Monday, 30 May 2011

A lucky escape

Chi Mimi spent ten minutes stalking a fat, complacent wood pigeon that was stuffing its beak beneath the bird feeders. She grabbed it but after a furious struggle, it escaped, leaving dozens of feathers behind. She must have wounded it as she had blood on her mouth, but we hope it will be OK. She is on a special diet following stomach surgery, and is only supposed to eat dry biscuits - but she doesn't know that, of course. She did look funny with one fluffy feather stuck to her face.

Sunday, 29 May 2011

Good news!

Our neighbour, who has just celebrated his third week in Intensive Care, has at last regained consciousness. He has an airway in his throat and he is completely immobilised to allow his fractures a chance to heal, but he is gradually starting to recover. Brilliant!

Little Chi Mimi has taken up permanent residence with us. It's hard to type with a cat on your lap and her needle-like claws pulled seven threads out of my new cotton sweater last night, so now it looks as if I've had an argument with a thistle patch, but I don't mind. With her dad in hospital and her mum staying there, too, she needs lots of love and cuddles. The only time I don't cuddle her is if Flad is around as the look he shoots me from narrowed golden eyes is positively withering!

Friday, 27 May 2011

New job for me?

I think I have invented a new role for myself as an author's mentor. I gave some advice to a new writer called Chris Monroe, and he has just self-published his first children's book (8-11 age-group: called Attack of the Mutant Squirrels. It's a super read, great fun, and he has been asked to read some extracts as part of the Hillingdon Arts Week (I'm reading some of my poems). I asked him what publicity he'd done: none. So, having suggested he contact the local radio station and newspaper, I hauled him into Waterstones and in no time he was fixed up with a book signing session - AND they are going to stock his book!

He is also an amateur ventriloquist so I suggested to the manager that he bring Vern the Bird along to help him, and to entertain kids in the shop. They're going to put a poster and copies of his book in the window. Result!!! I'm sure that having seen how easy it is once you pluck up courage, he will have no difficulty doing it himself in future, but it felt great to help. The signing is on June 18th and I shall take some photos and put them on this blog. I shall take some photos and put them on the blog. Here's a link to his book on Amazon in case you are planning to buy any kids' books in the near future.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Dim sum

Yesterday's lunch, where I introduced two friends of mine, one Chinese, one Malaysian, who had never met before, went extremely well. It was odd that my Hong Kong Chinese (and part Irish and part Portuguese) friend, who had been in Britain since she was six, spoke accentless English, whereas my Malaysian friend, who came here aged 16, has a very strong accent and can't pronounce 'r' at all.

I'm still not sure if I really like dim sum. It is, I suppose, the Chinese equivalent of the Greek meze or the Scandinavian smorgasbord - a series of small dishes, meant for sharing, with lots of different flavours and ingredients, most of which were glutinous and slippery, as if the prawns or pork had been rolled up in a melted slug. The Cantonese call it 'yum cha', which means drinking tea and indeed, we washed it down with vast quantities of Chinese green tea. If you look up dim sum on Wikipedia - - you'll see that there are quite a few rituals associated with it, including a lot of finger and table tapping.

Miraculously, the food didn't give me indigestion. I felt fine afterwards, as we explored Psychic Alley in Queensway (the psychics hadn't seen us coming; none of them were in. Or else they had seen us coming, and had all scarpered in alarm). Still, as I had already read the tealeaves of the pair of them, we had no need of any more psychics. I think I had caused enough alarm with myh visions of weddings and babies!


Our neighbour is now off the big ventilator and is breathing with the aid of a much smaller one, which is a good sign. He is a better colour but, though they have decreased his sedation, he still hasn't come round. Mr G, who knows a lot about medical matters, predicts he'll have regained consciousness by Thursday. I hope he's right, as his wife is going frantic in case he turns into one of those poor souls who are trapped in a coma for years and years...


The little vixen is getting so tame that when I am putting her food down, she sneaks up behind me and is waiting only a couple of feet away. If I make eye contact she runs off, so I am careful to keep my eyes on the ground. See my wildlife blog for the latest photos.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Latest news

Our neighbour is still in Intensive Care but is holding his own and making progress, so I am feeling a lot more upbeat and hopeful. Yesterday, we visited my old friend and work colleague, B, and had lunch outdoors, somewhat battered by the breeze which whipped lettuce leaves off the table. Compared to today, though, that was merely a whisper of a wind. Today we have a screamer!

B is an 'Arsenal landlady', i.e. she is 'in loco parentis' to the club's teenage signings who come from all over the world. She has two at a time and yesterday bid a tearful farewell to one, who was going off to play for Yeovil, presumably on loan from Arsenal. He was a drop dead gorgeous lad and I can envisage his poster on the walls of thousands of young female fans - probably quite a few old ones, too!!!

