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

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Welcome to CatMinders

Monday, 28 December 2009

Tired and Emotional

Alice rests quietly on the sofa , tired and emotional after an exhausting Festive Spell . Not only has she had to deal with the absence of D during his spell in hospital but there is also the business of the freezing of the pavements and roads outside which means it is nigh on impossible for her to walk anywhere without her legs splaying and sliding out in most undignified fashion . When I attempt to take her for a proper walk we are stopped by a man exhorting us to stay on the grass in case we land on the deck . Perhaps he has does not fancy heaving us up himself again should we fall to the ground . Perhaps he has already had to heave another to her feet ? Alice barks at his dogs as he advises . We head back to the house and Alice holds her paws up obediently to be dried, relieved that we are going no further .
Furthermore there has been the added challenge of continued presence of family members , day on day . Alice prefers a short walk , a full day's lounging ( though if a family member is ill in bed with her this is ok too ) followed by an evening en famille , preferably with cats "busy elsewhere" . But this continual family involvment , in and out of the car , on and off with the coats , freezing temperatures, people wanting to cuddle and pet , cats throwing new catnip mice up in the air , phone going whilst people enquire after D , well , all in all a bit much really .
Thus tired and emotional . And dying to get back to reality .

Thursday, 24 December 2009

What is it with this Year ?

I am on a train to another Northern town with a colleague where we are to engage in some work and travel back later that day . I have tussled with myself about whether I should go , leaving D . Still uncertain what is wrong with him , but acutely aware that he is still suffering pain to varying degrees , I know I am taking a chance . He urges me to go and says he will not be doing much either way . But at the furthest point on my travels it could take me three or four hours to get home . Added to which if I am not at home who knows what he might not attempt in the way of excessive household tasks , tidying , shopping , dog-management etc?
As I leave the house at seven thirty he is already up and about , unloading the dishwasher though I have fed all the animals and done one or two odd jobs having been up since five forty five . The dog is still comatose. Not much dog management required yet .
Thus it is that two or three hours later I am on the train opposite my colleague watching myself watching his phone ringing , seeing him pick it up , seeing his face change as he utters a few words and I realise that something has changed for him . More bad news at the eve of Christmas 2009 as he hears that his mother has died. We talk about how to proceed and he leaves the train at the next stop in order to change direction and join the rest of his family .
I stare into space and wonder What Next ?

I proceed on to complete the work and once back go out on CatCalls .
The roads are sheets of ice and I slide and slip .
Finally , at home at eight pm , I stare at the walls and think , is this what Shock feels like . I am cold , tired and I cannot wait to climb into bed , preferably the ( hot) water bed a notch higher than usual, and certainly with another being though whether human canine feline or all three , it would not matter greatly . I need warmth .
Nat offers to wrap presents and I cannot face even beginning to think where presents are stored but she urges me on and I finally drag myself out of my stupour knowing that it will save me a task later . As she sits neatly wrapping and chatting to me I start to thaw and we talk about Christmasses past , how much Christmas Eve is our favourite time , how we are looking forward to going to Auntie Laura and co tomorrow afternoon ( snow permitting ) and the final episode of The Family comes on Channel whatever it is and before long we are squealing with laughter and loving them all . Shay and Sunni are getting married . Nat is convinced Shay's mother will come to the wedding and I think she sheds a quiet tear when she doesn't show up. At least she now has this amazing family instead , until her own family realise what and who they have lost .
Finally I find there are several members of my own family ( mostly pets ) snuggling on the water bed and I am dozing off whilst Nat lectures me on some heavy topic I have failed to comprehend because I am "too old" . I think , though I may have mis -remembered , it was about boyfriends .

Monday, 21 December 2009

TB xray

I have been found by the public health people at last .
Thanks to my extensive contact with my TB friend , I have at last been located by public health and right in the middle of our own health crisis I receive a letter indicating that Dr Afolabi would like to see me for an x ray .

I duly report to the appropriate dept which I have trundled past numerous times this weekend in my snow boots , this time carrying a portable cup of coffee and a kit kat and a small paperback expecting a Long Wait as this time I am not two steps behind a very sad looking man on a hospital trolley being pushed by a porter who seems to know everything and who communicates what he does know not so much with words but his very upright bearing and his slight smile and completely relaxed demeanour . He is not so much a porter as a philospher, an object of worship , a lover of mankind in all its forms . Or so I imagine .

No sooner have I unwrapped my kitkat than my name is called and I am in the cubicle wrestling with my own hospital gown which has a slight aroma of fish . How can this be? ( Not the smell which is not unexpected , but the fact that I too am in the x ray area ?) At least I have no drip bag on a stand to defeat me and no kindly Scottish neighbour with a repeat Warfarin crisis to help and guide me .

In fact I am on my own with my own thoughts and I reflect that on the last occasion I sat in one of these chest xray cubicles I fell fast asleep I was feeling so unwell . Today I feel fine , despite having visited a young man in a prison today with all that that entails for the claustrophobic , and I am sure I cannot have TB despite my stupid irritating cough . Fever ? No . Night sweats? No . Reader , I have googled them all .

Chest x ray complete, the radiographer asks me to wait . I wait . She calls me back into the room . Uh-oh . I think . This is what happened last time , when I had pneumonia .
But no , she has simply got a very fine shot of my necklace which I have omitted to remove . She laughs remarking that she herself despite being a radiographer had done the same thing herself when having an x ray done recently at the Freeman hospital . I wonder why she did not ask me to remove it when spotting my age ... obviously someone like me is going to forget the necklace ! Ah well .
As we leave the room she is scrutinising the plate . I try to read her expression .
Dr Afolabi will contact you , she says , ( oh , I think ) .. If necessary , she adds .
And does not ask if I am off to kiss any babies or visit any vulnerable people or breathe hard at anybody or spray in their general direction ...

Surely if I had TB she would be asking me to take a seat and wait to see Dr Afolabi when he is finished his coffee break . Of course for all I know Dr F may be at a conference in India or Spain and she may be saving me a very long wait .
Who knows .

Emergency Care Unit

D is perturbed that he is the subject of a blog , which becomes apparent when a reader texts me to ask how he is .
I tell him not much personal information has been revealed .
When I arrive at the Emergency Care Unit where he is transferred finally , I am moved by the level of support offered by a fellow patient who teaches me how to help him transfer out of a hospital issue gown into his own t shirt/pj top ( purchased for his recent trip to Spain no less ) including the threading through of a drip bag via two sleeves. I may be expert at report writing and standing up in court and holding my own . I am certainly proud of my skills in soothing the nervous cat but my spatial awareness skills are cr*p and that drip bag and its wires are all over the place .
Our neighbour is kindness itself and finally comes over to help . "I know exactly how to do this " he offers "I've had to do this all too often myself " . It is visiting time on the unit when D is admitted and I notice that not one of the men has a visitor , so when I return a couple of hours later I am pleased to see his wife and son there and they give us a cheery wave .

To D's right is a man approaching ninety, W, who is delightful , and explains that latterly he has lost something and can't always recall everything . I know the feeling . He is speaking of course of his memory . By the following morning D is feeling a little better and has taken on the role of mentor and general assistant to W and his pal across the way who is also unable to walk , pinned to his bed by a series of drips and catheters but is clearly in discomfort and rises frequently trying to set off using his tray on wheels as a makeshift zimmer frame .
I am present when W's family arrive and a young doctor engages them in a family conference behind the curtain . There is little privacy anyway but W is unhappy that we are being excluded and attempts to pull back the curtain so that he can check details with D from time to time " Can you just confirm for me where we are ? We are in a privately run hotel here aren't we ?" he asks D .... " They are trying to tell me this is a hospital " he announces with a laugh . D responds firmly " Yes this is a hospital , a very well run hospital but a hospital no less " with the air of one who has answered a number of such queries .
W's wife is patient but firm and points out that he has already checked this point several times .
When W emerges later he notes the cat at the end of D's bed ( pointing at his feet ) and asks how many cats we have . When we tell him he says he has sixteen at home though I am not convinced on this point .

