Monday 28 February 2011

Plastic flowers for Monday

No, they're not really plastic.

They just look it. Perhaps it's a new development.

The 'Free With Daz' trend.

Tight apricot buds were ok; garish orangey-pink less so.

There's been a suggestion that  flowers in a delicate cat-nose pink would be a delightful alternative. I'm inclined to agree.

The flowers from a friend are better, despite the vase. Scooter hasn't spotted the tulips yet.

And there are  the daffodils, beaming away cheerfully in their corner, in the chipped Danish jug with the glued-on handle.

There's nothing like taking pictures of your (my) flowers to reveal a serious lack of presentation skills, and a pressing need for some new vases.

I wonder if I need to learn flower arrangement. I have the pinny.

Thanks, Jane, for the reminder that it's Flower Monday.

Saturday 26 February 2011

Low, grey, foreboding....

Dismal. That's how I am feeling just now.

I'll be back when things lighten up.

Monday 21 February 2011


Wally the painter arrived today.

His helpers were ready and waiting.

Florence helped too. You can see that she has less experience than Millie.

White tips to those whiskers on the left.

Both ears sporting a dab of paint.

She says that she did her best. Next time she'll remember to wear a hairnet.

Saturday 19 February 2011

Tea for two, cake for one

This post has been removed by the author; I am concerned that its subject, now a young man, may not have the same version of events as I have. 'Truth' is subjective, after all, and although I know my truth of the story as I experienced it, I would not wish to cause distress or offence to him or his relatives by leaving it in this blog. So out of respect to him and the beliefs he holds, the account that prompted so many of you to respond has been deleted. 

Friday 18 February 2011


Wasabi peas; the snack that requires courage. I like them. 

The Lovely Son introduced me to wasabi peas. First taste went something along the lines of:

1st pea:   Oooh, nice. A bit horseradishy, mustardy.
2nd pea:  Mmm, very nice. Interesting, hot, but not too hot.
3rd pea:   Oh blimey....
4th pea:   Waaaaaahhhh!!! 

Wipe eyes, blow nose. Start again. Addictive stuff, wasabi.

The LS also told me of the Wasabi Pea Game. This is not for the faint-hearted, involving at least two consenting adults daft laddies (this has to be a young man's idea) and probably some pre-ingested beer as well as more beer to be going on with.

The principle is simple. See how many peas you can hold in your mouth - sucking, not chewing.

The rules are simple too. It's not a sophisticated or intellectually challenging game....

Round 1: Someone says Go! and you start with five each. Hold them in your mouth and suck all the wasabi off.

Round 2 onwards: Increase the number, and carry on till someone starts crying, or their head explodes. The winner may - with honour - have a little cry afterwards.

You might wish to practise at home first.  Three would be a brave start, a mere hint at the volcanic fieriness to come.

This much would be foolhardy. Your brain would leak into your ears and your seared sinuses would never forgive you.

Double this amount and you have a great game for teenage boys.

Thursday 17 February 2011

Cross, uncross, re-cross

For those of you who kindly keep your fingers crossed for my house sale plans, here's the latest from the  estate agent:

Couple 1 remain interested in my house, but are being cautious.  Uncross your fingers now.

They are getting lots of viewers for their flat, with two second viewings planned. Twiddle your fingers for a moment; they'll be glad of a break.

When they get an offer, they will make an offer. Cross those fingers again. 

This time, we are hoping that Couple 1 get a quick, smooth, easy sale on their flat. Fingers crossed for them.

I can see little webs developing between my fingers....

Tuesday 15 February 2011


Giving in gracefully, or Why I am always skint.

Took up stair carpet, left underlay. Gentle paws must be protected from gripper spikes.

Took up underlay. Nerves must be protected from ungentle skittering and scampering of excited cats over playground underlay, day and night, claws extended, and from Scooter turning it into rubbery confetti which Flossie then chews.

Stairs swept, hoovered, every scrap of stuck-on carpet fibre laboriously picked off old paint with pointed pliers, staples and tacks levered out; sand and undercoat sides (the 'string') of each step. New carpet must butt up against pristine paintwork, just needing to be touched up here and there.

