Stopping an intruder

Over the last few years we have had a problem with an unwelcome intruder.

A cat.

A strikingly ginger cat, just like the one that lives next door.

We had seen the cat in our gardens (front and back) quite often, and seen it in the garden next door too

We ignored the problem for the first couple of weeks, but after a while we noticed the house started to smell of cat urine.

And we strongly suspected the source of the problem wasn’t any of our four cats.

So after a lot of research I bought and fitted a microchip-reading catflap.

You know the kind of thing; an entry-controlling device that only permits access to those cats it has been programmed to allow.

Being responsible pet-owners all four of our cats are microchipped, so after a spot of switching the thing into program-mode and posting our cats through the catflap, we were in business.

Almost immediately the cat urine problem went away (after we’d cleaned through the house very thoroughly, obv).

But my point here is that the smell of cat urine never came back.

Fast forward 18 months and that smell problem had still not reoccurred.

In an unconnected series of events we got a dog at that time.

This didn’t prove to be the problem we thought it might be.

At first the puppy was small enough to use the cat flap, so we felt smug.

We still saw the suspected intruder in the garden (both front and back), but a cat from the neighbourhood roaming the garden is one thing.

A cat from the neighbourhood using the inside of your house as a public convenience is a (completely unacceptable) something else.

Around six or seven months later, it started to become obvious that the dog was getting too large for the catflap.

So I did a lot more research.

Microchip-reading dogflaps don’t exist.

I did wonder why; didn’t learn the answer until very recently.

Faced with not being able to buy what I wanted, I took a risk and bought the largest-sized chip-reading catflap on the market.

With the new flap fitted, and all four cats and a puppy posted through it, we continued being secure from the intruding feline urinator, whilst allowing our growing menagerie unrestricted ingress and egress

About four months later another puppy rocked up.

And with that new puppy, the answer to the question of why there are no dogflaps that are microchip-readers also arrived:

Speed.

The pace that the older of the two puppies bashed through the catflap was so fast that the chip-reader didn’t have time to activate.

Not wanting to cause the dog any injury, or the panel on the door any damage, I deactivated the chip reader.

What happened next?

The smell of strange cat happened, followed not much later by the smell of cat urine, that’s what happened next.

Then we noticed pee-stains on our furniture downstairs.

And on our brand new super king-sized bed upstairs.

The urine in the bed was so bad it had penetrated all layers of bed-linen and duvet, plus the topper, and stained the brand-new mattress.

Cost of replacing the mattress: £1,000.

This was no longer an intruding cat, peeing in random places and making everything smell.

This was now much more than an inconvenience. This had become a very serious problem.

I wanted to identify the source of the problem so I bought a day/night webcam.

The first night it was installed it told me two things.

Firstly, that our cats are in and out of the catflap so often, while we’re asleep, it’s almost a revolving door.

Secondly, that the source of the prolific cat wee is indeed the ginger cat from next door.

I emailed our neighbour, briefed them on the problem and attached the photograph.

The response was unusual, to say the least.

I paraphrase their email but it can be condensed as: ‘One cat, oh you’ve got it so lucky, we had a problem with six cats in our house and anyway I can’t be sure that is our cat and have you thought of getting a chip-reading catflap?’

*blinks*

I’m not unreasonable, I know there’s very little they can do, apart from keeping their cat indoors 24/7, and that’s not what I was suggesting.

Since then I have been using the motion-detecting webcam to continue monitoring the situation.

The unwelcome urinator is in our house for an average of four hours a night; doing, amongst other things, urinating, eating any cat food in our cat bowls, and jumping up on our kitchen work-surfaces/breakfast bar (things we don’t allow our own cats to do), and stealing food from there.

Despite all of this evidence, there is, as I’ve said, nothing the neighbours can do, short of denying their cat any freedom to roam.

And it isn’t freedom to roam that I have a problem with; my problem is the litany of things that the cat gets up to in our house.

Being a practical person, I am now working out a plan of taking matters into my own hands.

I’m going to lay a mattress inside the front door (the catflap is in the rear door and within clear line of sight), and I’m going to lie in wait for the intruder.

With my rifle.

And when the urinating cat comes in the house, I shall dispatch it.

Of course, there are a number of things that need careful consideration before I take such action.

These things aren’t as simple as just pulling the trigger.

My extensive marksmanship experience reminds me that 130 ft/lbs of energy propelling ammunition of 14.3 grain at 900 ft/second is going to cross the 37 feet distance between the end of the muzzle and the cat’s brain at X.

A cat’s brain is approximately the size of a small satsuma.

Therefore, as well as X, I need to factor in distance of trajectory plus slight downward gravitational pull of Y.

Fortunately, wind isn’t going to be a factor; shooting indoors is so much simpler than shooting outdoors.

Another consideration, when I’m setting up the shot, is angle.

