeks before he's so fat that getting in any door will only be possible with the aid of lashings of lard and a kick up the backside. He devours every last morsel of edible stuff lying around - and even some that's not so edible, like Austin's catnip stash! We didn't see him this week for a couple of days and thought he had gone away for Christmas, but no, there he was this morning with his nose pressed up against the conservatory door. He came in and Austin went out.

Talking of "the season", the issue of the Christmas tree exercised us for a while. Should we get one and run the risk of having it hurled across the room in a cat frenzy, or should we forget it and spend Christmas out of town? I suppose we could have sent Austin away for the duration - telling him the house needed renovating or something! But that would have been costly. In the end we took the risk and went (with the junior members :>) to the garden centre to pick out a suitable candidate. Now my old fashioned slightly nostalgic view is that Christmas trees should be the kind that are shedding their needles like snow by boxing day and one is still picking them out of the cat's paws and hoovering them up in their millions in May. Well, if my opinion was sought, I missed it, as the debate over "real" versus "fake" was decided while I was searching for baby Jesus who'd inexplicably removed himself from his swaddling clothes in the nativity display and was hiding behind the third shepherd and discussing world events with the Angel Gabriel.

History having been restored I dragged myself back to the present, only to discover a large black box labelled "flame retardant clear assembly instructions inside the box" was being loaded into my boot! When youngest neff hauled it upstairs at home, it only took me a minute or two to realise that it was made of metal and plastic and hoovering up needles in May probably won't be an issue! Oh Well! Now as we know the words "cat" and "Christmas tree" usually only appear in the same sentence when the word "topple" is present - wasn't that the word that took the lead role in Fiddler on the Roof? It was all a bit of a damp squib anyway, as Austin took one look at the 6 foot monstrosity complete with tinsel and baubles and went and sat underneath it. All you could see were two white paws!

Just a little postscript here. Whatever happened to the tradition of having a star or fairy on top the tree? My childhood was traumatised by the annual placing of the fairy on the pointy bit at the top. I guess it was because of where the pointy bit was placed that our fairy over the years assumed many of the characteristics of an Edvard Munch model. She unaccountably disappeared several years ago and is now, no doubt, residing in another, more appropriate, aspect of the Frieze of Life! So what did we end up with on the pointy bit I hear you ask? Well I think it's a bit of the Taj Mahal if truth be told. It definitely has an Eastern look about it, but probably slightly more eastern than Bethlehem.

PS would take a picture of the Taj Mahal to show you, but it would mean trailing upstairs and recharging my camera and taking the pic, then downloading and resizing etc etc - basically I can't be faffed :>)

Tuesday 9 December 2008

Easy Steps to World Domination - if you're a cat!

....... ok, some other cat wrote these, but Austin lives by them. Oh yes he does!

Although cats are the best and most wonderful creatures on this planet, they are quite bizarre... After conspiring with the Cats Association for Taking over Earth (CATE), I have managed to steal some Top Secret information about these mysterious guardians of the underworld. These are their rules of life (that every cat MUST stick to) in order to take over the world! But how these rules will help to achieve their objectives still remains a total mystery to humans.

BATHROOMS: Always accompany guests to the bathroom. It is not necessary to do anything. Just sit and stare but occasionally rub their legs.

DOORS: Do not allow any closed doors in any room. To get door open, stand looking sad at the humans. Once door is opened, it is not necessary to use it. After you have ordered an "outside" door opened, stand halfway in and out and think about several things. This is particularly important during very cold weather, rain, snow, or mosquito season.

CHAIRS AND RUGS: If you have to throw up, get to a chair quickly. If you cannot manage in time, get to an oriental rug. If there is no oriental rug, shag is good. When throwing up on the carpet, make sure you back up so it is as long as a humans bare foot or expensive clothing.

HAMPERING: If one of your humans is engaged in some activity and the other is idle, stay with the busy one. This is called "helping," otherwise known as "hampering."
Here are the rules for "hampering:"
  • When supervising cooking, sit just behind the left heel of the cook. You cannot be seen and thereby stand a better chance of being stepped on and then picked up and comforted.
  • For book readers, get in close under the chin, between eyes and book, unless you can lie across the book itself.
  • For paperwork, lie on the work in the most appropriate manner so as to obscure as much of the work as possible or at least pretend to doze, but every so often reach out and slap the pencil or pen. Bite when you're moved on.
  • When a human is holding the newspaper in front of him/her, be sure to jump on the back of the paper. Humans love to jump.
  • MOST IMPORTANT When human is working at computer, jump up on desk, walk across keyboard and write a short story. Bat at mouse pointer on screen as if it were real. Then lay in human's lap across arms, hampering progress in typing.
WALKING: As often as possible, dart quickly and as close as possible in front of the human, especially: on stairs, when they have something in their arms, in the dark, and when they first get up in the morning. This will help their co-ordination skills.

BEDTIME: Always sleep on the human at night so he/she cannot move around. Even better- lie on their face, making sure your seating area is right on their nose. When she is wearing an expensive silk nightie, don't forget to paw it. This will create lovely patterns!

LITTER BOX: When using the litter box, be sure to kick as much litter out of the box as possible. Humans love the feel of kitty litter between their toes. The smell is also very attractive.

HIDING: Every now and then, hide in a place where the humans cannot find you for a few days. This will cause the humans to panic (which they love) thinking that you have run away or are lost. Once you do come out, the humans will cover you with love and kisses and you will probably get a treat.

SLEEPING: In order to have enough energy for playing, a cat must get plenty of sleep (at least 16 hours per day). It is generally not difficult to find a comfortable place to curl up. Any place a human likes to sit is good, especially if it contrasts with your fur color. If it's in a sunbeam or near a heating duct or radiator, so much the better. Of course, good places also exist outdoors, but have the disadvantages of being seasonal and dependent on current and previous weather conditions such as rain. Open windows are a good compromise.

HUMANS: Humans have three primary functions: to feed us, to play with and give attention to us, and to clean the litter box. It is important to maintain one's Dignity when around humans so that they will not forget who is the master of the house. Humans need to know basic rules. They can be taught if you start early and are consistent. You will then have a smooth-running household.

