My cat thinks he’s a dog.

This is Cooper.

Meet Cooper. He’s seven months old and so full of energy. After a couple of months of him going crazy inside we couldn’t wait to get the door open and let him explore the world outside. He chats to the birds (Have you heard cats talking?  It’s a weird sound) and he enjoys the odd stand-off with the neighbourhood dogs. It’s quite amusing watching him approach dogs twice his size. Bless…. He just doesn’t get it. We have one very brave cat here. Mind you… Is it bravery or stupidity?

He chases leaves; he plays Fetch with balls of paper and follows us around everywhere. It has now got to the stage where we cannot leave the house on foot as whenever we walk along the street he walks along by our side. There’s a limit to how far we want him to go. We had a street party a couple of weekends ago, in the park next our apartment, and he followed us there too. We chatted to neighbours and friends and noticed Cooper mingling with the crowd too. Cooper the socialite.

I thought taking the bike this morning would be an easier way to leave him at home. I jumped on the bike, left the apartment and peddled along the streets. I heard that familiar sound – Cooper’s miaow! I turned to see him bounding along the middle of the street after me at full speed. I couldn’t help but laugh. He’s an eager cat. Of course, I did a u-turn and he followed me straight home. With him locked inside I was able to get away.

So, what next? Maybe it’s time we start taking him for walks?

CCTV is watching everything…

You are being watched...

I love IKEA. I think I may have some sort of addiction to the place. I have friends who cannot bear it: The stress, the queues and the endless rows of cheap wooden goods.  But as for me…I can’t get enough of it. My trips to IKEA are frequent it must be said and 9 times out of 10 I feel the urge to walk around the entire IKEA dotted line ‘guided tour’ (no short cuts allowed). It’s surely there for first time visitors, but I wander along it looking at ‘ideal’ rooms. I sit on the sofas, check out the new bargains and do what many before me have done and what many after me will do… I check the cupboards, fridges and ovens. They’re empty as always, but along with thousands of other shoppers I seem to think that one day there will be something inside.

No IKEA trip is complete without the full dining experience. Who doesn’t join the hoards of people who we all know have travelled to IKEA to order their portion of meatballs? The meatballs are the real reason for going. The meatballs are the nicotine to the IKEA addict. I was going to have my meatballs, “15 please”, and be ‘one of the club’. I didn’t imagine for one moment that all my IKEA trips, whether shopping, eating or paying would be caught on camera.

I was in IKEA last week. I wandered, I shopped and of course I ordered meatballs. When I reached the queue I noticed that the customer in front of me was having a rather heated exchange with the cashier over being short changed. A confrontation always makes a shopping experience much more memorable. I have to explain that I was in an IKEA in Holland and that the customer, like me, was not a Dutch speaker. The woman working on the till was having none of the ‘I’ve been short changed story’ and insisted she’d given money back. She wasn’t coping too well with the language barrier either. At this point I thought one would back down. The customer then started frisking himself in a kind of “look there’s no money anywhere on my person”. I had to chuckle to myself.

My meatballs were cooling down though and as entertaining as it was I wanted to eat. At this moment the 12 year old ‘manager’ arrived. If he’d been wearing a large S printed on his t-shirt I would not have been surprised. He asked what was going on and then announced, “We’ll check the cameras”. I was stunned. A debate over short change, and only €5 at that, was going to end with CCTV footage being studied and verified? The ‘manager, who was perhaps on work experience or on day release from nursery, whipped out his walkie-talkie (power oozing from his very being) and gave the orders to check the surveillance camera footage in the restaurant.  

“I’m being watched” I thought to myself? I hope I wasn’t doing anything odd in the queue about 5 minutes previous to that? Someone in some room would be watching me on CCTV. I had a hunger to know who had the money now; more than my hunger to eat those meatballs …rapidly cooling meatballs at that. I reckoned it was be the woman on the till. Methinks she protests too much! (Didn’t Shakespeare say something like that?) Meanwhile I got served. I paid with my card, just to be on the safe side and went to eat. Of course while eating I craned my neck and watched the story unfold. The CCTV was checked, mini-manager (still oozing power) gave the nod and it was Customer 1 – Cashier 0. Like I said, I had my money on the cashier keeping it for herself. The customer wins! Watch out when you’re about…. The cameras are everywhere. I wonder if there’s someone watching me right now.

Big Brother I didn’t realise you were watching my buying habits.

An unexpected evening

Saturday night. There’s something special about it. It has that ’je ne sais quoi’ about it. No work, just play…. In my twenties a Saturday night included the traditional visit to a club. London, Birmingham, anywhere as long as there was music to dance to (not that my dancing is appreciated by the masses). Of course internet fever had not gripped the world as tightly as it has now. What happened to the nights out? Somehow Saturday nights seem much more entertaining with friends at home. I’ve somehow been transformed into the generation of ‘older’ people. Am I one of those? Well, just when I thought I might have to question my youthfulness I had a most unexpected evening…

The drinks were flowing, the conversation was great! A nice Saturday evening meal at home with friends. After a week of teaching children some ‘me’ time is just what’s needed. What better way to relax than to watch TV…  Tame as evenings go…. But after a bit of TV and more wine the conversation turned to Chat Roulette. “What’s that all about?” That was it. Once you slip down that very slippery slope into the ‘eye-popping’ world of Chat Roulette there is no return.

The laptop was on and soon we were searching the online world of entertainment. It can’t be that bad we thought. Harmless fun chatting to random strangers around the world. It seemed so simple. Camera on? Check. Microphone on? Check. Clothes on? Check. The world isn’t quite ready… The four of us were keen to chat (the wine was working). The system randomly selected another user somewhere on Planet Earth and that was it. No warning. You end up faced with a guy in a darkened room staring straight back at you. There’s a moment of stunned silence. We waved. Perhaps the camera was stuck? Perhaps he couldn’t see us? He waved back! OK, perhaps it was drink or perhaps the fact that we’d been transported back to being giggly teenagers, but we clicked in SKIP so fast. There must be someone interesting to connect to. There was. We linked up with some girls in France and Norway, guys in the UK. Once you get into chatting it’s quite good fun. That’s why it came as such a shock when our next ‘chatter’ was slightly less dressed and rather too busy with himself to chat back! Maybe that’s what people log on for? Maybe it’s ‘guys like that’ that are making the site hit the news headlines? We were caught by surprise to say the least and quickly skipped on to someone new.

The whole idea is quite surreal. You can chat or type or both. Most of the time we found ourselves waving and trying to keep ourselves a quiet as possible. It’s a game of who will keep quiet longest…. So, we’ve had our first chat session. I’m not sure the four of us will recover or be able to forget some of the images that we saw that night. To the people in France, Norway and the UK thank you – you made our first evening on Chat Roulette lots of fun. I have a strange feeling I might be back there soon.