The Chronicles of Lockdown: the Cat, the Beach and the Hormones

Toilet roll situation: Yes, I own some.

Pasta stocks: Yes, I own some.

Mum’s top tip of the week: not sure if I’ve actually spoken to my mother this week. Should probably get on that.

General:

Let’s get one thing straight before we begin the story: I am, broadly, a stable individual who is functional human being even when I am being savaged by the cruel beast that is hormonal fluctuations  (actually, I suffer from hormonal migraines so am usually not a functional human being about one day a month, when I am instead throwing up, with a splitting headache and unconscious for fifteen plus hours a day while I try and sleep it off, but this is beside the point).  I have my moments, sure. I’ve cried over Tesco’s adverts and spilling coffee over work laptops, but generally I, you know, bury the desire to smother myself in blankets and drown in chocolate by eating carbs, drinking extra coffees and just getting on with it. 

And then there are hormones while on lockdown.

Different ballgame.

*

Various days last week:

Am incredibly irritable and irrational and decide I hate everyone, particularly those on holiday (see last blog post). Do sense check this against the hormonal calendar, which says that I shouldn’t be a mess for another week. This makes me feel much worse about my emotional instability. It’s very hot and become entirely convinced that I have missed my slot to ever leave Bradford again and that a full lockdown is imminent due to schools. Complain a lot.

Meanwhile, new neighbours move in and a very nice cat starts showing up. One evening, I leave front door open to coax in cold air while I bulk cook more Persian salads that one person can reasonably eat and turn around to find cat in my front room. Another evening, am on video call with beloved besties and find that cat is on my window still (which actually nearly gives me a heart attack, but after the shock it’s cute). By Saturday, I am spending an hour a day sat on the front step with the cat and am seriously considering stealing the cat, but feel this may negatively impact future relationship with neighbours.

Sunday:

Am gallantly gardening in the pouring rain because I bought some more seeds to extend my harvest into the autumn (yes, the gardening breakdown continues), when New Neighbour’s Nan asks me if I know who owns the cat. We have a bit of an odd conversation in which she compliments my gardening prowess and starts talking about how that’s what they did in ‘her generation’ and tells me about her fourteen grandkids in the rain. I tell her it’s a lockdown hobby and she says ‘yes this bloody lockdown, looks like we might be heading back that way because of the pubs’. Am a bit confused, because… well, we are back in lockdown, but don’t mention this because New Neighbour’s Nan doesn’t live with neighbours and feels rude to point out they are currently in violation of the rules. Maybe they didn’t realise they were moving into the plague zone. Maybe they do not care.

Take away point from the conversation is that I realise the cat doesn’t belong to the new neighbour. At this point, I am besotted with the cat and have already been inspired to contact cat protection to try to reserve my own little kitty cat, but now I want this cat. 

Mission find cat owner begins. Contact street WhatsApp and no one comes forward as cat owners. Put a note in kitty’s collar to see if he’s going home to some place and make a four point plan that includes me eventually adopting the cat and living happily ever after. 

Monday:

Hormones hit me like a freight train. Established yesterday that calendar was wrong, which is encouraging because it means that there is an explanation for the past week of my life, but does not actually help me today. Knowing I am being irrational does not, in fact, make me feel more rational. 

Sleep in an hour past the start of work and end up attending team check twenty minutes late in in my pjs before I’ve even brushed my teeth. On Mondays, we have a ‘how are you feeling’ check-in where we self identify with a bunch of images to visually display our mood. Tell team that I am the particularly disgruntled mop, that I want to go on holiday and leave Bradford and that I want to adopt the random cat from the street (this is the first they have heard about the cat; this is not the last they have heard about the cat) and that I don’t want to be at work. Afterwards, get dressed and get waylaid by checking that the cat is still outside (he is; little cutie) and then manage to work for about an hour before I start randomly crying about the fact that I do not, in fact, own the cat.