FOOD: In order to get the energy to sleep, play and hamper, a cat must eat. Eating, however, is only half the fun. The other half is getting the food. Cats have two ways to obtain food: convincing a human you are starving to death and must be fed NOW; and hunting for it oneself.

The following are guidelines for getting fed.
  1. When the humans are eating, make sure you leave the tip of your tail in their dishes when they are not looking.

  2. Never eat food from your own bowl if you can steal some from the table.

  3. Never drink from your own water bowl if a human's glass is full enough to drink from.

  4. Should you catch something of your own outside, it is only polite to attempt to get to know it. Be insistent -- your food will usually not be so polite and try to leave.

  5. Table scraps are delicacies with which the humans are unfortunately unwilling to readily part. It is beneath the Dignity of a cat to beg outright for food as lower forms of life such as dogs will, but several techniques exist for ensuring that the humans don't forget you exist. These include, but are not limited to: jumping onto the lap of the "softest" human and purring loudly; lying down in the doorway between the dining room and the kitchen, the Direct Stare, and twining around people's legs as they sit and eat while meowing plaintively.

Sunday 7 December 2008

A Pome!

Haiku - Unrhymed Japanese poetic form consisting of 17 syllables arranged in three lines containing five, seven, and five syllables, respectively.

Peaceful, cat sleeping,
warm, basking in the sunshine
Tigger - calm, at rest

Thursday 4 December 2008

Mistaken Identity

There is no doubt that Austin now knows Tigger’s name, because whenever I mention it (even in passing) he rushes to the window, looks out eagerly and then looks back at me as if to say “so where is he then?” Trouble is, Austin answers to the name Tigger, Tigger answers to the name Austin, Austin answers to the name Austin, but Tigger doesn’t answer to the name Tigger! So picture the scene. It’s last thing at night. It’s cold and it’s dark and it’s raining. I open the door and call “Austin”. A cat comes in and I shut and lock the door, turn the lights out and go to bed. A short while later I’m lying in bed dozing peacefully over my current bedtime reading, The World’s Most Boring Book by Thomas Hardly-Ever-Read, and I hear a frantic scratching and yowling which appears to be coming from outside the bedroom window. Nonplussed I pull back the curtain and there is Austin perched precariously on the window sill giving me the look which says “you are that close to getting a visit from social services and being charged with cat neglect …..”

Well, to say I was flummoxed is putting it mildly! I let him in and stomp upstairs to the
conservatory in an extreme state of dishabille. (Yes the conservatory is upstairs, ok! I’m not in my dotage yet – well I am, but people are being very nice about it. There’s a description of the house geography somewhere in this blog, but can’t be faffed to go and look). With Austin hot on my heals I throw open the door and there he is, Tigger the young whippersnapper, laid out on the sofa looking every inch as if he was a direct descendent of Mafdet, the chief Egyptian feline deity, born to rule and now that close to being mummified if I could just remember where I’d put my embalming fluid. At this point Austin obviously felt the need to reassert his territorial authority and I felt the need to be embarrassed and cross, so there was a moment or two of confusion and mayhem as we all danced around huffing and puffing. Eventually Tigger was despatched (not without some difficulty), Austin regained control of his catdom, and I (after a cuppa and a sit down) recovered a semblance of composure.

There is also no doubt, as I’ve mentioned before, that Austin and Tigger are best buddies. They seek each other’s company. They do the buddy thing of huntin’, shootin’ and fishin’ together. They have also managed somehow to see off the Ginge gang! At least now when one of the gang passes through the garden, Austin and/or Tigger either ignores them or chases them off with gleeful growls.

We still haven’t determined whether Tigger has adopted us as sole beneficiaries of his benign presence. He spends a few days with us sleeping in the conservatory and eating Austin’s food – which he doesn’t seem to mind, funnily enough. Maybe it's because he’s very picky and Tigger isn’t, so we can count on him to eat up the rubbish while Austin benefits from the titbits of fresh chicken leftover from last nights dinner. Sometimes Tigger is so ravenous he scoffs the food as if he’s not eaten for a week! But this could possibly be because he has an eating disorder, as he’s now huge and seems twice as heavy as Austin – anyway I digress. Oh yeah, he’s around for a few days and then he’s gone without a by-your-leave leaving a bemused Austin staring forlornly out the window. He don’t write, he don’t ring, he don’t even text! Typical bloke. Now Austin, who’s had all that removed down at the vets and has become a bit girly to tell you the truth, can’t understand the fickleness of these butch types, but is willing to persevere with his loyal friendship until such time as this laddish behaviour invites too much interest from the fuzz!

Scaredy Cat

I couldn’t understand why it was that when it gets dark Austin would not go outside through the conservatory door? He’d do his customary urgent “me out” sound, but when I go to the door and open it, he suddenly freaks and changes his mind and scoots off to lie full length in the kitchen doorway where I subsequently tread on him whilst endeavouring to perfect my multitasking skills by drinking a mug of red bush and carrying on a conversation on the phone to India about my pitiful broadband connection and therefore will not be taking up their kind offer to “upgrade my package”. I mean what is the point of paying £4.99 a month more for the same terrible service? And anyway I don’t speak Gujarati. Duh!

Austin limps off down the stairs and when I follow some time later he’s sitting staring at the back door (which is at the side) with an intense look on his face and his back legs crossed. It dawns on me that “me out” has become “I-really-must-be-out” NOW! Having opened the door and almost feeling his relief as he shot off into the hebe bush, I start to reflect upon a few of life’s imponderables such as “what is wrong with the conservatory door that it freaks him out after dark?” Perhaps it’s Ginge related ghoulies and ghosties?

Then a few nights later I happened to glance out the conservatory door myself only to be absolutely terrified by the sight of a wild eyed, witchlike, maniacal, shambling wreck of a humanoid staring in at me. It was then I realised Austin had been frightened by his own reflection.

Wednesday 12 November 2008

Life with Austin - Annual Report!

