Life Skills Unlocked: Solving the Riddle of the Strong Smell of Cat Pee

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My kitchen smells like cat pee.

Considering I don’t own a cat (yet), this is not a sentence I expected to type. A kitchen can smell like many things – the toast we burned at the weekend, the flapjacks I made on Tuesday, the cacio e pepe spaghetti we ate last night – but I would have to say that cat pee is just not one of the typical kitchen aromas.

My face crunched into an expression of distaste, I ventured in nose-first. I sniffed the fridge.

Nothing.

I opened the fridge and cautiously sniffed. I could smell spring onions and cheese.

As you were,” I whispered, and closed the fridge door.

I crept forward. I sniffed the counter.

Nothing.

I sniffed around the hob, and past the hob to the area where cereal and bread sit together in a peaceful pile of carbohydrates. I could only smell bread. I continued my search. I opened the oven.

Nothing. Just the faint whiff of something that perhaps had baked a little past its burning point.

I sniffed the sink – nothing – and opened the cupboard beneath it. Nothing there either. Just the smell of caustic chemicals and brillo pads that should be used more frequently. I hovered over the drying rack, and stood on my tiptoes to sniff at the microwave.

Nothing.

I came to the washing machine.

This was definitely where the smell was strongest. The washing machine is probably about four years old at this point. I opened it and looked inside, looking for the source of this weird waft of ammonia. My wiggling, warped reflection stared back at me from the inside of the shiny steel drum.

I stood up straight and narrowed my eyes at the offending appliance. The strange smell was definitely coming from in or around the washing machine. Obviously a second opinion was required.

I pulled up Google on my phone and typed, ‘My washing machine smells like cat pee.’

813,000 results popped up.

“Oh good,” I said aloud to nobody in particular. “I’m not alone!”

Apparently, if you don’t run a hot 90°C (194°F for those of you across the pond) wash about once a week, bacteria starts to grow in and around the seal of your washing machine, leading to a distinct and unpleasant cat pee-like scent. So all those eco-friendly, non-shrinking 30°C (86°F – seriously guys get it together) washes you’ve been putting on? Great for your delicates, not so great for your washing machine.

I wrinkled my nose in disgust, both at the smell and at the fact that nobody ever mentioned this to me before. I thought I was saving the planet one lukewarm wash at a time! Nobody told me about the cat pee bacteria, or that I need to run a hot cycle every week!

I read on.

Google advised me to throw a cup of white vinegar – not too vigorously, you don’t want it all over the kitchen; the smell of white vinegar is only just preferable to the smell of cat pee – into the washing machine and run a hot cycle with nothing inside it. So I did that.

And then, with a suspicious side-eye, I did it again, because screw trying to be eco-friendly when your kitchen smells like feline urine.

Now only the faint scent of white vinegar and scrupulous cleaning remain.

So hopefully that’s the end of it!

unplanned paramedicine in Paris France when do i get the manual

Unplanned Paramedicine in Paris, France

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We had just stumbled out of the Parisian bar Le Comptoir Général when it happened.

As I reached the bank of the canal to join my friends, I went to glance back at the bar and turned just in time to watch a little hatchback brake suddenly, sending a pizza delivery guy smashing straight into the back of him. The scooter and the pizzas skidded sideways across the road. The driver was flung up in the air. Everything slowed for an instant and then sped up.

He hit the ground like a sack of potatoes.

Half-drunk and without thinking, I immediately ran over to the unconscious figure sprawled across the tarmac and when I reached Pizzaman, I leaned over him with my hands on my thighs, cocked my head and said, “Hey! Are you okay?!”

Obviously, Pizzaman was not in a position to answer.

A stocky passer-by with grey hair and a glorious moustache joined us. Without a word, he bent double with an audible wheeze and started fiddling with the helmet clasp under Pizzaman’s chin. My brain, struggling to process this abrupt turn of events after having spent the past five or six hours marinating happily in vodka cocktails, slowly chugged to life. It half-heartedly scrabbled around for some useful information.

What would Sunscreen advise?

