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

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Elders Day Out Kirkharle and Goats on the Roof

Time for the June Elders Day .
Our original plan to investigate a secret garden not far from here had to be postponed due to the torrential rain forecast and the fact that we were in charge of the Dog. As seen above however we managed to dodge much of the rain and had coffee and scones outside at Kirkharle Courtyard , where sadly the recession seems to be closing many of the outlets , though so far not the coffee shop. Alice was not happy about the fact that we had forgotten a blanket for her to lie on , though eventually she threw herself down onto the gravel under the table . She is forced to lie straight onto her side or on her back ( most undignified ) as being a skinny greyhound her elbows and knees dig into the ground if she tries to lie down like a normal dog . hence the reason at home she always has to have a sofa or a bed preferably heated . Next time she comes with us I will remember to take a thick towel - all I could find in my bag this time was the bag my handbag came in and this spread out made a very  thin sheet for her to lie on . She wasnt very amused .
At Fontburn where the Goats where delightfully clambering on the Roof as advertised we set out for a walk along the banks of the reservoir and almost immediately were forced to seek shelter in the one of fishing huts . The much vaunted torrential rain had caught up with us and we sat around looking at photos on the walls of large trout in the arms of small children whilst nibbling on Grazebox snacks before setting out on our walk as the sunshine reappeared.
On our return the piggies were playing out and Mother Pig came to say hello bringing her seven ginger babies - how delighted we were....
... and so energised was I by the day that I managed to start a new CatMinding assignment that evening in great style by setting off the house alarm _ a thing I havent done in many a long year ( month ? )
It was lovely to make the aquaintance of a new pusscat though - an elderly girl who is very quiet and affectionate and likes me to sit down with her once the jobs are done for a chat about our respective days . .....CatMinding is just great !

Saturday, 25 June 2011

"Jack Wills : Fabulously British Clothing- The Best of British " - I dont think so!

I love my Jack Wills Bodywarmer, known to the company as the Dudmaston Gilet .
I know this because the one I purchased above last Easter in Salcombe at what seemed to me the rather high price of £98 is no longer viable as the zip has failed. At the time I bought it I had no intention of making such a purchase , entering Jack Wills only to accompany my daughter  N who wanted to try on some item or other within their hallowed portals .
 But - there you go - in order to come with her into the changing room - Readers - I picked up the Bodywarmer and -  I fell in love . And as N said to me - It might seem  expensive but it will last you forever . And I wear mine all the time. And I was on holiday .  And so I was sold .
Down the river it would seem .

I wore the jacket for a few weeks until the Summer and it was great - ideal for dog walking. Though it wasn't suitable for work and too ot for the Summer  and so didn't get a lot of wear . It was then stored until Autumn when again it got a few weeks wear , when again it was stored as too cold with no sleeves for Winter.
 I took it out three weeks ago , to find the zip had failed . I compared it to my daughter's and discovered a tiny crack in the plastic of the zip explaining why it wouldn't work.

I rang our local branch of Jack Wills and took it along complete with the receipts and they duly sent it off to their  Customer Services section .

I was therefore astounded to receive a reply from "Fabian" at Customer Services explaining that any faulty items would only be covered for six months in line with Trading Standards and that any other failing would be put down as "wear and tear ". They therefore were unable to replace the zip for me or repair it for me and were returning the gilet for me forthwith and apologised for any inconvenience.

I wrote back expressing my surprise that a quality item was only expected to last six months. As a woman of a certain age my clothes are well cared for as is reflected in the garment and Fabian would have been well aware of this in examining the gilet . My daughter's gilet is  stored on the floor of her room ( and I daresay is occasionally trodden on by passing trade)  is six months older yet her zip continues to glide up and down perfectly well . I assume therefore that my zip is a  faulty item.

I then received a reply from "Mimi" restating their case and suggesting that my local tailor might like to repair the gilet .

You know what ? I have a sneaking suspicion my local dressmakers  will make a better job of it but thats not the point .
Shame on you Jack Wills !

Doesnt the good reputation of a company count for anything these days? how much would it have cost you to have fixed that zip? Whether or not you were legally bound to or not is surely beside the point ?

Saturday, 18 June 2011

A Wet Walk at Gibside ....

Alice - sheltering in the woods- and not amused.

Floods run down the roads..

After a walk to the village and breakfast in Luis wine bar we were confident that the weather was ok and that a few drops of rain wouldn't put us off dog walking . We hadn't bargained for the fact that we always seem to have the opposite weather from Gibside .

