Monthly Archives: April 2017

EXTENDED FAMILY?

At last count the number of cats on the property, including our longtime pets Retsina, Ouzo, Mythos and Raki, is now 10. The Cappuccino Twins

and poor little Bud

were here when we arrived back. The twins are permanent residents, as is Brandy, initially called Mama/Papa for we weren’t sure at first what relation he is to the now teenagers.

Some of the original homeless ones have vanished – presumably gone back into Kalamos village as people arrive to take up residence in holiday homes. At least I hope so and it’s not because they have met a grisly end.

We have fortunately managed to trap and neuter two of those remaining, but they are very wary and hardly ever venture out of the forest. They will always be feral as it’s long past the time they could be socialized but at least they won’t reproduce, and are fed.

There’s a third cat, though, who has been coming and going, and had been absent for quite a while. But she, and yes quite obviously it’s a she, bulging with kittens, started showing up again a few weeks ago.

I’d catch glimpses of her at the food bowls, or hear Raki protesting loudly – he is not at all fond of trespassers on his property. The cat’s very nervous and it’s taken me quite a while to even approach her, but hunger clearly reduces her inhibitions, and she’ll eat rapidly while gazing warily about her.

She disappeared again for several days, during which time I became convinced she must have had her kittens, for she had been so heavily pregnant that her belly would drag on the ground while she ate. She has returned, no longer pregnant and absolutely ravenous.

Wouldn’t surprise me if she’s had a large litter, and maybe it’s not her first. Freddie maintains she’s the sister of Bud, the twins and one of the teenagers which has vanished. Could well be the case for the twins aren’t bothered by her and she’s pretty much the same size as them. Same coffee color also, but could she actually be their mother?

She’s come each morning in the last three days. I have to keep a close eye out for her as Mythos is determined that she must leave – he’s rather ugly to her in fact – and so I have to grab and lock him up while she eats, much to his irritation.

What I’m hoping is that she’ll bring the kittens over from wherever she’s hiding them. Then they can be handled and get used to humans, and that means I can get them homes through PAWS

I’ve warned Ron that should there be a tortoiseshell in the litter, it’s mine. I fervently hope so for I’m a devoted fan of the tortie. In fact, I cannot remember a time without a tortie in the household – my Mother adored them also.

Should this cat stay we’ll neuter her as soon as the kittens are weaned, and I suppose she’ll inevitably be named Shandy.

 

BUD

 

  

SHADES OF ROALD DAHL

Several years ago Costa arrived at the house late one afternoon with a happy grin on his face.

“I’ve something for you. Will you give me a beer?”

Biera. That’s possibly one of Costa’s favourite words. Fond of his beer is Costa, and we make sure to have a supply on hand. He drops in when he’s working in the area, and we have our little ritual of beer for Costa and tea for me. He’s the most cheerful man, loving to crack jokes, especially about being a Muslim.

“Yes,” he’ll laugh, “I’m a very good Muslim – I drink beer and I eat pork.” (It’s worth noting here that over 50% of Albanians are secular Muslims; the country was under harsh Ottoman rule for five centuries and then Communism for decades.)

“Are you both well?” he continued, as I made ready to fetch him a beer.

“Sit! Sit!” He led me to a garden bench. “I’ve brought something you will like.”

He darted off up the driveway towards the gate. Puzzled, I waited. Hiding something away to surprise me with is a little game of his.

“What is it?” he’ll tease. “What do you think I’ve got?”

Could be anything. If it’s a plant or bunch of flowers he’ll keep it behind his back until he’s satisfied I’m sufficiently curious, then he’ll produce it with a flourish. He’s a great showman, is Costa, and a most kind and generous person.

He came trotting back down the drive carrying a typical round Greek terrace table. You see these classic little tables everywhere in Greece. Simple and practical they’re the stuff of picture postcards, often painted blue, set amid pots of bright red geraniums, and with an inviting jug of wine or cup of coffee atop them.

They’re iconic, instantly recognizable as Greek, speaking of lazy summer days. Mind you, I’m not sure if the days of the staff who serve customers in tavernas and coffee shops are all that lazy – they run themselves ragged taking care of their customers.

But the table Costa was holding aloft was not new. Its top was quite battered, what little paint left on it flaking off in a mishmash of grayish green, mixed with plenty of rust. It was charming. I loved it instantly. It reflected a great deal of age, hand wrought of thick steel and still perfectly sturdy.

“Costa!” I exclaimed. “Where did you get it?”

“What do you care?” came his standard reply. “I got it and it’s for you. That’s all you need to know.”

