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

Saturday, 28 February 2009

CoffinCar: Yoko Ono

We go out in Coffin Car .
The hearse drives you round the city . Salutary experience as you wait to be collected . We wait on a marble seat inside the Baltic art space as our driver is delayed and at this point realise we have given no thought to how this will feel . Too late to turn back . I acknowledge that it is the three year's anniversary of Mandy's death and that when we booked our outing in Coffin Car the dates had not connected for me .
As the car pulls up slowly I flashback to earlier in the morning on the dogwalk when four hearses waited outside the roman catholic curch in the village . The doors of the hearse were still open , and the coffin was gone . The pall bearers wait at the curb side and presumably the service is going on inside the church . As I walk past with the dog the four men and one women , all dressed in black frock coats , laugh at some private joke , surprising me at the time . I expect sobriety in public , but there is no one to see except me , in my puffa jacket , and my greyhound looking curiously at them , tall thin birds , thinner than her . We pass on , to the sea , and on our return they are still there , chilled no doubt in their thin attire , without the running we have done . A long catholic Mass I think to myself . They are not laughing now . But happy enough , in their work, or so it seems .
As Deb and I climb aboard it occurs to me that I had envisaged myself seated in the back of the car , perhaps waving regally from behind a little curtain . Where exactly ? With the coffin ? I had not anticipated the coffin space , rather the funeral car I have travelled in at the funerals of my grandparents , the long car with three or four rows of seats , the lump in my throat and stomach , the shock and horror in every bit of me .
Here there are curtains screening the coffin space and we are in the front next to the driver whom in my head I name Derek though I have no idea who he is .
We have instructions not to distract him . I try not to , though squashed up so tightly next to him in his bulk it is hard not to ask a few questions . He responds that the car is a Daimler and that yes intially there were quite a lot of takers but the exhibition is almost at an end now , not so many now .
We fall silent . Deb offers mints . We pull away . The city stares at us . We stare back .
And later , Nat and I go out , into the city , for a memorial dinner , for Mandy .

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Senior Moments ?

D is offering to get up first to put the coffee on but I am keen to do it myself having bought beans yesterday . I love the ritual of the grinding with the lovely old grinder acquired many years ago from a coffee emporium in Kendal and want to try to get the strength just right as yesterday's offering was way too weak .
He on the other hand wants to cook the dog's mince to perfection , thus we are both in the kitchen at 6 45 am rather than one of us snoring on whilst the other brings breakfast up .
As I fiddle about happily with the grinder and run the slightly oily beans through my fingers , he unloads the dishwasher and opens the cupboard where the cups and jugs and glasses reside , then nudges me quizzically . "What ? " I say irritably having already been disturbed by the shrieking of the guinea pigs annoyed that they are not first on the list " Can't you do it ? Ive already had to leave this to feed the pigsters ? "
" No" he says and nudges me again pointing into the cupboard . And there , nestling hard against the cups , in the tight corner near the art deco mugs reserved for Auntie Laura's plain white cup ( the one she likes her tea from ) , stands the half used litre pack of semi skimmed milk . Someone has mistaken the cupboard for the fridge .

" Well fancy that " I say , a tad shaken . " I wonder who put that there , and then , recovering fast ..... " If that were me who had done that , I'd be kind of starting to worry about myself D, why not pop yourself along to see the doctor about pre senile dementia next time you're passing ? " .
" Hmph " he said .

Later I dress in a hurry and call on two sets of cats en route for a swim .
At the second CatCall I notice an odd lump at the back of my knee , about the size of a squashy ping pong ball , but am too busy dealing with bird feeders and such like to worry about it . I itch the lump and wonder fleetingly what it is . The cats are all friendly and chatty and don't seem bothered by it , so I assume its not malignant .

Half an hour later as I try to wriggle out of my tight skinny jeans at the pool ( too tight , under the circumstances ) I wonder if I have under estimated my size when I bought them a couple of weeks ago . They seem especially narrow on the legs . It is at this point I recall the lump behind the knee , and discover , to my horror , that yesterday's underwear are still situated down the leg .. argh ... it is Joanna Lumley all over again in Absolutely Fabulous but of course without the amazing cheekbones or the voice ... or well , without any of her attributes really .
I glance round wondering whether anyone has noticed but the gym- types are all far too busy looking in the mirror , applying make up , or spraying on their lycra to notice my whacking great faux pas and I wonder , is this what is meant by a Senior Moment ? Because obviously its my first and it will probably be ages before I have another ( yeah right . )
Though come to think of it , what did I do with those extra knickers ? Now there's a question ?

