Cat-napping

Ciao, it’s me, Carlotta.

It’s been so hot recently that I’ve taken to sleeping outside on the terrazza where the tiles are nice and cool by night. It’s funny that not so long ago I’d sleep on the tiles during the day in the colder weather because they kept the heat of the sun.

I’m getting really high on this jasmine that surrounds me – it’s so intoxicating! Hiding in the jasmine is Corneglia. She’s a pretty wild cat and was already here for some time even before Napoleon. She hovers around us and likes to hide, as you can see.

Anyway, it might rain today so perhaps I might even decide to sleep on Francis’ bed again tonight.

Francis would like to know what those orange flowers are called. They always come out at this time of year.

Have a nice day from a very busy cat. Or I should be if I wasn’t such a great procatstinator!

PS One thing my butler has done is to continue his blog at

 

https://longoio3.wordpress.com/

 

Do remember that you want to carry on following me and my friends!

Whisky Without Soda

Miao! If you read Francis’ blog regularly you’ll know who I am. Just because I’m black and white – no great thing for a cat – my servant has called me Whisky.

Actually I wouldn’t touch the stuff – prefer a nice dollop of cream myself. I’ve got a sister called Cheeky but thankfully she’s miles away as we don’t really get on except for giving some nice claws to each other.

Here is a picture of my sister climbing up a tree. Hope she can’t get down! Her butler is Francis from Longoio.

I think I’m quite a privileged cat as my patron is none other than Prof Sam Stych who must be the most venerable citizen of Bagni di Lucca. He will be 101 years old this July the 15th!

There’s nothing I like more than snuggling up on Sam’s lap and sleeping and dreaming away. After all 101 in cat years is 25. No mean feat! Sam’s very good to me as he truly loves cats. I get three meals a day and unlike other humans Sam doesn’t shove me off everytime I land on him.

Cat Walks in Longoio

Hi all you cats out there. Do your owners servants let you go on walks with them? If not complain! However, I should say that if you live in those horrible places full of traffic then your adorers are probably wise in not letting you follow them wherever they go. We are lucky, however, for where we live there’s only one road to cross and that has just one tractor a day on it. We can hear it in time and so can avoid the fate of so many of our compatriots.

After this road it’s all fun and games, Cheeky has a propensity for climbing up trees and she’s clever in coming down them too – just by reversing.

 

Carlotta is persevering and just walks and walks. I’m getting a bit long in the tooth now (what teeth I have left) and so I’m happy just to blaze the trail, have a good rest and let the others release their feline energies.

It’s so wonderful to sniff new smells, experience different sounds and generally have a nice sleep after our epic journey from my devotee’s house in Longoio to the little paradise field. I think we are quite lucky cats after all!

 

Cat-astrophe Avoided

Napoleon (my cat, not the French emperor…) began to move in a very slow-motion manner and not feel very hungry so that I started to get a bit worried about him. After all, Nap’s going to be eleven this year, which means sixty in terms of ‘cat years’.

I, therefore, took ‘Nap’ down to our local vet, Claudio, who has his place in Fornoli opposite the post office. Nap is a well-worn pillion passenger on my Scarabeo scooter:

Almost immediately the cause for Nap’s behaviour was found out. A giant abscess, perhaps as a result of an unwanted encounter with some wild feline yobo, under his left front paw-pit burst open covering part of the poor animal in blood. Nap’s a brave sort of fellow so he didn’t scream (or miaoogle) at all.

A clean-up followed and an antibiotic injection was administered. Nap was then ready to go home, Doctor Stefanini asked me (and Nap, of course) to return in four days’ time and tell him how the cat was proceeding.

I’m happy to say that Nap is recovering well and has started again to complain if he doesn’t get his breakfast (or lunch or dinner) – surely a good sign in any feline!

These are Claudio’s veterinary practice opening times:

You may also be interested in reading another post I’ve done about Claudio and his practice. It’s at:

https://longoio.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/cat-baskets/

 

A Pawsome Show with Cattitude

Lucca has a newish trade fair and exhibition complex and it’s easily reached from near the city’s autostrada exit. Housed in a refurbished ex-factory building it hosted a cat exhibition organised by ANFI (Italian National Cat Association) last weekend. I could not resist and headed to Lucca’s ‘polo fieristico’.

I was not disappointed. Every species of cat was there: from ragdolls to Persians, from Siamese to leopard-spotted, from blues to that giant of cats, the Maine coon which can reach up to ten kilos in weight. There were also the strange hairless cats called Canadian sphinx. (Actually they are not hairless but their hair is very short and fine). Cats were arranged in spacious cages which formed squares with their owners in the inside. It’s not exactly easy to photograph a cat, especially if it’s in a cage, but here is a selection of the species I saw on show:

There was a competition for the best cats in various categories.

