Sunday 31 January 2010

Snip, snip, snip

Another valuable skill that my writing courses have emphasized over and over again is to have all one’s senses attuned to the everyday.

Being a naturally nosey eaves-dropper I find this one skill very easy to do. I can't do maths but I sure can listen and remember!

So here are actual bits of conversations heard in the last 24 hours. In my writer-ly way I have filed them mentally under, "s for snippets".

1. On the train going to work:

Woman using her mobile phone in the packed train: “Ok, don’t tell anyone right? Just between you and me, ok? Promise not to tell anyone ok? It’s so a secret, ok? Just us knowing, right? Just you and me…. Promise? Ok, here it is… Oh. My. God. Susie’s having an… you ready for this.. yeah, yeah, Susie! She’s havin' it off with.. yeah, that’s the one, yeah, oh my God. But it’s a secret ok? No-one knows but us!”

2. Queuing for my coffee:

Daughter: But I don’t want to go the toilet.
Dad: Yes you do, now go on
Daughter: but I don’t feel like going.
Dad: You may not now but you know you will once we get on that train, so go now.

3. Waiting for the tube train:

Teenager speaking on her mobile phone, crying: It hurts though, it really does… well I don’t know… well that’s what he said… he said he just couldn’t see the point… he said that he tried but that… I wasn’t… yeah, yeah… but… he… yeah, oh I don’t know, I love him and I didn’t… he said he just wanted a break, but I don’t understand… yeah, I know, I know… yeah… yeah… but why does it hurt so much?

4. Shopping in Waitrose:

Man (holding basket, full)standing by the veg counter: Why do we need more potatoes?
Woman (with trolley, full)standing further down by the meat counter: What do you mean why?
Man: We’ve already got potatoes
Woman: Well we need some more.
Man: Why do we need some more?
Woman: I just need more potatoes ok?
Man (voice rising): We’ve got potatoes
Woman (voice rising): I need more potatoes for God’s sakes why are you arguing about the bloody potatoes
Man: Because we’ve already got some, so stop yelling
Woman: This is going to be a special dinner, for a special occasion and I need more bloody potatoes!


Saturday 30 January 2010

Floccinaucinihilipilification (oh yes!)

Apparently the longest non-technical world in English.

I think it means....

"useless" or more precisely "valueless".


I wonder how it's pronounced?

Friday 29 January 2010

Where everyone knows your (blog) name

Apparently according to this article in Copyblogger's site there are two essential principles you should adhere to for your blog to be effective:

1) Be yourself. Embrace your weirdness. Be your weird and wonderful self. You will soon find that you are not alone.

2) Create the "Cheers" effect "where everyone knows your name". Create a safe haven, a home where lost souls may wander in, put their feet up have a cup of tea and a slice of banana bread and just chill.

I may have misinterpreted the article but I kind of like these two things.

They make for a nice start to the weekend!


Thursday 28 January 2010

The Art of listening

So the Cat's meowing and her meows are loud, incessant.

She's moving here and there, walking in and out of rooms, up and down the stairs. She even sits outside by my plant pots and then wanders back in. All the time she is yowling.

She moves to her food plate piled high with shredded chicken and sniffs, sniffs, sniffs. Then she wanders away and meows some more. I am at my wits end. I don't know why she is doing this, thinking that maybe she is about to have a fit, or about to collapse or worse.

She keeps moving to her food plate and then wandering off in all sorts of directions, her meows loud and hollow. I am fretting to beyond reason. I think she is about to have a stroke. The world around me collapses in one big whirl.

And still she continues to howl.

An hour or so later and I realise why. At first I couldn't smell it, at first it smelled normal. But when I dared move the bits of chicken aside, the odour was more certain. The meat was rancid. Not out and out stinking. But there was that unmistakable whiff of something gone bad.

A fresh pack of cooked chicken later and the Cat is gorged and grooming herself. She is quieter. She is purring.

I think to myself, what an idiot! The Cat was trying to tell me something. Instead I chose to listen not to her but to my fears.

And worse, I gave into them.

Thank you, Cat. Lesson learned.


Monday 25 January 2010

Blueberry muffins (with chocolate)

I call this recipe;

Easy peasy bite-size Blueberry Muffins with Gooey melty Chocolate in the middle (recipe pinched and tweaked from a now defuct freebie paper). Makes 12.

