The lost summer: catching Covid is the final straw

This should have been the summer of the new normal, when we finally put the pandemic behind us, got on with life and had some fun (ah yes, fun, I remember that…I had some once!) Only it hasn’t worked out like that. Describing the last few weeks as “the lost summer” may sound melodramatic, but although there have been a few highlights – the Burning Man sculpture trail, for example, and our visit to Pensthorpe Natural Park – overall I’m left with a nagging sense of regret for what might have been.

Wardrobe woes last for weeks

The project to replace our bulky freestanding wardrobe and sundry other old, tired pieces of furniture with a suite of new fitted units in a splendidly redecorated bedroom should have taken just five or six days. In the event it ended up taking five weeks. Five miserable weeks during which we camped out in the spare bedroom with our clothes and various other possessions scattered chaotically throughout the rest of the house! Five tedious weeks when we waited at home expectantly, day after day, hoping something would happen, only to find nothing ever did.

Our woes began when we decided this wardrobe needed replacing!

Don’t get me wrong. Now that the job is complete we’re pleased with our new bedroom. It looks great, and we’re pleased we had it done. But although the destination has proved agreeable, the journey was an unmitigated nightmare. Never again!

Hot! Hot! Hot! Temperature records tumble

Once the bedroom project was done we were determined to get out and about, to escape into the local countryside and relax a bit. But it didn’t turn out that way, courtesy of climate change. There are those who claim climate change is fake news, the invention of mad scientists or duplicitous politicians. Now, some scientists may be mad and many politicians are clearly duplicitous, but here’s the thing guys: climate change is real, as we were reminded to our cost a few weeks ago.

IMAGE CREDIT: Photo by Raphael Wild on Unsplash

Pretty much immediately after the bedroom was finally fixed, climate change flexed its muscles and the UK was hit by an unprecedented heatwave. Records tumbled like the walls of Jericho, and we spent our days indoors, hiding from the sun and emerging only late in the evening to water the tomatoes and the beans. Mrs P and I are not built for hot weather, and having fun was out of the question. Our ambitions extended no further than desperately trying to stay cool.

What a waste, but on the other hand what was the alternative?

The final straw – Covid catches up with us at last!

All things must pass, and so it was that eventually the torrid temperatures gave way to something less unbearable. At last, an opportunity to escape the house! Just a few days after the heatwave broke, Mrs P spent a morning at a craft workshop, indulging in a hobby that has been an important part of her retirement. Unfortunately, one of her fellow crafters must have been suffering from Covid, and a couple of days later so was Mrs P. And just 48 hours after, I was showing all the symptoms too!

IMAGE CREDIT: Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Ever since the pandemic started we’d been cautious, behaved responsibly and avoided unnecessary risks. Mr and Mrs Platypus are also known as Mr and Mrs Sensible. Boring we may be, but the aim was always to stay healthy and enjoy the benefits that good health brings.

Of course it could have been worse, much worse. We have lived to tell the tale, after all. And, thankfully, we’ve now tested clear and are feeling quite a lot better. Although we’re not yet firing on all cylinders, there’s no indication so far that “long Covid” has got its claws into us. But it was bad enough while it lasted, which was nearly two weeks. Two weeks of wearying, aching, cough-crazy self-isolation, confined to Platypus Towers when we should have been out enjoying ourselves.

Worst of all, probably, was the impact on our sense of taste and smell. It wasn’t that we were unable to taste anything at all, but rather that everything tasted wrong and a lot of it tasted horrible. Mrs P and I both enjoy cooking, and during our two weeks with Covid we had plenty of time to devote to culinary endeavours. But what would have been the point, given that everything we prepared tasted like an unfortunate accident in a badly-run food warehouse?

IMAGE CREDIT: dronepicr, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Realistically, I suppose it was inevitable Covid would catch up with us in the end. That, after all, is the nature of a pandemic – the disease is everywhere and one day your luck runs out, however careful you may be. And I suppose we should be grateful: in the two years since Covid first hit the variants of the virus have become less serious, and the vaccinations we have had may also have helped reduce the severity of our symptoms.

