Sunday, 29 April 2012

Vandal weather

Pottering around this morning with first coffee around 0900, heard a frantic banging on the front door. Took me a minute or two to cotton on, being on upper floor at the time. There’s my neighbour next-door-but-one, pointing at my car and its shattered front passenger window next to the kerb. ‘Someone’s thrown something through the window!’ she said.

We went to look. Greeny crumbs and shards everywhere – the pavement, gutter, dashboard top, floor, seats. Lying on the front passenger seat, a heavy–looking yellowish clay disc about 10 inches across. Apparently she’d heard the crash and rushing out to the street she saw a couple of lads right down at the far end, walking away from her. And an elderly gent here on the opposite pavement making his way slowly to the church at the corner. ‘But we don’t have crime here,’ she said, quite bewildered. Perhaps she felt a bit responsible for the area’s reputation, seeing as I’m the new kid on the block. It’s certainly the impression I’ve had.  However, assumptions were made, and when I got my brains together I called the non–emergency police number. The lads were long gone.

Taped dustbin bags together later to cover the door. Pouring with rain, there was no way to stick tape to anything. I had tried and failed. Managed to trap the plastic in the door all round, in a moment’s lull of the flying gale.
But I don’t think the Chocolate cat liked the sound of the parcel tape dispenser. He was miaowing his head off and he can’t miaow. It’s a huge effort and he only does it in emergencies about once a year. He has an endearing squeak which serves for most occasions. And he’d been scared by the banging on the door and the neighbour he hadn’t met and the wind at the door and all.
‘I thought we’d done with moving for a while,’ he wept. ‘I need a new map every morning as it is…’
‘It’s all right, sweetheart,’ I told him. ‘We’re not moving again. And you must admit the place is much straighter, and nearly all the cardboard boxes have gone. And after all, the floorplan’s been the same for over a week now.’

Tiny Lambkin (moggy, tortoiseshell ex-stray, deemed by vet to be roughly 10 years old) burst into tears at the sight of a large policeman in a hi–viz jacket. Never seen her so distressed.
‘Woe is me the Russians are coming,’ she wailed.
God knows. Don’t ask me. Daren’t think, her being such a starving waif when I first knew her.

So the kind policeman took details. He phoned the station. Conversation from the other end was fairly predictable, going by the answers I heard. Same questions he’d just asked me, including ones like ‘Did I have any enemies – any relationships gone sour?’ I’d said no. Last relationship years ago, amicable split etc etc. I know my neighbours, and the people at the corner shop, and the lady at the library. That’s it. I don’t know enough people here to be falling out with anybody. Friends and relations are a car journey away. They don’t walk past my door. Anyway I’m not the falling-out type. No arguments, no nothing. Honest. Really. So when he said the same thing down the phone, I could virtually hear the reply, ‘That’s what they all say.’  You could see it in the sudden smile across the kitchen table. I’d thought it was probably some yobbos going home still drunk and/or bored/pissed off from last night. More likely, he’d said. We agreed there wasn’t a lot of point calling SOCO. He said any fingerprints would be sweat and with this rain…  but he’d have a drive around town in a minute and see if there was anyone lobbing stuff at other cars. Or something like that. I was politely offered a visit from Victim Support. I politely declined with thanks. Couldn't see the point. Didn't feel like a victim. They surely have far worse to spend their valuable time on.

Then he went to see whether the neighbours could help. I swept up the pavement glass and got frozen fingers and had to come in and plunge them into warm water. My toolbar said rain and snow 1ºC and feels like minus 9. Agreed. Met Office for Peak District today says 50–60 mph gusting 70.

Then I went next door but one, with the PC still there.

Been thinking, I said. I think it’s the wind wot done it. At the time it happened, wind had just gusted to a ferocious level, man next door and I both heard a wheelie bin going over at 9 o'clock, and next-door-but-one heard a roaring sound above everything else. She thought of a herd of buffalo running through her ginnel (one ginnel for every four houses on this terrace).