Bowl 1 = Mix 80g (3 and a bit oz) of margarine with lots of runny honey until smooth

Bowl 2 = Whisk one large free range egg and 200ml milk and 1 tsp vanilla essence until frothy

Stir mixture from bowl 1 into bowl 2.


Fold in seived self raising flour (225g, 8 oz).

Stir in lots of blueberries.

Spoon half the mixture into muffin cases.

Have lots and lots of chocolate bits (broken bars of dark choccie is very nice).

Add this to each half-filled muffin cases.

Top with the rest of the mixture.

Bake for 15-20 minutes in 180-200 C or Gas 4-6 depending on how hot your oven gets.

These muffins are bite-size with gooey chocolate in the middle.


Monday's String theory

Being the worst day on this planet for me, I thought I’d look towards brighter and better things.

Yesterday I dashed off a 942-word story to send to the 100 Stories for Haiti (thanks to womagwriter and fairyhedgehog blogs for this info) project. The idea is to create an anthology of 100 chosen stories from submissions with all proceeds to go the Red Cross.

The deadline being today, I was up burning the after midnight oil near enough cross-eyed and trying to prop my head from drooping.

It was very hard trying to think up a story full of hope and joy at that time! I know there will be other better stories than mine but it gave me a sense of purpose for a few hours.

Then there’s the Cat.

For the first time in a long, long time, she actually played with The String. It was all of five seconds but she definitely followed The String as I dangled it in front of her. Better still, she pounced!


I didn’t think she’d go for it but she was definitely showing an interest in her catnip toys so I thought I’d try to entice her with her one and only favourite toy.

And I’m so glad I did.

So all in all today’s Monday’s not starting off too badly.

But it’s still the worst day on this planet for me.

Sunday 24 January 2010


When I first started writing creatively, I’d write sentences like this one:

Where outwardly she bestrode her life’s landscape with steadfast ambition, privately she would seek his embrace and his assurances, vulnerable with her decisions, aching for constant validation- when she graduated with a first it was after many fraught scenes with him over her choice of subject matter….

And so on. A sentence would be one whole paragraph. If let loose, my sentence would have been the whole chapter. If I had not opened my writing to peer critiques and reviews and attended writing classes, I’d still be writing like the above.

I called this waffling. I wasn’t writer-ly material yet (and still am not!) but I sure knew how to waffle.

I think that’s why I enjoy flash fiction and short story writing. They’re giving me the discipline to not waffle.

Now if I could only apply this discipline to improving my conversational skills.

This morning my lovely neighbour and fellow feline-phile asked one question, “How’s the Cat?”

Having been so immersed with the Cat’s condition I immediately launched into detailing her medical and health situations in intricate detail.

I don’t know how long my soliloquy went but even I realised I was waffling when my neighbour not only started to back away ever so slowly from me, her eye contact wavered. Her body turned sideways. She placed her hands in her coat pockets and hunched her shoulders.

Her whole demeanour screamed silently, “I’m cold, it’s raining, I was just on my way to the shops and thought I’d just ask but now I need to go”.

Which brings me to my many writer-ly maxims (personal to me) that enable me to conquer my many writer-ly sins.

Keep things simple. Write with clarity. Use words carefully. Less is more. Edit (which I forgot to do yesterday). Re-draft as many times as possible.

So when my neighbour asked, “How’s the Cat?” an appropriate response from me should probably just have been, “She’s still a bit poorly but hanging on, thanks for asking.”


Saturday 23 January 2010

Editin blogs.. (ooops I meant editing)

Now all you lovely people who read my "trouble with scribbles" shoulda told me that I made a big boo boo.

Oh yes I did!

I wrote doctor's subscriptions instead of prescriptions.


I am so, so, so sorry about that. And you lovely people were so sweet to not say anything.

A big chocolate shoe (yes only one as I'd have the other pair!) to you all.

I now hang my head in complete shame...

Friday 22 January 2010

Thursday 21 January 2010

The trouble with scribbles....

Throughout my Open Uni course we are encourage to ditch the pc, get a little notebook and pen and scribble things in them for everyday inspiration. We are also encouraged to write our little musings, pieces of stories and bits of poetry in longhand in our little notebook. I think it has something to do with writing each word carefully and thus thinking about their usage.

Pondering the word, so to speak.

Normally I use what's left of my brain to store these kinds of information and then tap them all out on a word.doc on my pc afterwards. But being a willing participant, I thought, hell why not??