The good news is that, finally, Covid is behind us. We’re doing our best to make up for lost time, but the last few months still feel like the lost summer.

* * * * *

Postscript, 10 August: I drafted this post a few days ago in a spirit of hope and expectation, immediately after we tested clear of Covid. Since then, however, a second horrible heatwave has descended upon this sizzling nation, and once again we are stuck indoors, hiding from the sun.

And we both continue, in our different ways, to feel below par, not seriously sick but definitely a trifle unwell. Maybe it’s the heat, or maybe it’s the after-effects of Covid. Or a combination of the two? Who knows? But whatever the cause, I’d like to put on record here that I’ve had enough. Roll on, winter!

Update, 16 August: Well, at least the heatwave is beginning to lose its venom, but an official drought has been declared in this – and many other – parts of the country. Our rivers and reservoirs are running dry, and the measly amount of rain that’s fallen in the past 24 hours won’t even begin to sort out the problem. This is a summer I’d dearly like to forget, but sadly I don’t think that will happen any time soon. Woe is me!

One of the new fitted units in the bedroon. Never again!

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Wardrobe woes

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time, a three-door, five-drawer solid pine wardrobe in which to store my suits and shirts and socks and stuff. It was a big beast, to be sure, but we liked the look of it, and never gave much thought to how we’d get it up the stairs and into our bedroom. And anyway, it wasn’t really our problem: the guy at the furniture warehouse said they could deliver anywhere, and we took him at his word.

In the event it took a four man lift, and a lot of colourful cursing, before my new wardrobe made it to the top of the stairs and could be coaxed into its final resting place in a corner of the bedroom. And there it remained, unmoved and unmoveable, for more than a quarter of a century. Until we decided to redecorate.

Mrs P said in no uncertain terms that the time had come: the time for a new carpet, new curtains and a decent paint job. She looked at me meaningfully: painting is my territory, though I rather wish it weren’t. I said that I agreed – and I did agree, honest! – but in order to do a decent job we first needed to move the wardrobe. And that wardrobe was, as I explained, way too big for a man of my age, with my bad back, knackered knees and history of hernias, to contemplate moving.

The wardrobe-shaped elephant in the room

So there we left it for a year or two, the wardrobe-shaped elephant in the room. Until, one day about three weeks ago, Mrs P suddenly announced “I’ve had an idea!”

My heart sank. Don’t get me wrong, Mrs P’s a lovely lady (I married her, after all) but whenever she says “I’ve had an idea”, I know that my life’s about to get more complicated.

“And what idea is that?” I asked innocently, hoping fervently she’d already forgotten.

“Simple,” she replied brightly, “the bedroom desperately needs redecorating. If the only thing preventing it is that wardrobe, you’ll have to get rid of it and treat yourself to a new one.”

“Of course,” I responded in a flash, “but aren’t you forgetting something? Before we can buy a new wardrobe we’ll need to get rid of the one we’ve got now. And, as I may have mentioned previously, we can’t move the bloody thing!”

“No worries, we’ll offer it to a charity. They’ll collect the wardrobe. No problemo!

I had to admit, her idea sounded like a good one. Charities are always on the look out for quality items of furniture that they can sell, thereby raising much-needed cash to support their good causes. The wardrobe seemed like it was worth a bit, and local charities would surely be queuing up to take it away.

* * *

And so, just 24 hours later, we’re in the local offices of a big health charity, agreeing the deal. I whip out my mobile phone, and show the lady on duty a photo of the wardrobe.

“Ooh, how lovely,” she purrs, “we’d be pleased to take it off your hands.”

“And you’ll collect, of course? It’s a wee bit heavy and awkward to manoeuvre,” I caution, with a degree of understatement that verges on the criminal.

