Embarrassing Baby Photos

To mark the occasion of both our cats passing into the Senior Cat bracket – at its widest stretch, anyway; they are 7 and 8 this month – I thought I would endeavour to embarrass them both by posting their baby photos online.

(Now don’t you wish you had refrained from excessive shedding all over the house, carefully-timed medical emergencies on public holidays, peeing in forbidden locations, and bringing mangled birds inside late at night? Not to mention stashing dead mice in places either unpleasantly hard to find or dreadfully easy. Let this be a lesson to you: behave with greater decorum in your autumn years.)

We begin with Raskol, also known as the Cat, or the Primary Cat (as opposed to our other cat, also known as the Kitten, or the Secondary or Auxiliary Cat).

Here she is at about ten weeks old, unaware of the camera and therefore relatively unblurred – unlike all her other early pictures. These were taken a few days after she arrived in the household, as the first day she spent mostly hiding behind the fridge and doing seagull impressions.

She swiftly settled in, though, and was soon extending her empire across neighbouring properties, like some sort of undersized Catherine the Great in fur. There’s no such thing as a bloodless victory, however, and one morning I awoke to find her purring smugly while bleeding on my duvet from a slashed ear. There went the funds for A Certain Operation, which was, therefore, postponed.

It was not long before she took to sunning herself on the back porch while flirting outrageously with visiting toms. She would sit there with the come-hither glinting in her eye, and when the visitor would accordingly come hither, she’d smack him right between the eyes. This was repeated until she got bored, at which point she would go and sit just inside the cat flap, where he could see her but not reach her.

However…  as Horace so aptly observed, you can drive Nature out with a pitchfork (or a smart bop between the eyes), but she will return.

Raskol kept us on tenterhooks for as long as possible, but one morning my father quietly woke me to announce she was finally having her kittens. Being a novice in the kitten-having department, she chose to park herself under the lowest chair in the house. Presumably for privacy, although in fact the business end of the, er, business was still sticking out into the room.

Having discerned three bulges on the bulging sides of the mother-to-be, we were not surprised when three kittens were born. We were, however, quite surprised at the arrival of #4.

Of course, kittens look like nothing on earth when they are fresh, and in any case we didn’t want to disturb the new mother (apart from trying to persuade her to relocate somewhere more sensible and less draughty), so there are no pictures of the slimy little gobbets of kittenhood to inflict upon you.

Here they are some time later, although I admit a cursory head-count suggests the presence of only three kittens. A look through my archives suggests that the kitten who took most strongly after Raskol herself was so frequently occluded by her mother that were it not for the pictures of the kittens without their mother, I would begin to doubt my memory and think she didn’t exist.

In fact, there are parts of my mind which are even now considering the possibility that Raskol and the tortoiseshell-and-white kitten were actually one cat pulling some sort of interdimensional hoax.

Because there are plenty of pictures showing that kitten without her mother. After we persuaded Raskol to keep her little family in my wardrobe, she was happy for me (or anyone, really) to keep an eye on them while she went out in between feeds to – presumably – maintain her vast empire.

Not that the kittens always took this lying down, however. When they were a mere few days old, and not yet seeing or walking, one kitten not only struggled out of the wardrobe (shaking off the drop to the floor which was most of his length) but crawled a couple of feet along the floor, yowling for his mother to come back.

She didn’t, so I picked him up and popped him back with his siblings in order to keep him warm. A strong kitten, thought I to myself. Bold, intrepid. Could this be the one to grow up big and strong and relieve his mother of territorial protection duties? I thought so, and I named him Boromir, after the bold and fearless (if somewhat impulsive and headstrong) captain of Gondor.

But I was deceived. This Boromir is no battler. The only cat he’s prepared to fight with is his mother. He even had a couple or three visits to the vet and time in a cone, because when confronted by another cat, he just lay down and let the other cat bite him.

But how could I resist a face like that?

And I will say this for him: he’s a good cat to have around in winter. He likes to spend the day sleeping on someone’s lap, and the night sleeping on their bed (although he prefers a position which will result in unavoidable contortion in the neighbouring human).

He’s definitely a people cat, and Raskol – particularly after having kittens – is more of a Cat Who Walks By Herself. She’ll sit on your lap, but once she feels her duty in that direction has been discharged, she’ll move somewhere else. Unless it’s cold. And then she loves you.

Am I Cruella de Vil?

Not a question one often finds oneself asking. But when it first popped into my mind, I decided there was a case to answer, and promptly borrowed the book from the library to further investigate. The results were not as reassuring as I might have wished.

D23 Expo 2011 - 101 Dalmations movie Cruella De Vil costume (6075270321)Cruella wears fur. So do I. [Disclaimer: I don’t buy ‘new’ furs unless they’re from a humanely culled pest species; and I would never knowingly buy or wear the fur of an endangered animal.]

