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I am Fluffy ... A Kitten's Guide to Nigerian Tuna Spam Jan. 22nd, 2007 @ 11:37 am
Lagos Cat Pound,

Dear Friend,

I am Fluffy, the favourite kitten of the late president of Nigeria. As you know my late master was very very rich man and he left me all his tuna. But, as kitten, I not allowed to have fridge of my own.

My good friend, there are many many fishes and without more fridges tuna go bad. I eat as many as I can but I small kitten and much sick. So I write you, my very good friend, as your name well known in Nigeria as godly person with many fridges.

If you help store my tuna I give you 20% (TWENTY AMERICAN PER CENTS) of each fish - including heads.

Please be writing back soon. Weather hot and there are many bad cats looking with the eyes at my fishes.

Your good friend,


Kittens Reunited: A Kitten's Guide to Tracing Long Lost Friends Jan. 17th, 2007 @ 01:47 pm
This week's Kitten's Guide looks at keeping in touch. Do you remember this:

Xena and Kai do. These were the five orange tribbles that we found abandoned on the roadside and brought home with us. But what happened to them after they were re-homed?

Luckily Xena is a keyboard literate kitten (unlike Kai, who thinks he is but tends to type in Polish and look for sites called www.qdsjjdgkczwxyhglfjkl.cxz) So, yesterday when Xena was trawling the InterPet (see below) she discovered Kittens Reunited, a site dedicated to finding long lost friends and tribbles.

And guess who was listed? Target. The tribble with the prominent white circles in his fur. He's the foremost tribble in the top picture. And here he is now, three months later, opening the door:

And here he is again relaxing after what looks like a large meal.

Just to show he's not really fat, here he is looking very lithe as he demonstrates a tribble's guide to sneaking up on humans.

And finally here he is rubbing up against his new human. Note the clever distraction manoeuvre so his tail can sample the contents of the coffee cup - you never know where milk may lurk - with a quick dunk while the human's attention is elsewhere.

News Roundup Jan. 16th, 2007 @ 09:59 am
Tribble Alert! A certain tribble, whose name I can't reveal until tomorrow (for cliffhanger reasons:) has been contacted and photographed. Story and pictures will appear in tomorrow's Kitten's Guide.

Garden news: a rabbit (hopefully not one of the large German variety) is working its way through our Spring cabbage. We tried covering them with flowerpots - the cabbages not the rabbits - and that worked. When we remembered to do it. Covering and uncovering cabbages every dusk and dawn for three months is an easy task to forget - especially when it's pouring down with rain.

Sheep news: Scrappy Ewe is back with the flock after three days in the stable resting her leg. She started limping last week and we brought her in to have a better look. She's still not completely sound but part of that was her fault - trying to climb over the stable door to get back to her friends. Animals do not know the meaning of 'it's for your own good.'

Lambing News: Lambing should start around March 12th. And, yes, we will be setting up the LambCam again. So update your diaries - baby lamb pictures from mid-March.

Software news: I received my Dragon Naturally Speaking Speech Recognition software yesterday so sometime this week I'm going to install it and give it a go. Should be interesting. I suffer from Pirate's syndrome - the more I listen to my voice, the more I notice the West Country twang and before I know it I've broken out into broad Pirate.

Oo, aarrr, me 'ansome, open thy files.

Helping Out Around The House: A Kitten's Guide Jan. 10th, 2007 @ 10:59 am
This week's Kitten's Guide looks at housework and the many ways that only a kitten can help.

First up we have Kai demonstrating the kitten-approved method of sorting through the shopping. There are many dangerous foodstuffs that humans appear unaware of. Fish, meat, milk, little bitey snacks - all have very short shelf lives and should be consumed immediately.

Next we have Kai helping to put the milk away. Strangely, the human seems to think that Kai's trying to pull the milk out of his hand. But that's humans for you. Always suspicious.

Xena, with an excellent view of the incident, explains that Kai's claws may have held on to the milk for slightly longer than normal - but that was only because he was reading the sell-by date on the carton.

Next we show the manufacturer's recommended method for defrosting a fridge.

All the contents must be carefully investigated before removal - to do otherwise would be anarchy. Sampling is allowed - if the day has a Y in it.

And, finally, we have Xena showing that, when it comes to bath time, it's up to the older kittens to help wash the younger ones.

