Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Another Post Office, another perfume bottle, and a Truffle turf wars update

'You've got work again, you say?' is nearly two weeks since I posted. This is due to a last minute trip to Ireland on family business, swiftly followed by a rush work project, of which I am still in the throes. A work project?!! I know, it's been a while. Luckily, as with riding a bike, I don't appear to have forgotten how to work. And it feels good to be earning again at last, even for a week or so. And meanwhile there is still the outstanding Part 3 of my Civette & Unicorn post to come, but I have only just caught up with all the samples I was interested to try again - for L was bringing a couple home from France with her in the car. So the upshot of my retesting may have to wait till after I go to Belgium next week(!). Also work of a kind, though nothing I have done before...

So by way of an amuse-gueule, so to speak, I have a couple of updates: one about my latest experience of posting a perfume bottle, and the other about the status in Truffle's turf wars with her nemesis, Tootsie.

Yes, I posted a single bottle of an Yves Rocher scent to a friend in Belfast. It was donated to me by a vegan friend who couldn't use it, and is now on its way to someone whose bottle of this very scent is about to run out! Inside the package it was in its original box (tick!), almost full, as I had only test sprayed it a couple of times (not quite tick!), but crucially not sealed in a cellophane outer wrapper. I did wonder about investing in one of those cellophane wrapping machines to give my used bottles a semblance of newness - I see Marden Edwards do one, for example - though there is a conspicuous lack of price information on the website, which doesn't bode well.

So with fingers firmly crossed, I took the bottle to the main post office in town, a branch I associate with officious and draconian lines of questioning about parcels. However, unlike the local post office I eventually sent my eBay sale bottle from, I knew they would have the all-important hazardous goods label I needed. So I went up to the counter with an assured gait and determined set of the chin (or such was my hope), and announced: 'I've got a parcel to go second class please. And it will need an ID8000 label as it is a bottle of perfume.'

Source: Amazon

What is significant about this statement, apart from the fact that I used the technical name for the label, demonstrating to the counter clerk a certain degree of 'insider' knowledge about postal regulations, was that my tone was very much like that of Richard E Grant in Withnail and I, when he demands:

"We want the finest wines available to humanity, we want them here and we want them now!"

And it certainly did the trick. The normally quizzing clerk merely asked the value of the bottle and whether I wanted to send it recorded. Result!

Source: Amazon


Then Truffle...well, I may have mentioned that owing to Tootsie's ongoing aggressive incursions, and associated malodorous vandalism, I bit the bullet and bought one of those whizzy electronic cat flaps that only recognise the microchip of a designated ie resident cat.

It took a few weeks before the joiner who did my bathroom - and who is a bit of a general handyman on the side - was free to come and fit it, and it has taken me a few more to train Truffle in its use! She was very wary initially of the whole construction - it probably had a completely alien new plastic smell. She would sit looking through it with an appalled expression on her face as if to say: 'I didn't ask for a new door - what is this contraption that has suddenly appeared?'

It took several days before I could coax her to go through it, when holding the flap fully aloft (having first disabled the electronic function as being much too 'advanced' for now). Then I caved in further and held the flap permanently open with a piece of string tied to the door handle, and Truffle got used to using it as an open thoroughfare, and impregnating it with her scent till it became familiar. Unfortunately, it was even more of an invitation to Tootsie during this phase, and as a result we had quite a few spraying incidents in the corridor leading to the back door.

I decided it was time to take Truffle's training to the next level...I lowered the flap, so it looked shut, but was in fact open both ways like the old one - and still in manual, deactivated mode. Only this flap was more solidly shut, with a brush fringe at the bottom making a perfect seal. The old one was light and flimsy: it used to blow idly in the wind, and Truffle could easily flip it up with a practised flick of her claw. This flap is immune to flicking or prising, and can only be moved by a full head butting action. Truffle had never executed such a manoeuvre in her life, and in vain did I lie down on the floor and attempt to demonstrate - first with my head, though it was rather too big for the dimensions involved - and secondly with my fist. Sadly, I don't think cats get 'demonstrations'.

Eventually she got the idea, through sheer desperation I imagine, coupled with trial and error. What was amusing though was that she didn't want me to know she had figured it out and would still sit in front of the flap for minutes at a time, looking nonplussed, if she sensed I was nearby. Then as soon as I withdrew, I would hear the clunk of the flap as she nipped out unobserved.

But unfortunately, Tootsie could work the flap in manual mode too. Head butting is a particular speciality of his, like Venus Williams' twohanded backhand or Joe Frazier's left hook. So I quickly realised that Truffle had to step up and learn how to use the flap in electronic mode as a matter of urgency, though that involved an extra layer of complication.