He reminds me so much of my granddad , courteous , conversational , delightful , aware at some level that things are not quite adding up .

I arrive again later and everyone is traumatised.
A man who has just been admitted was eating dinner , joining in the conversation, and started to cough . D ran for a nurse when problems developed and the curtains were pulled round all the men leaving them all in their separate isolation staring at nothing and guessing at what was happening . When the curtains went back , the man and his bed were gone and the staff were clearly upset . The man's death has an impact on them all and I wonder how any of them will sleep that night . In fact I hear later they don't .

PS Thanks for messages of support . D Still waiting for more tests and diagnosis . And no doubt wishing I would write about my Christmas shopping ... what Chrismas shopping ?

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Sanctuary Weekend ..Not quite

Friday morning ... wake spookily early . Interesting shapes in the room- little overnight bags half packed- we are off at lunchtime to Ambleside in the Lakes for a weekend of luxury in a cottage on a hill with log burning stove , several large bedrooms and a huge garden . Alice is coming too though under strict instructions not to sleep on the beds or climb about on the sofas. Greycotes, Ambleside - a stunning holiday cottage in the heart of the English. I will finish my Christmas shopping , or , in some cases , start it . And , there is more . D has booked me , Nat and her friend into a spa for the day on Saturday . We have chosen our treatments . All we need to do is wake up on time . Day Spas Lake District, Day Spa Cumbria, Health Spas Lake District, Spa Day Pa

Why then am I awake so early ? D is sitting bolt upright in bed and looks unhappy . He is hunching forwards . To cut a long story short , after an hour or so , I am clad in bathrobe , dripping wet , hair wrapped in towel , and he is not arguing when I suggest calling an ambulance . This cannot be happening . I say to myself . " Dialling now . I am dialling 999 " And it is true , I am now dialling 999 and I notice from some other part of my being that on my mobile phone as I dial 999 a little red ambulance appears on the screen . How fascinating is that ?
A man asks me a lot of questions and wants to speak to the patient who is now out of action . We follow his instructions and Nathalia mixes aspirin in the kitchen and we open the front door to the ambulance crew. Again I watch from afar as they press against the staircase as Alice bounds past them . These are people who have been bitten by dogs , I think to myself . She is friendly , I say . they press on , to look for the patient .
They lead him to the ambulance and suddenly , he is gone .
I dress . Nathalia fills my bag with water , a kit kat , hands me D's coat , and tells me she will take care of the dog . How did she know about the water and the kit kat ? Many hours later , I am overcome with gratitude.
I drive slowly to the hospital , assuming I will find him cross in A and E , keen to get off for the weekend .
I look around for him and am ushered through to the admissions suite .
I announce my name . I am shown to the Relatives Room, where the doctor will come and find me . I sit . Nothing . Ten minutes elapses. I stare into space . I start to wonder . I stand and begin to wander out into the area beyond . I do not want to be in the Relatives Room . I want to see him and to be on our way thank you . I want this to be over . It was me who suggested coming here , maybe I made a mistake and I should have let him stay at home ? I want to see him now .. why I am diverted to this room ?

The doctor appears and asks me to follow her and fires questions at me ... I am led through into a Rescuscitation room . I feel slightly odd myself when I see him . He is on a trolley hunched forward , not the same person I last saw at home . I am asked " Is this how he usually looks ? Is this his usual colour ? "
Not at all , I say ... he is far paler . Someone brings me a chair quickly but I dont sit . They are trying to manipulate his veins but to no avail . Many tests are done.
We are there from 8 am until 4pm . He is seen by four consultants . The diagnoses change by the hour . Morphine does not seem to help with his pain . It is hard to watch , hard for me to witness , unbearable for him to suffer and a challenge for the medics who cannot work out what is going on .
Eventually he is moved to an Emergency Care Unit .
Still in pain . Still not much further forwards as regards a diagnosis .
But we have seen the NHS at its best in mobilising tests and in the levels of care offered by staff .

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Normal Service ..

Normal service , whatever that is , will be resumed soon . Meanwhile , you might like to watch Simon's Cat slithering in the snow which is what Ive been doing today whilst visiting my friend with TB and sneaking about trying to Christmas shop with her nose and mouth covered with a scarf . She 's been told its perfectly safe and her infectious phase which only really affects close contacts anyway is over very soon .
Here is Simon's Cat. YouTube - Simon's Cat 'Snow Business' (Part 1)

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Urban Fox?

Posted on Twitter today .. I hope you can click to enlarge ...

Bjorn is heading for Italy now ....

Talk Fusion Studio UTC Bjorn is moving from Spain now to Italy and looking for places to stay and always for more football shirts .... if you can help please contact at .
Watch his interview on Spanish tv by clicking the first link . By the way if you keep watching he replies in English . We cheer him on on his journey from Oslo to South Africa and hope he stays safe and warm across the winter months .

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Masked Gowned and Gloved .. an Hour Too Late

After my friend with the horrid cough and Tb in her lungs these past twenty years is finally admitted to hospital after a relapse and some nasty symptoms I eventually manage to gain admission to her room . This is no mean feat as for several days though she has a bed , always in a room in isolation , the room changes with the day . Initially she is On Admissions . Then , curiously , she is parked on a Plastic Surgery Ward . From my point of view , the saving grace is that she seems able to use her mobile phone and sends the occasional update regarding the sorry state of affairs pertaining to her treatment or lack thereof .
She lies in state , exhausted and losing all manner of essential bodily fluids from her lungs and we remain convinced her TB is reactivated from our reading many years earlier of "The Plague and I" by the Great Betty McDonald who taught us all we know about consumption .
When I am finally admitted all my worst fears are confirmed . Not only has she lost weight despite continuing to eat with her usual appetite , but she is hectic in appearance, and frequently coughing red into her handkerchiefs . I am reminded of the elusive fey girlfriend character in the crumbling hotel in "The Troubles" by JG Farrell and we take mutual delight in the benefits of our learning from our Humanities based education all those years ago .
We appear , indeed , to have more of a grasp of TB than the consultant who with her science based education is still going down the bronchiechtasis route at this point . ( A spell check later may result in a correction. Nope , I had it right . How's that ? ) .
I announce myself on the respiratory ward and gain admission quickly . The consultant is polite and smiles a lot at me .
It is about half an hour after I enter the room that the nurses appear and ask me to exit the room and re enter wearing the mask , gown , and gloves , all of which have to be found from a far distant cupboard . Hopefully I have not been infected during that initial half hour window .

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Ms CatCalls goes to a Dinner Party

Cinammon and mixed spices drift about and settle around the house and my tapas dinner party and litter tray headache gently evaporate as I write.
The morning started late as I fell into bed just short of two am after weaving my way home through the late night police cars and taxis that patrol our streets , amazed at the level of surveillance out there . The police raid I seem to have stumbed upon yesterday may be part of something bigger as the police helicopter was also out and about .. maybe some drugs raiding taking place .

I wonder if the dinner party format is really me . I am more of a one to one person or a very tiny gathering person (as in one to two) unless the party is entirely made up of family members of people I know well but its good to do something different once in while and interestingly I was one of the last to leave and probably the only person there who knew no one apart from my hosts ( and attended without a partner) whereas the others were mainly in attendance in pairs . But I do know my hosts very well indeed therefore the undercurrents were fascinating and the twenty four million courses were amazing !

There has been a theme these past few weeks for me of recognising that in reality my life though seeming at times to be sliding into chaos , is rather the opposite in contrast to how others manage their affairs . I have heard recently , thanks to the refreshing openness of others , about friends who have lost train ticks and had to rebook business tickets to the tune of almost two hundred pounds , and last night a family trip to Cuba for four where the day of travel was missed thus costing almost two thousand pounds.