Festive Overindulgence: A Kitten's Guide to Weight Watching over the Holiday Period Jan. 3rd, 2007 @ 10:59 am
The holiday period over, even a kitten must weigh up the consequences. That extra mouse for breakfast, the plum and vole pudding, the Christmas sparrow. All add inches to the waistline. And that bowl that used to accommodate three tribbles with ease ... bulges under the weight of two stuffed kittens.

And just to prove that it's never too early to start weight training here we have four tribbles being lectured on the subject earlier in the year. A very fat cat - from Munchers Anonymous and therefore blacked out from the picture - warns the tribbles about the dangers of overindulgence. A mouse on the lips is worth an inch on the hips.

One tribble, who was missing from the original lecture (there were of course five tribbles), learns the 'mouse on the lips' rule the hard way. 'I can't weigh that much,' he complains. But of course he can. The scales - except for mine - never lie.

And, while on the subject of festive overindulgence, remember that overindulgence doesn't just apply to eating. Fighting, always a problem at large family gatherings, should be kept to the minimum. Fighting on a full stomach, especially if it's not yours, is frowned upon in polite company. Below Xena and Kai demonstrate the 'Who me?' defence when accused of fighting - with aggravated growling and, I believe, some spitting - in public.

Note to all kittens: the 'who me?' defence has never worked. As can be seen by the worried, and distinctly guilty, look in Xena's eye.

The Art of Camouflage: A Kitten's Guide Dec. 14th, 2006 @ 09:43 am
Following on from last week's Kitten's Guide to self-defence, this week Xena and Kai demonstrate the how's and how-not-to's of successful kitten camouflage. No prizes for guessing who's doing the how-not-to's.

First up we have Xena showing the subtle use of cover and shadow.

Note how she uses the grey of the stone and gravel to further enhance her hiding place. And also how easy it is to spot orange tribbles once they break cover.

Kai demonstrates the popular but flawed 'if I can't see you then you can't see me' theory of camouflage.

Many kittens swear by this technique and every one of them gets caught. Tails are a particular problem. Even the kittens who manage to conceal the bulk of their body have a tendency to spoil everything by leaving a long length of furry tail protruding, and sometimes flicking, from their hiding place.

Next, Kai demonstrates a modified version of the ''if I can't see you then you can't see me' technique. This is the 'I still can't see you and even if you could see me you'd think I was a Wellington Boot.' Sad to say, this only works on very gullible adversaries. Even dogs aren't fooled.

Next, we have Kai demonstrating yet another variant. The 'I still can't see you and I don't really care if you can see me 'cos I'm the one with my head in the food'.

A very popular technique amongst kittens of all abilities but not one that should be encouraged.

And finally we have a group of tribble students showing that even a nest of bright orange tribbles can be difficult to spot when they learn the correct use of twig and shadow.

In Search of Buried Tribble. Nov. 15th, 2006 @ 10:21 am
The Tribbles may have gone but the memories linger. Kai decides a search party to find the Tribbles is just the sort of thing a cat of his curiosity should organise. And the first place to look has to be this large bag of cat snacks. Just the kind of place a buried Tribble would hide.

With Kai's head buried in kibble of various snack-flavoured shapes and sizes, a quick reminder of what a Tribble looks like. Here are three of them in a bowl.

And when it comes to buried Tribble, Xena demonstrates the Tribble Council approved method of burying one. A light squashing to keep them warm and toasty. The paw across the nose, however, is optional.

Kai demonstrates the wrong way to bury a Tribble. And, as the Tribble Council point out, after Pea v Princess the 'I didn't realise you were in the bowl with me' defence doesn't wash any more.

Cue happy ending: Kai finds his buried Tribble and uses a Tribble Council approved grappling manoeuvre.

The Last Tribble - And Then There Were None. Nov. 8th, 2006 @ 11:46 am
Yes, The Last Tribble has joined the others and headed south. That's all five tribbles re-homed in the Mayenne. Is this significant? Does the Mayenne have a dearth of kittens or a wealth of animal lovers? Is the Orne, the departement in which we live, full?

Enquiring minds will investigate. Surely, this is exactly the subject that government grants were created for:)

Meanwhile, on his final day, The Last Tribble shows off his kitten supermodel routine. First, with a degree of difficulty of 3.3 and off the scale in the cute charts, is the adorable glance upward:

Now the showing off. I'm a kitten supermodel and this is my tongue:

Kai takes the Last Tribble in hand and demonstrates the dangers of young tribbles poking out their tongues. Ever heard of the expression 'cat got your tongue?'

