Sunday 31 January 2010

Video evidence

Who did this? I was only out of the room for ten minutes!

Torn paper, daffodil leaf, a throw - its name taken too literally - dragged off the armchair. Teenage boys hanging about, avoiding eye contact. It's an ugly scenario.

"Wasn't me!", says Scooter, although his credentials as confetti maker are well-established. "Ask him!"

"Not me", says Hamish, the picture of innocence. "Must be Millie."

But he can't maintain that look of injured honesty for long. Pounce!

So I sit  and wait. It's a stake-out.

"Don't you go blaming me, ginger villain!" says Millie. "Take that!"


Saturday 30 January 2010

Here we go again

From my attic bedroom this morning.

This time I'm definitely going to make a snowman cat in the back yard.

The dog ran about madly in the snow, but made it plain when she'd had enough, by tearing off towards the path through the trees which leads to home. No staying power, some girls....

Friday 29 January 2010


It's a braw bricht moonlicht nicht the nicht, ye ken...

Ok, ok, it's a lovely moonlit night tonight, you know.....

(I really need to learn how to use this camera properly.)

Thursday 28 January 2010

Woolly vests

The dog was thrilled that someone admired her knitted jumper yesterday, and thought she might like to show the world her wardrobe. She apologises for the number of times she's had her photo taken when she's having a bad hair day.

There's the tartan thermal number, German-made, bought by kind thoughtful owner on a bitterly cold trip to Prague, during which, of course, the dog stayed home in comfort with her foster mother. Best for wet or snowy weather, as it dries quickly, but the dog complains when it's put on straight from a radiator, as those hot metal press-studs can hurt.

The others were knitted by foster-mother Sandra, whom the dog loves dearly. Given too much leeway and Sandra would knit the dog an entire layette, in pastels, but once she'd tweaked the coat pattern sufficiently, she reluctantly abandoned the notion of bootees, matinee jackets and a little balaclava.

This is the prototype coat, a pensioner's type of woolly, affectionately known as Uncle Walter's Tank Top after a friend's elderly relative. An sensible, everyday sort of affair, could go with a tweed cap and a packet of peppermint drops. Ooh, the dog could just fancy a peppermint drop....

And finally the Reversible: kept for really cold days. Warm enough to allow for much dawdling, reading the news at every corner, plodding slowly homeward, hoping it will be dinner time.

Or for extra protection from the wind when a defenceless, flinching victim dog has just been ruthlessly scalped by Denise at Posh Pups.

This is not just high fashion, it's high-spec protective gear.

Wednesday 27 January 2010

Coming along nicely

Amidst a glimmer of sunshine, the dog and I went for a walk.

Not much to see.

Rather a lot of litter.

But when we looked closely, there were the signs of hope.

Millie's eye is better. Just as well, given the song and dance created at eye-drop time.

Everything moves on.

It's been a whole three years since I went off sick from work, in a state that I can hardly bear to think about: did I really hold down a responsible position in such physical and emotional exhaustion? It would be a further nine months of heartache before I was allowed to retire.

I feel like a different person nowadays. Not my old self, but a new self, stronger, calmer, grounded. Signs of hope at every turn.

Tuesday 26 January 2010

Counsel for the defence

"The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth...."

Lottie's side of the story.... She wants you to know that she has been unfairly portrayed as the villainess of the piece, and that she pleads extreme provocation in the matter of that little swipe that accidentally caught Millie's eye.

She was, and says that she remains, very fond of Millie. She welcomed her as a tiny, bumptious, overactive kitten, and kept a watchful eye on her.

She was patient, although she got no peace.

From the start, little Millie took liberties.

She didn't want a big sister; she wanted a wet-nurse, a substitute mum. Lottie was only a youngster herself, but endured the endless drilling into her fur, to be followed by loud sucking sounds and even louder purring. Her chest fur began to become knotted and felted. 

Sometimes she began to look a bit put-upon, even fed up, but still she endured it all.

Sucky, sucky, schloop, schloop, purr purr purr....

