Who Wears the Fur in this House?

Cats pretend to be high-maintenance overlords; dogs pretend to be slavishly devoted minions. Some people fall for this, but do not be deceived! The true state of affairs is revealed by one simple word: poo.

dog poo fairy

A cat, given the requisite freedom, will do (and bury) its poo somewhere you will never see it. A dog, on the other hand, will poo right in the middle of the lawn (and probably not even your lawn) and thus require you to pick it up. This is not the action of a devoted minion.

Aldous Huxley said that “to his dog, every man is Napoleon,” but can you really imagine Napoleon on pooper-scooper duty? Didn’t think so. On the other hand, there is an entire luxury industry based around the poo of a certain kind of cat. I am not making this up.

A dog is like a permanent toddler: they’re bumptious, they freak out if you’re not on hand, and they will always need you to feed, bathe, and clean up after them.

Australian Cattle Dog puppy mascot

Cats, on the other hand, are more like teenagers: a broad degree of independence with occasional outbreaks of frolicksome childhood (when they think you’re not looking) and, of course, they’re always ready to veg on the couch. They are also always ready to devour anything left out on the bench, but at least they don’t have opposable thumbs. The fridge and microwave are safe.

I am, it is true, a cat person. I have had cats for most of the last twenty years. On the other hand, I have also owned a dog, and I think I can say that I was not a great success as a dog owner. Dogs, like children, are high-maintenance and high-energy, which does not fit well with a low-energy person.

If you are considering parenthood, I recommend you try a dog first. The feeding, the excursions, the cleaning up messes you didn’t make, the constant behaviour-correction, the inability to go away for the weekend, the broken nights (children and dogs don’t have inhibitions about volume nor sharing their feelings with the world) – it’s all there. If you can’t hack the canine version, consider carefully before embarking on the human version.

Our dog getting treated like a baby, again.

Cats, on the other hand, only require feeding. They clean up after themselves; they don’t need to be taken for walks in the pouring rain; they don’t mind if you get someone else to feed them for a couple of days (but they’re happy to see you when you get back) and once they’ve learned what behaviour you don’t like, they’re careful not to do it when you’re looking. Cats only emit high-decibel noises in an emergency, and they prefer to spend their nights (and indeed, their days) curled up snoozing on your bed.

And despite the bad press, cats do care. I had a cat once that would climb into the lap of a crying person, rub up against them, emit concerned mews and generally be as consoling as possible. Admittedly, she couldn’t tell the difference between laughing and crying, but it’s the thought that counts.

I think I can safely say Absinthe's a lap cat now.

Cats have also been known to warn their owners of house-fires, attack intruders, or snuggle up to elderly people in rest-homes who are nearing their end. Mind you, dogs are also known to do these sorts of things – especially if they’ve been trained to.

Don’t get me wrong: I like dogs. But until they learn to clean up after themselves, it’s the human who’s the devoted attendant, not the dog.

7 Lies About Love

Love is a subject on which a great deal has been said and written. Unfortunately, a lot of what is said, read and believed about love is a load of σκύβαλον.

Here are seven lies about love that are all too often taken for truth.

Love Hurts

Lie #1: There is only one person you can be happy with: your One True Love
Where do I even start with this? For one thing, “true love” originally meant someone who loved you and was faithful (“true”) to you. That’s it. Hence the lyrics of Scarborough Fair in which the narrator enumerates various tasks which need to be done before the once-true love can be a true love again – all equally impossible. (There is no such thing as “mostly faithful”.) Is there only one person in the world who would be faithful to you? I doubt it.

My Ice-Cream Theory of Relational Compatibility suggests that most people could be happy in a relationship with ‘most anyone. It goes like this: if you get a two-scoop ice-cream, most flavours will go with most other flavours. But some flavours are particularly distinct and only go with a limited number of other flavours. On the other hand, sometimes you get unexpected combinations that, to everyone’s surprise, actually work.
And so with people. Most people could be happy with almost anyone; some people have a smaller pool of possibles to work with; and some pairings work when everyone expects them to fail.