I’d kept saying earlier how it was a round heavy clay thing – the sort of article you might cap a chimney pot with? Although the police report called it a paving slab. And whose is the only chimney capped and not available for use? Mine. My chimney, my car. There’s justice for you. Even though the car was parked outside next door, the only available space of the moment. 
If we'd all been parked in our respective places...

the offending article

Wind was up all last evening, and all night, forcing the closure of skylights fore and aft, which is highly unusual.  Probably because the wind was mainly coming lengthwise down the street, attacking both slopes.
I remember locking the front door last night and hearing the wind howling out there. I do love the wind, I'd thought, for the thousandth time in my life. 


Anyway, those lads would’ve been Olympic hopefuls to have got so far down the street, even if they’d changed from sprint to nonchalant walk at the last moment. And they can’t be, because the Glossop Advertiser would have said so. (There’s a local lad in The Apprentice right now apparently, God help him.) 

The PC also visited the elderly gentleman home from church, and guess what he said. As he walked past, he’d been aware of something flying off a roof.  I rest my case.

It’s just a bit of a shame that the car was fresh back from the bodyshop with a brand new front bumper and numberplate (split into two pieces) after a 2mph shunt into the man in front in a very long, very boring traffic jam last week – a second’s inattention of course. And he had no damage whatsoever. 
‘It’s my tow-hook,’ he’d said proudly. ‘Saves me every time.’   
We were so busy enquiring after the other’s health and looking at his magic tow-hook, I never looked at my car. It had just felt like a very gentle bump to me. I picked up a bit of foam off the tow-hook cover and asked where it came from. Yours, he said.

Oh.  Shattered, splintered, what a godawful mess. We shook hands after a chat about the sticker in his back window and drove away and didn’t even exchange numbers. (Mind you I committed his registration to memory. You never know, and he probably did the same.) It was the garage bringing it back to me yesterday and parking it in that particular spot which put it directly in the line of fire.

Those lads may never know how lucky they were. Being ninety seconds earlier might have killed one of them. Shudder.

Think I need a lie down.


Things like this come in threes, don’t they?  That’s two.

Stand by your beds.

Sunday, 22 April 2012


Your help is required.

You can provide a necessary part of a vast network of distractions, helping someone in the First World (debatable) digress from the tasks in hand.  Simply by reading this YOU CAN HELP!

By spending just a few minutes of your time in the service of someone else, you are also gaining brownie points which, in the words of one commenter I’ve read and believed, are entirely calorie–free. What can you lose?

If you weren’t there to give this assistance, I wouldn’t be writing this in the first place. I’ve already stuffed my diary to bursting point and can not, in all conscience, feed it any more without being convicted of repetition and indigestion. Interesting and beautiful pictures off the net, thoughts of the day, lists of things to be done later, fascinating articles from maritime blogs around the world, sample images of great fabrics – all very good but MORE is NEEDED!

Since my posts these days are either long lectures or non–existent, your help here would make all the difference. After all, the task in hand today is to clear out the back bedroom, known as the Back Office, full of paperwork needing attention and filing, plants needing to be pruned and fed if not desperate for repotting, packaging material to be sorted (from the move a year ago – yes, I know..) and cardboard boxes to be kept or not, and masses – masses – of general detritus.
I know you will feel better for doing this.

Thank you for your time.

You've helped already, because by getting this far I have now run out of ideas to chase around. Back Office, here we go.

Wednesday, 29 February 2012


There’s a lot of it about, tonight. Just been looking at the shipping forecast. Remembered all about fog in Shetland – a bit like the Newfoundland Banks, and high summer was the worst. You could be in your house by the cliff, thinking what a dismal day it was – dense fog, and couldn’t see past the garden wall. You’d go out for milk and find your house was the only one fogged in, along with your bit of cliff. The rest of Shetland was having a blue sky day with roaring sunshine. Or you could sit in the garden and watch long white fingers crawling over the cliff edge towards you, feeling the chill of it long before it touched.

The daffodils are waving in the breeze,
The little lambs are bouncing,
The fog comes rolling in –
It must be June.

Yes, things were always a bit late there. But the fog was always on time. Usually July.