Yep! It's a year since young Austin decided to move in and adopt us as his life's work. So I suppose now is a good time to take a moment to reflect on what both parties have learned from this merger, this fusion of two cultures. The word culture as we all know means "to grow a living organism in a controlled environment". Yeah right!

From the first glimpse of him, scratching frantically at the glass of his cage in the rescue centre, to this moment (as he rampages the neighbourhood with young Tabby - who now tells us he wants to be called Tigger after his hero in Winnie the Pooh!), it has been a steep learning curve and I am still not sure which culture has the preeminence. I do wonder sometimes what life was like for him before he was found, badly injured, trying to keep warm in a car engine. The nice people at the rescue centre were not forthcoming as to how he got his injuries, but I cringe at the possibility that it was because someone started the car engine before he had a chance to escape!

How long had he been on the road? Was he from a discarded litter of kittens? What was it like for him out there? Perhaps he's a reincarnation of Dicken's cat William (who turned out to be Wilhelmina anyway!)? Or maybe one of T.S. Eliot's that didn't quite make the cut? Or worse, perhaps he lost his job as understudy to Mr. Mistoffelees because he wasn't black enough and has been unable to come to terms with his mixed race antecedents and decided to end it all by throwing himself into the oily embrace of Wankel. I shudder to think about it now. They said he was about 6 months old, but judging by how quickly he gained weight after we took him in, he was probably nearer a year old, but very undernourished. That would make him about two years now.

He settled in very quickly and adapted himself well in his new environment. As I have noted before though, it was about 4 or 5 months before he would venture outside - and even then needed a bodyguard to watch his rear while he availed himself of the facilities. Even now he prefers human companionship out there. When I open the door to let him out, he looks back and chirrups and I have to say "It's ok buddy, off you go, see you later", and he trots off quite content that all is well with his world. I have often complained here that he hates to be picked up and cuddled and I have now put it down to his fear of being confined, maybe because of his earlier experiences. He just becomes one big claw. However, if he decides that cuddles are the order of the day, then it doesn't matter what I am doing, he will plonk himself on top of the most accessible bit of me and start his shiatsu technique and drools all over my person. And my laptop is in danger of being waterlogged!

He is a creature of habit, most definitely, and his body clock is to within a couple of seconds. Even the hour going back hasn't fazed him. He tolerates visitors, but like most cats will always go to the one person who hates cats and has allergies! Anything new has to be sniffed and patted and sometimes watched from a distance, until it finally passes his strict inspection criteria, which is far more rigourous than any government health and safety regulation.

We have come to an agreement over housework - I do it .... and he watches from a safe distance. He is intrigued by the vacuum cleaner, which to him is a dragon with a very long tail and every so often it lets out smoke and fire (when the bag needs changing - and I forget!). Fireworks are an infringement of his cat rights and he is trying to get legislation passed to ban them forever. He has been lobbying to get his accommodation upgraded to something that includes central heating and excludes Tabbies - except when there is an R in the month. He always comes when he is called- except when he doesn't. He knows his name and responds with a sound that I swear is catspeak for "yes my dear mistress, I am yours to command". Despite his phobia about being picked up, he likes to follow me around and then falls on my feet with grunts and sighs when I stop for a cuppa - I do believe he thinks he's a dog. He's even followed me up the road. I know that because although I never saw him actually walking behind me, each time I turned round, he was always exactly the same distance behind, sitting looking bored and feigning interest in a discarded cigarette butt or a gazing languidly at a leylandii that's currently a bone of contention between two neighbours. No door can be closed to him and the issue of catflaps has been under discussion for a while now. However, seeing as he uses the small vent window thingy in my bedroom to go in and out when he thinks I'm not looking, a catflap is not a matter of urgency. NB How does he manage to get in through about one inch of open window I have no idea?

So to sum up I would say that Austin has successfully made the transition across to big school and has fitted in well with the class (mostly). However, he must learn not to daydream and stare out the window during lessons and sleep through afternoon lectures. He shows tremendous leadership qualities but must curb the tendency to yowl, spit and punch when he doesn't get his own way. He has been registered for anger management classes to help him deal with this and also his inclination towards the gang culture (see above) as personified (or is that catified?) by Big Ginge and his merry band of feline thugs. This is a work in progress. Austin must try harder. But I am hopeful. Given his expertise at entering and leaving through small windows, I am sure he would do well in a future career as a cat burglar!

Thursday 16 October 2008

A Big Softee!

I dunno! What is it about animals? They get under your skin (literally in some cases!). Since getting Austin, I've become a big softee. I've had cats before, but don't remember being quite so gooey about them. Maybe it's because I'm at home much more now, or perhaps it's knowing that I'm well past child-bearing age and have discovered my inner mother rather too late? Whatever!

Anyway I took the little fella to the vets yesterday for his second and last feline leukemia vaccination. Because he has rampant ginger-vitis the vet had said last time I was there that he wanted to do some tests to see if there was an underlying, more serious, cause. I decided that if he did have any of these horrible diseases (AIDS included) I really didn't want to know and it would be too late anyway. But no, the vet was quite determined. So I had to leave him there for a few hours as they needed to sedate him before sticking the needle in. Having been "on the road" for goodness knows how long before he was rescued, no one had a clue what he'd been up to or what manky infection he might have caught.

Now unlike the NHS the results are instantaneous. So when I returned to pick him up, I also got the results. Negative. Yippee! Still don't know why he's got the problems with his gums, but hey, he's managed ok so far. Just a little aside here. I have decided that in future I will book myself into the vets when I need medical attention. The staff are friendly, the place is spotless and the results immediate. And you get your own cage with clean bedding. Ok so if you've got a problem with heights, it might cause some grief climbing up if you're allocated a penthouse cage, but nothing's perfect in this life is it! Of course having read James Herriot I'm well aware of what vets get up to with their soapy arms! Let's please not go there.