The idea is that as she entered the tunnel to the flap, it would read her microchip and a little catch holding the flap shut would depress, setting it momentarily to manual / 'free opening' mode, before popping back up once she was safely the other side. I had read that cats sometimes find the sound of the catch release disturbing, assuming they can position themselves correctly to have their chip read in the first place. ;)

And before the flap is set for this 'normal' operation, first it has to register the chip of the cat in question, which it does in so-called 'learn' mode.

As the manual explains:

"When testing the SureFlap Microchip Cat Flap, your cat will need to push its head against the flap from the tunnel side of the unit, or pass all the way through the flap. There is a sensor that detects the cat's presence in the tunnel that needs to be triggered and no amount of waving your cat in front of the flap will have an effect."

Ha! I think we may have initially tried a bit of waving, and 'stuffing of cat shoulders in aperture', for which the attached cat did not care at all.

Truffle jumps for joy having figured out the flap!

But in the end, I am pleased to report that Truffle has managed to pass through in both directions and activate the catch to let her - and only her - pass. Although I don't wish to anthropomorphise her, for she is only a cat after all, a mother who had just completed toilet training with her toddler couldn't be more proud. Well, not so much proud even, as mightily relieved that the days of coming down to a urine-soaked doors and walls in and around the kitchen and utility are hopefully over...


Tara said...

V, I am cheering on the inside! Thank goodness you and Truffle got there in the end. It really is a achievement to be congratulated on after all those trial and tribulations. I was worried for while that it wasn't going to work out.
Oh how nice to think of Tootsie finally being thwarted!

I think you should patent the "Withnail Tachnique" for posting perfume in the UK.

Vanessa said...

Hi Tara,

Thanks! I can't tell you the relief, though there is still a risk that Tootsie will try to ram-raid the door like people driving cars into shopfronts?

How much of Truffle's struggle to 'compute' her new entrance was a protest vote and how much genuine slowness on the uptake I may never know, but either the penny finally dropped, or the pragmatist in her won out.

I will use that Withnail approach again for sure - definitely better in large branches, so as not to appear too high and mighty!

Anonymous said...

Good to hear authority and the bureaucratic reciting of a form number worked.
I'm glad to hear the Tootsie problem is solved. Can't believe that manual really says "no amount of waving your cat in front of the flap...! But they may have learned what desperate cat owners will try. ;)

-- Lindaloo

Tara said...

We know she's smart and the fact she didn't want you know she'd sussed it out shows it was mainly a protest vote :)

Odiferess said...

I'm so glad that Truffle has mastered the head-butting action. Cats are generally very good at head butts aren't they?
Joseph has mastered the art of the bum-butt since I've been off work for the summer holidays. This happens around 8am when he decides it's time for me to get out of bed and stop being so relaxed about time.
He wanders up to my head and makes a kind of 'sideways action bum throw' to land his substantial rear end onto my face. He then flops into a purry lounging position to make it all look very innocent, except it clearly isn't as he'll do it repeatedly until I eventually get up and locate the fish slop packets for his breakfast.
Clever boy.

Vanessa said...

Yes, I think you are probably right at that!

Vanessa said...

Hi Lindaloo,

Since you wrote your comment I learnt that the bottle has arrived safely, hurrah! Just as my friend drained the last few drops, so that was well timed as it turns out.

I LOVE that bit in the manual. I expect is it born of experience too...When I go to the vet's shortly to get some flea stuff for Truffle, I will offer my services as a cat flap training advisor, for no cat could be slower or more challenging than Truffle I don't think, and my three-stage approach might help some other desperate owner, with their own Tootsie. And I rather fancy Tootsie had a go at getting in last night - the outside tunnel is liberally smeared in mud....

Vanessa said...

Hi Odiferess,

I would have thought cats were good at head butts - Truffle can certainly deliver a good old nuzzle with her head, but she didn't seem to care for encountering any weighty object and having to push it.

Clever Joseph indeed! I am not sure I would fancy a bum butt though - especially not so early in the morning. It can also be a distinctly whiffy area at certain times, though frankly I would rather not get too close at any time!

Undina said...

I'm extremely happy of the result: you probably knew about it before then but I was officially the one who suggested that solution in the very first post when you complained about Tootsie.

About the post office: do you think they really check for perfumes all the internal packages (or at least some of them)?

Vanessa said...

Hi Undina,

Why, thank you! I have just found the post again, and your comment. To be honest, I have had so many conversations over the summer with fellow cat owners and the vet - on- and offline - that it had quite slipped my mind as to where the original idea came from for a cat-specific, selectively opening flap. I am very grateful to you for sowing the seed. There is no collar involved in the mechanism, which is another plus, and happily the new flap just fits in the old hole, which was an initial concern of mine.

Yes, reading the UK fragrance boards I'd say opening parcels to inspect them is happening more and more. I even had one inteecepted and opened on its way to Scandinavia recently that only contained cards. Though it was probably the local customs people in that case.