Day to day musings of a cat minder/ sitter in North Tyneside and Newcastle upon Tyne . For details of services go to

Welcome to CatMinders

Welcome to CatMinders

Monday, 29 December 2008

When its Winter and freezing on the beach and the Times today says it's going to be minus 10 degrees celcius by the end of the week , and despite that , the dog gets really silly and despite shaking visibly with the cold when her Barbour jacket is taken off to facilitate her mad dashing on the beach , lies down in a ( full ) rockpool at the edge of the rolling waves off the North Sea . A thing she would'nt dream of doing in the height of Summer . Far too chilly .
When it's Winter like that , I like to flick by through my photos and remember the tea garden in the village , and our own front of house in warmer times .
Not long now ....?
Happy New Year everyone ......!

Sunday, 28 December 2008

New year's Introspection Time

It's that time of year again .
Christmas done , I can only semi muster interest in the film on tv and my CatCalls cats are all fed and settled for the night .
Time to reflect back to last year's New Year's Resolution(s) and those of others around me and to start to think forwards to 2009 .
So here was last year . CatCalls: Socks and Things ....I planned to try not to buy any new clothes for a year ! Well that was a tall order . As D pointed out , woman cannot do without socks and "things" ( especially when she has so few to start with ) , and indeed he was right , underwear being the first thing to start finding its way into my bag .
And then there was the matter of the sale bargain All Saints cardigan which I have worn almost daily since then .
And then , once you start .....

But , to be fair , the main thing , and a thing I have not made much mention of here , hating Diet Blogs and indeed dieters in general as they are usually a soulless bunch was the " I will get rid of these migraines of it kills me " low carb diet , started to see if carbs were a factor . I still have no clue on that front , am still on the diet-research-trial ( a different thing altogether ) and still taking the Migraine Defence and still taking the NHS meds as well . And I have been much better of late .

So the main thing was that after a few weeks of the low carbness , I found the weight dropping off , to the extent that none of my clothes now fit , so of course my resolve , though strong , was fundamentally not designed to meet such a challenge .
There was after all the highly desirable ( for a former lardy one ) yet still potentially very embarrasing incident in August outside a CatCallers home ( I name no names ) when reaching inside my pocket for the keys to the front door , the waistband of my loose linen trousers gave up any semblance of having a job to do , and whoosh the pants were round my knees . Luckily it was a red hot day , the neighbourhood was deserted ( everyone still in bed or gone to the sea perhaps ? ) and I whipped them back up and one handedly texted my sister jubilantly to record the moment of my triumph " Guess what I'm so skinny my pants just fell off ! " , you know the kind of text you hate to receive even from your best pal . Even the cats had to sit and watch till that was done .....

So , you see my dilemma ? It was either back on the carbs , gain a stone and a half again , or buy a few things . What would you have done ?

And now for next year ? I need to get thinking though I have a few ideas in the pipeline .
Buy a few belts maybe ......

NB For what it's worth , it was a good resolution . It did make me think about what I spent on clothes . It was very "freeing" not to look at clothes in the shops . I still rarely indulge . And now I do buy something , I really appreciate it .

Mr Squirrel Lives Here ....

A few hundred yards from my sister's front door lives a squirrel in a little house in a big tree and bang on cue at Christmas time Someone Magic has made Mr Squirrel his very own front door . How cool is that ?

No wonder the Monkey is so quiet

The party went well . The monkey has been very quiet ever since . ( Who wouldn't be with limbs knotted and is it me or is his grin saying something different ?)
And Alice is quite beside herself with exhaustion. Entertaining is not her strong suit , and following hot on the tail of two full days out on the trot , she is all done in and needing a Full Pyjama Day .
Just as well then ... Nat has finally persuaded me , after several long years , that I can no longer put off the evil moment when her belly will be pierced , in my presence. Why do I have to witness this horror ? Enough that I should finally crumple under the sheer weight of her arguments . And why does it have to be today , when I have a complete Sugar Rush headache after indulging in both tiramasu and English trifle after several months of Low Carbness ? There are good reasons , I am told , so that " it" will be healed in time for our holiday in May . ( thanks to D this is booked , unlike the Christmas cake which was iced as usual Post Christmas day ) .
Uh oh .... here they come , the teens are out of bed . For once emerging pre noon , the promise of the pain to come dragging them forth from sleep . Does it make sense . Does it ? Wish me luck .
Sleep on Alice and enjoy your pyjama day . I'll be with you in spirit .

Saturday, 27 December 2008

I am supposed to be hosting a family party imminently but I am in introspetcive mood and more interested in casting my mind back to the ( anxiety ?) dream of the early hours . To be fair I have spent the morning making brownies , an old fashioned trifle and a tiramasu , and whizzing up pasta dishes , salads and olive thingies . People are bound to be tired of turkey by now . Though turkey there is , should it be required .
I woke to the sound of cats scraffling amonsgt papers and plastic and left them to it . Later there was the unwelcome sound of barfing .
Yesterday , having done a full litter tray clean at one of my CatCalls I then had occasion to take various rubbish bags out into the garden and horrors , was unable to re lock the back door . Checking the locking of the front doors and the keys and their workings os one of the things I do on my initial visits after a salutary experience when a family inadvertantly provided me with the Wrong Key in their excitement at Getting Away . Luckily there was a neighbour .
But I rarely think to try out the back door . This door had opened like a dream . I had sailed out into the back humming to myself and done my dumping ( not literally you understand ) and then ... hm , this door is stiff,. and then ... hm its dark outside and I can't get this door re locked and now I'm starting to recall that time when I was little and my Grandma was trying to close the farmhouse back door and there was a man outside trying to get in and we were both pushing our full weight against the door and we couldnt close it and get the big heavy key turned and he was grunting and pushing and my Grandma was shouting at him to go away and leave us alone and I was eleven years old again and ......
It was almost dark but I wasn't eleven . It did take me almost fifteen minutes to get the door closed and I remember thinking This will probably give me bad dreams sometime soon .

As indeed it did .

I was at the fairytale garden and the W's two cats were in the house , but as I came back in from the garden , a man appeared . In reality this would be impossible as I always lock all doors behind me . Nothing if not security conscious in other people's homes . Not only that , there were five cats , one an enormous grey cat , striped and with huge long whiskers . But what was worse , as I looked at all of the cats , I was unable to work out which were the cats which belonged and which were the outsiders . And , worse than that , I couldnt tell of the man was friend of foe .

Back to my food preparation I think ......before you all fall asleep . ....

Thursday, 25 December 2008

A Lull in The Proceedings

Christmas Eve , my sister's house . I am leaning against the Aga , stirring a sauce or something . I forget now . My sister is watching whilst engaged in some other food preparation task . We are gathering to eat , pre Carols on the village green, prior to the arrival of Father Christmas on a sleigh on a large truck , following a hooting police escort . The carols begin in earnest at 6 30 , Santa and his cardboard ( though to small children and from a distance not apparent as such ) reindeer arrive at 7 pm and he drives around the village throwing out sweets and waving and calling out Ho Ho Ho . The adults mingle and catch up with people they may not have seen since this time last year . Meanwhile I stir the sauce and wish the stove had more of a fire in its belly . Such is the way with the Aga though . Laura describes in minute detail the outfits of the guests at a recent party she attended . I listen , transfixed . I am at the party , seeing the guests , wondering at the choice of dresses and suits . In the distance , my daughter pipes up , speaking to her cousin , who is 22 . " Do you suppose when we 're old we will have nothing better to talk about than what our friends were wearing at the party ? " Peals of laughter at how sad and how curious they find us all at once . Half an hour later though my sister catches them out as they shriek with horror at the fake tan on a model in " Heat " magazine . " Do you think when we're old we will care about the suntanning practices of the rich and famous " she quips ....and the magazine comes flying across the room at her .....

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

I think this is the longest I've gone without blogging . Once you get on a roll , its hard to stop . And once you get off the roll , its hard to get back on .
There's been a landmark birthday , when we went to London , flew about on the London Eye ( why do they call it a flight ? ) and whizzed about the centre in black cabs between Oxford Street , mad so close to Christmas , the Royal Mile and theatreland . We saw "We Will Rock You " and then squeezed in a fleeting visit to Covent Garden on Sunday .

Then there's been the usual mad rush to get everything done , the viruses conspiring to stop us getting everything done , the careful placing of presents under the tree and the dog gingerly opening them and having a little poke inside as soon as ours backs were turned .