She discovered that if she washed Millie, the drilling and sucking would halt, and the purring would increase in volume.

Lottie washed and washed.

And washed. Millie was the cleanest kitten in Newcastle.

Millie adored it all. She wanted to be glued to Lottie, but had to tear herself away at times to get on with being the naughtiest kitten the human had ever known.

And then Lottie would relax. Have some Me Time, space to breathe.

Millie always came back.

But Millie was also growing fast. Not a baby any more.

She began to take up a lot of space, in every way. Lottie was becoming slightly harrassed.

But she carried on patiently, tolerating the invasion of her personal space.

Still washing, although Millie was really no longer a kitten.

Lottie tried to escape. She moved from the radiator bed to a chair upstairs that could be her own. Or so she thought.

And still she was cajoled into washing a cat twice her weight.

But sometimes, just sometimes, she lets her demanding little sister know that she would like to be left alone, thank you. Sometimes she just squawks at Millie, and some times she gives her a swipe.

The human sees it all; how crushed Millie is when she is rejected, but also how Lottie had to stop being a youngster and turn into a pseudo-matriarch before her time, and what a persistent nuisance Millie could be. It's sad for them both.

But they still hang out together, indoors and out, and in the middle of the night, sounds can sometimes be heard at the foot of the human's bed, where they choose to sleep: lick lick lick, purr purr purr. No more fur-sucking, at last.

And Millie's eye is getting better. Lottie says it was an accidental injury, and can the record reflect this, please? She awaits the jury's verdict.

Millie hopes the jury will acquit her beloved Lottie. She's written a poem for them; it begins:

The quality of mercy is not strained. 
It droppeth like the tender tongue of Lottie
Upon the tabby beneath....

The human refused to print any more; it was too heart-rending. The jury knows its duty.

Monday 25 January 2010

Not happy

Poor Millie. She's had a horrid day.

I noticed that she was a bit hunched-up and mopey last night, looking fixedly at me for long periods in that significant way that doesn't provide a dim-witted human with enough clues, but I couldn't see anything that might be wrong. She spent the whole night on my bed in the same position, and didn't want to move this morning. Her left eye was now half-closed.

The boys tried to greet her in their chirrupy, tails-up way, and were hissed and growled at. She ran away from me, and yowled when I picked her up. This wasn't Millie as we knew her; something was wrong. I made an urgent appointment at the vet's.

By 9.30, her eyeball had been examined and found to be bloodshot, swollen and excruciatingly painful. There was an injury, caused either by a fall on her head (unlikely, given her agility and sure-footedness) or a less-than-sisterly swipe from another cat's paw. No prizes for guessing which possibility we went for.

Millie decided not to be brave or stoical about the two injections that followed, but raised the roof. She directed some very bad language at the vet, despite his immense sympathy, he having suffered the same injury in the past. I cringed, as always, at the anxiety-damp paw prints on the examination table.

A few hours later, the painkiller seems to have worked well; Millie looks more cheerful, has opened her eye, eaten some chicken, and, despite my best efforts to keep her indoors, has had two minutes outside on wall patrol. In the process of escaping, she showed me very adeptly just who it is who keeps opening the locked cat flap.

So it wasn't my carelessness with the sliders; a determined claw can move that stiff one on the right, opening the flap one way, and the result is feline freedom. It is also feline locked-outness, as she hasn't worked out that in order to get back in again, she has to move the other slider - from the inside - that allows the flap to move both ways.

But that's another story, explaining why I sometimes get up to find three wet, bedraggled cats who have mysteriously locked themselves in the back yard in the early morning, queuing outside the catflap, and a worried little Hamish peering from inside at them, not daring to make the leap to freedom himself.

Lottie was made to sit on my knee and have her razor-sharp claws trimmed a little. Does she look like a fluffy young sweetie who would hurt her little sister? No?

Look again.

Jill the Ripper.

