Category Archives: Kittens

Five ways cats are like millennial employees*

*Some millennial employees. Not to tar an entire generation with the same brush. I personally know some great ones. On the other hand, did I mention my new job comes with NO DIRECT REPORTS? FTW.

  1. It’s all about them.
  2. They look blankly at you when you ask them to do something they don’t want to do; then they don’t do it. It’s as if they have no idea who’s in charge.
  3. They are capable of disappearing for long stretches of time with nothing to show for it. [? are millennials asleep on top of a dustbin]
  4. They think just showing up is enough to be deserving of attention and reward.
  5. They make you say to yourself several times a day ‘What is wrong with you?’

The art of living with cats

My cats have been particularly crazy since I moved house. We are, finally, through the being-woken-up-multiple-times-a-night-by-psychotic-purring stage that gave me unwanted insight into the life of parents with a newborn. (Newborns purr psychotically, right? That’s what I heard, anyway.) I would never wear fur, of course, but there’s something about stumbling downstairs by the light of the screen on your phone, narrowly avoiding stepping on the remnants of the latest kill, and following a cat to a food bowl that already has food in it that makes one wish tippets were still in fashion. And Belle is very fluffy and stylishly black and white…

I’m still woken up mostly between 4am and 5am but I get up at 5.30am anyway so that seems completely reasonable. Or, at least, it does to my feline overlords. So, that minor inconvenience aside, here are other rules for living with cats.

  1. Understand that a cat can stretch to accommodate any size of seat. So, the same cat that will force itself into a shoebox can also fully occupy a two-seater sofa.
  2. Cats want attention when they want attention. This is most likely to be when you absolutely have to leave because you’re already running late; or when you’re just carrying something hot and heavy around the kitchen. Lazy Sunday morning, tea, papers? No cats to be seen. Uncap a pen to start on the crossword? Cats everywhere, particularly sitting on the newspaper. Bonus points for them if they have wet paws even though it’s not raining.
  3. The same cat that will sleep contentedly through the noise of the food processor will also jump off the sofa and race to the door if I turn over a page too abruptly.
  4. Cats are unpredictable gourmands. That same food they’ve been eating happily for months? No and no. They will still wake me up at 4.30am of course, but only so they can sniff disdainfully at their food bowls and go out.
  5. The best place for a cat to sit is exactly where it’s most inconvenient at the time. On my laptop while I’m working; on the exercise mat while I’m working out; in the middle of the floor in an unlit room at night. The worst place for a cat to sit is anywhere out of the way, unless you’d quite like them to keep you company just then.
  6. Cats like playing but it’s a mistake to think that you are playing with them. They are playing with you. This is why, in the middle of the fun game with the catnip mouse/ rolled up paper/piece of ribbon, they will suddenly lose all interest and stroll off as if you are the dumbest loser ever and they’re done pretending to be friends with you.
  7. Whatever is on the other side of any given barrier (door, window, curtain) is irresistible. Particularly if it’s nothing.
  8. Cats are paranoid and don’t trust furniture. The same shelf/bookcase/window sill that has been there all along will suddenly present itself to their attention as though its existence is a complete surprise and possible threat.
  9. The act of getting off a sofa without disturbing a sleeping cat requires as much flexibility as a yoga class and should be recognised as a form of exercise.
  10. Cats can choose to be stealthy or noisy. This is so they can float up the stairs in the middle of the night and then jump on you to provide maximum shock.

In which Musings Towers has relocated

So, here we are, properly in the Cotswolds, in a village that puts one irresistibly in mind of Hot Fuzz. Fellow villagers say ‘Hello’ as one passes them on the street. A neighbour popped round to introduce herself. Drivers wait politely in turn to negotiate the narrow streets. T’aint natural.

The house has been beaten into some sort of order, with only a few boxes remaining unpacked, and that mostly for lack of anywhere to put their contents. I’m not sure everything is in the right place yet, but it’s in a place and that’ll do as a start. I seek a new bookcase and some kitchen storage, as well as a couple of rugs. But the bare bones are there.

The cats, poor little things, were traumatised by the whole experience. By the time it came to lure them into cat carriers, in fact they walked in of their own accord. They were very unsure of the new house for a day or so, and they seemed increasingly desperate to go outside. When I found Charlie outside an upstairs window, on a 2-inch wide ledge, eyeing up the jump to the garage roof, I cracked and let them out. He’s all right, but Belle’s developed a habit of waking me up at 2am by affectionately kneading me and purring, while trying to nibble my nose and ears. She can keep it up for literally hours and she won’t take no, or being shut out of the room for an answer. She just barges back in again.

