Archive for September, 2008

Cat update #1

September 5th, 2008

This morning I heard a feline commotion outside. Such disputes between cats are rare around here, so I thought maybe one of the local cats had taken umbrage at the presence of a strange cat. However, I didn’t see anything.

Later on I was talking to our concierge (yes, it is as posh as it sounds) and he said that one of the cats involved belonged to our neighbour (the lady who brought us the stray tabby in the first place) and the other one looked like the cat in the “wanted” posters I had made.

Feeling buoyant (but perhaps that was due to the fizzy drink I was consuming), I called our neighbour and she confirmed that she had seen a cat hiding in her garden that was the image of the one that went missing, except that this one had no collar. Still, she could easily have lost her collar. Anyway, our neighbour wasn’t able to coax the cat out, but it does seem that she is hanging around the area. If so, the plan is to leave food out in the hope that we can befriend her and once she trusts us, we can show her that she is allowed to sleep in our apartment.

I’ll keep you advised.

Lessons in life from a cat

September 3rd, 2008

So a neighbour called by the other day and asked Gema and me if we would like another cat. It seems a stray, complete with collar, had wandered in to the house of a friend of hers and they were trying to re-home it (having failed to find the owner).

Gema and I discussed it and decided a companion for our cat, Tia, would be a good thing. We did have one concern, though: due to the climate in Madrid and the lack of air-conditioning in our apartment, we would have windows and doors open and so would not be able to keep the new cat locked in while she became accustomed to our place. Our neighbour didn’t think this would be a problem because the cat was very placid and friendly and she figured it would settle right in to a welcoming home.

We decided to adopt.

Our neighbour arrived with the cat in a cat carrier. She (the cat) was calm and relaxed. So was the neighbour, for that matter. Anyway, we left the door to the cat box open and I stroked and tickled her (again, the cat) so she could start to feel at home. She started purring.

We then left her to come out of the box at her leisure, which she did a few minutes later. I then picked her up (“she” and “her” refer to the cat from now on, unless I state otherwise) and continued stroking her and talking to her. Gema suggested that I leave her alone for a while, but I ignored her (Gema). I then made a move towards the sofa… a move that led me beneath the ceiling fan which was spinning away happily overhead.

I had forgotten how Tia had reacted the first time she saw a ceiling fan in action and this cat was no different. She had a panic attack, leapt out of my arms, through the open patio doors and by the time I caught up with her, she was almost over the seven-foot garden fence.

Now the way to grab a cat is firmly by the scruff of the neck. Even stressed cats react instinctively to this, as if their mother has picked them up, usually by going limp. What’s more, they can’t bite you when you grab them that way.

Unfortunately, as I raced towards the rapidly ascending feline, I knew her neck was out of reach, and in that instant I realised I would have to grab her by the waist and I knew then that I was going to get bitten. All I could do was hope that I could hold on long enough to get her back into the house.

I grabbed her with both hands. She turned and bit my left hand. I held on and tried to prise her off the fence, so she scratched both hands. Just as I got her loose, she turned and bit my right hand. That was when the lower brain functions took over and I let go.

She disappeared over the fence and I’m hoping she is somewhere in the area.

What should I have done?

Firstly, I should have closed all the doors and windows until I was sure the cat was comfortable in her new home, even if it meant being uncomfortably warm for the evening, but I put too much store by the fact that the cat seemed so docile.

She’s a cat! Cats go from docile to lunatic in a nanosecond. I should have remembered that!

Secondly, I should have checked the house for potential cat-scary-devices such as operating washing machines and ceiling fans.

Thirdly, I should have left her to sniff around the sealed apartment at her leisure before picking her up, but I was too excited.

Right. So what are the lessons?

Mainly it’s about not getting complacent just because you have years of experience in a particular area. I’ve had cats since I was six. All of the things I should have done, I knew I should have done them and yet I allowed my excitement get the better of me.

LESSON: EVEN AS A VETERAN YOU CAN MAKE MISTAKES.

LESSON: ALWAYS MAKE PREPARATIONS.

