Currying Feline Favour: How it Isn’t Done

There’s nothing quite like waking up to a cat being pointedly ill on the bedspread. This after we had deported her the previous evening from the master bedroom, where she was improving upon someone’s good, grey coat.

It was like this. We were sitting down to tea, when a summons came up the stairs with the terrifying words, ‘You must see what the cat is doing. She isn’t moving.’  It’s not as if, come Advent and Christmas we harbour a perpetual fear that the Marschallin-Cat will asphyxiate, choke, strangle or otherwise do away with herself by means of tinsel, poinsettia, or Christmas bauble, so these were well chosen words. Allowing for the fact that we do, in fact, anticipate all and any of these things at a given holiday moment. Left to our own devices there would be no ornaments within striking distance of the Magnificent Paws, and no lights. We’ve won a victory against the poinsettias, and tinsel is, happily, not a Canadian fixture.

Anyway, off we went, only to find Miss Marschallin was very much moving. Flip-flopping, in fact, side-to-side. Stretching luxuriantly across the grey wool coat, exposing her underbelly to anyone who happened to be passing. Miss Marschallin never exposes her underbelly to passers-by. We only get to stroke it on extra-special occasions when she’s half-asleep with unbridled contentment. Anyway, the owner of the grey coat got within a foot of that particularly vulnerable spot, put a hand out, and thought better of it. They further declined to go to bed via the other side of the bed, which was vacant, because really, why adjust one’s life to a cat.

What can we say? They haven’t lived with cats long. Miss Marschallin’s predecessor was only with us eleven years and loved a good tummy rub. Chalk and cheese, these two felines. All the while, there was the Marschallin-cat beautifying that grey coat with her lovely ginger fur. There is nothing not improved by ginger fur. Also, this way the coat’s owner could now do a credible impression of some fur-clad ’40s movie star. Heddy Lamar, Garbo, maybe. We don’t know.

img_0015-1  img_0022-1

A Chronology of Cats

Neither of them was budging, so in the end there was nothing for it but to swoop Miss Marschallin up into her very particular hold and transport her elsewhere. You could practically hear the indignation radiating from her. And really, we don’t blame her. To be taken away from a comfy place to sleep for no better reason than the fact of one’s being portable and the sleeping place of choice being someone else’s property…well, it doesn’t bear thinking about.

Which, we’re tolerably sure, is how we came to be the loving recipient of this morning’s pointed gift. It’s not as if there were wooden floors going spare, or anything. Here’s a poem for you by way of apology to Her Nibs, Filed-Marschallin, Empress and Queen of Dawlish.  We first found it in the Opies’ Oxford Book of Children’s Verse. Perusing it as an adult, it’s one of the rarities that isn’t supremely dogmatic and moralistic. But also, whoever wrote it, unlike that coat owner, spoke Cat.

The Mysterious Cat 

Vachal Lindsay

I saw a proud, mysterious cat,
I saw a proud, mysterious cat
Too proud to catch a mouse or rat—
Mew, mew, mew.

But catnip she would eat, and purr,
But catnip she would eat, and purr.
And goldfish she did much prefer—
Mew, mew, mew.

I saw a cat—’twas but a dream,
I saw a cat—’twas but a dream
Who scorned the slave that brought her cream—
Mew, mew, mew.

Unless the slave were dressed in style,
Unless the slave were dressed in style
And knelt before her all the while—
Mew, mew, mew.

Did you ever hear of a thing like that?
Did you ever hear of a thing like that?
Did you ever hear of a thing like that?
Oh, what a proud mysterious cat.
Oh, what a proud mysterious cat.
Oh, what a proud mysterious cat.
Mew . . . mew . . . mew.

Supposedly it’s a chant for a pantomime. If it is, it makes an abnormal amount of sense for panto material. But not unlike the cat, we wound up disdaining our tea this evening. It’s not that we require anyone to be kneeling beside us while we drink it, stylish or otherwise. It’s that tonight’s tea was undrinkable. It goes by the prosaic name of Ginger Turmeric Tonic, and while undoubtably it’s supposed to be wholesome, it tastes appalling.