So off I go one day doing my usual people watching and conversation eaves-dropping except this time, I become all writer-ly and every so often take my little notebook (a rather nifty little pad with embossed velvety covers from Paperchase) and my pentel biro and scribble observations, mini-stories, words that come to me inspired by the everyday.

As I walk home from a full day's creative nosey-ing, I feel quite happy with myself. I grin like the Cat when being tickled under the chin. My pad is brimming with words, words, words. My pad is bulging to half full with ink and calligraphy.

Except of course, there is a catch.

I have the most atrocious handwriting on this planet bar the doctors who write prescriptions (in the days when prescriptions were still written - yes I am that old).

When I start to write longhand, I always do so with the best of intentions. I start with the careful curve, the required slant and the florid loop of the letter but by the time I get to the end of the word, the careful script is a line, a squiggle, a doodle.

And so it goes on with each subsequent word, each sentence, each line.

I return home to my pc with a pad full of illegible scribbles.

And what is the moral of this story for me? That I ought to join a course in the art of penmanship...

My Seven Heavenly Virtues today

Truth - The Cat had a day off from chemo yesterday. I had a day off to bring her to the vets for a check up. Vet tells me that the Cat is doing fine considering and we both celebrate by being complete slobs. And we liked it. Soon the cycle of more chemo, more employer negotiations for extra leave for me will start. But not yet, not yet.

Love - Everything I do, I do because of this.

Courage - I told a visitor to kindly take his mobile phone conversation outside of the library. Hey, the guy was at least 7 feet tall!

Wisdom - I'm working on that...

Creativity - so far - 1 ongoing short story, 1 flash fiction (needs editing), 20 out of 40 lines of poetry for my Open Uni course, this blog, thinking about my old ms all hidden away....

Tolerance - The Cat tolerates me big time.

Freedom - to be. My heartsong.


Wednesday 20 January 2010

My seven deadly sins today

Pride - Who needs to re-write that story, it's perfect, let me surf the net instead.

Envy - Her cat basket is nicer than the Cat's one!

Gluttony - I ate another 2 lb banana cake - and baked another.

Lust - ???

Anger - Grrrrr not enought lust.

Greed - Grrrrr not enough lust.

Sloth - Sleep, eat, sleep, blog.

I used to be snow white, until I drifted.... (asleep).


Tuesday 19 January 2010

Pasta, stilton, lettuce and half a cucumber

That's all I had left in my fridge and larder.

So here's what I did with them.

I call this recipe: Pasta infused stilton on a bed of green leafy salad.

1) Cook the pasta as per packet instructions. As much as you can eat. I never know how much is enough. I always think the dry pasta I put in the boiling water looks too mean a portion, so I add a little bit more at a time. Until of course I realise the pasta triples in volume once cooked.

2) Drain pasta.

3) Using the same pan where the pasta was cooked and crumble stilton - a lot of stilton - lots and lots and lots of stilton (smelly blue veined cheese - absolutely the best thing ever since the invention of marmite).

4) Using a very low heat option on the cooker, add the pasta to the stilton.

5) Once the cheese is melted and the pasta evenly coated, turn everything off.

6) Chop lettuce and cucumber, arrange in a shallow dish. Pour the pasta mixture on it.


Try and enjoy.

Kay Leclair - wonder woman extraordinaire

A sweet story to end the day with:

A wonderful woman called Kay and one very lucky kitten indeed.


(I will not even begin to contemplate how the kitten ended up where it did).

The Cat's show must go on

The Cat's chemo blast, scheduled for tomorrow, has been postponed.

Tomorrow I will still take her to the vet but only so that her weight and general health may be checked.

Tomorrow she and I can unwind a little.

For the Cat, it won't be the usual shaving of fur, sticking needles into paws and neck, drawing blood and intravenously administered chemo drugs.

For me, it won't be the usual waiting to hear whether she has pulled through, crashed or is about to.

If I could find a way of telling the Cat about this maybe she might even allocate me a few minutes on her throne - formerly known as the computer chair.

If I could find a way of telling her how it took all my courage to speak to her vet to insist that the chemo be postponed, maybe she would find it in her already enormous strength to feel a little better.

Tonight, I think I'll just give her a languid grooming session.

She likes that, next to her cooked chicken, best of all.

Monday 18 January 2010

Flash, ahaaa!

I saw this rather grand and intriguing concept on Simon Kewin's site. The idea is that he write a flash story of 100 word in two years - one word a week.

Of course I was hooked!

So off I go clicking on the story.

He has written 19 words so far.

One word per blog entry.