Tomorrow lunchtime, though I have a load of work on, I am going off to meet Chinese and Malaysian friends in Bayswater for dim sum. You never know what is in those sticky, gooey parcels of pasta and batter and it always gives me indigestion, but I have wanted to introduce t's them to each other for ages, so it will be worth a Zantac or two if they find they have loads in common.

The fox is now visiting up to three times a day, begging for food to feed her growing family. So far today she has had an egg, a chunk of time-expired parmesan cheese, five broken biscuits and a large handful of doggy treats. Tonight she will probably get the chicken carcase. If it were down to me, I'd keep it to make soup with, but Mr G always slings it out before I get a chance to lay claim to it. I don't think chicken soup figures very highly on his list of delicious foods. He's a steak and chips man and the only soup I have ever seen him eat is Heinz lentil soup. In fact, the only vegetables I have ever seen him eat are broccoli and cauliflower (only frozen will do) and lentils in soup.

I've had other boyfriends who have also eaten a very restricted diet. What is it about these men? Could it be that they got used to the very few dishes their mothers could cook? I like to experiment when I'm cooking. Try new dishes and ingredients, throw fruit into curries, make soups featuring beetroot, or squash, but he won't even try them. This is why I have given up and sit meekly back while he does all the cooking (I must say he's very good at what he does and never suffers from inattention and burns the fish fingers, like I do!).

We give each other one day a week to do our own thing, and that's when my cookbooks come out. I may treat myself to Gwyneth Paltrow's new recipe book. I shall be flat-sitting for a friend from Highgate next month while she is at her son's wedding in Barcelona, so I can experiment to my heart's content and may even throw a dinner party, something I haven't been able to do for at least five years. That is, if my reputation hasn't preceded me and she bans me from doing anything more than boiling an egg: dry!

Thursday, 19 May 2011


Our neighbour is still in ICU. He has internal bleeding and toxic shock. I'm not religious but I truly am praying for him. Mr G is feeding their cats and Chi Mimi has moved in here and is demanding lots of cuddles, usually while I am typing. Spotty cat hairs are now sprouting from the keyboard.

Mr G's friend brought over nine more fish the other day, some of which are descended from Mr G's original fish, so it would be great to carry on the bloodline. Maybe then he won't feel quite so bad about losing his finny friends.

I had a follow-up appointment about my, er, delicate operation and was told the fissure is healing up nicely. The doc was an immaculately dressed, tall, slim Asian gentleman and when I told him I'd thrown away the cream the previous doc had given me and used tea tree oil instead, his well-groomed eyebrows shot up into his slicked back hair. "You should tell all your patients about it," I insisted, though I'm sure he won't. If I were he, I'd be launching an immediate trial into the efficacy of tea tree for healing anal fissures, and publishing a paper on the findings.

I have to go for one of those 'fasting' blood tests next week, so they can check my glucose and thryoid. This is because I keep getting attacks of heart palpitations which make me feel quite dizzy for a few seconds. I'm sure it can't be anything serious as I don't have any chest pain. It's probably stress. Just as well to find out, though...

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Today's update

Our neighbour has made it through another night but hasn't regained consciousness yet and is still in ICU and due for further scans today. Yes, Teresa and Jacula, it is going to be a long haul. His poor wife is in an awful state, hasn't slept since Friday.

I was meant to be in Hampstead doing a car boot sale with my friend Jill, but almost every tube line is affected by engineering works this weekend and although I worked out a route consisting of six changes of bus and train (six there and six back and a long walk each end!), just as I was leaving, I heard on the radio that there had been a signal failure affecting some trains into Paddington. At that point I gave up and stayed in and repotted my tomato seedlings instead. They went into shock at first and looked very droopy, but now they have all perked up, even the little one at the front left, which I was worried that I might lose as it was sprawled flat out on the soil.

Poor Jill. She has twelve bags of my stuff, plus all her own. She hauled it all out of the loft and into the car yesterday and tonight it will all have to be put back... unless she takes my advice and takes it all to the charity shop tomorrow. We didn't manage to do a car boot sale last year, as the weather was too awful, so I haven't seen the contents of those bags since 2009. The moths have probably had a field day.

Last time Jill took my stuff to a boot sale, she only made £4 after the pitch fee had been deducted; well, £4 for me. Her own stuff netted her about £45 as she gets lots of freebie health and beauty stuff as she writes health columns. In contrast, all my stuff has been bought by me, so no matter what it fetched, I would never be in profit. When will I ever learn not to buy some many clothes?!

