MiMi and Monsieur Albert

IMG_0209MiMi

One summer in France we were adopted by two little Kittens. We treated them for fleas, wormed them, “de-mited” their ears, put collars on them and arranged for Monsieur Albert who lives across the street to feed them. We hoped they would be OK. They were both girls and we could not arrange for them to be neutered before we had to leave to go back home. So it would be a hard life for the poor little creatures. They were so cheeky and friendly we just fell in love with them. So did Monsieur Albert thank heavens. Our plan was to press to get them to the vets when we went back in 6 months time.

One of these little cats became MiMi and the other Prune. Prune adopted our neighbours from behind and MiMi decided to live with Monsieur Albert.

Hence we share responsibility for MiMi with Monsieur. When we arrived back in France a few months after first meeting MiMi as a kitten she was living in a big drum in Monsieur’s work shop. She had two kittens. When ever we went over to look at them she appeared from no-where.  The minute we went near those babies she was there watching us and trying to hide them. She is such a little mite herself and the way she glowered at Davis and his camera had to be seen to be believed. “Come any closer with that device and I’ll tear you limb from limb!” She looked very serious.

Monsieur Albert called me over to inspect the new cat box he had built for Mimi and her offspring. He was very proud of it. It looked like a rabbit hutch lying on its back with the wire netting uppermost. At first it appalled Mimi and she kept removing the “Chatons” (Kitties), but Monsieur managed to persuade her that she needed to be upwardly mobile in the real-estate world and she settled in grudgingly. MiMi had found the old drum extremely comfortable and secure.

Monsieur Albert had a lot of trouble with those kittens. Kitten trouble. They were “Here! There! and Everywhere!” He shook his head in an exhausted fashion and said “Oh La la!”  He couldn’t keep up with them. They were very pretty and had deserted his rabbit-hutch affair for an old fruit box he had placed by the door. He was mystified as to why they would give up the Ritz of Cat accommodation to sleep in a rough old fruit box. But I knew why. It is because the fruit box was up on a bench and the cat Ritz on the floor. Cats love a vantage point. It suits their sense of natural superiority.

We knew that Monsieur Albert would miss the kittens when they went to their new homes. I took over some kitten food for them which offended Monsieur. “Kitten Food!. But already they eat cat food!”  I talked him into keeping the cans for kitties, but he didn’t want to. He seemed to think that I was molly-coddling his cats and would do them no good at all.  Soon I hoped to take MiMi to the vet. At that stage MiMi was still very protective of the little ones, but they had started on solid food. So that was good.

I was reminded again of that book “We need to have a Talk about Kevin” when I saw how Monsieur favoured the female kitten. He brushed the little male aside and spent ages training the tiny female to try to climb up his arm. The small male sat there whingeing plaintively and Monsieur scolded him and telling him he is “Malin! Tu est malin toi!” – Naughty! you are naughty You!” Poor little cat. Predestined to naughtiness because Monsieur Albert knows that is the way of the world. Males are more likely to be troublesome.

We were out in the garden and Monsieur Albert came over to tell le Patron (as he calls Davis) that he could take a photo of the kittens if he wanted to. The kittens had ventured out through MiMi’s cat door and they looked so surprised as they emerged and tumbled onto the step with no control at all. Monsieur clearly thought that these babies were worthy of a photograph. I was a bit chagrined because it doesn’t take much to get the good Doctor to abandon his gardening fork and spade and pick up the camera. However, I agreed that the kitties looked  “very naughty” as Monsieur Albert said shaking his fist so fiercely you would swear he was talking about the Bolsheviks.

Monsieur Albert lives alone. We watched him feeding the kittens from his finger one morning. So patient. They were sitting side by side on the chair looking  adorable. And he put a morsel of food on his finger and gave it to them one at a time. Davis and I went into the vet to see about getting MiMi neutered. The vet said MiMi should have the operation immediately. Any longer and she might get pregnant again. Monsieur however, thought otherwise. We had to enlist the aid of our French agent to help persuade him.  We bought some more flea and worming medication for them all and it costs a fortune (same as at home). The operation is very expensive too. But it seemed the right thing to do if we could convince Monsieur.

The little moggy looked a bit less disheveled after we had wormed her and dressed her in a red collar. I gave Monsieur the drops to worm the kittens when they reached 6 weeks, but he was mystified as to why they would need them. “Worms? Worms? I do not think they have any worms!” So I didn’t like their chances of getting done. I put MiMi’s worming drops on her neck with my own hand. He still doted on the little female kitten and tried to ignore the male, but the little male was not having any of it. He ran and climbed up Monsieurs trousers and hung on fiercely. It made Monsieur laugh delightedly. We could hear him talking to them all day. They would be lovely tame cats for whomever adopted them. Mimi is not a really tame cat and for ages she only let me touch her in Monsieur’s presence.

