It’s been a pretty emotional day. Before we went to bed last night, Ninja seemed unsettled – her breathing was a bit wheezy, and we wondered if she was doing that thing they do before yacking up an enormous fur ball somewhere inconvenient like your bedroom carpet (it’s never on the kitchen floor is it?).
So this is our last week living as a proper family unit I suppose (although let’s face it, with Mr English’s weird job, we’re only ever a family unit two weeks out of four). Sam’s off to university next week and we’ll miss him loads. This became apparent as we watched the NFL tonight and sniggered, en famille, when the commentator said ‘bush’, and then a bit more when he said something about ‘coming in from behind’.
My friends all find it hilarious that I live with a human-hating cat. Our Ninja’s not a people person, bless her. She’s never happier than when she’s gnawing on an unsuspecting human, and takes great pleasure at turning from purry to assassin by the time you’ve stroked half way down her back and realised you’ve made a big mistake.
So I did what any self respecting angry Ninja cat owner would do, and forced my children to do it. First up is Sam, with a very valiant attempt at the ‘paw teddy’.
Nope, not a chance, so again I enlisted a willing sidekick (okay, I forced Charlie). This time, he nearly lost an eye, but succeeded in producing a darned fine cat beard.
The result of this, though, is an incredibly angry Ninja, who doesn’t like cuddles OR posing for photos (or frankly being touched or annoyed in any way) and is now roaming the house in an angry fashion, waiting for someone to attack.
We’re all sleeping with one eye open tonight, then…
Poor Ninja, she’s just not a people person.
Our recent trip to Gran Canaria did us no favours in her affections. I blame English Dad for bumbling the initial attempt at putting her in the cat carrier (in his defence, she did plant all four paws around the edge of the little door and arch her back whilst attempting to bite him too… he had no choice but to let her go). After that we spent a good half an hour chasing her around the house until I finally squashed her, snarling and hissing, two handed against the lounge carpet, yelling ‘bring the cat box! Quick!’. In the end we had to upend the box and plop her into it, unceremoniously and from a bit of a height (it was the only way without losing several digits… As it was I suffered several scratches and a bite to the hand).
All this trauma, added to a week in the cattery (’she’s been an angel’, the cattery manager mumbled, unconvincingly, without looking me in the eye and simultaneously relieving me of 80 quid) means that she now eyes us warily from the corner of the room and manages to duck any attempt at being stroked or touched in any way unless she can actually see a sachet of cat food being opened, in which case she’ll suffer a small ear scritch, just as a small ‘food tax’.
We’ve decided she needs a friend. ‘It might bring out her mothering instincts’, someone on twitter said hopefully, while we all rolled around laughing. ‘She might kill it’ said someone else, while we nodded thoughtfully… ‘maybe we could buy it some tiny body armour?’ suggested the dude.
Anyhoo, we’ve decided on a Bengal, as we think they’ve got strong personalities, which you’d probably need, being the Ninja’s household minion… and we’ve chosen this little silver spotted girl (obviously she’s too tiny to leave her mum yet).
I want to call her Moët (properly pronounced, with the ‘t’), but I imagine she’ll end up being called Slash or Barry something if the brethren get their way. Wish her luck.
Gorgeous, fluffy, plumptious, cuddly balls of loveliness.
Or in our case, vile, evil, furry balls of complete hatred (bar 2.2 minutes of purriness around dinner time).
When we got Ninja as a kitten, she was already horrible. I think the toddlers at the place where we bought her had been allowed free rein and the poor thing had virtually been hugged to death. So in Ninja’s view, humans = forced cuddles and being carried around by your head. She probably needs therapy.
Still, she occasionally quite likes the Mad Prof and will deign to lie on his bed while he plays XBox as long as there is no actual bodily contact. Yesterday, my happy viewing of Giorgio Locatelli in Sicily was interrupted by a blood-curdling yell.
Turns out, he broke the golden no contact rule, and while rushing to get his hand away from the hissing, snarling Ninja had smacked himself in the face, pushing the nose bit of his glasses into the bridge of his nose, actually drawing blood.
The air was blue.