Someone – we’re unclear who – had the clever idea to pair the ginger and turmeric with green tea, which goes about as well as you’d expect. The green tea, left to steep, goes bitter. The ginger, meanwhile, has it’s usual sharpness. And But none of this matters because all one can taste over the lot of it is the numeric. And all that while the tea smells shockingly of anise. We stuck it out about a half-a-dozen mouthfuls before calling it a bad job, so can’t really comment on steeping grade, or anything like that. And we’ll freely own that our using numeric six ways from Sunday to make a curry probably doesn’t help.

We don’t think that’s the root problem though, because we’ve quite happily partaken of teas flavoured with cloves, cardamom, and any number of spices that swisher between sweet and savoury in our cooking. We’ve even known them to translate well to tea. This is not one of them. No doubt it’s a rigorously wholesome thing. Good for colds. But for our money, we’re much happier sticking to hot lemon and honey. Maybe a lemsip. Possibly even the odd dose of ginger. The calendar can keep the turmeric.

Hymn to the Marschallin-Cat

In the ongoing saga that is our battle against the parcels of Advent tea, we experimented with a different tea infuser tonight. Whereas our usual is large and bell-shaped, this one is small, squat and house-shaped, what the giver dubbed our ‘tea grotto.’ This makes no difference, if you were wondering, to the elaborate procedure of tea leaf extraction from vacuum-packed plastic bags. We have, however, extracted a considerable number of tea leaves from the rug. Packaging 4: Us nil.

It was another apple tea tonight, appropriately dubbed Apple Cider. It’s supposed to taste like the drink – the wintery, non-alcoholic one. It does too, alternately sweet and tart by turns, depending on the length of steeping. It’s also a herbal tea though, and to our mind is fractionally too sweet. We blame the combination of apple and blackcurrant for a base. Overtop a green tea it would be perfect; as it is, the cinnamon and vanilla don’t quite balance out the fruit.

It also sports that most disturbing of things, cream essence. That’s not really a point against it; we’ve seen cream essence in enough teas by now to accept it as mundane. But we would someday like an explanation as to what it is. Is it manufactured? Powdered? Does one wave the prepackaged tea in front of a creamer? The tea proper doesn’t taste creamy and it also doesn’t smell of it, evidenced by the Marschallin-cat’s utter disdain for it.  Miss Marschallin, to the uninitiated, has a sixth sense for all things milky.

Miss Marschallin does her best impression of Miss Jean Brodie, also of Edinburgh.

We were going to segue from tea to the virtues of the Marschallin-cat, but it’s late, and she’s quite well-documented here. Less well-documented though is her origin as an Edinburgh cat. She came to us from Lothian Cat Rescue, where the felines are undaunted by quarter hours,  flatten others’ scorn under the chariot wheels of their superiority, and, are, of course, in their prime. Certainly the Marschallin-cat is. Accordingly, here’s a hymn to Miss Marschallin. Well, to an Edinburgh cat, name unspecified. But don’t let on, will you?

An Edinburgh Cat 

M.L. Dalgleish

There are cats in the Canongate and cats in the Cowgate
Up ad down Lawnmarket and right round St Giles;
Urban cats in Trinity and rural cats at Howgate,
Toms and tabbies purr and prowl for miles and miles and miles.
But not a single cat of them, claims where I wait
High in Ramsay Garden, clinging to the tiles.

From there I peer at Edinburgh with eager eyed felinity.
Traffic and humanity, at work and sleep and play,
From West end to Waverly, from Sun. to Saturday;
All the chase and chatter of the city’s femininity
On bargain hunt at Jenners and Binns, and C.&A.

Storm clouds over Fife, in the Firth the white spray curling;
Loud with the north easter, I shriek a merry mew;
Summer time in Princes Street; kilted dancers whirling
Where the flowery gardens hear my purring all night thro’,
Bagpipers on the Esplanade, and high above their skirling
I sing in shrill cacophony my joy at the Tattoo.

