Wednesday 28 September 2011

Cat Burglar

My house is a total mess and it is all Mrs PM’s fault.

Ever since we moved into our current house, she has had plans to shape it into her ideal home. In the past few years it has become a total money pit, sucking all of my available cash, cash that I would and perhaps should have spent on essentials such as holidays, books, gadgets, CDs etc.

At first I agreed with her totally because our house was initially a mess. Our bedroom was so dark it looked like the bat cave; the walls were dark avocado green and the previous occupants had replaced all bulbs with the lowest wattage possible. Our lounge was straight out of the 70’s with cladding on the wall and the rest of the house was rather strangely decorated. The carpets were about twenty years old and the previous carpets had been used as underlay. Every room was covered in woodchip glued to even older wallpaper underneath and repainted numerous times.

Now after some building work and lots of cash we have had a new kitchen, knocked down a wall, replastered almost everywhere, had a new bathroom, new front door, new doors throughout the house and redecorated almost everything.

We have spent a fortune.

Finally we are in the midst of having the hall, stairs and landing replastered, having had the last of the woodchip removed (along with half the wall). We are currently waiting for the plaster to dry so that we can paint and decorate and get a new carpet.

There is dust everywhere, particularly on the cats who are spreading it throughout the house.

All of this upheaval is not a great thing for our new cat, Liquorice. She is still at odds with the other cats and, driven outside by a strange man plastering our house, and has met next door’s dog, with disastrous consequences resulting in yet more of my hard earned cash being handed over to the vet.

The good news is that she is absolutely fine but is ever so slightly nervous and has taken out her frustration on my hand and other body parts. How dare the vet inject her with anti-inflammatory medication and antibiotics. How dare the vet give her worming tablets, take her temperature and administer flea repellent.

Somebody had to pay – me!

Handing over money to the vet in full view of the cat was a mistake because she now definitely blames me for everything. She started her revenge by pissing in my car on the way back from the vet and then scratching me when I offered her food.

“Why stop there?” she thought. “I will scare the living daylights out of him.”

“How can she do that?” I hear you cry.

Let me explain.

She can jump, that’s how.

When we first moved into our house and acquired the other two cats, Jasper and Poppy, we had to get the burglar alarm serviced and adjusted to cope with the furtive movements of our felines. And it has been fine, with one or two exceptions.

Sadly Liquorice is a jumper who prefers to sleep in high places, like the top of our wardrobe, the top of the kitchen units, bookshelves and anywhere above head height.

The burglar alarm isn’t used to this and has expressed its wrath several times – all of them in the middle of the night.

The first time it happened, I awoke in a state of dumbfounded shock and ran out of the bedroom screaming and waving my fists in the air like a demented boxer. It was an instinctive reaction; it was a courageous reaction; it was a bloody stupid reaction.

What on Earth was I thinking? I might have encountered a mad axe-wielding maniac.

If I had been awake when the alarm had gone off I would have peered outside the bedroom door, prepared to barricade myself in the bedroom and call the police.

Sadly, because I was deep in slumber I ran out of the room with thinking of the consequences, armed only with my scary hair, a weird aggressive posture that resembled a mad orang-utan defending his banana and a torrent of gibberish being hurled out of my mouth aimed in no general direction.

And of course, because the hall stairs and landing are being decorated, I pelted out barefoot on decrepit floorboards full of splinter and plaster dust. Thankfully, Liquorice hadn’t the presence of mind to leave a deposit outside the door – but she could have.

There was of course no burglar – just a sniggering cat.

She got me four times that night and three times the following night.

Our neighbours hate us. Our neighbour’s dog hates us (which I’m not too bothered about – and neither is Liquorice).

The last time it happened I was genuinely angry.

I raced down the stairs.

WILL YOU STOP SETTING OFF THE EFFING ALARM YOU LITTLE BASKET (bad words replaced for those easily offended).

If there had been a burglar there he might actually have fled, such was my wrath.

Mrs PM has come to the rescue and reprogrammed the burglar alarm. Unfortunately she has actually forgotten the new settings and set it off herself a couple of times.