Still, she provides the odd bit of entertainment, like this morning when she jumped up onto the kitchen windowsill, didn’t realise it was icy, slid off and landed on a heap in the patio.
What? Of course I didn’t laugh.
So you know The Ninja Cat of Death, right? Yeah you do: white, fluffy tail, unpleasant, miserable, bad attitude, objectionable…
Yup, that one.
When my bunch of buddies all came over to Ireland to see me, Liz, otherwise known as ‘Liz Jarvis, Pet Whisperer’ diagnosed a lack of attention. We were ordered to buy toys and play with her. In the meantime she fashioned cat toys out of tinfoil and champagne corks…
It didn’t work. Her reign of terror continued. Grown men cowered… ankles were attacked.
Here she is beating up the teenager after he dared try to stroke her when she was lying near him:
But since we’ve moved into this house, something funny has happened: The Ninja Cat of Death has turned into The Ninja Cat of Sweetness and Light. She’s gone all friendly. For instance, you can stroke her without being swiped by a razor sharp paw full of claws…
I know, right?
And you can walk towards her – even past her – without her fleeing in the other direction in case you plan on touching any part of her body on the way past…
And then she actually purred:
That made us a bit suspicious. We had a really good long look at her in case we’d accidentally picked up the wrong cat when moving from my Mum’s. Nope, definitely our cat: same ridiculously fluffy tail… same stupid pink nose…
So what’s happened? Has the traumatic experience sharing the house with Ellie the Labrador and Harry the Ginger T*sser changed her in some way? Has she realised she’s actually onto a good thing?
Who knows. But it’s all bloody weird if you ask me. Take last night:
This cat has NEVER sat on a lap before. Never.
Something’s afoot. What do you think? Cloning? A large patch of catnip in the back garden? A bump on the noggin?
Okay, so we’re going to have to work on the name, but we’re in! The area is really nice and there are some really beautiful areas of woodland and fields nearby (more of this later).
The kitchen is fab (check out the KitchenAid placing – looking rather fly):
and although the oven and hob were really gross, we got one of those oven cleaning companies in and now it’s immaculate:
And look at the hob:
Pretty nifty eh?
The fellas are back at school: #2 back with his beloved mates, and #1 very happily starting in the Sixth Form (yes, I tried to get one of those really nice ‘back to school’ shots with them standing looking all neat and posh in their new gear. Let’s face it, it was never going to happen):
…even the Ninja Cat of Death is pleased (turn the sound up for the purring) but she’s gone back to being miserable now. Happily I got the brief happy spell on film:
Much, MUCH more to come! So anyhoo, how have you been? What did I miss? xx
So back here in the UK, we’re squatting, somewhat ridiculously, in my Mum’s house. All our stuff’s in storage (even the beloved KitchenAid), even then it’s a bit of a squeeze and the Ninja Cat of Death is living an uncomfortable truce with Ellie the labrador and fending off amorous advances from Harry the ‘ginger t*sser’ (I know it’s mean, but it’s his name – he accepts it, and so should you).
We spent a while looking for rental houses, but it’s hard going – they seem to be gone almost as soon as they’re advertised – well, the ones that don’t smell of wee and have kitchens out of the 1940s are, anyway…
A friend of mine was recently looking for a rental house round here, was registered with all the local estate agents and heard of a house to rent. When she asked the agent why she hadn’t been told about the property despite being registered, she was told ‘oh it was gone by 8.30am’… WHAT?!
Now admittedly it’s commuterville – 30 minutes straight into Euston on the train – but queues for viewings? Seriously? And don’t get me started with the prices: £1500 a month for a very small semi-detached house (admittedly, they probably watch us shamble in, me with sticky out Russell Brand hair, the teens with their mahoosive feet and jeans around their arses and English Dad looking seriously pissed off with the whole process – and quickly add on an extra few quid) and they’re always 2 double bedrooms and one single – you try asking two teenaged boys which one wants the single room… One of these days I’m going to suggest a fight to the death (joking).