Grey friars Bobby sits smug beside his Candlemakers
A burgess and a movie star grown pompous by renown;
The unicorn of Mercat Cross mounts guard on holy acres,
Law-abiding citizens who view me with a frown;
Yet if I ever fall victim to town planners and house-breakers,
My loss would be catastrophe for Edinburgh-town.

*We can’t go without observing that while we lived many years in Scotland, we never once met a cat that joyed in the Edinburgh tattoo. Come to that we’re not sure we met non-tourists who joyed in it. But if you have, do get in touch!

The Theology of Dogs

. We’re drinking spiced green tea tonight, a worthy successor to the Crumble Tea sacramentalized by the Anglican Inquisition. If that sounds like dubious theology, it probably is. You must understand that the Anglican Inquisition is comprised of one Anglican, two Presbyterians and an atheist, among others. Ecumenical Inquisition is just a mouthful though -even if not even the tea shops expect them. Besides, we’re not the only ones with suspect doctrine.

Pictured above are the Dachshunds of Dawlish. We don’t mention them as often as we do the Marschallin-cat, which is a grievous disservice considering their adoration of the the Human Pillow. Though as you will gather from the pictures, the theology of Dachshunds is fairly fluid. Buffy (she sits right) is also a sun-worshipper and a coveter of warm floor tiles and heat vents. Augie (pictured left) is braw, blue, and frequently pays fealty to the Fabulous Orange Ball. No one, not even his fellow Dachshund, understands why. Of course, he’s not averse to a spot of sun-worship either.


Or to crossword solving:


Or, as it turns out, to baking, though we failed to document evidence of this, being too taken up the other evening with the shortbread. Here they are petitioning for food though. All that hopeful watching is hungry work when shortbread is at stake.

Anyway, in loving and long-overdue tribute to the Dancing Dachshunds of Dawlish (who are also by turns delightful, devious, and decidedly stubborn) here’s a poem about their canine contemporaries and the things they put their trust in.

Pete’s Theology

Donald Marquis

god made seas to play beside
and rugs to cover dogs
god made cars for holidays
and beetles under logs
god made kitchens so thered be
dinners to eat and scraps
god made beds so pups could crawl
under them for naps
god made license numbers so theyd find
lost pups and bring them home
god made garbage buckets too
to pry in when you roam
god made tennis shoes to chew
and here and there a hat
but i cant see why god should make
mehitabel the cat

pete the pup



The Marschallin-cat, by the way, has no doubt about why God made Dachshunds. They exist to have their noses hit. Dachshunds, are, after all, at optimum nose-hitting level. What you see in the picture is the rare and amicable convening of the Dachshund Embassy with her Imperiousness. Augie, alas, has yet to make any headway. Only girls allowed in this particular club. But he lives in hope. And in the meantime there’s spiced green tea, illicit sandwiches, shortbread crumbs, rugs and cars and beetles under logs. Dachshunds really do have an idyllic existence.


The Business of Cats

Tonight’s tea was confused. It’s called cinnamon rooibos chai, and while all of those are good things they do fight a bit when it comes to flavour. We should here double back a bit and add that it’s only chai in the sense of chai meaning tea. We can’t find evidence of the constituent parts of chai present. Just as well, considering the cinnamon barely registered. This may be our fault. We’re not of the ilk that leaves tea to brew for the request 4-5 minutes, mostly because we like to have the blog up this side of midnight. So it tasted primarily of rooibos, no bad thing, but less subtle than the smell of the tin promised. But it’s a good tea and warm. The kind you can drink to stave off a winter chill, and there’s certainly enough of that going around.

Along those lines we were going to find you a nice, topical poem about tea and winter, or one or the other. But then the Marschallin-Cat put in an appearance She variously sat on us, attempted to write the blog for us, and failing in those efforts, sat with her back to us, Sulking. The Sulking, if you’ve never observed it, is quite the spectacle, and not to be confused with that well-known book of similar name The Shining. Though we fancy there are horrors in store for anyone who ignores a Sulk. We, being disinclined to find out, took the hint. So much for tea and winter. Here’s a poem about life with cats instead.