And what do I do?

I read from the top.

I read the last word from the top and then scroll down.

And I don't stop reading until I scroll right down.

I have effectively read his story backwards.


Only then did I go....



In the meantime, the cat is very slowly finding her mojo. Tonight she has allowed me two inches of seat.

Sunday 17 January 2010

Donne and dusted

A Sonnet

Oh to be able to rhyme like John Donne
Or to decipher what feet are
When all I want to do is go to a bar
Drink beer and buy quorn chicken in a bun
Iambic pentameters aside
There’s lots of forms, I can’t decide
To rhyme, free form or just find a slide
In a nice park under the sun
Oh to be able to rhyme like John Donne

Another Sonnet

I am banished away from my pc
Cat has taken over my chair
Even if I know it is most unfair
I tiptoe away to watch some tv
I do have a laptop
So old it is crap
A second hand freebie that has given up
But do I complain, do I let her see?
How helpless I am away from my pc?

Oodles and oodles of noodles

I call this recipe:

The noodle quickie


The noodle quickie that's probably already a recipe somewhere and I'm too late to patent it and earn tons of money from it recipe


1. Cook noodles (as many or as little as you can eat)as per packet instructions.

2. Rummage through cupboard and/or fridge for that jar of chilli sauce you bought for half price at Waitrose during the sales.

3. The chilli sauce could be mild or sweet or extra hot.

4. Once the noodles are cooked and drained return to pan with heat off.

5. Douse with the sauce of your choice.


This recipe is very flexible. Add all sorts to it (cooked tofu or veg etc) and then douse in sauce. Yum.

Saturday 16 January 2010

A plumber with a big wrench

Intruder alert!

The Cat and I huddle in fear and trepidation while Tony the plumber stomps along in the loft, runs up and down staircases and gallops in and out of the house. All to fix the water tank.

The only safe place for the Cat is behind the door of my little office space. At first she stares up at me with big black eyes. Then she falls asleep.

It's my turn to find my own safe place. Or places.

And I find them here:

Ann's poem inspired by the everyday.

Kate's flash fiction story.

Catdownunder's father's wisdom.

fairyhedgehog's amazing Rufus and hammock!

EllenB's reflective piece.

KarenG's evil laugh. Much nicer than the plumber's stomp.

Joel Strickly's oh so true silliness.

SF's (and now mine!) wishlist.

Spinster of the Parish's knowing observation. No it's not a rant!

Welshcake's dog that she doesn't have!

My horror at discovering Lexi's real surname (you're forever Revellian to me!).

Constantly clicking Guy Saville's site so he'd get lots of hits and finally gets published! Come on Curtis Brown do yer job! :-)

And because I do love planting something and watching it grow to goodness knows what, I await with anticipation the progress in Kate's garden.

And because I do love baking I hope to see more yummy fudge and buttery goodies at Plain Jane (anything but!)'s and more yummy pastry experiments at Lacer's.

And the many, many, many, more blogs I continue to visit and the many, many more I hope to discover soon.

The Cat's and my equilibrium are now fully restored.

Oh and the overflow pipe no longer leaks. Thank you, Tony.

p.s. I did offer Tony a cup of tea but he didn't like the soya milk that went with it.

pps. And this was Tony's parting adieu: "I've never seen anyone with so many shoes."

To the loo, to the loo...!!

Oh thank God!!

For an hour, the cat sat on my lap.

My bladder was bursting.

I tried to distract myself by blogging away.

The cat has just decided that the area behind my monitor is a much more comfortable place to stay.

She has released me.

The things we do for these foul feline friends...

Must dash!

Friday 15 January 2010

Bionic cat? They have rebuilt...??

Vet: Hello, you can come over and pick her up now, she's a new cat!

Me (thinking): New cat? I want my old one, thank you.

What I actually said: Er. Thanks.

New cat?

Watch this space...!

30 minutes later...

She's back!!! The cat is back!!!

She's skinny, paws and neck shaved and for the last minute or so, she was trying to run away from me (I don't think she could cope with the overwhelming wave of relief I'm emanating).

She's also eager to sniff everything else but me. She only keeps still when I sit down infront of my pc. At this moment she is manically cleaning herself. She does have that chlorine bleach hospital smell about her. Or maybe it's the garlic pasta I just had.

Oh the little things in life.

Tarting writing - things I'm learning

Eager to spread my literary wings... ok, make that, desperate for acknowledgement of some sort... and the prize money will always come in handy...