So we decided we’d buy a house. English Towers Part Deux, if you will. I know, I know… the FTSE is down 12.5%… oh wait, it’s up again… But it’s a very, very small house, with one reception room (I know it’s facile, but all I could think about was where the hell would the Christmas tree go?) on a new estate that was offering good financial incentives for people like us (for ‘people like us’, read poor people). We very nearly bought it too: mortgage offer in place… contracts ready to sign… and then the extras happened.
Heard about ‘the extras‘? Everyone that buys a new house will be nodding their head wisely at this point. Turns out that the extras are charges for practically everything that’s not cemented in.
‘You want carpets in your new house?’
‘Would be nice…’
‘No problem sir, that’ll be three grand. A kitchen you say? One with built-in appliances and a double oven? A snip at £3250…’
‘Okay, well there’s a small teenager surcharge of £1000 per child…’
And so it goes on. I might have made the last one up, but our very modest extras – tiled bathrooms, pretty normal kitchen… came to £8,000. And I think we would have stomached it – killed ourselves but stomached it – until the husband read one of the extras was to install Sky: £800. I think it tipped him over the edge and we had a really, really good think about what we were doing. Could we afford all these extras and the deposit? Probably not. Should we stick the money on our credit cards? Probably not.
But the final nail in the new house’s coffin came from my brother, the Cocktail King, Sensible Uncle Ian. He made up our minds in two seconds and with one sentence:
Sensible: ‘Do you love it?’
Sensible: ‘Then don’t buy it. Why would you make one of the biggest purchases of your life and not completely love it? No amount of builders’ incentives should persuade you to buy a house you don’t love’.
So we’re back on the rental market.
Aaaanyway, we’ve found a house. Not exactly where we’d like to live but, unbelievably, very close to the house we nearly bought. I’m looking forward to rescuing my Kitchen Aid from storage! It’s got room for us all, and a decent kitchen. And I think I’ve even seen a spot where the Christmas tree can go..
What about you? Rent or buy?
The Ninja Cat of Death, when not entertaining herself by ‘poofing’ into a large and slightly spiky cloud shape to terrify the dog, or eating the dog’s dinner while poor Millie sits, quietly gibbering in terror, nearby, really likes the snow.
I think it appeals to her inner ninjaness to be able to step out into the garden and then disappear. But then she totally ruins it be leaping about like an idiot for ten minutes, getting cold, and appearing at the window making silent ‘MAOW!’ noises (roughly translated: ‘let me in, you gits’) while we sit, all warm and comfy, and laugh at her.
Well, the dog’s got to get her own back sometime, right?
We miss Bert. Yes, yes, I know he’s happy in his new home, and yes, he could be a growly old git and a sofa hogger, but still. The Ninja Cat of Death is much loved, don’t get me wrong, but with her penchant for climbing onto the back of the sofa and then attacking the back of one’s head with absolutely no warning, plus being blessed with the ability to explode, puffer-fish like, into a mass of needles when stroked in the wrong way, she is generally treated with the contempt she fully deserves.
I give you, for example, this little exchange from yesterday:
#1 to Ninja Cat of Death (in sing-song voice): ‘You’re such a cute kitty, yes you are. Shame you’re evil, you are, you’re evil.’
Ninja Cat: *blink* *purr*
#1: ‘And we’re going to burn you, yes we are, we’re going to burn you, yes, ‘cos you’re evil.’
And I’m not completely blameless in this. Yesterday, busy with the dinner and annoyed at her winding herself around my feet, I might possibly have told her to ‘f*ck off, you furry tosser’.
I did also once hear Hubby talking to her in the kitchen: ‘go away. Nobody likes you, you piece of sh*t’.
And yesterday, I heard: ‘get off my clean trousers you bloody animal. Shame there’s no fireworks here or I’d sent you up on a bloody rocket’.
But we love her really. Honest.
But I digress. It’s the dog thing. I work from home, see, and after waving de brevren off on the 8am bus to Cavan it’s just me, my computer and the unsociable cat. All day. I need a buddy. Plus I need to get my fat bottom out of this chair and down the boat road much more often.