Cruella likes pepper. So do I.

I like ink, too, though I prefer to write with mine, not drink it.

Cruella is married – so am I.
She has no children – neither do I.
Her husband changed his name when they married – so did mine!

Cruella owns a cat. So do I (two, in fact).
Cruella feels the cold. So do I.

In fact, I am feeling distinctly chilly as I look at this list. It’s not looking good!

Cruella De Vil

On the other hand, I didn’t marry a furrier – though back in my high school days a personality test suggested I was suited to being a graphologist or fur designer. (I didn’t know what the former meant, and the latter seemed a bit redundant: they just grow.)

Speaking of school days, while I have been a student at a fair number of schools in my time, I have never once been expelled – as far as I can remember, anyway. Nor do I dominate my husband and force him to eat oddly coloured food smothered in pepper.

I don’t customarily wear slinky satin dresses with ropes of jewels – probably because, unlike Cruella, I am not a fabulously rich society heiress from a notorious family. Well, I’m not a fabulously rich society heiress, anyway (cough). Nor do I own a flashy chauffeured car which “looks like a moving Zebra Crossing” – in fact, I don’t own a car at all; I never have.

HMS Kildangan IWM Q 043387
If Cruella de Vil owned a yacht…

My hair isn’t black and white either; it is a very dark brown with occasional silver hairs if I hunt carefully. Nor have I chosen to decorate my home in red and green marble (how revolting). Possibly the marbled interior of her home, when considered in the dim and rainy light of the English climate, goes a long way towards explaining why Cruella feels the cold so much…

Cruella’s cat is Persian, kept only because it’s valuable – she drowns all its kittens. My cats (“the Cat” and “the Kitten”), aren’t worth anything. Unless perhaps they get hit by a car and found by Claire Third (warning, cat lovers may find article/images distressing). Of the four kittens the Cat produced in her youth, three were re-homed and we kept the fourth. Most days the Cat seems to think drowning him would have been preferable, but that’s another story.

And for the record, I don’t want to make a coat out of Dalmatian puppies, not even “for spring wear, over a black suit.” I like puppy skins best when containing puppies.

Dalmatian puppy, three weeks-7So what do you think? Am I Cruella de Vil, or amn’t I?

Decluttering My Eyeballs

Warning: if you have a phobia about eyeballs, you probably shouldn’t read this post. Have a complimentary kitten picture, and move along, nothing to see here.

Cute grey kitten

Still with me? On we go.

I didn’t do terribly well with my decluttering in August, and I was hoping things would improve in September. Well, yes and no.

Here’s my list:
one small spray-can of glasses-cleaner
one glasses-cleaning cloth
one glasses case (when I find it, although I may have inadvertently decluttered, i.e. lost, it already)
one pair of glasses
and, if I have all this terminology right:
fourteen and a half dioptres of myopia (eight from my right eye and six and a half from my left)
and six and a half dioptres of astigmatism (five and a quarter from my right eye and one and a quarter from my left)

pruning shears and gloves

This was not accomplished, you will doubtless be happy to hear, with secateurs. No; all I had to do was lie on a table and let my eyeballs be carved by lasers: first a flap on the front of each eyeball, and then a divot out of the underlayer of each cornea. Of the hooky metal tool used to lift the flap, I shall say nothing. Nor of the rather unpleasant smell, heavily reminiscent of the drilling of teeth.

The experience, I freely admit, was not a pleasant one, although I did get a barley-sugar for my pains (or more likely my trembles) afterwards. Nonetheless, I think it well worth enduring for the results. From being slightly less blind than a bat (and not even equipped with sonar) I am now possessed of excellent sight in one eye and passable sight in the other, which will improve as it comes to terms with being the shape of a football, instead of, er, a football.

Sports Balls

The discomfort was over in hours, and aside from eye-drops and eye-shields (which I shall declutter in due course), I am free to resume my life. An interdiction on reading for the first 24-48 hours was easily surmounted by the acquisition of a stack of audio books (yay for libraries); and a month-long ban on eye makeup doesn’t affect me as I don’t wear makeup anyway. Swimming is also verboten for a month, and I am looking forward to resuming this fun-filled form of exercise – all the more so as I will now be able to find my way from changing-room to pool unaided.

It is really quite a novelty, this clearness of sight. I’m not sure quite when my eyes started to need spectacular assistance (sorry! sorry…) but it must be nearly a quarter of a century now. I could not remember what it was like to wake up and see clearly, instead of waking up and fumbling for glasses or lens case. It really takes some getting used to. I keep finding myself staring at things, not because I’ve never seen them before, but because now I can’t not see. The leaves on the tree across the yard. The edge of the curtain outlined against the street light. Remarkable.

Red Kitten 01