“Our guys will do their very best,” she responds, “but they have the right to refuse if they think it’s impossible or unsafe to proceed.”

“Oh, that’s OK, I’m sure they’ll manage just fine,” I lie. She smiles, plainly convinced by my reassurances. I just wish I felt the same.

* * *

A week later, the collection crew arrives. It’s a modest outfit, just two blokes and a van. “We’re doomed!”, I mutter to Mrs P as we usher them up to the bedroom.

They inspect the wardrobe from all sides. “Big, isn’t it?” one of them says unnecessarily, his voice trembling ever so slightly.

They then check the route they must take, the impossibly tight 180 degree turn needed to get the thing out of the bedroom and on to the landing, the limited vertical clearance of the stairwell, the narrowness and steepness of the stairs.

There is much scratching of heads and furrowing of brows. Finally they agree they’ll give it a go, and manage to drag the wardrobe a short distance away from the wall, unscrew the top half from the bottom and lift it off before waving the white flag.

“Sorry,” the head honcho says “can’t be done. I don’t know how the hell anyone managed to get it up here, but it ain’t going back down.”

And then they depart, leaving our hopes in tatters and the wardrobe, now in two halves, abandoned in the middle of the bedroom floor. So Mrs P and I have no option than to spend the rest of the afternoon dismantling the thing completely, taking it apart bit by bit and dragging the wreckage downstairs to dump in the garage. Even the individual pieces take a monumental effort to move, and we are left in awe of the crew that successfully delivered this monolithic piece of furniture all those years ago.

So the good news is that, after much heartache, we now have a new, wardrobe-shaped space in the bedroom. But the bad news is that I now have absolutely no excuse not to get on with the painting. Woe is me!

Call of the wild – starlings fly home to roost over our house

I hear them long before they become visible. Starlings are gathering over the hills to the south of the estate where we live. It begins as an avian whisper, barely audible above the ambient sounds of wind and distant traffic. And then it starts to build, unseen birds chattering excitedly with one another, shouting, squawking, screaming joyously. A wall of sound, the call of the wild.

The cacophony echoes all around me. I scan the sky in the direction from which I know they will appear. Still nothing. But it’s only a matter of time. They will be here. At this time of year they fly over our estate every day at around 4pm, heading towards their roosting site. Today will be no different.

At last they start to arrive. First a lone outrider, silent and determined, appears from behind the house at the rear of our garden. It passes over me and disappears into the distance. Then two others, calling to one another as they fly.

Seconds later the main flock arrives, hundreds of birds in close formation. A deafening, spellbinding squadron of starlings, known to science as a murmuration, fills the sky.

Although the birds clearly have a destination in mind, they briefly break off from their journey to swoop and swirl above my head, like a bunch of boastful aviators flaunting their skills at an air show. The murmuration takes on a life of its own, sketching ever more complex and beautiful patterns on the canvas of the evening sky. The noise is louder than ever, drowning out everything else.

And then, as suddenly as they arrived, they take their leave. The flock heads off to who-knows-where, and the sound of their relentless chitter-chatter fades. A few laggards appear from the south, flying swiftly in pursuit of the main flock, keen to catch up with their buddies before they roost for the night.

Seconds later they too have gone and I’m left alone with my thoughts, marvelling at the extraordinary event I have just witnessed.

* * * * *

In some parts of the country murmurations at this time of year can number several hundred thousand birds, occasionally more than a million. By these standards, the aerial display that takes place above our garden every winter’s afternoon is tiny. But to me it is far from insignificant.

What a privilege it is, to stand in our modest back garden on our boring suburban housing estate in the unremarkable, overpopulated East Midlands of England, and experience the call of the wild. It is a moving, mesmerising experience, and the wonder of it fills me with joy. Long may it continue.

It’s a cat’s life! It’s a wonderful life!