But now, thankfully all is peaceful again. Liquorice has forgiven me and I have forgiven her. We are mates again and she is only biting me when I deserve it.

I haven’t told her that she has an appointment with the vet next week for her annual jabs.

It’s OK – I’ll tell her it's Mrs PM's fault.

Saturday 24 September 2011

The Plastic Mancunian Replies

I must admit that I didn’t expect much of a response to my previous post (Ask the Plastic Mancunian) though I was pleasantly surprised by the number of questions that popped up in my comment box.

Without further ado, here are my responses in the order received. I hope you are not disappointed with my answers. I apologise in advance if you are.

Also this is quite a long post – so take a deep breath and dive right in:

(1) What is the most risky thing you have done and was it worth it? (From Elephant’s Child):

I do not like taking risks. Mrs PM says that my reluctance to take a chance is driven by the stars (yet another Libran trait). I think this is utter nonsense. I like to make sure that I take the best option by using my head rather than my heart. To do this, I hurl the potential risk into the quagmire that is my brain and throw it about it weighing up the pros and cons until I can be absolutely certain that I am doing the right thing.

So what is the riskiest thing I have done? I would say visiting China in 1999 just weeks after NATO accidentally bombed the Chinese Embassy in the former Yugoslavia – by mistake. It was risky because initially the Foreign Office warned people not to go. Several other factors contributed: Mrs PM and I were working in Hong Kong at the time and my Chinese colleagues warned us not to go; we were on a limited budget; we only had a vague plan; I was terrified. In the end, Mrs PM, a far more adventurous soul, persuaded me to go and it was one of the most satisfying and memorable two weeks of my life. Was it worth it? Absolutely. And I have been back there with work – twice!

(2) If you knew then what you know now, would you still do it the way you did it? (From River):

The answer is yes – and no. There are certain things I would change, particularly in my youth. For example I would have learned to play the guitar and stuck at it. I would have focussed on learning a couple of languages as a child instead of struggling now to learn Spanish. I would have switched my career away from IT and into some form of writing and had computing as the hobby instead. Nevertheless I reckon my path through life would have been similar and I would definitely have avoided some of the more challenging and difficult situations I found myself in. Sadly, I have no doubt that I would invariably still make the same or similar mistakes.

(3) If you could leave your sons three bits of advice, what would that advice be? (From Pandora):

Just three, Pand? I am always offering advice to my lads. Here are three that immediately leap to mind.

(a) Make sure that you don’t rush into marriage. Be absolutely certain that she is the one and that you really do want to spend the rest of your life with her.

(b) See as much of the world as you possibly can. Travel at every opportunity. Travel is good for the soul and opens up all sorts of new horizons.

(c) By all means follow your heart but let your mind arbitrate.

(4) Why do men have breasts? (From Kath ):

The scientific answer is that there is a woman in all of us. We all start off as women and for the lucky ones (or unlucky depending on your viewpoint), testosterone kicks in and some of become men. Sadly, nipples are present before this happens so men are stuck with them. And of course as men get older moobs develop which is probably nature’s way of curing loneliness in old men.

(5) Why don’t chickens have lips? (Also from Kath):

Again the scientific answer is that they have developed beaks because of their revolting taste in food (worms and the like). To help me answer this I actually looked at a couple of Foghorn Leghorn clips and watched as he spoke. It’s amazing how can pronounce words like “Foghorn” without the aid of lips. Maybe they have got lips after all – we just can’t see them.

(6) What is the worst thing you have ever done? (From Mind of Mine):

Is this retaliation for my question to you? Only kidding. The worst thing I have ever done probably occurred during my divorce. I can’t put my finger on exactly what it was but both me and my ex-wife, W, were at each others’ throats and things kind of escalated. It was a torrid time for both of us and, in her eyes, actually leaving her was the worst thing I could ever do. She certainly got her own back. It was a time of bitterness and recrimination and we both sank to depths of nastiness. Thankfully we kept the kids at heart and over the intervening years (thirteen or so) we have brushed things aside and focussed our attention on the boys. And now? We are actually very civil to each other – in retrospect we really should have been just friends – hence my advice for the boys above. W simply was not the one – and I doubt that I was either.

