For all the tea in China

Two halves of the same cat

Every autumn I start putting out food for the strays again. I always tell myself I won’t, because strays means bonding and bonding means coming indoors and coming indoors means staying for ever and a day. I remind myself that I cannot save every single stray cat in all the world. Nevertheless, that seems to be what I am programmed to do. I have no other purpose.

The first dishes usually go to waste, but on the second day of the putting out of the food, strays appear; sometimes one, occasionally four but most often two of them. And so it is this year. At first I thought there was only one, since all I could see of it was a large, black furry bottom poking out of the dog/cat kennel whilst the head inside busily slurped. But no, it’s two – I heard yowling round the side and caught them nose to nose, whisker to whisker, an all black one and a mostly black one with white bits on her face. A boy and a girl, I think, possibly brother and sister. They will have to organise themselves not to turn up at exactly the same time.

The lawn fails to get the message

The lawn mowing duo turned up on time today, weather-beaten and muscular in their matching green tee-shirts. I haven’t yet decided whether they are married or siblings. Heavy morning rain had ceased only seconds before. They must have a line to whoever or whatever turns the rain on and off. (The cats think this is me.)

The industrial, gas-powered machines were unloaded from the truck, one large green person took the front and one the back and it was done in a tenth of the time it would have taken me. I could just about still do it, but have reached the stage of breathlessness/ agonising boredom where I just don’t want to do it. A monthly visit from The Green People is my only luxury.

They will not be back now till March, when the grass officially starts growing again. The grass has now, since it is November, officially stopped growing. Unfortunately nobody has told the grass. After the Green People left last month it was so made up, so overjoyed to have been mown by professionals, that it put on a spurt of growth. I have a feeling another spurt will follow their November visit. So under a carpet of snow, that bright green grass will be growing and growing…

But then, I’m not the one who will be doing the first cut next spring. Yay!

I have decided I don’t like my lady vet

I used to like the vet, when he was an eastern European chap with an accent you could cut with a knife. I don’t think he was Russian – because would Russian vets be allowed to come over here? – just sounded for all the world like one of those meercats in the TV ads. But he has gone. I went in one day to discover he had gone, for good, to France. He has taken all his cats, and his dogs, so he can’t be coming back. Indeed, why would you come back, here? I wouldn’t come back here if I had a chance to go somewhere else: no, not for all the tea in China.

But the lady we have instead – well, she is a lady, for a start. And she’s not him. She has an accent but not the same accent. She’s large, she has a tattoo and a brusque manner and I can’t bring myself to trust her. She talks to me like some generic, probably senile, Old Person, some tiresome Member of the Public; whereas he – I felt, anyway – actually seemed to be talking to me. I got the feeling he saw me as unpredictable and scarily odd: everybody seems to react to me like that – so be grateful that I am blogging rather than turning up on your street corner or lurking by the swings in the park. But occasionally amusing. And he didn’t make the mistake of thinking I was daft.

Really, it must be genetic. Why is it still easier to trust a man even though, throughout my life at any rate, the men I have known (in any detail) have proven themselves crueller, more devious, more judgmental and less supportive than women? No wonder we remain unemancipated.

But still, I think I’ll bite the bullet and try out (gasp!) another surgery altogether.

I think bread may be causing my IBS

I ate an experimental sandwich at lunch time and yes, the agony has returned. I am writing to distract myself from it. Think I will go and make myself a hot water bottle and distract myself still further by watching a really dreadful Christmas movie and knitting yet another dishcloth.

Saturday Night Ramble

Mum and Dad used to belong to a Cycling Club, one of whose (which’s?) many sub-activities was know as The Wednesday Wobblers. This was a group of older cyclists who met on a Wednesday and cycled unbelievably long distances in order to eat a pub meal and drink a pint of beer and wobble all the way back home again. My parents disliked the name actually, because they didn’t wobble; they were better cyclists than that. And because it had been invented by their arch enemy, Fat Pat.

And so, being now in a Club of One I thought I would engage in a Saturday Night Ramble, mainly because I haven’t written anything for some time and still can’t come up with anything coherent to say. But that never stopped me in the past. Incoherence is my middle name.

Today it was chilly, and raining on and off, but my friend and I had arranged to go to the next village down for fish and chips and so we went. Actually we almost never manage to get into the fish and chip emporium since it is always stuffed full of seaside-visiting grockles in tracksuits, hooped earrings and tattoos, and today was no exception. We always seem to time it wrong. One moment the place is empty. By the time we have crossed the road – rather slowly since my friend is disabled – the grockles have packed it and are spilling out onto the pavement.

We ended up with egg and chips at another place, almost equally packed, and a three-quarter of an hour wait for that. Then they brought only one plate of egg and chips, though I had clarified (twice, in fact) to the very slow woman at the till that we needed egg and chips twice, there being two of us, as they could clearly see, rather than one of us requiring two eggs with their chips. So I sat and watched my friend eat her chips, and her two eggs, and meanwhile got through six half-slices of bread-and-marge off a hefty white china plate. She had more or less finished by the time my egg and chips arrived. The mug of tea seemed to me to taste strongly of fish, but she said it was probably just that my mind was still in fish and chip mode.