I blinked blankly before sending my brain back to look for something a little more helpful; even Sunscreen has its limitations. Emergency first aid is one of them.

What would Scrubs do?

I pulled at the loopy, lazy string of thoughts in my head until it pulled tight into a somewhat coherent plan:

  1. Don’t move Pizzaman.
  2. Call an ambulance.
  3. If there is a wound, apply pressure and wait for paramedics.

I made a garbled noise of indignation at the man tugging at Pizzaman’s helmet and told him to stop what he was doing, but by now Pizzaman had regained consciousness and was pushing at the helmet with weak but frantic motions. The middle-aged man with the moustache looked at me smugly as if to say, ‘You see?‘ and pulled the helmet off without so much as a second thought.

I mean, I say he looked at me smugly but he was French, so that could just have been his face.

I calmly accepted the fact that the first bulletpoint on my plan had gone to the dogs, and pulled out my phone. I dialled 112 and knelt on the ground next to Pizzaman as it rang. I asked him if he was hurt. He gave a tiny shake of his head (good sign, I thought, at least he hasn’t broken his neck) and lay there, gasping like a fish, staring straight up at the sky.

I searched his body for any sign of injuries. A remote part of my brain wondered if I would have to shimmy under a car to locate a runaway finger.

  • Head – check.
  • Torso – check.
  • Arms – check.
  • Hands – check.
  • Pelvis – check.
  • Thighs – check.

And then I realised what had been disguised by the darkness; his jeans were slick with blood, and there was a glistening whiteness jutting proudly out of his lower leg, ready for its fifteen minutes of fame.

It was a …………….. *drumroll please* ………………. surprise appearance from his tibia!

Excellent.

As my brain fumbled drunkenly from uh oh, blood! to uh oh, bone! to finally just a general UH OH! the emergency call operator finally answered the phone.

In French.

Which is when I conveniently remembered that I do not, in fact, speak French.

I looked up to find a ring of curious onlookers keeping their distance. Exasperated, I held my phone out to them as if these 2am stragglers were my personal secretaries, and waggled it impatiently in the air until someone stepped forward and took it from me.

“AM-BU-LANCE” I said, loudly and clearly. Then I thought for a second, and added, “AM-BU-LAN-CIA” just in case Spanish was somehow their second language. I watched, gimlet-eyed, as this stranger put my phone to his ear. Once I was satisfied he had understood the brief and was taking of business, I turned my attention back to Pizzaman, who still looked like he was floating through another dimension on waves of pure shock.

Having successfully checked the second bulletpoint off my list, I turned to bulletpoint three and felt the warm blood coat my bare hands as they came into contact with his leg. I tried to make the gaping hole smaller before pressing both hands over the bone and leaning heavily on his leg to stem the bleeding. I crouched there and turned to Pizzaman, who was gazing at me with glassy eyes.

“Do you speak English?”

“Little.”

“How do you feel?”

“Okay.”

His eyes rolled skyward again. I chewed the inside of my cheek. It’s hard to be conversational when you don’t speak the language and you’re casually leaning on their legbone.

“Is there anybody you want me to call?”

His eyes tracked back to my face slowly. He stared.

“Phone? Should I phone anybody? On the telephone? On the mobile?”

He stared.

My nose itched. I wondered should I try sound effects. Or sign language. Or Spanish?

The silence stretched as his brain, which had clearly been concussed into scrambled egg, deciphered my question. After a pause that felt about ten minutes long, he mumbled, “Oui, oui.” I looked up, searching for my emergency P.A. and found him standing awkwardly by, staring at my hands, my phone dangling from his fingertips. My eyes narrowed.

“YOU!” His head snapped back. “Do you speak English?”

“Yez, yez,” he said, nodding vigorously. “Yez.”

“Okay, can you find his phone and call someone please? Maybe home, or a recently dialled contact, or ‘mama’ or someone.”

“Yez, oui, of courze.” He stood dumbly for another moment.

“It’s probably in his pocket or in his bag?” I prompted.

He jumped into action then and located Pizzaman’s mobile, which had somehow managed to stay in his pocket despite his earlier aerial somersault.

