Patchwork by post

Well, just to make a change – this is the beginnings of Canadian sister’s Christmas present. Shh! Don’t tell her. (Luckily she doesn’t read my blog so we’re safe enough.) The idea is to make a cushion cover, from the pattern below, plus a simple bag for the inner part of the cushion, and – one or two other bits – and then post the same to Canada. I shall have to get my skates on, though. To get anything bulkier than a letter to Canada by post you need to post it several decades in advance, or so it always seems:

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Somewhat blurry, but I can’t face a second battle of wills with the computer. Maybe I will take another set of photos, as the project progresses, assuming it does progress. This is the first one I’ve made and it’s a bit trial and error, geometrically/mathematically. There are two possible arrangements for the prism (or ‘little house’, if you prefer). The other one looks quite interesting.

Canadian sister is going through a really bad time at the moment. Brother-in-law is now onto his Plan B chemotherapy, Plan A having failed after a couple of years. He has also just retired so he’s at home all day, so things are now really tense. She’s talking about taking up an option for counselling. People always tell you to be strong, unfailingly cheerful etc., for the sake of the other person, who needs your support. But how noble can you manage to be when you’ve been married, childless and deeply dependent for thirty-seven years or so and when, aside from your dying husband, you are alone in a ‘foreign’ country? You would need to have had a completely different life leading up to this point. You would need to have always been a different kind of woman.

There is nothing I can do. If only I could fly over to Canada, like the Stork, scoop her up in some sort of human fishing net and trawl her back to England. I can’t even make her want to come back – later – afterwards. Maybe Canada feels like home, now. The other day it occurred to me that the family she left behind in 1980 is not really here any more. Dad is long dead, Mum would be unlikely to recognise her; English Sister is here but gone all odd and mostly incommunicado. I’m here, of course but, three years the elder and a lifetime duller and wearier, would I that much of a draw?

But I know she likes crafting, and that is her form of meditation. I know she could probably make this cushion better than me, and that she will probably look at it and say ‘her light rows are not light enough’ or ‘she needed a zinger here or there’. Canadian sister is very fond of her zingers. And I thought I would include a photocopy of the pattern, and a duplicate template (quilters’ plastic) and another set of pieces. With the job half done, I think, she might be tempted make up a matching cover, or try the alternative design or even supplement the pieces with a whole lot of Canadian ‘zingers’ and make several cushions.

Patchwork cushions. The best a sister can do.

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Not in Kansas Anymore

I don’t know what it is but driving to the vets with cats mewling pitifully in the back – No No Mummy, Not Claws Clipped Again, Don’t Like Nursie…etc., etc – tends to bring out the Muse in me. Or should it be Muser?

I was just musing, as I approached the Island’s Eccentric Traffic Lights, as to whether there was such a thing as home for me anymore, and coming to the conclusion that probably there wasn’t. The traffic lights chose to stay red for some considerable time. Other times they just bully you through.

I’m moving soon – fingers crossed, no date yet – and what has been ‘home’ for the last three years or so has now become an un-hoovered, inconvenient brick cube full of stacked cardboard boxes and jumpy, confused cats. There are no shades on the lamps. There is nothing much in the garage apart from flattened cardboard boxes. I am hoping there will be no more trips to the tip with car-loads of rubbish. Everything’s in the wrong place. I’m eating off the same two plates and drinking from the same two mugs; the rest are packed.

How many times have I been through this before? How many photos have I got of cats curled up on cardboard boxes, enjoying a transitory patch of sun, wondering where the next meal will come from – assuming their cat-food stash hasn’t also been boxed up.

After three years of doing nothing much about the various problems in this road, all my neighbours seem to have sprung into action for some reason. The lady next door has suddenly decided to replace her boundary fences with lovely new, expensive wood panels after three years of no fences in part – so we were continually catching sight of one another bleary-eyed in our dressing-gowns and slippers first the morning, shambling about the garden – and fallen fences in other parts, leaning drunkenly on my garden shed and slow-motion dismantling my water-butt. The fence man has been here for days, his radio on at full blast, hammering and clanking, his white van blocking the road to my right.