Home again, I turned the central heating on and sat for several hours doing battle with my mobile phone. It is one of those Doro old-people phones with all possibility of doing anything dangerous strictly hidden from view so as to discourage Mother or Father from tampering with the settings and messing things up. Unfortunately I am not quite old enough for a Doro and am finding it increasingly frustrating, and patronising in its attitude. It thwarts me at every turn. It was populated with an awful lot of what I believe is collectively known as Bloatware – lots of Google stuff I had no need for, and obscure features nobody with any sort of life could possibly have need of. Add to that a small memory, an absolute refusal to use the memory card I had purchased and installed, and an insistence that I delete every single app I had ever installed in order to make room for Bloatware updates it didn’t have enough Memory to perform…

I tried swapping the SIM and the memory card to another phone, but this caused all sorts of problems. Google demanded that I sign in and kept presenting me with all those unreadable wiggly things. After an hour it was still refusing to accept that I was me, and I gave up, moved the SIM and the memory card back. Then I installed a file manager and viciously (viciously, I say) disabled or deleted every single Google bloat-thingy, every single Doro feature I had never found a use for and every single app that I couldn’t attribute a function to. That worked! Pah, I hate smartphones.

And now I am listening to music on my MP3 player to drown out the noise of the party next door. The trick is to turn the volume up just loud enough to partially distract from the thumping electronic beat and screeching pre-teens, but not quite loud enough to damage your own hearing.

Catwise, I now have another problem. One of my outdoor strays looks to have a damaged leg, but I can’t get near him. If he had just allowed himself to get tame first, I could have picked him up. All I can do is keep putting food out and hope he can manage to heal himself. Or for the universe to persuade him he really needs to trust the Giantess to take him to the vet and get fixed. So far the food is continuing to disappear, but I can’t be sure it’s him eating it, since there is Mystery Dog, another ginger tom (Sunshine), the ever-present Ratties and now a small brown mouse. The cats are glued to the back door watching the mouse’s insouciant preening of his whiskers inches from their noses, the wrong side of the double glazing.

The Cats Protection lady is still going to come and see me, but her companion is not. We have arranged this between us. He took a fancy to me and mowed my lawn. Then he told me I was Not Very Practical and obviously needed Taking In Hand and a Real Man To Look After Me. Then he grabbed me in the kitchen and started sending unspeakably suggestive texts all evening, every evening. Yuk! I find it amazing that now, when I am old and toothless (well, not completely toothless) – weirdo men seem to be coming out of the woodwork, attired in big boots, khaki shorts and hearing aids, or too tight overcoats that smell strongly of mothballs. Whereas when I was younger and at least willowy and acceptable-looking I couldn’t seem to get a boyfriend for love nor money. And oh, old men are so disgusting. They just never seem to lose the conviction that any single woman must be just gasping – gasping – for their slobbering embraces. He brought me unwanted food, and secreted it in my fridge, in cupboards etc., when I wasn’t looking. I have been throwing it out as I find it. This morning yet another dryish sultana loaf fell out of the cupboard…

Ow, think I’m going to have to turn the MP3 down. Perhaps they’ve stopped, next door…

Yes, a few minutes break before…

Ah, but there they go again. And it’s that idiot with the paint pot singing “I can hear it coming in the wind tonight”. They always get onto that one sooner or later.

And now Ed Sheeran… beautiful and sweet… we were just kids when we fell in love…

Wild Witch of the East

This is how I feel today:

fork2

ie: not like writing. However, as novelist Anne Tyler famously said: “If I waited till I felt like writing, I’d never write at all”. Writing’s like going for a walk – if you’re basically lazy and apathetic you never want to do it – but you feel a whole lot better when you have.

So, I thought I might explain all these witches. You may have noticed my little icon/gravatar thingy, which is a picture of a blue stuffed witch. I found her on Morguefile, along with the one in the red shawl and the one in the white blouse, on broomsticks. I’m guessing, from the tartan woolly socks a-dangle in the background that they must have been in some Ye Olde Crafty Gifte Shoppe deep in the highlands of Scotland, but who knows.

I felt I needed a disguise, really. I don’t like me in photos, especially now when the Me looking back in the mirror no longer looks anything like the Me looking out through my eyes. And I quite liked the symbolism. I’ve always thought of fiction, poetry especially, as a kind of wizardry – spell-casting.

When I was young I was pretty average to look at – I mean, not Elephant Woman or anything – but I was horribly tall, thanks to my 6’ 4” father, which denied me the invisibility I longed for. “Head in the clouds,” my father used to say, “in more ways than one.” On my first day at infants’ school they put me in a class with seven year-olds. It was only when the teacher asked me to read something off the board and I couldn’t oblige that they realised there had been an administrative error. I was relegated, in disgrace, or so I felt, to the babies’ class. By which time the babies had made instant friends with one another and regarded me as some sort of incoming weirdo-freak.