Monsieur Albert came over this to inform us that the kittens had gone to their new home.  He seemed a bit down but MiMi seemed OK. Job well done mother. They have just moved up the road. We planned to take MiMi into the vet the next week. Or Friday perhaps. Monsieur was not at all keen. He has not a lot of faith in Vets. He kept saying “Oh don’t trouble yourselves!” Then he wanted us to wait another 4 weeks after the kittens had gone. MiMi would be in the family way again by then.

We had MiMi booked in for the following Monday, but I thought it would be too late. She was calling out to her swains around the place. Monsieur was finally persuaded that it was not too soon when I pointed out the 2 Tom cats waiting outside his door and suggested that they might have been the fathers of her earlier kittens. He looked very surprised and turned and surveyed MiMi and said “But she is a good cat! Elle est mignon ne c’est pas? She is cute is she not?” As if that would protect her. He was building yet another box for us to use to transport her.

When we went in to the Vet to discuss the MiMi situation. We went through the entire, long conversation in French – with the vet explaining things to us in great detail several times because, as she warmed to her subject, she would speed up and at times we had a bit of difficulty keeping up.  So we had to keep stopping her and asking her to slow down. But we understood her well enough in the end. As we were leaving she ran through it all in English for us. They are funny the French. She could have saved herself a lot of time, but then we would not have had such a good French lesson. It was useful because when we were trying to persuade Monsieur we had all the correct French jargon.  He was hammering and banging away at making his Darling a cat box for her transport. His way of contributing and feeling involved.

Monday was MiMis day and we took her in at 9 am. We were up at 7.30am and that was the earliest we had been out of bed in the miserable weather. I went over to collect her from Monsieur Albert and he had her in his arms. He whispered to me so that MiMi couldn’t hear him. “Get the box!” I didn’t catch it the first time and he leaned over and mimed elaborately “Get the cat-box!” So I got it and he deposited MiMi therein. Monsieur looked very forlorn as we packed her into the car and drove off. She hardly said a word. Once she heard us say her name in conversation and gave a little peep of a “Meow” in response. Not like Madam Pops at home who screams with indignation at the very sight of the cat-box. Queen of the house is suddenly being treated like a cat!

The vet phoned at 12md to tell us that the operation proceeded well “toute rouler bien!” (all went well) and that MiMi was “resting tranquilly”. We went back to fetch her at 5.30pm. I had been terribly anxious in case the operation might have killed her and we would have to face Monsieur. He only allowed it because we insisted.  So I hoped it all worked out for the best. He understood that it was for the best in theory, but he was afraid for her. She is such a tiny creature with the biggest round eyes you have ever seen on a cat.

When we collected MiMi at 5.30pm she was more than ready to come home even though her I.V. drip was still to be removed. The vet gave us strict instructions that she should be kept inside the house for 24 hours and not to eat anything. She could drink something, but no food. So we explained it all to Monsieur Albert and gave him the special food she is to eat when she was back on solids. He put on his glasses to attend us better and seemed to understand everything. So we left him raining endearments down upon his Darling’s head. She was still in the cat-box at that stage. A few minutes later we looked up and, who was over at our place eating a hearty meal put out for the other cats, but “herself”. Davis called out in surprise and we all went rushing out in time to see her vanishing up the road. Monsieur appeared waving his arms and calling out that as soon as he had opened the cat-box she had just “shot away”.

 

We all retreated quietly hoping she would come home – which she did immediately. Monsieur talked to her gently and tried to reason with her – indeed he thought himself successful.  He called out triumphantly :”I have her! Tout va Bien! (All goes well)” And peace descended on our little corner of the world. We retired to our belated happy-hour celebration.  About 15 minutes later I looked out and saw a tiny, brindled bottom parked determinedly beside the food bowl again. She had escaped despite Monsieur having talked it over with her and put her on her honour. She had decided that she was hungry and that was that.

 

It reminded me of Davis’ Intensive Care web discussion page that he checks every morning. One of the Doctors said that he used to take his cat into the Vet Science School to donate cat blood when they had emergencies. The Doctor owner said : “Tancredi (the cat) had told me he was not going to do it again – and he was right!”  Unless you are a cat person you might not realise how amusing that is, but every cat-lover will recognise it.  Cats are very determined creatures.
So, MiMi enjoyed a meal before I discovered her and then, and only then, she retired to accept Monsieur‘s ministrations – and NOT BEFORE. I was quite anxious about it, but David laughed and said “This is a tough, feral, little Moggy. She knows what is good for her.” I hoped he was right and I suspected he would be. The Vet said she was a healthy little cat with no fleas, ear mites or other parasites. Good teeth too.  So Monsieur (and her co-owners ) have done a good job on her.
5911738515_97cda5093f_oMiMi
We came back from taking MiMi in to the vet for her post-op check-up. She was fine. When we brought her home and handed her over to Monsieur Albert he presented us with a hand-made cement vase. White cement and studded with mussel shells. It  is an extraordinary looking specimen and he showed us how he made it with white cement etc. This is to thank us for our help with MiMi. He told us not to leave it outside of the house because it would be stolen “toute suite”  (immediately)”. The Good Soul.

