Tuesday 30 March 2010

I'm not well, you know....

Hot, cold, coughing, sleepless, thirsty, nauseous, hot, cold, coughing, sleepless, nauseous. Aches and pains, and my lungs hurt. Day 3 and counting. Cough... feeble cough....

I think I have A Virus. Yes, that's all. I know it should be something more impressive.

I've always been sufficiently self-aware to know that I must never ever own a medical dictionary, or indeed, be allowed access to one. I'd just have every disease and ailment listed therein, perhaps in multiples of three or four, and never just A Virus, that handy catch-all, too ordinary to even have an important-sounding Latin name.

I don't have a thermometer either. It's so easy to tell when you have a raised temperature, so why find out by how much? Too alarming by half, and the risk of compulsive ambulance-calling is too great.

This disciplined approach to imaginary illness has stood me in good stead over the years. Apart from a terrifying bout of viral labyrinthitis, which made me believe I really was about to die, my occasional illnesses have remained reassuringly commonplace, save in my wakeful 3 a.m. moments of dread: flu, colds and coughs. Nothing dramatic. I have a well-stocked medicine cabinet and a ready supply of self-sympathy.

But now we have computers instead of medical dictionaries. And Google. So much scary information out there! So many dreadful diseases that are almost matched by my symptoms! I daren't look!

I would become a cyberchondriac.

No point in going to my lovely doctor. I know she would tell me gently that it's A Virus, and will go away of its own accord.

She also knows that if it wasn't A Virus and she offered me medication, I would a) resist, in that irritating way of the Worried Well who don't get enough attention, b) worry about the side effects, until c) I became that pain in the neck patient, the Non-Compliant one, who goes away and gets better anyway.

It's not easy, you know, shifting from being Worried Well to Irrationally Ill..... cough.... feeble cough....

Sunday 28 March 2010

Supplementing your diet: Millie writes for you

Dietary Advisor Millie here, helping bored cats everywhere with their dinner-related problems:

First take the quiz:
  • Bored at the dinner table: could this be you?

  • Sick of your everyday diet? 
  • Tired of dry brown kibble and water? 
  • Find that the endless repetition is getting you down?
  • Not enough treats? 
  • Think that humans don't understand a cat's needs for variety and excitement in her dinners?
  • Finding heavy hints don't work?

  • Can't find interesting substitutes in the larder?
  • Fancy a venture now and then into the world of haute cuisine?

If you can mew "Yes!" to all of these questions, then it's time to take matters into your own paws, and put some zing into your dinners.

1. Go hunting. Organic free range is best, and the fresh air and exercise does you good too.

If this upsets the humans, be discreet - try a picnic outdoors, rather than bringing your catch home to share with the family. 

2. Ready meals are handy too.

A Scotch Egg is always tasty. Crumbs can be messy, so leave what you can't manage on the back step. Humans may step on it, but they won't howl in protest as they did with the fur-wrapped snack.

3. If you can't be bothered with cooked dinners, a raw diet can be healthy and natural. Chicken breasts are easy to find, and go down a treat. They are easily carried through the cat flap and if left half-eaten beside your dish, will help the human realise that her offerings of dull dried kibble compare disappointingly with plump glistening chicken flesh.

Remember: Always wash your paws after handling raw chicken. The taste is too good to waste.

So where do you find such delicacies?

Builders are always a good source of fast food. They keep their supplies in huge containers. These are convenient and easy to navigate; just hop in and have a good look round. You'll be surprised at the range of products they carry.

Students too are remarkably generous; they like to donate their excess food to the discerning cat  - I almost added "and dog" but we know that dogs are definitely not discerning - and are thoughtful enough to ensure we have easy access to the storage container. 

They also make sure they don't leave their gifts outside too close to dustbin-emptying day, because it would be such a waste to see good food thrown away in landfill.  

Remember it's in your paws: restrictive human rules can be worked around. All you need is enterprise, ingenuity, and imagination, and your uninteresting homely diet can become Michelin-starred. You just have to go for it!

Next week: How to look half-starved when visiting other people's houses: delicious new ways of supplementing your diet.

Friday 26 March 2010

Well, fluff my feathers!

What I saw last night:

If you have the chance to see this, and haven't taken it already, go! 

Matthew Bourne's thrilling version of Swan Lake, with its male lead Swan and corps de ballet. Unmissable.

Tuesday 23 March 2010

Bad dreams and the call to action

Brace yourselves - two riveting subjects coming up: dreams and housework. I know you'll manage to control your mounting excitement.

The bugle is blowing loud and clear today: "Spring CLEANING time is here! Stop going on about Spring and DO something - start cleaning your house!" But I needed a Sign.

