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Morning rituals chez Robson are heavily encrusted with tradition and habit, and are not subject to change. The alarm goes off at 6.29am so that I can listen to the 6.30 news broadcast on National Radio. This is actually rather silly, since the 6.30 news broadcast does not usually happen until 6.31 or 6.32 or, on one never to be forgotten occasion, 6.33. This is because the previous programme is the Rural News which is run by farmers who are unable to comprehend units of time smaller than a season, and therefore it invariably over runs.

By the time the alarm goes off at 6.29am I have probably been awake for about half an hour or so anyway. This is because the cats, Porgy and Bess, have been marching up and down on top of me for thirty minutes complaining bitterly about night starvation. When the alarm goes off, they jump off the bed eager for breakfast. They find it quite frustrating to have to wait for the 6.30 news. By the time that 6.32am rolls around, I’m finding it frustrating as well.

The alarm is also a signal for me to yawn and stretch; to scratch this bit and that, and to remove the leaves from my hair. Bess brings these hunting trophies in during the night. When Peter Jackson constructed the studio set of Fangorn Forest for the film of Lord Of The Rings he collected hundreds of sacks full of leaves to scatter around the set in order to give it an air of verisimilitude. He did not, however, completely exhaust the supply of leaves in the country and Bess has been very busy over the last year bringing them in one by one. Periodically I hire a mini-skip, and fill it with the leaves that Bess has brought me.

Once the news is over, I stagger to the kitchen trying hard not to trip over the cats weaving to and fro between my legs. I fill their bowl with biscuits. Heads down, bums up, they dive in and crunch. I head off for the shower where I turn on the waterproof radio and listen to the Mana Report, which is usually quite interesting, and the Financial and Business news, which is not.

When I get back to the bedroom, Robin is slowly surfacing. Porgy has finished his breakfast and is curled up on the bed with Robin. Bess has gone outside to look for leaves. I get dressed and Robin goes for her shower. I prepare my breakfast. Toast, medium rare. Marmalade. I like marmalade.

Porgy waits outside the bathroom door. His second treat of the morning is about due and his eyes glow with excitement. A cloud of steam with Robin inside it emerges from the bathroom and heads for the bedroom where it will get dressed.

"Porgy!" calls the cloud of steam, "it’s time! I’ve finished!"

Porgy charges into the bathroom, leaps into the shower stall and licks up all the soapy, shampooey water in the tray. Then he lies down contemplatively for a time, takes a final hopeful lick in the corners in case he’s missed anything, and then plods out. His day is now over. Nothing else of any interest or excitement will happen until tea time. Sleep is indicated.

Robin dumps cereal in a bowl and smothers it with milk. "Yum!" She crunches contentedly for a while. Soon the bowl is empty. She scrapes hopefully with her spoon but nothing happens. It is time to go to work. Close the sliding door into the kitchen, check the lounge and Robin’s office for somnolent cats and toss them out if any are found. Close the doors firmly and turn on the burglar alarm. Another day has begun.

Friday December 12th 2003 started just like any other day. Robin drove off to work and I waited for the bus to take me into the city. The office was in its usual state of barely controlled chaos. I wasn’t teaching that week, so I settled down in an out of the way corner. In the middle of the afternoon, I got an email from the reception desk.

Your burglar alarm has gone off. A patrol has been despatched.

The alarm monitoring company had apparently rung my number and since the receptionist didn’t know which corner I’d hidden myself in, she simply took the message and emailed me.

I rang the burglar alarm monitoring service and got an extremely unhelpful person.

"Your code number?"

I gave her the super secret code that protects all my intimate secrets.

"I gather my alarm has gone off," I said.

I heard the clatter of keys as she consulted her computer. "Yes," she said.

"What should I do now?" I asked.

"We’ve sent a patrol," she said.

"Should I go home and see what the problem is?" I asked.

"Up to you," she said. She sounded bored.

I took a taxi home. A burly security guard was walking around the house making notes in an impressive notebook.

"There’s no sign of a forced entry, he said. "Have you got a cat?"


"I thought so," he said. "I spotted the cat climbing frame in the lounge when I looked through the window. I bet it’s your cat set the alarm off."

"No," I said. "That’s not possible. I put the cats out this morning before I went to work."

We decided to go in and have a look. I opened the front door, and the security guard went in first to look for men with masks, striped jerseys and bags marked "Swag". None were to be found and so I turned off the alarm and we examined the display. The sensor that had tripped was in the lounge. I opened the lounge door. Porgy, looking very frightened, ran straight to me. I picked him up and cuddled him.

"I’ll swear he wasn’t there this morning when I left," I said. The security guard gave me a pitying smile and a receipt.

I’ve always suspected that my cats can teleport themselves to wherever they wish to be. Now I have proof.

Friday December 19th 2003 started just like any other day. But it was a special day, it was my last day at work before the Christmas break. I was home by mid-afternoon, much to the surprise of the next door neighbour’s cat which had snuck in through the cat flap to help itself to the remains of the breakfast that Porgy and Bess hadn’t quite finished. It sneered at me and ran away.

Porgy and I curled up on the couch with a book. He knew it would be tea time in three hours and was quite excited by the thought. He read a page or so of my book, but couldn’t get interested in it so he decided to sleep instead.

That evening, Robin and I were going to a party at a house in a particularly insect-infested area of the city. I hate going there in summer because as I walk the scant few yards from the street to the front door my ankles are stripped to the bone by huge herds of ravening sandflies and I fall onto the couch, bleeding, exhausted and itchy, and I swell up to enormous proportions with allergic reactions. The only possible treatment is champagne in copious quantities, administered internally.

I decided to frustrate the sandflies and so instead of my normal summer garb of bare feet and sandals, I donned thick socks and heavy shoes.

"Fooled you, you bastards!" I yelled as I walked towards the front door. A particularly miffed sandfly screamed with rage and flew up my left nostril. It appeared to like what it found, for it never came out again. Champagne in copious quantities, administered internally, is also a sovereign remedy for sandflies up the nostril.

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