(7) The human navel is a truly wonderful thing – but is it visible on any other animal? (From Polly):

I own three cats and to answer this question I picked up the nearest moggy to examine it. Sadly, it was our new cat, Liquorice who has redefined the word “vicious”. If you look up the word “vicious” in the Oxford English Dictionary you now find the definition “Plastic Mancunian’s mad new cat.”. Suffice it to say the only answer I got was written in blood – my blood. Thankfully, my big fat lazy cat, Jasper, allowed me to roll over his massive bulk and have a look without adding to my injuries. And he does have a navel but it is hidden under tons of thick black fur. So in effect it is invisible. So to answer your question – yes it is visible but only if you shave the animal. And I guess you can probably see an elephant’s navel (it has one because it is a mammal – and a whale I reckon too. I’m rambling now.

(8) When was the happiest period of your life? (from drb):

They say schooldays are the happiest days of your life but in my case they weren’t. It was just afterwards when I went to Liverpool University. So many things happened during those three years that it is hard to put my finger on exactly what was brilliant. I went into that period a spotty young dipstick and came out of it a young man with a plan and a degree. I am fiercely nostalgic for my time there and whenever I hear songs from that period of my life I recall the parties, the friends, the studying, the travelling and the fabulous feeling of starting out onto a scary and unknown future. I wish I was that youngster again. My eldest son has just this week started university in Newcastle and I am so envious – and so happy for him.

(9) What is the secret of a happy marriage? (also from drb):

Having failed in my attempt to exist in a happy marriage, I can only call upon my life with Mrs PM since the divorce. In retrospect, my ex-wife and I were too dissimilar and it caused friction between us. I said above that we should have stayed friends and I stick with that. That way we could have walked away from each other and spent time apart. It shows now because as I said we are getting on reasonably well despite everything. Mrs PM on the other hand is a completely different woman who is totally on my wavelength. We have differences of opinion (her musical taste is absolutely dreadful) but she fascinates and enthrals me. I have been with her now for thirteen years (I was married for ten years). We talk to each other, listen to each others’ problems and comfort each other – as well as having an absolute laugh together. She is far more intelligent than I am (despite being with me and liking Lady Ga Ga) and we tolerate each others’ foibles (despite her thinking that I am a tone deaf arsehole with no musical taste whatsoever).

(10) Do you think it is harder to be a woman or a man (also from drb):

That’s easy – it is MUCH harder to be a woman. Being a man is easy – we know what we like, we tell people what we are thinking and our lives are driven by simple things such as sport, music, football and sex. The big problem for women is that hormones can change the sweetest cuddliest princess into a crazed whirling mad creature – usually once a month. It’s not just that though. Buying clothes for a woman is an absolute nightmare. How do you do it, ladies? I’ve posted about this on a couple of occasions so I know what I am talking about (I think). Why for example is a size 10 dress in one shop larger than a size 14 in another or even the SAME shop? And what about make-up? Applying make-up every single day must be an absolute nightmare. And the less said about pregnancy the better. I had better stop here in case I become the target for hormonally charged women. I feel another blog post coming on.

(11) Why do English men hate oysters? (you’re on a roll, drb):

That’s another easy one – because oysters are not meant to be eaten by humans. They taste utterly revolting and the feeling of them “sliding” down your throat is enough to make even the most courageous man want to throw up. And people think they are an aphrodisiac? Cripes – I think if a woman tried to seduce me with oysters she had better be able to stomach the smell of vomit.

(12) If money is no object will you travel to the moon? (keep them coming, drb):

No – because there’s no atmosphere (boom boom)! I’m here all week! Seriously though I think the answer really is “no” because it is too risky and I am risk averse as I explained above. The danger is a little more obvious. I might consider going when they build a moonbase and invent Star Trek style transporter – but then I would have to consider the ramifications of having my molecules scattered and rebuilt across a massive distance – so the answer even then would still probably be “no”.