Suddenly my medication and query age related slips seem minor ..... the wrong word comes out ? Hey , who cares ? My daughter writes on Facebook that she was "in a proper good mood until her mother came by and p*ssed in her cornflakes !" ( Actually I thought that one was quite witty ). I forget to return to my car at the appointed time outside work and get a parking ticket .... so what ? It could have been Cuba I will tell myself in future .

And something about doing things differently seems to be what this November is about . I am usually a last minute person but this year I find myself soaking my fruit for my Christmas cake this weekend and today the cake is baking as I write . And whats more I am trying a different recipe . How about "with a hint of chocolate?" Though I conclude that grating Green and Black's dark chocolate with a lack of sleep ( rather than alcohol induced) hangover is much over rated.... still its the result that count . I shall as I usually say keep you posted .

Meanwhile my friend is still in hospital though the staff have she reports closed her door ( and she wonders why ... I have told her she needs to look to her personal habits ) they no longer approach her fully masked and gowned which must be progress and seem to indicate that her TB is not considered Active . She awaits a CT scan . I expect she will wait till Monday at least .

The rain is almost horizontal .
And the dog is blowing a gale .

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Kitty exhibits the CatNip Mice

Woken at four am and then five by the dog pretending to be a toddler with a very unusual and interesting Sleep Disorder . Jealous possibly as the cats had yesterday discovered and unpacked the new catnip mice from ( perfect , hightly recommended ) waiting in the padded envelope to be opened on Christmas morning . Mass excitement and much rolling about the carpet last night when they were presented with two as a Pre Christmas treat .

Or maybe Alice simply had a tummy upset . I closed my eyes tightly and feigned sleep while D muttered and mumbled and took her out at five to see what would happen . Turned out everything happened , and not far from the house . I tell myself that though it was Nat and me who wanted a dog it is D who feeds her large silly treats on Friday nights when he returns late with the shopping . I take no responsibility therefore for the rotten egg bad smells and nocturnal wanderings . And another thing , men wear those ghastly pull -on- quickly- things whereas my jeans take an age to fasten up . Zips and all .

I wake again at six thirty and dream I am back at my former home which had a leaky roof . I wonder if I have turned into my sister who currently has a leaky chimney stack . I listen and wonder.
There is a definite dripping noise which sounds both reassuring and comforting for some inexplicable reason . Perhaps only that I can see by opening my eyes that I no longer inhabit that house where so many unfortunate incidents took place , including a roof which let in gallons of water over the years .

I fall asleep and dream I am at an elite university where we daily gather on a summer lawn , called Great Hall , where there are postings of an interesting and informative nature on a board . As I read the board I become aware of the dripping noise again and soft rain is falling onto the lawn .
I feel quite blissful , and wonder if my friend Michaela , who is in real life very ill , possibly with TB , is healing , and I think to myself , I am in Great Hall and there is water dripping .

I wake , put on the coffee pot and hey , my coffee machine is leaking ! Drip , drip drip ....
I clamber out of bed , pushing the dog to one side and waking D to give him the good news . The bedside table is awash with black coffee : The glass jug contains half a pot of freshly brewed and piping hot brew so I decide to worry later and meanwhile start my day in style . Coffee , bran biscuits and Everything is Illuminated by Jonathon Whatisname Froer Sachs .

After an incident CatCalling last night when I witnessed a police raid and a front door being axed , I prefer to remain in Great Hall a little longer .

(Meanwhile Michaela has been admitted to hospital and is waiting for further tests .... )

Friday, 20 November 2009

Kitty as usual is Livid

Due to D's rare absence from the CatCalls centre last weekend and the catch up shopping trip on Monday there was a Miscalculate of the cat food requirements and an announcement last night that he was planning to make a late night excursion to the supermarket to re stock . As the wind was lashing and he already had a series of work commitments to fulfil , I suggested that we could " fill in " from the cupboard under the stairs until the main shop tonight . D was uncertain , knowing how Kitty takes out any perceived inadequacies of any description on him ( usually his lower legs ) , but fairly easily persuaded in view of the inclement weather and his ( probable ) exhaustion in the aftermath of a trying week.

Early this morning I carefully spoon out a rejected pouch of Hi Life from yesteryear and watch while Kitty and Co sniffs and spurns . Back to me . Now what ? There is a small stock of tinned tuna so I open one of those and carefully spoon out one of those into a cat bowl and place it gingerly on the mat , adding the usual bowl of dried biscuits which are Kitty's favourites . I know there is chicken to come later ( Alice's ) but decide D could see to that at a more reasonable hour ( it is after all still only six am at this point and I am awake this early due to the high winds .)

I can report that Toby tried the tuna . Jess and Pearl rarely bother with anything much . But Kitty is so livid that her usual four portions of Perle Gourmet has not been on offer ( allegedly for all four cats ) that she has also refused her dried food . Doubtless the dog has eaten them all and we will suffer the consequences later . On which subject I shall say no more. Meanwhile Kitty is doing Livid on the table and chasing D around the kitchen grabbing his lower limbs in passing .

Meanwhile Pearl sleeps on .
And meanwhile elsewhere in UK we have Rain .BBC News - Cumbria floods: Body found in hunt for policeman There are floods in Cumbria and a policeman has died in Workington having been lost when a bridge collapsed . Many people have been evacuated from their homes in Cockermouth after the river re routed and flowed down the main street . The tv shows scenes of helicopter and lifeboat rescues of people being taken to a local wool centre where people are staying for duration of the immediate emergency and are describing the water rising inside their homes . Many have had to leave their pets at home , on the upstairs level with food , and are clearly in a state of shock . Cumbria flood policeman's body found Environment
Cars continue to float down the main street . Surreal .

Sunday, 15 November 2009

D is in Torrevieja ( Spain ) meeting Bjorn on his continued cycling journey from Oslo to South Africa drawing attention to the plight of refugees world wide but particularly in Africa . They are collecting football shirts to be sewn together for the Cup Final 2010 , see Bjorn's website for the latest update . Home The Shirt - Forget me not 2009/10.
Meanwhile my sister and me indulge in a mini makeover session at the Bobbi Brown counter and I leave with some Forest green eye liner which I try to apply myself this morning , with reasonable results ( ?) .
I show up at my first CatCall ( two in one weekend , a record for the Autumn months) and all goes according to plan . At the second , however , as I am locking up I hear an odd noise upstairs . I re enter and go up .
Cat Number One is located on the bed . Cat Number Two is of course under the bed and out of view . I am not permitted to see her , in case I turn her into a warty toad . Occasionally , if I look very hard I may be rewarded with the tip of a tail or the glint of an eye . I try not to mind . Cat One stares hard at me and purrs a bit . I squat down and say hello wondering if the noise I heard was her .
She fixes me and we stare at each other whilst I ponder . We look into each other's eyes and I note how she fixes me and the flecks of light that bounce back at me . I am uncertain what she sees. Without warning , she arches her neck and throws her head forward , and her pink tongue protrudes . I will say no more . Cat lovers amongst you will understand when I say it crosses my mind that had I left five minutes earlier , I would not have had to clear up this ghastly mess. I down tools ( my bag ) and peel off my coat . I set too with plastic bags ( easier just to scoop it all away ) and wipes and cloths . Within minutes there is nothing left but my questions ... Puss Tell me this ... Was it my eye liner ?
Should I stick to my grey in future ?
Puss says nothing , back in the kitchen , restocking ....
I shall never know .

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

I am so wasted ?

I love this card (Its a greetings card in case that isn't clear) on so many levels . I think I bought one ages ago to send my niece but I cant recall now whether I actually sent it to her or not . I wasn't sure if she might take it the wrong way . Its the kind of thing I would think applied perfectly to me and would be delighted if someone sent it to me but you can't always be sure how the recipient will react , especially after a heavy night on the sherberts , which they might , mistakenly assume you're referring to .
So when I saw the card again recently in our Borders , I surreptitiously whipped out my camera and took a snap , all unable to resist its many messages.