If I’m angling too low, I risk damaging the floor, and this cat has already cost us enough money.

Similarly, if I’m angling too high, I risk quite a lot of splatter against the kitchen door, from the exit wound.

But if I can get the cat’s head and body in a perfectly straight line , running parallel to the ground, the chances of any exiting collateral damage are negligible.

Then there’s disposal.

As the neighbours have effectively said the intruder doesn’t belong to them, I don’t suppose they would want the carcass.

So I’m going to ring the local hunt; they’ll have a practical use for a clean-killed, unpoisoned cat; nothing will go to waste.

I don’t think I have anything else to consider.

Oh yes, noise. A gun report might wake someone upstairs.

So I’m going to fit a long-barrelled suppressor to the rifle.

And night-vision telescopic sights, to ensure total accuracy.

That should take care of everything.

There’s no crime of cruelty being committed here; a clean kill is so much kinder than anything else that comes to mind.

Don’t you think?

Remembering/Forgetting/Not Forgetting/Ignoring/Not Ignoring

In the past, at this time of year, I have got up on a Sunday morning, put on my best suit, crisp shirt, black tie, shiny shoes. I have pinned metal and ribbon to my chest and walked down to the war memorial in the village.

Most of the rest of the village inhabitants would be filtering out of the church where they’d spent the last hour on their devotions.

We would gather in a sizeable collective around the war memorial where prayers would be led, and words would be said, by the parish priest.

There would be the raising and lowering of flags, and the laying of wreaths.

There would be the bugling of the Last Post, followed by a final hymn, a blessing from the priest and then I’d walk back home.

This year I didn’t

I am becoming more anti-religious as I age.

And I am becoming angry at the religious invasion of what should not be a religious event.

The remembrance ceremony at the Cenotaph in London has no religious flavour.

That, in my eyes, is how it should be.

I don’t need any religious undercurrent to make a ceremony of remembrance into a significant event.

In fact, I find the Cenotaph’s ceremony more poignant without any religious trappings.

I do wonder why we allow the Church of England or the Roman Catholic faith to hijack Remembrance Sunday.

It seems dishonest to transform a very human act – remembering the fallen, paying tribute to absent friends (whether we knew them or not) – into a religious ceremony.

The ceremony of remembering should, in itself, be tribute enough.

I’m sure we have all been to crematoria to see off people we knew and loved?

I have – and too many times.

I don’t remember any of those people with less feeling because those ceremonies had no religious aspect.

I don’t need a priest I’m only going to see once a year, to lead me (and a hundred or so others) in The Lord’s Prayer to help me remember people I used to work with.

I don’t need any of these things to help me pay respect to people who have fallen in the service of their country, people who I hadn’t had the opportunity to meet.

If there’s a benefit to having a religious figure lead prayers and hymns, why isn’t this role extended to all religions?

And to humanists?

Why, if there is a benefit (and to whom – because I have no idea who might benefit from it) in having a vicar or a priest lead prayers and hymns, is there no religious leader doing the same thing at the Cenotaph?

I don’t have an answer to any of these questions.

The more I think about it, the more I repeatedly come back to how idiotic it is to turn a remembrance ceremony – a commemoration of fallen humans who were, without a doubt, drawn from all religions (and a number of whom would have been irreligious) into a single-religion event.

That kind of thinking is dysfunctional.

It should be changed.

Until it is I shall no longer take part. I shall do my own remembering, on my terms. I shall pay my own respects. And I shall think my own thoughts, without needing someone to stand near me and speak words in which I have no belief.

Question asked/question answered

As I write this (and this statement is more for my benefit, for when I come to read this back when I am [even more] older and I have [much] less grip on my mental faculties) it is 06.15 on Sunday 29th September 2019.

I’m wondering where the clause ‘and you will never be able to sleep past 05.15 ever again and staying in bed past 05.30 will instantly become a thing of the past’ is, in the small print of ‘getting two puppies’.

They are currently trying to eat each other (or so it sounds).

They’ve been out in the garden for a romp about. They’ve also been out for a brisk run around this part of the village (I ran, they jogged).

They’ve had their breakfast (Chewie has had his wormer). They’ve had their four dry Shreddies each. They’ve licked my empty bowl of Shreddies (yes, this means that technically they’ve had three breakfasts each).

And now, as I say, I believe they’re trying to eat each other.

Anyway, outside the world of dog-induced sleep deprivation and in my professional world…

Our senior managers/director have recently started emailing us a weekly round-up of the bullet points they’ve been concentrating on.

These updates make for interesting reading; it’s revealing to get the full scope of things they have on their plate, and also good to get a pan-EMEA/pan-transatlantic view of things that are just outside my area of operation.

I wish my former director in my last company did the same thing. Had she done so it might have corrected the opinion the whole department had that she just sat on her fat arse all day. Maybe.