I woke this morning with a headache ( which happens rarely) and a sense that it was Wednesday (well, that happens a lot). I had also been dreaming, a vivid and unpleasant dream in which unsupervised painters had covered the unfeasibly-high walls of my vast and grassy (dream) back yard with black paint. I was in despair, and helpless.

Yesterday I had dreamt of having moved into a crumbling house, like an unconverted barn, with an uneven mud floor; I had just cleaned everywhere, and it was now full of other, uninvited, people, and all their mess, clutter, and unwashed dishes. I was furious, and helpless.

I got up, feeling oppressed and miserable, and over breakfast, thought about what it might all mean. I'm not overly prone to amateur analysis of dreams, but I know that when I dream about houses, they are usually huge, gloomy and in need of repair - this usually means there's something about me and my world that is calling for attention. Hmmmm......

Dream dirt, messiness, neglect, blackness, helplessness..... I looked around. I saw cushions needing urgently to have fresh covers in bright colours, grubby arm covers, carpets desperately in need of professional cleaning after my inept efforts with sprays had worsened their many stains,  a (small, paved) back yard crying out for drastic action: pressure washing, cutting back of the dead winter stalks, plant pots being organised for Spring, repairing where harsh frosts had damaged the walls. There was evidence of the sharp claws of wicked cats everywhere, indoors and out.

And where was that Billy, the liar-liar-pants-on-fire roofer, who still hasn't come back to finish the everlasting work? Worse, where was I, all this time, letting this slovenly neglect build up? I could see where: in that familiar realm of At Fault, moaning about grubbiness; doing absolutely nothing about it. Whining about stains on the carpets; ditto. Thinking of making summer cushion covers; ditto with knobs on. And so on and so lazily forth.

I had let things slide, and I knew it, especially in my sleeping hours. Not a sophisticated train of thought, perhaps, but it seemed to fit.

So I tackled the headache first: the dog, neighbour Lesley and I had a pleasant walk through the Dene. There were robins, and flowering currant, bouncy brown dogs with their owners, and a general air of liveliness brought on by milder weather.

We met Alan from the allotment, and I found myself meaning it when I said I'd be down there soon, to dig, plant potatoes, clean the pond. He looked relieved - no need to send the dreaded Warning Letter to another skiving plot holder. Those potatoes chitting on the windowsill will go in the ground on Good Friday, as tradition demands.

Back home, I spent some time in the back yard, cutting back dead fern fronds, exposing the  knobbles beneath that look like they will never produce another fat bud -

- until suddenly, amazingly, they do. But not yet.

I wrestled a white-flowering clematis out of its too-small "this will do for now" pot in which it has struggled for several years, and replanted it. This was all it managed last year, poor thing:

I filled half a wheelie bin with yard sweepings and tidyings-up. The grubby arm covers and dog throws went in the wash. And I rang Billy the roofer. He called me Darlin' several times, and promised to be here by Monday. Yeah, yeah.... But I know I was right to go a bit giddy and feckless, and spend the roof money on this Mac last year; I've had time to save it up all over again.

Tomorrow I talk to the carpet cleaning company whose quote has lain in a drawer for months. Tomorrow Margery comes, to hoover and bang about with chemically-fragranced sprays (she resists my attempts to persuade her to white vinegar and e-cloths). Tomorrow I shall be the model housewife, progressing the ongoing programme of Spring cleaning. I may even take curtains down and shop for cushion cover fabric. Oops, maybe I've been affected by Billy; a little over-optimistic there, in the matter of fabric....

And maybe tonight I'll dream of uncluttered surfaces, gleaming paintwork, manicured lawns and myself in a clean pinny with a shiny-shiny halo. Blowing my own trumpet bugle.

Monday 22 March 2010


Nooooooo, despite tulip-related felonies. Dim, though. Nice but dim. Easily scared. A bit fat.

And still a baby - only about 9 months old.

I love him!

Care of Cut Flowers: A Tutorial

We started off with five tall yellow tulips two days ago. Then they started disappearing. Only three (plus their reflections) left today.

The foliage became mysteriously tattered.

There were bite marks, and stumps. Someone with sharp teeth has been here....

Two sorry-looking half-tulips are now in a smaller vase.

Tulip foliage seemed to be the best plaything this morning.....

....there was one likely Tulipomaniac.

Time for another stake-out.


Sunday 21 March 2010

Household help

We are the staff. We keep this house in order.

It's a full time job.

We inspect floors.

And windows.

We dust.

We pride ourselves on our standards of work.

That's why we're called domestic animals.

We are entitled to regular breaks.

And nourishing snacks between meals.

With liquid refreshments.

Shop Steward keeps an eye out for any attempt to exploit the workers.

We know our rights. 

Friday 19 March 2010


...and here's the evidence - just a few shots of your blogs on my screen. We are all yearning for Spring.

It's here at last, and most welcome too. But didn't we enjoy ourselves complaining about WInter!
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