Archive | December, 2011

The Wrong Trousers

27 Dec

As the sun was setting on Christmas Day, Bunty and I took the long drive through the hills to his mother’s cottage. It is always a beautiful journey, and this was no exception. The twilight allowed us to still see the darkening mountains and forests, but enhanced the fairy lights on the eaves and trees of houses that we passed.

There was no snow, but it had been raining solidly, and what had once been fields were now lochs. A stream had broken free of its bank and plunged across the long winding lane that was the last leg of our journey, and we forded it with difficulty. A deer watched us from the woods, its eyes glowing in the headlights.

The cottage windows were all lit up, a beacon in the wilderness. We could hear Pipkin the haggis hound barking her welcome as we got out of the car. The combination of smooth grass over a sheet of rainwater had created a skating rink effect, and as I slammed my door shut I careened forward across the lawn then fell backward into a pool. My lovely Christmas clothes were drenched.

I had to peel off several layers, and hang them up to dry. Bunty’s mother handed me an old pair of tracksuit bottoms to cover my legs, and sat us by the fire with mince pies and hot mugs of tea. Pipkin and her cat Mewla immediately cosied up to me, because they know I am a soft touch. Pipkin is normally as terrified of the fire as she is of sheep, but she overcame it for the sake of my company; this flattered me.

Flambeau is not scared of the fire at all. He spent the evening sprawled in front of it.

He made sure the flames heated him evenly all over, holding his various poses for five or six minutes at a time.

Mewla was not so tolerant of the heat, and after a while she retired to her favourite shelf to cool down.

After the exchanging of gifts, the pulling of crackers and wearing of paper crowns over a roast dinner, and drinks, and warm conversation with Bunty’s mother and brother, my Christmas clothes were dry. But not before all of the photos of me had been taken, in the wrong trousers.

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Sexual Shenanigans and Hideous Growths

22 Dec

Broccles’s unrequited love for the cats recently reached a new level of fervour. To demonstrate his enthusiasm for their company, he began urinating at them in a way that seemed to say, “you’re my wife now”. As this was occurring while the three of them climbed around on the furniture, it did not do a lot of good for the upholstery.

The cats responded by encouraging him. Pochi started rolling around on the floor in front of him, purring seductively, then slinking away before he had a chance to mount her. Monkey took to sitting just above him and batting him in the face with her very fluffy tail. The scent of her tail drives him wild with passion. As nobody has told him that rabbits can’t climb, he then started following the cats wherever they went. Despite their flirtations, they were completely horrified if he caught them.

“Maybe we should get him neutered,” I said, as I removed the chair cover to be laundered yet again. I consulted the vet about it when I took him in for his vaccinations. She agreed that neutering would have a good chance of stopping this behaviour. Below is a video of them in action, though really it needs a Seventies funk track. Poor Pochi was a little traumatised, but it didn’t stop her from teasing Broccles later. For email subscribers, the link is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wh7aWLlnv24

Then everything changed. It happened after we brought the guinea pigs indoors for the winter. One guinea pig, Colin, is comfortable with wandering freely around the house, while the others prefer to patrol the borders of their tower-block apartments and rumble at each other. With the others all safely behind bars, Colin developed the notion that he was King of the House. He demonstrated his dominance by mounting. The cats are too big and fast to be mounted by a guinea pig, but Broccles is blind in one eye and never sees him coming – particularly as Colin always goes for the front end. Broccles’s bad behaviour towards the cats stopped dead.

Stroking Broccles one afternoon, I was horrified to discover some kind of hideous growth on the side of his face. Some frantic googling later, I realised it was “boar glue”. This is guinea pig semen, called boar glue because it sets as hard as superglue and is nigh-on impossible to remove from fur. I did my best to remove it. First I tried rabbit shampoo and warm water. Broccles was deeply unhappy about this: he got soaking wet ears and shampoo in his eye, and ran away with a bubbly head before I could rinse him. The boar glue had not shifted.

“The phrase insult to injury springs to mind”, said Bunty.

Colin and Broccles in simpler times.

Once Broccles was allowing me near him again, I tried scissors and a comb. I broke the teeth of the comb trying to slide it behind the glue to guide the scissor blades. The scissors themselves scraped against the glue but made no dent in it.

A second and third hideous growth appeared on Broccles’s face over the next couple of days. I caught one before it had set, and was able to chip it out of his fur in little pieces over the course of an hour.  Monkey helped by joining in with what she thought was an unfair allocation of petting, standing over Broccles and getting right in my face.

I tried a new tack. At feeding time, I began feeding Broccles before any of the guinea pigs. I hoped this might alter Colin’s perception of the household dynamic. I don’t know for sure if it has worked, but for the past three days there have been no new boar glue incidents. What’s more, Broccles’s facial growths have been gradually disintegrating as he and Colin groom and scrape at them with teeth and hind claws. Broccles has begun to look at the cats with a twinkle in his rabbity eye…

Bam! It’s Winter

11 Dec

This week, our season of mellow fruitfulness was replaced overnight by snowfalls, freezing fog and the excellently named Hurricane Bawbag.

View from the window last week

View from the window this week

I had end-of-semester exams this week, but had to put aside my revision in favour of frantic preparations to bring the guinea pigs indoors. This meant cleaning and reassembling an eight-storey tower block I built for them last year. It needed a lot of work – all the chickenwire and plastic sheeting that formed the walls had to be replaced, and the floors all needed scrubbing, as I hadn’t got round to doing this when I had put them into storage last Spring. Then I had to furnish the thing with wine-box hidey holes and photo-developing-tray beds full of hay, and water bottles and food bowls.

My insistence on Being Capable and doing everything myself inevitably backfired on my health, leaving me flopping around in bed like an ominously-groaning sealion. Bunty finished the job off for me. We left the hoovering for another day…

I had expected that the restricted space inside the tower would make the guinea pigs irritable and claustrophobic, but they have all settled in happily, and have remained quiet and contented.

Broccles (the rabbit) and Colin (the white one trying to break into the tower) did venture back out into the garden the following evening. They scuffed around in the snow for a bit, getting cold paws. Broccles’s motley look is because he’s been replacing his summer coat with his winter one. After twenty minutes, the pair scampered indoors and have spent the rest of the week getting chummy with the radiators.

Broccles did peek out of the back door as Hurricane Bawbag was gathering strength. It blew his ears all over the place, and he stamped his foot at it thoroughly and emphatically. That told it.

I hear the hurricane was more powerful than the one that caused all the chaos in New York recently. It’s not so noticeable in Scotland, though, blasted heath that it is. Nevertheless, someone has produced a song to mark the occasion. Those of you who are subscribed to me by email can (I hope) click here to see the video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x0wm3JD9MEk

For the rest of you: