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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Cat Game: points mean pussies!

Cats, for cat-people at least, tend to make life a little more bearable.

You may think that Mermaids, being of a somewhat pescarian nature, might not appreciate the feline form, but you'd be quite wrong. Many Mermedonians have catfish as pets, for example.

But back to the subject of this blog. Mr Mermaid and myself often play a game to make our perambulations a little more interesting.

It's called the Cat Game, and it goes like this.

Can you see this cat? 
Basically, if you see a cat, you call it and get a point. Even if the other person doesn't see it. But it is an honesty game so it has to be a real cat, and you have to be 100 per cent sure it's a cat, otherwise bad luck will befall you.

The person who has the most cat points at the end of the day wins.

If you falsely call a cat and it proves to be a black bin bag, for example, or it turns out to be a cat statue, then you lose a cat point.

In England, most cats are secretive, domesticated, indoor creatures, barely seen except in a glimpse in a window as they look wistfully down on plebeians strolling by. Or they're collared, cut and snipped, microchipped garden brooders, squatting like cat loaves on shed roofs or balancing on fences.

In Athens, however, cats are a whole different species: semi-feral, exceptionally fertile, un-neutered, un-chipped, homeless scavengers. These cats tend to be grubbier, thinner scaredy-cats, sneaking around bins en masse while embarking on shady crepuscular activities.

Cat Loaf  position 1
Those cats which are not skulking in corners, performing cat-loaf impressions in grassy areas, or shooting anxious, upward glances at passers-by, tend to be boisterous, bossy kitties, mouthing loud mews and coming up for grub and love. (Always happy to oblige with love).

As you can imagine, with the amount of stray cats wandering completely unchecked around Greece, there were many to count on our walkabouts. We also saw two dead strays lying in the road after being run over by cars.

Cats on food patrol near the Acropolis

There are speed restrictions, but my relatives claim few Greeks bother with these as the government cannot be bothered with enforcement.

(This also explains the horrendous amount of ugly graffiti everywhere - appalling!! Like something out of a 1980s London slum).

The suburbs have their own kitties to count, but the area around the Acropolis and the Agora - ah! That's the place to go to play the Cat Game.

While Mr Mermaid and I were walking around the Acropolis, we reached a bumper crop of cats. I had seen 46 and he had seen 42 (and stroked as many as wanted affection) so we decided to pool our resources and see if we could reach 100. It's a challenge never before attempted during the Cat Game

I can haz noms? 
By 8pm we had got 90 cats under our metaphorical belts (do Merpeople wear belts?), and thought 'that's it, no more'.

But then on the way to the graffiti-infested Metro station, we saw a benevolent citizen had left a full bag of kitty food for the strays - and there were seven adult cats and three kittens nomming away (while giving us scared glances). A full 100!

Getting off the train we were met with Disney Bonus Cat.

In other words, a stray floofy-bummed kitteh ran in front of us, scratched a tree frantically like a wide-eyed furry weirdo, and then bounded off in a zig-zag across the road, with its ears flat back and its tail all puffed.

101. One hundred and one. Like the 101 Dalmations, only with cats.

And that's the story of our cat count game.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

NS&I: not so attractive now?

National Savings and Investments has always been a stalwart of savers in the UK, with millions of people taking out premium bonds or one of its other savings products in the expectation that the government will always pay out.

However, National Savings and Investments is now looking a little less rosy as a place for canny savers to put their cash savings, with rates being reduced towards the sort of poor levels seen in high street banks and building societies, and the payout ratio on the Premium Bonds looking less attractive.

According to National Savings and Investments (NS&I), this followed the reduction in interest rates across the savings market after the Bank of England’s reduction of the base rate by 25 basis points, to 0.25 per cent in August 2016.

Previously, the bank base rate had been at 0.5 per cent since March 2009.

The variable rate changes will apply to Premium Bonds, Direct ISA, Direct Saver and Income Bonds, coming into effect on 1 May 2017.

Further, this means there will be fewer Premium Bond prizes in each draw. The big one - £1m - will have the same number of winners but further down the scale, fewer and fewer prizes will be announced each month.

According to Steve Owen, acting chief executive of the NS&I, he appreciated "savers will be disappointed".

He told the press: "Savers will be disappointed, but we believe that the new rates present a fair offer to customers, who will continue to benefit from our 100 per cent HM Treasury guarantee on all holdings, as well as tax-free prizes for Premium Bonds."

The number of tax-free prizes is also set to go down on NS&Is Premium Bonds, however, which means the number of £25 increments I get (they're giving me the £1m bonus prize, but in £25 increments over my lifetime, evidently) will decrease.

Essentially, the government is screwing us slowly and imperceptibly.

And not everyone was as sanguine as Mr Owen. Danny Cox, who is a chartered financial planner for Bristol-based advisory firm Hargreaves Lansdown, called it "another devastating blow for millions of savers".

He said: "NS&I will remain popular for their cast iron security but lower interest rates and rising inflation will test savers’ patience and I expect more people to look to the stock markets for some of their cash to improve their long term returns."

NS&I Prize breakdown: Then and Now

Value of prizes

Number of prizes in February 2017
Number of prizes in May 2017 (estimate)

Monday, February 06, 2017

Horse Mask Escapades

This guy has just won the internet for today, people.

And probably life as well. Yep, this guy is winning at life.

Imma get me a horse mask.


Source: - Crafted from the finest Internets.