My sister is almost as bad. As children, the only new clothes we ever got were those sewn or knitted by our mother, so as soon as we were earning our own money, we went on a buying spree - and never stopped. Oh, the joy of being able to buy whatever took our fancy! Though we've both careful to buy most of it from sale rails and charity shops rather than paying full price. And now there's Ebay too. Oh joy!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Update on neighbour

He has made it through the night. Apparently a lorry hit him and if it hadn't been for his brand new kevlar biker's outfit, he'd have been killed outright. He has fractured three neck vertebrae, his pelvis, ribs, various other bones, and has a punctured lung and they've removed his spleen. He's still in ICU but his wife's relatives journeyed overnight from Ireland and are at the hospital with her, and his brothers are on the way from Spain, so thank goodness she has people around her.

We still haven't managed to capture Mimi, the escapee. Chi Mimi, her daughter, spent all morning on my bed, watching me type. She did a lot of meowing and is obviously missing her mum.

Friday, 13 May 2011

Friday the 13th

I'm not terribly supersitious but I did have a 'quick quease' on the tube today, what with the warnings to be on one's guard in case of terrorist attacks. But I made it unscathed to Piaccadilly Circus, where I was booked in for a nice, cheap massage, thanks to one of those cheap deals that you buy coupons for (Groupon, kgb...).

To my surprise, a handsome young man, Alexis from Latvia, introduced himself as my massage therapist. I have to own up to a few fantasies as he was pummelling my thighs whilst breathing hard! But it was a great massage and, feeling rejuvenated, I skipped off to the Royal Academy where I was meeting a friend to go and view the exhibition of Watteau's drawings.

They were brilliant, but something else happened, too: whilst at the Information desk enquiring about membership, one of the staff, a lady of around my age with curly hair and glasses, kept staring at me. She said she knew me from somewhere and asked my name - and it turned out she was the wife of my old boss, for whom I had worked from 1974 to 1984!!! He is almost 80 now and she begged me to ring them and come round for tea, as he would be so pleased to see me. (What I couldn't tell her was how terrified of him I used to be. Wonder if I've got over it, or if his gimlet eyes will still reduce me to a gibbering wreck?)

We had lunch, my friends (another had joined us after her massage with the same hunk) gave me birthday presents as I hadn't seen them since February (a gorgeous bracelet, a couple of those 'one size fits all' rings as most of my gold and silver rings don't fit any more, some organic choc and some pretty stationery) and I came home feeling relaxed and happy... to be greeted by Mr G saying, "I've got some very bad news. The police came round."

Now, my sister, who's not very fit at the moment following her foot operation, is on a coast to coast walk across Scotland, but I didn't even think of her. Instead, I instantly thought our 96-year-old neighbour had died. Tears sprang to my eyes. Then he told me the police had been trying to find the wife of the neighbour on the other side. Our neighbours are absolutely lovely. They are Chi Mimi's mum and dad (you've seen the photos of their Bengal cat and they have two others as well). Well, our poor neighbour was involved in a dreadful accident while coming home from work on his motorbike this afternoon. He's had his spleen removed and is on the critical list. I am terribly upset and pray he will pull through. Bloody Friday the 13th, eh?

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Sleep Log 7, and the dentist

Horrid night last night. I went straight to sleep, then jerked awake when I thought I heard someone trying to break into the house. It sounded as if they were banging the window, trying to break it. The security light (the one that lights up the bedroom) had come on. I crept to the window, peered through the curtains, couldn't see anything, then suddenly there was another loud bang, and another. It was the idiot down the road who lets off fireworks every so often, for no apparent reason and at all sorts of odd times. I looked at the clock: 11.20. I'd been asleep all of 20 minutes!

Furious though I was, I managed to get back to sleep... only to be woken again by another mysterious sound, that of somebody digging a grave. That's what it sounded like. The sound of spade hitting gravel and grating on it. The security light was on again. Back I went to the window: nothing.

Got back to sleep, then woke again at 6.24 with a horrid stomach ache. Dozed off again, clutching my tum, then crawled to the loo at 7.15, the first of many trips. Something I had eaten last night (the leftover pasta? The feta cheese?) had given both me and Mr G the collywobbles. He said he was woken at 3 by the sound of foxes fighting. Could the 'gravedigger' have been a fox noise?

Left for London at 11 as I had an appointment for the dental hygienist. And for a filling. Got home at 4.3o-ish feeling bruised, battered and exhausted. I rallied briefly at the sight of an email from the National Lottery saying 'good news about your ticket'. A million at last! Good-o. About time too, I thought as I logged on to find I had won the princely sum of £4.30 on the Euromillions. Not even a tenner. Huh!