I thought I'd send a few of my pieces of writing to a few competitions.

Ok, make that send one of my pieces of writing to one competition.

In the process I have learned many valuable things:

1. Thinking and doing are never the same thing. I knew I wanted to join the Memoir Competition since last November. I also knew the deadline for the above was today. It didn't occur to me until five minutes ago that I had to actually get moving and complete the form and email them them the story, like NOW.

2. Editing and drafting in five minutes does not work.

3. Read through in less than that while panicking does not work.

4. I do not have a hope in hell.

Another thing I have learned:

In Ireland there is such a thing as a tax-exempt law for artists thanks to this post by EllenB. Of course such a law has already been used to great financial advantage by the richest of them, like U2 and the Ahernes. Of course.

Which brings me to this little anecdote - its truth verified by urban mythical fact:

U2 are playing to a packed stadium. In a moment of retrospection, Bono clicks his fingers. Click, click. "Everytime I click my fingers," he says to his audience - click, click, "A child in Africa dies."

To which some ne'er do well from the crowd yells out, "Well stop bloody doing it then!"

Thursday 14 January 2010

Tweets for my tweets

Twitter is the way forwards says the world and his brother.

Everyone tweets.


So I jump in - dive in - head first. I can't swim.

Creating an account seems simple enough - eh voila! I'm there, I have a twitter account. Oh this is too simple.

And kind of complicated. I am offered to follow Barack Obama, Lenny Kravitz, Vampires, Lady Gaga and a few other accounts.

I think all my friends and family were emailed too.

I search desperately for Nicola Morgan's account. She will help me, she knows the ways of twittering. She's nice.

In the meantime I am trying to upload my pic.

Then disaster. Twitter suddenly freezes. My pc freezes. Abort, abort, abort.

Kitty, we have a problem.

Ctl. Alt. Delete.

The screen goes blank. Oh. No.

I have left my word docs open - a few lines of my masterpieces of poetry and a short story. I haven't saved them...

A few hours later, I wipe the last crumbs of my banana cake off my body.

I re-boot my pc. And I am back into my cosy world of blogs.

My tweeting days are over for now.

Tough ol bird!

"She's a tough ol bird", says my vet over the phone. "Second time lucky".

The cat remains in their care for another day and night. Apparently she likes to be groomed and made a fuss of.

Baking and waiting

Inspired by Lacer's blog I decide to get baking while waiting.

The phone has been silent so I need to make some noise.

I call this recipe:

The Borrowed Banana Cake Recipe from the Internet with Optional Bits n Pieces infused with Toblerone from Santa's Secret box of 2009 in 24-28 easy steps. Or WHISK! (copyright OldKitty)

1. Whisk! 125g (4 oz and a bit) of margarine with an equal amount of caster suger (perhaps a gram/oz or two more - depending how sweet you want it) in a bowl (of course).

2. Whisk! 1 - 2 minutes. The mixture should resemble creamy breadcrumbs

3. Add a tsp of vanilla

4. Whisk! 1 minute

5. Add 2-3 mashed up bananas (the riper the better) to the mixer.

6. Add 1 large free range - kind to hens and cockerels - egg.

7. Whisk! 1 minute

8. Stop whisking.

9. Measure 100 ml of milk (soya milk works just as well), stir a quarter tsp of bicarbonate of soda into the milk.

10. Add the milk mixture to the banana cake mixture

11. Whisk! 1 minute

12. Stop whisking.

13. Add 180g (6 and a bit ounces) of self raising flour - seived into the banana cake mix

14. Put the whisk away

15. Fold in the flour

Optional things to add to the mix. You may add one or two or none at all.

16. Find a half eaten pack of mixed dried fruit, seeds and nuts or any half eaten pack of dried fruit and/or a pack of nuts and/or a pack of seeds...

17. Add to the mix

18. Get the toblerone that you took from the secret santa box at work and thought you could never eat all at once.

19. Break the toblerone into their triangular bits and bash them with a rolling pin, anything, just get them into small pieces

20. Add to the mix

21. Stir everything up

Options end here.

22. The mixture should be quite liquidy - mud-like.

23. Pour the lot into a 2lb loaf tin (greased)

24. Bake at about 100 - 150C/ Gas 3-4 depending how hot your oven gets for 60-120 minutes.

25. Stick a fork in. It should come out clean. It's cooked

26. If it is browned and about to go a deeper brown - it's cooked

27. Best eaten when completely cold.

28. Bestest eaten a day or two after. Wrap in clingfilm, leave in a tub/tin.


Wednesday 13 January 2010

What the hell are you on about?