Icecream Cone

Lie #2: If you’re with your O.T.L., It Just Happens
There isn’t only One Person you can be happy with if you work at it; conversely, there isn’t a single person you could be happy with if you don’t. Relationships, like most living things, need to be tended, and not just by one half of the equation. Michael Bublé has got it all wrong when he sings “You’ll make me work so we can work to work it out… I just haven’t met you yet.” There is no ideal person somewhere out there with whom he (or anyone else) could have a healthy relationship without even trying. Good relationships don’t just happen – they need to be maintained. Both people need to work at it or it’s never going to work.

Lie #3: Love is only found in a sexual relationship
There are many forms of love (for which, alas, English does not even begin to allow) and it is perfectly possible to live a life full of love without being in a sexual relationship. We do single people a disservice in thinking that they must lead a loveless life.
Nor is love to be found only in relationships that exclude all others. A friend can love more than one friend, a parent more than one child, and this is right and good. As Elinor Dashwood says, “after all that is bewitching in the idea of a single and constant attachment, and all that can be said of one’s happiness depending entirely on any particular person, it is not meant – it is not fit – it is not possible that it should be so.” It is too much to demand of any person, regardless of the exclusivity of the relationship, that they take full responsibility for your happiness.

Ein süßes Geheimnis von Adolf Hering, 1892

Lie #4: Love is the same as infatuation, and you are helpless before it
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love admits in her follow-up book, Committed, that it was not until after the failure of her first marriage that she realised that choice came into the matter at all. She had always felt that love was like the flu: if you got it you got it and there was nothing you could do about it. People who stayed together for a lifetime were just lucky they hadn’t fallen in love with anyone else, because of course, they would then have to leave their spouse for the new love.

This reduces love to little more than a hormone-induced feeling, and then puts it in charge of major life decisions. This is never a good idea. In fact, I would go so far as to say that any belief which leads you to think you do not have the ability to choose is an erroneous one.

You’ve probably heard it before, but love is not a feeling, it’s a conscious choice – which is why wedding vows can include the promise to love the other person until death do them part. You can’t promise a feeling, but you can promise that your actions will be in line with your conscious choice to love the other person.

Day 142: Late night bottle

Some people feel that it isn’t really love if it isn’t backed by “the feelings,” but consider another form of love: that of a parent for their infant. A loving parent gets up in the night to feed the baby. They may not be feeling the love at 3 a.m., but they are nonetheless being loving by meeting the baby’s needs. It’s the same with adults: when we promise to love another, we are promising to meet their need for love, whether we feel like it in the moment or not.

Lie #5: Love means never having to say you’re sorry
This lie, popularised by the novel (and subsequent film) Love Story, is a pernicious one. It not-so-subtly suggests that if someone really loves you, they will accept your ill-treatment of them without any apology or attempts to make things right on your part. It is the equally-evil twin of:

Lie #6: Love never says no
This is the lie that makes doormats of people. They let loved ones mistreat them – or mistreat themselves – because they think that if they refuse or rebuke their loved one, they aren’t loving them.

An itinerant salesman selling the doormats that are strapped Wellcome V0020367

Love – real love – is an unalterable insistence on what is best for the other person. Any parent can tell you that what someone wants, and what is best for them, are not necessarily the same thing. Learning that they can trample on someone with no unpleasant consequences is not good for anyone. (I highly recommend the book Boundaries for those who want to read more.)

Lie #7: Loving yourself is selfish and self-centred
Loving yourself is healthy. Loving only yourself is unhealthy. The oft-quoted command from the Law of Moses and the teachings of Jesus says “love others as you love yourself” – not love others instead of yourself, or love others more than yourself. Love others like you love yourself. There is no expectation that you will (or in fact can) love others when you don’t love yourself.

Love yourself

Are there other lies about love you think should be added to the list?

