DAISY’S DIRY – The thoughts of small cat on lockdown. Episode III

I may be but small cat with tail on the wrong way round, and not at all Thinker of Great Thorts like Bird, but even I know there are two things every cat must establish soon as they get a Hoomann to look after. Number 1 is Ground Rules, and Number 2 is Routine. And these are speshally important now everything in Hooman world Outside has gone a bit squiggly, with Bloody Carniverus rampaging about out there. Therefore, Bird says, we should share our tips as being of great value to cats and Hoomans alike, so here goes.

First of all, Bed. It is most important to teach Hooman proper etiket of Bed from Day One. Bed is ours, and that is that, so take no notice of Hooman Moaning where Bed is concerned. Our Hooman, for example, says being in bed with us is like playing world’s worst game of Norts and Crosses (sorry, Hooman thing, no idea), because whichever corner she tries to put herself in, one of us is there first. Now this is just Hooman Nonsense as we don’t sleep on the corners (perish the thort!); I sleep draped nicely over Hooman hip and Bird sleeps on her head. We recommend this arrangement. First of all, it is handy for URKS, should such be needed (see below), but with Things As They Are it also means it is easy for you to check your Hooman is safe and well at regular intervals throughout night. You can do this simply by stretching out paw till it is in Hooman’s eye. If Hooman gives mighty jump and goes eeeuargh!, all is well.

Then you want nice early start. We start our Hooman at 5am. Hooman’s come in two sorts, Bird tells me, the Morning sort and the Not Morning sort, and ours is the Not Morning sort, so often requires a bit of Dancing On and Squeaking At to wake her up properly, and sometimes Bird even has to resort to what Hooman calls the Yeti Noise, which is Bird going URK into Hooman’s ear in her deepest voice, as loud as she can. Then Bird and me have our breakfast crunchies, and then we do Mad Cats, up and down the hall. We usually let Hooman go back to bed while we do Mad Cats, until it is time for even Not Morning Hoomans to get up, except for the odd occasion when I get so excited I barf up breakfast on the rug. Hooman is very good at getting up then, and this, says Bird, is important trick to pass on – if you need your Hooman up in a hurry, make barf noise. We have taught ours this, and it’s never failed yet.

Once Hooman is up, you must take them to pee. For some reason this is first thing Hoomans have to do, soon as they are up on back paws. This is another Ground Rule: while it is unfurgivable error for Hooman to enter bathroom when one of us is in the litter tray, it is vital that all Hooman pees are closely supervised. This is my job, and with Things As They Are, I always check Hooman’s right knee with nose while I do it, to be sure Carniverus did not make off with knee overnight. Then it is time for 2nd breakfast, and another Rule, because again it is unfurgivable Hooman error to allow bottom of kitty-dish to be visible, EVER. Inadvertent glance into bottom of kitty-dish is worst thing that can happen to a cat, punishable by not just barf, but by pee on rug, as well.

Time was, our Hooman would then head off to Libree, and Bird and me would have Kitty Qwiet Time, but now we all have our Hoomans home ALL DAY, there are xtra duties of regular checking up on them to be done. Our Hooman now spends day tappytapping away at desk, so we have to go back and forth, back and forth, back and forth… I always make sure Carniverus has not snuck onto Hooman lap without her noticing when it is my turn to check on her, even though Hooman moans that with me on lap she can barely reach keyboard (so?????), while Bird does Desk Patrol, and checks pencils still obeying gravity. If Hooman gets up, we escort her safely into kitchen, which is also chance to check on kitty-dish/crunchies situation, and Take Akshun, if needed.

End of Day sees Hooman on the sofa, writing to Monster in Merica. Soon as lap is free of annoying small tappytappy thing (kitten – we think – of big tappytappy thing on desk), it is ours, and sometimes we make it ours even if Hooman is still doing tappytappy on it, because it is also important Hooman understands Who Is Boss, which is me ow ow OW no OK Bird it is you.

And then we come to Most Important Part of Day, which is Kitty Play Time.

As every cat knows, best and faverit Kitty Play Time is when Hooman has brushed teeth and is just getting into bed, which is when you should charge into bedroom and leap onto bed to show her you are now ready for Play. Our faverit game is String, and way to play String is this: we hide under bed, behind quilt Monster bought, and Hooman trails String along carpet, making exciting chase noises as she does so, and then we Ambush. This always makes Hooman laugh, no matter how much moaning and complaining she may have done about wanting to put light off and go to sleep before. ‘You have entire Toy-Box of goodies,’ Hooman says, ‘and all you want to play with is a piece of string.  You’re cheap dates, you two.’

