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

Welcome to CatMinders

Welcome to CatMinders

Monday, 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 .

Saturday, 15 August 2009

Toby tries FreeRunning

This morning I am up at Six am as usual and brewing coffee and chatting to Guinea Pigs . All is rosy . I am looking forward to a leisurely start to the day and meeting my sister at Kirkharle for coffee .
I climb back into bed and after a few minutes reading wonder where Toby is though put his absence down to a late night last night . Marisa and Fred called on their way back to Clitheroe from Alnwick and I couldnt recall where Toby had settled for the night .
His usual spot when I'm coffee drinking is on top of my reading matter , either that or kneading my stomach ( with claws) , much to Alice's annoyance as she tries to slumber on ( in tandem with D , whilst his coffee slowly goes cold) .
Somewhere behind my head I hear a faint scratching noise ? Is that Toby , under the bed? I replace my coffee cup carefully and lean out of the bed . No sign of him . Pick up cup and take up cereal bar and book . Dog shifts uncomfortably and sighs heavily . D snores. I read for ten minutes . Scratch scratch . Knock knock . What is that odd knocking noise? It sounds a like a radiator knocking . I listen . Nothing . I read . Scratch . I sigh . I climb out of bed , pulling myself out by the radiator ( leaving a water bed is no mean feat) and into the hall . I stand still . Kitty is resting quietly on the landing . She looks and listens . Kitty , I say , have you seen that boy ? She looks at me . Nada.
Silence . I walk over to D's wardrobe , open the door . Silence . No cat is inside . But still no sign of Tobes . He would be here by now , taking part in the early morning bed routine . Strange?
I get back into bed .
Scratch , scratch , click , rustle .
I climb out of bed . I have to find him . He is locked in somewhere .
Funny this , one of our topics of conversation last night , the places our cats have managed to lock themselves .
I open the wardrobe door again . Silence .
I go into the bathroom .
Back onto the landing . Laundry basket . Toilet roll basket now holding cat litter . Chest of drawers where Kitty once lurked for twenty four hours . Nil .

I go downstairs and check the cupboard under the stairs .
Pearl appears . Although stone deaf she senses crisis and runs up the stairs after me . Jessie appears , also at a gallop . Kitty is on her feet . All three are standing poised on the stairs waiting for me to find him .
I go back into the bedroom .
D is still breathing heavily , fast asleep . I should not start calling Toby's name or I will wake him but it is the only way to locate him , to see if I call his name he will squeak . Toby does not do loud cries .He is the master of the tiny squeak .
I call out softly . D wakes and I hear him say Toby , where is Toby ? He is lost I say , irritably and D scraffles amongst the bed linens .
Just at that point Toby responds to my name , with a teeny squeak .
Toby ! I say , happily . I head in the general direction . All the cats head in that direction . We are all near the radiator , hard against the wardrobe . Toby has fallen from the top of the wardrobe and is trapped behind it, squashed against the wall . We can see his little face but he cannot move . He looks out at us and blinks.
D appears , pulling on clothes.
The wardrobe is emptied and gingerly moved , inch by inch . Toby emerges . We wonder if he has been trapped overnight ? Perhaps he fell during the night , after attempting a new hobby , FreeRunning .YouTube - Parkour and FreeRunning He has no broken bones and is very relieved when he emerges. Pearl sniffs him and then gives him a slap.
I get back into bed . Alice has not shifted from the bed , refusing to pay any attention to this silly misadventure. She opens one eye slightly then buries deeper under her blanket .

Friday, 14 August 2009

Paid to Say ?

I find myself sitting, not for the first time, in John Lewis coffee shop , in fact cashing in my free latte on my loyalty card . I am in JL in the first place due to a brain malfunction late last night when I became convinced I had purchased the Wrong Present for my sister .

I confer with D about his arrangements today and we discover that if I leave for town just as he leaves court for home , he can probably be back before the dog has had a nervous breakdown .

Thus I arrive , somewhat puffed by earlier events , of which more to follow , at the Birthay Present Counter and am told that I have in fact purchased exactly the Right Present . What was I thinking of ?

So now here I am with an hour's credit in the parking machine and what better to do than drink coffee.

I cast my eye about thinking of the anonmous letter posted through my car sunroof earlier and trying not to draw too many conclusions , when my eye lights upon a framed advertising poster on the far wall .
A man in a very tall chef's hat stands by the counter of the shop holding in front of him a very big cake .His face is beaming . He is pleased with that cake. The wording reads thus " We are paid to say our scones and cakes are made fresh each day by our team of patisserie chefs for your enjoyment "
I stare in amazement and my lip curls ... paid to say ? Paid to Say ? These companies pay millions , allegedly, for their advertising and they tell the punters in the coffee shop that they are "paid to say" that their cakes are nice ?

I text my sister to tell her about the sunroof incident and she texts back . It is only at this point when I apply my spectacles and everything focuses slightly more sharply that I realise that John Lewis are in fact Proud to Say etc ....