Our next-door neighbour Jim sadly died at the start of the year. Jim was a great guy, always up for a chat and a joke. He loved gardening, and you could often see him weeding, pruning and primping his immaculate little plot. But with a love of gardening came a loathing of cats, because of the unspeakable things he claimed they did to his flowerbeds. Milky Bar was always persona non grata at Jim’s.

Milky Bar: the sleeping beauty

Since Jim passed, his property has remained unoccupied, and Milky Bar has taken full advantage. A few days ago we spotted him curled up on the roof of Jim’s shed, lapping up the weak November sunshine. While Jim was alive such behaviour would have been unthinkable. Our lovely neighbour would have been up and at him, cursing colourfully and swiftly driving the unwelcome intruder away. Now, however, different rules apply, and Milky Bar has claimed squatters’ rights.

Viewed from one of our upstairs windows, Milky Bar laps up the November sunshine on Jim’s shed roof

Of course, Milky Bar has claimed squatters’ rights in our own garden for several years, although “snoozers’ rights” might be a more accurate description. Every corner of our little garden has been explored, and most of them have been slept in.

Collapsed on the patio

Now, I’m not saying that Milky Bar is lazy. He will sometimes chase an insect and may even stalk the occasional pigeon, but his ambition seems to be to spend as much of his life as possible dozing peacefully, wherever the fancy takes him. Recently we’ve noticed he’s putting on a bit of weight, and is looking quite stout around the middle. I can only assume this is a consequence of his personal fitness regime, which involves countless hours of horizontal, eyes-closed “exercise”.

Nesting on the “pagoda rockery,” shaded by bushes and a Japanese-style stone lantern.

Milky Bar is very good at dozing, and plainly likes to dedicate his days to a hobby at which he excels. If dozing were a sport in the feline Olympics, Milky Bar would be up on the podium, gold medal dangling proudly round his neck. But he’d be fast asleep, naturally.

Tightly curled up on the arbour, protected from rain, wind and sunstroke!

Milky Bar isn’t unique amongst cats in his love of sleep, although he is a particularly fine practitioner of the art. Here’s what American writer, critic, and naturalist Joseph Wood Krutch (1893-1970) wrote on the matter:

Cats are rather delicate creatures and they are subject to a good many different ailments, but I have never heard of one who suffered from insomnia.

Sweet dreams are made of this

If you suspect I’m exaggerating and may be maligning our four-footed friend, I would draw you attention to the photographic evidence accompanying this post. Mrs P always keeps her camera handy, just in case some rare bird or butterfly alights in our garden to say hi. This never happens, of course, but her photographic skills are engaged almost daily as she documents Milky Bar’s activities. Or maybe that should be his “lack of activities”?

A wooden bridge crosses the narrowest part of our pond, and is a great place to sleep. Note the net, which I had to attach to the bridge to prevent Milky Bar fishing from it!

What amuses me most of all is Milky Bar’s sense of entitlement. He clearly believes it is his right to sleep wherever he likes, whenever he likes and for just as long as he likes. But I suppose this should come as no great surprise, for as the late Terry Pratchett (1948-2015) – one of the wittiest writers ever to grace the English language – delighted in pointing out…

In ancient times cats were worshipped as gods; they have not forgotten this.

Asleep on top of the wall that separates our garden from that of our other neighbour

But to be clear, I have absolutely no problem with Milky Bar’s sense of entitlement. He’s welcome to spend time in our garden whenever he wishes. The last 18 months have been very difficult, courtesy of Covid-19 and the measures needed to help mitigate its effects. But a visit from Milky Bar has always raised our spirits, even on the darkest of days.

I have an old dustbin (trash-can) behind the shed. It’s great for storing odds and ends, and also makes a perfect cat bed.

It matters not one bit to me that, for most of the time he spends in our presence, the little fellow is fast asleep. It’s plainly very exhausting being Milky Bar, and the best way of recuperating is to snooze the day away. And who can blame our brave little soldier for taking care of himself in this manner? After all, it’s a cat’s life. It’s a wonderful life.