I texted our friends who live in that direction to see if they wanted to jon us but they were "holiday shopping" ( lucky things- holiday , not the shopping! I'm not a fan of sandals and bikinis and so forth) .

As we pulled in to the car park at Gibside and noted the smaller favoured car park was closed I had an email from Chaela letting me know there were weather issues in their neck of the woods. Let's just say she didnt quite put it like that.

We wrapped ourselves up in what waterproof gear we had .
Hm . The greyhound no longer fits into her fancy Barbour type jacket so just has to get wet . Suffice to say she usually refuses rain anyway , digging her heels in at the door or if caught in a downpour at home racing back to the front door without so much as a by your leave .
Off we went .

It wasnt quite raining , and at that point I planned to take some pictures of the gorgeous allotments . Community gardens all beautifully laid out . It was not to be .

There was a craft market on , stalls under canvas and we hurried past as the rain started , intending to have a closer look on our return , assuming the shower would pass.
D is usually quite good on the weather forecasting front and muttered about north and south and this and that and as we hurtled along the drive under the trees I still had some faith that by the time we left the shelter of the trees all would be well  and the shower would have blown over . When he started asking me however , Me ? What do I know , if I could see which way the clouds were moving , and I realised that looking skywards was causing a veritable stream to gush down my front , I thought enough is enough . As we left the trees' shelter and onto the open road heading for the new Skyline Path which was our goal , we darted into the woods to take cover and the dog sat down firmly .
At this point as we stood peering out at the torrential rain coming down in straight sheets , it was clear we should turn back .

The picture from the car was one of several attempting to show the floods running down the roads . It didn't really work .

Friday, 17 June 2011

Mrs Bridges ......

..caramelised onion and garlic chutney . Presentation is everything . I must remember that next time I make Winter Salad, my version of chutney , which isnt quite chutney but could certianly do with wrapping like this. I love the labels and bows and lettering and all that goes with it.
I spotted this at Kirkharle coffee shop , part of the Kirkharle Courtyard outlet where I can often be found on my catminding days troffing a cheese scone and a latte . Frequent changes happen at the shops there , due to the recession as some shops just can't keep going but the coffee shop seems  indestructible. And the former gift shop is now stocking mainly furniture and this range of jams and chutneys ....

I woke this morning at two am to hear a helicopter circling right above my head or so it would seem and couldnt decide whether this meant that some poor unfortunate was in the sea or maybe it was an indication of a ground search for a missing person or someone the police were chasing on foot . Either way whoever was being sought was not found for some considerable time , and I took up my kindle to help me back to sleep .

Having finished the book I was reading I started wondering about book recommendations, and right on cue  found something at my catminding house this morning . The little cat I was feeding seemed to be suggesting I should sit with her a while so led me to one of the upstairs sofas and there in front of me were two books on a coffee table , one of which an Orange Prize winner , so I made a note and will order samples on the kindle later . This was one of the things which convinced me about the kindle - that you can order free downloads of a couple of chapters of a book to try it first and see if it appeals . Much better than reading it standing it up in the bookshop and lugging home from the library . Initially I was horrified at the idea of reading on a gadget but having heard a couple of folks waxing lyrical and having realised they werent backlit and therefore were unlikely to strain the eyes in the way a pc does , I couldnt resist giving it a go - and though I do still order and take books from the library in the interests of supporting libraries which serve such an important function for us all , I confess I do love my kindle and the fact that I can carry so many books around with me in my bag at all times if I choose.
Choice - what a wonderful thing .

And now I'm so tempted to try that chutney - but I will resist - its a present ......

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Reviving a Blog

... is not so easy though it is gratifying to have renewed contact with some favourite followers and see that the statistics have changed from Nil Nil Nil to ... well , they have changed and people are looking again .

Somehow I find it harder to write though , to find the words . Not much is different about my life- my Day Job is endlessly fascinating, I fit that around the cat minding and family life and the occasional trot round several local fields when the dog can be coaxed away from the waterbed and her beloved sofa .

My own cats are increasingly proprietorial , in particular the elderly and formerly canterkerous Kitty who mellows with age and now likes to perch on the edge of my armchair if I am laptoppping it , or right on top of me if I have a book or the kindle in place . How she loves the kindle .. one more piece of technology for her to puzzle over and stare at and stretch a paw towards until finally she copies me in pressing the Turn Page button to see if she can achieve the same effect . Cats are such a delight. If we could only agree a signal between us about co operation ... I've finished the page now Kitts , we can turn now . But that would spoil the fun .

