30 October 2023

TRAVEL, TECHNOLOGY AND PROGRESS

A quick trip back to the UK for me did not get off to a good start. Apart from the helping hand given by Yvonne in packing my case, that is!  She is very different from Daisy in many ways but in others just the same.

The two hour drive to Limoges was hard enough in pelting rain without the added excitement of a wild boar crossing the road at a leisurely pace only about a hundred metres in front of us just outside Le Dorat, but we still got to the airport in good time.  That’s when the fun really started.

I was the last person in the bag drop queue and five places behind the person who took twenty minutes to fail to pay the excess baggage fee for his suitcase.  He went off to speak to someone (presumably to ask for money) and had to be literally fetched back by the one lady on the desk.  He returned empty handed, a few more tetchy words were exchanged and he was sent away with suitcase to the security line so I presume he got away with it.  

Then there was the family comprising mother, grandmother and toddler in pushchair where the mother took ten minutes to find the right page on her phone to show their boarding passes.  

In the security line the family of grandparents, parents and two little girls caused a hold up because they either hadn’t read, didn’t understand (or maybe thought they would just get away with it) the rules about what you can and can’t take in your cabin bags and which items have to be removed for inspection before passing through the scanner.

I was behind yet more people who couldn’t find their boarding pass on their phones (why don’t they just print the damn things out as instructed to do on the Ryanair website so they can show it when asked, or at least have the right app/page already open) but finally got into my window seat on the plane.  

The plane however wasn’t going anywhere.  It was clearly brand new, not a scratch on its pristine interior, but when thirty minutes beyond our departure time had passed the pilot made an announcement.  There was a mystery warning light showing in the cockpit that they couldn’t persuade to go out. Another thirty minutes later I was in conversation with the couple next to me about likely outcomes if the flight had to be cancelled at eleven thirty at night when the pilot made a second announcement.  The proposed solution was to switch the aircraft off, wait ten minutes and switch it back on!

This appeared to solve the problem although the next announcement didn’t exactly say as much in so many words.  Another twenty minutes had suspiciously elapsed by the time the pilot said we would soon be leaving the runway, having permission from "the boss" to fly as fast as the plane would go  - but only after they had persuaded the tanker driver to get out of bed and bring more fuel.  Switching off and restarting an aircraft uses quite a lot of it apparently.

My guess is they decided to stick a bit of tape over the offending warning light and go for it.  Better than spending the whole night waiting for a spare plane to arrive or being bussed to another airport!

Once back in our little UK bungalow I was relieved to find the house dry and unaffected by the flooding elsewhere in town but not without a few issues.  For some reason the fridge freezer in the garage had clearly defrosted itself then refrozen.  I discovered this when searching for something to have for my dinner only to find that the bottom drawer was stuck fast because of a frozen puddle of melted strawberries.  The freezer had obviously been off for quite a while. This suggested there had been a power cut but not so.  The other freezer in the garage was fine and there were no flashing clocks anywhere.  An internet search suggested that modern freezers will go into automatic defrost mode if they are over full and the fan mechanism obstructed, especially if they haven’t been defrosted for a while.

Guilty as charged! I threw away all the contents, cleaned it out and while I was at it cleared out the other one as well, throwing out some well out of date bits of saved pastry and portions of casserole.  We've been in the habit of saving leftovers as a handy ready meal for one for our individual return trips and it’s worked well so far but we’re back to a blank canvas now!

The UK weather has been pretty miserable but not as wet as in France.  On a fine, dry Sunday morning I fished the table and a chair out of the shed and had breakfast outdoors.  The grass was dry enough to cut but sadly I couldn’t persuade the mower to start.  Rats!

I had low expectations of this trip.  The weather has been as grim as I expected, the potholes and traffic just as bad as usual and the litter everywhere just as unsightly as ever but it hasn’t bothered me as much as before.  It’s been lovely to catch up with friends and family and despite the general gloom and doom that hangs over everything people seem to have an air of resignation and cheerfulness.  Or maybe I've finally got the knack of turning a blind eye to all the rubbish and finding a bit of joy here and there instead.  

I confess that I can no longer bear to watch or read the news.  Feeling powerless and anxious about things which are well beyond my understanding, at home and abroad, was not doing me any good at all.  I’ve adopted a formula of doing my best to live well and spend time with those who mean a lot to me.  It’s worked before.