"Of all the thing Ive lost I miss my mind the most "Then it struck me that this one was probably of even more relevance to me , and is probably why I am so wasted , and on so many levels . Losing my mind due to my ever increasing intake of epilepsy drugs is a source of constant internal conflict for me at present as I am not so much losing my mind as losing my words. I kind of know what I am doing but I am slowly losing my ability to express what I am doing .

I halt mid sentence much of the time and wait to see what will emerge . And often , nothing much does emerge . And I wait , then take a stab at it and ... poppycock pours out .

Still I live in hope that the migraines will ultimately pass and the medication with it and then my words will be back .

Until then I will go on looking at the cards .

There were dozens that applied to D . Those depicting men polishing flash cars with two fat seagulls perched above on a chimney pot watching and waiting and indicating impatience for them to finish " If he doesnt hurry up and finish that polishing I'm going to have an accident here " .

Or ...If men loved their women as much as their cars blah blah ....

Or two rather neat penguins on an ice floe in the ocean , one saying to the other " I 'll have a quick tidy up here whilst you go and get the takeaway supper ."

I have been investigating Twitter recently , wondering if it would be easy to Tweet ( fewer words needed after all ! ) . It took me ages to get the hang of it . the concept is so very different and it has been one more thing to take me away from my beloved blogging besides all the other things ( sleep , life , Six Feet Under boxed sets from the library , Books and the new City library which has opened oh joy oh bliss, so many people to meet for coffee in Lui s as ever , dog walking , CatCalling , the DayJob , Google , and oh Holby City on Tuesdays . My life as you see is so full .

But Twitter does not include the people I want it to include , most sensible people having looked and left .

I shall attempt to continue to do both .......

Sunday, 1 November 2009

An Education .....

Somewhat , ( though admittedly not much ) anxious at the Autumnal prospect of Falling into a Rut , I vowed to book myself a night out no matter what last night , forgetting that it was Hallowe'en . Come seven pm the odds were stacked against me . Saturday night and therefore venturing out meant that I would inevitably miss Casualty , about the only TV thing I watch , well apart from Holby City of course . I am nothing if not predictable and I do love hospitals , having become accustomed to them over the years .
Then of course the lateness of the hour . I had been building up to seeing a film and was particularly keen to see Lynne Barber's memoirLynn Barber: My age of innocence - Times Online transformed by Nick Hornby and the Danish director whose name temporarily escapes me , out from Friday inwards at Oh Bliss the Tyneside cinemaTyneside Cinema: Welcome to Newcastle’s newest cinema - and a brand new kind o in Newcastle thus giving me the opportunity to inspect its recent transformation and for me to step back in time to my twenties when I was in the habit of seeing every film that came out , often on my own . - An Education An Education was billed to start at Nine pm . Nine pm ! Usually the time I would be thinking of changing into my night time attire in the interests of comfort , and shuffling off to watch a few episodes of Six Feet Under since I discovered the Boxed Sets at the library .
Could I really be tootled to get changed into suitable Going Out clothes , apply make up even , brave the storm which was forecast , find a parking space in town and calculate the time it would take to drive there in order to arrive at the correct time for the film . Did I really even want to see the film that much ? Enough to go on my own ? I had made a half hearted effort to invite a friend but she was indisposed , having flu . I didn't try anyone else , partly wanting to go it alone . Partly wanting to make it easy to drop out if I wanted to .
But ... you know what , I did it !
Donning an outfit of Nat's , I pushed myself out the door , drove off there in good time , parked no problem , though walking up a back alley in town I did have a few qualms when encountering a few lonely souls dressed in ghoul outfits , with black and grey robes and the scream masks . As they approached me in turn out of the shadows , I kept my pace up , stilled my beating heart and thought , at twice their age and some , I am probably as scary in this dark back lane ! Just Keep walking .......Arriving in good time , I found the Tyneside coffee rooms open and the young waitress admired my Hard Rock Cafe brooch I was given in Barcelona . And the film .... oh the film was so good . So many memories , of Twickenham , of riding around in a car like the one the older boyfriend had whilst staying in Teddington myself so many years ago blah blah .....And the city when I emerged at eleven or thereabouts was heaving with the street cleaning machines and literally a plethora of witches ghosts and assorted spectres so many that it was impossibly to be alarmed . I walked back to my car on air , in a throng of people , so glad I made the effort .

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Ms CatCalls finds a Bengal

Raj the hithertofore missing cat....
Having Six Feet Under-ed myself Out ( ie treated myself to a boxed set courtesy of our local library ; four pounds something for series four , five discs on loan for fourteen days of Alan Ball at his very best , I thought I had best get viewing and maxed out watching three or four episodes snuggled up on the Teenager's bed while she "Experienced" ( whatever that really means , something in a Marquee on the seafront I believe ) accompanied by the Greyhound and one cat , whilst the remaining Cats assisted D watch X factor or some such on an alternative tv elsewhere . Whew. Long sentence . I shall restart .
Having maxed out I finally retire knowing without a shadow of a doubt that I have missed my vocation as a Funeral Director but safe in the knowledge that in the next life I shall have my chance ... I finally sit up in bed reading a Fay Weldon novel and tittering at her take on various aspects of things long gone . Wash Day for example . However I am in danger of digressing ....
D appears with a homemade poster including the above photograph of the cat , Raj a fine specimen who has recently come to live two doors along from us though I have yet to make his acquaintance . He has apparently gone walkabout due to the heay rain and the appearance near the back of our houses of some Drilling Equipment . ( The Water Board . ) First thing this morning . New neighbour requests that everyone check sheds and garages in case he has holed up somewhere .
I put down my book and as I stare out into the darkness ( it is windy and drizzling outside ) an image forms somewhere inside my head . I picture this cat I have never seen . He is crouching in our yard , against our house , somewhere close to our unused guinea pig hutch , sheltering .
I climb out of bed , feeling a little stupid but knowing that I need to check . Of course I know "he can't be there" but I need to reassure myself nontheless as another part of me , an insistent silent voice I have heard once or twice before , in fact countless times , is telling me he IS there .
I head downstairs , telling D I am just checking the yard for the cat just to be sure .
I unlock the back door , step out into the yard in my vest top and pyjama bottoms , bare feet and there , of course , I see a pair of bright yellow eyes .
Hello Sweetheart . I say . People are looking for you ..... Just stay there will I come and get you ......
I hear an answering voice , very low .
Now how does that work ?

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Joan goes surfing !

Further to my last post just to show that not everyone is putting off everything and making excuses . Well done Joan who has overcome her fear of water and learned body surfing in the Summer !

Hibernation ?

Is everyone else doing the same as me ? Putting off everything in a fit of lethargy lasting forever ?

I am pleased to report that the hand still reaches out from under the duvet to switch on the coffee machine at six am somehow the Fox's wholemeal bran biscuits still find their way into my mouth , though perhaps in slower motion than usual , and Alice groans more than is the norm in Summer as I push her along in the bed to avoid her left back paw stirring it with my novel . I have found the perfect solution there , cover her up with a tartan fleece blanket including all limbs and the head and she goes quiet for a further three hours . The initial almost silent Wuf indicating Extreme Delight at such snuggliness and then .. Silence ....
Peace reigns and my coffee machine does its work puffing and blowing as I prise open the biscuit tin and prop myself up on the pillows and get the book ready leaving the great Switch On until the final moment.... Reading in semi darkness with the wind howling outside is all very well and in my ways has much to recommend it but in contrast to the Summer months when one is tempted to jump straight out of bed at seven , the desire to settle back into bed on the non working days is strong . Hence the " putting everything off until another day " tendencies of Autumn .
My To Do list is curling in on itself near my virtual-desk and my list of excuses grows thin.