Anyway, back to today.

On his weekly update one of the senior managers also goes into detail of what he’s reading, what he’s (been) watching, and what has inspired him each week.

When I read these updates (as I do every Friday) my first thought is ‘How the hell do you have so much time for reading and personal development!’.

My second thought is, inevitably, ‘You don’t have a pair of Spaniels, do you?’

Thereby answering my own question.

I have van envy

(not anything like Van Morrison)

When we were on holiday in Cornwall the family on a pitch diagonally opposite ours had a huge tent.

Ours was an eight-man tent. Theirs dwarfed ours and made it look like something you’d throw up in the garden for a weekend of fun.

About halfway through our stay, the family with the *huge* tent packed up and got the hell out of Dodge went back home.

The dad of the family rolled up a wall of their tent and started carrying things out.

There was the fridge. And the freezer. And the 48″ TV. And the microwave. And the oven. And the smaller fridge (which I could only think they had exclusively for beer). And the kettle. And the two gas bottles. And many other things, including items of furniture.

All of these things were stowed in the back of a 3.5t van (with tail-lift).

When the tent had been emptied one of the family swept out, mopped up and then dried the floor.

Then the tent was very carefully (but very rapidly, taken down and folded up, and then stowed in the remaining space in the back of the van.

Within less than an hour of the activity starting, the whole exercise had been completed, everything was stowed, and the family were driving out of the campsite on their way home.

Seasoned campers, obviously.

Whereas we were/are very unseasoned campers.

We had little conversations on the way home; about getting a top-box for the Insignia (which was totes crammed up), about getting a trailer.

Then we moved on to getting a caravan (and had sensible conversations about such things), while all the time I was thinking about getting a van).

I’m not sure how we’re going to combine any/all of these things with our ambitions of getting a widebeam boat…

It’s going to be an interesting couple of years.

The little patter of tiny feet…

At some point, during the Cornwall camping holiday, it was decided that Robyn needed a companion.

Various companion-types were discussed that may or may not have included an Aardvark, a Tarantula, a Zebra, a Sheep, a Goat, a Piranha (or possibly several), a Boa Constrictor and even a Dinosaur.

All of these were rejected in favour of something more manageable.

Over the next Cornish evening or several, the Internets were scoured, various websites were browsed, enquiries were made and even a couple of phone calls were made.

The day after we returned home, we four humans (still shaking the sand from our toes) journeyed into nearby Derbyshire, where this happened:

Oh no, another Sprocker!

He came home with us that same day.

Didn’t we have a lovely time?

I’ve not really done any ‘camping’ before.

Because you can’t compare all the many hours that I spent on survival training, or camping out in mountain ranges, or in deserts, or in the arctic circle, from the days I used to wear a uniform and carry a sidearm for a living.

And by the same token you can’t really compare the nights (sometimes days) that I slept occasionally inside a tent, sometimes outside a tent, and sometimes neither inside nor outside a tent, at various music festivals.

So when, in mid-August, we stuffed the car to its limit (four humans, one six-month Spaniel puppy, an eight-man tent, and many, many camping-related accessories – not to mention food!), and trundled down to sunny Cornwall for a week of living under canvas, it was something of a shock to the system.

A shock to my system, at least.

The campsite had everything it promised, including being delightfully dog-friendly. The well-provided dog-walking fields were terrific for Robyn to zoom around in, and the dog shower was lovely for her. Keeping her in the tent was interesting (she can wriggle through the smallest gaps). On the penultimate day she did manage to put a sharp claw through our airbed, but it was still all part of the camping-with-dog experience.

The beach was (very) nearby and equally dog-friendly. There was a large freshwater stream that ran through the beach down to the sea, which Robyn spent many happy hours running and splashing about in. The whole beach, sea, sand, freshwater stream experiences were all new to her, but she coped with it all very well.

Dog on a  beach
Beachy-streamy thing. And a dog

The weather held for us through the week. There was some minor sunburn (my left leg), but overall the weather was the ‘just bearable side of very hot’.

As for trips out/away from the area we were staying, we ventured into Newquay (ugh! It was full of people on a hot day and it wasn’t a good place for either Robyn or me). We also drove up to Tintagel, crossed the bridge, walked the Castle, and took the many, many steps down into the cove.

I have many memories of the week.

One of these memories is of waking up, freezing cold but fighting a losing battle with a full bladder at 3am, struggling out of the tent (which was damp from overnight dew), while the dog did her very best to trip me up because getting up at 3am is her NEW FAVOURITE THING!

But if that’s my biggest discomfort with the week (and I think it was), then I had a cracking week camping in Cornwall. With three other humans. And a six-month old Spaniel.

Westward Ho!

On Monday morning the fully-loaded Charabanc* of Fun** will depart these parts and head southwesterly.