(13) Why Plastic? (from Anji):

Because I am not a real Mancunian, Anji. I was born in a town just north of Birmingham called Walsall and I consider myself to be an honorary Mancunian, i.e. a Plastic Mancunian. That said, I have actually lived in Manchester for almost 28 years (compared to almost 19 in Walsall) so I am more Mancunian than Walsallian (if such a word exists). I have to say that I really do love Manchester and the only place that could entice me away is Hong Kong.

(14) How would you make the best egg and bacon breakfast? (drb strikes again):

I can make a fabulous full English breakfast, drb. You need more than just bacon and eggs. You need proper British bangers (sausages), mushrooms and toast. Beans, tomatoes and black pudding are optional but I draw the line at things Americans add like hash browns. Here are some tips from me. Get you sausages from the butcher – where you can buy some terrific bangers. The bacon has to be thickly cut otherwise it shrinks and shrivels to nothing. Don’t fry your eggs on heat that is too high – and sunny side up is best (yet another Americanism I am not keen on). Top it all off with some HP sauce and a couple of slices of toast and you have the perfect breakfast – and of course don’t forget the obligatory cup of strong tea.

(15) Can you avoid mid-life crisis? (the final question – again from drb):

I’m not sure whether I have a mid-life crisis yet or not. I think it is supposed to occur when you realise that you have not made your mark on the world and that time is running out. I am a naturally optimistic person and the majority of my life is currently happy. So if there is a mid-life crisis to come there are no signs. The question I have to ask myself though is “Have I made my mark on the world?”. Well I have two fantastic and clever lads and people worldwide read this blog (by accident but they do). I still have aims and ambitions that I can achieve in the time that is left and I have a good woman at my side and three mad cats. So life is peachy. On the other hand if your look on life is pessimistic, I think that a mid-life crisis is inevitable. I have seen it in people who are younger than me. I aim to avoid it for as long as possible – I’ll tell you for sure in about forty years’ time.

Well, that’s it, dear reader. A mammoth post spawned from a fantastic set of questions. I might do this again in future.

Friday 16 September 2011

Ask The Plastic Mancunian

I have decided to write a dangerous and experimental post.

I want you, dear reader, to ask me any question (courtesy of a comment) and I will do my best to answer it in my next post.

Think of it as a living meme – though I would rather you didn’t ask me a meme-style question like “What’s your favourite colour?”

This idea is being shamelessly stolen from fellow Manchester blogger Mind of Mine who did something similar (by the way MoM, if you are reading this I wasn’t at all offended by your answer to my question). Other bloggers have done the same.

Your first question might be “Why is that a dangerous thing to do?”

Here's why ...

(1) You might think “Why on earth would I want to ask you anything at all you stupid arse?” and totally ignore the post.

(2) You might actually know me and ask me a deeply personal question, the answer to which may come back to haunt me for years to come.

(3) You might be a troll and hurl all manner of nasty abuse from behind the safety of your anonymous fa├žade.

(4) I may offend you with the answer.

Deep down, I hope I don’t get any questions – that way I don’t have to answer any questions. I shall simply consider it a failed experiment and move on.

If you do know me, and post anonymously, I shall probably work out who you are from the nature of the question – so be warned – I have embarrassing stories about most people I know.

If you are a troll, then your question will be ignored – though I may make an example of you.

If I offend you with my answer, I apologise in advance.

Apart from that, I shall try to answer truthfully and honestly in my next post, providing I get enough interesting questions.

Of course, if I don’t get ANY questions I will seek solace in a pint of beer and thank my lucky stars that the experiment failed miserably.

It's up to you, dear reader ...

Monday 12 September 2011

Living With Captain Paranoia

Captain Paranoia really annoys me. He has been my nemesis ever since I can remember. I try not to listen to him but sometimes he catches me off guard and cackles, like the nasty little imp he is, when I fall for his lies

Over the years, he has lied to me, put me down and verbally abused me in order to shatter my already fragile self-esteem.

Here are some of the things he has told me over the years.

There is a hidden camera behind every mirror. Whenever you pull funny faces or admire yourself, the horrific images are transferred to YouTube and laughed at by billions of people worldwide.

