The Thaw, Part 2

March 23, 2010

Two days after the advent of Spring, it hit 15 degrees and was sunny. Proper, birds-tweeting-in-the-sky, sunny. I don’t think I have ever seen The Mushroom so happy.

“You-don’t-need-your-longjohns, you-don’t-need-your-longjohns!” she sang to The Baby as she dressed her that morning.

“Longjohns!” repeated The Baby, thereby identifying herself as a child who has just spent the winter in Saskatchewan. Can’t recognise an ice-cream but can name her thermal underwear.  Anyhoo, they were out all day and left the window open so I could venture out if I so chose.

The first thing that struck me, when I went Outside, was that Outside smells quite a bit of wee. Literally. Someone has wee-ed. In fact, the entire groundplan of our building appears to have been sprayed with wee. I spotted Volvo Cat, skulking next to a stick, and I suspect him.

Secondly, the snow has melted to reveal that everything is dazzlingly brown. I mean, everything. I don’t know what I expected, as everything has been covered in snow for a very long time, but certainly not this mass of brownness. The trees are brown. The ground is brown. Next door’s car was white but is dirty so is now brown. The buildings are brown. Volvo Cat is brown.

More disturbing, however, is the absolute array of turds that appear to be carpeting every bit of the brown. You don’t see them at first, because everything is brown, but once your eyes adjust to the brownness, and begin to be able to identify texture, then you see them. Everywhere. Who owns all these turds? Did everyone in the village, the day before the snow fell, come to our garden to have a shit, safe in the knowledge that it would be hidden for five months? Has Saskatchewan’s answer to Chris Ofili had a go at making some installation art right next to our Serial Killer’s House? Even if Volvo Cat hadn’t been skulking next to what I thought was a stick but was, in reality, probably a massive turd, I refused point blank to jump off the window sill, as one misplaced paw would leave me licking someone else’s shite off my claws for the rest of the day.

Meanwhile, Fluffy Usurper, having jumped on Volvo Cat and realised Volvo Cat was a boy cat with larger testiclods than him and no sexual curiosity, was playing football with a thoughtfully placed spherical turd.

Our house is the Litter Tray of Saskatchewan.

I went inside and did a crossword.

Two days after this,  it snowed again and went down to -11.  When The Mushroom hopped on the sofa and looked out of the window that morning, she howled.

Quite hard to put a positive spin on that one, actually.

The howling went on for a while. The Mushroom was too busy howling to do anything else, so asked if I could get The Baby’s breakfast ready. We looked at each other for a while, The Mushroom and I, after that particular request, and then she clearly realised that I can’t open the fridge door so she brushed herself down and got busy.

“How was your day?” asked my Dad tentatively when he arrived home to find The Mushroom sitting on the kitchen floor, gently banging her head, rhythmically, on the oven door. 

“They weren’t bullshitting, were they, when they said winter went on until May?”

My Dad sighed. “I don’t think so, love.”

“How do other people cope?”

“They like winter sports and live in proper houses and they go to Mexico a lot, I think.”

The banging on the oven intensified. “But we don’t like winter sports and we don’t live in a proper house and we haven’t been to Mexico, have we?”

“No, sweetheart. No.”

My Dad looked at his wife. She’s a city girl, is The Mushroom. Personally, I think she’s done well. Six months in a basement with no means of transport during an arctic winter has been hard for me, and I sleep most of the time, so it must have been much harder for her, cos she’s mostly awake.

“Am I going to have to take up a winter sport?” she asked. “Cos if I do, I’ll go for the bobsleigh.”

He got down on a level with her and kissed her nose, and The Baby rushed in to join whatever game this was.

“Spring will soon be here.” he said.

Phil Collins, we salute you.


The Thaw

March 10, 2010

One huge advantage of this,’ The Longest Winter in The World Apart From Maybe The Winter in The Arctic Which, Let’s Be Honest, Is Not That Far North From Saskatchwan’, is that it has given us all plenty of time and room and space for self reflection. I, for example, now know that I don’t ever want a kitten to try and have sex with me again. My Dad knows that he shouldn’t really eat Chinese food. The Baby knows that she can say ‘No’ and completely get away with it. And The Mushroom has made two major discoveries.

“Sweetheart?” she says to The Baby, “Can you take this cloth and wipe up the milk you spilt? There’s a good girl.”

