Day One: travel four hours to get to Cumbria. Go to Secret Housesitting Destination, where I shall have a fortnight’s peaceful rural writing retreat in exchange for feeding the resident cat and rabbits.
House smells wonderful.
Also the wonderful smell is scented candles.
Also scented candles trigger my hay fever like wouldn’t believe. Spend the afternoon working out how the TV works, and where to plug in the computer. And sniffing.
Day Two: cat has left a dead mouse on the living room carpet, presumably by way of a welcome gift. Swear at cat but, heroically, do not throw up during clean up.
I am working the pomodoro system: 25 minutes of concentrated attention, followed by five minutes break, with a longer break after four pomodoros. Tuesday’s score: 12. Still not thrown up, but it was a close run thing. Cannot fathom how to shut the living room window to prevent bloody cat getting out and doing it again tonight.
Day Three: no gifts from cat. Phew. But also productivity falling (pomodoros of work done on Wednesday: 9.) Stopped in the evening to watch Commonwealth Games Opening Ceremony, and to have intense text message conversation with relatively sane friend about whether I was actually seeing John Barrowman sing the Ceebeebies History of Scotland amidst dancing Tunnocks tea cakes or whether I was on drugs. Around the interpretive dance version of 500 miles I gave up. Wine. Lots of wine. Interrupted by giant moth battering itself to death inside the living room lamp very loudly. It may in fact be a small bat.
Day Four: is it Thursday? Productivity continues to decline (pomodoro: 8). But went to dinner with J and family, and managed to persuade her that emptying the cat litter was her job, not mine. Mark the day as a positive.
Day Five: Friday. (Pomodoro: 5. It was that kind of day) Having a pleasant post-prandial nap when suddenly AWAKE AWAKE! FEAR! FIRE! FOES! alarm starts going off. Run into hall but there’s no smoke, no sign of fire. Open all doors. Go outside and check for burglars. Why is the blasted alarm going off? Ring the “call these people in an emergency” number – they’re out! As are J and family. OK then… fire brigade? No: there really isn’t a fire. But is it a carbon monoxide alarm? I was, after all, asleep when it went off… text owner of house, await return of helpful neighbours, sit outside Sternly Ignoring the fact the house is still beeping FEAR! FIRE! FOES! loudly. Look up local fire brigade non-emergency number (a nice fireman with a carbon monoxide detector sounds like a plan…) but helpful neighbours arrive first, disable alarm, and text from holidaying house owner provides reassurance that alarm *isn’t* the carbon monoxide alarm but a malfunctioning fire alarm, but there is both a backup fire alarm and a functional carbon monoxide alarm elsewhere.
Giant butterfly is now flapping round living room. Let it out the patio doors and risk never being able to shut them again? Ah. Turns out I don’t actually have a key to the patio doors. Chase butterfly for a while with glass and cardboard, but it gives me a “bitch, please!” look and goes to hide somewhere. Sigh.
Lure cat indoors. Shut cat out of bedroom. Go to bed. There is a giant spider on the ceiling directly above the bed. But if I close my eyes, there isn’t.
Day… I don’t know. Bloody cat brings me a LIVE mouse this time. I scream at cat, cat drops mouse, mouse runs under piano. I am clearly living in a Tom and Jerry cartoon. Lock cat in. Lock cat OUT of bedroom. Go to bed, after warning J that I shall be calling her in the morning to deal with any gruesomeness which might ensue.
Rabbits look at me contemptuously when I let them out of their hutch to run around their enclosure. They are clearly humouring me by not rampaging out through the gate, which is held together by string and a clothes peg. Also, they don’t eat spring onions. Who knew? But I’m rapidly running out of the curly kale the house owner left me, so they’re either going to have to eat the avocado I found in the bottom of the fridge or I’m going to have to have another Tesco delivery. On the other hand, Tescos mean… newspapers! Chocolate!
J arrives and takes me out for afternoon tea at Brantwood, John Ruskin’s house, where there is a fantastic tea shop where you can sit out on a terrace overlooking the lake. Which we do. At my urging, she takes photos. Look at photos. Who is that fat lady?????? Never, never eating chocolate ever again. Go back to house. Get sci fi story rejection. Who am I kidding? Eat chocolate. Get email accepting academic paper with hardly any amendments. Rejoice! Eat chocolate AND drink wine.