Now, I am not an organised person. I am crap at delegating. I like to do things myself, and I tend to do them in such a haphazard manner that if I even tried to delegate it would be a total shambles. With this in mind, it was somewhat of a surprise to discover that the injudicious application of alcohol turns me into a tiny Miranda Priestly.

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I kept one suspicious eye on the man calling Pizzaman’s mother, and one wary eye on Pizzaman himself who was starting to look a little grey.

“Do you feel pain?” I asked.

“Non, non” he mumbled. My eyes flickered to his leg where the white of his bone was still visible between my fingers. My hands were wrist-deep in blood. I smiled at him.

“Great! Everything is fine! Just relax. The ambulance is coming.”

“Oui,” he mumbled. His head lolled.

We stayed like that for another ten minutes. I peppered the air with cheerful, meaningless phrases like, “Everything is going to be okay!” and “Don’t worry!” and “You’re going to be just fine!” Pizzaman gazed blankly at the stars while making small noises every so often to show he was at least hearing me, if not understanding me. The moustachioed meddler had disappeared, leaving the helmet on the kerb, and my emergency P.A. was absent-mindedly pacing in tight circles. He had the phone pressed against one ear as he spoke to Pizzaman’s mother, and one finger pressed against the other ear to block out the music from the club.

Finally, both the ambulance and the police arrived.

One of the paramedics tapped my elbow and gave me the nod. Relieved, I lifted my hands and watched the tibia bob back up through the blood like a skinny iceberg. The paramedic took over from me then, his large white gloves looking far more competent than my gnome-sized hands, and I stumbled to my feet as the EMTs put Pizzaman in a neckbrace.

“Is he going to be okay? Will he be okay?”

One of the EMTs looked at me and smiled reassuringly. “Yez, he will be fine. Don’t worry.”

A tall policeman crooked his finger at me and I dutifully walked over, my hands held stiffly out at my sides so as not to drip blood all over my clothes. He asked something, and I blinked at him. I looked around, searching for my P.A. who immediately appeared at my side as if by silent summons.

“He iz azking eef you saw what haz heppened?” He helpfully translated.

“Yeah, yeah!” I turned to him and explained, quickly and incoherently, everything I had seen. He obediently translated, and the policeman looked from his face to mine with a barely disguised expression of martyr-like forbearance.

Although, he was French, so again, that might just have been his face.

When he was done jotting down notes in his tiny notepad with his tiny pen, he gave us a sharp nod and walked away. I turned to my P.A. and thanked him. He gave me a shy smile, offering me my phone back, and I held up my bloody hands, looking like I’d just murdered somebody in cold blood. “Can you put it in my pocket please?”

He flushed, nodded, and hurriedly tucked it into the pocket of my jeans. I thanked him again and he muttered, “No problem,” before turning on his heel and disappearing into the dark.

After washing my hands in the bar’s unisex bathroom (and completely clearing it out in the process), I rejoined my friends and spent the next two hours wandering from crêperie to crêperie, explaining that we should get free crêpes because I was practically a national hero. It was 3am so most places were shut, but we did manage to score at least one free crêpe, and one place that had closed the kitchen decided we had earned ourselves multiple shots of alcohol and unlimited crêpe toppings, which we (perhaps unwisely) took them up on.

After clearing them out of their stash of mini Smarties, we stumbled home through the Paris streets, keeping a watchful eye out for unpredictable hatchbacks.

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Hello! Just a note to say if anybody wants to enter the giveaway, all you need to do is leave a comment below. Giveaway entry closes when I publish a new post on Monday, and if you win you’ll have to be okay with e-mailing me your address! I promise not to show up on your doorstep. It’s open internationally, and I’ll just number the comments and use one of those random number generators to pick a winner. Don’t get too excited, I’m not giving away any iPads, but it will be a fun little box of stuff so if you’re interested, you know what to do!

NOTE: I’m only joking about French people – they’re lovely. Especially that guy with the crêpe stall on that street that let me make my own crêpe that one time. He’s especially lovely and his crêpes are delicious.