The Baby looks at her calmly. She collects her thoughts.

“No.” she replies, and trots off to play with her plastic sheep.

“Darl?” she calls to my Dad. “Did you hear that?”


“Any ideas what to do?”

My Dad thinks for a moment. “Nope.”

And this is it. The Baby can say no. She can, now that she can speak, very calmly say that she doesn’t want to do stuff. This, my friends, is going to be fun to watch.

Discovery Number 2:

“Jesus Mary and Joseph!” screams The Mushroom from the bathroom. Her temporary transformation into a little old lady from Cork is always indicative of shock. The door opens and she jogs to my Dad, pointing all the while to her nose.

“My nose has grown bigger!” she exclaims.

My Dad mutes the TV and stares at her.

“My nose!” she repeats. “I was looking at my nose, and I remember reading somewhere once that noses, like ears, keep growing and that’s why old men have ears down to their shoulders and I have a big nose! I used to have a small nose! Since when have I had a big nose?”

My Dad sits up straight and prepares himself.

“Have you noticed my nose is big?” she asks him.

My Dad visibly braces himself. “Yes.”

“How long has it been big for?”

“Since you were nineteen, love.”

The Mushroom’s mouth drops open. This is like the time she realised, after her first full-length mirror purchase, that she was, in fact, markedly bow-legged.

Her voice has dropped to a whisper. “I’ve always had a big nose and I never knew?”

“You have a noble nose, my love. An equine nose. It’s lovely.”

“You’ve just told me I look like a posh horse. You think I look like a frigging horse.”

“No, that’s not what I said. And it could have been worse. I could have said you looked like a toucan.”

She pauses. “Do I really have a big nose?”

“Yes, love, a bit.”

“Fair enough.”

So, a long winter in a basement is not all bad, is it?  Whilst I’m sure others in the same situation would have made perhaps more fundamental realisations about themselves or maybe taken up charcoal drawing or something, The Mushroom is, essentially, fairly shallow, as this conversation indicates:

“You’re not happy here, are you, pet?” asked my Dad. The Mushroom looked up from her tower-building activity with one raised eyebrow. It is perhaps key to point out here that the tower-building is in miniature, with wooden blocks, and with The Baby. The Mushroom hasn’t morphed into an engineer or anything.

“What can I do to make you happy?” he then asked. Who knows what he was expecting as an answer? Something deep, though, I’m guessing. Something worthy of James Joyce on a day when he was writing in proper sentences, perhaps.  What he got was this:

“A nice necklace.”

My Dad looked incredulous. “Surely that would only make you happy for a minute or two?”

She sat up straighter. “Have you met me, love? A necklace would make me happy for at least a week. And then I’d want shoes.”

“But sweetheart,” he asked, “Why would you want shoes? You can’t wear shoes here. You can only wear your Jedi boots here. And maybe skis.”

The Mushroom shook her head with a look of amused disbelief. “I would want the shoes to look at the shoes, darling, and then walk about the house in them.”

My Dad settled himself back on the sofa, with the look of a man who has just got off lightly. “Okey dokey then, light of my darkness.”

It is, however, only possible to see the advantages of this immensely long Winter because this has happened:

“Oh my Goodness the snow is melting the SNOW is MELTING!” came the scream the other morning when The Mushroom did her daily ‘Stand on the Sofa and Look Out The Window’ ritual after breakfast.  “Come on, coats on coats on coats ON!!”

“It’s seven o’clock in the morning, poppet.”

“I don’t give a flying feckity, sweetpea, we’re off outside!”

And, indeed, we were; The Mushroom with her scary bed-hair, my Dad in his pyjama bottoms and boots, The Baby in bright pink wellington boots and three pairs of leggings, Fluffy Usurper who then disappeared over a fence, presumably in a bid to find something to have sex with, and me;  old, slightly portly me, standing in the melting snow, in a garden, in a field, in Saskatchewan. We all breathed deeply and took in our surroundings.  The Baby tottled off to examine some stones;  The Mushroom followed, making whooping sounds and skipping slightly and my Dad gazed up at the sky,  looking relieved that perhaps, now, the trip to the car would no longer involve wearing that ridiculous hat.

I had a look about me, and went back inside.

The snow may be melting, but it’s still frigging cold.