Friday, 20 February 2009

Lebeado, Jesmond

First , Nat has money to spend and we visit Lebeado , a magical sweetie shop dedicated to the bead and jewellery lover . Beads from all over the world line the shelves in gorgeous pots all beautifully labelled . A mosaic table in the middle of the shop is set out for customers to select their pots of beads , place them in the patterns they want , and then string them up . On Tuesday I watched as Nat designed and made a very colourful bracelet and also bought a ready made Pandora style charm bracelet . Today we returned as she had been given money by her Grandma in Belfast ( and her bracelets had been the subject of much fascination during her stay there the previous two days ) , and she made a further two . And , after sitting watching for fifteen minutes , I decided to have a go myself .... Go for it mum she said ... but half an hour later I wondered if she was quite so keen as I had chopped and changed my mind about mine six or seven times . She was however patience itself and keen for me to get it right and as I wanted it rather than rush to finish .
I have a feeling we will be back .

Wednesday, 18 February 2009


I know .. that's a bull and the noise they make is more of a Blare than a Moo but his picture was far more impressive than any of the Cow pictures I have to hand and I'm ever loathe to just lift one off the clipboard or whatever it is people do . I much prefer to trawl through my own box of delights even if they're in storage disarray that it takes me half the afternoon when I could have been reading the paper , writing my novel or simply catching up on a cheese scone . And yes thanks I do know that putting my photos neatly onto a memory stick would tidy them all up and speed the laptop up beyond my wildest expectations never mind dealing with something called Crap which personally I thought I had got the measure of these days what with those little bags and the dog having almost learned about Mr Whippys being best deposited outside on the grass rather than bang in the middle of the pale sitting room carpet or ( even better ) on the Design Rug in D's office square on in front of his desk .
Moving on , the moo is all about today's festive mood it being half term and the end of the working week and all that , and having had some cancellations at the Day Job I slipped off a little early having taken some leave and sitting in a car park in town decided to fiddle about with the new sat nav which D bought me to replace the old -model- long -obsolete ( by virtue of the fact that each year it cost as much to update as a new model would to buy . Indeed not just to update but to permit use of .....Including a telephone call to Germany to re-boot or whatever is the correct terminology , the installation of various new CD s into a machine in the back of the car which almost caused a hernia and a broken fingernail on each occasion . And , given that the car in which it was installed is just about obselete I concluded that nah , it just wasn't worth the annual upgrade fee . )
The new satnav as all of you technical bods will know , includes many a fun feature , including a variety of funny noises to alert one to the approach of passing points of interest . Those of you who know me well will recognise my infantile interest in the funny noise , indeed the variety on offer was less than extensive ( my brother for example has a more compelling catalogue on his personal voice recorder , 72 at the latest count but this is not to be encouraged and possibly should not be noted here as one understands his partner is not aware of the collection ) but I did manage to add a Moo for each restaurant approached and a loud bzz and cuckoo affair for every open car parking facility which will come in handy when I am touring in the mornings looking for a parking space . Theoretically at least . I have a feeling that unless I download the Updated Traffic Information Option at x pounds forty two per month the cuckoo will not tell me that the car parks are full except for the disabled spaces or the ones that the traffic wardens are standing in , clipboards at the ready and pens poised . There is after all a credit crunch affecting us all .
Now I just have to get my head round Twitter ?

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Yesterday's Valentine message ?

Spotted by D and photographed on the beach early yesterday morning ...early Valentine 's message perhaps ?
"Tu me manques toujours . Je t'aime toujours au revoir ma belle amie S xx "

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Fluxus and Yoko Ono at the Baltic ....(I wish I deserved a wish )

