Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Three dog nights

How do you sleep in a container?

Moving, despite the fact that we’d been storing non-essential belongings and furniture for weeks, was a rushed and back-breaking affair. Countless trips were made up and down the road, the car straining to pull trailer-loads of detritus from our 25 years together, sometimes with me sprawled across the top trying to keep it all in place.
Perhaps we seriously underestimated the time and work involved (a good test of whether you are a hoarder or not is to shift house) but what made this move so gruelling is that we had previously always moved to larger home, whereas this time we had taken a radical step in the opposite direction. At times it felt like trying to store a bouncy castle without letting the air out first.
It will probably seem incredible to us in months to come, but we couldn’t wait to leave the cosy villa take occupancy of our container. To enable us to give our previous house the damn good cleaning which we’d promised ourselves and the new owners, we moved out almost a week before the settlement date, returning each night for more shifting and domestic chores (and showers!) Pioneering excitement probably played a part as well, and at the end of a long and tiring Saturday, we were finally, cosily ensconced in our new home, looking forward to the deep and peaceful sleep which we were certain we deserved.
Keen to inject a sense of normality, we got fish and chips and a movie (my portable, battery-driven DVD player might be the single most useful thing I own) and settled down to relax. Alas, it wasn’t to be - despite herself, neither settling down or relaxing were going to play any part in Rose’s agenda. The problem, as is often the case, was the cats. Squeezing our belongings from our 9 room house into a forty foot container is one thing, but transplanting three cats is another. Beyond the feline aversion to any kind of change, they had been used to a room of their own if they felt like it, and were now suddenly, literally thrust in each other’s faces. Juno, our long-haired, former-SPCA princess, has inexplicably hated her brother Ed almost from first sight. Ed is the calmest, gentlest cat you will ever meet, but we suspect he isn’t sometimes above some form of subtle winding-up where Juno is involved. She hissed and growled in a scarily possessed manner whenever he came anywhere near, which somehow seemed to leave Ed completely unimpressed, and this was a sound that we were to hear all through the evening, and night. Monty, the most recent addition, was a ginger, ex- ‘pet shop boy’ and through some deficiency in his upbringing seemed to spend most of his life either very worried or very scared. He now looked determined to spend the rest of his days under our bed

And so Rose worried about them , and was constantly up and down, checking on them, trying to coax Monty into the open whenever he peeked out of his foxhole, (who responded to this attention by bolting straight back under the bed), and keep the peace between a furious Juno and an oblivious Ed.
The movie was abandoned, and gradually so was sleep, as three unsettled cats performed an endless cycle of hiding and growling, while their mother fretted and stumbled about in the dark calling their names. At some point in the wee hours Rose decided to take Ed and sit patiently outside with him. Although unmoved by his sister’s ire, he seemed most upset by his new outdoor environment, so Rose held him until his trembling and quiet growling finally subsided, and he began to tentatively explore. Leaving the door open, as it was a balmy night and Ed might need to come back in a hurry, she returned to bed with the satisfaction of a job well done. We both heaved a contented sigh before finally falling asleep; but unfortunately, neither of us were to know that an enormous gust of wind was shortly to appear from nowhere. Roaring out of the Tauherenikau valley, it slammed our heavy metal door closed with a resounding boom which instantly evaporated our last ragged traces of sleep and nearly sent us rocketing under the bed to cower with the cats. Dawn couldn’t come soon enough after that.

The following night was met with the unspoken resolution that it was going to be better than the last one. The cats seemed to be settling quickly; even Monty was now spending more time on top of the bed than underneath it, whenever he was inside. We found elevated ‘nests’ for Juno - lessening the chances of she and her brothers encountering each other - and decided to leave one of the windows permanently open as a ‘cat door’, allowing them to come and go at will.
Lying in bed we soon became aware that the promised southerly had arrived, and it was going to be a bad one. Wind and rain lashed the front of the container, but as enormous as some of those wind blasts were, we knew that everything was secure and our big metal box wasn’t going anywhere. At least we thought we were secure, until finally there came a loud crash from outside. Immediately fearing it might be the box which we housed our life-giving generator in, I braved the howling elements to check. By torchlight I couldn’t find anything wrong, so returned to bed and we did our best to sleep through the remainder of the storm. Getting up at some point near dawn to use the portaloo, Rose immediately identified the source of the crash we’d heard – the large, dark-green cabin had been blown right over, and was lying on its back. Kept at the opposite end of the container to the generator, I had been completely oblivious to the portaloo’s plight when I had checked earlier. Fortunately it could have been a lot worse. A broken toilet roll holder was all the portaloo suffered, there were no spillage issues and a biohazard warning didn’t need to be issued.

Third time lucky, we thought, as the third night arrived. The storm had passed and despite the series of unfortunate nocturnal events, the cats were becoming more at home each day. All three of them now slept on the bed with us, and the container was beginning to feel rather cosy.
We actually did enjoy good night’s sleep this time, until an occurrence some time before dawn which we still don’t understand. We were woken by one of the cats mewling strangely in the dark, before an enormous crash sent the panicked felines literally bouncing off the walls while Rose and I scrambled for the nearest torch. Flicking it on, we found a destroyed chair and the laptop lying on the floor, with all three cats once again hiding under the bed. Theories involving a visit from a neighbourhood cat, a possum or even a poltergeist were briefly popular, but died down because of a complete absence of any of them.
We might never know what happened, but with the portaloo now securely fastened down and container doors firmly shut, all five of us have slept peacefully since then.


Rose demonstrates the art of sleeping around the cats

No comments:

Post a Comment