The ordering of cards from Greyhound Rescue and their failing to turn up until the day after last post ... so if you were expecting a card from me and didn't get one this year , hey ho !

Some unsettling health news for D ... he is now trying to give up smoking . Watch this space . I'm trying hard not to blog about this .

And then there was the cat who faded away whilst I was looking after him , poor old boy . Glad I could be there if it helped , and for any of us who have had to take our beloved friends to the vets at the end , the best way for it to work out , but a sad event all the same and something I still write about with some uncertainty , not wanting to impose on private moments .

But , I'm back , and now I should get on with my Christmas preparations . Wrapping to do . The cake to ice .
For the record , this year I made the cake the earliest I have ever done it . And thereafter everything went pear-shaped !

Happy Holidays to you all x

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Jump in the sea why don't you ?

Dec 7th .... 3 degrees celcius , and there are people , men and women , jumping in the north sea . What is the point of this ! Click to enlarge if you dont believe me ...

Saturday, 6 December 2008

This kestrel will enlarge should you wish to look more closely . For some reason my original wouldn't .
He ( She ? also has a mouse or a vole in his grasp , which I also photographed , if anyone wishes to see , though mouse dangling from beak is not the best shot at breakfast time )

Mid Morning Kestrel at King Edward's Bay

And a chilly seagull thrown in for good measure ...

Re .... of Corbridge

Outing to Corbridge yesterday , incliding my first visit to Re , fabulous retro shop . the vegetables in the top view are all candles . The white decorations are all crochet work . The icons ... beyond words . I could have photographed the entire shop . I could write about the entire shop . But you would all be asleep .

Iggy the legendary station cat

.. or not .... Iggy as pictured above has become known as the Tynemouth Station Cat but in fact he belongs ( insofar as a cat ever belongs ) to our next door neighbour Clare . But even in these inclement temperatures when even at the coast we have had great piles of snow and the pc widget has shown minus five degrees celcius , Iggy has been at his post on the passenger benches by the tracks , offering solace and warmth to travellers like myself ( car off the road , brake disc cracked ) who sit down next to him whilst watching for the next train .
At the weekends when the flea market operates at the station Iggy is much in evidence , strolling between his favourite stallholders , spoiled for choice . There are many Iggy-Urban-legends , most of them true . The stallholder travelling thirty odd miles one Saturday to provide him with his tuna and cream even though that day she was not setting up her stall . The time he lost the end of his tail when a taxi rank opened at one end of the station and Iggy and the taxi drivers had not yet fully resolved their Turf Wars . An operation fixed this and he was soon back on duty . The cushions and fleece blankets provided on many of the stalls for his comfort and the signs offering a photo of the buyer with Iggy , proceeds to charity .
We know him best in this house as the boy who sits on our window staring in at our cats , whilst they stare out , and then , at some given signal , all start polishing the windows with their paws in some frenzied silent battle . My sister calls him Fluffles .

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Misunderstandings .......

At the weekend I am up as usual rather early to get the coffee brewing .
There is a lovely morning routine of bathroom tasks ( the first of a series of scoops of cat biscuits for Kitty , who still refuses to come downstairs in protest at a dog having joined the household ... or is it that she is Too Lardy for the stairs , as occasionally she does venture down to petition for more food ) , kitchen tasks which include , on cold days , opening the dishwasher door loudly to give the guinea pigs the opportunity to rise and shine without being embarrassed at caught out still in bed , greeting them with a hearty Good Morning Pigsters as they start up their shouts pretending they were merely tidying their quarters or some such , providing their morning cereal and enjoying the moment as they snuffle the hand and press forwards as if dying to run a marathon across the kitchen floor .
Left to their own devices of course with the door open , they retreat to the safety of what they know and simply look out at the world . A stance with which I can identify , especially on Mondays .

But this is the weekend ...
I set the coffee machine off , three Birman cats in a line on the bench keeping tabs on my progress . Once the water starts pulsing , I head for the cupboard where the Pearl Gourmet pouches are kept in D's neat and tidy Pearl Gourmet dispenser ( ex shoe cleaning rack converted for the purpose and perfectly fit for purpose too ) .
Three Birman cats follow me to the cupboard and two Birman cats enter the cupboard as I close the door . I therefore have to bend twice , once to extract the pouches from the dispenser , annoyingly situated on the floor , and second time to flap the cats out of the cupboard . Occasionally a squawk indicates the timings have misfired and Toby's tail remains in the door .
The third Birman , who does not enter the cupboard , walks in front of me as I proceed to the bench with the pouches and as I lean forwards to collect the plastic bowls which are ( also irritatingly) stored slightly beyond my reach she is happy if I trip over her and we both stumble . Or so it would seem , since it happens most mornings .

But being the Senior Birman and thus slightly favoured , she eats her breakfast downstairs on the bench , whilst the other two take their pouches upstairs , sharing with Kitty , who waits , immobile, at the top of the stairs ,until , as the bowls of food arrive she turns and gallops as fast as her little legs will carry her into the bathroom and to the designated feeding station where she has already seen off the first scoop of biscuits .

It is at this point that I usually re enter the bedroom to see what life exists there . To ascertain the state of play . Weekend . Is D likely to want coffee at this point or should I leave him for another half an hour or so before bringing up the tray ?

The dog is fast asleep at the bottom of the bed , a flattish mound under a tasteful check blanket , resembling a grandmother wrapped for an outing with only the nose pointing out . Greyhounds are the teens of the dog world , preferring to rise at lunchtime or later , if at all possible . Sleep is more important than food , and a warm bed and a blanket spell bliss .

Out of the blue as my back is turned ( I am glancing out of the front elevation windows and watching the station activities at the stall holders set up for the day . There is a flurry of silent activity . ) I hear the dog utter a " wuf " , unusually for her, in her sleep .
She is the master of the long drawn out sigh with just the occasional wuf and occasionally the disparaging "rrrrrrrrr" if she is really tired or disgruntled .

So , the dog says Wuf .
then , I hear D ( also apparently asleep ) say " Oh no , thank you . " very politely and I look round in amazement .
Clearly he thinks I am still in bed and have asked him some searching question .

Really those two don't need me at all .
Except to bring the coffee....

Three Fox Night at Four Am

I may have omitted to admit that Alice has wangled her way upstairs at night . Since the advent of the fireworks at the end of October ready for Guy Fawkes , the frequent bangs , coupled with the colder nights , meant that her excursions to the top of the stairs to shout for assistance and someone to replace her blankets ( " I'm so skinny I'm cold now ") or deal with whichever Cat she felt was giving her dirty looks ( I myself had my Theories about the blankets and how they came to be removed as I am fairly certain from close observation that Alice being a lazy greyhound once asleep does not stir and sleeps like a log for hours on end ) had increased to an intolerable level .
I was tired of trotting down three of four times a night and facing a sleepy dog and a prim looking set of cats , backs turning with a What ? Us ? look about them .

Thus it came about that Alice was permitted upstairs .... and very happy she is with human company and intervention should the cats tease .....

And I confess I much prefer sleeping the night through with just the occasional push of a heavy dog back to the bottom of the bed , and still sufficient room for cats at the top corners . Fortunately we have the biggest bed I have ever seen , and with all that hot water swilling around , the warmest ..... no wonder its always fully occupied .

Four am .

The household is sleeping . Last night's hailstones have melted and there is no heavy night frost .
I wake with a start as Alice bounces to life , hopping in front of the window , strangely as it is marginally too high for her to see out of .
D leaps out of bed . Outside , on the wall beyond which is the railway line , stands a big fox , and on the ground two further foxes , one younger and smaller in appearance . They pace up and down the avenue as we watch . It is too dark outside for photographs . Alice is on tenterhooks , still bouncing , desperate to get out , yet she can see nothing , because of the height of the windows . Is it that she can smell them , or hear them , through our double glazed windows ?

She shows no interest , ever , in passing people , cats , or dogs . yet the foxes intrigue her .
Mystery .
And greyhounds are sighthounds surely , not dogs which rely on scent , or hearing ?

