Friday, 27 February 2009

Cats sorted

Fortunately, my pal whose cats I was supposed to feed on Saturday night bumped into her neighbour and she has agreed to pop in and do it. What a relief! So now I can enjoy my cold with a clear conscience. Oh, and add toothache to the evil imp's mix - though it may be sinus, not tooth. It's often hard to tell. Oh, grizzle, sniff, groan...

Evil imp

I firmly believe that there is an evil imp whose sole job in his miserable little existence (it is definitely a 'he', no woman would be so hideously malevolent) is to visit all manner of ills on me the moment my back is turned and my guard down.

Once, when I got a migraine (and I don't get them nearly as often since the menopause), it would start during the day when I was awake. I would get a one-sided headache and often blind spots or dazzling shapes in front of my eyes, and, with luck, would be able to shovel enough painkillers and anti nausea tablets down me that the damned thing wouldn't develop. So, seeing his torture failing, the evil imp devised another tactic, which was to start the headache while I was asleep, so that when I woke it was already fully formed and too late for paracetamol.

And now to colds. Once, I would get a tickle or a sore throat and have at least a day to swallow zinc and vitamin C, or take Gelsemium or Nat. Mur., and stand a chance of killing off the virus before it developed. But the evil imp, seeing me do this once too often for his liking, learned a spell. "Have that!" he said, flicking streptococci from his luminous green fingers. With a dose this strong, the result was the Instant Cold. Out of the blue. Just like that, as Tommy Cooper used to say.

Yesterday I felt fine. I even felt well enough to go to the gym - first time in a month, lazy sod that I am - and then try on lots of clothes (but not buy anything) in Debenhams. I was sitting on the bus coming home, feeling virtuous about not having depleted my bank account, when - SHAZAM!!! I was struck by the Instant Cold. A hideous sore throat arrived out of nowhere, accompanied by a sore gland in my neck and earache. All on one side, the left. Muttering, "Bloody imp!", I hastened to throw all my usual cures down my neck, including a combination of Lysine and high dose Vitamin C which usually does the trick nicely.

Not this time, though. I awoke around 5 am with one-sided cold and migraine both doing nicely. I had to cancel an 11 am meeting with a potential new literary agent (it meant leaving the house at 9.30 when I still wasn't sure if I was going to throw up or not) and go back to bed. It has also meant letting down my friend in Camden whose cats I was meant to be feeding on Saturday night and Sunday morning, as I felt too ill to go into London and pick up her spare key. She says she is going to leave them heaps of food, but it means one of the cats missing two doses of its thyroid pill, which I'm hopeless at getting down its throat, anyway.

Mr Grumpy pointed out acidly that I'm only ever ill when I've made an arrangement to do something, and it's just me getting worked up about it. But I hardly think getting a cold can qualify for this. Bad stomach, maybe. I know that can easily be caused by tension. But I wasn't tense. I was looking forward to today, to meeting the agent and all the other things I had planned.

It's all the evil imp's fault. When I was little, my mum used to tell my sister and I one of a selection of her made-up bedtime serials every night. One of these was about an imp called Naughty Nat who created all manner of mayhem. Perhaps he is still alive in my head!

Thursday, 26 February 2009

Flad's reading

Jacula has pointed out that I didn't mention how Flad's reading went. Well, the reader told me he spoke with his eyes, which is certainly true. He can't meow, he can only say "eek", but those green liquid orbs speak volumes, as do the way his face changes shape according to whether his whiskers are poking forwards, standing straight out sideways, or pulled back. When he's happy, he goes what I call 'all pointy-face'.

She told me he was very healthy - good! - and that he is an excellent mouser but the reason he's so good as that he feels the need to earn his keep. This is spot on. When he was a feral living in the garden and we had an unwelcome lodger in the attic, Mr Grumpy told Flad that if he caught the wretched squirrel that was keeping him awake, he could live indoors. Next morning I looked out and said, "What on earth's that?" 'That' was the bits of the squirrel that Flad couldn't manage, being the hind legs, the tail and the bum. All the rest was inside Flad!

The other thing she said was that Flad wished he could put me on a course so that I could learn more of his language and be a greater part of his life. Anyone know of a course in Cat?

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

I spoke to a retriever!

The animal communication workshop was fascinating. We spent the morning doing meditation followed by exercises in free association - you know, that game where someone says a word and you have to say the first thing the pops into your head, and if you say the first word again, you're out. In this version though, repeating the first word didn't matter as the purpose was to keep going and overcome any blockages that stopped you speaking.

After that came the free writing exercise, where Anna, our leader, gave us half a sentence and we had to carry in scribbling. My first attempt was far too controlled; I told a true story, which wasn't the idea at all. My next was a proper ramble, quite hallucinogenic - what was in that herbal tea?