And finally…is nothing sacred? Here’s Milky Bar, nearly 2 metres off the ground, dozing on the bird table. Unsurprisingly, we saw no birds that day!

New kid on the block

We’re in the garden room, enjoying a mid-morning cup of tea and nibbling on biscuits, chatting idly about this and that. Suddenly Mrs P stops mid-sentence, points through the window and yells animatedly “New cat, new cat!” I peer out and there he is, a handsome tabby with white boots striding confidently along the top of the fence that divides our garden from our neighbour’s to the rear.

Introducing “Yorkie”

He works his away around the fence, then hops down on to the compost bin and into the garden. Immediately he goes into overdrive, sniffing here, there and everywhere, and spraying liberally, advising any that dare follow of his visit.

Mrs P grabs her camera and fires off a few shots through the kitchen window. The cat seems blissfully unaware of our presence – or maybe he’s a bit of an exhibitionist – and after exploring the nooks and crannies of our little estate he settles down, cocks one leg in the air and starts licking his bum. No dignity, no style, no shame. But we forgive him because he’s as cute as a field full of fluffy kittens.

Looking relaxed on his first visit to our garden

Having secured photographic evidence of the visit we turn our attention to another urgent matter: what are we going to call our new guest. It’s become a tradition at Platypus Towers that all visiting cats will be named after brands of chocolate or some other confectionary item. Don’t ask me why we do this for, like most traditions, the truth of its origins are lost in the mists of time. Suffice it to say that this little ritual has served us well for many years.

Many cats have dropped by since we retired, have had their photos taken for posterity and have been duly christened. There’s Milky Bar and Malteser, of course, both of whom still visit daily and think of our garden as their second home. Other cats have been and gone: Flake, Oreo, Titan, Toblerone, Mars Bar and Minstrel to name just a few. All named in honour of our favourite confectionary items. So what on earth are we to call out latest visitor?

No dignity, no style, no shame. But we forgive him because he’s as cute as a field full of fluffy kittens.

After much debate we settle on “Yorkie.” For overseas readers unfamiliar with the brand, Yorkie is a chunky chocolate bar, much loved by macho male truck drivers if a controversial TV advertising campaign is to be believed. But Mrs P and I enjoy them too, so it seems entirely appropriate to name our new feline friend after them.

Having thoroughly explored and scent-marked our garden, Yorkie takes his leave. We may never see him again, of course, he may simply be passing through on his way to the Promised Land. But I have a sneaking suspicion that he’s seen potential in our humble little garden, and won’t be able to resist getting to know it better.

So, beware, Milky Bar! And watch your back, Malteser…there’s a new kid on the block!

Yorkie, the New Kid on the Block

Pillow talk (Cat in mi kitchen)

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that ownership of our garden is claimed by two visiting cats. Although Malteser and Milky Bar are pals – we think they live together in a house further up our estate – they are very different characters. Throughout the pandemic Milky Bar has been content to abide by the government’s tough Covid restrictions. He obeys the rules on social distancing, keeping at least two metres away from us at all times and never coming indoors for a bit of illicit socialising. Milky Bar is a model citizen, and deserves a knighthood.

Malteser claims ownership of our garden. Here he sits on top of the rabbit hutch

The same cannot be said for Malteser. If the local constabulary knew what Malteser’s been up to in recent months they’d have fined him £200. Multiple times in fact, probably every day. Such is his disrespect for the law he would most likely have ended up in chokey. Malteser is an unmitigated rogue.

OK, I admit it, Mrs P and I have encouraged Malteser’s wayward ways. When travel opportunities were drastically curtailed by the pandemic and we found ourselves pretty much confined to our house and garden for months on end, we decided it was a good time to develop the relationship with our ‘borrowed’ cats.