Anyway I digress. Austin was still out for the count when I picked him up, so there wasn't the usual pushmepullyou strife with the carrier. Getting him in it has become the stuff of cartoons, all legs like a giraffe and talons. You get one leg in and one leg out, you shake it all about, do the hokey cokey and turn around and start all over again! Once in the car he sings along quite nicely to the Lighthouse Family, if a bit loud. (His taste in music is quite eclectic). However, there was none of that now. Got him home and plonked him on his bed where he stayed for about four hours. He had a slight accident, which we won't mention as he was rather embarrassed about it.

Once he started coming to, all he wanted was to cuddle up on the nearest lap (usually mine) and if I left him for a moment he hurled himself drunkenly around until he found me, falling on my feet until I picked him up again (this is a first, actually wanting to be picked up. Maybe I should keep him permanently sedated!). He seems much more like his old self this morning, except I think he's remembered what happened yesterday morning, so is keeping a wary eye on my movements. If I go within ten feet of the carrier, he's out the door like a rocket.

Tuesday 14 October 2008

The Green-eyed monster!

I know Austin loves his little buddy. No, he does, really. Except, well, there are signs. They can be playing together nicely. Bit of chasing around, some hide and seek, some gentle thwacking around the whiskers with a paw. This is when he thinks they can't be seen. As soon as Austin sees, hears, feels, my presence he morphs into the Terminator, or that bloke from Karate Kid, you know, when he makes like a crane before he does that kick thing!

Tabby is a nice cat, there is no two ways about it. He's insinuated himself into the household very successfully. He's seen what Austin does that annoys and does the opposite, the little creep! So we can cuddle him when we want and he eats all the leftover food at which Austin has turned up his delicate nose. In fact I would say that he's probably of the lower classes despite his ravishing good looks and expensive looking coat. He eats like an uneducated peasant and tears up the furniture much more vigorously.

Anyway today he made the move from spare bed to master suite and slept the whole day away. Austin has his nose so far out of joint it's practically on top his head ;> Now every time I really want to annoy Austin, I make sure he's looking and then go and make a BIG fuss of Tabs. Works every time! Trouble is Austin gets used to having him around and then Tabs goes off on one of his four day expeditions into the interior and Austin has to revert to "playing" with me. I'm only his second reserve playmate and it can be quite a painful experience! There's a bit of chasing around, some hide and seek, some gentle thwacking around the whiskers with a paw! He does this "meyat" noise as he leaps out at me as I trudge wearily up the stairs. He biffs me through the bannister rails and then as I round the corner, four sets of claws and several teeth leave their marks quite artistically arranged on my calf! As I bend over to inspect the damage to my limb, he repeats the aesthetic claw and teeth motif, this time on my "buteaux". As I leap up clutching at my dignity, he assumes a totally bored expression and looks the other way.

Thursday 2 October 2008

Sitting on the fence!

Had to rescue Austin from the fence today. I heard this awful racket. Sounded like a hippo dancing the paso doble on an elephant! I opened the front door and stood looking out. Then I heard Austin's "I'm-in-a-heckuva-fix but-don't-want-you-to-find-out so-you-will-go-on-and-on-about-it-forever" meowaaaarghhoouw. Looking round the side of the house I espied one black tail, one white paw and a couple of whiskers sticking out from the middle of the slatted wooden fence. How he got himself in there I do not know? But it was a scruff of the neck jobby to get him out. Had to disentangle each body part one at a time! Boy was he embarrassed! The black cat from next-door-but-one was sniggering behind Mick and Pat's scaffolding.

I'm sure I saw Austin blush and his humiliation was evident as he slunk into the house, his street cred at an all time low. Serve him right. He'd not long chased that same black cat into the garden of four of the eleven spitting dogs.

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Girders and cat flaps!

I've been looking in here the last few days to see if, by perchance, anything new had been written on the blog. Totally fed up now with seeing "Bodgit and Scarper update" every time I enter boringoldblogland. Duh! It has now finally dawned (not being overly endowed in the brain cell department) that these things don't write themselves, more's the pity.

Since I've started writing this catachrestic masterpiece today, I've had to get up and let Austin out the door and in the window several times! Well he knows he's supposed to be the point of this blog and is eager to help me out by doing something interesting so I can write about it. Well Austin, try again! I see nothing remotely amusing about your door 'n window fetish. And another thing. What's all this about cod liver oil capsules? Don't I give you enough fish? Isn't Tesco's own brand dogfish shark and barracuda bites doing it for you? So why did I have to stick two fingers down your throat and rescue a 1000mg pill? Have to say though, you have the most luxurious coat of all the mogs in the neighbourhood :)

Re: Mick and Pat. Well we're now about two months on and progress is being made .... oh yes! Muffled banging and clanging reveals there are now several girders lying on the ground, one large hole in the wall and some more scaffolding balanced precariously on two bricks! Still no sign of the little pixies doing all this though. It's so exciting!! Maybe it's the tooth fairy on work experience, or those weird ones that are usually at the bottom of the garden? It all causes great amusement to the feline population, who cease their internecine squabbling to line up along the wall to indulge in the cat equivalent of watching paint dry!

There are some very strange sights around if only one would take the opportunity to look up now and again. We were having one of our not infrequent outings to Plas Newydd our local national trust property. It has to be one of my favourite places:>) We were ambling along around the back of the house, when senior neff pointed out a rather novel looking cat flap type thing in a window about twenty feet off the ground!

I know the family of the Marquess was a bit eccentric (the first Marquess lost a leg at Waterloo which was careless, but it was found, according to leg-end buried under a tree in Brussels where it had become a bit of a shrine) but didn't know their cats were into abseiling! Anything, however, is possible! My mind, at this point, wandered off into Random Musings - where it spends so much of it's free time, being a happy haven, a place of boundless reflections - and I pondered the thinking behind abseiling cats. Maybe it's a novel way of getting them to sharpen their claws, so they don't chip the Chippendale or shred the Louis Quinze? Perhaps they are exceptionally tall cats? Or maybe the 1st Marquess's prosthesis prohibited him from hopping downstairs to let them in and out? After much deliberation I decided that the Marquess, being a bit of an innovator, probably designed it as a prototype combi catflap and air conditioning unit. He was well ahead of his time.

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Bodgit and Scarper Update ....