What's For Dinner?

Back when I was a whiny little tyke, I used to annoy my parents by continually asking what was for dinner. (Not repeatedly on the same day – I may have been whiny but I wasn’t stupid.)
“What’s for tea?” the little Deborah would inquire, a glitter in her childish eye, and her parents, sensing an imminent chapter from that well-known collection of essays, Things I Do Not Like to Eat, would fall back on that stand-by of parents through the ages: “Wait and see.”

Nicolaes Maes 007

It has become generally accepted to blame the problems of one’s adult life upon one’s upbringing, and it has just occurred to me that this three word refrain might be to blame for my lack of organization when it comes to figuring out what the evening meal will be. Because deep deep down, my sub-conscious thinks that you don’t know what’s for dinner until dinnertime arrives. This may explain the scrambled egg incident.

Of course, this theory only danced across my mind for a handful of moments before the hound of reality came galloping after and savaged the poor little thing to shreds. Because I was still by all measures a child when my parents started me learning to cook the evening meal, which includes planning ahead and getting something out of the freezer in time for it to defrost.

Meal planning suggestions from 'Family meals and catering' Wellcome L0072310

Mind you, I grew up a handful of degrees south of the Equator, where meat could be removed from the freezer at lunch-time and be completely thawed by five o’clock. (I was thirteen before I encountered butter that had been left out of the fridge overnight, but was still too cold to spread, and I didn’t know what to do with it.) I now live closer to 42 degrees south, and lunch-time doesn’t cut it as far as defrosting goes, particularly in winter. Breakfast-time is more like it, and if it’s something large, better make it breakfast-time the day before.

One could of course use a microwave to defrost food, but the results are unsatisfactorily uneven, and in any case why pay for electricity to do what time and nature will do for free? This is not to say that the microwave plays no part in defrosting: we use it all the time. As a cat-proof meat safe.


I am sure I am not the only one who has struggled with the daily task of organizing food on the table. It was worse when I was still working at the DDJ, leaving the house before I was fully awake and returning when I was tired and the need for dinner was imminent. The Caped Gooseberry did his best, but multi-variable decision-making and chronic fatigue do not mix.
We ate some very simple meals in those days. As Julia Child said, “Good French cooking cannot be produced by a zombie cook.”

But rejoice! there is still hope for us. Some time ago (on the website of the Daily Connoisseur, I think) I came across the idea of the capsule menu. Some of you may be familiar with the idea of the capsule wardobe: a small but effective collection of clothes that you can just wear without having to spend ages thinking about what to wear or what goes with what.

Walk In Closet - Expandable Closet Rod and Shelf

The capsule menu is similar. Basically it’s a schedule of what you’re going to eat on what day. You shop accordingly and voilà, the decision is already made and you don’t have to spend ages figuring out what you have and what you can make out of it. Bliss.

If you have a high boredom threshold, you can have the same menu every week. We have a two-week cycle, which includes such gems as “home-made curry” “spaghetti bolognese” “something eggy” “something from a cookbook” (variety: the spice of life) and a couple of nights where we get takeaways: a curry, or the traditional NZ fish & chips.

A particular favourite of mine is the four days we spend working our way through a roast or a corned beef. We buy whatever’s cheap at the supermarket (oddly, roasts are frequently as cheap or cheaper than even mince), cook it up, and then have the leftovers in various ways until they are all gone. What could be nicer than a chicken roasted with homemade stuffing, or a shoulder of pork with rosemary crackling? Served (of course) with roasted potatoes and lashings of flavourful gravy.

Roasted Chicken Dinner Plate, Broccoli, Demi Glace

Planning ahead also means that you can make sure you are going to get a balanced diet, time constraints are taken into account, and everyone in the house can be assured that their favourite foods will appear regularly. (If it was up to the Caped Gooseberry, we’d have rice nearly every night.)

Have you tried a capsule menu? Did it work for you? What dishes did you decide to have? And what’s for dinner?