The man over the road has decided to dig up the scruffy square of concrete in front of his house. This might even cure the torrents of muddy water that have been cascading down the hill, making a beeline for my driveway and deluging my back garden every autumn and winter: except I won’t be here to appreciate it.

All day yesterday, over the road, there was a pneumatic drill controlled by a man with a white hat in a small yellow machine of some description. He too had a portable radio on loud. He couldn’t possibly have heard it over the pneumatic drill but he had it on anyway. Now the road in front of my house was blocked, by a big lorry with a trailer on the back and yet another white van.

Reversing out of my driveway has become an even greater challenge. The workmen pause and wave their arms around, grinning – those mysterious ‘reverse this way’ signals which only confuse women. Shut eyes tight, wrench steering wheel hard left and pray that Jesus has control – that’s the way to do it.

not in Kansas

Not in Kansas Anymore: Eric Diaz

What makes a brick box a home? I wondered. And what stops it being home?

Silence. The traffic lights at last turned amber. First gear. Handbrake off.

When was the last time you felt at home?

I never did. I am a stranger in a strange land. I was born one and I will die one.

So what is home?

Home is not a place, it’s a knowledge. It’s being loved by someone else, loving someone else. Home is feeling safe.

Have you never felt safe?

Have you never felt safe?

Have you never, ever felt safe? 

Shrink Me!

This is what I hope it won’t feel like, moving into a flat. My first flat – apart from the four year ‘first marital home’ – after all these years.

I never actually thought I would get a flat, what with the thirteen Furry Friends, but luckily I stumbled across some fellow cat-friends and they don’t mind. And it’s got high ceilings, which is good, since I’m a tallish lady (or, as my sister once less flatteringly put it, a giantess). No bumping the old head on the ceiling.

At first I wondered how the cats would take to it – after a having glorious three bedrooms to roam around in, now to be confined to two and no upstairs. But in fact they don’t tend to roam around. Cats stake out their own spaces – huge, dominant gingers mostly downstairs, close to the food – old, feeble tabbies upstairs – young, mostly female cats choosing between levels, depending on who’s asleep and who’s roaming about. Kitten – the most ancient one – never leaves her dusty corner of the front bedroom, though the door is always open. She has her own basket, next to the radiator, her own food tray, her own personal dirt box and there she sits – or mostly sleeps – unless accidentally invaded, in which case a lot of fearsome hissing and sideways skittering breaks out.

I have observed that whereas humans seek out plenty of horizontal space – floors, rooms – what cats like is vertical space. They like shelves, stacks of stuff at different levels. They have this competition going to be top cat – on top of the kitchen cabinet trumps on top of the fridge, which trumps on top of the tumble drier, though that’s warmer. Aloft is good, carpet is draughty and worse – low status.

Therefore when I move into my new flat (fingers tightly crossed) I shall make sure to pile stuff up for the Furry Ones to scale. This is likely to happen of its own accord, it seems to me, in that receding removal men leave behind a tidal wave of stacked cardboard boxes. There’ll be plenty for the first five to use for mountaineering and by the time I have collected the remaining eight from the cattery (possibly two separate catteries) next day I will have  had time to do some more ‘spatial engineering’. That’s the plan anyway. But we all know what happens to best laid plans.

And then there’s just me. Me adapting to living in close proximity with other people again. Me re-joining the human race, perhaps. Me returning to the small town I inhabited for most of my marriage and – I realised recently – the very last place I can remember feeling ‘at home’. I am looking forward to rediscovering familiar territory, old walks, old shops, new shops. I am looking forward to actually being able to walk without being observed with a stone-faced, slack-jawed stare from every doorway. Honestly, it’s like Deliverance round here.

Ex and My Replacement, however, have long since moved away so meeting them walking hand and hand in the street (as I did, once) is a vanishingly small possibility. They probably don’t hold hands any more anyway – or if they do, I don’t wish to know that. In my experience hand-holding tends to be a short-lived phenomenon, all too swiftly replaced by bickering, and then silence. But perhaps I’m wrong on that. Just a sour old cynic!

drink me