Sunday, 30 November 2008

Christmas Fair

Today was the Christmas ( and now I confess to having trouble ) Fair ( or might it be Fare , or even in this day and age Fayre ) in Hexham .
I include a photo of four cakes , reduced to three after a plundering by D , for whom they were of course intended , lest it should be Fare in which case the spelling would be fitting indeed .
The fair took place in the leisure centre , inside an inner hall of a white marquee , decorated further by Christmas fripperies and we managed to spend almost two hours wandering hither and thither chatting about jewels , cakes , cards , and ( of course ) Bioflow ( a possible migraine remedy in the form of a bracelet with powerful magnets contained within . I was more than impressed with its inherent possibilities as a piece of jewellry and , enjoying as I do the opportunity to boost a failing economy with cash I don't really have except rather loosely , as a concept , in my head ( see Esther and Jerry Hicks , "Ask and It Shall be Given ", for an explanation ) it was not long before I had by passed the "take a leaflet home and read about the bracelet" and was rather proudly sporting one on my right wrist where there are more something ( pulse ? ) points . As if by magic ( naturally ) my headache and morning quease disappeared .
Later we headed up to the market town itself for lunch in Phat Kats, or some such , and stocked up with advent calenders . Piping Nathalia in Thornton's proved quite a challenge and after several minutes none of us could recall how it was spellt .
My finest moment came ten minutes later in Superdrug when I handed over my Boots Loyalty card to pay for an expensive item , with the word " Result " in my head ...... now I shall be able to get some cotton wool balls... for free !
Luckily this was Hexham and the young woman pointed out the error of my ways very politely . I laughed like a drain ( you have to really .... ) though I did wonder why we weren't in Boots ....surely that was where we had been heading ?

Friday, 28 November 2008

High Seas and a lighthouse but no surfers

Since the wave that almost took me and Alice off the rocks , we took to walking along the promenade , a sthe beach was almost non existant due to high tides . This clip was taken just before a wave almost took us off the walkway too .....I stopped filming just in time

Winter Walk Low Newton Northumberland

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Risk Assessment Thoughts for the Day ?

I rarely talk about my Day Job here , unless it sends me to exotic locations , this year Cardiff and Atlanta no less .

But these last three days have been such fun . I've been on a rare training event where I've been a participant rather than a trainer ( Bliss ) , it was held in a fairly exotic location ( Ha ! ) , the hotel overlooking the much vaunted Angel of the North and for once I cannot resist writing about at least one aspect of it .

With the focus on Risk Assessment , and let's face it , what isn't these days , risk assessment being the words you hear whenever you close your eyes and just let your mind drift in any given situation . Even this morning as I took Alice down the hundred or so steps to the beach at King Edward's Bay there was a slip of paper floating on the wind and as it settled on the top step and I picked it up to dispose of it , glancing at it as it was handwritten and I began to convince myself it may be a lost love letter or suicide note (why am I obsessed with the notion of suicide at the beach these days ? ) I noted the words L and D ... Learning and Development I assume and underneath in Bold Print "Risk Assessment" . Even on the beach people are risk assessing ... there is no escape .

And indeed as we hopped about on the rocks thinking our thoughts about how far in the tide was and how the beach this morning was very very small ,and Alice was assessing how she could winkle a biscuit from my new coat with the zip up pockets , a massive wave smashed down in front of us and Alice and I ran for our lives and just managed to escape being pulled back into the sea off the rocks and into God knows what oblivion awaits ........ its so easy to forgot just how strong that seventh wave can be and how poweful a force the ocean is when you are thinking about the day ahead and the sea looks reasonably calm . My heart was pounding and Alice was running like Ive never seen it before .

I digress ...

Risk Assessment . Its never far away , and maybe never should be . So , these last three days we are being trained by two great people from Wisconsin and part of what they're teaching us involves an emphasis on how the Deviant Male , in the institution where they work, views women, including the view that its completely acceptable simply to say to a woman as a dating line " well how about a sh*g then ? " rather than as you or I might consider , " would you fancy a drink later in the bar ? " or whatever . The trainer is speaking to the room with his back to a series of tables behind him where lunch has been served and just as he comes out with this line , in walk two young waitresses , unseen by him , to collect the coffee pots , and you can picture the scene , the words " How about etc " are uttered just as the young women are behind him , only he is still unaware of their presence , and they keep right on walking , straight faced ,whilst the rest of us giggle nervously but feel not ok as they disappear behind the flip chart stands . The following day the trainer is in full flow describing another of his charges and comes out with the line " these guys believe all women are money grabbing b*tches , deceitful , lying and out to get them " and again the waitresses have walked in just as he says " all women .. " . I note this time the women put down their pots and walk out again and are quickly replaced by male staff . What of course we dont know is that because of the course content the hotel have been pre-alerted and later I over-hear one of the trainers chatting to the waitresses and the young women laugh as they say they approached the room with caution trying to guage what is being talked about before they walked in . And now in writing this I am mighty frustrated by Blogger . For some reason it won't allow me to make paragraphs or separate out lines of text . Pah and double pah . Anyway it was funny at the time . Maybe you had to be there . I'm glad I was . And I'm glad I didn't get sucked into the sea this morning and lived to tell the tale , though it was a close call , probably in retrospect would have been more of a drenching than a drowning .

Sunday, 16 November 2008

The Complex Passport Adventure

My Blog is suffering . Too many adventures happening too close together and not enough time to stop and write ? I wish ….. Or maybe inertia is getting the better of me ? You decide !
Yesterday’s Enid Blyton moment was thwarted only by the reluctance of local police to co operate . Sadly PC Goon was not in attendance when we rolled up at North Shields police station to make our crime report and hand over our log of Suspicious Findings . In fact , the Special Constable was notably more interested in the arrival of her late lunch or early afternoon between meals snack ( a cheese pasty , we think , judging by the greasy bag ) than in our crime reports and to our minds opened the half door in the wire meshing separating police and punter only to admit our wet and soggy bag of evidence because of the arrival of the aforementioned cheese pasty .
But as usual I race on ahead of time .

Such was our desperation for adventure that when L and I spotted ( well ok I admit , she spotted ) a wet passport lurking under a rock on the beach when out in the sunshine for our morning constitutional , we began our search for attendant neatly folded piles of clothes , final messages to loved ones , even an abandoned car in the pub car park .
Admittedly we had time to kill as a big greyhound was looking over at us from the far corner of King Edward's Bay and Alice was urging us to keep a low profile as she had sustained a nasty bite last Sunday when ( for once ) minding her own business she was chased by a young greyhound who doubtless mistaking her for a small rabbit ( easily done when you're only thirteen months old and a bit silly ) took a big chunk out of her back leg .
By the time said passport was bagged up ( dog-poo bags can be so useful ) , pocketed , unbagged again ( for a blog photograph . Right . Ok , how sad are we ? ) and surrounding area thoroughly searched , and indeed big boy greyhound had given his human companions the slip and come bounding over to check Alice out ( causing humans much anxiety as noting her angry flesh wound they mistakenly assumed their boy was the cause ! ) , we had invented numerous stories regarding the missing passport and its significance .

All handwritten details had been erased in the water but it belonged to a twenty one year old student with an unusal surname , born in Newcastle upon Tyne .
We decided it needed to be handed in to the loal police and contacted them to report its whereabouts . They took no details , simply asking us to hand it in when we had time .

We decided therefore to make our own enquiries using the internet and although we did hand in the item , within an hour or so of searching were able to locate the young man's mother . The man himself , although having one entry on Google which told us that he had won a national debating competition when still at school , unusually had no Facebook, Bebo or MySpace entry and therefore we drew a blank , but we quickly made a connection via his unusual surname , discovering that his mother was a rather well known local author and poet , who had links with the late Julia Darling who was known to myself though not personally , to many of my friends in the area . As I looked through Google entries attempting to find a way to contact his mother just to let her know we had handed in the passport , I realised that two musicians who were tragically killed in 05 following a hit and run incident in the Westgate Hill area of Newcastle upon Tyne , also known to me at the time as they were friends of friends , were part of this passport story . One of the men who was killed was in fact the father of the young man whose passport we had .
Small world . I read on . A 17 year old boy had in fact taken a BMW whilst under the influence of alcohol and mounted the pavement , hitting the two men who had been playing music , rehearsing for a gig to commemorate the life of Julia Darling which was to have taken place the following evening . Both men were hurled into the air and , I think , killed instantly . News reports stated that the partner of the other man , whose name was Joe Scurfield , asked that the 17 year old see the body of the man he had killed and he agreed . He received a five year sentence . The passport Boy's mother was reported as saying that she was sure that when the 17 year old took the car he had no intention of killing or causing harm or words to that effect . Amazing .

She did have a Facebook page . I contacted her yesterday to say we had handed in the passport . She wrote quickly back to say the passport had been stolen two months ago at the Sage ( music venue ) . Relief that no more sinister connotation .
Small world though . And complex stories everywhere .