The Very Edge of Reason

March 2, 2010

There were sighs of relief all round when Enthusiastic Teacher returned and collected ‘Bijou’ from her little holiday in the basement. And what fun she had had, beating up Fluffy Usurper and stealing my kitty treats. This fun lasted half the week, until the Wednesday, when she decided to mix it up a little and start having sex with her brother.

I don’t think anybody wants to be woken up by other people, or other cats, having sex. I think that even if you were the kind of person who quite digged the idea, the fact that they are kittens, and brother and sister kittens, should make even the most ardent pervert squirm slightly. My Dad and The Mushroom are no exception, and being awoken by it happening pretty much on my Dad’s legs at two in the morning is particularly anti-social. Perhaps it is not anti-social, perhaps it is too social. Anyway, The Baby and I were woken up pretty much then too, by The Mushroom making this sound:


and then shouting something that sounded like this:


Meanwhile, my Dad had leapt in the shower.

“Are you okay?”The Mushroom shouted through the bathroom door.

“No! I’m covered in cat love!” came the reply.

The discovery was not discussed at length until the morning, when ‘Bijou’ and Fluffy Usurper were separated by several doors.

“But they’re brother and sister! And they’re only five months old!” exclaimed The Mushroom, looking at Fluffy Usurper as he slowly and luxuriously groomed himself , like some small, hirsute, pointy-eared Lothario.

“Yeah,” replied my Dad, “Not so big an issue in Cat World.”

‘Bijou’ several rooms away, howled in wanton lust.

“Slapper.” said The Mushroom.

Enthusiastic Teacher looked less than enthusiastic about the news that his cute fluffy kitten was actually a total slut monkey, and murmured something about ‘imitating sex’, because surely they were too young. The Mushroom nodded sagely, whilst my Dad sniggered softly in the corner. We know the truth.

This is all very curious for me. Now, I know about mating. I know how it is necessary, and that this is how little cats – and, by all accounts, people – are made. But I don’t want to. I wonder if I used to want to, when I was small, and had my testiclods? I can’t remember. I do know, though, that it just seems terribly messy, and cats don’t like to get messy, and it’s also not very dignified. I wonder what it feels like to want to do something so very much that you’ll do it even though it goes against your nature?

This period of Jean-Paul Sartre-esque pondering lasted right up to the moment that Fluffy Usurper decided that having sex with his sister had been so much fun, he might as well have a go at mounting me. And that, in case anyone ever wonders, is why Fluffy Usurper now has a tiny chunk missing out of his ear. Bastard.

There is, at least where The Mushroom is concerned, something even worse than an incestuous, bisexual kitten roaming around your homestead. If you want to see a stay at home mother, living in the middle of the Canadian Prairies, melt down, turn off her internet connection for 24 hours.

“Why have you got your coat on? Where are you going?” asked my Dad as he was greeted by the sight of a wild-haired, wide-eyed – but coated – Mushroom and a slightly bemused looking – and also coated – Baby.

“Shop. Need laptop. Hurry.”

“What? Can I get a cup of tea? I’ve just got in-”

“No time. Shop. Laptop. Laptop broke. Need new laptop. Hurry.” she stuttered.

My Dad knew not to argue, and off they went. Have to say, I was mightily relieved too, as I have only just discovered a website that is even better than Wikipedia, and even better than Skype – youtube.

Youtube is amazing. Everything is on it. Want to see a baby doing an impression of Al Capone? It’s on it. Want to see drunken old ladies fall over dancing and show their knickers, much to the hilarity of the people watching? Hundreds of ’em. Want to see a lion being eaten by a traffic warden? It’s on it too (actually, it might not be. I haven’t checked). I’m spending hours of my nights watching video clips of the ‘world’s funniest cats’. It’s frigging brilliant, and takes the edge off the fact that I haven’t been outside for four months.

This, however, is not what The Mushroom uses it for.

“So how are you today?” asked The Mushroom’s mother via Skype.

“I dreamt last night it was Spring.” she replied.

“It isn’t, though, is it, love.” said her mother.

The Mushroom sighed. “No.”

And with that, The Mushroom returned to singing ‘Do Your Ears Hang Low?’, this week, in the style of the musical, ‘Chicago’, whilst we all quietly dream of green buds and shoots and maybe, maybe, some grass.