Nick has reported that back at chez nous there has been an improvement in inter species relations.  Yvonne can now tolerate being in the same room as Hugo without necessarily growling and hissing at him and has started venturing into the living room to explore and sit on the sofa, even occasionally on his lap.  Progress indeed and excellent news!

24 October 2023

DAISY'S STORY


In 2014 we downsized in the UK so that we could upsize in France and spend more time there.  Once we had decided to buy the house in the middle of a large field friends said "you will need a cat".  Will we, I thought?  Their ginger cat, Marmalade, was about to have kittens.

There were two kittens, a male ginger cat and a female calico or three coloured cat.  Our friends' daughters had decided they would like to keep the female and let us have the male but when the time came for us to have the cat they had changed their minds.  They kept the male, who they had called Pumpkin, and we were to have the female, who they had called Splodge.  Splodge didn't seem the right name for such a pretty cat so we called her Daisy.

The friends said we should keep Daisy outdoors.  She had never been allowed into their house and they always had outdoor cats, providing food and shelter in their barns.  We were not completely convinced but could see the logic so we decided to go along with it. 

We moved into our crumbling farmhouse in the middle of a field in the September and Daisy arrived four days later.  She was eleven weeks old.  Two weeks later she had disappeared.

We spent the first few days of her disappearance frantically calling for her, searching our outbuildings, also the roadside and ditches in case she had succumbed to a passing car.  There was no sign of her and she had vanished completely.

After ten days it occurred to us that she might have made her way to the neighbour's house although we thought this unlikely.  She was so tiny and to get there she would have had to navigate enormous ruts and deep puddles in the field in between, or made her way to the grassy track that led to his house.  He also had a dog.  

We had a dog, our then standard poodle Lulu.  After a tricky start they had learned to live happily together but the neighbour's dog was untrained and uncontrolled.  

After ten anxious days and sleepless nights we decided to speak to the neighbour’s carer.  She visited him every day so we watched for her car leaving his house and waited for her at the end of the lane.  When we asked whether she had seen a kitten anywhere she said "she’s on his bed".



It transpired that the neighbour had noticed the cat and decided he would like her for himself.  He was in the habit of walking to and fro across the front of our property to watch what we were doing, several times a day.  On that day we had to go out and leave the gate open as the electrician was coming in and out.  When we left the house Daisy was playing at chasing leaves in the garden.  By the time we returned, only twenty minutes later, she was gone.  The neighbour had been into the garden and taken her.

He kept her imprisoned in his bedroom so that she couldn't escape or come back home and where she no doubt had to endure goodness only knows what torment from him and the dog.  He had told the carer that he found her abandoned by the road, picked her up and took her home.  The carer’s opinion was that kittens were easily come by, that we should let him keep her and get ourselves another one.  We protested and said that if she didn’t bring Daisy back to us we would go and get her.


Daisy was returned to us the next day.  She was ill, bloated and riddled with worms and fleas. From that moment she became an indoor cat with outside options.  We got her treated for the parasites, fed her quality food, had her vaccinated and microchipped and installed a cat flap, keeping a close eye on her if she went out, in case the neighbour tried to steal her again.

Inevitably we had to take Daisy with us when we went back to the UK.  She had her own passport so the formalities were straightforward but she was not a good traveller.  We had to put up with hour after hour of operatic meowing and eventually we worked out that what she didn’t like was the noise.  Road noise, traffic noise, roadworks, sirens, music, radio, the tomtom and even conversation would cause her to wail inconsolably.  Gradually over the years we learned how to manage the twelve hour journey, travelling in complete silence while Daisy sat quietly in her cage.

She was not keen on cheap hotels either.  Overnight stays in places like an Ibis or Campanile would result in none of us getting any sleep as she scratched frantically at the door or window all night trying to escape.  In much posher hotels, with plush chairs, a big bed and a large bathroom where we could deposit her litter tray and feeding bowls she was happy.  She would settle down in a comfy spot and we all got a proper night's sleep.

Our overnighters in posh hotels were not without incident.  On one occasion Daisy launched herself at one of the very stylish standard lamps causing it to crash onto the tiled floor and shatter into a zillion pieces.  Nick was out walking the dog and I was in the shower.  I heard the crash and dashed into the bedroom in my birthday suit to find a sea of broken glass on the floor and Daisy on a comfy chair wearing her "nothing to do with me" look.