Planes did not fly.  Post did not arrive. You'd be trying to explain to a solicitor or a bank down south that if the document wasn’t arriving, then the sky would just have to go ahead and fall in. No short cuts available. Post does not go by sea.  Helicopters and ambulance flights were a nightmare. Put a helicopter up in a gap and there was no guarantee you’d ever get it back before next week.

It might fly around looking for a landing, and end up in Glasgow. So you did your best not to put it up in the first place. Actually you weren’t allowed to let it take off if you couldn’t land it again, somewhere handy and accompanied by the usual fire protection, Air Traffic control etc etc.

Anyway, I was on watch one night in Shetland, when the fog was all the way from Shetland down the North Sea, the whole east coast solid with it. Very quiet night. Nothing moving. 

About one in the morning the silence was broken by a yacht calling an indistinctly named Coastguard station.  Nobody else answered, so I did. He asked for the weather forecast, and I directed him to the ‘conversation channel’. I asked him for his position.  Always a good idea especially if all of a sudden that’s the last you hear from somebody, on a dark and foggy night. Gives you a place to start when people get worried.  But I was simply intrigued because the funny thing was, he was lighting up all our aerials, from the very far north to south of the Shetland coast, making it look like he was everywhere at once, like God. And since he was only using VHF radio he would have a limit of about 30–50 miles, depending.

“Two miles off the Kentish Knot.”  Could have sworn that’s what he said.  I’d never heard of it but a stab at Kent wouldn’t be far off the mark, so I got him to stand by while I phoned Dover Coastguard. When they’d picked themselves up off the floor they tried calling the yacht. Hopeless. I heard them calling and I heard him not hearing them. They gave me the forecast over the phone and I passed it to the yacht. 

A few minutes later my phone rang.  It was the Coastguard at Tyne Tees.

“Did we just hear what we think we did?”

“You did indeed.”

It’s called atmospheric ‘Skip’, by the way.  Hop skip and a jump.

PS It turned out to be the Kentish Knock, a well-known area of shoaling waters east of the Thames estuary.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Aurora and me

If you go to Shetland (at 60º North) in the winter, you will of course have a good chance of seeing the most amazing auroras.  It’s topical, tonight, because this massive solar flare erupted on Sunday, and I believe it’s with Earth as we speak, and arriving at Mars in a day or two.

I’ve been looking at a site I didn’t know before, the NOAA’s Space Weather site. Interesting stuff, I thought. The word on the street is that this is a G2 storm, but might be a G3 eventually. 

I used to stand on my north–facing back doorstep at Noss, out of sight of any lights from the other four houses, keeping watch on it, diving in at intervals to get warm, but unable to settle, and off out again. 

One early evening I was going to work (for the Coastguard night watch) driving north up the main road to Lerwick, about 25 miles. The aurora was really mounting up to something special that night. I was trying to drive with my nose up against the windscreen. I gave up. Got out of the car and stood there, tears running down my face. I had never seen anything more beautiful.  It was the most powerful display I’d ever known.  I couldn’t reconcile the normality of the aurora with this awesome event. And felt so privileged, not to have missed it. 

The vertical searchlights of green, yellow, blue, pink and all permutations were stretching high up, and shifting sideways back and forth like someone pulling a vast curtain from side to side, the folds passing in front of one another, and superimposed on all that was a layer of flame rising, just like a line of gas flames from east to west, but yellows and oranges, sometimes green and blue, and red. Deep red. I mention it particularly because red is unusual. Deep red is special. Even to those accustomed to the northern lights, it gets an honourable mention.

Well after a few minutes I pulled myself together and drove off. But it was the talk of the ops room when I got there. 

Then one day in April (?), years later, in 2000, there was another, very special, very powerful display. So powerful that people on the south coast of the UK saw it.

I was at Noss as usual, and the living room door to the garden was wide open, and I kept writing about it in my diary then going out for another look. I spent most of the evening in the garden. 

What was so weird was that the aurora wasn’t just in the north of my view. It spread around the hemisphere of my sky into the east and west, just as brilliant as the northern part. Vertical searchlights on full beam, a ring of them – every colour under the sun including vast areas of red, all shifting and pulsing, changing colours, all defying every notion of normal, even for an aurora.  

