The Undersea Kingdom of Secret Delights

Jack and I love our 1890s French farmhouse here in southwest Virginia; the bathroom is our least favorite feature of it. Narrow and deep, no windows, a shallow bath and behind the bath a strange wee closet, not wide enough for a gallon of bleach even. In this closet is an open cut to the crawlspace under the house.

We don’t know why. What we do know is that the cats think this space is magical, mystical, and exceeding necessary to their happiness. Ross, our trickster kitty, spent the first three weeks of his life here with us hiding down there. Molly, our matriarch, loves to spend the weekend in this space under the tub. She’s our best mouser, and we have no problem with her plying her trade down there.

Neither of us have been down there – or want to, thanks all the same–but sometimes we hear the pitter patter of vermin feet coming up through the heating vents. So do the cats because (clever things that they are) they dash not to the vent but to the bathroom door.

We can tell the progress of the cats once they access the closet, by assorted bangings in the pipes that connect to the dishwasher and washing machine. Also some mewing coming up a couple of the heating vents.

They can’t get into the heating vents, so we don’t worry about them getting stuck or roasted down there. They CAN get out through the basement hatch, as we discovered one day when Punk clambored up the basement stairs, looking smug and dusty at the same time.

So sure, they’re going after the mice, but I like to think they have a whole kingdom set up down there, a kind of a cool cat night club, complete with speakers, a roulette table, strobe lighting, and of course a fully stocked milk bar. They all go down at the same time after all, and sometimes I swear I catch a whiff of catnip smoke. Well, they’re all of age.

In fact, if they’re playing poker, that would explain why for the past three days Ross has let Molly eat his wet breakfast. He’s in debt up to his whisker lickins.

It’s a good alternative to letting them play outside, sending the kitties to the undersea kingdom of secret delights. I just hope the place doesn’t get raided. What would the neighbors think?

♪ Ponies in Sweaters ♪ and Sheep with bright Fleeces ♪

Jack’s weekly guest blog (the ponies below are Shetlands in Fair Isle sweaters, promoting Scottish tourism. Jack suggests we all go there now, because it’s warmer.)

shetlands in sweatersAs I write this, the temperature outside is zero degrees F. That’s thirty two degrees below freezing for us Europeans! Our heat pump is going flat out and just managing to hold 68 degrees in the bookstore. On days like this we don’t expect many customers. Everyone is huddled inside, the local schools and colleges closed because of the ice rinks that used to be roads.

Wendy and I have moved our center of today’s operations upstairs to the Second Story Cafe where it’s just a bit warmer (two degrees, to be precise). She is writing in the guest room and I am running the bookstore from a cafe table.

Locals tell us that the last few weeks are the coldest they can remember for a long time and I believe it. Even for a weathered Scotsman like me, this is freakishly cold.

Winters in Scotland…. ah, I thought I’d left them behind. I often tell folk that summers here are considerably warmer, but winters are much the same. This is not what I’m used to. Also, these really cold spells seem worse because the summers are so hot to me, creating more of a contrast. Then, too, the bookstore is in a big old house with drafty windows and doors. In Scotland, I believe the houses were better equipped to handle cold weather.

On the other hand, I may have just worn more appropriate clothing! Americans don’t work so much with wool as we do back on the Isles. And of course, your sheep aren’t as cute, either.sheep

Amidst the polar vortex onslaught, this place still manages to be an oasis (or perhaps an arctic camp) for some of our hardier customers. Our excellent chef Kelley has slept in the guest room these past two nights, to be sure of opening for hot breakfasts, and people are showing up, cold, wet and hungry for these and her bowls of warming lunch soups. Even our defiantly outdoor cat Beulah has given in and taken up residence (also in the guest room, fighting for bed space with Kelley) until things improve.

So we wait, hopefully and patiently, for the promised return more normal temperatures by the end of the weekend, and–less hopefully–for our January power bill. But I do think about grabbing Wendy and making a trip to Scotland soon, just to warm up. It might prove cheaper than heating the bookstore.