..... just in case you're thinking I've lost interest in the activities next door, let me assure you I haven't! To bring you up to date. Weellllll, the word "nothing" just about covers it. Still a hole in the ground with a pole growing out of it, but now there does appear to be bits of wood sprouting from the pole. This must have happened overnight when I wasn't tweaking my non-existent nets. Despite the fact that I spookily hear men's voices and the sound of hammers first thing in the morning, there is no sign of any activity! I think it is clear to all that Mick and Pat have bodged it and scarpered - at least for the time being. However the bit of orange plastic they've left guarding the hole is rather fetching.

Moving on to more feline activities, the inclement weather has meant that Austin does not venture out much. Being a modern lad, this means that he gets bored very easily and tends to trash the place. When Fidget comes over to "hang", one may as well go out and leave them to it!

The young tabby has taken over the spare bed in Austin's pad and seems to be insinuating himself into the household bit by furry bit. When I open a door now - or even a window - I can never be sure which one is going to be first over the threshold. And then of course when you're wandering around without your specs on you can find furry rugs where you never had them before!

Fidget's a nice cat. He doesn't mind being picked up and cuddled, he just nestles in, head under my chin - but then he needs to be in full unctious mode if he wants to keep getting Austin's leftovers and the odd tickle under the chin. Whereas Austin (as I have no doubt mentioned before) is all spikey claws, biting and yowling, unless of course he initiates the cuddle. Then he embarks on a process that can only be described as "extreme snuggling" when he drools and pummels and head butts my nose, looking up at me with adoring green eyes. It is, no doubt, a kind of self-help regression therapy that he's learnt about from the internet! For me the effect is something akin to shiatsu (which until today I thought was some kind of Japanese dog!). After he's done this for a while, and I'm about to start charging rental, he sees Fidget out the corner of his eye and magically morphs into the hoodie teenager from h*ll.

Monday 1 September 2008

The following night .....

.... well he was having nothing of it, was he! Having feasted in the Elysian fields and drunk the nectar of the gods, Austin has now decided that his compact and bijou residence- complete with en suite and mini bar, I might add - is a bit infra dig and he has packed his bags ready for the move to the larger and more affluent suburb of my bedroom.

However, I have informed him, through my solicitors, that this place ain't big enough for the both of us! He replied, through his solicitors, that this contravened his human rights and he will take me all the way to the supreme court at the Hague to prove it. I mentioned that as he wasn't human, it mattered not what he thought under European law. He declared that the Human rights law was universal so therefore I couldn't discriminate just because he was a cat and anyway didn't cats and humans share about 96% of the same DNA? I countered by saying that we shared approximately 93% of DNA with a komodo dragon and I wasn't about to let one of those kip in my bed!! I directed him to the 32nd chapter of the introduction to the preface of the appendix, paragraph 15, sub-para 28, addendum 12, codicil 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which says that it "does not constitute binding international human rights law - especially if you're a cat and are DNA deficient". So he could go fry his titbits! He muttered something that sounded like rowlocks.

Well things got a bit ugly after that. There was a tussle - skin, fur and DNA flying everywhere. Harsh words were exchanged and we parted.

One has to live with the consequences of one's actions, but certain issues need to be addressed and some questions answered:

1) would redecorating the kitchen remove the stains completely?
2) could caterwauling be accepted as an olympic sport by 2012?
3) how much will it cost to replace the broken glass?
4) could splinter embedded in paw be removed without taking the door off its hinges?
5) Will the NHS cover the cost of counselling if your DNA doesn't reach the required level?

Sunday 31 August 2008


The household was woken up at 3.30 a.m. this morning by a couple of very loud, very close, explosions. Needless to say this did not help with the collective blood pressure situation. The cat's and mother's both went sky high and mine almost shot up to normal. A few more of these explosions confirmed what we already feared, that someone was letting off fireworks up the back somewhere. Grrrrrr! Tempting as it was to ignore the cat and go back to bed, thoughts of RSPCA blacklists and fears of becoming a social outcast in the neighbourhood of eleven spitting dogs and the Ginge gang drove me to stick my head round the door of Austin's pied a terre. He was nowhere to be seen, which was unsurprising given the noisy ambience.

All of a sudden a black shape shot out from under the two-seater and streaked across the kitchen growling and making one heck of a fuss. I managed to deduce that this was Austin in a furry funk. All thoughts of returning to slumber vanished and I put the kettle on. While he was sorting himself out, I peeped out of the window and saw our deaf neighbour (not Toby, tother side) pacing up and down the road in his dressing gown, waving a torch and checking his vehicles (of which he has a few!). 45 minutes later I looked again and he was still doing it. It was also raining! I fleetingly thought about going out and telling him that our resident vandal wasn't out taking pot shots at his tyres this time. But quickly rejected this as it was pitch black and he doesn't lip read, even in daylight. And it was raining (did I already say that?) Had manic thought about police coming and arresting me for disturbing the peace when they should be rounding up the pyrotechs.

By this time Austin had calmed down somewhat. Poor fella, he'd already had a disturbed evening when Ginge Secundus attacked him from the rear and then attacked me from the front when I went to intervene! Austin was very brave - not! He hid behind the wall.

So all in all he was in need of R & R, so took him to bed with me for rest of the night. Big mistake! He was in cat heaven. I wasn't. Of course like all cats his ego is bigger than the available space, so when he wasn't purring loudly in my ear, he had his paws stuck up my nose and then I'd wake up struggling to breathe only to see his worried little face peering down checking that I hadn't died while his attention was diverted. But mostly he just laid out at full stretch across me and the double bed so I couldn't turn over without hurling him on the floor. So in the end I just lay there perched precariously on the edge, clutching one inch of duvet, a quivering wreck, a beached whale, a lump of exhausted misery. All this so he could catch up on his shut-eye.

When Fidget the Tabby arrived all perky this morning shouting at my bedroom window to see if Austin wanted to hang out at his place, I let him out with a sigh of relief. But I did see them having a good laugh about something as they trotted up the garden.

Thursday 21 August 2008

Lap Cat!