So yesterday, with help from my lovely friend Liz, who has been coaching me in the ways of the rescue dog, I registered with a rescue charity. I had to fill in a long, complicated form with all sorts of random measurements like the height of my hedges, the length of my garden, the state of my front gate (ah, haven’t actually got one), and how often I shaved my legs, flossed and hoovered the lounge (okay I made a few of those up).
Today I learned that my application had been successful. Next, apparently, is the home visit. Uh oh. Note to self: make sure kids don’t call cat a tosser while home check in progress.
In other animal-related news, Mr Lovely informs me that his turkeys and broiler chickens are doing well. He’s also promised that I will be allowed to ‘lurk’ during the slaughter and preparation of said broilers (curiosity, not bloodlust, you understand). Yay.
Oh, and in other other animal-related news. I’m thinking of getting pigs. I shan’t be doing any home slaughtering though. Bleurgh.
So as you know, dearest reader, I’m generally of a calm and vey vey placid demeanour and not at all prone to bouts of hysteria *cough*.
Okay, so I might be a bit of a rabid hysteric, but generally I have good reason. That good reason of late was the general state of our house when we moved back in. I won’t go into detail, but I’ll just say the tenants loved it a great deal less than we do. It became clear, due to the inky scribbles, nail varnish splodges and big, yawning holes – that most of the walls were going to have to be filled and painted.
I am SO not a painter. Unless we’re talking nail varnish, in which case I can apply base coat, two layers plus a top coat without once smudging or even touching a cuticle. I can even do French manicure. Walls, though. I don’t do walls.
Happily, The Hubster’s a whizz with the roller. He’d filled, sanded, edged and painted the walls of every downstairs room, plus The Mad Professor’s room upstairs, in the first week. He swears a bit, but generally if you just let him get on with it, he’s really efficient.
But then, dammit, he had to go and earn a living and it became clear that The Death Wish Child’s room would have to be down to me. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s that wailing pitifully: ‘but I can’t do it’… to a stony faced 12 year old whose brother’s room has already been painted is going to get you nowhere. Shit.
What’s worse, when looking at the paint colour brochure from Woodies (think B&Q but in lime green) he chose ‘three walls of ‘Dawn Chorus’ with an accent wall of Chocoholic’. Shitting shit.
The first problem was finding suitable attire. Frankly, all my clothes are a bit crap, so finding extra-crap clothes that I didn’t mind getting paint on was a bit of a trial. Second was getting the lid off the bloody paint (I broke the Death Wish Child’s front door key but don’t tell him – he’ll never notice). Third was my natural proclivity towards dropping things. It’s okay when it’s a cup or a plate – de brevren are used to loud crashes followed by bouts of shouty swearing – but dropping a painty brush lends its own special problems. I went through a whole pack of Flash wipes just on his carpet.
But apart from one fall off the bar stool I was using as a ladder (I can still do the splits – who knew?), nearly hurling Ninja Cat of Death out the window after she firstly kept attacking the dust sheet (which was a really crap plastic one that stuck to my feet as I walked around) and secondly proceeded to stroll daintily through the paint tray and then across the curtains I’d laid carefully on the bed (Flash wipes again) and some pathetic, solitary sobbing after I blobbed a big dollop of ‘chocoholic’ onto the freshly painted ceiling whilst edging, I think I did pretty well:
In fact, I liked the ‘chocoholic’ so much, I decided to do the chimney breast as well. It’s the colour of melted Green and Black’s – what’s not to like? But that’s it now. I’m never painting anything ever again, mkay?
From henceforth, you can call me English Mum: Painting Legend.
And so it came to pass that we were packed and ready for the off. God alone knows why, but we’d decided that I’d take the car on the ferry, accompanied by one of de brevren, while Hubby flew over with the other one. This was a bit complicated, but we’d already booked our flights and then realised we’d need to take a car. Dammit. A quick check of the ferry booking showed that in a spectacularly proud parenting moment I had forgotten to book my allocated child (number 2) onto the ferry and a panicked phone call to Irish Ferries ensued (whilst holding on the line, I imagined him standing on the quayside with his suitcase, sobbing gently as the ferry slipped out of the harbour).