Thursday, 6 November 2008


Having spent a fun couple of hours at the hairdressers this afternoon amongst other things overhearing the Management Team hilariously discussing their joint experiences of going for Colonic Irrigation ( it was Quiet after all in the salon ) , I arrive home to find D has received his long awaited pre Colonoscopy Pack , which he withdraws from the brown package with some distaste .

D has had Bowel Issues for some months now but I have excercised considerable discretion in keeping my counsel regarding this ( or these ) matter(s) and have been given special permission to blog about the name of the pre colonoscopy enema medication which seems to go by the dubiously apt name of Fleet .
Apt judging by the exhortations to practice nil by mouth from lunchtime the day before ( indignant squeals from D ) and then to have a Day by the Lavatory once the Fleet has been taken . I won't go into further details lest I should come across as unsympathetic ....or indeed juvenile in my sense of humour ... but really ... Fleet!!!

Any family resemblances detected ?

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

4am in the morning ...

2am . Migraine bad . Dog on bed , happily sprawled with long skinny legs in my direction and bodily weight forcing D to the very margins his territory .
I wake , having dreamed that I am a child again or a teenager , living at home , and we live aboard some kind of vessel floating on the sea . I sit to the edge of a slatted bench , my mother is near me . All around us is the sea , bright turquoise , menacing , with prawns and discarded dolls on she sea floor miles beaneath us . I am terrified if I stand I will fall in. I lurch and my fear mounts .

More medication induced fear .
The dog wakes and wriggles closer , permitted the bed because of her fear of fireworks and having been bitten by another greyhound on Sunday on the beach she is particularly susceptible to anything scary . We were up and down three or four times Monday night with her .
My head is beyond sleep so I go in search of more medication then prop myself on pillows and and read until they take me over and the muscles relax .
A text arrives from my friend C.... it takes me an hour before I can muster the energy to open it . She simply says
God Bless America !
Despite my feelings about everything , about my head , about missing Queen live at the Arena earlier in the evening , about missing seeing Dave and him signing my copy of his book about the Fall ( Dave Simpson : The Fallen The Quietus Features The Fallen- Searching For The Missing Members Of The) , about once again having to leave work early and about probably having to miss another day at work , I read the text twice and I smile . I know what this means. And not for the first time I am glad to have this opportunity of being awake in the night and being an early witness to life changing events .

Thursday, 30 October 2008

One year on

Now we have had Alice almost a full year it seemed that Pearl the senior Birman was coming round to her presence in the home and indeed was prepared to offer the nose of friendship .
On occasions she was seen stretching her neck from her superior position on the bench and reaching down to Alice to give a cursory sniff . Alice's occasional loud antics make no difference to her being deaf and she rarely scuttles off upstairs the way her children do . More suspiciously however , she is usually present when Alice sneaks upstairs at night to ask for her blanket to be replaced , and is often to be seen , back turned but clearly awake and watching out of the corner of her eye as the sad greyhound freezes on the sofa , her blankets askew or on the floor . " Me ? pulled them off that sad skinny loser ? I don't think so ! " written all over her pursed lips .

So as Alice's birthday week approached we had high hopes of a truce , albeit an uneasy one . Alice is desparate to be friends , if only having spotted the obvious , that cats are covered in fur and would make very fine hot water bottles , if they would only sit still and keep their claws under wraps ....

But our hopes were shattered this morning when as Alice lay dreaming on the floor in front of the fireplace , Pearl climbed steadfastly onto the mantelpiece and lined up the heavy Vaseline jar , taking aim and flicking with her paw . Bang ! The jar just missed the dog's head . Had it struck ... well I hate to think ?
Pearl looked distinctly disappointed , stretched and climbed down , narrowing her eyes as if memorising the angles for next time.

The Monkeys Share a Moment

Nico the Beluga Whale

One of my favourite books is " Turtle Diary " by Russell Hoban .

Whatever you feel about these massive creatures being contained in tanks it was impossible for me to resist being completely captivated by Nico as he swam right in front of me .

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Back from Atlanta !

( Subtitle Alice has a new monkey from Pottery Barn Kids )

Those of you who follow this blog will know that Alice the skinny greyhound has many loveable traits , not least the one where when she needs to go out ( and means business ) she gets very silly and throws her toy monkey up in the air . As the monkey gets a bit jaded and is indeed looking a bit dishevelled I spotted the most amazing long skinny monkey in Pottery Barn Kids in the Lenox mall in Atlanta ( yes I did manage to fit in a bit of retail therapy at the close of business on one or two of the conference nights and very satisfying it was too , even if the dollar pound ratio was ghastly and my feet were hurting due to a nasty case of Dhobi itch ( the alternative name for athlete's foot as found on the medication box ) and yes I did get Nat's Uggs in chocolate brown , the tall ones thank you for asking and they probably saved me quite a few squids , besides my bacon .

Alice is loving this new monkey , in particular the odd grimace on its face and the present has gone down very well , almost as well as the Uggs in fact .

Atlanta was quite an experience . Amazing how I can travel to the other side of the world and back and spend day after day watching speaker after speaker ( 17 in one day ) , working from 8 30 till 5 30 , then shopping , sightseeing ( CNN HQ , Atlanta Aquarium with its three beluga wales , church service in Sweet Auburn , Martin Luther King Centre , socialising , drinking the occasional cocktail in a revolving bar overlooking the city then riding up and down in glass lifts for the sheer " we dont get to do this in England " fun of it , and not suffer a single headache . When not a month ago I take a tiny flight to cardiff in Wales and then spend the next two or three days incarcerated in a fairly ghastly student room unable to leave the sanctuary of bed and bathroom and finally end up in Accident and Emergency at the local hospital . Moral of the tale ..... if I'm going to a conference , go to an American one , they suit me better !

And one of the best things about going away ?

Coming back Monday morning and finding a surprise waiting for me ... David had stayed up till 4 am two nights running ( or was it three ... or five and he isnt saying ? ) to paint the kitchen the most amazing lime green . The preparation alone would have taken me ten years .

Pictures will follow ....

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Monkey Dog

We can't decide what it is with Alice .

For weeks she will be perfectly housetrained and sleep soundly till mid morning so long as she is wrapped like a mummy in a series of fleece blankets and has the sofa to herself and is tucked up with her monkey .

Then Ping , it all goes pear shaped and she starts tippy tappy to the top of the stairs as far as the stair gate and whine whine till I wake ( D's tinnitus mitigates against any overnight hearing of Dogs or Car Alarms or indeed anything needing attention , though he does respond very rapidly to a prod and is very happy to go and deal ... ) and go down and see what she wants . back on the sofa , Alice is by this time usually making it clear that she has been disturbed and wants tucking back in with monkey and the blanket . Pearl the Senior Birman is often sitting primly on the chair , back turned , and one wonders if she has tweaked the blanket away as Alice sleeps . Who knows ? Pearl gives nothing away .

But occasionally there is a double pear and sometimes even a Mr Whippy and Alice has not come either to have her blanket replaced or to ask to go out but to inform the Responsible Adult that the carpet is wet or worse , she can't abide the smell from the chocolate log in front of the tv . Horrors... the heart sinks and the clean up operation begins . ....

Then the inevitable trudge back up to bed and the stupid pointless internal dialogue .... why is she doing this ? Why does she mostly ask to be out but not this time ? Why does she need three poos in one day ? Why come and get us after she has been but not before ? Blah Blah ....

Energy Champions

Humorous e mail from friend about the university she works in having lost money via investment in Icebank . As a result they are appointing Energy Champions to save money .... tunring off lights etc .
My dad was the self appointed energy champion in our home when I was growing up . You might have had one too, if you're as old as me . It involved the lights being turned off as you were coming down the stairs and usually invoked a flurry of yells from my mother threatening to kill him if we or she tripped in the dark and broke our necks . It never made a blind (oops) bit of difference , he still felt the pennies saved were more crucial than the health and safety issues . As our lavvy light was outside the actual bog as well if you were sitting brooding in there he would often turn the lights off whilst you were on the pot , thus necessitating finishing the job in pitch dark . So it never phases me when there's a power cut , it just reminds me of the olden days ... fumbling for the bog roll and so on . Thanks Dad for that .