Busy, Busy

Francesco Marciuliano

It’s 8 AM and it’s time to nap
It’s 10 AM and it’s time to relax.
It’s 12 PM and it’s time to doze off
It’s 3 PM and it’s time to zonk out
It’s 6 PM and it’s time to slumber
It’s 9 PM and it’s time to snooze
It’s 12 AM and time to sleep
It’s 4 AM and it’s tim to hang upside down
from your bedroom ceiling, screaming.

Here we hasten to add that Miss Marschallin never screams. She’s not adverse to a light touch of singing at preternaturally early hours though. With that in mind, from the Marscahllin-Cat and us both, it’s goodnight. At least until 4 in the morning.



You’ll Have Had Your Tea


This is Dougie. He had two great missions in life; food and the guarding of shoes. If you wore the shoes, he sometimes attacked your feet for invading them.

He began, when we’d only met him long-distance, as Dougal, because of the ginger in his fur and that old sketch on I’m Sorry, I Haven’t a Clue called Sound Charades, in which two comedians perpetually began their half of the play with cries of:



‘You’ll have had your tea.

‘Oh, no…’

No one had ever had their tea, to hear ‘Hamish’ and ‘Dougal.’ Neither had Dougie, if you believed everything he had to say on the subject of food.

But Dougal was too Scotch a name for the Canadians he lived with, and anyway, don’t cats always have half a dozen names? So he became Dougie, more Canadian for a Canadian cat, but his origin story was apt, because he was perpetually wanting his tea. And shoes to guard. And people to sit on. But no one does comedic sketches about those things. You’ll Have Had Your Tea it was.

Now I’m having my tea, in quite a different sense, and it goes by the dubious name of ‘Chocolate Macaroon.’ I won’t reiterate the spiel about chocolate in tea. But coconut…to anyone else I suspect it’s inoffensive enough. It tastes of suncream to me, probably because that’s what suncream smells of. Also, curiously, it evokes Nice Biscuits, a culinary misnomer if ever there was one. So all told it’s not won me over yet, which is okay. We’re on day two of this Advent calendar and there’s always a couple of dodgy selections. (Coffee tea of last year comes readily to mind.)

Maybe I just feel guilty about the fact that I’m having tea when Mr Dougie can no longer join me and attack my shoes while I sip it. Pancreatic cancer in cats is like that -not the sort of thing you can reverse.

But objectively, if you aren’t averse to coconut, and if you’re not in converse with departed cats, this isn’t a bad tea. Decadent, and not what you’d want to take with your toast at breakfast, but rich and desert-esque. The sort of thing you’d foist on Tommy and Tuppence at one of there Ritz-staying ventures.

In the meantime, here’s a poem, Dougie. Other cats I’ve been known to sing to. Mr Keys got Hansel and Gretel, specifically the ditty about the mouse in the straw, and Her Nibs is partial to Vilja Lied, but you and I weren’t quite on singing terms. I had the temerity to wear my shoes, after all, and you preferred we sit together instead. And who was I to argue with you, world’s most placid cat? So no music for you, but here’s Tennessee Williams, who had he never written a play, would, we feel confident be remembered for his verse.

We Have Not Long to Love

Tennessee Williams

We have not long to love.
Light does not stay.
The tender things are those
we fold away.
Coarse fabrics are the ones
for common wear.
In silence I have watched you
comb your hair.
Intimate the silence,
dim and warm.
I could but did not, reach
to touch your arm.
I could, but do not, break
that which is still.
(Almost the faintest whisper
would be shrill.)
So moments pass as though
they wished to stay.
We have not long to love.
A night. A day….
We didn’t have you nearly long enough to love, Dougie. You were supposed to live on the spoils of the land (or at least veterinary selected cat-food) for years to come. There would have been shoes to wrestle and tea to be had, and maybe we’d have eventually got to singing terms. Apparently celestial shoes had greater need of your defence. Do them proud. And until we catch up again, it seems a safe bet to think that as no cat-friendly patch of hereafter would starve you, we can fairly suppose you’ll have had your tea, then.