Luckily Kai, ever the gentlekitten, has retracted his claws. But next time, young tribble...

Xena and the Hornets Nov. 6th, 2006 @ 09:13 am
Work was interrupted Saturday morning by the loud arrival under my desk of a cat - Xena. She was growling. Which meant she'd caught something. And, par for the course for cats, she'd brought it back to her squeamish master so he could watch and listen to her torture and tear it to shreds.

Cats are natural born sharers.

I looked down from my chair and ... was that a hornet in her mouth?

It was and it wasn't. Yes, it was a hornet but ... it was no longer in her mouth. She'd presented it to me, dropped it by my foot and sat back to watch.

Of course, I did what any rational adult would do when finding an angry hornet buzzing inches away from an exposed trouser leg. I ran screaming from the room.

And regrouped in the lounge, grabbing stout gardening gloves and a shoe. Of course Xena didn't wait for me to return. She picked up the hornet and started playing with it. A game which did not look like fun for hornets and involved much carrying around in the teeth, some throwing up in the air, a modicum of paw patting and a lot of scurrying. A game which enticed Kai and The Last Tribble to join in.

I was the slow one at the back of the pack, racing around the desk, the furniture and doing all the shouting. Commands like "Drop! Get back! Leave it alone!" hold no sway with cats. I gave up on Xena and the hornet and made repeated grabs for the tribble, not knowing if a hornet sting could be fatal for a little kitten.

But little kittens are sneakily fast and find all manner of narrow gaps to shoot under. Like under sideboards. Lying on the floor with your outstretched hand sweeping under a sideboard, feeling blind for a lost tribble is lent a considerable piquancy when you have two cats and an angry hornet racing around you, over you, and squeezing under the sideboard where your hand was last seen.

If I hadn't had a tribble to save I would have run screaming from the room. When my hands closed on the tribble that's exactly what I did do.

And put the tribble outside, closed the door and returned to the fray. More chasing, more lunging, more buzzing and more futile pleading.

Naturally Shelagh chose that moment to arrive and, opening the door, told me to stop getting the cats excited. Opening the door also let The Last Tribble back into the excitement. Square One was revisited with me lying on it, one hand delving under the sideboard snatching at fluff and tribbles while the other batted at killer mutant death hornets which I could hear buzzing all around me.

The excitement came to an end when Shelagh grabbed Xena and escorted her and the hornet outside onto the lawn. Sharp words were exchanged, jaws were prised open and a confused hornet flopped to the ground. And was despatched.

Five minutes later Xena reappeared under my desk. She had another hornet. Deja vu with yellow and black hoops. Had she found a nest? Was this what I had to look forward to for the next 24 hours. Groundhog Day with hornets?

We ran, we hid, we lunged, we buzzed. The entire household mobilised until once more Xena and her prey were caught and escorted outside.

For the next hour Xena was not allowed outside unaccompanied. I followed her everywhere - into the barn, the garage, the stables. But found nothing. Xena strolled around, looking up at me with a wide-eyed innocence that suggested butter - even the hornet flavoured variety - would not melt in her mouth.

Somehow, I think this story may not be over.

Tribble Training Camp Nov. 1st, 2006 @ 12:15 pm
It's a tough life for the modern tribble and training can't start early enough. Here we have The Last Tribble at his private gym practising his moves on the 'furry toy suspended from a chair.' Always a favourite.

But sometimes you can't beat gnawing a chair leg.

After the chair session comes the floor exercise. And if the floor's too hard you can always co-opt a human leg or two. Now work those stomach muscles with the tribble spine twist and opposable paw touch.

And rest...

And more rest. This time with all the family. Book spotters will be interested to see the bookshelves in the top left. Not product placement, I assure you, but don't those books look familiar? The bottom two are the hardback copies of Resonance, the middle two are the ARC (Advance Reader Copy aka bound galleys) and the top two are the SFBC book club edition.

And, no, Kai is not a ring-tailed lemur - he just likes impersonating one.

Too Fast to be Perfect. Oct. 25th, 2006 @ 11:52 am

I tried to take an action picture of Kinky Tribble in mid climb but, as usual, she was too fast, swerving at the last second. It's difficult to hold your nerve and a camera when the fastest tribble in the West is racing up your clothing. Almost the perfect kitten picture. If only I'd had a wide-angle lens.

The debate on who was at fault for the last picture turns nasty. "What do you mean it was my fault!" shouts Kinky at her fellow tribble supermodels.

