One of the delights of coming to work each morning – and there are plenty – is finding out what has been delivered for you that day.
The problem, you see, is that if anything is due to be delivered to your home by a company other than Royal Mail, and you’re not in but they won’t deliver outside of work hours or only for lots of extra money at weekends, then it can be a nightmare to collect it (particularly if you don’t have a car) or have it delivered at a time that actually suits you.
People might complain about the postal service, but it is a service and it's a great deal easier to deal with and more geared to customer satisfaction than certain private delivery companies that I could name, which most certainly do not work on the basis that the provision of a service is paramount.
Thus the easiest thing is often to have things delivered to work, in the knowledge that you can guarantee that someone will be able to sign for whatever it is.
Today, that meant a rather large – and heavy – box containing a swanky new cat scratching post.
The old one had done sterling service for around 10 years, but when its very aim is to be scratched, it isn’t going to last for ever. It was tatty enough as it was when, on Saturday morning, as The Other Half and I reclined in bed, drinking coffee and with me contemplating the weekend’s fodder, a loud crash was heard from next door in the living room, speedily followed by two kittens racing into the bedroom.
Otto in particular was looking back though the doorway with that famous feline expression that combines total surprise with a slightly shifty: ‘it woz nuffink to do wiv me, Guv’, which always provides a quick indicator of just exactly who it was to do with.
A visit to the living room quickly revealed the problem: a glass bowl, which had been sitting quietly on top of one of our lower book shelves, minding its own business, for some years, holding white gravel, sand and some long-dead cacti, was now on the floor, having clearly decided to commit harikari – out of boredom, one assumes.
The glass was unbroken, but the contents were everywhere – not least, all over the scratching post, which stood below it. Tidying up later, it became obvious that this was going to be the least easy thing to clean up, simply because most of the material on the bases was long since rather ragged and the dirt had got under it and into the carpet itself.
After thinking about replacing it for some months, but doing nothing about it, it seems that Otto had decided to force our hand by taking matters into her own paws.
We dismantled the thing, threw it out and then trawled the net for a replacement. And so here it is.
The timing is rather good too: two weeks on Thursday, the kittens will be a year old. So it’s an early birthday present.
It remains to be seen whether Boudi deigns to be interested in it – it hasn’t been high on her agenda since the kittens discovered it, just a matter of a couple of days after their arrival last December.
Loki and Otto thoroughly enjoyed the old one, playing on it (and playing with the little ball that hung from it), fighting on and around it and sleeping on it (and in a 'furry' tunnel that hung from part of it). Scratching posts are far more than just a post for scratching – they're combined gym and entertainment centres for cats.
I admit that I am looking forward to seeing their response to the new one: how long will it take before one or other of them masters the little ladder? Will they clamber through the hole in the middle? Will they like the fact that it's apparently impregnated with catnip?
Ummm. Catnip. Or cat drugs, as we know them. Not all cats respond to catnip and they usually have to be over six months of age before they respond.
Mack adored the stuff and would go completely bonkers for it. His sister, Mabel, was never remotely as interested and neither was Trickie, who followed her. We brought some home from the Columbia Road flower market once – six plants to put into the garden. Before we'd even got the garden door open, Mack had hurled himself into the bag and was rolling madly all over them. Amazingly, they survived that and recovered once they'd been planted out.
Apparently catnip is the only drug known that has two opposite effects, depending on how it's consumed. Sniff it, and cats get a high. Eat it, and the opposite happens.
When we open the box tonight, we shall find out just what they all think.