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

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 !

Migraine Days

Migraine Days

Flower and Bee on a Sunday

Flower and Bee on a Sunday

art on a sunday

art on a sunday