Consider texting manager that I need to cash in our provision of mental days because I am sobbing over a cat, but feel too pathetic. Force myself to calm down, have another coffee and get some work done. 

Cry through lunch break, sat on front step, trying to get the cat to come give me cuddles. Have a short lunch break in an attempt to work back some of lost time from this morning (we have flexi, which means at least me being a terrible employee is recorded) and manage about another hour of productivity before the tears start again.

Female colleague fresh back from holiday asks me if I will be in optional afternoon check in to say hi. I explain about random bouts of hormonal crying and that I may join depending on how likely tears are. She says she can handle the hormonal tears. I point out that she might be able to, but am concerned about the men. She sends me private video call link, which is so nice that I start to cry, then I sob over video call to her for twenty minutes or so (while talking about work).

Work for another hour, then take afternoon break sat on the front step stroking cat in the rain. Kitty now comes when I call. At this point, I genuinely believe that this cat is the only good thing I have in my life, and am traumatised by fact that the cat probably has an owner and I will never get to own the cat. Text several separate people and tell them that the cat is the best thing that I have in my life right now, which mostly goes unacknowledged because it is ridiculous.

Do some more work with degree of composure, but am missing cat enough that I decide to have final meeting of the day (with team mates I work closely with) with cat on my front doorstep. Tune into meeting sat cross legged on the floor outside of my house, with cat (yes, it’s still raining).

Meeting gets interrupted because another cat shows up and also tries to enter my house. Am somewhat aware that to my neighbours I am now the single twenty something who:

  • had a picnic with an oversized teddy named Boris 
  • Sits in her bikini in a paddling pool made for a toddler
  • Conducts work meetings sat on the floor outside her house with a random cat. 

Internet gets a little wobbly so go in for the rest of the meeting.

As soon as it hits five, start crying about how ridiculous and irrational I’m being. Message bubble buddy and ask if I can come over for a hug and a cup of tea because I am a hormonal blubbery mess. She sends male housemate upstairs and I end up crying on her bed about how much I love the cat. Tell her that the cat is the best thing in my life and she laughs at me, but kindly, and it’s all a bit funny with company. She invites me over for dinner but I really want pizza, so instead I just hang around while she cooks with coffee and have occasional semi-hysterical outbursts as I go through the list of things that I have cried over in the last seven days. We agree I need to go on holiday. We agree I need to adopt a cat, if not the cat. 

Order pizza at her house and only nearly cry when dominos takes my money but don’t accept my order, which shows real strength of character I feel. Bubble buddy phones them because I ask her too (which shows real lack of strength of character, I guess) and I look very pathetic and in the end she pays for it on her card and it’s so lovely that I, yes, nearly cry again.

Go home and sit on doorstep with cat in rain. Cat sits on my keys, so have little choice but to sit there. Feel very calm while stroking cat. Also feel slightly damp, because it is raining.

Sit on front doorstep with cat until pizza arrives.

Dominos man thinks I am very, very, keen for my pizza.

He isn’t entirely wrong.

Tuesday:

Have first back day in office since March! Given yesterday, had expected this to be a bit of a disaster, but this actually turns out to be okay and actually quite fun (and no tears—- goodbyeeeee choking on hormones for another month). 

Am going into the office because I’m writing a report on another team’s workload, so was intending to shadow some of their work to understand it. This is a bit of a social distancing nightmare, to be honest, but in the end we find a way through with her zooming into her web browser until the font is comically large while I squint at her screen from ‘1 meter plus’ away. Get what I need and have a quasi-productive day, involving chatting to some people I haven’t seen in a while and getting to buy a Taco Bell for lunch then eating it outside in the sort-of-rain with colleague.

I have missed wasting large amounts of money buying lunch from town. 

May reply to the email about yesterday’s meeting’s action points asking colleagues to give action points to the cat so that he doesn’t feel left out. Colleague actually does which is brilliant, or perhaps a sign that we’ve all been on lockdown too long.