This week's main excuse for not doing anything was the preparation of a presentation for a high powered conference full of politicians and the like . Every time I thought of something that needed to be done my presentation took priority . I even managed to persuade myself to get my hair cut and coloured on Tuesday afternoon and that was another thing lurking at the bottom of the To Do list , but since we were leaving at an unearthly hour on Wednesday am to drive to Harrogate the hair date saved me an hour of my own time at five am .

And last weekend was entirely taken up with travelling to Wiltshire for the birthday party of a friend . Nine hours on the roads thanks to various hold ups and delays , but worth it in the end .

So , no more excuses , unless its just Hibernation Time ?

Friday, 16 October 2009

I wonder if my Blog is slipping out of my grasp ? Or whether its just a reflection of the fact that everything is slipping slightly ? My memory , my thought processes , my abilities in all directions . Or maybe I just have a cold and its Autumn and the leaves are falling and everyone , but everyone I know is complaining of this and that .

For my part my CatCalling will be slowing up for the Winter months . My own cats are eyeing up the radiators and the water bed and jostling for the best spots around the house . There are signs that two of the Birmans would love to snuggle up to the hot-water-bottle that is Alice but so far it hasn't quite happened ; they struggle even to sit close to each other even though they are blood relatives .

And I am more than a little envious of a colleague who is going to get a puppy this weekend , a shi tsu / poodle cross . Another colleague asked incredulously , so what would you call that then : a sh*t- poo , or a poo-sh*t ? oh dear !
I can't wait to see him or her ...

Friday, 9 October 2009

Autumn Colds.....

I drag myself out of bed at 10 am ( has it come to this? ) thinking has it come to this? My head is still banging ... residual migraine , streaming cold , but at least the gastro-intestinal challenges of earlier in the week are on their way out .
As I have been sitting propped against the pillow drinking coffee since half six am without tasting it and my novel is boring me , there is nothing for it but to wander downstairs in search of new ideas.
The leaves are changing colour and everything is cooler out there .
The house is deserted .
Even Nat has gone to school . Her impetigo has receeded and she can walk on her Uggs . I test my own second patch and wonder how I would fare in my own walking boots ?
"Alice" I call upstairs .... but she feigns deafness.
I reply to a few emails and then try again .
I have had an idea .

I go up and collect fodder for the washing machine , meanwhile checking the progress of the dog . She opens one eye but says nothing . Fancy a walk ? I ask . Nil response. Are greyhounds dogs or some kind of dog substitute for the couch potato owner? As I leave the room she makes a lovely reassuring sigh .... I'm still here and all is well with the world .... and this bed is soooo warm and my cuddly monkey is the best toy I've ever had ( I note the monkey tucked sweetly under her arm ) .

Half and hour later she and I are trotting through Jesmond Dene , a brainwave designed to make a change from our usual haunts , exchanging the bracing coastline with its salt and fish and sand and pebble for stagnant pools and old pramwheels and then suddenly a bridge, a waterfall , falling leaves on our heads all puntuated with sudden runners and jogging buggy pushers . Pets Corner and the Coffee Shop are closed for major works .

Thus we find ourselves outside Starbucks with our clipped coupon for free latte snacking and warming ourselves and wondering where the Summer went .

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Pearl is Evercats DailyCat RunnerUp .....

To cheer myself up I entered Pearl on the Evercats cat of the day site and she won runner up the next day The Daily Cat : EverCats coming second to Zoe . If you scroll through the site you can find the second the third cats of the day including Pearl lying in bed looking quite pleased with herself .

Had you glimpsed into the CatCalls Hub that day you would have seen not just the usual inhabitants of the WaterBed at midday ( Pearl in the lefthand corner and Alice bang slap in the centre legs akimbo on a hot day or rolled into a ball in cooler weather ) . There were also various human inhabitants looking very sorry for themselves .

It wasn't Swine Flu but Impetigo we had / have .... and my flea bites ( infected ) the culprits . I had largely ignored the inflamed patches of blistering skin around my heels and ankles assuming eventually they would heel , and had been too busy dealing with the eye , the conference , the injured dog , and life generally , and then getting on with enjoying my days off to want to be bothering with blisters.

Finally , when Nat's "swine flu " combined with a sudden eruption on her ankle of exactly the same kind of blister ( more like a gaping flesh wound by the time I saw it , it was time for action . She was treated before me at a walk in centre , it being the weekend , and they told her the flu symtoms were her body's attempts to fight off the infection galloping through her body . By this time I ws starting with some similar signs , a sore throat . I attended and was also given antibiotics ... which I have reacted adversely to so have now been given an antibacterial cream .

We are hoping the Impetigo which has infected the blisters will not spread further .... I now have another on my other heel .....but less gruesome than the first .

What next ?

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Swine Flu?

Much of yesterday afternoon was spent on an NHS Swine Flu website consuming an online quiz designed to keep us away from blocking our local resources and irritating our GPs. ( general practitioners that is not guinea pigs though ours are probably somewhat annoyed that their abode is left undone in the wake of yet more trials and tribulations ).
Meanwhile Nat lay burning in her bed describing a fish hook in her throat whilst I tried to get a reading on her temperature .
Finally , my cackhandedness resolved ( three attempts later) and the site declared that she fitted the diagnosis for Swine Flu and we were entitled to collect her a dose of TamiFlu . What was clear however was that this would be her one and only dose and was unlikely to do much beyond reduce the length of the illness. More alarmingly it was also possibly that it would cause nausea which she had not suffered since the previous evening . After a brief consult in her room she declared that she would rather do without .
I wondered how this would work. I had given her name and address to the site and in return had been allocated a Code.
Did they thus assume we would collect the Dose? If not would the Tamiflu Police appear to ask why not?
If at a later date we tried to collect would this present problems ?

Today though her throat is as bad , her temperature is lower and she feels less unwell . Maybe the diagnosis was wrong ? Who knows? Not me ?
All I know is my throat is grating like a pair of pinking shears .

Meanwhile, Alice is making a stunning recovery .
The collection of fluid under her chest turned yellow then rapidly disappeared. Her staples were removed last night . Her vet's bill which we hope will largely be paid by the insurance company , was less than three hundred pounds.
Today she has had her first run off the lead ( though prior to this she has been trying to run in the house , up and down the stairs , along the landings , the hall , over the backs of sofas ) in the short bursts of energy that mark the difference between "sleep" and "deep sleep" that characterise Alice's normal existence. Her two main settings have not been much changed by the accident .

Thursday, 1 October 2009

..And now George has a Broken Jaw...

I miss my neice Felicity's birthday thanks to the various excitements of last week so she comes to stay on Tuesday . We plan a roast dinner and an episode of Holby City ( at least I do in my head ) ... though I suspect Nat and Felicity have more amusing entertainments in mind .

As I clear the table we receive texts to the effect that Felicity's younger brother George has been attacked in Liverpool and his jaw is broken . It appears his friend's younger brother, newly arrived for Fresher's week , came under attack and George waded in to protect him and took the brunt of the assault. It was captured on CCTV and the police will pursue the protagonists.
There has been a surgical intervention and the jaw is held in place by plates or pins .
The thing we find most upsetting is that the assault took place the previous week , in fact most likely as I was returning from conference and Felicity was at Florence and the Machine . George has made a choice not to inform family , not wanting a Fuss.
We jointly emote and agonise over this decision and wonder how sister Laura feels . She has a horrid Cold/ Flu to contend with also . We speculate that she may Understand George better but that we simply do not and will never Get Young Men , if indeed this in a Young Man Thing .
Had any one of us had a broken jaw or indeed a broken tooth , finger or toe , we would have rung texted or broadcast this information to the world at large , hoping for the maximum number of visitors , letters , cards , texts , small gifts , donations and the like . George by contrast stayed alone in hospital for three days , missed one day at Uni , then returned to normal life , contacting family only when he knew all was well .

Friday, 25 September 2009

Alice sails close to the wind ...