It continued to grow sideways until the southern sky was full too. I was standing under an upturned basin of light. Could not believe it. Unprecedented. 

A weird feeling had been with me for a few hours, since the display started. It was a while before I registered it consciously. I felt drunk. I was now lurching in and out of the house, and staggering all over the lawn. And the more it went on, the drunker I got.  COMPLETELY SOBER I might add, cos I know what you’re thinking. 

Then I looked up to the centre of the bowl. For mysterious reasons perhaps connected to the properties of magnetism, it is virtually impossible for there to be an aurora right over the centre. Just doesn’t happen. There’s always a hole there.  And there’s always vacancy anywhere south of East or West, for that matter. But holding out my hand, I could just cover the hole.

As I stared, amazed, I saw two curling fingers reach out from north and south, and curl round each other, and – a split second – they touched, and the hole covered over for a minute, and the pulsing flashed gloriously out like rings on a pond…..   I thought – I have just witnessed an event so special – as though the universe just gave birth to something. 

Couldn’t believe what I had just seen with my own eyes.

Don’t think I’ve ever been the same since.

By the way ...
Talking to a friend on the phone next day – he was down near Inverness – he said he’d been for a walk in the woods early next morning and felt really weird, as though he was out of control. And he didn't know a thing about the aurora.   I rest my case.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Washing up by Candlelight

Sunday 11 December

Excuse me – has anyone seen my life?

Anyone know where it went?

Anybody remember when they last saw it?

Information please, to the Home for Distressed Gentlefolk

(Third on the right, past the Museum but just before you get to the Zoo)

Things move slowly in my world, so it was a while before I realised it had gone, and that I’d really lost it, somewhere between the house on the cliff and the weaver’s cottage in the village with an ancient flour mill. By then it was useless to retrace my steps, to try to figure out where I must have dropped it. And besides, there was an ocean to cross on the journey. Could have drifted anywhere by now. It could be hand-beating silver in Copenhagen, or weaving silk in Kyoto, or fishing the Newfoundland Banks, or dancing to native songs on the beach in Vanuatu. I mean, knowing me, it could have ended up just about anywhere. 

But oddly enough, I think I may just have found it again, in a lovely terraced house in Derbyshire, further from the sea than I’ve ever lived. (Yet I can still feel the lift of the swell in my blood and bones.) At least I’m sure enough that those are my own footprints, from the worktable on the top floor, down to the piano and back up again, back up top, to the computer*, up and down two flights of bloody stairs all day long, and a sleepless night or two thrown in, too wired to let go. 

For four days now. No wonder the footprints have become visible to the naked eye, even to my blind side (which I always pretend to have until it becomes impossible to maintain, when clear sight is needed, and it’s obvious to everybody I’m not as dumb as I look and I was only shamming for the sake of convenience). Especially when I can see as far through a brick wall as most people** if only they would acknowledge their intuition. But I digress. As usual. Digression got me into this state in the first place. 

However. It would appear that I am no longer a wraith in my own house. I seem to be huge, all of a sudden – able, creative, and thinking Damned if I’ll just do what everybody expects of me, like eating three times a day and getting to bed at a sensible hour. And each morning after, there is the proof, bold as brass all over the kitchen table. Song. Words. Empty cups. Empty plates. Empty wine bottles. Happiness.

The fact that I may have just spent the last four days reinventing the wheel is beside the point. One or two of the chord progressions sound suspiciously familiar. Possibly because I haven’t played it much above 142857 times since Thursday morning. Altering it again and again, changing my mind, attacking a different bit, changing my mind, and stumbling with a wrong note into something better. I hope I never know whether I have painstakingly recreated someone else’s artwork. It doesn’t matter. 
If I have reinvented the wheel, not everybody can say that. 

I feel like I used to do, before the storm blew down the signpost. 