Get home to find kitty on my front step waiting for me. Sit in the rain with the cat for another hour and then cancel plans to nearly fall asleep on the sofa and eat leftover pizza.

Wednesday:

Day initially uneventful. 

Conduct another meeting with a cat & discover the note I put in kitty’s collar in my back garden. 

After work, continue mission locate cats owner: speak to vets about how to get his chip read (intend to go down on Friday with my afternoon off) and then put several pictures of the cat on Facebook pet lost and found groups. Had been searching these previously to see if anyone had lost my kitty, but nothing had come up. Am just about to go on first of two rain-sodden walks in the park of the evening ( the first including a side trip to friend’s to pick up cat carry to transport kitty on Friday), when start receiving a large number of messages from woman who thinks I might have her cat. 

At this point, had taken a minor detour from going on walk to sit on the step and cuddle kitty goodbye. We exchange a few messages in which she sends me a few pictures of a cat that looks broadly similar to the one that’s currently on my lap but are quite poor quality. Then she asks if she can facetime me with the cat in an attempt to make a positive  ID…. . Which is how I end up video calling a random woman from Halifax from my front step (and yes, it is still raining).

Her cat is called Marley. She starts going ‘Marley, Marley, Marley!! Is he answering my voice?’ while kitty indifferently does, well, nothing. She calls the eldest child over and says ‘Is that Marley? Kevin*, is that Marley? Is that our Marley?’ while I awkwardly point the camera in the direction of the cat. ‘It’s hard to tell when he’s so wet!’ As a person who is also very wet — due to sitting on the step in the rain — I do understand why this is an issue.

Is he a boy??? Is he a boy??’ 

Well… I don’t really know how to tell, to be honest. I’ve been calling him a he.’

Lift up his legs. Lift him up. See if he has any balls. Marley’s neutered, so he won’t anyway but….’

 (At this point, I stop trying to both video call with a cat and lift the front of the cat up to look at his genitals; while this cat has been very good and well behaved, I don’t want to try my luck.)

‘Charlene. Charlene*, come here now, please. Tell me if this is Marley. My daughter. She loves him, she’ll know. Is that our Marley? (random teenager on the other end of the video call comes over and shrugs a ‘maybe’ as the very, very wet cat on my lap continues to stare indifferently at the screen). What does his meow sound like?’

“Uh, well. He only really meows when he’s hungry so I haven’t heard it much.”

That’s it!! That must be our Marley!! He only meows when he’s hungry. Sounds like a baby crying. My youngest can do his meow. Danny*, Danny come here — do Marley’s meaow. Do the meow.’

Danny joins the conversation. At this point I am video calling a pre-teen boy doing a very generic cat impression, sat on my front step in the rain which…. I did not see coming. 

‘So, does he sound like that? Maybe he’ll answer to the meow. Danny. Do it again Danny. Do the meaow again.’

The cat impression is repeated. The cat gives me a blank look. 

*Please note I have forgotten the name of her children. These names are made up.

At this point, I am bemused, confused, slightly wet and a little dubious. The woman lives a good 35 minute drive from my house and her cat was lost without a collar while mine has one, so I’m a little iffy about whether this is or isn’t her cat and unsure whether I’m just in denial. I do know that cat belongs to someone that is not me. I tell the woman that I’m just going out, but I’ll continue with my plan of getting the cat’s chip read and will let her know on Friday. She sends an additional nine pictures of the cat, fifteen messages and a length explanation of what the chip information should say.

Cat follows me up the road when I go on my walk. When I come back (now with cat carry for vet trip on Friday), Cat is on my front step again. I have another ten messages from the woman about the cat and whether she can send her mum / friend / cousin to my house to ID the cat before Friday. While I do absolutely understand her eagerness — the cat has been missing for three weeks — this is slightly stressful, and the reason I’m going on Friday is because I’ve only just got the cat carry off my friend and I’m going to the beach (!!!!) tomorrow. 