I had to go to an interminable school meeting last night . There were power point presentations last night where the handouts on the chairs bore no resemblance to the presentations on the screen , throwing me into a right state of turmoil , thinking mine had been stapled together wrongly . Nat had refused to accompany me , having bigger fish to fry , in a bottle of cider , possibly . The meeting involved much jargon such as learning portals ( what ? ) , targets , key stage this and tier that and by the end I was stuffed . When they announced your student should be revising two and a half hours ( per day ? per week ? ) I know it was all over . The teachers were all very jolly and made some important points about citizenship and attendance and things I can relate to so all was not lost ....

Monday, 13 October 2008

Delicious Carbs ?

I'm off to Atlanta next week , leaving at the crack of dawn on Tuesday and not returning for several days . Travelling for a conference and I'm already starting to think about my last such experience ( no not Cardiff , when I wasn't so much fretting about carbs as carbolic and how to clean the lavatory in my little uni room which became horribly blocked when I was overcome by migraine and all its attendant effluents but that's a whole other story ). No not Cardiff but Albuquerque in New Mexico , October about three years ago .

Sarah Vine has this morning written a wonderful piece about carbs and those of us on low carb diets , describing us as miserable ( if skinny ) gits and wondering what is the point of being able to fit into those lovely skinny jeans of yesteryear and sit entirely comfortably in our easy chairs without our muffintops threatening our internal organs ( and dear Readers , I'm almost there ) if we are all the while so miserable we grump our way from one end of the day to the other . And here's the thing ! She says its the lack of carbs .... that people who don't eat enough carbs are grumpy ! Now I've been grumpy for years and there are people who would testify that I could grouch and moan even whilst troffing my bar of Dairy Milk , and latterly I've put everything , but Everything down to the Topamax ..... my persistent cough ..... my broken ribs ...and now latterly my grumpiness and thoughts of how relaxing it must be to simply fall asleep for a very long time .
But now here is Sarah suggesting its the Low Carbness ??? What am I to make of this ?

And how does this connect with my trip to the States ? I'll tell you how ? Its the thought of all those delicious conference breakfasts which have been starting to niggle away at me . The enormous baskets of croissants and assorted Danish pastries that arrive at around 8 am , scenting the air with the aroma of almonds , chocolate , coffee. The coffee which arrives which little pots of milk all flavoured with hazelnut or rum or brandy ... the machines selling chocolate right outside every room . Or so it would seem . The restaurants serving mega portions of everything .... I don't need to go on do I ?

It would be silly not to check out whether in fact Sarah has a point ? At least at breakfast time .
I can't be expected to fiddle about with yoghurt whilst standing up and making small talk with people from different countries can I ? ( And there won't be any yoghurt , I know this for a fact , just pastries ) . All eyes will be upon me as one of the few Brits attending ... I don't want to come across as pernicketty about food , that would be unmannerly and well , like I said , just silly in the face of those delicious pastries .
As Sarah said
Delicious Carbs . Here I come . Just for a week .

Friday, 3 October 2008

The missing Z

Pearl continues to hunt high and low for the missing Z.

Last Weekend

We're almost done with the sailing club beach now that the Summer dog ban is over and we can walk Alice on King Edward's Bay again for the Winter months , so these are the final pictures taken last weekend as we sat and watched a flotilla messing around in the bay .
Back to the surfing beaches where Alice can run to her heart's content and chase seagulls and lie down in the rockpools Until they freeze over .

Ollie and Helena , hoping for a happy ending .

Helena rang me late one night last week and I have been tussling with myself over whether blogging about all my CatCalls is ok or not . I am hoping that she wouldn't mind and all names are changed . Its a sad tale without a happy ending so far . Since starting CatCalling Ive received many calls which Ive been unable to respond to , one two weeks ago from a man asking if I could take four feral kittens that had appeared near his house . He already had four cats and a dog but let me off the hook when I explained the services I provided and that I also had the same number of animals in my establishment notwithstanding the visiting service . Another time a delightful Indian woman who was scared of cats asked me for advice on how to deal with a cat that was sitting on her window sill staring in at her as she was terrified . And so it goes .

Helena aploogised for bothering me so late on a Friday night and explained that she had been called away from home unexpectedly and asked if I would be able to help out by taking care of her cat for a while . Although she was somewhat outside of my catchment area I did not dismiss it immediately feeling that she would not have been ringing unless there was some element of emergency and I would therefore like to help . Clearly distressed , she explained that she left enough food out for her cat but he would need attention within a day or two . Making the assumption that she had been called away to work I wondered how I would get a key and we discussed this .
After some reluctance and hesitation on her part it became clear she was not at work but was not keen to say where she was . I wondered about a psychiatric hospital or some such and this proved to be the case . She had left home in a hurry and did not want me to know where she was . I understand the stigma of illness and wondered if we could meet somewhere for a coffee so that she could hand over the keys and give me details of my tasks but this was also not possible . Finally she agreed that I could collect the keys from her the following day and I was able to go to the unit where she was staying , probably a salutary experience for us both . I felt very mindful of the fact that Helena was handing over her house keys to a stranger , having to entrust her cat and probably closest companion and friend to me . I can't pretend I can imagine how she felt . I know what I felt .
Entering her home felt like an intrusion , but I tried to remind myself that I was there with her permission and in that way no different to a run of the mill CatCall . Ollie was sleeping when I arrived and too nervous to come out and meet me , though as the days passed he began to greet me with miaows and chirrups and seemed pleased to see me even if he did stay firmly put under the bed .
Helena and I had frequent contact about how Ollie was doing until she finally rang to say that he had been removed into longer term care aginst her wishes . She was distressed at how an arrangement she had made to have her cat cared for had been disregarded but there was little she could do . I was confused and made a further visit to check ... and indeed Ollie was gone . Very difficult for me to judge the rights and wrongs of the situation . I am sure Ollie will be looked after and returned to Helena's care when she returns home in the near future . Just a very sad situation all round .

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Yesterday was the scheduled trip to the Ear Nose and Throat consultant , ordered by the neurologist who took against my evil little cough and my nose bleeding when I saw him way back when . I'm used to the cough and only really objected to it when my chest hurt realy badly and this it transpired was because the cough had broken my ribs . But that was a long time ago now , around the time this blog started .
So yesterday found me entering another Big Man' s office and spotting a nasty little thing on a stick which was apparently destined to go up my nose . ( Both Nostrils ) For some reason I had not bargained for a camera .

This is the e mail( warts and all ) I later sent my sister ......

Saw doc at ENT and he immediately poked a long skinny ( but not skinny enough ) camera on a stick up my nose . The left side wasn't too bad but the right nostril was agony ... I was puffling and whingeing and snorting and he was saying that's the worst over etc , oh dear your nose is terribly narrow cant get the camera round the turn ( he was German ) , oh dear , just one more twist etc ..... anyway he then declared the inside of my nose to be dry and crusty behind the u bend and therefore will continue to bleed unless I regularly snort Vaseline .

Now he said Second Issue Do you suffer from Post Nasal Drip today ?

I don't know what Post Nasal Drip is exactly, I tell him . I had a cough which keeps coming back and the migraine doctor took against it and referred me to you .

Do you snore ?
Do you have indigestion ?
No ?
Ever ?
No except when pregnant ...
Do you have a dry throat when you wake up ?
Erm sometimes ?

Are you sure you don't snore ?
Quite sure .
Ever have snored ?
Never !

Well Now you have to use this vaseline up the nose , snuffing it , and second issue I will refer you to a Speech Therapist and she can advise you about the throat issue ,
me ( baffled )what Throat Issue ?
Yes your throat is an issue in all of this . Speech therapist will help with this .
Me . Oh .
Nurse smiles at me encouragingly

And finally Third Issue and most important the cough you are suffering
Well here I will give you some medicine .
You will take it three months , it will deal with the aspiration of something in your stomach which is an issue which no one can find out because you are sleeping . Your chest is clear but you are coughing so something is going on . So there is this aspiration into your stomach which is causing ulcers and such like .Then you are coughing from this . Medicine is helping . In three months I will see you again .


I should add that the doctor was unfailingly courteous and although I asked several questions which he ignored because he was engrossed in writing his notes and drawing little pictures of my too narrow nose in which his camera had got stick round the u bend ( ouch ) he was clearly trying to make sure I understood what I needed to do .

I confess that my main concern in all these matters is the fact that I am a chronic migraine sufferer and the cough is secondary . Unless I have an inkling that the cough might be connected , then I have little interest in its treatment .

Ah well , who knows . Maybe this man will miraculously clear up the cough , the speech therapist will perform some other feat and my headaches will be no more .
Its worth a try !