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There were talks about how to look after one’s cat and even train them how to use the loo and avoid having to clean cat litters! There were stands selling cat requisites from food to shampoo to cat-hammocks. I was particularly impressed by the recycling of vegetable market containers to produce cat baskets. Every cat-lover must have been surely well-pleased to attend the show.

There was an art corner where one could pick up a Rembrandt or Van Gogh for under a a thousand euros. (copies, very well-done, of course.)

As I arrived around mid-day I started to feel hungry. Fortunately there was a lunch stand specialising in truffle products. I could not resist!

There were also truffle and porcini mushroom flavour crisps. They certainly made a change from salt ‘n vinegar and cheese ‘n onion…

I got there in time. After 2 pm the queues started and they became rather long.

Competitors and breeders came from all parts of Italy and, indeed, the EU. I was amazed at the devotion so many people give to cats. Well, not so amazed: cats are ever fascinating – and mysterious too.

As I returned to the parking I met up with two magnificent Spanish greyhounds.

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In the parking this car showed just how much cats are part of a family in Italy:

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I came home back to my common or garden cats and realised that they are the most special cats in the world – at least to me…

Where’s the White Stuff?

Central, and now southern, Italy is still besieged by cruel winter weather which, especially after the three major earthquakes, is hampering rescue services. Italian TV isn’t so much bothering with trumpians and brexians as with focusing on any possible lives still entrapped in the Rigopiano Hotel which was smothered by an avalanche.

Although the emphasis is on getting people out there are already accusations and prosecutions in the air. Why weren’t holiday-makers told about the avalanche risks of staying at the hotel? Why was the hotel built at the entrance of a huge gully going up the steep slopes of Italy’s highest Apennine peak, the Gran Sasso? Why weren’t the local emergency services fully prepared? This seems to be the general rule in Italy – disaster management where all the praise goes to the hero volunteers who are actually doing something about saving lives and condemnation of the bureaucratic apparatus which is hampering progress in this country.

Meanwhile, at Longoio and the Val di Lima there is still no sign of snow, indeed of rain. We are experiencing a winter drought and I am having to water some plants on our house terraces! It’s the same drought that has caused the forest fires around the Genoa region which closed down a major artery last week and involved the evacuation of hundreds. How strange! On the one side of the peninsula people are saying they haven’t experienced such bad weather in living memory. On the other side people are suffering tinder-dry forests.

It’s therefore reassuring to cast one’s mind back to what the situation was like at our house during our second winter here ten years ago. On this day then it was actually snowing as these photographs demonstrate:

I wonder if Napoleon (cat)  remembers his first taste of snow?

Picking One’s Olives

It’s that time again in our part of the world: olive-picking time. In Longoio we are near the top height for growing olives (and vines) – 1750 feet. This year for the very first time we’ve got something worth picking in our miniscule grove of twenty-odd trees. The afternoon was gorgeously autumnal and two of my cats, Cheekie and grand master Napoleon came down with me.

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There was a surprising lot of berries to pick.

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As my cats love climbing up trees I had a wild idea of training them to ascent up the olive trees and help the precious fruits drop. After all, more technically advanced people have a machine which, with a rubber band attached, shakes the tree so that the olives drop down into a net.

But my cats seemed uninterested in learning this skill and just lay in the dazzling sun and watched or played in chasing phantom fiends across the lush grass.

My system was a little more primitive I have to say, Most  of the olives aren’t very tall so I just picked them by hand or used a rake to reach the top-most branches.

Then it was back home for the three of us. I’ll be back tomorrow to my orto to see if I can glean more olives from my maturing trees.

If those of you living in northern climes think all this is irrelevant think again. There are now olive groves in southern England (see http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-kent-18551076 ) and, indeed, some London streets are lined with them (ever been down Islington’s Fife terrace?). Whether the fruit will be as succulent as that coming from the deep south of Europe is another matter of course…

Plant you own little olive tree and wait and see. The olive is a sacred tree redolent of peace and harmony and everything that can be said to be positive in our disquieting human nature.

Autumnal Cat-Walk

Cats love walking and wandering. Tiny video cams placed on felines have shown how long distances even urban cats will walk. Stories of cats travelling hundreds of miles to reach their original homes are legion. One of the most amazing is that of Jessie the Australian cat. When her ‘owners’ (I use quotes because it’s actually cats who are the real owners) relocated from Ungarra on the South Australia coast to Darwin in  the Northern Territory in 2011 they thought Jessie had settled in well in her new home. That is until she disappeared and was found again back in her old home in Ungarra some months later! That’s a distance of over two thousand miles she’d cat-walked!

It’s therefore quite natural for cats to love walking with their servants. Here in Longoio it’s pure heaven for the feline breed since I can choose footpaths that run through miles of woodland without any trafficable roads. True, there are some bigger animals like boars and foxes lurking in the forest but a cat’s talons and intelligence can defend it from such predators.

A favourite walk I do with my cats is a six-mile one which takes one from our  village to a place called ‘la fredda’ and thence to a trail which used to run all the way to the oratory of Sant’Anna near Pieve di Monti di Villa but which has been disrupted for some time by a landfall.