In the utility room, transfixed by the washing machine

Recognising that the best way (the only way?) to a cat’s heart is through his stomach we invested heavily in packets of Vitacat Filled Pockets, which the packaging explains are crunchy pillows with a soft centre. They’re available in beef, chicken and salmon flavours, and guaranteed to tickle the fancy of the fussiest felines.

To start with we stood in the doorway leading out to the garden and tossed pillows onto the patio in front of our feline friends. After a cautious investigation both cats wolfed them down greedily. Milky Bar pronounced himself happy with this arrangement, but Malteser soon calculated that there might be more to be gained by getting up close and personal First, he approached us on the doorstep to have his ears rubbed and back scratched. Within a few days he was brave enough to follow us indoors, stopping off first in the utility room to stare, transfixed, at the washing machine. Pretty soon he found his way into the kitchen, taking pillows from our fingers while purring loudly.

Cat in mi kitchen, taking a pillow (salmon flavoured!) from my own fair hand

It’s a ritual now. The centrepiece of any visit from Malteser is feeding him by hand. Mostly we sit on a kitchen chair and hold a pillow in front of him. He stands on his back legs, putting two paws on our knees to give himself extra balance while he reaches up for the tasty treat. A couple of quick crunches later the pillow has been swallowed and a few crumbs have been dropped unceremoniously onto the tiled floor. And then he looks imploringly into our eyes, eagerly awaiting a repeat performance. All the time he’s purring as loud as a chainsaw, making sure we know that his continued affection depends on a steady supply of pillows.

Having plucked up sufficient courage to cross the threshold Malteser soon decided he might as well explore the rest of the house. He particularly likes the stairs that lead up to the bedrooms, study and library. His idea of heaven is to roll on his back on the stairs, showing his belly while inviting us to fondle his ears. Honour having been duly satisfied, he climbs another three or four stairs before rolling on his back again and demanding we pay him further homage.

At the top of the stairs, purring loudly, waiting for his ears to be fondled

Upstairs there’s a whole new world for him to explore. In Mrs P’s study he likes a game of attack the piece of scrap paper, balls of which he obviously perceives as mice that need to be swiftly despatched to rodent heaven. He’s also fascinated by the door, which he tries to hook open with his paw. Then he’s off to have a sniff around the bathroom, and would happily drink from the toilet if we’d let him.

Malteser also enjoys visiting the library, particularly now we’ve set up a bed for him on the old sofa. If he’s in the mood he’ll snooze there for an hour or so, while Mrs P and I get on with the rest of our lives. It’s good to know that he feels so comfortable in our house, trusting us totally.

Resting on the library sofa

But he remains his own cat, beholden to no one, and when the time is right he makes it clear that he wants to leave us. And leave us he does, trotting off into the garden and over the fence with scarcely a backwards glance. We’re under no illusions: Malteser is an advocate of free love, and although we are doggedly faithful to him we’re certain he has relationships with other households up and down our street. But we can forgive his dubious moral character, recognising that his frequent visits have made the Covid lockdowns more bearable.

And anyway, we know Malteser will be back before too long. A cat and his tasty pillows can’t be separated for long, particularly if a couple of mugs are available to feed him those pillows by hand.

Back in the garden, belly full of pillows!

***

Pillow Talk : An ode to Malteser during lockdown 
(with apologies to UB40, a wonderful 70s/80s reggae band from Birmingham, England)

Cat in mi kitchen what am I gonna do?
Cat in mi kitchen what am I gonna do?
I'm gonna feed that cat that's what I'm gonna do
I'm gonna feed that cat

Cat-astrophe avoided: Milky Bar gets his mojo back

It’s Christmas Eve afternoon. We’re sitting in the garden room, listening to music and watching the midwinter sun die slowly in the western sky. Overhead, gangs of starlings flock back to their roost, chattering noisily to one another as they pass. Then, to our right, a familiar clatter. It can mean only one thing: our good friend Milky Bar, the visiting cat who calls our garden home, has leapt onto the rickety fence that separates our property from Jim’s.

