Tag Archives: Raki

Near CATastrophe

Two of our cats are sisters. The tortoiseshell is Retsina, the marmalade one is Ouzo; they are named for traditional Greek drinks.

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Inseparable

We took them into Volos to be neutered when they were little, confidently telling the vet that Retsina was a girl, and Ouzo a boy. He elected to operate on the girl first as the surgery is more involved. When he came to Ouzo, he called us: “You said this cat is male. Well, Ouzo is a girl, and should be called Ouzaki.” We were stunned.

I know that tortoiseshell cats are almost exclusively female, and that a male tortie is so rare as to be considered a freak, but I also believed that an all-ginger cat (no white at all) is exclusively male. Well, all-ginger females do occur. I must say, in a lifetime of being owned by cats, Ouzo is my first ever female ginger.

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Please, We’re Sleeping!


By the way, Retsina is a feminine noun, Ouzo a masculine, so yes, Ouzo should be Ouzaki, but her name has stuck and Ouzo she is. The vet still teases us about our knowledge of feline anatomy!

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Helpful Kittens

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And Yet More Help


Both cats are highly nervous, highly strung, very timid, which I attribute to their early days as kittens born to a semi-feral cat. In fact, many of our friends have never even seen them as they tend to hide away during the day. It gets quite hectic around here a great deal of the time as both are frightened of the other cats, and it’s often a case of “Shut the bedroom door! Ouzo’s on the bed!” or “Don’t let Raki into my study! Retsina’s in my chair!”

Sometimes they disappear all day, particularly in the summer, and only creep in through the cat flap at night to sleep inside, where they evidently feel safe. There are plenty of foxes about, feral cats, feral dogs, and even European Wildcats which can present a threat to them. But mostly they are intimidated by Raki. That little demon, much adored as he is, torments the poor girls at every opportunity, and their lives have never been the same since he arrived.

Where’s that pesky Raki?

Still Looking

Ouzo left the house early on Wednesday night – unusual that she didn’t sleep inside – and no sign of her all day yesterday. I called and called through the early evening, with the wind roaring and the waves crashing. Nothing. She did not put in an appearance. Not a trace of her this morning. She hadn’t come in during the night, and heavy rain had set in. I was extremely uneasy, to say the least. I’ve mentioned that few people remain in the village now, and that many houses are boarded up for the winter.

A ghastly thought began to run through my head. Surely not? I couldn’t put the notion that she was somehow locked in somewhere out of my mind, so I set off in the pelting rain, calling. I walked and called. Called and walked. Suddenly, a faint sound. Could it be? Was it a cat’s cry? I called again. A louder cry seemed to answer me. I stumbled on, confident that I was hearing Ouzo. Yes! Her crying was coming from a storage basement in a closed up holiday property nearby. I couldn’t see her at all, but she was clearly down there, and the owners are down in Athens.

So I did the only thing I could and activated the bush telegraph, which has been greatly improved since the advent of the mobile phone. I called Costa, our marvelous Albanian who is the general factotum of most of the village. He called Elias, our equally wonderful Albanian stonemason, who called I know-not-who, who located Niko, the caretaker, who has a key. He lives on the other side of the Pelion Peninsula, quite a long way to come on his old motorbike and in the rain. Bless the man, he said he’d come.

Meanwhile, my husband walked over to see what he could do. Ouzo beat him back to the house! We found out later that Niko had been at the property on Tuesday, securing it for the winter, and hadn’t noticed that the door to the little-used storeroom wasn’t properly locked. Ouzo must have sneaked inside and the wind blew the door shut. Hence her absence.

Ouzo’s asleep now in my study, well fed and warm, but Niko would not have been back for months. I think I need a drop of ouzo ….

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Retsina, not appearing to miss Ouzo

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Ouzo Recovering

 

MOM-ON-A-STICK

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Raki

Raki, our Turkish Van cat, otherwise known as the Young Turk because he is determined to change the order of things, lost his mother at a very young age.

Perhaps that’s why he’s so devoted to a sheepskin duster, which my husband has dubbed “Mom-on-a-stick”.