Austin, my little spiky feline friend, has discovered laps! He's always been friendly, well, except when he's got a project on, like fly catching or curtain climbing. He's never liked being picked up and still doesn't, except when his curiosity overcomes his fear of confinement. However, just lately he's found that he can get a very comfortable few minutes kip by burrowing his way into my lap. I suppose, if I were to be honest, my lap is to him what an overstuffed armchair is to me! What happens is this:

He scratches at the door

I open it

He marches in with purpose written all over his face and gives me the perky big-eyed piercing look which impales me to the back of the chair - even though I was on my way out to the shops at the time.

I cower, terrified

He jumps up on lap

I recline

He turns round exactly seven times and sticks his claws in to check for leaks.

I leak red stuff

He burrows head in my hand

I stroke his ears

He applies his acupuncture technique - well you can forget the "acu" bit, he goes straight to "puncture"!

Eventually head lolls - mine

He sleeps

I snore

He dreams

I twitch

He jumps

I groan

He stretches

I yawn

He gets up

I cringe

He then, very kindly, starts to give both of us an all over body wash. Although I suspect his apparent concern for my personal hygiene is incidental rather than deliberate.

Update on Bodgit and Scarper Enterprises

Well they come and look in the hole from time to time and even bring their mates along for a confab. I reckon they think they've hit a sewage pipe because of the cats using it as a toilet. Who's going to enlighten them? They themselves also use the hole as an ashtray - a multipurpose hole, eh!

Memo: Must write to council about smoking in the workplace.

Oh and they also came and put up scaffolding last Wednesday and returned the next day to take it down again.

Note to self. Must make sure I know where Austin is when they finally fill hole in again!

Sunday 17 August 2008

Balconies and flagpoles

I've been intrigued the last week or two to observe what's going on next door. This is the house that's the twin of ours and belongs to Toby the Tibetan terrier and his human entourage. Some months ago we'd received a notification from the council informing us that Toby wished to build a balcony extension out from the upstairs living room and did we mind? Well we didn't mind really except for the noise and mess and parking problems that would undoubtedly ensue. Happily, it was going to be on the far side, away from us and would probably annoy Geoff and June* and their several dogs much more - or maybe not.......

People who have an eccentric house such as theirs probably don't get annoyed at the same kind of things as normal people! I mean the building is weighed down with all kinds of aerials, antennas, gadgets and cables sticking out from the roof. There's even a wire growing out the chimney for goodness sake! I've thought for a long time that he used to work for MI5 and can't get out of the habit. And then there are the flagpoles. Two of them, one large and one small. I reckon each morning there's some kind of ceremony as the appropriate flags are raised for the day. Happily I'm still languishing in the arms of morpheus when this occurs. What the criteria is for selection, I've no idea. Three of the flags I recognise - Union Jack, Welsh and Canadian! But the rest could be anything, although I swear that one day I saw the Libyan flag flapping.

Anyway I quite like Geoff although I don't know him very well. One day when it was flooded outside, he went out and sailed his model boat up and down the road and took a photo of it to send to the council. Several weeks later a couple of workmen came and dug up the road for a few days, sat around drinking tea and then went away again. Since then, no flood. Well not there anyway, it seems to have moved down the road to outside the B&B. But I digress.

I assume Toby, or his Estates Manager, interviewed several prospective candidates for the job of balcony builder, but didn't see any of it take place (despite evidence to the contrary, I don't sit all day twitching at the nets. Mainly because we don't have any, otherwise I would!). One day though, I heard engines and voices outside and went to investigate. It appeared that Toby had made his choice and Messrs Bodgit and Scarper were fetched up outside in their white van. At least I think that's who it was, as the white van was a bit shy about telling the world who it belonged to. Apart from the usual dents, scratches and mud marks there was nothing to say what its role was in life. It could belong to Joe Burglar rather than Mick Bodgit for all I knew. I pulled up a chair and settled down for the show.

My mind wandered a bit while they got their thermoses out for the first cuppa of the day. I'm sure there's a thesis in this somewhere ... "The theological and metaphysical ramifications of non-specific white van man and the influence of the cuppa as the first cause in the zeitgeist of the 21st century British work ethic" There would be various concepts discussed, including the "why the heck does he always cut me up at Four Crosses roundabout?" motif. I think I would be asked to give the odd Reith lecture on the strength of that.

Anyway, back to the two clowns. After the cuppa, Pat Scarper went off in the van after Mick had removed his pick and shovel from the back. By this time I was ready for my cuppa, so tootled off to the kitchen. I was sometime as I discovered Austin out in the conservatory looking tense - his tail had gone all "Basil Brush". I soon realised that Ginge Secundus was in the vicinity, looking thunderous and intent on tucking in to Austin's mid-morning snack.

Now, knowing that he was responsible for Austin's ginger-vitis, I was not best pleased to see him, so crept up behind. Austin, I noted was approaching from the other side and together we performed a perfect scissor manoeuvre on Ginge. He didn't know what hit him. I screamed, Austin screamed (we're good at that) and together we saw him off down the steps. Austin and I looked at each other, high fived and went our separate ways. By the time I returned to the front window, Mick had dug a small hole in the drive next door. At this point Pat Scarper returned, Mick got in the van and they drove off.

Now apart from the odd ten minutes, they've not really been back to do anything in a couple of weeks! Toby and his staff have also not returned to check up, so all in all, it looks a bit sad and neglected. Bits of scaffolding, mud and concrete just lying around. Austin of course has found the hole, I know because I've seen his head popping up from time to time and judging by the rather intent and focussed expression on his face, he's using it as a toilet.

*Names have been changed to protect the weird

Monday 11 August 2008

Doors - the sequel

...... or "Cat in a Downpour". I wish I could paint a picture, but with me you just get the usual "thousand" words! I know rain is not something cats generally relish, but Austin gets especially grouchy if caught in a deluge. Now I've told him that if he is averse to getting wet then maybe north west Wales is not the place for him. I've left brochures of somewhat warmer, drier climes lying around for him to see - Margate, Beirut, Sahara! But I guess he must be dyslexic or something!

