Monsieur So British #4: Lady Bracknell’s Pussy

Saturday, August 17th, 2019

#4: Lady Bracknell’s Pussy

So the drive to attain full French insouciance, the end goal being the accent-less Gallic shrug if you like, needed to begin away from France, away from home. Crete to be exact. An all-inclusive, do nothing, think about nothing week to fully recharge and work out how best to secure complete Nirvana. That’s the Buddhist complete Nirvana by the way, not a 90s grunge rock boxset. ‘Peace comes from within’, Buddha states. It also, in my opinion, comes from a swim up bar and a cocktail mixologist who knows his way around a Pina Colada.

Of course what you realise about swim up bars after a couple of days, is that they are actually pretty grim affairs, attracting the worst people in the resort, people who’ve worked out that they can drink as much as they want and never have to leave to go to the toilet, if you know what I mean. The noise around the main pool was unbearable, the usual ‘you don’t know how to enjoy yourself so we’ll pump excruciatingly loud RnB at you so you think you’re having fun.’ At one point there was a brief lull in the music, some much needed peace, but the large Dutchman at my side at the swim up bar, I’d been there awhile, was having none of it.

‘Hey!’ he shouted at the barman, ‘hey! You got music? I need some Boom Boom.’ He turned to me, ‘You like Boom Boom?’

‘I came here specifically to avoid Boom Boom,’ I said, drifting off on a borrowed lilo.

The week off worked though. And if I hadn’t quite yet attained blessed enlightenment, I had loosened the metaphorical tie a bit. And for the first time in ages, home, life even, didn’t seem quite so daunting. I felt refreshed, dare I say, excited even. And it lasted for, oh a good half hour or so I’d say.

‘What do you mean you haven’t seen the cats all week?’

Natalie directed the question at Samuel who, with his girlfriend Chloé had had the dubious pleasure of playing park warden at this refuge for delinquent fauna while we sunned ourselves in Crete. The two of them had just come through months of serious pressure in which they both passed their baccalaureat with distinction. The looks on their young faces suggested that severe exam pressure had been a doddle compared to this lunatics asylum.

‘Flame’s inside.’ He replied.

‘But not the other two?’

‘No. I think I may have seen Minou this morning.’ Samuel tentatively ventured, sure of neither the day nor the cat.

We’d been home twenty minutes, and already there was a full scale cat search in progress.

I should point out that although this blog carries on where my first two books left off, I had hoped, still do in fact, that it won’t just be about the animal madhouse we live in. But honestly, this stuff happens every day and it’s difficult to avoid it. Best-selling author Caimh McDonnell and I turned the first two books into a sitcom script which got praise but which was also rejected, one producer saying, ‘I like it, but it’s just not realistic.’ That’s my bloody life mate.

I felt for Samuel, to paraphrase Lady Bracknell, to lose one cat is a misfortune, to lose two looks like carelessness. And it’s not like they’d have run off together either, Indiana (found under a pallet at the local garden centre) and Minou (found sitting on our car bonnet one night as we came out of a restaurant) despise each other. But heat does funny things to cats. And it was hot. We were in the middle of the canicule (heatwave) with temperatures in their mid 30s, with warnings of 40 degrees by the end of the week. I’d finally persuaded Natalie that we must move our bedroom downstairs to avoid the heat, but also in the ten years we’d used the upstairs room I can’t recall one decent night’s sleep, and if my intention of becoming Mr. Relaxed was going to succeed, I reckoned sleep was quite important. The room was so badly insulated, you could hear a farmer’s fart half a mile away. I’ve slept in tents with more sound proofing, some nights you could even hear the cats collar bells.

But as I woke in our new, cool and virtually soundless room, and following the much sought after full night’s sleep, all I could hear through the open window was Natalie somewhere in the garden plaintively shouting, ‘Indie! Minou!’ She’d then pause, ‘Minou! Indie!’

Natalie takes these things hard, we all do, but her especially and she’s had a brutal year. We lost Toby at the end of February. He’d begun to act strangely anyway, reverting to the behaviour he’d shown when we first got him from the rescue centre, severe separation anxiety. But it was worse. He became utterly demented within days, breaking doors and even the front gate. Crying and barking all night, coming upstairs and trying to break down our bedroom door. We tried tranquillisers, dog anti-depressants, a stair gate. Nothing worked and every night he got worse. This nightmare also happened to coincide with me being on the road for two weeks, so Natalie and the boys were left to cope with an increasingly deranged, possibly dangerous dog. He’d even attacked his best mate little Gigi, our terrier-dachshund cross, apparently it’s called a Chiweenie but I’m a grown man so I can’t use that word. Toby is the sweetest, gentlest dog I’ve ever known, infinitely patient with all the Gigi and cat related wind ups thrown at him over the years and the change in him was utterly heartbreaking. When it was obvious that he was now a danger to himself and to others there was only one thing that could be done, and I got a call in the middle of the night in Hong Kong where I was working, from a tearful Natalie and the two younger boys. ‘It’s done.’ she said, and broke down.

These are inadequate words for the hole that Toby left behind. Not only that but the violence of his passing shocked us all and left us broken, completely bereft, and as I heard Natalie wandering the garden calling out the cats’ names that morning, I heard that same crack in her voice that I’d heard down the line in Hong Kong. For two days we went searching, calling out their names as we did so, for Indie that was a futile gesture in itself, cats rarely respond to their names anyway, but Minou always does, especially from Natalie and Thérence. There was nothing though and I could see that Natalie was resigning herself for the worst, the worst being just not knowing. It’s bad enough that a cat be run down but in some ways having the evidence of their demise is easier to deal with than them just going missing as Natalie’s beloved cat Vespa had a few years ago.

Then, on the third day, they just turned up. They just sauntered into the garden within half an hour of each other with that cat, ‘hey, is that breakfast I can smell?’ look on their faces. There was no sign of injury or illness, just uber cat behaviour, waiting to time their grand entrance for its maximum impact. Natalie was overjoyed, as was Thérence who I woke by putting his Minou on the pillow next to him. We were back from holiday properly now, all of us together again, five humans, three cats, two dogs, three goats, one horse, three goldfish and three hens. Now, possibly, I could start this ‘relaxing’ business and get down to some serious…

‘Oh no!’ came the cry from the paddock. It was Natalie, and she was at the chicken coop. ‘One of the hens has died!’

I mean really, it really is just endless bloody Boom Boom around here.

The ‘Monsieur So British…’ blog carries on from my two best-selling books, ‘À la Mod…’ and ‘C’est Modnifique!’ both published by Summersdale and available here. This blog will also appear as a podcast every fortnight. It’s here if you want to listen, I can’t work out the itunes process yet, so all feedback on the podcast would be much appreciated. 

All feedback is welcome.

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  • John says:

    A great read, I will never feel the same again at a swim up bar!

  • Christopher Sparks says:

    A great read, as always

  • Pauline says:

    Exactly the same in our household but substitute ‘Charlie’ and ‘George’ for Indie and Minou!
    Great read!

  • Debs says:

    Swim up bars obviously for the young and the old…..but not those in between! Great read as always.

  • Marianne says:

    Very relaxing, fun read Ian 😉. Nothing like a good laugh to liberate an over-anxious mind. You should try it! Nearly as good as Iyengar yoga …. 😘

  • Sally says:

    Your blog is hilarious Ian…. I’ve had much needed bouts of laughter in the kitchen – drinking my coffee – whilst bathing the bearded bloody dragon this morning 🙄🤷‍♀️🤣

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