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Not what I Expected ... the migraine research trials

The results are back from my food intolerance testing which was the first step in taking part in the York University research trials . Now all I have to do is avoid the foods I have been identified as being intolerant to . Though when I read the initial info it sounded like we would not be told which group we had been assigned to , oe we would not be sure whether or not we were actually avoiding the right foods . Which does make me wonder ... as I have been informed I am intolerant to peanuts . Now for the last several years peanut butter was one of my staple foods . This started when I shared my house with a research chemist who worked for Procter and Gamble , an American company which made the most amazing peanut butter , far superior to any we had on offer in this country at that time ( I'm going back to the eighties here . ) Graeme would keep us supplied with these huge jars of this wonderful crunchy silken textured stuff which I adored . I would layer it on doorsteps of granary bread , or even better , rye bread from the Jewish bakers and eat it any time I couldnt be bothered to cook and in those days , with the hectic life I had then , that was pretty often . And since then peanut butter has been one of my default foods .
So , I have three theories going on . Either , I'm not intolerant to it , and its a double bind and at the end the research boss will write and say Ha! Youre actually allergic to eggs and green tea .
Or I do have an intolerance but its got sod all to do with your migraines ....
or Bingo ..... you are allergic and its causing your migraines and heres' the answer ... No more Nuts and your Problem is Solved . Now There would be a Thing .

Friday, 26 September 2008

The friend who ran away to the country

An email from the friend who ran away to the country . Despite her defection at the start of the summer we still haven't managed to meet . She talks of the need for a "quality gossip" so we arrange a visit for Sunday . Nat will come as she and J's two girls I am reliably informed regard themselves as quasi sisters . Nat has plenty of half sisters but quasi versions of the species are in very short supply. With the men and the dogs it is less simple . Gem is a young Border Collie , unable to take her eye off her ball for a second . She rarely relaxes . Alice on the other hand is a lazy greyhound , uncomfortable in other people's homes unless and until she has managed to check out the soft furnishings and preferably has been allocated one ( a three seater ? ) all of her own . She doesn't really do sharing . She is too tall and spiny and bony for sitting or lying comfortably on the floor or so she would have us believe , though she will do that under sufferance at the wine bar rather than stay at home . Therein our dilemma .
Likewise the men .
A is sporty , runs about everywhere very fast and is usually seen flashing past in streamlined ( steamlined ? ) gear . I can safely say I've never had a conversation with him although he is always genial and friendly en passant so to speak .
When the family lived opposite us in former times ( oh happy days ) I would see him unpacking the car after a trip up a walking tour to the top of an icicle on a mountain in the Far Reaches of Scotland . Out of the car would come neat packages of spiked boots and fearsome looking little tents , evil little hammers and suchlike . Nothing looked fur lined or warm . I saw no flasks or cosy sleeping bags or decorative lampshades or friendly pictures such as I would need if I were camping in the wilds . No hot chocolate or croissants or books by Nigella .
And A in the country is unlikely to be any different to A at the seaside .

D on the other hand is happier behind the wheel of his car than walking or running anywhere , or perhaps more likely quietly watching Sunderland on his computer so as not to disturb anyone on the TV , texting his son , a Newcastle supporter a few barbed comments if appropriate .
I still recall overhearing him announcing on the phone to his son that we were going out for a walk and his son aghast " A walk ? You ? Why ? "

Now we have Alice D loves to see her run and enjoy the open spaces . But I still can't quite see Gem and Alice and A and D together for the time it will take J and me to have the quality gossip she has in mind . And somehow I dont think anybody is going to be arguing with me ...

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Things to do today Book

The "Things to do today " book is a great invention .
Its a book of lists with the date at the top , the action required down the centre , the priory afforded to the left and to the right a tick box where you get to tick when the action is completed .

Ive always wanted one and recently D bought me and my sister one ... Ive never looked back and Ive never been so organised . Then , crunch time . You start to reply on it .
Assuming this couple of days ahead was a quiet one , I left the book unopened , holding the info in my head that I was meeting Michaela for coffee and maybe even a cake to celebrate the loss of over a stone in weight ( Low carb diet I love you ! ... oh hang on , maybe a cake is not the way to celebrate ... ? ) . Whilst I was out she asked me what I was doing next Friday , I checked and realised that not only did I have two forgotten appointments for tomorrow , I had also double booked myself in the morning , all through failing to use my memory like I used to .
Something will have to give ..... one of my friends is attending a seven am Breakfast Meeting where she has to talk about herself for a Minute then eat a vile breakfast which she will have to pay a vast sum for . All in the interests of business networking . Sounds worse than Alcoholics Anonymous to me I must say . I'm glad they didn't invite me and that CatCalling isnt that sort of business ..... at seven am I'd be far too busy talking to cats and feeding them vile breakfasts ( if anyone was on their hols at this time of year which of course mostly they aren't ) .
So at seven am I shall still be safely dossing on the bed under a pile of my own cats waiting for Alice to surface ( lazy greyhound wake up call gets later and later on my non Day Job days ) , reading my novel " Oystercatchers" by Susan Fletcher , wondering did she push her sister and put her into the coma or what ? and hoping I can get to have coffee with Business Meeting friend and lunch with DayJob Inspector friend and still make it to the optician with nat after school . Good job I had to open that Things to do Book or I'd have been well and truly in the poop .
Dementia ? Moi ?

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Clinkerage .

I tap away on my laptop as my sister appears with her breakfast bowl of yoghurt spikled with all manner of healthy nubbins , nuts and seeds . D is reading a paper at my side . I download photos of some fat Greggs pastie eating seagulls as seen by Laura and me last night on the pier ) . I draw D's attention to the missing Z key , hoping he will mount a search as he is far more meticulous than me . I have already mussed a few papers around half heartedly in the hearth to no avail , and scratched around in Pearl's nether regions lest it should be concealed therein .
" Sleep all right ? " I ask L half heartedly and then invite her to view the seagulls pictures . She and D exchange a Look . Sorry , I say , have I already asked that ?

D is on hands and knees and Pearl is following him around sniffing his face gingerly as he bends and stoops , hunting the missing letter .
I fetch myself Greek yoghurt with raspberries and blueberries and on my return the armchair next to the laptop station has been dismantled and is littered with detritus . My sister is straining to see a year' s accumulation of lost ear rings , nail files , sweetie papers , biscuit crumbs and other assorted crud . " What is that word for all that kind of stuff ? " she muses ....

" None of it is mine " I add helpfully
" Clinkerage ? " she offers ?
Clinkerage ? I am agahast .....

" You know , the stuff that falls under a fire , dust is involved , ash .... "

Crap ! offers D firmly , I would call it crap . By this time he is sweeping it firmly into a dustpan whilst we look on , our noses back in our Sunday magazines .

Laura gives the appearance of reading but I know her mind is on higher things .

Not for nothing the Scrabble Champion of the North of All England .

Has she eaten the Z key ?

Removed it for fun ?
Who knows ?

The cat has made off with my " z" ....

and the Spam folder has eaten Sillyak's comment again .

What a start to the week !

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

My housekeeper has resigned

I had a professional coming to the house to interview me today ( social work type ) and couldn't be ar*ed to clean.. ie wash the porch floor or hoover the carpets ( and we had D's three year old grand daughter here so it was rather messy ) so was minded to say " I have heard it rumoured that my housekeeper has left but her resignation has not crossed my desk as such yet ..... " and leave that floating helpfully in the air ....

but she came in saying oh my what a terribly pretty house ( surveying the garden ) and quite took the wind out of my sails ...... so I kept stumm ..... or is it schtum ....

Funny that ... she was not seeing what I see .... the awful star shape that some naughty teen has gouged into the front door no doubt whilst waiting for one of us to answer ..... or the dust accumulated out there on the what-should-be-shiny-black-paint , or the hanging basket not quite hanging right as its on the wrong type of bracket and has been now for some thirteen years or so , or the cracked and mossly paving garden path or the .....
I could go on .

No , she saw the white house , the black front door , the winding nasturtiums , the charming herbs growing wild in the border , the delightful tiny lawn edged with this and that , the heavy urns scattered with colour and green , the sqeaking old gate , the mad old lavertera and the equally crazy hydrangea reminding her of her Grandma s house or some such and she thought Charming pretty house at the seaside . How wondrous !
I'm staying with that .....

The Unwelcome Visitors ....

Guess who we forgot when we de- flea'd ?

