Category Archives: Kittens

Life lessons

So, Charlie-with-the-broken-leg is now out of his cage and under house arrest. It’s been a week so far and I can see him getting stronger every day: he’s gone from limping a little and being uncertain about some jumps, to bounding wherever he feels like. He got out one night by going through an open window and down a sheer, 8 foot wall. A couple of hours later, at the sound of the snack packet, he came racing across the lawn to me.

He’s got another 10 days in the house before he’ll be back at the vets to have the pin removed from his leg. Then normal life will resume. I’m looking forward to that, as he’ll be so much happier being allowed outside; but he’s taken to following me around and I’ll miss my little shadow.

Meanwhile, my other cat barely comes in the house because she no longer recognises Charlie. When I do lure her in, usually with food, she’ll tolerate him for as long as it takes her to eat, then resume growling before making for the nearest exit. I’m hoping the trade off for seeing less of Charlie will be that Belle feels comfortable in the house again.

With all this cat care going on, I’ve been at home a lot more. I haven’t done any overnight stays away and I’ve been working from home as much as I can. I’m at my laptop by 8am latest, but as everyone who gets to skip their commute knows, you get to sleep in, do a fuller day’s work and still have more of an evening. So for me, despite working longer days, it’s felt like something of a holiday simply because I only recharge by being at home.

I hadn’t realised the extent to which I had gotten into the habit of looking at the various locations ahead of me during my week and thinking ‘Just got to get through it.’ Or the extent to which a constant low level of tiredness and stress was delimiting my ability to relax in what felt like very limited time in my house. The balance was off and although I knew some of the negative effects, I hadn’t appreciated all of them. There’s a pretty long list:

  1. Not getting time for lunch at work, so 3pm lunches of popcorn and granola bars, plus too tired to cook proper evening meals.
  2. Not drinking enough water
  3. Drinking too much tea, I think, and therefore over-caffeinated and twitchy
  4. Plus tired and unable to concentrate properly, so too much time on my phone
  5. Therefore internet shopping and then wondering where my money goes
  6. Not enough exercise
  7. A bit of not-exercising guilt
  8. General sense of should be doing something but failing to tackle any of the above because tired and lazy

And the big one, not feeling as though I had any time. Which is different to not actually having time: if I had any time at all to read Popsugar then I certainly had time to make decent food or practice yoga. It just didn’t feel that way because I had trapped myself in an apathetic circle of lethargy.

Now, I am definitely busier when I’m commuting, and I had been spending a couple of nights away a week. So it wasn’t all perception. But the situation wasn’t as bad as I thought it was, either. It’s just taken a bit of critical distance for me to be able to reassess the situation. I’ll have to get back to a more normal working pattern, but there are still steps I can take to keep some balance:

  1. More driving, fewer hotel stays. Not that more miles on the road is ideal, ideal but it’s the necessary swap for me to be at home where I can relax.
  2. Less time on my phone. I don’t think it’s a smartphone addiction, I think it’s a lazy habit (I can stop any time). Right now, I’m not sure where my phone is, but it’s definitely not within arm’s reach.
  3. Yoga. I’ve found a great yoga studio about half an hour away, and I’ve been trying to go to at least one class a week. I’m going to try to start a home practice, which is something I’ve never been successful with before.
  4. Water. I don’t understand why I struggle with this one so much. I spent Monday with a self-induced dehydration headache and it’s still hovering in the background, waiting to come back if I’m not careful. I can drink tea by the bucket but even with a water bottle on my desk, I can fail to take a single sip. I know all the benefits, I know from experience that I feel better if I’m hydrated (no shit, Sherlock) so why am I punishing myself? Argh.

So that’s kind of my promise to myself. Nothing huge there and yet, in small ways, life changing.

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In which there is a missing cat, a cat chase and a hopeful outcome

On Friday night, I called Charlie in from the garden and he came sprinting across the lawn to me, neatly avoiding Belle as she launched at him from the side. Later, there were odd scuffling noises in the night, which turned out to be Charlie scratching at the laundry basket as he nested amongst the pegs. So far, so normal.

I saw him in the basket in the morning, petted his head, and trotted happily off to London. Some few hours later I had three missed voicemails and a text: ‘You need to call me. Charlie has hurt his leg and I can’t get to him’. It turned out that Charlie was holding up one of his hind legs in a way that boded no good, but was so resistant to further examination that he’d run away to hide in an old outbuilding in the field next to the house. Outbuilding 1 is on the boundary line between our garden, the field and the neighbour’s garden. It doesn’t seem to have a door because it’s not in use, but it does have a cat sized hole in the rusted corrugated iron. And there Charlie stayed, just visible through the hole.

By the time I got home, he couldn’t be seen, so had either removed further into the outbuilding or moved on somewhere else. Either way, he wasn’t giving us any signs of his presence and there wasn’t much to be done but hope that he’d come in overnight.

He did not come in overnight. I’m all for the cats having some independence and some time to walk by themselves but I’m also in favour of them eating. We went to look for him and finally found him in Outbuilding 2, which did have a door. He had curled himself up on an old cement bag, and was looking very unhappy indeed. He ate a few bits of Whiskas, leveraged himself up and walked unsteadily away for some privacy and a bathroom break. I had the basket ready to put him in… and as soon as he saw it, he adopted a surprising turn of speed and bolted straight back into Outbuilding 1.

So we took the side of it down. This still left some fairly solid corrugated iron at the bottom but there was enough of a gap to get in, slide down some rubble and hope that either Charlie would run back out of the hole (and into the waiting cat carrier) or realise there was no escape and sit mildly. There was another hole at the far side of the outbuilding, but up a slope of rubble and surely a three legged cat couldn’t…?

Oh, but he could, and went to ground in the neighbour’s garden. They were out. I fumed inwardly at the English obsession with gardens, privacy and trespassing and we went home to wait for the neighbours’ return.

The neighbours came home and we trooped round, with the cat carrier, a large towel, and a pair of gardening gloves in lieu of gauntlets. Charlie had ensconced himself behind their large pile of grass cuttings and beneath a web of sticks and branches. I carefully moved the wood away, stroked him a bit to calm him down. And he legged it through the wire fence behind him and into yet another garden.

You would not think a three legged cat could be so agile. It’s amazing what fear and adrenaline will do. On to the next garden, by which time Charlie had managed to jump up a few feet back into our garden, where we finally trapped him without anyone losing a limb in the process. Though all this, Belle was nearby, keeping a watchful eye on proceedings as though making sure no more harm came to her brother.

Now he’s spending his second night at the vets, after being diagnosed with a broken femur and biting a nurse’s finger in gratitude. We have no idea how the break happened, but he has no other injuries so it’s unlikely he was hit by a car. This morning, he had his leg pinned and plated, and tomorrow he’ll be home. The vets have all been great. Charlie is actually doing well but they’re keeping him in to monitor his pain management. He’ll spend three weeks in a crate (which we’re renting from the vets) and then, hopefully, he’ll be out wreaking havoc on the local wildlife again.

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.

 

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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:

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And a rug:

Scion fox rug

 

And a lamp:


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And some cushions

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