After lentil soup and baked spuds, we were given our first test. Anna passed round a photo of a recently deceased cat and asked us all to write down what came into our heads as we stared at it. Most of us got that it was an indoor cat - I gave a reason, that it hated the sensation of wind blowing on it - and several, including me, also picked up that it had had an accident to its left front leg at some point, but only three people got the fact that it had died from a cancer on its nose, poor little thing. Oddly enough, the nose and mouth area were the first things that drew me, and I had a sensation of snuffling and sinus problems, but I thought I was thinking of a friend's cat who'd had a lifelong sinus problem, and dismissed it. However, I did get the fact that it hated its white bib getting messy and kept cleaning itself, which was absolutely true.

Where I really managed to score, though, was with Pilgrim the flatcoat retriever. (That isn't him in the pic, it's one I 'borrowed' from the internet.) We'd all been asked to bring a photo of a pet and we got into pairs to do our readings. I warned Pilgrim's owner that I'd never had a dog and might be hopeless at 'reading' him, but to my amazement, I scored almost 100% accuracy, picking up that he loved racing along a shingle beach (I described it and the sea wall in some detail, and then discovered Pilgrim and his owner lived in Eastbourne and went to the beach every day), that he had a touch of arthritis (true, he's on glucosamine), had had eye trouble that would recur (true, he'd had it in the past), wasa very jealous dog who wanted to be the centre of attention (true), had recently had tooth problems, and was sick in cars and hated car travel.

I was wrong about the teeth: it was Pilgrim's brother, also in the photo, who'd just had two teeth out so I was 'reading' him by mistake. And at first his owner disagreed with the car sickness, saying that he lay there very quietly when travelling. But later, she suddenly remembered that the first time he'd been in the car, he had been horribly, tremendously sick, so much so that they were worried he might choke and die. No wonder he was quiet in cars now. The poor dog is terrified of it happening again. I also picked up that he was quite nervous and highly strung and had had to have sedatives at times, which was also true.

So... do I have a career as an animal communicator? I am going to do a more advanced course, where Anna will teach us how to do a psychic body scan of an animal. She can also locate missing pets and tell the owners where to find them, even in other countries. I don't think I shall ever get that good, but someone on the course has given me a photo of her rabbits to do a reading on. I'll let you know how I get on.

If you're interested in finding out more about animal communication, here's the address of Anna's website:

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Communicating with animals

I'm spending tomorrow at an Animal Communication workshop (see We have to bring along a photo of the pet we wish to communicate with. That's when I realised I hadn't changed the colour cartridges in my printer for over a year. Mr Grumpy kindly consented to do it for me, as I'm so useless with printers and have already bent something trying to wrench the cartridges out in the past.

He sat there putting it through endless cleaning and nozzle-de-clogging cycles and at the end of it, I printed out a photo of a black and pink Flad. So much for cleaning your printer. I put the pics on my memory stick and he printed them out perfectly on his printer, but now I owe him some shiny photo paper. Above are the photos I'll be using, taken while he was cruising my ankles for cat bics this morning. Who needs communication? That hopeful look in his eyes says it all. "Feed me, Mummy!"

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Flad v mouse

The mouse came off the worst. In fact, it is dead, defunct, late, and is no more. We came down this morning to find its gory remains spread over the kitchen floor and one very fat cat dozing smugly on the sofa. Poor little mouse!

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Australian fires: report from Melbourne

I emailed a friend in Melbourne to see if he and his family were all right. This is his reply...

We are OK but we can smell the fires. When we take the dogs for a walk we can see the smoke - the smoke cloud is 60km across and sometimes fills the entire sky. Many still do not know if their friends made it or not. Many will not have.
The first pictures are coming out after the devastation. I have seen the ruins of Dresden - this is worse! You could only compare it to Hiroshima up there. In the days before the fire we were getting temperatures of 46 Celsius All the land was bone dry and the gum trees were full of resin. Once a fire started it spread a rate that people could not outrun it in cars.
The death toll is over 200 and there are still 100 people not account for - the fires were so intense that there are no remains of many people.
We have seen the best of humanity in the way that neighbours helped neighbours to the point of death. The work by the police, fire service and ambulance officers has been utterly outstanding. The way the communities have pulled together gives some hope for the human race. We have seen the worst of humanity: one man has been charged with lighting fires. Vigilantes are organising through Facebook. Sometimes you think there is no hope for the human race.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Clever Flad!

One thing about Flad is, he hasn't got a real meow. Instead, he goes 'eek'. The only time he produces any volume is when he's caught something. Then, the yowl of doom echoes around the house, an eerie, "Yeeeow!", roughly translated as, "Aren't I a clever cat?"