I ask aloud then realise that I'm alone and the cat isn't here.

This morning at 8.30 am the cat was taken to the vet's surgeon. Yesterday, she tried to tell me she was about to crash but I went to work instead and had a lovely cappuccino.

The cat is staying overnight in her little cage at the hospital, drip fed and fluid intravenously administered. I may be allowed to visit her later.

I am trying not to despair. I will not cry. She has been here before. She will survive this. I know she will. Death will just have to be a little more patient. The Grim Reaper will meet her soon, I know, but not yet, not yet.

I am going into blogging overdrive.

I am also trying to get on with my poetry course.

And this is where on page 231 of the Big Red Book, I have stalled and exclaimed my exclamatory question.

The culprit is this poem: "Quoof, by Paul Muldoon". I don't think I can reproduce this poem here in case it breaches copyright. I've already put a Terry Pratchet quote in my blog and I am waiting for one of his watchmen to arrest me. Ooo-er.

Apparently Mr Muldoon is using a poetic method called "slant rhyme".

"Slant rhyme is to full rhyme what jazz chords are to standard guitar chords" quoth the Big Red Book.

I like this notion. It sounds utterly mad and free-ing and groovy. And I'd like to think I'm all that. So I would like to try and emulate "Quoof".

If only.

But I will not cry. I will however ask of "Quoof", what the hell are you on about?

Tuesday 12 January 2010

It’s the little things in life….


I feel this abstraction hit me like lightning as I leave the cat. A day after a chemo session, she always looks depressed. She sits hunched, rigid, tense, head a little low, eyes wide and dilated. When she is like this I find that staying with her, petting her, just having my hand resting on her – gently of course - gradually makes her purring louder until I could feel her spine relax and her pupils constrict. Gradually she will yawn, stretch out her front paws and lay down on her side. Gradually she will sleep. Later she will awaken and go straight to her water bowl to drink copiously. She may even decide to eat a little.

This time I couldn’t do any of these. I had to leave her sitting hunched and tense to go to work; that necessity that allows me to pay the rent, the vets bills and to live. So far my employers have been very understanding and have allowed me to take all these leave days from my next annual allowance. But today I am needed.

So there I am stuck in the morning commuter train going nowhere. There’s a points failure along the line. The carriage grows cold as the heating switches off. I know I’m going to be late and wish that I had stayed a few more minutes with the cat. If only I had known.


I alight the train, join the resigned masses as they meander towards the ticket barriers. My hands are dry and numb. I need warmth. I need comfort.

Costa looms ahead of me. Costa, costa, costa. Get thee behind me costa.

But wonders of wonders! Shimmering in all her blonde yellow loveliness is the barista of my earlier blog post. I can’t believe my luck. She’s back, she’s returned, she still glares at everyone with such disdain and undisguised ennui, but she is there in the flesh, snarling and scowling.

I reach work caffeined up correctly, the most gorgeous cappuccino swirling in my guts and in my blood. I am ready to roll. I am ready to rock. I busy myself with work, work and more work. I tell myself that it’ll make the hours go quickly and make the end of the working day arrive sooner.

Suddenly the guilt is assuaged. I shall be home soon.


I see this headline: “Having a big bum, hips and thighs, is healthy” and I know things are just going to be ok.

The cat and I will see our birthdays together this summer.

Monday 11 January 2010

The Big Red Book

I'm currently immersed in some quite fun activities as set out by the Big Red Book (the Open Uni Creative writing course book)on my merry way to composing a proper poem of 40 lines.

Activity 1: "For a period of not less than 24 hours..write things down whenever they occur to you with one proviso. Only write down images"

Here is my list so far:

Used tissue like crumpled cloud
Opened course book like a neatly cut open wound
Measuring tape coiled like a sleeping numbered snake
Pen like a sleek poison dart
A tower of books like blocks of colourful concrete
A dog barking in the neighbour’s garden like a bored child on speed
Paper strewn on the floor like scattered leaves blown by the wind
Grooves in the wooden desk like waves of sand in a desert
Monitor like a rectangular ice rink

Activity 2: "Select an ordinary householed object...(attempt)to produce as many images as possible for it.. using all four senses"

I chose my computer duster:

It looks like an explosion of yellow thread
It looks like yellow cotton candy
It looks like a pom-pom
It looks like a shaggy wig
It looks like an eighties haircut
It looks like unkempt hair
It looks like a yellow cousin It from the Addams Family

It feels rough
It feels like straw
It feels like dog hair
It feels like sticky grit

When touched it crinkles
When touched it makes a sound like one treading on fine glass
When touched it feels like tickling a donkey's hide

It smells like rice!