Hands and sander frequently damaged by gripper spikes; toes of slipper-soles becoming shredded by regular impalement on same. Notice that dogs and cats manage to negotiate stairs without coming to harm.

(Also note the irritating noise of heavy dog claws clickety-clacking up and down uncarpeted stairs at all times of day or night. Revise dream of having beautiful polished floors everywhere in next house.)

Gloss painting commenced. Suffer sudden attack of extreme listlessness and frequent urge for sit-downs with cup of tea. Gird loins, make a start, sighing mournfully.

Each dab of fresh white paint only serves to accentuate yellowness of all the rest of the paintwork, and the many, many chipped edges. Only two years since Wally and his apprentice Millie decorated those stairs!

Realisation dawns: all the woodwork will have to be painted properly; 'touching up' won't do.

Thirty-five treads, many spindles, eight doors off landings and hallway.... nightmare prospect if you loathe glossing as much as I do! And then there's my ability to spill paint, leave fingerprints, daub my clothes and hair, miss bits, close doors before paint is dry, and much much more. And then there's the cats, and Flossie....

Result: Telephone call to Wally, who, sensing a desperate tone, shuffled his work commitments around, and is coming to paint the whole lot for me on Monday.

Sit down with sigh of relief and cup of tea. Forget paintbrush, which dries like concrete.

If anyone asks me enviously what I do with all the time I have on my hands, I can reply with honesty that I spend it dodging work.

Monday 14 February 2011

Be Mine

Saturday 12 February 2011

Deja vu

"Love the house" (viewed 3 times) ... "working out finances"... "view to making an offer"...

Long silence....

Extinguish tiny flame of hope...

Compose myself again in positive-yet-realistic attitude. Get on with what I was doing.


Thursday 10 February 2011

Suffering in silence

Humans take such a long time to get ready for a walk.

All that fussing about shoes, scarves, poo bags, keys, phone, locking doors and cat flap....

Really, all we need is a ball.

They don't understand that less is more.

Wednesday 9 February 2011


My next door neighbour died today. She was about 53.

She had lived here almost as long as I have; I remember her as a keen hockey player, going off to major matches every Saturday. I have a photo of her some years later, standing high on a ladder, noticeably pregnant, clearing ivy from the back of the house, smiling down at me. I recall her rise to becoming head teacher of an excellent school, and the increase in her levels of stress and blood pressure as work became the greater part of her life.

And I recall the shock of hearing four years ago that she had suffered a catastrophic stroke, surviving it only because she had just been admitted to hospital minutes earlier. She never really recovered, and latterly, with the recurring cancer that also struck her down, was looked after at home by a team of carers. She faded out from the neighbourhood, but everyone remained aware of her, asking after her, not forgetting.

Her child, now a young teenager, has been cared for by friends who, despite their growing exhaustion, have been a shining light to us for their selfless devotion to them both. No one knew how much she understood of their care and compassion, or if she saw the toll it took of them, but she fought wordlessly to stay alive far longer than anyone predicted.

Until today, when she gave up that fight.

It is difficult to articulate how we feel; words like "a blessed release" come too easily, as do "she isn't suffering any more", but the stark fact remains: a mother, a daughter, a friend, a teacher, a neighbour, has been taken too soon, too cruelly, too incapacitated to tell her child how much she loved him or to say goodbye to those who loved her.

Better to remember her as she was, all those years ago, smiling down from too high up on a ladder, full of life and energy, confident that she had all her life before her.

Tuesday 8 February 2011

Busy - with helpers

11.30: Delightful parents of Couple No. 1 wander round my house being highly complimentary. Flossie helps them to view everything.

The sun shines, making the house look bright and airy, and the open windows make Spring seem almost here. Perhaps it is!

Cats hop in and out of windows, and help to accentuate how very filthy they are - it's time for the window cleaner's monthly visit.