I arrive at my conference later than planned but after a train journey and taxi ride I find my room on the university campus without too much trouble and unpack and settle in .
I go off in search of food and drink and maybe company ( to no avail ) and .. horrors ... cannot find my way back to my room . It takes me forty five minutes of wandering in the woods and rabbit watching before I finally make out which block I have left .
I settle down to dinner of kit kat and coffee and at ten pm my phone rings .
Alice has been in an accident and cannot stand . She appears to have broken her collarbone and at this point they are looking for the number of an emergency vet where she can be assessed . I can hear her in the background . I can hear the panic . It is too late for me to return home . I do not have the car with me and besides I am scheduled to present a workshop all day tomorrow at the conference . I try to think on my feet , but all I feel is sick . Alice is so thin and frail her legs so spindly . If she cannot put weight on her legs , there will be little hope .
But , I try to reassure myself , it may all look different by the morning . best not to prejudge things .
Nat promised to ring back in a few minutes but nothing is happening . I ring her . They are at the vets and Alice still cannot stand . She is being kept there .
Nat calls me back in a few minutes and sounds desperate . I tell her to take deep breaths . I feel a million miles from home .
Alice is on a morphine drip and is being given fluids . A nurse will be with her all night . A vet is on call . They will monitor her and re assess her in the morning . Perhaps anaesthetise to x ray .
I finally fall asleep and sleep for an few hours after several more tearful phone calls .
By seven am I have the news that she has stood up for a few minutes which sounds very hopeful .

On my return home on Thursday
, late , when she flips and I see the huge blood stain / bruise on her chest my heart literally missed a beat .
She is making a good recovery . ( We think . We are on our way to the vet now to check )

Monday, 21 September 2009

Modern Art comes to Tynemouth

.... in the form of an arc of black nail varnish .
Don't the new carpets look just divine ?
Any ideas , folks ?

Quick Update

Quick Update before I depart for York ...

Thanks to all those who have enquired about my eye .
I can still see . I have inflamed blood vessels . It looks much better now . I am waiting for some drops to be delivered from Warrington ( Long story ) , scheduled for 5pm .
I spent lunchtime at the RVI in Newcastle and then the evening at Rake Lane . Another long story . The NHS served us well this weekend .

Meanwhile , in Amsterdam , Bjorn almost has a new bike

Saturday, 19 September 2009

The good news is I can still see .....?

Two days before I am due to make a presentation at a national conference and one of my eyes is half closed . I look as if I have reached the end of the conference and have spent most of the week in the bar .

I make the assumption that I have burst a blood vessel at the dentist on Thursday morning when I have an svt episode ( fast heart rate ) due to a reaction to the local anaesthetic . Although unpleasant at the time and resulting in tears and panic and not all of that on my part but we shall say no more about at at this stage , my now blood shot eye taking on a greater importance , I realise I need to take some action when it becomes painful and more to the point Nat texts me after a brief visit home from her friend's to ask if I am ok as I "look as if I have been crying" .

I head off to the chemist for some Dry Eye drops but the pharmacist is called in to advise and when she hears there is pain behind the eye says on no account can another day pass without me seeing a doctor and sends me off on a wild goose chase in search of a walk in clinic as I myself so not feel it warrants Accident and Emergency . Three stops later I find such an establishment and very helpful they are too , in Battle Hill , but the Nurse Practitioner takes the view that all is not well and calls in the doctor who in turn says he " does not like this at all " and wants to refer me to a hospital .
As a result I am now to be seen tomorrow as an emergency on a ward by an opthalmologist in case pressure is building up ( where , I ask myself ? In my eye , brain , head generally ? I asusme the eye and assume glaucoma is the issue but am uncertain . ) And with instructions that if things worsen I should present myself as the hospital and ask to be seen overnight .
The good news is I can still see .
And more to the point , no headache .

Friday, 18 September 2009

Bjorn found a bed ... and lost a bike :-(

Today was working out well if a bit chaotic .
I was recovering from an svt episode at the dentist yesterday ( heart going into overdrive as a result of an anaesthetic ) and trying to cope with "doing everything" as D on a rare overnight away . Wondering how I would cope again as a single parent , though reflecting that the main problem was the dog not to mention broken glass all over the kitchen floor ( cats ) .
After seeing Nat off to school and Catcalling followed by some serious F(lea)busting , I repaired with Alice to the local coffee place to meet Deb and hear all about her " holiday" taking in relatives' funerals and house clearance en route as is the way once one reaches a certain age .
On my return I heard the news that Bjorn found a bed in a hostel in Amsterdam but ... his bike was stolen ...if anyone can donate a bike or a bed for the night visit or just visit anyway and leave a supportive comment . Imagine having cycled all this way to raise the profile of refugees only to have your only means of transport stolen ? The final stage of his journey through Africa will be a lonely and at times dangerous one . He is not asking for money or sponsers , only football shirts and friends . Not a lot to ask !

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Bereft ....And we dont want Bjorn sleeping on the Streets !

Bereft we are indeed now that our houseguest Bjorn Heidenstrom has departed over the horizon in the blink of an eye on the North Shields-Amsterdam ferry .
As we said our goodbyes Nat asked last night Cant we just keep him and I eachoed the sentiment . Such an amazing raconteur and with quite an incredible ability to engage anyone and everyone arriving at the house . Within hours of arriving , having cycled from Edinburgh , where he had stayed at Fish's home ( Fish the lead singer of the rock band Merilion ) he seemed fresh as a daisy and was chatting away , having set up a sort of base camp in one tiny corner of D's office , with a laptop for his essential communications , a camera and tripod to capture stills and video footage of his endeavours , a few bits of clothing that disappeared into our washing machine . He ate and drank everything that appeared in front of him with great gusto and responded with huge gratitude to our hospitality . Having a Persian cat at home he understood our Birmans and Alice was his friend within minutes though as they both loved to stretch on the sofa there were a few battles over territory , fascinating to observe .
If my fleas bit him , he was too polite to mention it .
I can't imagine it , as I continue to be bitten ....
So , Bjorn is off to Amsterdam this afternoon, this evening he will be sleeping on the ferry . Tomorrow morning he will arrive .
By tomorrow evening he has nowhere to sleep , and his tent will not be welcome in the city .
If you know anyone who can offer a bed there , please make contact .
We dont want Bjorn homeless and sleeping on the streets !

Monday, 14 September 2009

Pearl contemplates cycling to South Africa

.. but decides to rest awhile first in a box and consider her options .

Meanwhile she and every other feline with whom I come into contact harbour small hopping beasties and I now have thirty two bites about my person . I have scoured t'internet for remedies and short of wearing a flashing flea collar myself ( there! Ive said the F word on my blog inadvertantly ) can think of nothing further I can do . I have dosed everyone and everything with Frontline , Spot_On , Right On or whatever it calls itself , and I'm even wearing lavender poultices in my underwear . Believe me some of the bites I have of of such a size and succulence that I would try anything .

Moving swiftly on , Bjorn has arrived complete with bike and trailer . Travelling from Oslo to South Africa by bike pulling a trailer , he is collecting football shirts which will be sewn together in time for the World Cup , in time to highlight the plight of Refugees everywhere but particularly in Africa . You would thought that starting from Oslo the penny would have dropped with me that he was Norwegian rather than Swedish but ...... I suppose the football connection menat that when D said A professionall footballer is coming to stay is that ok ? I said yes and kind of switched off . But Bjorn is doing a great trip and is a wonderful guest , great fun to have around .

D has managed by sending out press releases etc to get Sunderland football club to donate a signed shirt and now Nat through her contacts ( thanks Georgie and Jonathon ) has mobilised a shirt from Bradford . Liverpool are sending one through . Newcastle has one ( allegedly ) in the pipeline . Bjorn stops off in Tynemouth - News Guardian A story has appeared in the local press .

There are photos coming out and videos will appear . Bjørn Heidenstrøm - a knol by thisisspain

Watch this space if you are interested ....The story is not finished .....

