Intruder alert

Friday October 27, 2006

Halloween is getting close and I’ve still to set pen to paper or fingers to keyboard to write the ghostly horror yarns I’d hoped to have finished by now. So, apart from the contest story, presently in the voting stage, I fear that Halloween is going to pass me by as a story generator this year. No matter. Ghost stories are best saved for Christmas Eve anyway, to be told over hot mincepies and mulled wine.

I’m wondering how to tackle the day itself, too. When the trick or treat tradition began to filter across the Atlantic in our direction I was at once repelled and attracted by the move. In most cases I prefer the traditional English festivals over imported ones. But in this case it’s very hard to resist the kidlets when, accompanied by a responsible adult, they come calling, all eager and big eyed. They’re impossibly cute!

Sadly, and I’ve no idea if it’s a development peculiar to British urban life, the festival has been siezed upon by groups of youngsters, bent on mischief, who roam the streets setting off fireworks, tipping over bins and such. Making a general nuisance of themselves, in other words. The police do what they can to catch and deal with the little scrotes[1] but short of a major culture change it’s a phenomenon that’s going to be hard to shift.

So, what does the responsible house-holder do? Carry on handing out little bags of sweeties to the genuine ones and turning the nasties away? Put up a ‘No Halloweenies’ sign? Or, as I heard someone recommend the other day, turn off the lights and hide in a back room, pretending to be out?

I’m not too keen on hiding, and the ‘No Halloweenies’ approach seems to be a tad curmudgeonly. So I’ll fill a bowl with individually wrapped chocolate treats and do the best as I can to encourage the good side of the affair. If the kidlets don’t come I shall consume the treats myself, one a day, during the dark nights to come. And, on the night, send the cankered apples off with a flea in their ears if they come our way.

The fun part of the day was supplied in grand style by Dolly the Mega-cat.

We were sitting outside early this morning, all quiet and peaceful, when a neighbour cat clambered to the top of the fence close by us, gave me a scornful glance and was all set to defy me when he caught sight of a suddenly bristling Dolly, who gave vent to a fearful yowl and set off to kill him. He was much tacken aback (quite gratifying, that), and set off along the top of the fence at a rate of knots, with Dolly in hot pursuit on the ground beneath. I leapt out of my seat and followed, catching up with her as she got to the back fence from which the intruder had leapt off, out of sight. She was half-way up the fence, borne by fierce determination more than agility, and fell back as gravity took hold. I scooped her up and held her firmly in my arms. She hates that, as a gross insult to her Mega-cattishness, but she gave in with reasonable grace. She knows full well that resistance in such a circumstance will lead to the administration of a two-fingered smack to the top of the head, the way a very good vet instructed me years back. And she really hates that.

I carted her back to the kitchen, shut the door firmly, and told her that bad cats didn’t get to go out.

She snorted her disgust and stomped off up to her armchair in the living room, where she spent the rest of the morning, glaring at me each time I passed by the door. I was in disgrace.

Late in the afternoon, in the fading light, I took a coffee and my trusty Coleman lantern out for a final breath of air before shutting down for the evening. I left the door open just enough for a Mega-cat to pass and, sure enough, out she came, all meek and almost apologetic for her bad behaviour.

I reached down to give her a scritty-scratch as she sat by my side, and told her that well mannered cats could always take the air in the garden. She gave no sign that she agreed but when I got up to come back inside she followed me good as gold without needing to be persuaded.

She’s been on her best behaviour all evening. While I appreciate that, I fear that she’ll find a way to punish me before too much longer. With Dolly there’s an absolute certainty that she’ll have the last word in any disagreement. Be afraid.

When I related the tale to Graham he was much amused but concluded that we’d better put the erection of proper cat defences at the top of our list.

“You did well to catch her,” he said. “But let’s not tempt fate.”

“No. I was quick on my feet today but I’m not always as fast as that.”

The truth of it is that Dolly is not as agile as she was in her youth and it’s unlikely she’ll ever be able to scale the fences. She’s a cat of fierce will and swift anger, though, and those qualities can stimulate astonishingly acrobatic feats in the most sedate of felines. If she got her teeth and claws into an intruder cat I’d not give much for his chances. So we shall take the cautious route and line the tops of the fences with anti-feline defences just as soon as we can. Meantime Dolly will have to content herself with being allowed in the garden only when I’m there to stand guard. And we’ll both of us stay indoors when I’m having a creaky day.

[1] scrotes:  if you don’t know and can’t work out the reference then you don’t want to know. Trust me on this.



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