Turns out, the lost and found facebook group puts me in contact with a woman who has a scanner thing and can come to my house and scan the kitty cat. Arrange for her to come tomorrow morning, cave and let the cat inside for a bit, and then go to bed.

Thursday:

First mission of the day is to ‘contain’ the cat so a woman can come and scan his chip. This cat has never heard the expression about herding cats and is remarkably chill about doing exactly what I want it to. I point it inside my conservatory and he goes. Cat also doesn’t mind just hanging out in the conservatory as long as I don’t leave him alone, where he tries to follow me (and it turns out he can open doors, so that’s an experience). Right before she gets here, I feed the cat and he eats it so quickly that he throws up on my carpet.

Cat woman comes. Turns out I have been appropriately gender-ing the cat. He also does not belong to random woman in Halifax, but is supposed to live about a ten minute walk from my house. He’s been with his family for ten years and has been missing for four weeks. Cat woman calls the family and they turn up within ten minutes, just after I’ve evicted the kitty (pointed at the door and he went; this cat is so well trained it’s unbelievable) and am having a final hang out session on my front step. They are appropriately relieved that their cat has shown up and cat looks sufficiently indifferent about it (because cats).  I’m both happy for them and a bit sad, because I really loved that damn cat. Within fifteen minutes, I am left alone with nothing but cat vomit in my conservatory.

I’m very glad this didn’t happen on Monday, because I probably would have been an inconsolable, sobbing, snotty mess, but now I’m just a bit gutted and a lot disgusted by the cat vomit. 

The good news is, cat woman delivers the bad news to Halifax lady, who has already sent me another five messages this morning, which means I do not have to contact her again. 

The other good news is that last week, when friend and I went for a walk around the park in the middle of our lack-of-holiday, lockdown-frustration (and hormone) inspired rage, we decided to book this Thursday off and go to the beach (incidentally, this is not in violation of local lockdown rules, because the rules are really odd). Both of us were fully anticipating the weather to be completely terrible and that we’d drive for two and half hours,  sit on a cold, wet beach for an hour out of spite, then turn round and come home feeling more irritable than when we started. However, by some minor miracle it is gloriously sunny so, although my day starts off with abandonment and vomit, twenty minutes after I’ve seriously considered throwing out the rug rather than cleaning up regurgitated tuna we’re on our way to the freaking beach!!!!!! 

We decided we’d pick which direction we went on the day based on the weather and the forecast says Whitby. Whitby is one of those places that stepped in childhood nostalgia and affection for me, so am very happy about this.

Other good news: other friend linked me to government website that says that, contrary to my belief (and I’m sure contrary to what they initially announced), I am allowed to go to a restaurant with another household as long as we sit outside. Slightly gualling that this means I could have been cashing in on the government cheap food deal and what not but, to be fair, it’s been tipping it down with rain all week. However, this means we get a nice table on the decking at the first restaurant we find, buy some drinks, sit in the sun and both occasional sigh and say ‘I’m so happy’ or ‘I feel like I’m on holiday’ or ‘we couldn’t have asked for better weather’  on repeat. We do this intermittently for the entire six hours we stay in Whitby.

Order fish and chips at the restaurant because we’re right by the beach. 

Waitress-wearing-mask-over-mouth-but-not-nose asks if we want any sauces, but then comes back sheepishly and tells me that the restaurant is out of ketchup. 

After she’s gone, take a sage sip of my white wine and say ‘this is why you always carry ketchup in your handbag’.

Woman on the next table turns to us and says “…. I actually do have ketchup in my handbag, if you wanted some.’ Historically, I have been taught not to take sweets from strangers, but no one has ever given me any advice from taking ketchup from strangers, so I take the ketchup and feel very good about that fact because it’s a good addition to my fish and chips (if this is the reason I catch coronavirus, I’m going to be pissed). 

Very idyllic day.