And there was me with my perfect long distance vision ....

Meanwhile I have a ricotta and lemon cake and a summer berry cake to make myself . And when I can proudly announce that I have made them , I will return with the Mystery of the Anonymous Sunroof Saboteur.

Monday, 10 August 2009

Pearl , the Senior Birman , pictured above , has been off colour for a while .
We have not hurried to the vet with her because a) she hates that so much , and b) in between lying looking forlorn and squirting from both ends she has been her usual mischevious self shying nail files and clocks and so forth at the not-so-skinny- greyhound from her vantage point on the mantelpiece much as usual. She has even piddled in Alice's bed three nights on the trot . But we begin to wonder if this is a sign of Distress rather than (Conduct) Disorder when she fails to appear as usual to sit on D's lap and nip his elbow at her leisure , preferring instead to rest languidly draped over the guinea pig hutch in the kitchen away from the mainstream of family life.
So I whisk her away to the vet this afternoon , ignoring point c) its quite expensive.
As we draw up in the village the heavens open and Pearl emits a low moan like that of a labouring heifer. I know , I think , heading for the ticket machine and trying to draw Nat's too small jacket closer round me . She is safely ( or perhaps not so safely in Majorca, we hear there are more bombs. I try not to think ) on holiday and has no need of coats with hoods. The waiting room is full and we are so relieved to find a seat that it is fifteen minutes before I remember to sign us onto the List . Thus we are last on said list . I watch three other animals arrive and their Owners with Brains sign them in in front of me . Finally the penny drops . I have only been doing this for some twenty years .....

Finally , after an hour's wait , during which we watch our neighbour's dog Charlie emerge complete with Lampshade round the neck, we are seen and Pearl is diagnosed with a possible tapeworm , or ( the alternate diagnosis ) Irritable Bowel Syndrome .
She has two injections and a tablet is prescribed which the vet will give . Which the vet will attempt to give .

Pearl thinks not .
We wrap her in a pale green towel , very tasteful , her paws out of sight to stop them tearing us to shreds and she is backed up against me . Quick as a flash she reverses down inside the tube of the towel , lashes at the vet ( perhaps apologetically , after all they are both very blonde and very lovely) and then sits back and waits , mouth firmly closed . "Hm " says the vet . "Very fast and Very feisty".
We re wrap . The vet weighs her up . She stands back and examines her finger . I try not to look at the damage .

She decides to call for assistance .

The nurse comes in and after a fight it goes very quiet . Pearl is wrapped in the towel . Only her little face pokes out . Suddenly she goes completely limp .

" Oh . " says the vet " Have you given up , has the fight gone out of you? "

I massage her heart , worried . They trigger the pill down and squirt water after it . Pearl makes a pill face . She is not pleased . They lift her up . She flops . They unwrap her . She stands up . She looks round at everyone .
I wonder who will pay the price later .

Back at home she rubs happily against everyone and doesn't seem offended in the slightest . Perhaps she didnt notice I was there ? Or perhaps she has a cunning plan .

Friday, 7 August 2009

A mouse in the Feeder

Despite the note telling me all about the bird feeder near the garden shed which houses a mouse , I still manage to set my heart racing . On the third day I notice the feeder is empty whilst conducting a finger tip search of the garden for one of the cats which has gone missing in action and whilst filling in time hoping for the return of the senior wanderer , I bring out the sunflower hearts and forget the note detailing the said mouse.
Picking the only empty feeder off the tree I notice how dusty it looks and glance inside at the cobwebby sides. Lifting the top off I wonder if Puss Cat will be long as I didn't see her at all yesterday and don't feel like going another day without spotting her . Its brilliant sunshine and I reckon she is out here lounging somewhere but there is a faint niggle of anxiety tickling at my innards. As I lift the feeder down and raise the plastic jug to fill I glance in and There ! At the bottom , looking up , all eyes and crooked cobweb legs is a tiny yet hugely thin all at once mouse staring back at me . Mm I think . Mouse! Put it down before it is up your non existent sleeves! I gingerley place the feeder on the ground and as I do the mouse whooshes up like a firework and up the tree under which we are standing .
My heart is racing . I am proud that I have not dropped it . Proud that it did not wind up somewhere about my person , dressed as I am in vest top with spaghetti straps and cut off trousers. Bare legs bare arms and chest with altogether too much room for manouvre!
And the note from S did inform me that she had seen the inhabitant mouse sitting eating inside the feeder, though she did not mention that this took place whilst she was trying to fill it .
And as I head back to the house there curled up like a snake is the lady of the house , fast asleep , uninterested in mice except in her dreams.
Her sister clambers out onto the fish pond pointing out that the tree stump has dried out over night and that my responsibility it is to bring a kettle full of water to replenish for her drinking pool . What can I do but acquiesce and then sit while watching the life of the garden as the morning purrs and buzzes on ?

Migraine Days

Migraine Days

Flower and Bee on a Sunday

Flower and Bee on a Sunday

art on a sunday

art on a sunday