So here's the thing. I hear his lordship howling outside during an inundation that only Noah would be slightly happy about. I hurry to the door. No sign of the wailing one! I close door as precipitation is accumulating on my person. I try another door. Meanwhile he appears outside first door which is now closed. I close second door as the floor is becoming a swimming pool and return to first door. He's gone to second door (which is now closed). Are you with me? Please say if you're not?

At this point I become a bit deranged and for some unknown reason I now find myself at the third door. Now this is the door that has the rain coming in at right angles, accompanied by a force 10 gale. It was like some torturous liquid acupuncture! (maybe it will accidentally cure my migraines. One can always hope?). Well Austin, of course, wasn't there either. He's far too contrary and anyway maybe he wasn't in need of the liquid acupuncture treatment. Eventually, when hurricane Blodwen had finally subsided a bit, he came in through the bedroom window and delicately wiped his feet on my nice clean white duvet. Grrrrrrr!

Friday 1 August 2008

Chips with everything!

We've got one of those computerised ovens! Our old mate Richard came and installed it and took the old one away. Now Richard's a lovely bloke, very good at his job, however his communication skills leave a lot to be desired. It's not that he's a member of the grunting monosyllabic, neanderthal tribe of young men who need 10 pints in them before they open up - usually with expletives not deleted and then vomit in your lap. Richard is a "nice boy", but he hasn't yet learnt to articulate and express himself so that the words leave his lips and travel unhindered and unencrypted to your ear. It takes alot of patience on both sides in order to get the gist. I want to shout: 

"Open your mouth Richard, let the words go free!"

But no, they continue to rush around inside his oral cavity, desperate but unsuccessful in their bid for freedom. So I become adept at pretending I understand. This, of course, leads to confusion - mine! So when he gives a short tutorial on the dos and don'ts of the new appliance I'm all smiles and nods - in all the wrong places. I catch a word here and there, "catalyser" "flexiclip" "keypad"! Have I made a terrible mistake? Is it some kind of gruesome crossbreed robot straight out of Stepford Wives? A mobile phone car? What the .......? All I want is something that will heat up fishcakes!

He leaves eventually and I head straight for the manual(s). Big mistake. There are six of them plus a "moisture plus" cookbook! So it's an oven that steams as it cleans as it cooks? One of the books appeared to be about something called a "wireless food probe". And then there was the bag of inklamatrinks that came too. By this point I'm beginning to think I'd wandered into Ann Summers territory! What have I done? I'm sure I saw the words "kitchen appliances" above the door of the shop, but to tell the truth my eyesight's not what it was. Then of course trying to find instructions in English is rather time consuming. By the time you've waded through the Arabic, Chinese, Serbo Croatian and Gujarati you find that English takes up about 1½ pages at the back of book 5. Long live the E

Well getting
 the oven to start is no problem. Austin can do it just by walking in front. I think it must be to do with the fact that both he and the oven are chipped. I think also that both he and the oven can moonlight as defibrillators, so that's a bonus. Bit worried about frying my brains though, let alone fishcakes!

Monday 21 July 2008

Not for the faint hearted!

I had to take Austin to the vet today. Our vets has one of those drop-in surgeries every weekday morning. Of course, true to form Austin was nowhere to be seen! What a pallaver! It's as if they know before you even think it yourself. Spooky or what? Had to resort to all kinds of subterfuge and we needed to be quick as I was running out of time and the back roads up, so we would have to take the busy route through town.

Deciding on a strategy, I wandered up the garden with my cuppa as if I was going to sit in the summerhouse - Austin is very protective and is my guard cat on these occasions, just in case I get attacked by pirates or ravaged by marauding blue tits or something. But not today. He kept his head down. I think he must have realised it was a ruse as I am usually still mooching around in my dressing gown at that time. Something, as far as he was concerned, was not right!

Eventually I gave up, went in and took my shoes off. Good move! He appeared from absolutely nowhere. Within ten seconds he was unceremoniously crammed into his (everso slightly too small) carrier and we were off down to Menai Bridge before he knew what hit him. Now even though my 76 year old mother had been "done" twice for speeding while driving into town, I put my foot down - but did turn my head and smile sweetly at the bridge just in case the North Wales Arrivalive Police Traffic Unit were lurking behind it. (Don't feel they got my best side though). Well we did make it in time, just, and having made such a fuss over getting into the carrier, now he wouldn't come out of it!

The very nice young vet (he looked about 14, not sure he was even shaving yet!) managed to entice Austin out by grabbing him by the scruff. He gave him the once over. So what's the diagnosis? I can tell you're all dying to know.

It appears he's got rampant Ginger-vitis!!!!

Oh yes he has.

I said "Rampant?"

The boy vet said "Yes, his gums are livid".

I said "His gums are livid? I'm FURIOUS! How many times have I told him not to play with that gang of red, rat faced mangy street urchins and now look what's happened!"

Well the boy gave one of us an injection (things were a little unclear at this point, as I was hanging onto the cat for dear life). I did eventually calm down though and we came home. Got to keep an eye on his gums for a week or two, but tonight we are going to sit down and have a heart to heart young Austin and I, about some lifestyle changes one of us is going to have to make.

Thursday 17 July 2008

Blackie the sheep and miscellaneous fleas

I've just managed to dupe Austin into swallowing his six monthly worm pill and am pleasantly surprised to've come out of the encounter relatively unscathed!

But he did rather get "the 'ump" over being de-flea-ed this time. If there was an oscar for cat pouting he would have won for that performance. Oh the betrayal!

What d'you have to go and do that for? What have I ever done to you?

I show him my latest scars.

Well apart from that?

"It's for your own good. You really don't want whole colonies of rampaging insects building conurbations in your coat do you?"

I can deal with it!

The whole of the following day, whenever I turned around, there he was lying like flat-pack cat with his head on his front paws, two reproachful green eyes following my every move, unforgiving, accusing, pained. 