Friday, 11 September 2009

Unwelcome Visitors

One of my friend's cats is living a semi feral existence at the minute despite my best efforts to coax her back into the house. No surprises there , she has always loved the great outdoors and they have a wonderful garden with great nesting potential including an air raid shelter from yesteryear , fruit canes , apple trees , and young pigeons careering about the place . Not to mention mice and all manner of wildlife out there . Far more interesting than the silence that is the house with no one living there at present , my friend holidaying in warmer climes.
On the odd occasion I am pottering out there in the dusk , watering plants and enjoying the late sunshine, and I come across her lording it on the bench , we stop for a friendly chat . I note that she is scratching well and edge further along the garden bench . But her friendly demeanour is hard to resist and soon we are sitting side by side watching the world go by .

The following day I am in attendance at another favourite , reading a note which tells me that my charge is suffering from an infestation and that although she has been treated there may still be some stray beasties lurking .

No surprise then that at four am I wake scratching my head off and when I investigate , I am lined with bites from these unwelcome visitors . I cannot bear to use the F word on the CatCalls website.

FastForward two days and my own dear Pearl is stewing happily on my lap when I notice a black critter burrowing through her fur . A further invesitgation reveals that she requires a dose of Frontline . I hurry to check her companions and yes , they are all crawling . Mm.
I hardly know who to blame .
The weather I think is the safest , hot and wet and September is the worst month for the offenders .
We purchase more Frontline and an F comb .
I am itching so much myself by this time that I am tempted to dose myself but the instructions do not mention this . Instead I move away from the windows and comb my hair out carefully and ( very) fully with the Dog F comb before I start using it on the animals . After all no one will ever know . I then check the comb ( with my spectacles applied ) and satisfy myself that there are no F s in my own hair , and no F poo , which is much in evidence on the cats . I feel better , but the itching continues . I satisfy myself with further applications of antihistamine cream which the pharmacist prescribed after a curious glance at me when I mentioned having a(n) F infestation .
As I write D is arranging for Bjorn , an ex footballing Swedish cyclist who is cycling from Oslo to South Africa to publicise the plight of refugees , to stay with us tomorrow evening as he passes through , and for the media to publicise his stopover , for which Sunderland Football Club have donated a football shirt . Bjørn Heidenstrøm - a knol by thisisspain ( Read about The Shirt here )
Let us hope all our Fs have all died by then .

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Step Envy ?

I managed to train myself ( almost ? ! ) out of wanting things a while back by the simple method of focusing on the desired object long enough until the point of recognition that it wasn't going to help me achieve Nirvana. This worked with various cravings .

Readers of this Blog will recall longings for the Roomba , eventually resisted and indeed assisted by Bettejo pointing out in one of the Comments sections that it would only take one session after a cat-vomit with the Roomba doing its Thing for me to be well and truly fed up ( and on my hands and knees no doubt , or hoping D got home before me ) . Other items so far avoided have been a very expensive Man-Bag spotted variously in Fenwick , Debenhams though John Lewis didn't have a nice one ( so far , though I live in hope that they will come up with one that I can then turn my back on ) and All Saints though theirs was more of a Messenger-Bag . I think there is a difference . But they are all to be avoided being completely unecessary . And of course the hundreds of books I see every day on my travels and avoid buying , knowing I can get them second hand from Barter Books , borrow them or find them in charity shops .

However recently I think I have found something else to angst over ... I seem to be suffering Step Envy . My sister occasionally reports the number of steps she has clocked up in a day on her pedometer and I find myself then staring balefully at my hopeless low numbers and thinking mournfully why cant I even achieve five thousand these days when I used to do ten most days . CatCalling seems to need me to fly about in my teeny car . That's one excuse . I love the teeny car so much . That's another. I cant think of the third one but there must be at least twenty reasons why my step count has dropped so abysmally of late . And its not even Winter . I must get cracking .

So today I flew into Ikea in order to purchase four mugs ( each at £1 79 each , hardly likely to break the back , yet stylish and perfectly apt for the morning coffee machine business ) which always clocks up q few steps and anyway who can help but love Ikea , unless of course one has a Big Purchase to make then its a different story requiring that the protagonist needs to be In the Mood ( to say the very least ) .

And then we head for the marina at Newburn and despite the rain , take a long sheltered walk protected by the avenues of trees , culminating at the birthplace of George Stephenson where we find refreshments courtsey of the National Trust .

And , on our return , by which time Alice is barely speaking she is so exhausted , and is threatening to ring Wendy the Greyhound Rescue Agent or failing that to call a taxi to have her delivered safely back to the car , I note that I have completed 13193 steps or thereabouts and recognise that my excitement at this achievement far exceeds any normal sense of pride in completing a walk . Oh dear . Step Envy . Now what ?

Monday, 31 August 2009

All my best friends are Zombies?

Whilst at the hairdresser last week I lay back and tried hard to relax in the washing chair . This was always the best bit . Hairdressing and Shiatsu seemed to have formed a gentle alliance and I was accustomed to a solidly built and competent young woman who would tuck my head under her arm , sweep soothing drafts of soft warm water over me in tune to fine music , encourage me to close my eyes while she kneeded and massaged my scalp and neck . The shampoo smelled of oranges and the conditioning treatments were rich and luxurious. I would drift in and out , occasionally glancing at the world of hairdressing , the twinkling lights , the beautiful people and their shiny faces and perfect hair as I slid in and out of consciousness. What more could you ask ?

For nothing to change , really , is all .
For change it did .
At my last appointment I was allocated the trainee washing person , a delightful smiling young woman . I slipped into the chair fully expecting my usual fifteen minutes of rest and recuperation and bang , the shower spray slipped and clouted me over the eye ! No serious injuries but I was quite wet . Not a good start .
I felt myself slide lower in the chair in a vague attempt to escape as the water temperature began to creep up , and up , and up and .... it stabilised just as my face began to boil .... oops there goes that spray again , spouting water in an arc to the ceiling . As is my wont I start to feel hysteria rising in the form of giggles and I feel embarrased though I am not sure whether it is for myself in my soaking state or for the young woman who clearly has no idea of the mayhem she is causing .
Before we are done I have lost an ear ring and it is not only my bra that is wet through but God help us my knickers too ( how did she do that ? ) .
I am relieved that she is oblivious , as my desire to laugh hysterically is very close to the surface . Ms CatCalls becomes Ms Rather- Wet- Tee -Shirt.

This time I groan inwardly as she approaches me with the gown and two towels . I wonder about asking if I could have a plastic sheet or two but think this would be unkind . Perhaps she will have been on a course? Perhaps that was her first week ? I am sure if I was to wash her hair I would make a complete pig's ear of it too ? Now there' s a thought?

Things are slightly better ( just my bra gets it this week ) but I am still somewhat anxious as I lean back in the chair and I find myself glancing from side to side , again rather peculiarly hoping my public humiliation is not being witnessed .
In front of me the two young men are snipping hair with great aplomb , merrily chatting to their customers . I watch idly reflecting on how happy they look, how animated.
One of them is wearing a tee shirt with a slogan on it and I crane my neck to read it . I feel like my Great Auntie Gertie trying to get a look at the slogan on my sweatshirt or some such when I was a child and screwing her face up with the effort .
I seem to be positioned upside down somehow and it takes a while before I can figure it out ..... it seems to say " All my best friends are zombies " .
I consider this for a while . Mm . I feel I may want to suck my teeth and think on this and eventually it may mean something or make some sense . Am I getting old or something?
I consider texting Nat , far away in Plymouth and seeing what she says about it . But I don't want to lose face with her either . Perhaps I should just let it go .