It has been a trying day.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

Sleep Log Entries 5 and 6

I'm a day behind with my Sleep Log. On Sunday night I fell asleep around 12.30 and woke up at 6 sharp. I stretched and grumbled to myself and was just about to put my sleep mask on to blot out the daylight and try to catch a few more zees when something jerked me fully awake. I hadn't written my monthly horoscope column. It was due today, the 10th. Yesterday was the 9th. It takes me three days to do. Help!

I got up, turned on the computer, grabbed my Ephemeris (a book which shows the positions of the planets for every day in the year) and, without drawing out the chart and writing down my observations, I just launched straight in, finished it four hours later, then dashed off into London for my monthly writers' lunch with members of the Freelance Media Group in the notorious Groucho Club, scene of many a celeb writer's drunken night (and even drunken fight!).

Our speaker this time was Jill Hudson, editor of the UK version of Reader's Digest. We were all avidly taking notes but really, there were very few openings for freelance writers on the magazine so I ended feeling a little flat.

Afterwards (and after accidentally biting into a wrap that looked as if it had a slice of salami in it but it turned out to be a lethal red pepper that upset my stomach for the rest of the day even though I spat most of it out), I travelled to north London to look at two flats for sale, both of which were useless. One had a study looking straight out over the A1, and the other backed onto a school; hopeless for a writer looking for peace and quiet!

By this time, my feet were aching and I was destined to make the 2 hour journey home in the rush hour, so I rang a friend who was luckily in, and sat at hers for the next two hours, drinking wine and munching M&S Cheese Twists!

Finally, I staggered off onto the Northern Line somewhat drunkenly, made a loo stop at King's Cross Station, caught the Hammersmith and City line to Paddington station, got the Heathrow Connect train to Hayes and Harlington and then Mr G kindly offered to pick me up and save me the bus ride plus 1 mile walk to get me to the front door.

Maybe you can see now why I want to move closer in to London! Every journey has at least three stages to it, sometimes four or five, like yesterday.

On top of my indigestion, I then felt obliged to eat the chicken curry Mr Grumpy had cooked. It was a little too hot and spicy for me so I had a Ranitidine for dessert.

Surprisingly, I fell asleep around midnight and didn't wake up till around half seven. But it was probably a drunken stupor!

Sunday, 8 May 2011

Sleep Log Entry 4

Great night! Fell asleep the moment my head the pillow and didn't wake up till 8.10! But I've had a headache all day. Can't win.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Sleep Log Day 3

I was tired, I wasn't worried about anything, so... why couldn't I sleep? Perhaps it was the heat. I started off feeling chilly, then I was too hot, then the pillow was warm and had to be turned, then I was too cold and had to put a t-shirt on over my nightie and by then it was 3.24 am! I'd gone to bed at 11.45 and just lain there and lain there.

I was coughing and snuffling a bit and remembered I'd eaten a chunk of Easter egg during the evening. Green & Black organic dark chocolate; surely that should have been OK? In the end, I took half a Piriton (a whole one makes me dopey for an entire day) and finally went to sleep, to wake up just before 8.

Sleep achieved: about 4 hours. I was planning to buy a last minute ticket for the local theatre tonight. Bet I'll be too tired...

Friday, 6 May 2011

Fish - hooray!

Yesterday afternoon a courier delivered a large white box. In it were two polythene bags, each containing five small goldfish. Of course, after paying £1 per fish and £12 delivery charge, Mr G found he could have had 20 fish for free as the builder working next door was emptying his pond! But alas, 'twas too late and anyway, as Mr G says, the ones he ordered are guaranteed disease-free.

As soon as they were released into the pond, the poor, traumatised things disappeared beneath the watercress and refused to come out. I hovered for ages with the camera, trying not to cast a shadow on the water, but I think they must have taken me for a heron with a shiny silver beak! Occasionally, one would shove an orange snub nose out from under the cress. At one point, six of them made a mad dash for the other end of the pond where the pump is. A whisk of a tail, a flash and a flirt of a fin, and the fish remained elusive.

But I got this one snap and killed two birds with one stone, ha ha, as I didn't realised that Flad had strolled into shot. The white box you can see is the one the fish came in.

Sleep Log Entry 2

Went to bed around 11.30 but was still awake an hour later. Got up and had a swig of Gaviscon as I'd drunk two glasses of wine from a bottle given me as a gift, but it was a bit too acidic for my damaged tum. Went back to bed, woke up in the early hours when a passing cat or fox tripped the security light, which shines in above the curtain rail, then woke up again around 6.30 when the council green waste collection lorry came for the garden rubbish. Finally roused myself at 8.10. Guess I had about 7 rather broken hours' sleep, but don't feel too bad.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

A week's sleep!