Still, that sorted, we faced our next hurdle: packing a furious Ninja Cat of Death into the cat box. Not as easy as you’d think: crowding round the cat box, we’d get half of her in, then the other half would bite someone and they’d let go of their bit of the door and she’d escape, then everyone would shout at the person, and they’d have to go and get her from under the sofa again. Half an hour later, bleeding and battered but otherwise unscathed, we set off, trying to ignore the yowling and hissing emanating from the box on the back seat.
The child, somewhat hidden behind several bags of absolute necessities (I won the argument about not trusting the shippers to take Larry the Lobster – he’s made of papier mache and is a bit delicate, okay?) was allocated the position of Chief Navigator and did a valiant job of shouting directions over the clank of baking tins (what? they’re precious). We were doing really well until the M40:
Chief Navigator: ‘Urgh, what’s that smell’
Me: ‘Oh, we’re probably just going past a farm or something’
Chief Navigator: ‘Did you take the turn for the M40? Jesus, WHAT is that smell?’
Me: ‘I think the Cat of Death has done a Poop of Death’
We pulled over. NCOD had made her displeasure at being cooped in a cat box squished between two duvets perfectly clear. Gagging and dry heaving, we weighed up our options:
Put up with the smell for another five hours
Risk going in with the seething, spitting emanator of foul smells to clear it up
Leave her on the side of the road and leg it (joke, joke – no, really…)
Sadly, we knew what we had to do. The Chief Navigator held the box still and I got the short straw. Luckily, when I’d moaned about taking the devil cat on the ferry, English Grandma had come up with a brilliant plan: disposable Pampers changing mats, black bags, heavy duty rubber gloves and Dettox wipes. It was pretty easy for the Chief Navigator to fend off the snarling beast with his free hand while I donned the Marigolds and used a cunning ‘pull and roll’ manoevre on the changing mat and its festering cargo.
On the road once more then, the windows wound open to clear the stench and an even more livid NCOD hissing foul and inventive death threats from the back seat, we did really well bar a short moment of hysteria somewhere past the M6 Toll (well, it’s confusing):
Chief Navigator: ‘…get to junction 15 of the M56, signposted Runcorn’
Me: ‘Yup, I’m here, taking the turning now’
Chief Navigator: ‘…keep right’
Me: ‘Bollocks. I took the turn! I took the frigging turn! We’re going to Runcorn! We’re going to miss the ferry and get lost and go round in circles and be stranded somewhere near Runcorn for ever. I’ve never even heard of Runcorn! We’ll starve to death and the police will find our emaciated remains years from now… or the NCOD might escape and live off our flesh, turning into some sort of zombie cat of death…’
Chief Navigator: *sigh* ‘Take the next exit, go round the roundabout, and go back the way you came’
Me: ‘Oh right. We could do that too…’
Arriving at Holyhead just as they were loading the ferry (phew), we grabbed some nice comfy seats and were soon nodding off, coming to just as the twinkly lights of Dublin appeared in the distance. Returning to our vehicle, we checked the cat box and found a pair of glittering black eyes shooting burning death glares in every direction. The Cat of Death had survived the journey.
The Chief Navigator rolled down the window, ignoring the yeowling, which had resumed at even greater volume. ‘Ah, Ireland. It even smells lovely.
Me: ‘You’re right – fresh gorgeous, Irish air
The Chief Navigator: Much better than the Poop of Death at any rate
Me: ‘Amen to that’.
So I’m off to SeaWorld today (yeeee-ha!). While I and my five amigos are there, we will be meeting rescued manatee, screaming on roller coasters and getting drenched by Shamu at SeaWorld, swimming with dolphins at Discovery Cove, trying out our skills as elephant keepers at Busch Gardens and whizzing down water slides at Aquatica! But just so you don’t feel left out, I thought while I’m away I’d pamper you a little – calm the senses and treat you to a little soothing gentle exercise.
Without further ado, then, I’d like to hand you over to Ninja Cat of Death, who’s going to take you through a few gentle stretches. Ready?
Okay then, lying on your side, arms down, feet facing forwards… gently roll your head and look at the ceiling…
Now bend your back so that the top of your head is facing your feet. Point those toes up! Keeping up?