I was headaching in a minor way much of the night , such that at two am I took Ibuprofen and fell into a blissful sleep . At five I woke , headache free , but done with sleep and watched as the dog rolled over onto her back and stuck her long skinny legs straight up into the air like a dead beetle , her blue and green tartan blanket wrapped round her tummy like a disposable nappy . How come this dog is asleep on the bed without a care in the world , whilst me and three cats look on anxiously unable to sleep ? Why not ?
I find my book , Ali something , Smith ? Accidental something . ? ( It turns out to be Ali Smith "The Accidental " )Accidental what ? is this the first sign of something , that I cannot recall the title of the book I am almost finished ? ( How can you tell I watched a programme about Alzheimers last night documenting Terry Pratchett's investigations into his own decline and his rather upbeat look towards his future . His personal assistant seemed rather bleaker about the whole matter though why this should be was not clear . ). I find my book and read for an hour or so before setting out on my morning routines of coffee making , guinea pig feeding , cat tending , and dishwasher duties before taking the breakfast tray back upstairs at 6 45 . D is still asleep as is Dog . The cats are at the edges of the bed and Kitty is waiting for her breakfast as close to the food bowls as she can get without sitting in them.
Today is the day for seeing art ( Fluxus , as well as the Yoko Ono , second visit ) at the Baltic , but as I am scurrying about getting ready the snow starts to arrive and by the time we are ready to leave the roads are covered and fat flakes are falling fast . Deb's friend Sally Madge has been commissioned to perform new work inspired by " The Dream of Fluxus " and this takes place in one of the galleries .
Fluxus ( I discovered ) is a global network of influential and vibrant artists who aspire to revolutionise the avant garde . Through introducing concept art , mail art and radical performance practices , Fluxus pioneered an " aesthetic appreciation for the everyday " .
Sally has on a cleaner's overall on top of her arty outfit and encourages a group of students to climb up her ladders and borrow her feather duster and do a bit of cleaning around the gallery , paying particular attention to the "bottoms wallpaper " and the students are well up for this , climbing the ladders and feeling the dusters up and fiddling with the feathers whilst Deb and I look on from behind a painting of a Fluxus Meditteranean Island and wonder if it is time for our next coffee stop . We are thrilled however with our Fluxuswork badges which we apply to our heavy duty coats , first peeling off our layers of scarves gloves and pashminas . The snow is heavy and we are receiving texts from home urging caution .
We skip round the Yoko Ono exhibits and I look again at the beautiful wish tree .
Someone ( I picture a man ) has written on his label " I wish I deserved a wish " and I want to write on the back Everyone deserves a Wish . I don't of course ( write on it ). The Buddhist in me tells me that this is his journey not mine and for him to work out , not for me .
Someone else ... " I wish I had a pony with the features of Nigella " . I nudge Debbie and laugh till I have to walk away from the exhibit . Later I say Do you think that was a bit kinky ?
Later , when driving home in the driving snow I figure that though I pictured a man feeling undeserving of the wish , it is more likely to be a woman . Or a girl ? We know from crime statistics that men commit more eg violent crime than women , but I believe that women carry more guilt than men for their misdemeanours ? So more likely that a woman would feel she didnt deserve a wish than a man ? Who knows ?
What do you think ?
Meanwhile its still snowing and Debbie and I have ( almost) booked to go out in the Yoko Ono Coffin Car ..... a hearse that rides around the city .

Friday, 6 February 2009

Snow on the beach ...

Snow on the beach this morning ... Alice limps home with snow impacted between her toes and takes out her irritation with heavy growling at a weimeraner voiding in her spot in front of the house , then retires to the sofa to thaw out .
Meanwhile I head to the wine bar for soup and coffee. Its a life .

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Has it come to this ?

Earlier this week one of my colleagues was admitted to hospital unexpectedly and as a fabulous arrangement of blooms had been delivered to the office for her I called at the hospital on a mission to find her on Tuesday evening .

I had been given two ward numbers and knew she was on a cardiology unit so armed with this information set off after calling at home to eat and attempt to restore myself a little after a long and emotive day , calling at the bookstore en route for a couple of magazines by way of an offering .

Finally , the first hurdle on this freezing night , temperatures at minus three degrees , the parking barrier machine sign said " season ticket cards ony " . I sighed to myself and pressed the Call Help buzzer and asked the Voice " Does this message about season tickets mean I have to reverse out again into the main road here ? " and a very helpful voice said back No madam , you will see that the barrier is up . The message means that our parking machines are broken . Therefore we can't charge you so its our way of telling you that parking is free tonight " " Oh " I squeaked , in glee , Thank you and drove on . From then on it was downhill most of the way .

I lugged the flowers in their fabulous box with the turned back cardboard corners which looked so good and probably held a week's supply of water and were doubtless designed to show off this fragrant bouquet to best advantage .