My immediate ancestors, according to the family tree, were nothing out of the ordinary – no marauding Barons or slyly philandering Dukes, just servant girls, washer-women, carpenters, gardeners and clerks. We were kind of rural, I suppose, and kind of poor, and we didn’t move about much just sort of stayed where we were, or moved a few villages away, to breed even more of us. The Vikings invaded us – well, kept on and on and on invading us – and a lot of us have Viking blood. I always suspected Vikings in my gene-pool, somewhere. I’d have made an excellent Viking.

In Viking times I would probably have been thought of as heroic – in strength and proportion, if not in valour, and might have found myself a good husband. I can’t help remembering a tale of a beauty contest at a ceilidh in the Hebrides, where a woman was considered utterly ravishing – synonymous with excellent breeding stock – if massive enough to run with a heifer under either arm.

I was never attractive to the opposite sex in a general way – never got a Valentine’s card, for instance; never got whistled at by builders; had to chase pretty hard for the few dates I actually got – the first one turned out to have been a dare – and by the time I got them I didn’t really want them. Circular logic, you see – the only man worth pursuing is the one who can never be caught.

But I did seem to be a hit with a few specialist segments of the population – chivalrous, lusty old men; frail, dependent old ladies; children with learning difficulties (I taught a class on teaching practice and was a big hit there, though heckled and pelted with elastic bands and screwed up balls of paper in other classes); terminal bores in pubs; the least popular three girls in any class; people everyone else laughs at behind their backs and strangers with scary psychological disturbances in need of someone to talk to.

I’ve also always seemed to attract what I now understand – didn’t at the time, since they hadn’t been invented – were spectrum or Asperger’s men; and an entire universe of stray and lonely cats, which homed in on me like heat-seeking missiles. So I married one of the former and became a serial adopter of the latter. Sensible, really.

Anyway, these witches. I actually had a story in mind about the two witches – the couple with the broomsticks, not my blue ‘gravatar’ witch, and how they came to be banished to a highland souvenir shop in the first place. But I see I have run out of space as usual, so that will have to wait for another post.

Ah, that feels better. Maybe I’ll go for that walk.

PAWS CROSSED FOR LITTLE ARF

I was just emailing my friend about Arthur, who isn’t very well at the moment. She emailed me back, you’re a sucker for an undercat – and I suppose I am. Poor Little Arf – he can’t breathe very well, he keeps sneezing and licking his lips, and his eyes have gone all small.

First I fed him and then I rescued him. He didn’t put up much resistance. Cats tend to revert to the wild when they’ve been straying for so long. It can take six months to a year before they even let you touch them, and longer than that before they let you pick them up. Sometimes, just sometimes, you never can. I fed a hideous old tomcat called Frodo for many years – as did the whole neighbourhood – but I only managed to stroke him once, when he was dying.

First you put out food for them and keep watch from indoors. After a while you go quietly out and sit, at a distance, just watching them eat, sending out kindness. I have sat on my back door step for fifteen minutes at a time, sometimes, watching a stray cat eat, saying a few words – just things like There you are, are you ok? What’s your name, then? Do you have a name? and getting no reply. I have sat on that step in the snow with no coat on because there wasn’t time to fetch one. I have sat in the rain and waited, making no sudden moves.

And sometimes I find that their name has arrived in my head. It was like that with Arthur. Could you be Arthur? Are you my Little Arf? I think he decided fairly quickly that he was. Of all the cats I have rescued, Arthur probably had the least to lose by giving up on the wild. When he came indoors I discovered that his two canine teeth had been snapped off at exactly the same level, as if somebody had kicked him in the face. Now the vet says he’s got a larynx like a cauliflower from repeated throat infections. He may need to be antibiotics for the rest of his life or it may be something worse but Arthur and I, we are hoping for the best. We are keeping our paws crossed.

So many years he was out there on his own, running around looking for food in all weathers. So very long before he came to me. I wish I could heal his past as well as his present illness. I wish I could go back and revise his little life, give him a second chance – to be young again, to sit by the fire; to curl up for a nap in the sun, well fed; to be loved as all cats should be.

Somebody once told me there is a special prayer or church service known as The Healing of the Memories. If only such a thing worked, and not only on cats: on people, on nations, on cities.

Update 29th November:

Hopefully Arthur is over the worst now. Still sneezing all over me, and the other cats, who are also sneezing, but there’s been no practical way of segregating him. He has started eating and drinking again, and got a bit of his “shine” back, and the others seem to be going through/have gone through a lesser version of – whatever it was. Most of the “cure” I suspect comes from purrs: lots and lots of time on the lap, and purrs. The laying on of hands.

Update 9th December:

Arf continues to improve, with the occasional splashy sneeze inches from Mummy’s face to remind her he’s still not quite better and requires an awful lot of fuss to make sure he doesn’t fade away again. He’s now back to head-butting me out of the way to get to a new plate of food. Out of the woods, I think.