You’re going through the green channel are you? The customs men there are putting on rubber gloves – just for you.

Women are scared of you  - they think you look like a crazed monkey

Your cats hate you.

Don’t go abroad – you will catch a horrible disease.

Redundancy at work? You remember that manager you swore at? He is the one deciding who gets the sack.

Can you hear those weird noises your car is making? I think that’s the brakes failing.

Yes – those people ARE talking about you.

Nobody really likes you. Your so-called “friends” just feel sorry for you.

Do you know how many women you groped at the party last night? That woman you fancy knows and now she hates you even more. Besides, she hates people who get drunk.

This rollercoaster will fall apart just as you are at the highest point.

They’re not laughing with you; they are laughing AT you.

It doesn’t matter how much deodorant you put on, you will still stink.

Did you lock the door this morning?

Women think you look like a mad scientist.

You know that bird flu they were talking about on the news? You’ve got it.

The person who used the loo before you has a nasty little disease – and you will catch it.

Your trousers have split.

This plane will crash.

If you ask that question they will think you are stupid.

They can see you on the toilet.

Have you locked the car?

That noise downstairs is a psychopathic alien axe murderer – and it’s coming upstairs.

Women think you look like a pencil troll.

It doesn’t matter that you were invited. They only did it out of pity.

They have installed CCTV at work and all of your rants are beamed live to the Managing Director.

People who wear glasses never get girlfriends.

This blog post will offend everybody who reads it.

Most of the time I ignore the little bugger; this is particularly true in recent years. I have to otherwise I would sit there in front of the telly not doing anything, not speaking to anybody and not going anywhere.

I love life too much to allow myself to be held back by paranoid thoughts. I have to confess that it hasn’t always been that way; I have had to be very brave to overcome some of the hurdles he has tried to put in front of me. Sometimes he has been right, of course, but I regard those episodes as character building.

You can learn from your mistakes and I have made so many in my life that I deserve some kind of reward, I reckon.

Besides, my theory is that as you grow older, you care less about what people think and gain more common sense. If somebody openly laughs at me in public I ignore them – or join in. Why not?

Here’s my advice:

Talk to strangers – you may make a new friend. If they don’t like you, so what?

If your mates take the mickey, join in. They are your mates after all.

If somebody dislikes you – it’s their loss – not yours.

If you feel guilty going through customs you will almost certainly LOOK guilty too.

Take a chance; places like Thailand are wonderful despite the fact you need to have numerous jabs to go there.

And Japan? Captain Paranoia tells me that there will be another earthquake and nuclear meltdown – but I am still aiming to go there in 2013.

And yes – you almost certainly HAVE locked the house... AND the car.

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Hey Fatty Bum Bum

I am not obese – but I could be in the year 2030.

Experts have been hurling statistics at us again, this time terrifying the population of the United Kingdom with the horrific news that 40% of all people will be obese by the year 2030.

Think about that for a second; four out of every ten people living in the United Kingdom will be obese.

They won’t just be slightly overweight.

They won’t just be overweight.

They won’t be “pleasantly plump”.

They will be obese – they will be walking barrels of blubber – they will make elephants look skinny.

I can’t decide whether these experts who have come up with these figures have made a mistake or whether they are basing their figures on current trends.

Either way, it is enough to make a Daily Mail reader run around screaming “We’re all going to die,” or a Daily Express reader run around screaming “Where’s Princess Diana when you need her?”

When I heard this, I was intrigued. What does “obese” actually mean?

I have taken a risk looking this up because I am a bit of a hypochondriac (you can read about it here) and to look up the medical definition may involve accidentally spotting symptoms for an awful disease.

Thankfully I came across a BMI calculator and decided to work out just how fat I actually am.

I am 5 feet 11 inches tall and I weigh 13 stones 6 pounds (188 pounds). This gives me a BMI of 25.8 which is (as I already knew) slightly overweight.

Thankfully it is not massively overweight and I can reach a healthy BMI (24.9) if I lose 7 pounds.