Bless him, he knows I appreciate the old, the unusual and most especially the handmade.

We put it in a corner of the terrace where it stood proudly for several years facing Mt Pelion, often graced by a red geranium in an old ceramic pot. The winds can be very fierce across this terrace. Aelos, god of the wind and chosen by Zeus himself, doesn’t always tease gently off the sea. At times he hurls himself savagely onto the land, particularly when Zeus is having a right old spat with his wife Hera and has demanded that Aeolos do his bidding.

The original geranium has been replaced many times, so vicious can Aeolos be when he decides to release the winds under his command, but the pot and the table have never yielded to him, and the table became even more weathered and dignified in its old age.

“You need to let me paint that,” Costa would assert, frequently, over the years. “It’s old and people will think you are very poor and can’t afford to buy a new one.” Appearances matter to Costa.

“No, you can’t”, I would reply. “I love it like that. It’s beautiful. It has a history. Who knows where it’s been, and how many tales it can tell us? Just you leave it alone, there’s no need to paint it.”

Costa would merely sniff, but one day, after a couple of beers, he did reveal he’d found it dumped in a gully with a pile of builder’s rubble. It could have come from anywhere, but it certainly has had a long life.

As you know, we were gone almost all of last year. Costa and Freddie were absolute stars, taking it in turns to come down from Albania to look after our numerous pets and keeping everything going here. Costa isn’t usually in Kalamos during the summer because there’s not much work. The winter months are his busy ones as it’s then that the olives are harvested, the trees pruned and the lands tidied up. So he had lots of time on his hands, and he used it well, doing all kinds of little chores about the property.

Have you read Roald Dahl’s wonderful story “The Parson’s Pleasure”? If not, you’ve missed out on one of his typical pieces of black humour. This tale involves the destruction of a genuine Chippendale commode, and yes, you’ve guessed right. Costa channeled Dahl, of whom he’s never heard although Dahl’s delicious stories must surely have been translated into Albanian.

No, Costa didn’t saw the legs off my beautifully distressed table, my gorgeous piece of shabby chic, but he did finally get his way. He painted it.

He went to all the trouble of having someone buy him the paint, and he painted it. Bright green yet. Rather a startling bright, glossy green. He couldn’t wait to show it to me when we returned.

I confess I gasped. I was stunned, but Costa was thrilled, assuming I was delighted. Oh dear. No way could I have hurt his feelings. Never could I do that. So I told him it was perfect, absolutely perfect, I praised him for his thoughtfulness.

And Costa beamed. He’s so proud of it. He’s overjoyed to have made me happy. And yes, it’s absolutely not what I wanted, not at all, but you know what? It is perfect. Absolutely perfect.

 

THE CAPPUCCINO TWINS

Grappa

She has a round little face and sleepy eyes which belie the fact that she’s a demon of a huntress – I should have named her Artemis after the Greek goddess. No butterfly is safe. No lizard awakening to spring sunshine can get away fast enough. I spend a lot of time supervising her antics, and am rather relieved when I can finally shut her and her siblings up for the night.

Anise

This little one has a thing for Ron and follows him everywhere, much to Raki’s skinny-eyed disgust.

They are both very affectionate, come at once when called and are so full of life that it’s an awful time waster to be around them. Delightful!

Notice how well camouflaged they are in sand and rocks.

BUD UPDATE

Bud is not blooming, I’m very sorry to say. We took him to Theresa on Friday because his appetite was poor and he had no interest in anything. Bud, that wee devil who’d zipped around here at the speed of light. Bud, who’d instigated every kind of kitty mischief. Bud, who’d struggled against being put into his bed for the night. That Bud was lethargic, getting thinner by the day and wanted only to hide away somewhere. Theresa was concerned. “Is he being bullied by some other cat?” she asked. “His personality has changed very much.”

It certainly has, and no, he’s not bullied. We know where he is all the time, and we know something’s not right. What is it though? He had a slight temperature, but Theresa didn’t feel it was significant. She’s put him on yet another course of antibiotics – shots which Ron gives – as well as more anti-inflammatory and pain medications. He’s eating so little now that it’s a struggle to get the liquid meds into him through his food.

He’ll need to go back to Theresa for blood work in hopes of getting a diagnosis. She’s puzzled, but doesn’t think it’s feline leukemia; so many kittens here are born with it. While some never show symptoms, others succumb rapidly.

I hope we get an answer soon because this little boy is not thriving. Not at all. He’s not much more than skin and bone now. Even after the drama of being trapped, after nearly dying with that awful throat problem, Bud was a bundle of energy.

We’re holding thumbs that he gets better.