Websites and cats

It’s now mid-February and as far as I’m concerned winter is over. The temperature still drops at night – there was a touch of frost this morning on the cars down by the river – but the days are lengthening steadily and it’s pleasant to go out. It’s also pleasant to stay in as the sun has finally made it over the top of the mountain, not to fall below it again until November and now giving us over six hours a day of its glorious effulgence.

The Riviera Woman get-together is now just over a week away. AngloINFO¬†were kind enough to let us publicise the event in their Forum; this marks a change in policy. For most of the last year they may have been concerned we were making a bid for their patch, but in reality we don’t really overlap and are happy to live side by side providing complementary services to the English-speaking community. The effect of having such a high profile platform from which to make announcements has been dramatic, with a huge increase in registrations and a large number likely to turn up next Thursday. The Capocaccia Bar isn’t a big place and there’s now the distinct chance it’ll be standing room only or even spill out onto their patio. So let’s hope for a dry, mild evening.

It’s most gratifying how so many of our new visitors say the same thing, that our website was badly needed and how pleased they are to have found it. It’s hard work developing and maintaining the site but it now looks as though we have found some members able, willing and even keen to contribute the articles needed to give the whole thing “critical mass”. At this point, which we believe to be near, the site will become a kind of portal into Riviera life and there will always be something new to read about.

For those reading from far away, the Riviera has a reputation for a sunny, wealthy, happy life style, but the reality is somewhat different. Life for those at the top is indeed all these things, and that’s what you get to read about in Hello! and its ilk, but only a fortunate, privileged few occupy this rarefied layer. The rest of us are like people anywhere, with normal working lives or living a quiet retirement. The English-speaking community numbers maybe 250,000, the size of a modest town, but are spread along a huge stretch of coastline, a two hour drive on the motorway from one end to the other, and in the villages dotted behind. So the opportunities for community activities are much more constrained than in an English town. Hence the need we stumbled across that is apparently met by The Riviera Woman.

Enough of self-congratulation. I expect to be able to report at the end of next week on the get-together. For today I’ll round off by writing about our cats, of which we have two, shown here in the office where they both stay as close as possible to the action and help maintain the general air of disorganisation.

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First there’s Tinkerbell, a 17-year-old English expat-cat, in the words of the local vet “doing well for a ten year old”. She loves human company but suffers from paranoia plus an uncanny ability to always be in the wrong place at the wrong time. So she’ll jump onto your lap five seconds before you were going to get up, panic when you move, lacerate your pullover or your leg while escaping and end up even more convinced the whole world has it in for her. So the next time she’s on your lap – probably three minutes later – she’s like a coiled spring waiting for the inevitable sound or unexpected movement that will require a high-speed escape. Oh, and she hates other cats.

Then there’s Little One, named with some lack of foresight when a tiny ball of fluff, now a three-year-old of quite adequate proportions though still a ball of fluff. She’s just past the furniture-ripping stage and spends much of each summer’s day out on the terrace and the roof, where she can massacre lizards or spy on activities far down below in the piazza. Her favourite game is fighting with the mat monster, so all of our smaller rugs are permanently scrunched up having been comprehensively defeated in battle. Another game is to climb inside anything with an interior, such as a handbag or a plastic bag:

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The two cats have been together now for nearly 18 months and for most of that time it was an edgy relationship. Little One likes to rush at another cat then jump over it at the last moment. This freaks out Tinkerbell, whose standard response is to hiss, a sound that formed a frequent backdrop to life for a year or so. But to my surprise she’s mellowed recently and now tolerates a degree of proximity I wouldn’t have dreamt of a couple of years ago. It goes to show that even an old cat can learn new tricks, however slowly.

And that’s my picture of domestic bliss. We have thoughts of adding a small dog to the mixture, to act as a playmate for Little One and to give us a reason to get away from the computers from time to time, but in the current economic climate it’s as well to ponder carefully on the long-term implications.

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