Now simply flip over to the other side in one fluid movement, keeping your head still whilst twisting your whole body…
Now touch those toes, keeping your arms forward and nose touching your forearms. Really stretch those abs. No falling asleep now!
Good job everyone. Next time we’re really going to be working on those toes…
Same time next week then?
Wow it’s been beautiful, hasn’t it? We’re really starting to feel at home in this house now (well I am, the kids were settled pretty much straight away). Here at English Towers II our little garden is actually a bit of a revelation, what with the gorgeous Wisteria that’s emerging, draping itself over the wrought iron arch that leads to the vegetable patch and the greenhouse:
As you can see, I’m still working on that vegetable patch, hence the weeds, but I’ve planted some peas:
…and a little herb border:
…and underneath all those weeds and nettles, I was delighted to find old strawberry plants and raspberries already there, both of which are happily flowering. This, it seems, is the benefit of inheriting a garden off an older person – it may be slightly overgrown, but there are treasures just waiting to be discovered:
…like this beautiful old lilac tree which leans, like the Wisteria over the ancient brick garage:
What’s the old saying? You plant Magnolia for your children and Wisteria for your grandchildren? I have no idea how old this beauty is, but walking under its blooms to potter in the little greenhouse has become one of my nightly pleasures. And then, after plenty of swearing, I put together the chicken ark (the more eagle-eyed amongst you will notice that at this stage I had forgotten to slide the little door into place and had to take the whole bloody thing apart again):
and yesterday we picked up our chickens, a beautiful, lavender coloured Bluebelle and a white Sussex Star (and look at the Wisteria now, just a couple of days after the first shot):
My only concern is that they haven’t been introduced to the Ninja Cat of Death yet, but seeing as she’s still quite small, I’m hoping they’ll keep her in her place. Still, as with all things in my life, it has the potential to go horribly wrong. I’ll keep you informed…
We don’t actually have the best track record with pets. I never did recount our heartbreaking attempts to get Bert back and probably never will. Maybe he’s happier in a new home – who knows? Recently, presumably prompted by my waking frustration, I dreamed that we found him again, but even as I was nuzzling his furry ears, I somehow knew that it was a dream and was aware that I was making the most of that last cuddle before I was wrenched into consciousness again.
I know, I know, we only have ourselves to blame. The lady that rehomed him for us obviously thinks so and resolutely refuses to return my calls and texts. But at the time I felt it was best not to put him through shipping and kennelling for an uncertain length of time while we moved back to England and lived with my Mum. I know its unrealistic to ever expect to get him back, but I’d just love to know if he’s safe and loved and happy. They say you don’t appreciate what you have until it’s gone, and maybe it’s with rose-tinted specs that I think I could cure his growliness and his destructive nature, but I’d give anything for one more chance, and oh for that dreamed-of cuddle.
We vowed that that was it. No more pets. We’ll be a pet-free household and enjoy the freedom of days out and holidays without worrying about kennels and destruction, we said.
But then we went to Morocco. And while we were there befriended a stray cat whose kittens were so tiny, they looked like little furry sausages. We stole fish and chicken from the restaurant and took it to her every evening, greeted by purrs and little Moroccan meows. We actually felt quite sad when we finally had to say goodbye.
And that, in a roundabout way, is how this happened:
Her name is Ninja (not my fault – blame the Brethren). I think she’ll fit in just fine. She’s a bit mental and she’s a bit of a computer nerd:
It’s weird having a kitten. I do worry that we’re not really cut out to look after something so small. So far, she’s had a bit of a traumatic start: she fell in the bath, then got caught up in the window blinds and had to be cut free. Oh, and I’ve suffered two of those really terrifying ‘oh jesus, have I tumble dried the cat?’ horrors, rushing to tip everything out into a basket, holding my breath that the next thing I touch won’t be a limp and soggy ex-feline.
She’s not Bert, I know, but she’s somebody to love. The strong possibility is that we’ll never see him again (and if the best case scenario ever happened and I found him, how on earth would they get along?!), but I’ll forever hold out hope that one day I’ll get to ruffle those ears again.