The rest of my time this week has been endless listening to the rain in the Rafters Room . And of course my Books ..
I was awake at four am this morning and decided to indulge my desire to read . I finished The Hours ( Michael Cunningham ) and started Joan Didion's bereavement memoir about which I had read so much that was positive when it first came out .
Recently I have been following a new anti migraine strategy of not allowing myself to read during the night but - the rain was falling on the roof and it sounded so good and the book was so interesting when I fell asleep that I just couldnt resist and with the prospect of no work and an early catminding start followed by a garage trip to have the car serviced I knew I could afford to be dozing today if need be.
An amazing book set in Los Angeles and therefore in my head connecting with my love of Six Feet Under.
A Twitter Pal asks if I never read happy books and that set me thinking . I like happy books but , is it the case that more books have sad content than happy? Or is that just me . I asked her for some recommendations and she suggested Terry Pratchett , not an author I have read though ( and maybe this does say something about me ) I have watched a documentary about his Alzheimers and a trip he made to look at care facilities with his PA for his future potential care needs . And not a very happy thing  that was either. He recently made a documentar on assisted suicide but I didnt see that . perhaps I was watching something happier on another channel? Or maybe lying down in a darkened room with a migraine?)
So if anyone has any recommended happy books Id be glad to hear of them. Really . And I promise to read them .
Meanwhile , despite the lovely brightsunshine that promised this morning , looks like we have rain again ...

Monday, 13 June 2011

Torrential Rain

.. and another thing I love about the Rafters Room is the sound of the heavy rain battering the velux windows and skylights as I go up to bed . Last night was my first night when this was my experience and though I planned to re read The Hours by Michael Cunningham  instead I found myself tweeting something about the torrential rain and before I knew it I was in conversation with several other Twitter fans about the loveliness of rain on rooftops and ... my book was forgotten.
I never thought Id get into Twitter .
Ive never quite managed FaceBook though it can be useful for looking at what people you know are up to and having a look at their latest photos .
But Twitter is about a connection with people you dont know in real life and likely never will . Its a five or ten minute thing which can give you information , help you see things in a different light , let you know whats topical , digest the news for you , and endless other stuff .
I love the way everything connects .
Ive been reading Mrs Dalloway for the umpteenth time recently , then , I see an article in the Sunday supplement about Michael Cunningham and lo and behold as I finish my latest Kindle download and am perusing my shelves for something ( free !) to read The Hours jumps out at me . Its a wonderful book and reminds me of the film and .....

So .... as I fell asleep the rain was still falling and now its blowing a gale here .
But I have managed another blog post ( just ) and via blogging have connected with an old friend today who is doing all kinds of wonderful creative things . More of that later.

How are you all ? You didnt say much ? Thanks for stopping by again ......
Maybe next time I ll have a bit more news , who knows?

Sunday, 12 June 2011

She pushed Me!

I woke at five thirty and in keeping with one of my new ( anti migraine ) regimes - which I should add are largely not working - and which also explains why I have been missing from my Blog since February - I tried to get back to sleep after a few minutes of reading .
A perusal of the latest migraine research and how it is affected by menopausing seems to suggest lack of or broken sleep is a factor . So , I have a new room in the Rafters , I try to go for at least seven hours instead of the four to five I was averaging in competition with the dogs and cats in the water bed ( everyone squabbles for the best spot in the hot water bed and we are too kind to close the door on the beasties ) . So I am experiemneting up on the top floor for a while . There I have black out blinds ( newly fitted ) , a coffee machine ( takes pods) , my own mugs , a tiny bathroom , and my BlackBerry . Oh , and my Kindle . And when the wind is in the right direction I can even order books up there and see new tweets . No need to come down really . Except when I want to rejoin family life as we know it .
So , this morning . Five thirty and I am back to sleep and dreaming I attend a meditation session at a lovely lakeside centre .
I am met by a serene woman who takes me on a tour then shows me into a beautiful therapy room and asks me to lie down on what looks suspicously like a therapy couch .
I feel I should protest " Therapy , Moi?" but decide instead not to resist and try to lie down . This proves tricky as at the other end of the couch the tiny therapist is alo trying to lie down . Same couch . Now why is this familiar ?
Is ths ok I ask as I push my legs out and bash her head ... oh she says , a tad irritated , eactly as our greyhound does as I push her gently out of the way when she refuses to do proper sharing on the sofa .
I raise myself up on my elbows and query " you did ask me to lie down I think " Yes " she confirms but I didnt expect you to take quite so much room .
A degree of polite push and shove continues and before long we rise and she beckons me to follow her into a coffee shop where she orders me a lemon tea . When it arrives I see it floats with hunks of fatty meat . We look  out across the lake and I wonder , where is the space for Me ? When will the therapy ( which I didnt want) start .....