And I did attempt a haiku last year. I apologise to all haiku lovers everywhere!

The Break up

My glass is empty
I want more beer, but you speak
Telling me we’re through.

Now the vet has rang me and I must pick the cat up. I tried reading out the above to the cat last night and she was less than impressed. I think she knows I've given her food to the fox.

Sunday 10 January 2010

One creature's leftovers is another one's gain

The cat is losing her appetite. Since yesterday she has eaten a mouthful here and there. The result is a lot of leftover chicken bits.

Last night as I was washing up I saw a flash of fox streak across from outside my kitchen window. It ran one way and then the other. The cat used to run after a fox. A fox would sniff out my pot plants at the front of the house not realising that the door is half open and the cat is sitting on the mat.

The cat would immediately go into hunting stance. Then boom! Straight out and after the fox. The fox would startle, I would scream. The fox would stop running, turn around and realise this tiny puffed up ten times smaller than him/her is the creature he or she is running away from.

The fox would pounce. The cat would back away, turn and flee.

I'm running towards her ready to scoop her up to safety. The cat sees me, veers away, veers past my body and off away down the other end of the courtyard. The fox pursues, I follow screaming like a banshee on speed. The cat doubles back and veers in a semi circular movement past me again, across people's front lawns and dives through the opening of my front door. She doesn't stop until she gets to my bedroom.

Such shenanigans used to happen regularly this time last year. This time last year, she was just a cat. Now she has her own blog to count the days until...

I've decided to leave her leftovers outside by my garden pots. I hope the fox returns. I hope he or she likes chicken.

Tomorrow the cat has her next chemo session. No. 3 part 2.

Saturday 9 January 2010

William Shakespeare walks into a pub...

... the barman yells, "Oi Shakespeare, you're Bard".

So anyway!

After weeks ploughing through my course book on how to write poetry, here is one of my sadder attempts. I rest my case.


The Hot water bottle

You keep me warm, cosy, comforted
You are covered in soft red fleece – fluffy like a spoilt kitten’s.
I hug you in fear of the cold
You never burn me
Sometimes I wonder if you will explode
Do I hug you too tightly? In my sleep do I roll over you and forget you are there? But you never do.
You never leak. You keep a circumference hot around the cold cotton sheets where I huddle foetal like
You keep the chill from chilling me

You are pliable, soft, and malleable like a baby with fur
Though you smell of singed rubber .
Water gurgles inside you
Water sloshes inside you

I can move you around my body for extra heat.
My feet are coldest and you rest there, heavy but not oppressive
My toes wiggle under the warmth
You do not move away
You do not turn over

You stay with me throughout the night when the temperature is beyond zero.
You chase the icicles away

In the morning you are still there
A little used, a little frazzled.
You stay with me as I drool and snore and snort
You always start heat-hot and grow lukewarm
But you never ever blow cold.


Friday 8 January 2010

The perfect cup of (costa) coffee = £2.55 (inc. VAT)

I love cappuccinos. I love a good cup of cappuccino. I love a good big cup of cappuccino made by someone else I pay.

I don't ask much of this world. I don't. I want the cat to live forever. I want to be able to compose this poetry for my homework = all 40 lines of it. I want to win at least one small competition for any of my short stories. I did win £50 once for a "flash" story piece - but the website where the competition was hosted has since disappeared...! I want my train service line to not shut down for eight weekends this month and the next, forcing me to take their special laid on buses to and from work adding an extra 4 hours total of journey time.

What makes a good cappuccino? Shots of strong just grounded good quality coffee and a further shot of milk so frothy and so light a hippo would float on it.

I know, I ought to just make my own. I know. But I don't have a cappuccino maker. We did have a really cheap one at work but I could never get the froth right. Or the coffee beans ground just so. That broke down soon after anyway.

I want a little treat. I want to be pampered a little. I work a full time job and have another part time one at the weekends. I'm living with a cat I saw born 17 years ago and who continues to cling with determined paws to her tenth life. I have fat calves. Shop people ask me for my ID when I buy alcohol.