One thing he never does is meow outside doors. Instead, he sits and waits. So when I was in the bathroom this morning and heard repeated 'eeks' coming from the other side of the door, I knew something must be up. I was in there quite a long time (don't ask) and when I emerged, he rushed off towards the kitchen in a flurry of impatience, glancing over his shoulder to make sure I was following.

He led me straight to his food cupboard in the corner. 'Oh,' thought I. 'He's trying to convince me he hasn't already been fed by Mr Grumpy'. I decided to give him a few extra biscuits, opened the cupboard and found out the reason for his agitation. A mouse had got into the cupboard from the back somewhere and had bitten a hole in the packet of cat biscuits. Chewed paper was everywhere.

Flad, unlike the neighbours' cat, has never learned to open doors. You can just imagine the torment he must have suffered in the night, hearing the pesky rodent scuffling around and being unable to get at it. We've cleaned out the cupboard, we've looked in the cupboard next to it, but no sign of Mousy. I hope that next time it turns up it will be in Flad's mouth. Perhaps I shouldn't have given him that extra sachet of cat food as a reward...

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Valentine's Day

Mr Grumpy gave me a funny card, but wrote me an extra poem which I found on the table at breakfast time. He has bought a new car - another Escort, secondhand of course, but with power steering, which he needs after his stroke. It was owned by a friend and hadn't been used for some time, so he went there this morning and on his return, said "Here's your Valentine present", delved in his pocked and produced a plastic bag containing two of my favourite minty lamb chops. Typical of him - he knows we've defrosted a Tesco's lobster for tonight, so I'm going to be eating chops on Sunday and Monday as he doesn't like them and they won't freeze.

Next thing, he got busy baking, and produced a tray of lemon turd tarts (oops, I meant curd of course!), and one separate jam one which was shaped like a heart. Aaah!

I gave him a Joe Brown's camper van sweatshirt. It's great.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Another freezing day at Grumpy Grange. I have a fan heater in my bedroom with a thermostat on. I switched it on while I was getting dressed yesterday morning and it said it was 9 degrees C. This is not warm. It was a two duvet night. Last night was a two duvet and fur throw night, plus a cardigan over my nightie.

I should be used to it. The house I grew up in in Liverpool had no central heating, no double glazing and I used to wake and that Jack Frost had decorated the inside of the windowpane as well as the outside. When the frost melted, puddles of frozen water would form on the sill and trickle down the wall. I quickly learned not to leave books on the window ledge. I would take my school uniform and undies into bed with me to warm them up before putting them on. The lino on the floor was freezing to bare feet. I had a convector heater but was only allowed to have it on for twenty minutes before bedtime. Just like Grumpy Grange, in fact.

Maybe the reason I can't put up with it now is that I'm 50 years older and more creaky and have got used to nice, warm surroundings in between. I can't wait to have my own place and be mistress of my own boiler and bath.

Sunday, 8 February 2009

Health Catch-up

Sore finger: ouch. Must stop playing so many computer games.
Piles: double ouch. Must stop eating porridge, aka Scottish concrete.
Back: minor ouch. Must buy new computer chair.
Feet: medium ouch. Have been wearing wellies a lot, which contain no arch supports. Nerve in left foot is throbbing like mad and I couldn't bear the bedclothes on it last night.
Hair: recovering its condition after four swims turned it to straw.
Skin: extra dry and itchy because of fan heater, necessary as Mr Grumpy won't have the radiators on.
Stomach: okay for the last few days. Miracle! Perhaps it's due to all that porridge.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

New Specs

I have been wearing the same pair of glasses for five years. Three years ago I had my eyes checked and the prescription altered slightly, but when I saw myself in the new frames, I immediately went back to my old ones.

I am very short-sighted, -6.75 in one eye and -4.50 in the other. I also have astigmatism. This racks up the cost of a pair of glasses to well over £300. As any myopic person knows, thick lenses distort the way your eyes look to others, making them look small and piggy. Wide frames accentuate this, making it look as if someone has seized the part of your head your eyes are set in, in a vice and squeezed, making that part of your head much narrower than the rest of your face. It is not a good look. On BBC1 News, they often use a political journalist who is extremely myopic and the effect is there for all to see.

A Chinese friend tipped me off about Tokyo Washin, a Japanese optician in Regent St who she really rated. I toddled along and am now the proud possessor of a wonderful pair of new lightweight specs, the lenses of which have been carefully crafted to lessen the milk bottle bottom effect.