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Mom-on-a-Stick

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‘Mom’ at Play

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‘Mom’ Comforting

 

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‘Mom’ Soft and Warm

JASON DOES FLORAL

The sun has been making a tentative appearance today which is encouraging the Sternbergia buds to put on a growth spurt, so we’ll soon have these cheerful yellow flowers dotted about the Pelion again.

Jason was staring at me in his transparent manner these last few days, so I decided to brighten him up with a new hat.  He models it as silently as ever. I think I’ll wear it myself quite a bit in the greyest days of the coming winter when the dazzling gold of the Sternbergia fades into memory.

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Van Cat in the Long Grass

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Sneaking Up

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Under the Olives

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Cozying up to the Cyclamen

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Among the Wild Flowers

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In the Bushes

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Still in the Bushes

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Out of the Bushes

 

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Killing It!

Raki, always curious and ever convinced of his helpfulness, batted one of the Sternbergia gauge swatches off the coffee table and really got stuck into his prey.

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WHAT NEXT?!

WORDSWORTH HAD HIS DAFFODILS…..

But here on the Pelion Peninsula we have Sternbergia.

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The characteristic dark green leaves begin to appear from the bulbs in September at the beginning of Autumn, with the bright yellow flowers slowly unfolding soon after.

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They last into Winter, thriving in the stony ground, and although they are common in most parts of Greece, they are not widespread, growing in certain areas and not in others. These plants are popular with gardeners worldwide, and it’s easy to see why. They are known as Winter Daffodil or because the flower resembles a crocus, they are sometimes called Autumn Crocus. Another name for them is Lily of the Field, which is most appropriate for these lovely indigenous flowers growing wild and scattered through the rocky countryside.

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Wild fennel growing among the flowers

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The pictures were taken yesterday in terrain around our house. I could hardly believe my eyes when I spotted the praying mantis! Such a wily insect, waiting silent and still for an unsuspecting fly or bee to buzz on by.

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Raki, who is always convinced that he is indispensable to any activity he happens to witness, had to be removed as the mantis in turn became endangered, and when I returned, the mantis had flown off. Raki was most displeased!

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Keeping an eye on things

‘BYE ‘BYE BIRDIES

 

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Summer is reluctantly drawing to its end here; there are all sorts of little reminders that winter is sneaking up on us.  The cyclamen has begun to appear. Tiny clusters at the moment, but in a few weeks there’ll be large areas of these delicate pink plants with their distinctive flowers and leaves.

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Most of the swallows have already left, but one particular swallow clan and their offspring remain. These have returned to their large communal nest on a balcony for the third year now. At least I think it’s the same extended family. Apparently swallows mate for life, and this group has certainly done its bit for the swallow population with three sets of hatchlings this season. This is probably why their flight has been delayed as the last of the baby swallows have only just left the nest. I suspect ma and pa are quite anxious for the youngsters to build up their strength so that they too can journey along the ancient and perilous migration paths.

Busy, busy these parents have been for months, zapping past my window from the first glimmers of dawn until they’re mingling with the emerging bats at end of day. I’m delighted that their mud home has remained unoccupied so far during the long winters, for I’ve noticed that these sturdy dwellings are often taken over by winter squatters, and once that happens, the swallows shun the nest.

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I haven’t yet been able to identify the housebreakers which are small and somewhat sparrow-like, but they certainly do disrupt the swallow housing developments, and make an enormous mess of droppings from the high-rise apartments they have commandeered under the eaves.

 

Swallows feed on the wing, catching insects in mid-flight, but they flash by so quickly I’ve never yet been able to capture a decent photograph. Instead, here are pictures of a spotted flycatcher returning to her colourful home in the roof with an unfortunate grasshopper – dinner for the three raucous fledgings she was nurturing in June – and dessert of some sort of grub.

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She spent the whole summer only a couple of feet from my study window, so I was able to watch her preparing the nest with cheerful snippets I’d made available. When I sew, I try to trim seams outside in the garden, while small pieces of yarn from knitting projects get tossed out the windows. These bits blow around and are quite often picked up by birds to weave into their nests.

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Mama flycatcher was quite selective in what she chose to use, with a strong preference for red.