Still, I feel a bit like one of the cats myself, prowling and restless. With none of the routines in place yet, I’m gradually adapting myself into a way of living here. I haven’t found that easy flow that gets you out the door in the morning on autopilot. There seem to be too many rooms involved and they’re on different floors.

So at the moment it’s all strange and ill fitting, not bad, but different and with rough edges to be smoothed out. There’s a list of tasks to be done and items to be bought. Ask me again in a month.

Hello? Hello? Is anyone still there?

Bit of an unexpected blogging break there, chaps. My laptop died unexpectedly, and it’s taken a few weeks to figure out what’s wrong and get it fixed. Back up your laptops, friends! I managed to upload my CV to Dropbox from email, but other than that, I wiped everything. I didn’t have much stored anyway, and really old photos are on my really old Mac, which still fires up if I can round up enough hamsters to power it, but still. Read my cautionary tale and be afeared! TimeMachine is synching with a shiny new external hard drive even as I type.

So, what’s been happening at Musings Towers, you cry? Well, in no particular order:

  1. The cats have killed the usual number of small birds and mammals, and memorably, one bloody huge pigeon. Belle made a valiant attempt to eat it, but after strewing feathers everywhere she gave up and slept for the rest of the day.
  2. I’m in shock (and anger, and disbelief and denial, and and and) about Brexit. Let’s just not go there.
  3. In partial response to the above, I started comfort reading fiction. I’m half way through A.S. Byatt’s Frederica quartet. I know I’d read The Virgin in the Garden and Babel Tower years ago, but I’ve never read the whole thing. Part of it was being read on R4 and it immediately became imperative to acquire the lot. Reading it has been interspersed with various other books, ranging from the last Terry Pratchet, to the latest Tessa Hadley, The Past. Fiction helps when the world’s gone mad, as it assuredly has.
  4. Not so much on the baking front, but this weekend I managed to make:
    1. Coconut macaroons that did not turn into coconut soup
    2. Some gluten free scones that didn’t rise at all, but to which all the baking powder (5tsp!) did impart a slightly metallic taste. I must be able to do better than that.
    3. Proper scones, to be eaten with proper jam and proper clotted cream.
  5. After several lovely years at this incarnation of Musing Towers, I’m moving. I will be sad to leave, but my landlords are getting on a bit and keeping the farm going is incredibly hard work, so they’re thinking about selling up and retiring into this house. I think my new place will be good, though. It’s in a village that has a shop, two pubs, a vets, a library and a doctor’s surgery. Inevitably, it also has a fair number of people in order to support all that but with any luck, I’ll never meet any of them. I’m moving over the Bank Holiday weekend in August, so I’m in that in between phase where I have to get all the moving out chores done here as well as planning packing and the purchasing of new bits & pieces for the house.
  6. After several years of being bored off my tits a lot of the time, I’ve finally knuckled down and registered for another OU course. I still can’t afford to do a PhD, and there’s no other classics stuff I can sensibly do, so I’ve taken a complete change of direction and gone for a degree in Psychology & Law instead. It will start in October, and I got very excited, anticipating the delivery of the usual OU box of readables I could dive into, but it turns out that this course is all online. Newfangled didactic methods, I never heard the like.
  7. In order to afford the OU course, I’m planning to give back my really quite nice convertible and swap it for something that isn’t a convertible and is therefore about half the price. I don’t much care what, because in my spoilt, princess way, if the roof doesn’t come down it’s not a proper car anyway, so who cares? Anyway, let’s hope that Mercedes-Benz will play along with the idea, ‘cos I don’t have a Plan B.
  8. Because some attempt at exercise was well overdue, I suffered through 5 personal training sessions. Every one of them left me aching, but I got stronger every time, too, and a decade plus old injury seems to have been fixed.  I’m definitely booking some more, and it’s beginning to seem inevitable that I’ll start running again, too.
  9. Bringing us right up to date, I drank a bit too much sparkling stuff at Battle Proms at Blenheim last night, and am slightly suffering for it today. But there were fireworks, and cannon and musket fire as well as the music, and if Land of Hope and Glory only sounds ironic at the moment? This too shall pass.


2016-07-16 21.46.26

2016-07-16 21.45.49




The yellow room

This is the room in my house that acts as the general dumping ground. Currently it houses the crappy bookcases I haven’t gotten rid of yet, the printer, filing, hiking boots, shopping bags, cat food and the vacuum cleaner. Basically, all the stuff that doesn’t have a place elsewhere. It’s the room equivalent of that kitchen drawer that holds everything from tea lights to sellotape to batteries. Which is a shame, because if I took all that rubbish out, I’d have the bones of a great room. It just needs a purpose.

The walls are entirely painted in pale yellow, and it has a warm yellow tiled floor, and a cathedral ceiling.  Patio doors lead onto the paved area at the back of the house, and there’s a view out over fields. If you look closely at that tree on the left, there’s a red kite in it. He likes to hang out there and call, and eat whatever he’s caught.

