Friday, March 26, 2010

The Bad Cat

Evolution In Action

My cat is a bit twee. It was the runt of a litter of five whose mother was called Gladys. Therefore the kits were called the Pips. Mine stuck with the name and eventually this got shorted to the sobriquet Pipster. So, it's either called Pip or The Pipster. The name fits because it is very small – except for its belly – which almost drags the ground.

It's quite an old cat now, as cats go. It's pushing 16. It still loves to hunt in the spring and bring its “presents” in for your morning inspection. Other than that it's fairly lazy, as is the wont for cats.

It's not been a bad cat. It has been very expensive. Early on in its career we discovered that it was prone to cystitis. You can tell when cats have cystitis – they pee in your bathtub. That's good to know. The “cure” according to the vet is special food for cystitis cats, and it costs about £120 pounds a year just to feed it some biscuits. Add to that the inevitable vets bills for check-ups and yearly injections and you have a special family pet which could bankrupt a more mercenary owner.

It almost never leaves our expansive back garden. When the house next door was empty and being renovated it did try to take over their back yard by slipping through the hedge, but with the advent of the new owners and their dog it soon gave that one up. It's a stay at home cat. It was neutered very young (female) and has no need to wander.

Some time last year is suddenly “made a friend” - or so we thought at the time. Once we caught it in the garden looking at another cat. Oddly enough this other cat is a carbon copy of Pip – only a bit larger and with a bushier tail. How sweet.

Then, one evening I happened to pass the kitchen door and glance out into the conservatory. There was Pip at her biscuit bowl. I looked again. It was not Pip; it was the other cat happily tucking into a free meal of expensive biscuits. I told the others. They all thought it was quite sweet. What's a few biscuits between cat buddies?

After not a long time this pilfering got out of hand and Pip became anxious whenever it could see or smell the other cat. Pip's behaviour changed. We decided that it might be a good idea to discourage the interlopers visits. I was rather hoping that the dog might intervene.

Sheba gets on very well with Pip because she knows that the cat is the boss. Sheba does not like other cats. At all. It's favourite walk involves going around the block in search of occasional cats. It is sees one it goes for it. I hoped that the dog might be awake and about when the other cat came in through the cat flab and scare it into revising its night-time activities. Problem. Dog is lazy in the evening and never seemed to twig to the strange cat burgling its property.

These nocturnal food raids began to be tiresome and Pip was showing signs of stress. Yes, Mabel, apparently cats can suffer from stress. I know. The vet told me so.

The cat was transformed into the not altogether affectionate pseudonym ( or perhaps nom de guerre might be better ) of “The Bad Cat”.

Conversations started with, “Anyone seen “”The Bad Cat”” lately?”

Eventually, we caught The Bad Cat in the conservatory by the simple expedient of setting the cat flap to allow cats to enter but not leave. I opened the door. The Bad Cat was at the bowl. It panicked and ran for the cat flap. In it's terror it knocked the plastic flap off its hinges and escaped. Sounds cruel but I thought, at least, the problem was solved.

I underestimated The Bad Cat by half. Locking the cat flap so that it could not enter the house only brought on wanton destruction. Somehow it got up enough speed in the cat flap tunnel to smash it's way through he locked cat flap, which we found the next morning completely destroyed. More expense – new cat flap purchased.

It's now a war. Pip has been to the vet for a stress-related bald patch on its back. The new flap did not entirely work. It simply pushed it out of the way to gain entrance.

We are now on the fall back plan. We lock the cat flap after sundown. We push a large plant pot against the outside opening. We move the Pipster's biscuits onto the dining room table and close the conservatory door.

As long as we remember to religiously apply these measures, the scourge of The Bad Cat may yet be conquered. Wish us luck.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Football Failings

Only occasionally do I intrude into the wonderful, wacky world of football. Mostly it is either too silly, too exasperating or just down right too frustrating.

Recent developments deserve a mention. I happened on an interesting programme on the BBC News channel the other evening. It was a discussion regarding some of the recent financial crises that have been plaguing the “beautiful game”.

In case you missed it, Portsmouth FC are about to enter administration and a number of other clubs are queuing up to join them. That's the story, basically.

Like the weather, lots of folk are talking about it, and no-one is actually doing anything.

The programme “identified” some areas that need discussion/amendment/improvement. Clubs are (obviously) being extremely irresponsible with their finances. Players (and their union) are milking the cow for all it's worth – despite the fact that the teats are giving no succour, for the milk has run out. Fans are in disarray because of increasing ticket prices and lack of success on the field.

Where to start?

The Clubs. Football clubs operate as if they were immune to the forces of economics and gravity. Being immune to gravity is especially good for them as they think they can avoid the drop! Yep, that's how stupid they are. The truth is only a very few clubs, either by reason of an incredibly wealthy owner or owners, or a fan base that covers the known world can possibly aspire to win the Premiership. All the others are simply treading water. Clubs can, of course, never admit this because it would upset and alienate the fans.

The Supporters. The supporters like to think that they are the backbone of the club and the most important leg of the tripod. They are chin-dribblingly deluded on both counts. Clubs make noises about how wonderful the fans are and how they are striving to win trophies and championships for them. In reality, as long as some fans ( primarily the most stupid ones ) continue to troop gaily through the turnstiles so that the TV companies can pan the cameras around the ground without encountering too many empty seats; the clubs aren't really worried about the supporters ( or cannon fodder if you prefer ). Clubs know that the real money comes from TV.

The Players. Players are easy targets. Well, those at the very top who earn obscene wages are easy targets. The PFA is charged with protecting all players and their views on wages are simple. Get you hands off! For the PFA the problems with club finances are nothing to do with them and they don't really want to discuss or negotiate any change to the status quo.

What's to be done?

The Clubs. Clubs will not regulate themselves. Leagues will not regulate clubs. FIFA, UEFA, etc. will not regulate clubs. The EU ( for once charged with doing something useful ) could regulate clubs. How? Make Europe-wide rules and regulations regarding club finances. Stipulate the amount clubs can spend on players and transfers. Clubs should only be able to spend a proportion of TV and gate receipts and bring down wages and ticket prices in order to comply. At a stroke you level the playing field and make football more competitive.

The Supporters

Supporters need educating. This will be tough for they generally make Dewsbury Chavs look like intellectuals. Deep down they know they are gormless. Commentators, managers, players and administrators must stop pandering to fans' basest instincts and explain their real strategy: i.e. stay in this league, remain solvent, introduce more home-grown players that fans can identify with, live within our means and avoid what seems to be attractive short-term fixes!

The Players

Players are their own worst enemies. They are all in the gossip columns too often because they earn obscene amounts of money and don't know how to spend it except on Chav Flash. Players must learn to sign contracts that mean something, that put most of their earning into long-term investments instead of short-term bling, and act like responsible adults instead of spoiled brats.

Incidentally, none of the above had even the remotest chance of being adopted.