And that, of course, is whole point of Kitty Play Time, and why no matter how much your Hooman may moan on about being tired, Play Time is Most Important Part of Day. Because when you do Play Time with a Hooman, you are showing them that no matter how squiggly it may get out there, some things will never change, and one is that when Hoomans do String, cats will always make them laugh. And that when they sleep, we will be there too – me draped over Hooman’s hip, and Bird on her head.

 

 

 

 

 

 

HEY NONNY? NO! On misbehaving wildlife

Despite all that Ciara and Dennis could come up with between them, the wildlife in E14 has heard the call of Spring, and once heard, never forgotten. No matter that the waves on the dock outside my front window have whitecaps, that the spiders who live on the window have all huddled in the corners of the frames, that the trees in the garden are almost horizontal in the wind; furred or feathered, one and all, they know what season it is, and what they are meant to be getting up to in it.

It all makes for some truly shocking public misbehavior.

Reynard – where in London is there not a Reynard, I ask you? – goes trotting down the quayside of an evening, tail bushed and whiskers twitching; and just in case the fact that this is date-night somehow slips his mind, Mrs Reynard, or Mrs Reynard-to-be, rather, serenades us from the centre of the garden at 1am, sat there on her haunches as if she owned the place, shrieking ‘I want a boyfriend and I want him now!’ Cue the snapping on of lights all over the building, the wailing of children startled from their slumbers, and AirBnBers staggering out onto their balconies, peering down into the darkened garden, trying to identify the spot from which the desperate shrieks and screams are issuing and what on earth it is, down there, that can be producing them. Last time it happened, some newby, uninitiated in the ways of London wildlife, and convinced that somewhere down there in the garden, murder was being done, actually called the police. We all got back to bed at three-ish. Hey ho.

Then there are the seagulls. It’s too windy for them out at sea, so the dock at present is thick with them, squabbling and yawping, and performing the kind of aerial ballet just outside the windows guaranteed to drive a kitty-cat insane. Bird – by far the smarter of my two felines – hunkers down and watches them entranced, nothing moving but the ears; but Daisy (smaller, dumber) goes into a frenzy every time, leaping up onto the arm of the sofa, tail lashing the air, and doing this demented feline machine-gun impersonation – ‘Ah-ah-ah-ah-ah-AH!’ – as if shooting the gulls down mid-air. Any one of them would be big enough to carry her off as the giant roc did Sinbad. Seriously, the idea of this cat lasting even five minutes out there on her own is absurd. There’s something about small seems to double-down in the natural world on feisty: shrews pursue each other through the chippings on the flower-beds, sending dusty puffs of bark into the air whenever they meet, like small atomic explosions; whilst the colony of wrens who have taken up residence in our otherwise undistinguished selection of spiky shrubs have territorial sing-offs and joust almost to the death. There are grebes out there on the water, a pair of them doing their springtime disco mirror-dance (head up, head down. Head up, head down. Head bobble, head bobble. Head up, head down. Big fish, little fish, cardboard box); prelude to tiny baby grebes, stripy as toothpaste and streamlined as if extruded from a tube. There are cormorants, too, also bobbing up and down as they fish (‘Guess where I’m, going to surface next! Nope, fooled you!’), then hanging themselves out to dry off like big tattered flags. Why Mother Nature thought there was a place for a non-waterproof diving bird in the grand scheme of things I have no idea, but no corner of the dock is complete without one of them at present, wings extended, baring their all. C’mon ladies, they seem to be saying. Smell me pits.