The estimated travel time is 5-1/2 hours, but as one of the occupants of the Charabanc will be an 8-1/2 month-old puppy (nervous traveller, prone to frequent toileting), it’s fair to expect the journey to take considerably longer than that.

We are heading to a far-off land of magical, mystical delights, where the natives wear grass skirts, frequently stop passers-by in the streets and inflict on them a strange local dance called the Haka.

Yes, we are going to Cornwall.

Some people think that Cornwall got its name because it used to be separated from Devon (and why wouldn’t anyone want to be separated from Devon?) by a wall of corn.

But that’s not actually the case.

Cornwall got its name because it was formerly owned by Sir Henry de Vere Cornwallis.

Sir Henry de Vere Cornwallis was, in his middle years, the inventor of the non-striking flintlock, the hole in the bottom of the bucket, and the hot-air balloon made entirely of lead.

Unfortunately Sir Henry de Vere Cornwallis met a very untimely end when he was crushed beneath a wall of corn he was building around his bathroom.

Anyway.

Where was I?

Oh yes, that’s right.

So we expect that our journey to Cornwall will take considerably longer than the 5-1/2 hours that Google Maps says it will take.

This trip is likely to become a major tour of roadside Services on the A42, M42, M5, A30, A39, and the A392.

But all of this is a very small price to pay in order to take the fluffy little friend on holiday.

Isn’t it?

*Not really a Charabanc
**May not actually contain that much fun

Oi people! No!

No thank you, I don’t want you to talk to me whilst I’m standing in the toilets having a wee.

And I don’t want you to engage me in conversation whilst you’re standing there peeing and I’m standing over at the sink washing my hands.

I think it’s a bit bloody weird for you to accept an incoming call while you are sitting in Trap 2 (or another other Trap), doing your business.

And I’d rather you didn’t make an outgoing call whilst you are seated in similar conditions.

Why would you think it was a good idea to nip to the toilet for a wee while you are on the (handsfree) phone to your nearest and dearest? Or to your bank? Or your insurance company?

We need some decent toilet etiquette to be introduced.

Or some phone etiquette.

But if ever I’m on the phone to someone and I suspect that they’re ‘using the facilities’, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’m going to hang up.

Your face is your fortune

There’s an app sweeping across the more gullible members of the human race; it’s called FaceApp.

FaceApp adds some processing to your self-photo, and shows you what you’re (probably) going to look like in 10, 20, 30 years.

Despite the name, FaceApp isn’t a Facebook utility, and can be used outside of the Facebook platform.

FaceApp is provided by a software company in St Petersburg, Russia. I’m sure they’re lovely, honest, trustworthy people.

Anyway.

In the Terms and Conditions of FaceApp, there are a few concepts that should give us all concern.

If you use it via Facebook it requires your Facebook login details, but even outside of Facebook it will:

  • Receive your proper (full) name
  • Copy your profile picture
  • Take a copy of your photos (all of them)
  • Accesses your email address

Additionally, FaceApp says it will share your data with its (unnamed) ‘affiliates’.

And, in using FaceApp, you grant the software provider (those nice people in Russia) a perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free licence to use, to adapt, to publish, and to distribute your user content (photos, texts, etc) in all media formats.

So that’s lovely.

And I just saw someone (on Facebook) who said ‘It’s alright, I’ve deleted it now.’

Except they’ve still got all of the above information, data, and media from your phone. And it’s theirs to keep.

Forever.

These aren’t housenumbers you moron

Every morning I walk the dog.

We walk out of our little road and down the lane, and then go off into the fields for a near-three mile romp.

The lane is a lane; that description is even in the name.

The speed limit on the lane is 30mph.

The lane runs through the village, it passes within 20 metres of the village school, and within eight metres of the front door of a lot of houses.

The lane also runs past two working (livestock) farms.

So the speed limit is a very reasonable 30mph.

But there’s a Jaguar driver who either feels that the 30mph limit is optional, or that the 30mph limit just doesn’t apply to him.

I have never seen him driving the lane at less than 50mph – and his usual speed is >60mph.

The overworked rozzers aren’t going to do much about this; they have bigger fish to fry than a Jaguar-driving moron.

If only I could check if the driver of the grey Luxury Premium (Diesel-engined) Jaguar ML64 VEO had road tax and had a valid MOT?

Well, what if I could check if the driver of the grey Luxury Premium (Diesel-engined) Jaguar ML64 VEO was insured?

Well, if only there was a way of finding out the address of the owner?

Because then I could go up there and have a friendly word or two with him, about how unacceptable his driving is.

Unfortunately that public webservice doesn’t exist in the same way that the other two do.

If only there were a private way of getting the owners name and address?

Because those numbers on the signs by the side of the road?

They’re there for a very good reason.

And I’d like to go up there and explain the very good reason to the driver.

Pointedly.