 

MiMi seemed to be doing well. On the last day before we left to drive up to Paris the neighbour from behind us came over looking for the other small cat who is MiMi’s sister.  We had put a collar on her last November along with MMi. She is a very personable little cat (if one can call a cat personable). Extremely friendly and good-looking. Bigger than MiMi. The neighbours behind us had adopted her and named her “Prune”. Watching a French person grimace in order to give “Prune” its correct English pronunciation is a sight to behold.

 

I was upstairs packing and they were down below my window shouting up to me. They had no doubt heard all about our deep (and some times unwelcome) interest in MiMi and all the goings on with her because when I asked for a description of Prune they fixed me with stern, assessing gazes and said “She is just like MIMI!” As if to say that they were perfectly well aware that I was acquainted with Prune and that I am not to be trusted within a mile of anyone’s pet cat. I told them I would keep an eye out for her. I was glad when she turned up. They thought I had her in my bags I’m certain.

 

I watched an interesting documentary featuring cats. It was Sir Trevor Howard (BBC) inside death row in America. He went in and interviewed several of the 12 men on Death row. It was fascinating. The men all seem so child-like. Most have been there since they were children so they are a bit like the Carmelite nuns who don’t really get much of a chance to interact with the world and mature out of that child-like manner.  When they are finally allowed to speak they are amazingly girlish. One of these men had been there on Death Row for 25 years and he went in at  15 years of age. He murdered two people when he was 13 years old. He had educated himself and could discuss metaphysics sensibly. It is a paradox that he has spent all these years on Death Row getting a wonderful education where as if he had been outside he would almost certainly be dead. Like those Memphis teenagers wrongly imprisoned as children for murder. They went in to prison as extremely under-priveledged, under-educated waifs and when their sentence was finally over-turned they emerged as articulate, educated men. Some small compensation I suppose.

If the men on death row earn the privilege they are permitted to keep a cat. They apply and get them as tiny kittens and you have never seen such devoted cat-lovers. The men have not experienced anything like it in their lives before and it exhibits that they are not psychopathic. One man had been there 10 years or so with his much loved cat. The cat had a crucifix hanging from its collar and the man’s face softened and doted as he introduced her. When these men are interviewed over the years they are always asked about remorse and they have their answers off pat. It becomes extremely mechanical, but this man said sadly: “I love this cat, I adore her. I almost worship her, but if I could undo what I have done I would give her up even.” It convinced me. As a beaten child of a drunken, violent step-father his first experience of unconditional love was from the cat.
We saw a TV program on unlikely cross species friendships the other night and it showed some really funny pairings. The secret to all of their friendships was in the fact that they had all known each other as babies. A taboo in the animal kingdom against eating your brothers and sisters. They showed some really funny footage of a barn cat who gave birth to her kittens at the same time as a bunch of little golden ducklings hatched. The cat, who would normally have put on her bib and tucker to eat these small birds, adopted them with her kitties. She had such trouble with them too. They kept escaping the nest and she had to spend so much time catching them and bringing them back to the warm. They showed footage of them later and the cat was still being trailed by fully grown, big white ducks.

 

A year after her encounter with the vet  MiMi and I pruned the rest of the roses. She sat at the bottom of the ladder “peeping” at me. She wondered if all this ladderwork was really necessary when I could be sitting down playing with a small cat. In the evening as I was lying on the couch reading I heard a “peep” and saw a tiny stripey face peering around the edge of
the couch at me. She was longing to come over to me, but found
herself unable to muster the courage.
When we were out having lunch (again accompanied by MiMi) we were visited by a beautiful, young Tom cat-strong and lithe. He had a grey and white face with a wonderful spray of white whiskers.  We were sure that he was one of her MiMi’s kittens from last year. He has the same markings. He is twice as big as MiMi who is a petite little baggage. She is very territorial and guards our front yard as her very own. She sees off all the other cats, but she allowed this young chap to come up and bump noses with her – go over and inspect her food bowl. So she knows him.
I was watching MiMi walking toward me one day and it suddenly
occurred to me that the origin of the term “cat-walk” may not only be
referring to the narrow stage the models walk upon, but a description
of the way the girls actually walk on that narrow platform. She is
very dainty. She lifts each paw high in front of her and places it
down very precisely and neatly across the mid-line of her body. It
makes her sway in a pretty, prancing manner that is very reminiscent
of the models sauntering along the “cat-walk”. She seemed very healthy.