If I were to suddenly decide to eat utter junk, on the other hand, I would reach obesity by increasing my weight to 15 stones 10 pounds (220 pounds) and attaining a BMI of 30.

Losing 7 pounds seems to be a good target to aim for and achievable for somebody like me. Gaining 31 pounds seems like madness but with a little effort it is not beyond the realms of possibility should I suddenly become possessed by an insane urge to swell my gut so big that I lose sight of my genitalia.

The problem is that it is easier to gain weight than lose weight and with all the cheap junk food available in Britain at the moment, I can see why experts are becoming concerned.

Mrs PM is very conscious of her weight and she nestles nicely in the “normal” BMI range. She is careful what she eats and, consequently, I am too by association. We eat a varied but healthy diet, punctuated by the odd mad over-indulgence, usually at the weekend and usually involving (in my case) bacon, sausage, cheese and beer.

Abstaining from such foodstuffs would see my weight drop and I have the willpower to do that (providing I can fight the urge to kill people at work and eat comfort food to console myself).

Sadly there are people who seem not to care; and I can see how experts think we are drifting towards the obesity levels of the United States. We are already the fattest nation in Europe, according to some reports.

I have seen some enormous people in my time. On a business trip to Atlanta in the US, I decided to go for a walk around the city centre and spied an enormous beast of a man. He was huge. Each leg was like a tree trunk swathed in blubber; people like that should not be allowed to wear shorts by law. His T-shirt was so big it could have housed a family of rhinos. His face was so podgy that I could barely see his eyes.

And guess what? He was eating an enormous burger.

I wondered how somebody could grow that big and then I had, what I thought, was a small lunch. There was enough food to feed a family of six and I had to leave most of it.

Back in the UK, restaurants don’t tend to serve enormous portions of food. But junk food is ubiquitous with KFC, Burger King, McDonald’s etc. on every corner. 

And the worst food is quite cheap. Supermarkets sell pizzas for next to nothing. It is cheaper to buy junk food than good food.

Take last week for example. It was my turn to do the weekly shop and I found myself at the checkout behind a reasonably large lady; she wasn’t fat but she wasn’t thin at all. In her shopping trolley she had cakes, chocolates, pizzas and all manner of food that might transport her and her family safely down the road to Plump City. She may have heard the news about obesity because it looked like she was taking steps – she had bought a load of low fat yoghurts.

I wondered about that. Why not just put back the cakes and chocolate and buy some fruit? Why not pop back the pizzas and buy some fish and some vegetables?

Perhaps she was just making a start.

After all, every little helps, so they say.

My immediate aim, knowing that I am fairly close to achieving a normal BMI is to grab my willpower and cut the crap for a week or two or three.

Sadly, given my plans for September, that might not be so easy – but if I cut down on cakes, chocolate, burgers, pizza, deep fried chicken and chips I might stand a chance. It’s just a shame I don’t normally eat any of them.

Oh well, bye bye bacon, sayonara sausages and ciao cheese – at least for a week or two.

Beer? That too – maybe*

*The Plastic Mancunian reserves the right to tell lies!

Saturday 3 September 2011

Cat Wars and a Dead Router

My online presence has been rather subdued for the past ten days because my router decided to expire. Trying to convince my ISP that the router was at fault has proved to be difficult, despite the fact that both Mrs PM and I both work in IT and suspected the problem from day one.

Finally, last Monday, having performed many tests and "escalated” the problem, my ISP finally admitted that the router was the problem and sent me a new one. Of course, the Royal Mail then played its part and I only received my new router this morning.

But now I’m back, dear reader.

I can read blogs that I have missed. To be fair, I could have read them on my Smartphone but my mobile internet is so painfully slow that I have to seriously resist the temptation to hurl it against the wall. Also, my fading eyesight means that I struggle to read it on the small screen.

Of course I could have accessed the internet at work – and to be fair I did. The problem is that my company has decided that we can’t view personal emails at work and has banned access to Yahoo and Googlemail as well as other stuff like Facebook.