Anyway I'm digressing. Across the road there is a field of sheep. They're quite noisy at times, but to my certain knowledge Austin has not really given them any consideration, except the time when he and Tigger the Tabby were engaged in a spot of internecine carnage with a couple of the Gingers. Poor Austin, who is a home-loving boy, found himself in unfamiliar territory without his passport or visa or indeed, his catnip stash. Once he realised this he made his excuses and left:

Sorry, just realised I have an appointment with my therapist

Blackie is the token "ethnic" in the bunch over there and I have to say is generally accepted within the community. However, she disappeared several months ago before Austin came and we thought she had gone to the great sheepfold in the sky via the dinner menu of The Queen's Head.

Now it appears she's back - or at least ..... ? If it's not her it's a close family member.

Austin monitored the situation very closely from his favourite perch in the upstairs living room window. It is from here he keeps tabs on everything that goes on in the street and oversees it all like some benevolent but remote dictator. On this occasion I could hear muttering and growling wafting from behind the curtain. Having taken a few precautions (chair, whip, full body armour), I took a peek. Poor Blackie! I hoped she wasn't a sensitive soul. If looks could kill! You could feel the malevolent laser beam irradiating from those emerald orbs. She was mutton!

I am hugely distressed to think that he might have racist tendencies, but he is mixed race himself, so what's the deal? Competition?

Happily, after several days of this he apparently satisfied himself that the beast was a benign presence in the neighbourhood and has since paid her scant attention.

Wednesday 9 July 2008

The Food Chain!

When I looked out of my bedroom window into what I fondly call the courtyard (in fact it's a few paving stones and a retaining wall) I saw the two young scallywags paying just a bit too much attention to a large blob of something under the wooden seat. Thinking to myself that noone not even a cat is that interested in a leaf, I nipped out the back door (which is at the side) and approached with stealth from the rear.

I found, to my horror, it was a baby blue tit! It became clear to me very quickly that trying to resuscitate would be a waste of time as its head was separated from its body by about half a paving stone. Now this is not the first time I've interrupted Austin in the act of wilful murder, as I caught him cheerfully playing happy slappy with a shrew a few weeks ago while the tabby cheered from the sidelines. Threat of an asbo and detention in a young offenders institution obviously had no effect then and it was obviously too late now! So I cautioned the main culprit and put him on remand to give me time to organise a fitting burial for the victim. That done I brought the accused before the court to argue his case.

Well, it was a farce to be honest. The prosecuting counsel was powerless in the face of blatant jury nibbling and when the main witness turned tail and pleaded inanity - that's like insanity but without the restraining order - the case fell apart. It all came down in the end to the definition of term "the food chain". To me, it was quite simple. It referred to the queue at Morrison's checkout. Well, apparently not, and now I am a lot wiser with words like heterotrophys and detritivores added to my vocabulary if not my understanding.

Wednesday 2 July 2008

I know everyone says this but ........

...... I'm sure our cat thinks he's a dog. I mean he actually walks to heel for goodness sake! After about eight months of having Austin as part of the clan, I thought he would revert to type - especially as he's "in" with that Tabby, who's not been "done" and is a terrible influence. But no, if anything he's becoming more like a well trained dog - but with an opinion - and I'm his pack leader. So picture the scene first thing in the morning. I let him out of the conservatory and we have a little chat about this 'n that and then I open the door to let him out to the garden to perform his ablutions:

me - go on, off you go
Austin - are you sure you'll be alright?
me - I'm fine
A - errr you don't fancy coming then?
me - not really
A - ok, if you're sure ....
me - yep!

He then strolls outside and sits on the step looking back at me and I say it's all right (again) and retreat back into the kitchen so he feels he's ok to go about the business of the day. Having kept watch over us all night, it's not in his best interests to allow one of his charges to be lost in daylight hours, for he takes his duty as guard cat very seriously indeed.

Well, this is what he likes me to think. In all honesty he's still a bit wary of the furry fiend Big Ginge, so under the guise of guard and protector he tries to encourage me into accompanying him on his daytime forays into the wilderness of outside. Even when he's safely inside he still prefers me to "ride shotgun" when he's eating!

I have had several cats over the years, but not until now have I had one that always comes when called, no matter where he is or what he's doing! I'm so surprised at this so have put it to the test and yep, this cat obviously feels that he is obliged to obey his mistress's voice. He doesn't seem to realise that as he is a cat he actually has a choice! So he might be in the middle of disembowelling a field mouse or engaging in gang warfare, or even just napping under the pieris. As soon as I call him, he comes. It is not without complaint though. If he is particularly engrossed in what he is doing a few gardens over I can hear him moaning all the way. Meoweoweoweowow! Then he stops just outside the door to check I haven't called him by mistake and had meant to engage the neighbour in conversation.

me - time to come in now
Austin - why? we were having a great time playing snail football over at Bertie's
me - sorry to spoil it, but it's bed time
A - Oh! just 5 minutes more?
me - nope!
A - ok

In he comes, tail flexed into its habitual question mark shape. The usual bedtime ritual is enacted. He makes big deal of eating one mouthful of the latest BOGOF from Morrisons. I go and finish watching the news. He comes in, does a quick spit 'n lick to get rid of any extraneous comestible. He slinks onto the seat in the window, nods off and then drops off. As soon as he hears the click of the tv going off he is immediately galvanised into action, leaping round the back to see where Trevor McDonald has vanished to and then round the front just in time to be clonked on the head by the dvd tray as it opens to regurgitate a dvd. He then yawns and stretches meaningfully, edging towards the kitchen, meowing as he goes:

A - it's time for bed
me - oh all right then

.... as I trail behind him like some indentured servant. And then if I tarry too long turning out lights etc, he gives an impatient flick of his tail and sort of "tisk" sound:

"come on, you're two minutes behind schedule!"

As I said, I'm the pack leader! 

Now about Tigger the tabby. To be sure I don't know what to do. Is he a stray or is he just a gad about? I've asked around, but no one seems to know him. I could sneak him down to the vets for a quick scan for a tag. He really needs to be "seen to" before he gets much older. He also needs defleaing and deworming before we can really let him in. He's friendly though and he and Austin squabble quite contentedly together. And he's not picky about eating leftovers ... or anything really. They look so sweet sitting on the wall with their tails curled around, like a couple of mismatched bookends.