It turned out that we definitely did need a cat.  Over her short life Daisy caught hundreds of mice, along with other things.  Her repertoire included a mole, a stoat, luckily very few birds although a hapless moorhen, and a few bats who all lived to tell the tale.  Frogs, toads and lizards had to run for cover and the young snake she brought into the bedroom one morning was very cross.  

She was also a very mischievous little thing.  Cats will be cats and true to type she loved hiding in bags and boxes, climbing up high and pushing things off the edge.  One morning we sat up in bed with our mugs of tea and watched as a large holdall on top of the wardrobe gradually inched towards the front and finally dropped off.  Daisy looked down at it with huge satisfaction.  

One of her favourite games was to go out in the rain, come in and demand to be dried off then go straight out and do it all again.  She just loved getting a rub down with a fluffy towel.





She helped with household chores by getting in the way and was generally always around us.  Her favourite time of day was "apéro time" when we all sat together, preferably outdoors, for a drink and some treats.  Her treat of choice was Dreamies.



After Lulu died we got our standard poodle Hugo.  They got on famously from the very start and were best friends.  In reality he adored her and she teased him mercilessly.  Her favourite taunts were to run between his legs at speed from the other end of the garden, to sneak up on him when he was eating and biff his tail, to demand that he licked her ears (which, being the perfect gentleman, he was happy to do), and swipe at him when he stopped.




We didn’t settle in the UK house we had downsized to.  After only three years we were on the move again and one of the main reasons was undoubtedly Daisy.  The house was on a busy road, which didn’t seem to matter until we ended up spending more time there than we expected to.  We were terrified that Daisy would either get run over or run away so we decided to keep her in.  It was hard work so we moved to a quieter area where there was a wood at the back of the house.  We were much happier and Daisy enjoyed being allowed outdoors again.  She was thriving, having a great life in both countries.  In France she had fields, barns and roofs to explore.  In the UK gardens, ponds and the wood.  She would run along the top of the fence chasing squirrels, jump across the roofs of sheds and garages, climb up and demand to be let in through the bedroom window.  Then she would go out through the cat flap and do it all over again.

When she had just turned seven years old we noticed the appearance of a small berry like red lump in front of her left ear.  The UK vet suggested it was probably not serious but offered to do a biopsy if we wanted one.  I remember thinking that this could cause Daisy and us a lot of pain and cost a lot of money and how right I was.  The lump did not change for six months but once back in France the following spring we thought it might be getting bigger.  A biopsy revealed that it was a sarcoma.  

In 2022 she had two operations to remove the tumour, one in France in June and the second in the UK in December after it made a reappearance.  That second operation was a big job and afterwards she was unable to close her eye properly.  After a few months she ended up with a corneal ulcer requiring more treatment by the French vet.  There it was discovered that the tumour was back and was growing fast.  Another operation would have required the removal of the ear and eye and even then with no certainty that all the cancerous cells had been removed.  For us it was out of the question.

The eye was treated successfully but we were just waiting for the inevitable.  We gave her the best life we could for the last few months but finally she, and we, lost the battle on 12th October.  She was only nine years old and we are immensely sad that she didn't get the chance to live to a ripe old age.  She was unique, a joy to have around and we miss her enormously.  There will never be another Daisy.

Since I started writing this post we heard of a mature cat in need of a home, called Yvonne.  She now lives with us, is very different from Daisy and is settling in.  

21 October 2023

YVONNE


Well, what a surprise!


We seem to have adopted a cat.


The story goes that an email arrived in my inbox from the organiser of the walking club of which we are both members.  Yvonne belonged to a man who lived in a nearby village.  He's a musician and had asked the club treasurer if she could look after his cat for a couple of weeks while he went on tour.  He never came back and two months later the lady established that he had moved out of his house and was now living in Greece.  Yvonne had been abandoned.  The lady wasn't able to keep her indefinitely so an email was sent out asking if anyone knew anyone who might be able to adopt her.

 

We went to see Yvonne and she seemed very friendly and confident, not at all afraid of us.  She had been kept indoors but walked outside on a lead for the two months of her stay.  We had been thinking along the lines of adopting a mature cat anyway so we decided to take her.

She's affectionate, domesticated and quite feisty.  She uses a litter tray (we're very relieved about that), is clean and not at all perturbed by all the usual household activities and noises.  The only problem is.............Hugo!  She is very frightened of him.

Yvonne is nine years old and came with some paperwork that showed she was well cared for in her early years but had some kind of accident when she was eighteen months old.  She had a fractured jaw and it's assumed that this might have been the result of being hit by a car.  Her reaction to Hugo was so strong that we wonder if she had been attacked or chased by a dog.  I suppose we will never know.