View out over the fields


Winter fields

I keep thinking how lovely it would be to sit in the yellow room in summer, with the doors open and the cats lying around in the sun.

The kittens of evil pretending to be innocent

So I have a vision, which I’m considering turning into a project. Let’s face it, I need more bookcases (I always need more bookcases) and I’ve been checking to see if it’s possible to paint over horrible laminate. And do you know, it is? You just have to sand the hell out of it first. Sanding and painting I can definitely handle, so I think that’s a starting point. Those nasty, dark bookcases are turning white, and they’ll stop being spare parts and they will house (and hide) most of the junk.

And then I need a chaise longue, which I can buy with the money I’m not spending on new bookcases:


And a rug:

Scion fox rug


And a lamp:



And some cushions



And then I’ll have a summer room for reading and lounging around and drinking tea, and what could be better than that?

Kittens rule

And I don’t just mean that in some general, ‘kittens are great’ kind of way. I mean it in a ‘resigned acceptance of the fact that someone is in charge around here but I’m pretty sure it’s not me’ sense. I don’t even really mind, because at least they rule with a velvet paw rather than a vicious claw.

  1. I got an Amazon package today. It contained kitten food.
  2. The sitting room floor was strewn with feathers when I got home. I vacuumed, and then gave the kittens treats, because hey, feathers are a BIG step up from entrails and half eaten mouse heads.
  3. When I have a water glass and Belle starts sniffing at it, I tip it to the right angle so she can drink the water.
  4. They have wrecked my laundry basket by using it a scratching post; at least I can just get new covers for the sofa.
  5. When Belle bats her toy under the fridge, I’ll get up and fish it out again. Repeatedly. On the same note, if either of them decides something is a toy (pegs, corks, Christmas ribbon, pens) I just let them have it because it’s so much fun to watch them playing.
  6. I will pretty much stop whatever I’m doing to pet the kittens when they ask for attention. This is because Belle delivers an imperious ‘Miaow’ and then flops over to have her tummy tickled; Charlie squeaks plaintively. Both approaches are completely irresistible, and anyway, the only time I’ve ever in a hurry is when I’m getting ready for work. Kittens or work? Like that’s even a question.
  7. My duvet cover has a subtle pattern of paw prints on it. ‘No kittens in the bedroom’ I said. Yeah, right.
  8. I find myself saying, without irony, ‘That’s a lovely mouse, Charlie, now take it outside’.
  9. Both the kittens like sitting on windowsills, so I’ve made space for them. Also, I cleared a route to one of them.
  10. I had a cat flap fitted in my front door. The price of the cat flap was 90 quid. The price of a replacement door, on the other hand,  is estimated at 675.



It is official: so far, this week has sucked enough that I want to stay in bed under my duvet, with tea and lemon-curd toast and the new Springsteen album on repeat.


Office: Right, we know this secondment role is so that you can fill in the gaps on the project that usually lead to all sorts of horrendous problems when left unfilled, but don’t fill in all the gaps. But you have to guess which ones to act on, and which ones to ignore so that horrible problems develop, but then you’ll have to sort out the horrible problems and explain why there are horrible problems when the whole point of you being there is to prevent them. ‘K?

Me: Gotcha. I’m going straight home now so I can check the job boards, while drinking wine with a straw from the bottle. I mean, I could take a paycut, right? Factor in the higher tax rate, if I earned a few thou less but was also taxed less, it could even out… Is The Gap hiring…? Mmm, folding…


(Essential background to this is the information that parking spots in Oxford are rarer than unicorns; public parking is massively expensive and inconvenient.)

Me: Hi, parking spot lessor? There’s a Porsche in my parking spot again. Could you sort that out please, ‘cos I know you said it was free and easy parking but when I parked in another spot I got a note on my car.

Parking spot lessor: Sure, I’m really sorry.

[A couple of hours later]

Parking spot lessor: So, the Porsche is actually my landlord parking in my spot because he knows I don’t have a car, and I didn’t know he was going to do that. So, I can give you this month’s rent back?

Me: [Edvard Munch style silent scream]

…time passes… later on Tuesday…

Me: Huh, I’m kind of itching and hey, look, the cats have been scratching a bit more lately. Fleas? Do they have fleas? Is my house infested with fleas? Ok, now all of me itches. Fleas!

[Shoos cats out, sprays entire house with toxic, environmentally hateful flea killer, washes all fabrics at top temperature]

Me: Ok, at least that’s done. Tomorrow I can get Frontline from the vets. Now I can just sit and have another cup of… what’s that noise? Belle, what are you…? Is that a tail under the fridge? Put the shrew down, honey.