And I keep trying to make phone calls, or eat, or go to bed, or once in bed at least drop off to sleep rather than read yet another book, but I keep having to sneak downstairs and play it again. Who would have thought that 32 bars and 16 lines of vocals could be so mesmerising? So challenging – “Go on, find a flaw. Find a new chord, I dare you,” it calls to me. After a certain hour I can at least tell it to shut up, because I do have neighbours after all, although they swear they can’t hear the piano through the old, thick stone walls.
Apart from all that, I’m none the wiser where it came from. Just fell out of my head, like most things. (Including my memory… and I was so sure I’d put the oven on.) What can I tell you? – the moon changed, somebody read my cards, there was a beautiful full moon, there was an eclipse, the snow came….  Whatever the reason, Stuff Happened. Thank God there wasn’t an equinox on top of all that or God knows what I’d be up to. 
If it all seems too rosy to be real, there was of course a small – a very small – downside, the immutable commandment which sayeth ‘Thou Shalt Suffer For Thy Art’, when what it actually means is ‘For This Is Where Obsessive Behaviour Will Land You’. Hence the following texts to Mari on day three: 
(I should add that I was texting from the computer keyboard where I can be as verbose as I like)

1905     Can I put you off coming over this evg? Have a really sick headache. Can’t bear light or noise. Prob through eye strain. Def not up to talking - whispering more like ! xx

1907     oh dear. hope u feel better soon. take care. xx

1909     Sure I will... going to creep noiselessly about by candlelight for a while, do washing up – have just taken pain killers but they may resurface shortly. Noticed my eyes aching two hours ago and should have stopped then. But some bugger kept tying me to the piano stool and shouting PLAY! PLAY! WRITE! WRITE! Should have decked him there and then. xx

1912     And it's a pitiful shame, because I was really looking forward to playing it for you. xx

1913     That Muse is a right tartar. xx

In fact, even candle flames and nightlights were too piercing. Had to hide them behind things. (And don’t mention my lower back. The left side of the sacro–iliac joint is pinging me with nasty arrows and feeling very ominous indeed. And from experience, I know it means business if I don’t pay it some attention.)

But do excuse me now. I have to play the song again, just in case... I’ve left the piano alone for at least an hour while I write this and the lamb’s cooking, the spuds and courgettes are slowly mashing themselves, having given up waiting for me to do it for them, and next thing you know they’ll be peeling the garlic and getting the butter out of the fridge, and anyway my piano doesn’t do Being Ignored very well. At least the piano tuner’s coming this week, not a moment too soon, so that should clap a stopper on its whingeing. 

Monday 12 December

I think it’s done. I think it’s cooked, finally. What a blessed relief. 
Like never knowing when to stop messing with a painting, another stroke would detract rather than increase. Some very simple parts of the melody have their own poignancy…. By definition, they are innocent. 

Oh, and Christmas? My beloved sewing, emails, stuff like that? Let’s just not go there. We’re not looking for miracles right now. Joy unconfined is quite enough to be going on with.

* for the music writing program - type it in, every note a mouse click, play it back to check, and print it out so I can read my own writing, as it were
** the lovers of Patrick O’Brian (Aubrey/Maturin) will readily forgive me using this phrase – and ‘clap a stopper’, come to that. 

Sunday, 6 November 2011

How Not to Move ... or Whose Idea WAS This, Anyway?

Not in the style of my last move, definitely, involving a pantechnicon and a highly trained crack team of three who made the whole thing effortless – when I arrived next day boxes had been put in the right rooms and they sensibly left me enough space to walk around and open the cupboards. They put the big tables up for me. They put the beds up. You could be civilised, taking one box at a time from the two designated storage rooms and gradually putting contents away.

There are trees and a boat in there somewhere

it was the white house in the middle of three, on the village green, all very picturesque

Fast forward 20 months.....There I am, still in the halcyon days of the House–by–the–River….   It is this Spring – late March. 
Packing steadily but stalling, truth be told, because I was eking out my time there, making the most of every minute, staring out of the windows at the hens and the baby chicks and the rabbits and the pheasants – wandering about aimlessly with a parcel tape dispenser apparently grafted on to my right hand but pointedly ignoring any actual constructive use of said object. 