If they are in the same room she hisses and growls at him then runs to hide somewhere upstairs.  He has already learned to give her a wide berth and we're hoping that eventually she will see him as less of a threat.  It's early days.  For now she's happy to explore every corner of the house, just peeping into the living room where he has his bed to check where he is.  I can't see them ever being the great friends that he and Daisy were but as long as world war three doesn't break out if they accidentally meet we'd be happy.  We're keeping her indoors for a while just in case she thinks running away is a good idea.  I would hate to be responsible for the uncertain outcome of something like that.

We have an appointment with the vet on Monday so that she can get her annual vaccinations and a check up.  We will ask the vet's advice on having her sterilised.  There are no other cats near to us but you never know!

13 October 2023

FAREWELL TO OUR BELOVED DAISY

 

Many people said we would know when the time was right and that moment came yesterday.  How quickly things can change.

Daisy was living her best life right up to the last minute.  We miss her terribly.

R.I.P. Daisy.  4.7.14 - 12.10.23.

5 October 2023

MOUSE SAVED BY HELICOPTER and "doing cat stuff".

 

Daisy has been eating al fresco for much of the summer.  In other words, she eats hardly any of her kibble at all, preferring live meat and a generous supply of Dreamies at apéro time.  (Dreamies are cat treats which in France go under the name of "Catisfaction".)  When we first found out that her tumour had returned we decided that an increase in the junk food part of her diet might not do her too much harm as "long term" was probably not realistic.

With a change in the weather to cooler temperatures Daisy now prefers to bring her live food into the house to consume them.  At seven o'clock the other morning she brought her catch into the bedroom.  She chased the mouse around the bedroom for a while then positioned herself in customary waiting pose in front of the towel stack which told me that that is where the hapless mouse was hiding.

I pulled the towel stack away from the wall and spotted a tell-tale tail poking out from the back of a folded towel.  Aha! I thought.

I gathered up the towel from the rack and took it outside, Daisy following closely behind.  On shaking out the towel onto the gravel no mouse was to be seen.  Harrumph!

Back upstairs I took the towels off the rack one by one and shook them out onto the bathroom floor.  Three towels later a large brown mouse blinked at me from the floor tiles.  I dropped the towel on top of it, gathered it up, took it outside and shook the mouse out onto the drive.  It immediately took refuge amongst the prickly stems of the climbing rose by the front door.  Daisy took up her usual "on guard" position on the bench next to it.  Stalemate. 


After a while the mouse decided to make a run for it, heading for the gate, which was a long way away in mouse terms, with Daisy in hot pursuit.  She caught up with it on the grass and for a moment I thought the chase was over but then a distant rumble in the skies distracted her and the mouse set off again.

Whenever there's a loud noise from a passing vehicle Daisy runs for cover, either into the barn or the house as both have cat flaps.  We have almost tripped over a cat hurtling indoors many a time as a tractor or refuse lorry passed by.  The helicopter came nearer and the noise got louder and louder as it was heading straight over the house.  Daisy was transfixed.  Her two instincts to chase the mouse and to run for cover were competing and she just sat on the grass, looking from the mouse to the sky then to me as the mouse legged it towards the hedge and freedom.

The mouse was saved by the helicopter!

Daisy is definitely still doing "cat stuff" and shows no sign of being in pain or distress.  The tumour is a large lump in and around her left ear and she scratches it a bit.  If it starts to bleed we put her into her soft cone to give it chance to heal up.  When she’s wearing it we keep the cat flaps closed so that she doesn’t get her head stuck.

She was wearing the cone last week and one afternoon she was snoozing in one of her favourite places  - on the seat of the mower in the barn - when we needed to go out, so we decided to leave her there with the cat flaps closed but the barn door ajar.  When we got back she was up on the highest beam in the barn with no cone on her head.


Presumably she had been exploring or chasing something when she got her head stuck and managed to yank the cone off.  We searched the barn for days and eventually Nick caught a glimpse of the blue fabric lodged in the highest part of the roof structure.  Apart from being covered in muck and cobwebs it wasn’t damaged so with a bit of a wash it’s serviceable again.



And so, Daisy is still with us, still eating and doing "cat stuff", which was what the vet said are the criteria for quality of life.  In some ways it almost seems as if she’s living her best life, right now.