It’s raining. Cat comes in to inform me its raining by drying itself off by rolling on my lap. Sigh. I hate the countryside.
Next day. It might be Tuesday? Rain. Feed the rabbits (Tiny amounts of curly kale, cucumber, cauliflower and pea pods. They sneer at me. Rabbits are very judgemental) Get lots of work done, for nearly half an hour. Cat comes in to inform me it’s raining again by drying itself off by rolling on my lap, and then demands to be let out the other door, presumably in case it’s not raining there.
Get lots of work done for nearly five minutes. Cat returns, wet again. I explain to it that I’m not on board with the “being used as a cat towel” scenario, and stroke it dry with kitchen roll. It gives me a “bitch, please” look and demands to go out the other door again. Cats are nearly as judgemental as rabbits. Still no sign of the mouse.
Late at night, decide to go to bed. No sign of cat returning from latest foray through the Door Into Summer. Decide to set the cat door on “can come in, but not go out” and just go to bed.
Day… what day IS it anyway? Anticipate being discovered by taxi driver collecting me for return journey, unrecognisably entirely covered in cat hair, so decide to take shower and launder clothes. And to check what day it, actually, is.
Go to feed rabbits. There is only one rabbit. Holy fuck, WHERE IS THE OTHER RABBIT????? Run round enclosure for a while having a nice soothing panic attack. Other rabbit is hiding under the shelf. Both rabbits regard me contemptuously. Rabbits are very judgemental.
Come to that, where is the cat? There are no dead animals in evidence, but last night’s cat food hasn’t been eaten and the rattle of the cat’s bowl produces no imperious mewing.
WHERE IS THE CAT??? Send text messages to various bastions of sanity, wondering how soon should I start to panic? Three pm is the consensus: it’s probably sheltering from the rain and will stroll in when the rain stops.
The rain doesn’t stop. But the cat materialises, dry, on the hall carpet. Where the hell have you been, I demand to know? “Bitch, please” the cat’s look clearly says. Cats are very judgemental.
Day… Thursday. It must be Thursday. J is kindly taking me out to lunch, out into the World Without Cat Hair again. Get up joyfully. Come down to find what appear to be the viscera of a small animal on the hall rug. Presumably the owner of the house would notice if I just threw the entire rug away? Contemplate carefully staged “accident” involving scented candles and, possibly, cute firemen? Sigh. Rubber gloves and kitchen roll, and We Will Not Speak Of This Again.
Sit down to work. Two pomodoro later get up to make coffee and notice the second half of last night’s cat food still sitting in its pouch on the kitchen counter. And the dry cat food bowl is empty. And I kicked the cat out this morning without feeding it (because, viscera). Ah. Feed cat. Remember I also haven’t fed rabbits. Feed rabbits. The are unimpressed, but then rabbits are very judgemental.
Weekend. Don’t ask me what day it is. Cat and I have worked out a modus operandi which involves my luring it into the kitchen around tea time because, food, and then sneakily closing the cat flap. Cat then spends the evening strolling round the house wailing and butting its head against the cat flap, but brings no more gift offerings, live OR dead.
The rabbits continue to judge me. It was pouring with rain yesterday so I didn’t go out to feed them till it stopped. They regard me balefully. It was only the one in Monty Python that was carnivorous, right? Check handbag for Holy Hand-grenade of Antioch or similar, just in case.
In the afternoon, the weather suddenly dries up. I go out and feed rabbits again, and let them out of the hutch to run around on the grass. I stand waiting for them to come out of the hutch. They do not come out of the hutch. I go and fetch a glass of wine and sit on the back step waiting for them to come out of the hutch. They do not come out of the hutch. I finish the wine, go back to the hutch, where rabbits are continuing to sit on the shelf where the food is. “You don’t want to come and have a run around while the weather is clear?” I ask them. They give me a look, the one which says “bitch, please.”
Last day. Finally! Feed cat, which thankfully does not include dealing with any final thank you gifts. Feed rabbits, giving them slightly more than their usual ration because they won’t be fed again till the householder returns, late tonight. They look at the food. They look at me. Their looks clearly say “bitch, please.” But then rabbits are very judgemental.