Later , reading a Margaret Forster novel "Mothers' Boys " it occurs to me that never in hospital have I been offered a sleeping tablet .
I was first on a hospital ward at the age of seventeen , and as the nurses approached with the medicine trolley in the evening , I saw that they offered every single other woman on the ward a sleeping tablet . Many of the patients were elderly , granted , but not all . I formed an opinion at that age that women in Britain took tablets to help them sleep . I wondered whether they would ask me if I wanted one, and was mystified when they passed me by , though I was given a pain killer .
Years later , this experience was repeated several times.
Ward rounds. Medicine trolleys .
Every single other woman on a ward given a sleeping tablet . Did they offer me one ? Never ? How did they know I have never taken one ?
So what was it about me , at all those different ages , 17 , 30 something , 40 something , whatever , that said to them , here is a woman that doesn't take sleeping tablets when every single other woman on this ward does/ will ? I find that odd , and wonder if it somehow connects to the tee shirt " All my best friends are zombies " .

Sunday, 30 August 2009

We step out of the car to walk by the river at Hexham in glorious sunshine just as the first of the day's bad news arrives by text. A sudden bereavement for one of the CatCalls families. We walk for a mile or so thinking of the implications and hoping the burglars will keep away ( so far so good). Alice is on form though slinks shiftly past two tiny terriers much to their owner's amusement . Almost back at the car and quite exhausted she suddenly sees a flat circular patch of grass and races round in greyhound mode . We walk into Hexham in search of a bank , lunch and a dustpan and brush and ideally , something for Auntie Laura as we are paying a visit to deliver her Hen Feed Bin , a splendid item purchased some time ago from Pets At Home , the squeezing of which into the new teeny green car ( black) was not without logistical challenge) . Almost a relief that the advertitised Free Scoop was missing , though irritating nontheless. One hopes Laura will write to the company to complain . A free scoop is not to be sneezed at in the current crisis .
D spots a rather ramshackle looking art gallery yard announcing lunch and we sit down on a dishevelled looking sofa . An artistic looking chap in an erstwhile white linen suit appears and asks us charmingly to vacate the sofa ( he clearly owns the place and has designs on it himself , for wine drinking purposes , as no one else appears ) stating that the sofa has been ear marked by another . We agree and move to a cobwebbed garden bench , somewhat the worse for wear but reasonably serviceable .
A young woman appears and we order lunch . Alice is provided with water in a bowl so dirty she stares in horror at everyone , then makes an attempt on the garden bench despite the slatted seats . I am feeling the same , though it is my weak coffee that is offending me . And I am not easily offended by food . And my scone is quite perfect . D had hoped for a larger sandwich . We love the general ambience , the fin de siecle shabbiness and the friends who finally show up to drink wine with the proprietor .
Moving on , the bank is closed , and I find the perfect dustpan .
At Auntie Laura's the dog does twenty laps round the trampoline and the hens crane their necks to watch this odd lanky creature.
Later in the day there is more bad news . A family member has called off her engagement . Oh dear .

Friday, 28 August 2009

Fern Hill , Dylan THomas

YouTube - "Fern Hill" by Dylan Thomas

In the early hours of this morning I woke and could not get back to sleep . When I eventually did , I dreamed of a flashing burglar alarm light .

I logged onto this reading of Fern Hill in readiness, just in case .

All was quiet at the house .
So far so good .

But the poem is still lovely .

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Brinkburn Priory

We take off for an English heritage site as antidote to Ms CatCalls 'somewhat frazzled nerves vis a vis a series of what can only be termed " Attempts" on CatCalls properties.
In the history of CatCalls this has not happened previously , and a morning swanning around ruins in the weak sunshine with a reluctant greyhound is in order , followed by lunch at Barter Books , ordered in the Coffee Shop and taken in the Old Station Waiting Room where it would appear Critters are permitted , particularly those who lie quietly on the carpet and say little , eyeing up the sausages .
Although not of a nervous disposition I dislike burglar alarms at the best of times , mainly due to my increasingly poor eye sight . My recent consultation with a new neurologist at 8pm one evening last week ( these poor doctors , one can't help feel sorry for them having to muster enthusiasm for a patient at that time ) provided me with some new information about my eyesight namely that I have a squint which explains my inability to focus properly . I have no problems with those alarms I have been tapping numbers into for ever , as I can do it without looking , but new ones involve me in that horrid business of looking for specs , putting specs on , lifting specs up to see door handle , putting specs down to see numbers blah blah . I'm sure you've all been there . All those of you over the age of thirty anyway . And then that dread feeling in the pit of the stomach when you press button a instead of button b and wait for it .... oh here we go the whole thing is about to go off . In fact in my case its usually about entering a property and finding not that I've forgotten the number but that I can't actually get the little alarm cupboard door open .Something to do with my fingernails being too long or recently , since I cut them , too short , anyway , I fumble and I fiddle and I panic and , there she goes the alarm is about to go and .. yes there she goes .
But I can now safely tell you that that ineptitude on my part was one thing . And now this driving up to a house and finding that the day after you have called the cops out having noted someone has tried to get in via a side entrance , and now you arrive and the burglar alarm is going off ... that's a whole different kind of "I hate burglar alarm's feeling".
Closely followed by a Should I really be going into that house on my own ? kind of feeling .
There's nothing quite so scary as a big house in semi darkness all of a sudden , even one you felt you knew quite well earlier .

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Exhausting Day Out

After an exhausting day out visiting our friends the Griffins in Pity Me when it becomes clear that I have forgotten the identity already of Fred the Shred, and Alice declares herself besotted with Nathan , she collapses in a heap on the sofa on our return , fit for nothing but a long spot of Cockroaching ( see useful greyhound terminology courtesy of Google) and heavy sighs.
Meanwhile I find D disappointed upon his return from court that the house is filled with the aroma of freshly baked cake and alas , no cake . Our return with a large chunk is not the same so I set to and make another .
Meanwhile , now that he is on holiday , the rain is torrential .
The dog snores on .

What of my Blog , I ask myself ? In fact I cannot recall the last time I blogged , so busy holidaying have I been. Though the word holiday perhaps creates the wrong impression , implying a lengthy stay in another part of the world . Maybe this is apt though as I sit here staring at the screen and finding it strangely tricky to encapsulate the events of the last few weeks .Nothing too strange or startling , but we have hopped from one ninor upheaval to the next. Nat was in Majorca at the same time as the Eta bombs , Toby was stuck behind a wardrobe whilst we were fitting a new coffee pot to the bedroom , and meanwhile

(Pearl looks on whilst the wardrobe is dismantled) the rooms downstairs were being re carpetted, involving a whole new look down there . The upstairs look is not yet complete , still resembling Offshoot Junk Yard but will be attended to " sometime soon " . A day or two after this my new car is due to arrive . Bliss . But ... this precipitates under major event .... the "clearing" of the old car . The Scenic was large , larger than I knew and proved to hold skipfulls of Stuff which was not quite fit for the rubbish dump and yet could not quite fit in anywhere in the new look downstairs rooms and the junk outpost upstairs areas were already fit to bust . Oh!

A trip to Barter Books was needed . Nat and I set off there with Alice and several carrier bags full of books and video tapes ( is that what they're called? I forget...) We were given a stern telling off ( for bringing in too many bags) by a fourteen something young woman with a tight pony tail who rejected our videos with a curl of the lip ( we can't sell these ! ) but no one objected to Alice joining us in the lunch dept waiting room where we had cheese on toast and jacket potatoes so all was forgiven. Greyhounds seem to attract the right sort of attention wherever we go even when they insist on lying across the doorway and refuse to move for passing trade.

My new little green car ( actually black, though with Green credentials ) is far from silly and as Nat's dad said it would goes like "sh*t off a stick" a metaphor I initially found somewhat intriguing but now I have driven the C1 , quite understandable . I picked it up on August 21 feeling sad at losing my lovely old Renault , but .... I have not looked back .

Nat and I whizzed to Grasmere and Ambleside for our annual pilgrimage on Sunday and managed to contain our luggage in the boot . Nothing was too much trouble for the cute little thing .

Migraine Days

Migraine Days

Flower and Bee on a Sunday

Flower and Bee on a Sunday

art on a sunday

art on a sunday