Friday 22 June 2007

7 Ways In Which I Have Tried And Failed To Hurt My Cats' Feelings

1. Using air quotes and a sarcastic inflection whilst saying one of their names (e.g "Yeah, like you've got anything remotely intelligent to say on the subject, 'Delawney'.")

2. Going into "Sensitive Middle Class dad mode" and attempting to show them that by pissing on the side of my new brand new desk/leaving a vole's nose on the step outside the bathroom/breaking an expensive vase with their tail/getting overexuberant while I am cutting up chicken, they have seriously, and possibly irreparably, hurt my feelings (e.g. "Shipley, that is unacceptable. Quite frankly, I'm upset now, and so is D. In fact, we may not even eat dinner at all now, thanks to you. You may think it's okay to claw daddy's leg and yap like a spoilt, preternaturally effeminate terrier now, but what happens one day when you get out into the wide world? Do you think you want to be known as the kind of cat who climbs up people's legs any time he sees some raw meat he fancies? Do you think grown-up people will still like you, after you get a reputation for doing things like that? Hmm? Hmm? What have you got to say for yourself?").

3. Freaking them out by repeatedly rewinding the Sky Plus and replaying noises from nature programmes made by bigger, tougher cats (actually, this almost works).

4. Attempting to defuse an incident of living room megalomania by referring to painful memories from the out-of-control culprit's childhood ("Fine, The Bear, snub this expensive new luxury cat igloo and wee on the curtain if you want... It's not as if I expected anything else from someone who comes from a family rife with incest and grew up in a place like Plaistow.")

5. Threatening to video their noisiest bottom-cleaning sessions and post them on Youtube.

6. Using the phase "You think you're tough, but you wouldn't last five sodding minutes in the Serengeti, matey" after one of them has stormed off in the aftermath of a flea treatment.

7. Getting home and being swamped by all six of the little gits (all of whom ignored me earlier but have now got hungry, and mysteriously changed their tune) but blanking them and waving to a more interesting, good-looking cat that I have pretended to spot on the other side of the kitchen.

Monday 11 June 2007

Turtle Soup (and other culinary issues)

I saved a turtle’s life the other day.

Even as a regular rescuer of random wild animals, this is not the kind of statement that I find myself making on a regular basis. It reminds me of the enormous wall diary in my FE college, where I and the other students were supposed to record our activities for the campus radio station, but quickly started defacing the surface with surreal statements regarding tasks involving animals. “Save a turtle’s life!”, while not quite of the quality of "Made a crow burst into tears!, might have been worthy of inclusion alongside “Scared some pigs!” and "Messed with an otter's mind!".

But I really did save a turtle’s life in this instance. I first spotted it last summer, basking on the rotting jetty at the bottom of my garden. I even managed to take a couple of quick photos of it before it took a lazy dive back into Norfolk’s most famous town mere. I guess it was an unwanted pet, and it made me feel melancholy. Sure, it might have got to eat the mouldy bread that the town’s notoriously fussy ducks left behind, sup on the dregs from the mere’s ample supply of beer cans, but what was its sex life like? What did it do for conversation? After entertaining a few thoughts about rescuing it, or at least finding it a mate, I didn’t think about it again until the other morning, when I saw a strange shape next to the jetty.

From a distance, and I assumed the shape was the heron that sometimes visits the same area: there was a torso-like blob above the water and then, above it, something thinner. This was a busy deadline day and it was only at about 4pm that I took a closer look. What I saw, as I neared the end of the garden, was an upside down turtle, its head in the water, its shell above and above that, one leg, trapped in the wire mesh on the jetty.

My initial thought was that it was dead, but as I got onto the jetty, it twitched its leg slightly. By this point I'd gone into panic mode, and was thinking all sorts of irrational things, like, "What if it’s shell falls off and I turn it into the world's biggest snail?”. After an aborted, truly pathetic attempt to flick at the leg using some kitchen roll, I used some scissors to cut the wire mesh and it sprang free. A moment later, I saw the turtle swimming happily into the middle of the mere. Maybe I was a bit of a chicken not to have actually got hold of its leg, but somewhere in the back of my brain I could remember the phrase “snapping turtles”. Also, it had got a lot bigger since last year: its shell is now about the circumference of a an old vinyl album.

Which is more than I can say for Pablo.

Actually, Pablo doesn’t have a shell, but I feel sure that, if he did, he’d be crawling under it right at this moment. Two hours ago, Delawney jumped from behind a chair onto his head, and he hasn't been seen since. He’s generally become very distant recently, fearful of his brothers: not just of his long-time tormentor, Shipley, but also of the Bear, who has never laid a finger on him, but happens to be, like Shipley, black (does this make Pablo a racist?). He is also significantly skinnier than he was back in February and March. This is a phenomenon known as “Summer Pablo”, in which, whilst still having the diet of a medium-size rhinoceros, my most primitive-minded cat begins to shed his winter weight. After two years of this, we know not to be too alarmed, but it’s sort of difficult, when you’ve seen ginger pom-pom fluffiness turn to a redheaded streak of sinew in what feels like a matter of days. This has never happened to any of my more mimsy, domesticated moggies, so I wonder if it’s a feral thing?