I am very pleased with the look, but now I have to get used to them. They are varifocals, but the place where the reading and distance lenses meet seems to be set higher up than in my previous specs, so I feel I am having to move my head around all the time to see things clearly. Also, I opted not to have those lenses that go dark in the sun. My last specs had developed Reactolite fatigue so that they never went quite clear. Suddenly, I feel as if I have splashed iced water into my eyes 'cos everything is sparklingly clear.

I have put a pair of trendy black and lime green frames by, and am going to have them made up into distance only with Reactolite, or whetever version they use. It'll cost me another £300+, but then I shall be prepared for everything. I do miss the feel of my old specs, though. They had moulded perfectly to the shape of my nose and I hardly noticed I was wearing them, whereas these seem to pinch and irritate like a pair of new shoes, as opposed to comfy old slippers. Hmm. I've been wearing these new ones for all of twenty minutes now. Maybe I should get used to them gradually. Where did I put my old specs? Aaaaah, that's better!

Thursday, 5 February 2009

A cold February birthday

My daughter Rowan at eight months old. Happy Birthday, darling.

Brrr. I am sneezing and freeing in Grumpy Grange. I woke around 4am with a splitting headache, took a pill and wasn't quite warm enough to fall back into slumber, so I put the electric blanket on for a while, then got up and slung my dressing gown on top of the bed. Next time I opened my eyes, it was 9.05, when a series of sneezes propelled me up and about.

The temperature in my office is only just above 50F. I am wearing thermals with two layers
on top and just can't get warm. I can't concentrate on work - I have another book to edit. My fingers are too cold to type of the notes from last night's excellent Soc of Authors talk on getting forensic detail right in crime novels. And I'm still sneezing. If I avoid catching a cold, it'll be a miracle.

My dear daughter, who I have known for a whole four years now since NORCAP helped me find her, is 40 today. Unbelievable. I only feel 40 myself; well, perhaps 45. She says she feels 28. Hard to believe that 40 years ago, in weather just like this, snow on the ground, I gave birth to her after a dresdful 36 hour labour. She was born with the cord wrapped round her neck, and was a horrible blue-grey colour and I thought she was dead. I lay there with a dull, leaden feeling in my heart. I can remember thinking, as a despised 'unmarried mother', that if she were dead, it would be problem solved, I wouldn't have to make the ghastly decision about adoption. They rushed her off to give her oxygen and then pronounced her very much alive. For which I am now incredibly grateful!

I remember ringing my mother from the ward. "I've had the baby," I said. "It's a - " The phone was slammed down the other end. My mother didn't want to know. My father didn't know I'd even been pregnant. When he did find out, I got a severe tongue-lashing and was ordered to marry the first decent man who asked me and never let this kind of disgrace befall the family again.

What a huge difference 40 years has made. If I had given birth to her now, married or not, nobody would have turned a hair and I would have had no difficulty finding somewhere to live. I'd even have got state help. Only two years after having Rowan, as I christened her, councils started offering flats to single mothers. I had just missed out.

Both of us have had our difficult times, but the great thing is that we finally met, and bonded. Though nothing can make up for those lost years of child-rearing, the joys of cuddling and playing with my infant daughter, of opening her up creatively by introducing her to poetry and music and art, like my own mother did. But her adoptive mum - who incidentally was abandoned by her own husband and left to bring up two adoptive children on her own ("I ended up a single mum, too," she told me) - did a marvellous job, probably a better one than I could have done.
So now I have a gorgeous grown-up daughter called Rhiannon, but still a tiny blonde baby called Rowan forever nestles in my heart.

Rowan and I in the pub on the day we met for the very first time.

Monday, 2 February 2009


The garden, taken from an upstairs window

Can you spot the snow bunny?

Is it skating, I wonder?

It's been decades since we had a decent snowfall, so let's enjoy it while it lasts! Here are some pics I took this morning.

Sunday, 1 February 2009


Ooh, ooh, it's minus two
and snow hath froze
upon my nose
and feline pawprints
speck the deck.
I wrap a scarf
around my neck
and on my feet
tonight in bed
I'll wear thick socks
and on my head
a fleecy hat -
or p'raps a cat...
although the sharp claws
might descend
and my hot water bottle rend,
and I shall wake,
my slumber spent
and think I've had
an accident.
And on that note
I shall decease.
I meant desist -
and I'm not pissed!
(Oh, yes you are,
says Mr G.
How should he know?
He just drinks tea.)
I think the snow's
gone to my head.
I shink I'll shtagger
off to bed.

Weird dreams

I'm starting to worry about myself. Last night I dreamed I was snogging the cat! Those whiskers gave me quite a thrill. It reminds me that the first men I was ever attracted to had beards. My ex-hubby had a beard, too. Hmm. Am I a throwback to the Neanderthal era?