But not designed for carrying by frozen fingers also struggling with bag of magazines , cards , and Per Una handbag ( heavy ) in icy winds . Down the long corridors I tottered , stopping occasionally to rebalance myself , eventually arriving outside one of the possible wards which had been suggested .
The note on the door, hand written , looked ominous . Do not enter without permission . Gastro- intestinal infection . I pressed the buzzer . Waited . Nothing . Pressed again . Waited . Nil . After ten minutes a couple arrived at the door from inside . I decided to chance my arm as clearly no one was appearing to admit me . " Do you think you could let me in ? " I ask " I can't seem to raise any staff ! "
" Staff ! " said the man smiling and letting me through . " You should be so lucky ! Reception desk down at the bottom but you 're not likely to see anyone . Good luck ! "

I walk slowly down the ward trying not to glance into side rooms as I go . I can see flashes of flesh as I pass by and it disturbs me .

The patients all look very ill and no sign of my colleague . Nor of a staff member come to that . I wait at reception . There is no bell so I stand , shifting from one foot to another . The flowers are weighing heavy .
From here I am clearly visible to several patients in bed and seated in chairs by their beds .
At least three of them are moaning loudly , sounding in extreme distress though it is hard to discern whether this is physical or mental .
I try hard not to look at them , not wanting to engage with what seems like very private pain .

Also , and I admit it , I have been engaging with pain all day , in my Day Job and it would be all too easy to become sucked into this world too .

One of the voices rises above the others , impossible to ignore . " For pity's sake leave me alone and stop taking my clothes off . Ive asked you to stop and I'm imloring you now to leave me alone .... "

I turn round thinking I have to intervene and see that the lady who is speaking is indeed quite alone . No one is near her , and she is addressing no one in particular . She does not even appear to be particularly distressed , though her voice would suggest different .

Her next door neighbour senses my consternation and beckons me closer to ask who I am looking for . I ask if she knows where the staff are and she chuckles in amusement . "No pet , now that I can't help you with ! We don't see many nurses here , they are so terribly busy . "
Meanwhile a man writhing in a side room comes dangerously close to the edge of his bed . I turn away , knowing it is not appropriate for me to engage with his semi nakedness and afraid of what will happen next .....

Where am I ? I feel I am in some former life , some place I have not contemplated before except in textbooks about Bedlam and institutions which are long gone . I want to run yet I need to find P ..... I dread to think how she will be coping here .....

And there suddenly walking brightly and briskly along the corridors are two nurses , smiling and helpful . I want to faint with relief .
I want to shout at them about all their neglected patients ( why are you smiling and laughing whilst there are people here who need help ? ) yet I know from their attitute to me which is helpful and solicitous ( my friend is not on their ward and they go out of their way to ring other wards until she is located on another High Tech unit, and to make sure I know how to find my way there , which is not straightforward), that they are clearly overworked and just doing their level best .

I set off on the next leg of my journey , stoping to compose myself again on the way .

And , after all that , flowers , would you believe , are not allowed on the coronary care unit ! And maybe not anywhere in hospitals now , due to risk of infection , I don't know ?

But for all the alien High Tech atmosphere of a high dependency unit with its machines monitors and drips , at least when I got there , there were Human Beings in evidence to back up the machines .
Give me that any day over the seething mass of patients apparently left to fend for themselves when they so patently cannot . It was scary .

Monday, 2 February 2009

Snow at last ...

Snow at last !

As we retired last night , just as I climbed aboard the water bed , the first flurries began and it wasnt long before Dog bounded up the stairs and flopped down and N arrived to point out that there was snow visible on all sides . The excitement after the long wait .. even the cats were watching in fascination . The scene changed every ten minutes or so , from hail to sleet to rain and back to satisfying fat flakes . I read for as long as ever I could not wanting to miss as moment of it and yet also dying to see how it would turn out this morning .

I finally dozed and woke to find myself propped over my book ( something about an Oxford murder ) and the snow still coming down thick and fast .

At five am there seemed to be quite a blanket over the outside world . Alice declined any suggestion of an early breakfast and I assume stayed in bed until mid morning .

The rest of us went about our business bundled up in everything we could find ..... and the above picture shows my sister Laura's snowman , winking at us . While the rest of us were working and schooling , she and hers were confined to the farm by the weather , and the closed schools and the tiny winding country lanes made impassable by the ice and snow and we were jealous and yet happy all at once thinking of them in their Winter Wonderland , throwing logs on the aga and building a snowman and shovelling snow and playing generally as you do when you can't do much else and you have to keep warm .

What will tomorrow bring ?

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Still no snow ....

No snow yet , though a large pot of hot and spicy cauliflower and potato curry has been produced just in case .... best to take no chances .

Migraine Days

Migraine Days

Flower and Bee on a Sunday

Flower and Bee on a Sunday

art on a sunday

art on a sunday