As for Raki, he was enthralled by the spectacle, and spent long periods chittering indignantly at the comings and goings, and although the nest is now empty he still stares hopefully up at it. But soon our feathered winter vistors will arrive and we all look forward to their antics.

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Of Cat and Cloth

My friend gave me a wonderful piece of Nigerian fabric. A total of 5 yards in length, it’s a lightweight cotton, probably shirting fabric, with small motifs woven into it, and was white before being dyed in indigo with a cassava resist. The artist has painted dark navy stripes across it; the last yard or so is handstamped with dancing figures. Lovely! In Africa this cloth would have been worn intact, wrapped around the body. I’ve made my friend a scarf by cutting a 2 yard length along the selvedge with the happy figures on one short edge, and myself a shirt but enough fabric remains for another garment. Such a treasure must not be rushed, it must be sewn to best advantage. Should it be used as is, or should another fabric be paired with it? I took it outside to check colour against other fabrics, and
immediately my trusty little helper leapt onto it.

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Introducing Raki, a cat of dubious parentage, but of impeccable taste for the finer things in life. He is a Van cat, a breed known for many centuries in the Lake Van region of Turkey. His ancestors would have been brought to Greece at least at the time of the Ottoman Occupation, but probably well before then by Crusaders, traders, pirates and various others who journeyed for whatever reasons across these parts. Raki is now 6 years old, named for the Turkish drink Raki which turns white when added to water, and found by us 3 days after the Argo replica sailed. We were crossing a supermarket car park in Volos when he caught my eye. Pitiful. There is no other word. Pitiful. Under a car, in the blazing heat, tiny and filthy. He would not have lasted through the day. I scooped him up. Husband was not thrilled…cats we have a-plenty.

We shopped very quickly, Raki clinging to my shirt front, then drove the 45 mins to our wonderful vet (not then yet in practice) in the upper village near our home on the Pelion Peninsula. She estimated him at no more than 3 weeks old, pointed out that his tail was broken but would possibly not need amputation, and was doubtful that he would even survive. We continued home, with Raki’s piercing P1050295 [HDTV (720)]Ashrieks growing ever more hoarse. Once into the house, I placed him on the floor, and he immediately ran to the breakfast remains of the other cats which clearly weren’t suitable for an unweaned kitten. What to feed him? No such thing here then as infant kitty formula. I P1050318 [HDTV (720)] [HDTV (720)]Aimprovised, and fed him 2-
hourly, day and night, on a mess of baby porridge, water, evaporated milk and a scraping of yoghurt, squirted all over us both in a syringe. Why the yoghurt? I had some notion that it would provide healthy bacteria to his horribly disturbed digestive tract.

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His belly was huge, hard, round as a tennisball. Worms. But he was too young and weak to deworm at that time. He had sparse hair, was very dirty and riddled, absolutely crawling, with fleas. His ears were full of mites, and his little body had numerous bites. He was a sad and sorry-looking soul, all big eyes and ears. I bathed him in baby shampoo – had to do it twice, so dirty was he and so numerous the fleas, their eggs and other detritus. He objected. Loudly. But I was thrilled to hear that feistiness! These photos were taken almost immediately after he came into the house, but even then he was establishing his place in the order of things. Or maybe I should say our place in the order of things.

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He is like no other cat I have ever owned, and I have had cats all my life. It’s not just his physical characteristics, for his fur is unlike that of other cats – it’s a dense pelt, soft as silk and only one layer of hair. He seems to be self-cleaning in that his fur never gets tangled, in spite of his mad adventures through the garden, the olive trees, and the indigenous vegetation on the property. He is extremely energetic, playful and fearless and shows absolutely no sign of the more sedate behaviour of the other cats, all of whom become impatient with him very quickly. He loves water and considers it an obligation to assist us in the bath or shower. But it’s his affection and devotion that make him truly special. He is ever-present. It’s as simple as that. He accompanies us and our dog on our walks, often having to be carried back when he gets too tired, he involves himself everywhere and all the time, he’s vociferous, inquisitive, determined and very loving.

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Oh, and Husband adores him.

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