Time to start blogging again I think ?
How are you all ?

Friday, 11 February 2011


I’ve banked with NatWest for longer than I care to remember and I went in to see them in Thursday ( yesterday) and put my foot down . It has paid off .

Today I am prince(ss)ly sum of twenty eight pounds ( or thereabouts) per month better off as a result . Not to be sneezed at in these straitened times.

As I thanked the very helpful young woman who advised and guided me through various processes yesterday , and trotted down the stairs , looking slightly askance at the cracked and shabby linoleum flooring along the back passages leading from the Customer Services area in the bowels of the real bank ( I’m one of those wimps who gets to see the slightly seedier areas being wary of tiny service lifts) I thought about my Grandad and his many visits to his Bank in Hexham all those years ago.

My Grandad drove an Austin Allegro for many years , a lovely shiny gold coloured car smelling of leather and new stuff when he bought it . Oddly enough I was never travel sick in his car though always very ill in our family car. Thinking about it now I’m transported back in an instant across the years to primary school . Friday afternoons. The spelling test . Those of us who had achieved twenty correct spellings every day for the full week were allowed to leave school half an hour early. The excitement of an early escape and knowing my Grandma and Grandad were coming for me to take me to the farm for the weekend- I could hardly contain myself .

Now though , in the seventies , he had had to give up driving, having had a few “episodes” and having landed himself in a ditch had reached a decision that the bus to Hexham would suffice for his needs. At least weekly he would set out , smartly dressed and come back with his “shopping” . The thing I remember him coming back with was “distemper”- his name for emulsion paint . Occasionally he would slip up and buy eggshell or even full gloss and paint that on nevertheless – all over the bathroom walls. It was never clear whether it was intentional or he didn’t want to admit a mistake.

His weekly trips to Hexham sometimes increased in frequency to twice or thrice a week . It was never very clear why he was going . On one memorable occasion he locked Grandma in their tiny greenhouse before his departure and she was forced to sit on an upturned bucked until his return later in the day. How she managed for food, a drink , and other matters which she would never have acknowledged in polite company , I have no idea .

After his death , and when we were going through a file of papers , we found a neat pile of letters from the bank . Almost identical , typed , they all seemed to come from the same person , some bank person whom Grandad had latched onto . All in all there must have been twenty or thirty such letters.

Dear Mr B

(they read)

It was good to see you again today . I am writing to clarify once again the position as regards your investments and to reassure you that you really have no need to worry about a thing. Everything is quite in order . There is no need for you to do anything . We will ensure that if anything needs to be done or any papers need to be signed we will contact you .

It is always good to see you when you call at the bank but there really is no need for you to call in every few days.

Everything is in hand .

With our best intentions

Yours faithfully

Blah blah .

I myself have insisted that I no longer need the “Advantage Gold Account” as I wasn’t taking up all the lovely free services on offer. When the young woman asked me why not I explained that I really couldn’t imagine managing the palaver of registering my mobile phone at a call centre for insurance purposes when I don’t even know its make and model number. The young woman kindly offered to do it for me . However for the moment I’m sticking to my guns and reverting to free banking – the sort that worked perfectly well for me when I was a student and first joined the bank when I was eighteen. We’ve agreed that if I don’t like it I can go back to Advantage Gold and she will register my phone for me and make sure I get all my free services.

She also suggested I ring my house insurance company and put my foot down there – which I did today – and negotiate a reduction in my monthly premiums. So I’ve done that.
It wasnt difficult . Just a matter of explaining I was paying too much and as a loyal customer I didnt want to pay that much any longer. They readily agreed a cut . Smples - as my sister would say.

I like this putting my foot down lark .

What’s not to like?

So long as I don’t have a hundred letters from the bank lurking in a little file somewhere when I am no more …..

Friday, 14 January 2011

Goodbye Tinkerbell 13 01 2011

Tinkerbell d.13 01 2011 RIP
Kitty offers solace to Hedgehog

Yesterday afternoon we discovered that our beloved Tinkerbell was no more. Such a shock - she had taken her late night grape , which she always squealed for when I did my final exit from the kitchen before bed and though Hedgehog , her companion would take one too , it was always more reluctantly. Tinkerbell always grabbed hers and ran to eat it so that she could capitalise on Hedgehog's reluctance if it included a dropped grape . She was up for breakfast and no signs of illness at ill though we had noticed her slowing down but put this down to her size.