The injured party: Milky Bar

Yes, there he is. But something’s wrong. Normally the fence panels, although barely a couple of centimetres wide, are no challenge to a young, athletic cat blessed with a fine sense of balance. Today, however, he’s struggling, jerkily swaying to the left and then to the right, like a drunken tightrope walker in a tornado. Indignity – and possibly serious injury – seems just seconds away.

But when we look more closely we realise he’s already injured. Milky Bar’s standing on three legs, holding his right front paw clear of the fence. It looks badly swollen, and we can tell by his demeanour that he’s in a lot of pain.

Maybe he’s broken a bone in a freak accident? Perhaps he’s ripped out a claw fighting with a cat that dared invade his territory? Or has an infection set in, sending poison coursing through his frail little body? This look serious.

For several minutes Milky Bar maintains a precarious balance on the fence, before finally taking a leap of faith into our garden. As he lands a shockwave runs through his whole body, and he immediately snatches his damaged paw back into the air. He just stands there looking stunned and dishevelled, apparently unable to take another step. The boisterous, confident cat we know and love is gone, and he looks so fragile that a gentle puff of wind could topple him.

Normally the fence panels, although barely a couple of centimetres wide, are no challenge to a young, athletic cat blessed with a fine sense of balance

We discuss what to do. If we knew where he lives we’d go fetch one of his family, but Milky Bar’s domestic arrangements have always been a mystery to us. We agree that if he doesn’t move on after a few minutes we’ll bring him into the house, keep him warm and give him some food. We’ll even try to track down an emergency vet, though on Christmas Eve in the middle of a pandemic that could be tricky.

Finally, after an agonising wait for all parties, Milky Bar gathers himself and hobbles off slowly towards the area of the estate where we suspect his family lives. He looks so sad, so crushed, and we fear that we may never see him again.

* * *

We spend a restless night, haunted by the prospect of losing another “borrowed” cat. It happened once before when Sid disappeared suddenly and without trace, and we can’t bear the thought of history repeating itself.

To reward his bravery we offer Milky Bar some cold roast turkey, and he’s pleased to tuck in

Christmas Day dawns and we work our way through the familiar routine: opening presents, phoning family, whacking a turkey the size of a small ostrich into the oven. It’s business as usual, but our spirits are subdued as we worry about Milky Bar’s fate. We scan the garden every few minutes, but he’s nowhere to be seen. We fear the worst.

And then, when we’ve all but convinced ourselves that he’s not coming back, Milky Bar appears. He’s limping badly and his paw is still swollen, but at least he’s made it through the night and must be feeling a bit better to venture away from home. A couple of minutes later he leaves, but we reassure ourselves that he’s on the mend.

We don’t see him again for the next couple of days, and our anxieties start to return. In particular we worry that infection has taken hold, perhaps because his family were unable to find a vet to give him some urgently needed antibiotics during the festive holiday. But still we check the garden regularly, hoping for good news.

“Please don’t disturb me while I’m eating my lunch”

And finally, at last, our borrowed cat re-appears, cheekily peering up at us through the kitchen window. We can tell immediately that he’s feeling much better. The sparkle’s returned to his eyes, and he’s moving more freely.

To reward his courage we offer our brave little soldier some cold roast turkey, tossing it onto the patio in front of him. Milky Bar’s on it in a flash, tucking in greedily and looking cuter than ever. Clearly, this moggie’s got his mojo back.

Then, to round off a perfect day, Milky Bar’s pal Malteser also puts in an appearance. Never one to turn down food, he wolfs down some turkey too.

Milky Bar’s pal Malteser also wolfs down some turkey

Having filled their faces, the two cats swagger off in search of their next adventure. But hopefully this time Milky Bar will take a little more care. It’s been an anxious few days, and we could do without a repeat performance any time soon.

* * *

Postscript – do you want to know more about Milky Bar and Malteser? Follow the links below for earlier posts featuring the feline superstars