I did this walk again last Tuesday, for which walk repeatedly done is ever the same? The seasons see to the changing colours, the different fragrances, and the varying landscape appearance so that the walk is never the same.

Napoleon slept it off at home. After all he’s well over fifty in cat years and likes his post-prandial nap.

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Carlotta, however, is in her twenties and Cheekie (the one with the smudgy face) is a rampant teenager and they quickly joined me for a walk.

One just walks and my twosome on this occasion had plenty to do. They stalk each other in the long grass, peer over the edge of rocky waterfalls, sharpen their claws against tree trunks, climb up beeches, sniff at whoever or whatever has come before them on the path, chase fallen leaves and at the resting point in the walk flake out (like me) only to wake me up and tell me it’s time to get home and have some tea (cat-tea, of course, that is with cat biscuits and pâté).

Do Carlotta and Cheekie realise how lucky they are? This area is truly their feline natural habitat. They become like miniature lions (which they are, of course) and the grass becomes their savannah where they look, listen, stalk, sniff or just relax in the beautiful autumnal sun we’ve been having.

Probably they don’t realise how lucky they are but my cats make me realise how lucky I am to be where I am and to walk the lonely paths with them. I’ve experienced walking with a dog for a very long distance over high mountains (it was the Himalayas in fact) in earlier years.

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When Dolma, a Lhasa Apso, died prematurely because of a stupid error caused by someone who was actually close to me I completely broke down. The experience has stayed with me as an impairment on my consciousness ever since. I feel I am physically unable to cope with the death of a dog because the link between dog and man is somehow rather closer. As I wrote about her:

What death equates with unsaid testament

of lucid eyes and golden fur’s extent?

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What I love about walking with my cats, however, is their independence and also perhaps the knowledge that they trust me to take them to places which are safe just because I’m there with them. I hope that’s true.

Enough of this. Let’s enjoy some pictures taken of Tuesday’s walk with Carlotta and Cheekie.

Beating Brexit with Food

That six-letter word starting with B, ending in T and with an X in the middle has clearly made inroads into many expats’ disposable income in various parts of the European Community.

In Bagni di Lucca there has been very roughly a 15 to 25 per cent reduction in the spending income of most people due largely to exchange rates between Sterling and Euro. (I’m not going to add the shocking increases in Rubbish tax – actually most taxes in my opinion are rubbish – and the water bill.)

Rather than moaning about it all there are, in my opinion positive actions to take to reduce the pain in one’s purse. I’ll concentrate just on food this time.

  1. Shopping for food. It’s of course possible to grow much of one’s own and, frankly, scrumping among abandoned fruit trees is as acceptable as blackberry-picking. It’s also worth using discount stores with own-brand names.
  1. The other day I was amazed at noting that the price difference between famous brand names in non-discounts and own-brand in discounts was as much as 40% in favour of discounts. Italy appears to have the greatest price differential of any products in relation to many other European countries. One might think that the difference in quality between expensive cat food in a non-discount store and an own-brand name cat food in a discount might be noticeable. Laboratory tests have, in fact shown, that usually own-brand names are of an equal quality. I am at this moment testing how effective lab tests are on my three cats and so far have noted that for them texture of food is often more important that brand name. Napoleon goes in for paté-based cat food and Carlotta and Cheekie rave for gelatinous sachets.
  1. It’s Italian law, in keeping with avoiding food waste, that when you buy a meal in a restaurant and can’t finish it you can ask what in the UK is known as a ‘doggy bag’ but what in Italy is known more accurately as a ‘family bag.’ (After all how much of that delicious arrosto really gets to the dog?). The problem is that many Italian families think that it’s shameful to ask for a family bag. Nothing of the sort! You’ve paid for all your food whether you’ve eaten it or not. Families with American origins are much more forthright in asking for left-over food to be packaged for them. If any restaurant refuses to give you a doggy bag then avoid them for they are truly breaking Italian law, no matter how ‘high-class’ they are.
  1. Income spent on food. It’s been worked out that an Italian  family with two children spends around euros 8,000 on food, that couples spend 6,000 and that singles spend 4,000. It’s also been calculated that with wise shopping i.e. discount stores, own, brand, loyalty cards and special discounts these figures could be reduced by at least 30 to 40 %!

If there’s a will there’s a way. Beat the bloody Brexit effect on your income by trying these shopping tips if you don’t already do so.

I could go on about clothes but women are much dabber hands about this than men. I just head for Primark when I’m in the UK (although there are real moral qualms about the far-eastern sweat shops where so many of their products are made).

There’s another test to be done on food – at least cat food in my case. Here are some examples of my cats enjoying a four-mile walk on discount own-brand cat food. Would they fare any better with expensive ‘superior’ brand cat food from non-discounts I wonder?  I’ll let you know the results of that test in due course.