Friday, 10 February 2012


For the last ten days it has been bitterly cold with icy winds keeping temperatures down well below zero (-9 is our record and it's much colder elsewhere) despite bright day-long sunshine. Typical winter anticyclone weather, no suggestion at all of the straw hats, shorts and T-shirts generally associated with the south of France. Our friend A. came round last night, complaining about the draughts in his house. Chief culprit was the cat-flap. The wind had been so strong, with gale force gusts, that it just blew the cat-flap open and the Arctic blast swooshed through the house freezing everything in its path, especially A.'s and Mrs A.'s ankles. A recent gust was the last straw, A. told us: intolerant of such things sent to try us, he aimed a kick at the cat-flap. It shattered, leaving a hole through which the polar winds blew in their icy fury.

I believe a new cat-flap is on the A. household shopping list, but meantime the hole has been securely patched, probably with the sort of cast-iron plates they used to make Dreadnoughts out of. The result seems to be that A.'s cats are now put out last thing at night, and spend all night scritching and scratching at the windows and mewing to get in. So no one's a winner.

We have no choice. Our cat Tonip is too thick to understand how cat-flaps work, so ours is permanently propped open with a couple of clothes pegs.

I wondered recently what the arrangement was at Wells cathedral. Cat-flaps aren't a thing one readily associates with cathedrals. The question arose because on our UK travels last autumn we spent an hour or two in Wells, mostly in the cathedral. There were many remarkable sights to be seen, none more notable than the main altar in the nave, where, oblivious of the bustling ecclesiastical activity about it, a cat was fast asleep on the richly-worked altar cloth.

At the cathedral reception desk we asked about the cat. We learnt that his name was Louis, he was the cathedral cat, and that the minor canon (or some such title) on duty had to put him out at night. No cat-flap, then: does Louis also spend cold nights scratching at the stained-glass windows, mewing to be allowed in?

In view of the expression 'poor as a church mouse' I wanted to ask if a diet of cathedral mice was any richer. Louis certainly looked sleek and well-fed. But a queue was gathering behind us and we had a plane to catch at Bristol, so the question remains unanswered.


Vicus Scurra said...

Sir. I refuse to be drawn into a round of feline puns, whether or not you stipulate that they must be ecumenical in nature.

Rog said...

Transported by this minor canon? Now he knows how your fanbase must feel Christopher.

Geoff said...

The woman who moved into our old flat bought a cat, got a cat flap, the cat died and the cat was buried in the front garden.

The cat flap remains, waiting for the cat to come back to life.

Christopher said...

Vicus, please feel under no obligation to comply. I really don't mind. No hard felines.

That's not bad, Rog. On the a site for sore eyes scale of 10 I give it 3.

Geoff: I don't know if you're still in touch with the lady? On dark misty nights does she sometimes hear a ghostly mewing to be let in, an eerie screech of the cat-flap hinge, and unexplained scattering of cat-grave soil inside the back door? Like in Mewthering Heights?

Z said...

I'm not sure which bemuses me more, the notion of leaving south of France cats outside in a temperature of -9 or propping open the cat flap so that Tonip can go in and out as desired, however cold the house becomes.
A dog owner, of course, gets up every time there's a request for the door to be opened, willingly and with love.

Christopher said...

I fully expect the -9ยบ cats to find their way to Tonip's cat-flap one of these nights. And the dog-owners you mention merely reinforce the Keith Prowse gambit.

mig bardsley said...

We are currently under seige from a strange cat who comes in through Tosca's flap and eats her dinner.
I'm beginning to think I may have to invest in a new cat flap with electronics!

I'm a bit puzzled that people put cats out at night. I'd be more inclined to shut them in at night and put them out in the day.

Christopher said...

Yes, we thought of this too at one point, Mig, but it became one of those things that just never gets done.

And I see you're writing at nearly half past two in the morning, so I assume you've been shut in for the night too.