Drink wine (on outside table) in restaurant while low-key judging the family with the nine year old playing with a toy gun and a fake cigarette, then wander down to the beach. Take great pleasure social distancing from group of boys who are having a farting competition. We paddle, read books, partake in a very odd pandemic experience of the 2p slot machines (literally how are they allowed to be open?), discuss at length the different quality levels of an establishment’s hand sanitiser, wander into shops, walk up to the abbey, eat ice cream, run into a couple from work and chat about the fact that they’re supposed to be in Malaga, take a brief trip to the supermarket after friend (who is allergic to wasps) accidentally kneels on one and we have to get antihistamines and take a boat ride round the bay. 

Approximately a year ago, the two of us were on holiday in Malaga and we took a catamaran trip where they bought you a cocktail and they had the equivalent of sun lounges and we made decisions about where to eat based on where they had sufficient aircon because it was so hot we were mostly just sweaty puddles rather than people. She made a running tally of how much wine I drank (which she reported was ‘disappointedly little’) and we had the best part of a week of sun, beaches and hanging out . We decide that six hours in Whitby is Exactly The Same Thing ™ as that holiday and return to parroting ‘this is so nice’ and ‘we were so lucky with the weather’ and ‘I’m so glad we’re not at work’ at each other on repeat. 

Stop at Taco Bell for food on the way home (friend’s choice; I sent her a video of me waiting at Taco Bell on Tuesday because we used to have taco Tuesdays at work and she was very jealous, then in an attempt to find somewhere to buy food and use loos we stumbled across it). Eat outside, because rules, which means we’re sat at the table right next to the Drive Thru order place and get to judge all the people who are insane enough to ask for things without guacamole. 

Friend doesn’t use all her ketchup, so I pocket it in honour of the ketchup-giver from this morning. Turn to her sagely and say ‘You should always have ketchup in your handbag’.

She says “knowing your luck, it’ll spill everywhere.” There’s a solid basis for this comment, given the usual coffee situation and that thing with the guacamole and the cinema trip and that time I tipped an entire bowl of grated cucumber into my handbag, or that morning I broke the bathroom sink, dropped a toilet roll down the loo and dropped my breakfast all before 10AM. Or the fact that there’s a wine stain on my ceiling, or the homemade salsa that fell on my head, or that work laptop / coffee situation that could have ended a little better. 

Get home at around half nine to discover that, in my rush to move laundry from bathroom to washing machine and clean up cat vomit before going to the beach, I managed to drop a t-shirt and a sock down the toilet. 

Still. Very idyllic day. 

Top 5 things about being a woman:

  1. The prerogative to have a little fun. Although there’s little else that I agreed with Shania on, I’m not sure that I actually do agree with her here.  I certainly don’t think that the prerogative to have a little fun outweighs the total nightmare that is the hormone thing, as referenced above. Or the systematic violence against women. Or the patriarchy. There’s a lot of crap about being a woman. 
  1. The prevalence of handbags means I can carry all the crap I need without trying to fit it in my pocket. Like my reusable coffee cup, six types of drugs, a book, ketchup etc.
  2. People expect me to care about football less. While I am generally anti these types of stereotypes, I really, really do not like people trying to talk to me about football.
  3. If I get married, on my hen do no one would ever expect me to keep a steak in my underwear all day, go wild swimming and then BBQ and eat the steak, like that story my male bubble buddy told us about. Women don’t do that to each other because it’s disgusting and odd.
  4. If a bird dies in my garden it’s socially acceptable for me to accidentally enlist a man to remove the dead corpse from my front path. If I was a man, I would be expected to do this myself because toxic masculinity. In general, toxic. Occasionally, quite useful.
  5. Can text a friend while sobbing inconsolably about a cat and friend will greet me with hug, coffee and a glass of wine, chat to me about my feelings as I cry on her bed, laugh companionably about how crap hormones are, then order me a pizza. Female friendships are these meaningful, life long things based on mutual support, emotions, and chocolate.

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