Sunday 24 January 2010

Sticking to the plan

There's been little to blog about of late, with so much to think about: Haiti, trials of children who seriously harm other children, the Iraq Inquiry on television exposing my strange ability to watch paint dry. What I might write about is terrifyingly trivial in comparison, but these other subjects are too weighty and distressing to discuss in a lightweight bear-of-little-brain blog like mine. Yet they weigh heavily on my mind, as they do on most people's.

But life here does tiptoe lightly on, regardless. Hamish was lured into the cat carrier by small furry toys, and almost captured to go to the vet for microchipping and the second part of his vaccinations (started before he came to me), but as I closed the cat-carrier's door, it fell off.

No big deal, you say? Just catch him, he's only little, you think? Ha. Hamish was out of that carrier like greased lightning, and hasn't come within ten feet of me for nearly a week now. He's lived here since December 9th, and I haven't lifted, petted or carried him yet. I did manage, pre-carrier incident, to stroke him at arm's length very occasionally, but now I am the Evil Trapper-Woman, and must be given a very wide berth. It does something to a woman's self-esteem, you know, to see a small cat running away, bristling with outrage and betrayal, every time she enters the room. Even when she's bearing treats...

A trip to Australia this year is looking less likely, but for a good reason; my old friend isn't as poorly as I feared, and even has a Vietnam holiday planned for October, so unless things change, there's less need for a friend to act as post-op nurse/housekeeper yet. So the Devon/Dorset plan - which has never faltered, just waited patiently - comes to the fore again, with a second exploratory visit roughly sketched in for early Spring.

Spring feels like a long way off today, in the dreary dank gloom. Meantime, there's this to look forward to, at Howick Hall in Northumberland. Snowdrops and a wonderful cafe with home made cake, and, just as you'd expect, decent tea, in lovely surroundings: now there's a plan to uplift the spirits!

From the archives:

Friday 22 January 2010

Blinking in surprise

It's two years since I posted about this and it was time to go again to have my eyes tested to within an inch of their lives. Same lovely young optometrist, always encouraging as I stumbled along the lines of rapidly-diminishing letters: A, Something, Something, O or Q, Z, Something. "Not too bad!" he replied every time. I had the bright lights and thick yellow eye drops, a fascinated look at my retinas on screen, and noticed that rather more time was spent looking into my left eye than my right.

It turned out that I was wrong about needing stronger specs - my sight was fine. But I have a cortical cataract starting in one eye. And I'm only just 61! At least this wasn't something you could blame yourself for, I said, thinking about diet (excess of) and exercise (lack of).  Life offers so many rich opportunities for self-recrimination, regret and guilt. Young optometrist was reassuring, but of course I googled it when I came home. Horrible pictures....

Then I went off to browse the John Lewis sale therapeutically, hoping that my eyes weren't still wolf-yellow from the drops, bought a bed sheet, resisted a new HD-ready flat screen television, another DAB radio or a cupboard-load of gorgeous china, and came home on the bus. Cataract, bus pass, sensible approach to the sales; I'm getting old.

The girl next to me on the bus made several calls from her mobile phone. Clearly she did not like her job. Snippet:

"Boring.... I hate the weekday staff.... they all smell bad.... what? they don't really smell. You know what I mean...."


And when I got home, I found that the boys had been paddling in their clean water, now filled with debris. Actually, it appears to be cat litter. Maybe they aren't playing at all, but exercising their fastidious standards of paw hygiene. I wonder if they would appreciate a foot spa next to the cat trays?

Thursday 21 January 2010


I have multiple shadows.

They follow me up and down the stairs.

Into the kitchen.

They wait outside the bathroom.

They lurk in the hall.

Sometimes they tire of waiting.

And begin to get fidgety and bored.

And disobey the no-cats-on-tables rule.

But they don't give up.

It's not always clear what they want; titbits are always welcome, it's true, but sometimes strokes and cuddles aren't. I can see how bored they get, but they still hang around, keeping their watchful eyes on my every move.

I think they might be my Minders. One of them may publish their memoirs some day, revealing all about my slothful lifestyle.

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