12.30: Margery arrives. No cleaning today - the vacuum is away being serviced after making horrible screeching noises yesterday. We are lifting stair carpet instead, and set to with vim and vigour. Fiddly bits first.

Flossie and the cats help. Tosca watches.

Unpleasant stains are revealed. These are not the worst.

They have historical value to anyone wishing to chronicle the life stages of the ageing cat; I am not in the least nostalgic as I roll up sections of carpet into black bin liners.

Margery the Unsqueamish says this is fun. She is always a treasure, but is invaluable when rough work or dirty jobs require an extra pair of hands.

I continually impale my thick-soled slippers on the deadly gripper strips.

We decide to leave the old underlay covering the killer spikes until nearer the time for the new underlay and carpet to be fitted. Lacerated paws and feet are not a sensible idea.

Tomorrow I will sand the side bits where carpet and wet paint have left ridges over the years, clean up, and prepare for the loathsome task of gloss painting.

But for now, we stop for coffee and a slice of gingerbread; I tell Margery the story of when the Lovely Son fell on the gripper strip many carpets ago and gashed his hand open.

This story involves a greeny-white 11- year old boy about to faint, a great deal of blood, a stepfather also greeny-white and about to faint, and me gritting my teeth at the feebleness of the species while sorting out butterfly stitches and dressings.

We laugh, rather unkindly, and finish the gingerbread. Flossie and Tosca help.

Job done.

Sunday 6 February 2011

Couple no. 1, visit no. 3

"This delightful light and airy mid-terraced family home... in very good decorative order..." (so says the estate agents' blurb) hides a dark secret: a quivering wreck of an owner who can't sleep.

The lovely young doctors have been twice to look round the house, staying a long time and asking a lot of questions. Both are very open about how much they love it.

On Tuesday one set of Young-Doctor Parents is coming to have a look too.

Who knows where this is going long-term; I've been here before. I try to stay calm and relaxed, not quite cynical, just being realistic. The house may sell; it may not. If it does, I will move. Simple? Simple.

But I am also having sharp unbidden attacks of terror, doubt, cold feet, excitement and nerves.

Sometimes it's hard to be doing this alone.

Friday 4 February 2011

Order approved

The Red Stair Carpet of Shame (seen here a year ago, since when it has become shabbier and more decrepit) is living on borrowed time.

A new stair carpet has been shopped for, samples brought home to try against the paint colours, and a decision made.

The Supervisor was asked her opinion. I already knew what she thought of the old carpet, because she has been trying to remove it herself, with her own fair paws, a corner at a time.

She bottom-tested the sample and thought it would do nicely.

The labrador, whose over-positive disposition means that her critical faculties are not to be trusted, paw-tested the sample and thought it was "Lovely!". Everything is "Lovely!" to that dog.

I liked it, and I know Margery will be grateful; the old red one was far more perspirational work than it was worth, refusing latterly to give up its rich collection of fluff and hair to her vigorous wielding of the vacuum cleaner.

As we all seemed to agree on its superiority, it will be fitted at the end of the month, giving me time to locate a biohazard suit that fits me. Then I shall take up the old carpet, saying goodbye to the last reminders of several elderly cats and a very badly-behaved visiting dog. No one will be allowed in to watch when I uncover the underlay on that landing outside the bathroom.....

Thursday 3 February 2011


Remember this from last autumn? Intrepid Millie's lengthy excursion into Jesmond Dene, a route perilously close to a thundering main road?

Today the dogs and I were just leaving the Dene underneath Armstrong Bridge to come home, when we were greeted ecstatically by a small striped cat. Perhaps she was waiting for us; she had been in the house when we set off.

She was gracious enough to return home with us.

Tosca (the dot in the distance) led the way. She always speeds up when we are homeward bound.

Millie had to stop several times to do her happy roll on the pavement. She seemed perfectly at ease so far away from home.

I'm always amazed by how little we know about our cats' lives when they're out of the house. And I try not to lose sleep over it. However, adventurous Millie is responsible for much of my grey hair.

My Wild Child.

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