I also ignored sound advice from Gema, largely because a voice in my head said “You know a lot more about cats than Gema.” So there is a lesson about not dismissing the thoughts of others just because they are less experienced. Sometimes the less experienced see things more clearly.

LESSON: DISMISS NO ONE’S ADVICE OUT OF HAND.

Speaking of hands, I have a pair of puncture wounds in each and some nice scratches. I also have a pain in my right shoulder where I got a tetanus shot and despite, or perhaps because of, the antibiotics I feel dizzy and nauseous as my body fights the many nasty bacteria that live in the saliva of a cat.

LESSON: WHEN YOU MAKE A MISTAKE, TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR FIXING IT AND JUST ACCEPT THAT YOU ARE GOING TO GET BITTEN.

Tough way to learn some fairly obvious lessons.

I’ll let you know if the cat comes back.

All I wanted was a Euro

September 2nd, 2008

I was correcting an earlier post because when I last upgraded WordPress, it messed up my € character and replaced it with gibberish.

Anyway, not being fully awake, I couldn’t find the € character on my keyboard, so I used MS Outlook’s “Insert Symbol” feature, inserted a € and then pasted it into WordPress.

You’ve got to love the programmers at Microsoft.

Just look at all the free stuff they kindly embedded in the HTML of my post when I pasted that one character…

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Childish nations

September 1st, 2008

Recent events in Georgia have reminded me just how childish nations are.

Various news articles have tried to explain Russia’s actions by stating that Russian pride has taken several severe knocks since the collapse of the Soviet Union, with many of its former subject nations rejecting Russia and joining the EU, applying to join NATO or otherwise looking to the West. Thus Russia took this opportunity to restore its national pride by taking action in South Ossetia.

National pride.

That’s a phrase that should be saved for the Olympics, or cheese, or beer or even (choking back the nausea) the Eurovision song contest.

When national pride results in guns being fired, how is it different from the violence that erupts when one street gang offends another’s pride?

Let me answer that question for you, just in case it is in any way unclear in your mind: there is no difference.

Of course, all the hypocrisy has come out. Great Britain and the USA, among many others, have remonstrated with Russia for using military force. These are two other countries that have a tendency to use their military as an expression of national pride.

Let’s invade Panama because their President shafted the CIA in a drugs deal!

Let’s go to war with Argentina over some windswept islands in the South Atlantic (or let’s go to war with Britain over some windswept islands in the South Atlantic)!

Let’s bomb the crap out of Iraq because Sadaam Hussein has WMDs or is in league with Al Qaeda or because it’s Tuesday or because we are GREAT countries and that’s what GREAT countries do to prove their GREATNESS… they bomb the shit out of people!

What does it say about a country that continues to formally label itself “Great”?

What does it say about a country that constantly has to tell itself that it’s the “greatest country in the world” (which, if it’s true, doesn’t explain why I have never, ever seen a clean taxi there)?

National pride.

National pride is nothing more than the insecure trying to prove to themselves that they are worth something after all by dropping bombs on children.

Type “proud to be Irish” into Google and you’ll get around 218,000 hits*. That’s 218,000 pages of utter crap.

I’m Irish. I like being Irish. I am pleased to be Irish. I am not ashamed of being Irish (as many my age or older used to feel). But proud to be Irish? What? Was it something I somehow achieved through the sweat of my brow? I would happily wear a shirt that says “Irish” on it, just as long as it is not preceeded by the words “Proud to be”. No, I am not proud to be Irish and anyone who says they are is only one step away from the Georgians who dropped bombs on the South Ossetians just because they don’t want to be Georgian, or one step away from the Russians who dropped bombs on the Georgians because they haven’t been feeling too good about themselves over the past twenty years.

Awwww… How do you say “Diddums” in Russian?

The more I see world leaders on TV, the more I see them as damaged children desperately seeking approval. And they are willing to kill to get it.

No country is so great that they need to shout it from the mountain tops. No country is so great that they need to fire assault rifles to prove it. Leave that childish nonsense to gang-bangers

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