When I told my friends (until now known as Friend One and Two, but henceforth to be referred to as Red and Mari as they've requested) that I was moving house, they said in perfect unison “But how on earth are you going to cope with shifting all this STUFF?”

“Oh that’s easy,” I said. “I’m going to do most of it in the car, empty the stuff into the cupboards (which I will have already cleaned, in rooms which I will already have painted where necessary), drop off the empty boxes at the recycling place on the way back and fill up the car again. Probably about three journeys a day.” (I had a loft full to bursting with empty boxes from moving before.) 

Plus, I added, nearly all the books and some other stuff never came out of their boxes in the first place, so I’m ahead already. I’m booking a van for the big furniture at the end. 

They believed me. It all sounded so simple, so organised, so confident. 

Astonishingly, I really believed me too. 

Ha ha ha ha ha ha. 


Never, ever, EVER again will I do a move like this one. I will not hire someone who is apparently nice person and cheap with large–ish van just one size up from transit (and who thank God has brilliant and helpful sidekick who thinks nothing of running up my steep flights of stairs carrying heavy boxes), whereas himself actually leaves a dozen boxes marked “Top Floor / Heavy” on the ground floor (that's when he gets out of the back of the van at all)  or who dumps boxes any–old–where so you can’t actually get past them to the cupboards, or cooker, or back door. 
After loading up at the house–by–the–river, with everything still going pretty well, he suddenly says “Van’s full. We’re going over to T St to unload.”

“Oh.”   I look around me at the stuff which was supposed to go on that shift. Which was the second shift, ten days after the first one. This is because in another clause of my Master Plan to move all this STUFF without having a nervous breakdown – nearly another glorious Fail – I overlapped the tenancies by nearly a month, enabling me to carry out the car plan outlined above.  What I saved in removal costs I could spend on rent. 

So they offer to move the last of the stuff on the Friday evening, their only gap in schedules, after they’ve done another job during the day. Which is noble of them, really. Because I have to be out by the Saturday morning when the new tenants arrive. 

And I haven’t moved Chocolate cat yet, either.  

When Friday evening comes around, mid-April by now, with all the doors open in exceptionally warm and sultry weather, Chocolate spends the whole time being skittish and nervous, as is his wont on a good day, let alone when strange people are walking in and out - so he’s too scared to come into the house at all, even for food.  My neighbour has lent me a large cage which she uses for her labrador, and I’ve put Chocolate’s cushion into it. He has shown no sign of going near it. I have naïvely imagined the cage was so big he wouldn’t cotton on it was actually a cage in the first place. 

So the van is packed and they’re ready to go. Mari has been packing the last kitchen stuff and making tea constantly for about seven hours and we are all exhausted. And they still have to unload at the other end. It’s nearly midnight and unfortunately the removal man has had a particularly heavy day which he wasn’t expecting with the other move, and this is because he never calls round to estimate the size of a job before the appointed removal day. Which is only partly why we’re in this mess tonight. The rest of the fault is mine, entirely mine, my car plan having failed so successfully.

Anyway, I come up with a plan. 

“All of you go and sit in your car or van and leave me and Chocolate in the house. I will feed him and he’ll be fine because he’ll think everyone’s gone home and he can relax." He will conveniently ignore the fact that all the beds have gone, so we won’t be going upstairs any minute now, and that he hasn’t heard any car engines driving away. He will also forget that he's been here before, with all his landscape vanishing around him, and what happened after that (eight hours mewing in the back of the car coming down from his Ross-Shire village, miserable as sin despite the pill which had little effect).

I put his food inside the cage on top of his long foam cushion and deliberately walk a yard or two away, whistling a happy tune. He looks at me. “You must think I’m thick,” he says.  

With a sigh, and an extra bowl of food in his usual place in the kitchen, and the cushion hauled out of the cage to a more friendly place, I leave. Mari goes home, the rest of us go over to T St and start unloading. Around one in the morning I take pity and start saying things like Never mind carrying those up to the top floor. Just leave them on the landing. Or try to find a spare inch in the kitchen. (Joke, but nobody was listening.)