To add to the frustration I was recently offered a cut price online beginner’s course in Spanish and, having recently been to Spain, I decided to take advantage of it. Sadly, because of the lack of internet I have been unable to use it. I have, however, managed to use a couple of mobile applications to keep me going.

Thankfully all that frustration is over and I am back, dear reader.

To be honest, losing broadband has been like losing a limb and I have been asking myself dumb questions like “How on earth did I survive without the internet?”

The one good thing about not having internet is that I have been unable to be on call with work. Support relies on my being able to access systems in other countries from the comfort of my own home and I have not missed being able to relax without the fear of a phone call in the middle of the night.

Sadly, now that I have internet access again, I am back on call.

Oh well, you can’t win them all.

I have had other things to occupy my mind without the internet to keep me busy. The main thing is acting as a diplomatic mediator in a major – and I mean MAJOR – conflict in our very own house.

As you may know, we now have a new cat called Liquorice and she has upset the balance of power in the feline territory within our home.

The good news is that she has taken rather a shine to me, rather than Mrs PM, and she comes to me whenever I call her, as long as the other two cats aren’t in the vicinity. She purrs and rubs up against my leg and only scratches and bites when I deserve it (i.e. when I touch her unexpectedly or breathe the wrong way). I think I have sussed out when she will attack. She has a look in her eyes that basically says “Touch me and it will be the last thing you ever do with your hand!”

Also, if she is spooked she will attack anything within six inches of her.

Jasper is the alpha cat and treats Liquorice as if she is plankton. He watches her when she hisses at him but totally ignores her. She runs away rather than standing up to him.

Our other cat, Poppy – you know, the timid female who is scared of her own shadow – has revealed a facet of her personality that I didn’t know existed. Poppy and Liquorice are in the midst of a major power struggle and there have been a few clashes, dear reader. Poppy has launched attacks at Liquorice who has retaliated. Mostly, thankfully, they have just been hissy fits.

Most of these skirmishes have occurred in the middle of the night in or around our bedroom, waking me up in the process.

During the day, the cats retire to their favourite places and sleep; it is at night that they prowl the house and howl and spit at each other.

Thankfully, the feline fights are reducing in number and now that Liquorice has been outside, she now has another refuge. So the cat wars might be abating, finally.

I have to tell you about one skirmish though.

I came home from work on Thursday and walked into the kitchen. The floor just in front of the cat flap was covered in clumps of cat fur. To make matters worse, there were traces of blood on the cat flap itself.

“Oh shit,” I said before searching the house for the casualties of what must have been a vicious fight.

The first cat to appear was Poppy. I knew that the major battles had involved our scared little cat so I put some food out for her so that I could inspect her for signs of damage. There was none. There were no clumps of fur missing and no sign of scratches or bites.

“Oh no,” I thought. “Liqourice!”

I ran upstairs calling her and, sure enough, I heard her leap down from the wardrobe. She trotted out to see me. I kneeled down, wary that she might be in a savage mood and prepared to rip off one of my fingers.

She meowed and rubbed herself against my knee and allowed me to stroke her. And again there was no sign of injury and all of her fur was intact.

I found Jasper in the lounge and it soon became clear who had been involved in the fight. He looked fine but I noticed a clump of fur missing. What’s more, he had a lump of white fur attached to his neck.

I returned to the kitchen and took a closer look – the fur was black and white. It was then that I remembered the big black and white cat I had seen prowling around our garden. The cat lives three doors away and I have seen both Jasper and Poppy growling at him. He must have tried to infiltrate Jasper’s territory and been attacked by Jasper.

I told Mrs PM and she examined “her big boy” (not me you understand). There were a couple of minor cuts but it appears that the black and white invader came off worst.

And because Mrs PM loves cats, she is now worried that the invader might be really injured.

I reckon he’s alright and I think he will probably not venture into our house again. Besides, he’s had one rather nasty haircut at the hands of Jasper – I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want another.

I’m just hope that our three cats get along – and I think they are getting there. Liquorice is certainly allowing the other two to get closer before mutating into a hissing ball of fury.

And me? I have all of my limbs intact – despite losing my beloved internet for ten days.