All has now been rectified thanks to Nat . That Piggie's nails need clipping though .
The truth was discovered at the weekend . Having spent almost fifty quid on flea treatments for the dog and the four cats , and done the business a while back , after which time I have had nil bites ( I only ever had two ) and D has had about five more ( he has had about ninety in total , being juicier than me ) , with an additional four during my absence and to cap it all on his Birthday , which was the day I left for Cardiff . ( And , ironically , the day Toby pulled the vase of flowers over twice , and the very same day Pearl peed on Alice's bed , though quite why remains a mystery . That she then piddled copiously on the spot on the sofa in D 's office where Alice had been reclining all day , the following day , suggests something of a vendetta against either Alice or D , seems a possible theory . Or maybe of course she was just missing me ? No one else has proposed that idea but I like it .) Theories aside , all this made considerably more work for D who was already attempting to run the household , feed three sets of Catcalls cats , run his business , feed and clothe Nat ( bacon sandwiches by eight am ) , as the sofa covers then needed washing as well as the dog bed , a not inconsiderable task . And whilst hopping about being bitten by a flea four times does not add to the fun . I am only glad at that stage I did not tell him I was ill .
This weekend , assuming all fleas were dead and gone and a thing of the past , we started on our usual guinea pig cleaning routine . Involving much carrying from the shed of straw hay sawdust blah blah and finally the catching of the piggies in their indoor cage and popping of them outdoors into their run whilst we wash out the cage under the power hose . Alleged power hose . We have to use the " shower setting " , as power hosing poo leads to serious "guinea pig torpedoes in the eye syndrome". Trust me . Its not pleasant . Its marginally less fun that watching Pearl piddle on the sofa knowing you are the one cleaning up .
D is the one to carry the Pigs outside as I am not good at catching them ..... he catches them holds each one individually close to his chest or ribs , pops into the run then lifts his top and there , on the skin , a Bite !
We look in horror !
It is the pigs who have the flea , not the cats or dog .....
Thirty more pounds later we have guinea pig flea stuff ..... and Nat applies it . The pigs make far less fuss then the rest put together .
This time , lets hope , is the end of them .
No more furious running upstairs for D after a bite , stripping off of the clothes , bagging everything , diving into the shower and then boil washing everything including the towel . No more inspecting the bed for every last little speck of dust . No combing the cats white fur in search of creatures . No raised heads every time the dog dares to scratch her ear.
Why do I feel so itchy all of a sudden ? ......

Friday, 12 September 2008

This week ....

This week I have been mostly in Cardiff for a conference .
I was fine when I left Newcastle and fine most of the flight apart from a little travel sickness which was soon over with . But must have somehow upset the delicate balance that constitututes my brain or wherever it is that my migraines start up .
Whatever , I woke in my little university room on Tuesday am at 5 feeling somewhat odd and anxious that things were not right . I managed the pre conference seminar up till 3 pm then retired to my room to sleep off the headache mindful that I had to present a workshop at 2 pm the following day and keen at all costs to be well for that . Slept till 5 or 6 then staggered off to town to buy a couple of snacks as I couldnt face going out to dinner with my colleagues , back to my room , slept till the early hours when the sickness began . I was still hopeful that I might recover though this was becoming less of a reality ; indeed by lunchtime I was writhing quietly in agony in my lonely little abode , wishing I was home , and texting my colleagues that I needed help to find a doctor . Anne returned as soon as she was able and at three thirty we headed for Accident and Emergency where we were finally seen some three or four hours later by a delightful doctor with a wonderful accent neither Welsh not English , who injected me with anti emetics to stop me vomiting any further and then gave me morphine to take away the pain in my head .

I can't bear to describe for you the wait in A and E . Sitting on a plastic chair , writhing on a seat when all I wanted was to lie on the floor ( at one point I did indeed sit on the floor with my head on the chairs , listening to Anne's purse chain clinking quietly above me and feeling immeasurably grateful for her presence in this scary situation ) . On one previous occasion when admitted to a local hospital via A and E I was injected with an anti emetic and had some kind of allergic reaction which has made me terrified of the same thing happening again . I asked Anne to ensure no doctor would give me this medication . In the event this was all they had at Cardiff . By this time I was so desperate I nodded in resignation . I was past caring . Just make all this go away . So what the consequences ? This doctor will manage the consequences ... I have faith in her .

Back to my room ... sleep , blessed relief , the head receedes gradually and I fly home two days later .

I catch the final two lectures of the conference .

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Them fleas ......

Today we are mostly waging war on them fleas.

Its years since the last plague at the Catcalls residence . I don't know how we manage to avoid them what with our central heating and the dog and four cats ( oh and those piggies too ) and our tendencies to mingle with other peoples cats and rabits , latterly .

The last infestation involved me in calling out environmental health when as I settled Nat to bed ( she was a baby at the time ) I noticed a beastie hopping up her arm and next morning she had three bites in a row. Clearly all the sprays and flea treatments I had applied to my animals ( we had a cocker spaniel and a papillon and two cats at that time , all now sadly deceased ) had had little effect .

Not that I'm a snob or anything but as I was put through to Pest Control I did ask how the Man would look when he arrived . We had just moved into the neighbourhood and I was hoping my daughter would be accepted at Mother and Toddler events in the not too distant future . You can't be too careful . I wasn't too sure of my own standing yet either , wearing the same clothes most days as I do ( its a comfort thing ) and in those days driving a Very Old Car . The man on the phone was very reassuring and knew where I was coming from instantly . The man would arrive in an unmarked car ( I had never thought about that ! Imagine a large van marked Pest Control ) . He would be dressed in ordinary clothes , and not in a white space suit as I had envisaged . Ah ! Its not like the Fumigations I had witnessed in my days observing social services' finest hours then ? I breathed again . In fact the "man who did" was in and out in five minutes flat , the only evidence of his vocation a sort of oil can I secretly coveted , which he directed at the edges of the rooms and blew a kind of powder at , exhorting me not to vacuum for forty eight hours . Now that was tricky ... with two longish haired dogs and a baby that trailed " stuff " from one end of the house to the other .

Ah , fond memories , but so far it has not come to that .
This time round , almost fifteen years later , I have two bites and D has around sixteen . Fair to say he is juicier and more susceptible than me . ( I should add at this stage , not that I'm boasting or anything , but I have lost almost a stone in weight thanks to the low carb diet , thus I would be less juicy , in some respects ? Though not all , one hopes . )
I think fleas , likes all of us , have their likes and dislikes .

So , this morning , we spent almost fifty pounds ( $100 ) on flea treatments , also suitable for biting lice , and applied to Alice ( no problem ) , Kitty ( not suited ) , Toby ( much wriggling ) , Pearl ( not located , later after much banging and crashing found locked in my wardrobe , after I was trying on old clothes long forgotten as Too Small , now Too Large . Oh Well , time to Buy More , possibly ? ) . Jessie , at time of writing , still not located . She crawls to back of space behind water bed .

I depart thereafter for town , D then settles to work , upon my return , D informs me he has had to bag all his clothes and towel and have extremely hot shower as has been re bitten twice .

Ah well .

Its a process .

Fumigation and Pest Control here we come ?

Friday, 29 August 2008

The disappearing rabbits .....

... now you see them now you don't ....

Tonight one very stressed cat and rabbitcaller .
Arrived at first call of the day nice and early , funny how my instincts tell me things ; for the first time this summer ( rain rain rain ) rejecting my boots and socks for bare feet and flip flip type footwear and cut off trousers ( why ? dont ask ? ) , breezed in , said hello to Molly the cat who croaked her usual hello and flicked and whisked her tail at me with her usual urgency and led me through the house and into the garden . Glancing out of the window into the garden , again something I have never done before , horrors ! complete absence of bunnies in the posh rabbit residence . Door swinging open ... How did they do that ? And more to the point , where were they ?

Hands shaking and heart pounding I dropped the keys several times before I opened the doors out to the back and Bliss ... there was black bunny but .... no sign of pale bunny .... black bunny thoroughly wet and came towards me . I ran back indoors for the pear I had brought with me and she came toward me for a piece , hopping off when she realised I had designs on curtailing her fun . Suffice to say we tussled , I won , but I bear the scars ....

Checking every inch of the garden I fast realised Ms Bun was not there . The thickets were quiet and the vegetable patches bare . No white bunny in sight . I stood with my hand on my heart thinking of the family in France and their bunny ... nowhere .