With the departure of four tribbles for catwalks new, the last tribble is promoted to the big bowl. Xena folds back her left ear to make room.

And makes him feel welcome at night.

The Last Tribble is settling down very well. He eats, sleeps and plays with Kai and Xena and knows all the really small places a tribble can run and hide under when the big kittens get too rough. It's going to be another wrench when he leaves in a fortnight's time.

Kai, meanwhile, is auditioning for a new role in the garden. A role on a pole. He's not sure if he sees himself as a weather-kitten or a scarecrow.

Communication Breakdown ... A Tribble Tragedy Oct. 23rd, 2006 @ 10:11 am
Communication break down.

Just as I was pronouncing the tribble shop closed ... Shelagh was on the phone giving directions to another tribble-owner wannabe. I couldn't believe it. I thought we'd agreed...

Oh no we hadn't! Oh yes we had! As the conversation approached McCartney- esque proportions and Daily Mail reporters gathered at the gate, Shelagh reached for the high ground. This last couple had lost their cat, they'd rung several times and to quote Spock, 'the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the husband.'

I'm not sure who I quoted but they were a world authority. And at least seven years old. 'I want my tribble!' I cried, stamping a truculent foot and raising that stamp with a sulk.

Much chocolate was consumed Saturday evening.

And we said goodbye to Kinky Tribble: the fastest shoulder climber, inventor of the butterfly lunge, and an ever present in the morning and evening diarrhoea treatment queue. She will be greatly missed. Except at litter tray emptying time.

But she did go to an excellent home. And will be much loved.

I'm off to scour the hedgerows. Living within a half mile of kitten-dumping central has its advantages:)

And Then There Were Two... Oct. 21st, 2006 @ 03:12 pm
Another tribble departs, belongings tied up in a spotted handkerchief and heading south for pastures new. This time it was Big Boy - chosen by a French couple who saw the famous tribble picture at the vets and immediately fell in love with them.

In fact Tribble fame has spread so far that we're now having to turn people away - sorry Madonna. With the remaining male tribble promised to an English couple and with us wanting to keep one, the tribble shop is officially closed.

Until our next dog walk ... who knows what we'll find abandoned in the hedgerow?

And Then There Were Three... Oct. 20th, 2006 @ 11:42 am
Another tribble finds a home. This time it was Targ's turn and yet again it was to an English family from the Mayenne. So we have just the two boys and Kinky left.

Each time it's getting harder to watch them drive away but they're all going to good homes and it's the sensible thing to do.

If only I were sensible:)

Other kitten news - of the frightening variety - Xena has conquered Mount fridge/freezer. Disaster. It was the one place we could put food without finding an army of kitten tasters sampling it. And it gives her easy access to the top of the Welsh Dresser where all our glass jars are stored - an accident waiting to be toppled.

A Hard Day at the Office Oct. 18th, 2006 @ 12:18 pm
Kai crashes out on the banisters - the highest and safest place to hide from the horde of tribbles that swarm below.

The tribbles, meanwhile, continue to thrive. Meal times, of which there are many, are especially fraught. There was a time when we could put their bowl on the dresser, stand back and fill the bowl at arm's length - knowing that the tribbles could swarm up your legs and back but at least the bowl was safe. Not any more. Kinky, the female tribble, has perfected her speed climbing to such a degree that she's up your legs, over your shoulders and down your arm, swinging towards the bowl in under two seconds.

Countermeasures had to be employed. Current favourite is the arm switch. I start forking out the food with the right hand, wait to see which arm Kinky goes for then pull that arm away from the bowl. Switching tin and fork if necessary. A tad theatrical as I windmill in front of the dresser juggling a fork, a tin and a tribble but it works. And, who knows, I might have an act I can tour with.

A word about Kinky's climbing technique. It's frightening. And the nearest approximation to the butterfly stroke I've seen outside of a swimming pool. She looks up at you, determination written all over her little face and then throws both front legs over and up, claw and pull. I'm reminded of a scene from one of the Dracula films. The one where the hapless hero looks down from the castle window to see Frank Langella using a similar technique to climb the castle walls.

But just to prove that tribbles do sleep. Here's one of them sunning themselves in the last evening rays.

And here's a tribble nest I discovered under a Rosemary bush. This is their favourite spot. They can spend hours playing under, sleeping under or climbing the Rosemary.

And, finally, we have Xena holding Targ down so she can clean his face properly. Can't have the neighbours spotting a dirty tribble, can we?

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