Poor Old Hedgehog was as shocked as we were and was running about her quarters trying to "find" her friend , and attempting to coax her still form back to life . It was not to be .
We all said goodbye and did the necessaries.

Concern about how Hedgehog would cope alone led to my perusing the internet last night and it seems we must watch for signs of depression and if that exists we should consider introducing a new companion but with care . We would know she was depressed if she showed no signs of interest in her human companions , stopped making her usual noises , stopped eating or drinking and basically sat around staring into space . So far so good . She is quiet , and still "searching" but seems reasonably chirpy.
Oven mitts are suggested for our protection  if we do introduce a new friend. Introductions should take place on neutral ground , and a towel should be held ready to throw over warring parties in the even of a squabble . two cages should be kept for a while until the pigs are happy together . We should be prepared that it might not work out and separate living arrangements might be needed .

However if she is ok , we may be better to allow her to grieve alone and see how she goes .

We kept an eye open last night and when I settled down to watch the news at six I sat her on my lap to watch with me . She seemed very relaxed there and in a few minutes , Kitty came to join us . Kitty , who is renowned as the most ferocious of our cats , has taken to cuddling up with me recently as soon as I sit down , for reasons best known to herself . Last night was no exception and as the evening progressed , she snuggled noticeably closer and
closer to the piggy and Hedgehog's breathing suggested she was quite relaxed with this and eventually out came the piggy foot to the side which suggested she was going to lie on her side and have a snooze. The little eyes flickered and eventually the days events were too much for her . Poor old piggy . I knew how she felt .

We found ourselves listening to Nigel Archer's funeral ( very fitting ) and then Trevor Eve Kidnap and Ransom and finally Piggy went to bed quite tired out at ten thirty pm . Although she checked piggy house a couple of times searching for Tinkerbell she soon settled to eating hay and sleep .

As for you dear old  Tinkerbell , you will be sadly missed with your pink eyes and your little caramel swirls of fur . We won't forget you .
Goodbye Tinkerbell . We will take care of your friend .
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Thursday, 13 January 2011

How the Sky Changes

Click on image to enlarge if you want to

.... in a matter of minutes ...
This morning's walk with the dog at the sea at nine am . One minute dark and stormy looking , the next a fabulous shimmer across the water. Red sky behind the lighthouses for a few seconds, black skies the next. Maybe the weather is menopausal?
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Sunday, 9 January 2011


I have today discovered a photo editing whatsit and Collages !!

So here we have one of our between Christmas and New Year Family GetTogether Dos .....

I am going to be collaging everything from now on . Thats me up in the top left hand corner in the middle if you want to know .....and the dog of course is between me and my sister.
Kitty is the big cat to the left , and one of the Birmans features centre right ish .

I wont say too much about the other characters lest I am not forgiven .
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Saturday, 8 January 2011

Christmas update in pictures :Snow: CatMinding

We spent Christmas Day here . Hair raising /exciting drive to get there

A quick walk before dinner

Chilly Sheep watch the silly greyhound skidding in the snow on Christmas Day

The week before Christmas. Alice checks who has been on her patch

Front of House

Close to Home

Warm View

Is it a Cat or What ?

The week before Christmas we had so much snow I was travelling to the Office on the metro. But CatMinding needs to be done either on foot ( best in this weather ) or if further afield by car .

I wondered whether I would manage to get to my cats with my car well and truly bogged down in snow drifts on occasion but the assistance of the shovel and plenty of de icer and sometimes finding nothing more helpful for scraping ice than my good old credit card ( will it ever be the same again) , all visits were managed though there were some interesting twirls on the ice .

Some of my longstanding families now have cats with special needs due to increasing age and I particularly enjoy these visits , seeing cats whom I've known for years still enjoying life and feeling part of that and glad that they are not having to be uprooted to a cattery at this time of their lives when they love nothing more than curling up in their favourite armchairs and coping in part  because of the familiarity of their surroundings .
I love the fact that I will receive lovely long notes which give me a sense of how the families do things so I can follow suit and keep things as normal as possible for the cats and I try to leave a note of reply which gives a feeling for how things have been in their absense.

As to that final photograph - I'd been Christmas shopping and returned to find the little picture on my car window . How I laughed!
I posted it on Twitter. My sister immediately suggested it was actually a Cat in keeping with my most obvious interest in life .
What do you think ?

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