Having suffered from insomnia ever since my doctor made me come off HRT six years ago, I found myself wondering just how much sleep I do get on those broken nights when I toss and turn for hours, so I have decided to keep a sleep diary for a week.

Last night, Mr G went to bed at his usual time, just after 10 pm. For most of his life, he got up at 5-ish for an early start in the building trade and he still does. For most of mine, I went to bed around 11.30, read till 12 and got up at 8 for a 10 am start in the magazine business. I still keep roughly to that timescale, too.

Last night, I went to bed around 11.30 but was still awake at 1 am. One of the reasons was that Flad hadn't come in and I was worried about him and missed our usual evening snuggle session, with him spread over my lap with one paw on my chest and his golden eyes gazing into my murky green ones. But Mr G thinks he has found a rat's nest somewhere and is staking it out. The greedy thing ate his dinner the other day, went out, caught and ate a young rat, whiskers, claws, tail and all, then came in and asked for another dinner! (Is he trying to tell us we don't feed him enough?)

Another thing keeping me awake was that I had eaten a large helping of Sainsbury's wonderfully named and extremely fartiferous Rumbledethumps, a glorious mix of cabbage, potato and onion, the Scottish version of the English Bubble and Squeak! Eventually, I drifted off and woke around 6.30 when the bin men came, then slept again till 8.

Sleep score - 6 1/2 hours. Energy-level - not exactly bouncing like a spring lamb; rather tired. Don't think the gym will see me today (haven't been since Thursday last week!). But the great news is that Flad is back and tucked up in Mr G's bed.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Fish? Almost...

Last night Mr G announced that he had bought some fish on the internet (!). Ten 4 inch goldfish for £10 (£1 each, not a tenner each), but courier delivery is costing £12, so if I'd been him, I'd have ordered a few more, to make it worthwhile! They are due to arrive tomorrow.

Wonder if they'll all be uniform orange and impossible to tell apart, or if they'll have some distinguishing features? He says he's going to call them after his friends' children (the ones who have five boys). What about the other five fish, though? Hope I get to name one after me!

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

A fin gold line...

Hoorah! Mr G has decided to get some more pond fish. This is largely down to the fact that a mozzie bit him right between the eyebrows and then, when I took some water out of the pond to refill Flad's drinking bowl (he won't touch tap), it was full of nasty, wrigging larvae.

So I went on line and found out that the best way to get rid of them is to get some tadpoles or some fish, as they are voracious consumers of mozzie larvae. Yesterday, we were all set to visit a friend in Aylesbury whose ponds boast trillion of taddies when her son decided to take her out instead. Today, Mr G asked if I would like to go to the 'fish shop', but not the kind that are usually accompanied by chips, salt and vinegar.

I got ready, eager and keen to pick one that could be my special fish. We were just about to leave, when ding-dong-bell, if it wasn't Mr G's nephew, asking if he could update his sat-nav for him. I tapped my foot and stared antsily at my watch for three-quarters of an hour. Then at last I heard footsteps heading for the door.

"Bye!" I shouted, only to receive the reply, "I haven't gone yet." Derrrr. Did I feel a twit.

Another half hour went by and then Mr G said it was too late to go. I was really disappointed. But then... Nephew decided he'd better get back to work (it was around 3pm and that had been a very long lunch break). "Can we go now? Can we, can we?" I pleaded like a kid.

So we drove off on a half hour trip to the 'fish shop', only to find that all they stocked were large koi carp that started at £35 per fish. "I only want a goldfish," complained Mr G.

So it was back in the car and off we headed to another place in Denham, Bucks. The sign said they sold fish but, after several circuits of the watering cans, ceramic pots and Busy Lizzies, Mr G announced grumpily that if they didn't put the fish somewhere obvious so customers could find them, then he wasn't going to buy any from them and neither was he going to stomp all round the place for a second time.

And so it was that by 4.30, we were back home and the mozzies were gathering. In fact, they drove me in from the garden. I have suggested that he ask the man to whom he gave some of his spare baby fish last year, if he could have some of them back. It would be the same bloodstock. They'd have the same genes as Mr G's sadly demised pets which, he calculated, must have been worth almost £2000, God rest their gills.

So... fish or tadpoles? Which is it to be? One thing's for sure: I'm not going to sit in the garden until Something Is Done! Hey, how about a Hoover? I could wave it around the garden and nozzle them up. Yay! Job done.