And then there are the coots. I should preface this by saying that technically, my neighbourhood coots are citizens of Millwall, and then further explain for those not up on English football that for years, the favourite chant from the terraces for any Millwall fan was ‘No-one likes us. No-one likes us. No-one likes us. We don’t care,’ sung to the tune of Rod Stewart’s We Are Sailing. During the worst of the bad old days of football hooliganism, Millwall was synonymous with getting your head kicked in. It’s moot as to how much, even then, Millwall deserved their lousy reputation; but clearly it was something in the water, because the Millwall coots are thugs. They’re bloody awful parents too, apparently, semi-starving their multitudinous broods of chicks until the weakest ones quietly die, but the anti-social behaviour sets in long before that. Let one Millwall coot spot another Millwall coot in the water at this time of year, and the pair of them round on each other, heads lowered, and power forward at ramming speed, like something out of Ben Hur, whilst the cootettes gather in a huddle to the side, squeaking ‘Leave it, Gary, leave it! He’s not wurf it, you know ‘e’s not!’ Not only that, but let any bit of seasonal bovver start up amongst the moorhens, say, or the resident mallards, and every coot on the dock streams toward the aggro at once. I’ve watched one have a go at its own reflection in a floating plastic bag, piling in with those comedy lobed willow-green feet in a slap-fest of fury. The amount of testosterone these daft birds have in their systems in spring-time is absurd. They’re positively fizzing with it, like an out-of-date yoghurt. No flipping wonder that they’re bald!

ONLY DISCONNECT: On writing

 

THE LIFE OF A WRITER is a strange and wonderful thing. It is, truly. Here I am, a proper serious grown-up with a very serious birthday a scant two years away, and I spend my time in as much of a bubble as if I were a toddler in a playpen. Writing has disconnected me from calendar, salary, and commute. There’s a fabulously creepy movie from 1962 entitled Carnival of Souls, where the female protagonist (to call her the heroine would undo everything the movie does) simply doesn’t know if she is still in this world, or if she is not, and nor does the viewer. Imagine a benign version, with added cat, of that.

It has disconnected me from clock as well. Hands up all those other night-owls out there – my word, we truly are a thing. I didn’t hate getting up at 7 just because I hated getting up at 7 (although I did) – I hated getting up at 7 because my body-clock wanted me to surface at 10, and then still be awake and tapping away at 2 the following morning. At 2 the following morning on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday…. I used to love my weekends. Croissants on the sofa, big mug of coffee made just the way I like it (I don’t care how you make yours, mine is better), weekend papers spread out all around me, Radio 4 burbling away in the background and at some point Spurs either covering themselves in glory or causing one to wonder how come they were ever in the Premier League in the first place. I loved my weekends. I can’t remember when I last had one. There was a point before Christmas (Christmas being one of those moments when even the most demented scribbler really has to pause) where I realized I had been working for 19 days on the trot.  I am the writer who lives by herself, and all days are the same to me.

For some of them, I don’t even unlock the front door. For some of them, (oh the shame) I lever myself from the bed, as the last and the tardiest of my neighbours are running from the building in a panic that they’ll miss the bus; I pull on an old stained sweatshirt or holey jumper over whatever I happen to have been sleeping in, and that’s me, dressed. I used to wear skirts; I used to wear tights; I used to wash my hair every morning; I used to wear heels in the daytime – not any more.

If I do have reason to emerge into the outside world, it’s a different place to the one I knew before. The tube is empty; the pavements ditto. Shop assistants are chatty, the shops themselves populated by gently drifting flotillas of mothers with young children, and OAPs – two tribes I never really had any contact with before, but with some of whom I am now familiar enough locally to share a nod. And not for me, any longer, grabbing something for dinner on the way home. I can take my time. I can food-shop with a mindfulness that would make Madame Maigret proud. All those hours between 9 and 5 have opened like blooms on a tulip-tree. When the fridge died recently, after one of those lingering fridge illnesses whose symptoms include a dreadful rattling wheeze and a tendency to wee all over the floor, the folk at John Lewis who provided its successor were deeply apologetic about the fact that I would have to stay in all morning to take delivery. ‘Sometime between 9 and 1’, they said. ‘We’re sorry, we can’t be more specific than that.’

Not, I assured them, a problem for me.

And people are so damn nice when they learn that you’re a writer. If I ever venture into the world of the thriller, and the plot demands some character has to justify their presence in some place they have no business being, all I will need them to do is utter the three magic words ‘I’m a writer’. Abracadabra – everyone’s your friend. We truly are the animal that tells stories, and Lord how immediately and positively we still respond to those who help us do so.

There’s a saying (you know it, I’m sure) that everyone has a book in them, but God help us if should that be true. A world with nothing but writers in it would fall apart within weeks. We’re only half the story. Writers need readers. When you come down to it, there are only two reasons for disconnecting as I have done: to get something written out of my system and to get it into that of as many other people as I possibly can. Thank you for indulging me.