I returned to the hutch to see how this had come about . The little heart shaped catch had been popped right off , presumably by the sheer force of the rabbits bashing against it in a determined effort to make off . Wood was chewed everywhere . The beautiful Dutch style residence , delightful to look at , was no match for the Houdini bunnies I was charged with .
Meanwhile , the garden was silent . Molly the cat picked her way across the lawn balefully and stared at me with a well , thats torn it , look on her face . Now what ?

Back into the house Molly I said , lets see what we can see from upstairs .
And , from the upstairs bedroom window , who should we spy in the next door ( pristine landscaping ) garden , but Ms Bun , hopping gently .
I raced down , two at a time , thinking to myself Keys Ms CatCalls Keys , dont lock yourself out at this stage of the game , and there I am , ringing next door's bell at some unearthly hour , glancing at my watch as she emerges in her robe at eight am , her house alarm bleeping and signifying her early wrench from a warm bed .
She allows me access to her garden but is not convinced by my tale , especially when Ms Bun is , of course , nowhere to be seen .
" I do have a white cat " she says , helpfully .
I want to cry , fearing that the bunny is by now in the next garden and then the next and then , horrors onto the main road at the end .
I want to sit down on the manicured lawn and sob .
" I see your cat " I say firmly poiting to a pale tortoiseshell puss lurking near the water feature , " But this was the rabbit from next door .
I waffle my face and make whiskery gestures . It was the rabbit I am looking after .
But it is not here now . I will go back and hope it has gone left rather than right . But first I will give you my number in case it re appears .

I hurry back to my house and through to the back . Molly tries to go out the front . No Molly I say firmly . I need you out here with me . I need all the help I can get .
We return together and oh Bliss oh Joy , there is Pale Bunny back on our lawn hopping happily .
I fetch pear and bunny takes a tiny piece and then runs hell for leather .....

Readers , I kid you not .
45 minutes later ( yes 45 ), Bunny is back in the hutch .
I have more scratches .
Black bunny is happy .
Pale bunny is puffing .
I am puffing .
Molly is washing her face .
The neighbour is peering at is from her bedroom window and I am trying to devise a way to make the hutch safe and contain these rabbits for the next 24 hours .

NB Those of you with fancy rabbit hutches beware . All is not as they seem .

Thursday, 28 August 2008

A few glasses of wine and a ride in a taxi ....

You have to hand it to Nigella .... none of this fiddling around with low carb this and half fat that as she clambers out of the nice solid black cab after what passes for a night on the hoy Chez Lawson ( or insert whatever other name she goes by when not cooking up a storm in that faux kitchen of hers with the glam fairy lights still up long after Christmas, and that we do have in common , my feathery Paperchase lights being in residence until the cat finally picked them all bald and brought the mirror down with them one sultry June day ) .

My plans for a spot of blackberry picking across the fields at Backworth thwarted as the evening crept on , the light fading and the dog's head disappearing ever deeper into the cushion . It seemed pointless to push . The entire household was wiped out , apparently , by a picnic at Tyne Green , Hexham , food purchased at Brockbushes coffee shop ( who would not permit us to eat at an outside table even with dog in tow , pah ! ) . Admittedly I missed the highlight of the afternoon , a slow walk up a steep hill with a three year old insisting on leading the dog , and eating ice cream at the same time , as I was taking five ( or was it fifteen ? ) on the bookshop tracking down the latest Kate Morton novel and watching with an air of detachment as three others dropped into my bag .

Instead I sank into my seat and there was Nigella Expressing it for England .... producing her mustard chops and at the end of her endeavours eating 2 , all to herself .... curled up on the sofa . And this is where we differ . Finding myself alone , I would eat a piece of cheese and a ryevita and so I believe would the majority of women , whilst men would crack open a pizza , congratulating themselves on having learned to cook as they open the box and stick on the oven .
If I were to cook the chops , and cooked two , it would be one for tonight and one for tomorrow . I may well eat them both , but by that one first , then staring longingly at the second then eating it later , slightly cold .

And I was just so filled with admiration for the foxy lady as she piled home in the cab plotting her supper of caramel croissant pudding . Out of the fridge came the milk, the cream , the eggs , all slung over the bashed up croissant pleasantly stale but not before she produced the most outrageously calorific and carb laden caramel without so much as a reference to guilt , fat , her hips , a*se, or any other part of her anatomy . How does she do it ? Put any other woman I know in a room with such ingredients and she will mix them together , ( particularly late at night after a few glasses of wine and a ride in a taxi ) , usually with her friends , and she will bake them and relish them and enjoy them more than life itself . But the experience will be tinged with guilt , thoughts of the need to atone in the morning , next week . The debates may go full circle , the enjoyment will be no less .
But Nigella really appears to have no truck with such nonsense. I wish I could do it .

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Now we have a loft room again

Look we did finish it .... we now have a room with discrete sections and where it will be possible to lie in bed looking out onto a relaxation area rather than imagining you have landed at Grand Central Station and can chose one of fifteen pieces of luggage in a variety of colourways ranging from sparkling pink with silver flashes to lime green . Admittedly the fan is less likely to be used than the radiators as the weather is going at the minute . August ? I dont think so ?
Bliss for me to have two weeks off from the Day Job though . I'm revelling in the routine of the CatCalling , which is at an all time high this month .
Although not quite out of bed at six am I'm usually propped up reading and as my bedside light goes on Kitty spots it from the bathroom and takes a flying leap and lands on my chest . Thus begins the day . The dog no longer gets me up ( or rarely , and if so its to adjust her blanket . She is in teenager mode ) and is into Pyjama Days mode , occasionally not surfacing until well after the rest of us are having lunch , slowly stretching and with a sheepish look on her face " where did the day go ? ".
The Cats all have their foibles . There are fewer weekenders are more long stretches . More " Im getting bored now ..... what can I do to let you know ? " There have been the upturned washing up bowls ( how does a cat manage to upsend a washing up bowl carefully turned the wrong way up for obvious reasons? ) full of unmentionable substances ... well not that unmentionable , it could have been worse ..... the cat who got on the wrong side of the gate ( I suspect the postie ) and declined to jump back but sat crying in the rain till my arrival , hopefully not for too long , the house with a strong smell of gas ( who turned that tap on , it wasn't me ? ) the cats who perpetually "miss" the litter tray and then walk about in ..... say no more ... where is that brush to clean their fur , where is the disinfectant . And then , oh the joy when this little cat who was keeping a distance suddenly wants to be picked up and cuddled and starts to purr ......

And now , the biggest danger of all ... having this new relaxation area upstairs ..... I go up to vacuum and find myself sitting to "check the ambience" before my friend arrives for the long weekend and before you know it a magazine flies into my hand and an hour has passed and the menus are not planned and the gas board are still not rung and ..... but I can confirm the ambience is most fine ....

Sunday, 17 August 2008

Clutter Clearing

Soon this will loook like a room .

Vital Statistics

Its a long long time since I checked my stats .

Mainly due to the fact that I know who is commenting and about what and I assume that others read and lurk as I do on several blogs and forums .

My blogging has fallen off of late mainly due to an increase in the overall pace of life , in CatCalling ( and now of course RabbitCalling , is this the face of the future and will GuineaPigCalling be the next development ) . I have less time generally to ponder life's mysteries and when I do I muse and text and e mail about them more than I blog . Photography is less of an option in the constant rain ? Or is that just an excuse ? We have had some amazing weather too . Much of that has seen me flat out with migraine . I'm keeping my fingers crossed on that score too ( Migraine Defense trial continues ....Food Intolerance test not yet officially underway , though blood gone off to the lab as first stage of the research trial )

I digress.....
Early this morning I checked my stats and realised that the blog had a very high number of hits ( surprise ) already this morning , then , interesting , they were all from one person . I started to get curious about this and clicked about a bit and finally realised that someone had been reading a host of back posts for what seemed like several hours , apparently in the early hours of this morning . For some reason I found this touching . And also a little baffling . And , as they say , curiouser and curiouser . Imagining a real live person reading backwards through my blog , finding in there something to keep them looking or reading . I started to read the blogs myself , retracing the steps , re reading posts I had written , of which I had no memory whatsoever , yet this is my life . (I did this for about five minutes , then life beckoned) .
Cats to feed , rabbits , guineapigs , birds , fish , a room to clear , and wouldnt it be good to read the Sunday papers .
But somewhere in there I found time to read some of my favourite blogs .
Funny old world .

Migraine Days

Migraine Days

Flower and Bee on a Sunday

Flower and Bee on a Sunday

art on a sunday

art on a sunday