We called into the Vet to get some worming medication for her. We
put a new collar on her and I bought a knock ’em down toy for
her, but so far she has disdained it. She will dab at our hands playfully, but it is another conceptual leap to understand a toy made especially for her.

 Mothering is an important part of life I guess and we are glad that MiMi has had the experience, but now she will live longer to comfort all of us. She is such a help in the garden.

 When we were in Mirepoix for a visit we were befriended by the most beautiful, creamy, long haired, green eyed oriental kitten. She came to our door and yelled loudly to be let in – which, of course, we did. She reminded us so much of our Ozzie Pops. When we walked off up the street, she accompanied us down the entire length of the block with her cries getting louder and more strident as we went along. Finally she stopped at the corner but she continued to yell after us reproachfully. It nearly broke my heart. I remarked to Davis  “I think that is my cat.” “No it is not.” said he. “Yes I think it is” said I. “No one is caring for her. No collar and such a tiny and beautiful person should not be out wandering the streets. I am going to take her home to Monsieur Albert.” “No you are not!” and his brown eyes were fixed on me sternly as if he just would not put it past me to snaffle that moggy.

Arriving in Tourners

When we arrived here at Tourners we were greeted in the street by a very excited Monsieur Albert.  He positively sashayed up to the car with a tremendous air of mystery and waved at me with his whittling stick.  “Wind down the window” he had a lot to tell us.  He had been back to hospital 3 times during our absence.  We must have looked suitably dismayed because he warmed to his subject immediately and he demonstrated with wide arms the vast quantities of “something or other” that the hospital staff had removed from his person on each occasion. Finally and ceremoniously, with the timing and flare of a real story-teller, he rolled up the leg of his French Blues (Overalls) to reveal a rather smart urinary catheter bag strapped to his leg.

He told us in graphic detail all that had befallen him and his bladder.  He may have been aiming for stoicism, but he couldn’t hide his delight at all the fuss and ado.  The trousers were rolled back several times to exhibit the finer features of the bag; with solemn and precise pointing and tapping at measurement indicators. He said that his friend up the road had a catheter in situ for 18 months but that he fully expected to make that record look paltry.  Same as in Oz, the public hospital system in France is always playing catch-up.

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Clematis at the Front door.

We have never seen the Clematis over the front door in full flower, but this year we have timed it perfectly. I will be sweeping fallen petals and fluff out of the hall way for months; a small price to pay.

The garden looks pretty good: particularly the roses. They have been coiffed in the English way which is very proper and formal, but they promise to give us a good show when they get underway.   The huge pile of prunings in front are from the Plane tree; pollarded to within an inch of its life. If OLR had been here it would never have been treated so radically. The horticulteur arrived today to deal with La Grand Mere  (Grand-mother) which is the enormous tree at the back of the house for a sum of E700.  Not cheap, but he does a good job.
8976576103_a7255f4d29_zLa Grand Mere Before
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 La Grand-Mere after her short back and sides.
I spent a couple of hours in the afternoon bundling some of the prunings into manageable parcels for the fireplace. We will use them in a year or so when they have dried out. MiMi helped me in a total body sort of way. She kept diving head first into my bundles of sticks and rolling over to wave  her paws at me enticingly. She was a pest, but tremendously pretty.
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MiMi
Pavarotti appeared with in moments of our arrival and he glared at us in his “chew-backer” way and deigned to eat our gourmet offerings.
10962243176_419550f466_zPavoritti aka Chew-backer

We Find a House in France

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Tournersol

“But I was so much older then I’m younger than that now.” Bob Dylan

If I could talk with the young person I was at twenty, that young woman would find me a bit bewildering. Of course she may not even see me. I can’t remember noticing many middle-aged women when I was that age. I certainly did not find them interesting. The twenty year old could never have imagined that one day it would be her delight to share the custody of several cats with an archetypical French gnome: expert in gardening, animal husbandry and just about everything else.

The twenty-year old me did not even like cats especially, yet now, to win the trust of scruffy, feral cats seems like a great achievement. But more than that, I have co-befriended several of these cats with the singular Monsieur Albert. Monsieur Albert is the French gnome who has appointed himself chef of our coin du village. He lives across the street from us deep in the heart of la France profond.

All these accounts of living in Europe and of France in particular seem to involve living beside a wonderfully bossy, inquisitive, and good-hearted neighbour. Ours is, I am happy to say, no exception. Our second stroke of luck in our French life was that we chose a house opposite Monsieur Albert.

4537502109_efb960f477_z Monsieur Albert and MiMi