It’s two in the morning when we’re done. I crawl into bed at three, texting the incoming tenant that Chocolate is still in the house and I’ll be back in the morning to get him (and the kettle, and leftover bits which are in the hall for everybody to fall over). New tenant and her fiancé are lovely couple and I don’t expect a problem. And they like cats too.

She texts back around 9 in the morning: Don’t worry – their move has been delayed for a week.
I go to the vet in Glossop. “Can I have a sedative pill for the cat?” 

“Is he registered with us?”

“No. Not yet.”

“Well he’ll have to come in for a check–up first. If his heart or lungs are dodgy then he can’t have a pill anyway.” 

“Oh.”  Catch 22 if ever there was one. 
I explain the unfortunate facts. An adopted starving stray with a blatantly scary childhood and broken home, nervous wreck, doesn’t go near strangers, pugnacious, not even me allowed to pick him up, and Generally Not Like Your Normal Pussycats. “Could he have a home visit?” 

“No, because over the weekend it’s only one vet and a nurse and there might be an emergency at the same time.” She doesn’t dare add – and because you insist on living out in the wilderness it would mean a bigger delay for them...  

Understandable, of course, like calling ambulances for a busted toe, but we seem to be at an impasse. Then the receptionist says she’ll go and have a word with the vet in the Saturday morning surgery. 

She comes back. “He’ll do a home visit, and do an injection.” Glory Be and Hallelujah.  It will cost a hundred pounds but I’m past caring. Worth every penny.  It’s exactly what I’d been hoping for – a knock–out jab.

At two o’clock that afternoon, while Mari and Red are crushing six months’ worth of plastic water bottles and cardboard into sacks in the garden shed (I’d lost the key to the shed for ages and then the recycling centre closed for a year because of a weak bridge – and I can’t say too much about this bit because it’s when my mobile phone vanished and I know I left it perched on something by the bottles) the vet arrives at the house with the nurse. 

I outline the only way this is going to work. We need a very small room to catch him in. Every time I go to the bathroom for a pee and don’t shut the door, Chocolate follows me in to get a stroke from what is basically a captive audience. I suggest they wait in hiding until I call softly. All other doors are shut. True to form, while I’m sitting on the loo (fully dressed, obv, in case you were wondering) in he comes, followed by stealthy vet and nurse, who close the door behind them.

Naturally, cat panics but has blanket thrown over him and vet grabs him firmly.  Not firmly enough. With considerable strength (huge strong Burmese that he is) the cat is out from under and dives to the back of the loo in the corner. His backside is jammed against the skirting and his neck is wedged under the soil–pipe.
The vet is now on his knees, arms cradling the toilet bowl, bum in the air, trying to conduct a totally serious examination. Chocolate is rigid with fear and doesn't move a muscle.

A few minutes later the vet emerges, backwards. He has estimated Chocolate’s weight at 5 – 5½  kilos for the injection. (Sounds bang on, knowing what it’s like when he lies on my shins every night.) Lungs, kidneys and liver are sound. Although his heart rate is exactly what you’d expect from a terrified cat, all is well, and in goes the injection. A short interval for it to take effect, and cat is gently hauled out from behind the loo and shoved carefully, headfirst, into the catbox. He will sleep for a few hours, and will have none of the trauma normally expected from the ordeal. I am beside myself with gratitude. I would have paid double if anybody had asked me at that moment. 

And in the next episode….

I give away a car in exchange for a tiny wooden elephant, and discover life with no telly, no cooking, no computer and precious little common sense either.

Monday, 31 October 2011


I am trying to pay with a card which has sent up some error the cashier’s never seen before. I have just used said card at another counter so I know it’s working. I know there’s plenty of leeway on the account. Being new on the job, the cashier calls for assistance.

I end up surrounded by a zombie, a goth in Dracula clothes and three different hair colours (the supervisor) and a witchy–looking girl in a floor length purple and black dress and long blue hair. 

Hallowe’en at Tesco’s. 

Ain’t life grand.

(I’d forgotten you don’t get cash back on a credit card. So had the cashier. So had everybody except the goth. Perhaps goths are cleverer than zombies and witches. Who knew?....)