I've tried Starbucks, Cafe Nero, the other one I can't remember and Costa. For a few weeks, there was this wonderful no-nonsense barista from this one Costa place I discovered who made cappuccino for the gods and goddesses. I would have gladly fought monsters and tamed dragons so she could be left in peace to take her time making my perfect cappuccino. Which she did every single time. Queues what queues?Then she disappeared. And so endeth my love affair.

Of course I stumble on really good cappuccino making baristas from Costa every so often. But stumbling upon these rarities are a lottery. Like the cat's progress, there are good days and bad days and terrible days. At least, I know I am not wasting my hard earned dosh on her.

Oh Costa, costa, costa: get thee behind me Costa!

p.s. just spoken to the vets. The cat's blood test results are better than expected - so onwards with the chemo sessions! Starting next Monday...! Hooray! Cat 1, Costa 0.

Thursday 7 January 2010

The art of being chilled - YouTube rants

As part of my Open University creative writing course, I need to produce something that sembles a poem by February. One of the many exercise the course book recommends is to listen to a musical composition lasting 10 minutes and then to write a reflective piece on what emotions this music conjures up.

Simple, I say.

YouTube! Because the only piece of music I can think of lasting 10 minutes would be something classical and I ain't got many of those.

I find Jacqueline Du Pre's version of Bach's Cello Suite no. 1. This should last around 8 minutes. That would do, I say.

So I listen. Ah, peace, music, classical, art, the sound of a cello wailing away all sad and lonely. I'm in the zone. I'm feeling all sorts of passionate emotions listening to this. I conjure up images of the sea, of blue skies, of a rich field brimming with wild flowers, of isolation, of hope, of love - I'm really liking this!

Then it finishes and I think, oh, how nice - how refreshing!

But this is YouTube and this is the age of virtual communities, communication, connections and conviviality across the ether, across the globe.

The net has released us from our shackles and we are able to voice our opinions freely, without shame!!!

What do I read under this most beautiful piece of music? Lots of effing and blinding as to whether Ms Du Pre's version is not as good as Rastropovich or that this cellist is better than that etc, etc, etc. I am back in the playground minus the musicians.

A few months ago I watched a clip of Rihanna's interview where she speaks about her experience of physical abuse from her ex. I cannot even begin to understand those who left verbal abuse directed at her as "comments".

There is a famous clip of a baby panda sneezing. The comments descend into racial mud-slinging. ??!!??!! It's a panda sneezing, people!


She says, ranting.

Wednesday 6 January 2010

Quick, quick, snow

Ok. Normally this is what happens. I bring the cat to the vets at the ungodly time of 8.30 am. I stay home by the telephone and wait for the vets to ring me with updates. At about 4 pm I am told the cat is ready to be discharged. I spend at least 20 minutes with the vet talking about the cat's progress and prognosis.

Today, things are not normal.

First, it is snowing - (but it's winter so of course it should snow!) Swirls of snowflakes pour down from the heavens. And it settles and it's lovely!

Second, the nurse at the vets ring to say that the cat is ready to be picked up. It is only 10.30am.

Third, I am given my cat - literally. The nurse takes my empty cage away and returns with the cat in her cage. Nurse then opens the front door for me and says "bye!". No 20 minutes with the vet to talk about the cat? Apparently the vet will ring me instead.

Meanwhile the cat has made a beeline for her water bowl and her plate of cooked chicken from whence I hide her medication. She's not silly though. She eats the pink tablet because she likes that one. She's a girly cat, of course she likes pink! She shakes off the white tablet that I not so cleverly hid in another bit of meat before wolfing that down. She's not silly. She's got brains and likes pink.

She sits up and cleans the paws where the needles have been inserted. Then she starts to clean the places only cats can reach and humans only wish they could.

At least that's normal.

p.s. I've just spoken to the vet. Things are not looking too well, but I don't think the cat cares very much for that diagnosis. She just wants to sleep.

Tuesday 5 January 2010

Spirit of Christmas - past

An elderly and dapperly dressed gentleman reads his Financial Times opposite me. The train is on time, the heating is actually on, I am seated and no-one is prattling on their mobile phones. It's nearly civilised going to work.

Unfortunately the train is only made up of four carriages instead of the usual eight and the carriage I'm in is getting more and more packed. Big coated people block the light and I am assaulted by elbows and arms as the unlucky crowd in.

As the train pulls up at the last station, the elderly man opposite me folds his FT neatly, unzips his briefcase that has been lying on his lap, slips the paper in and sits back.

There is another elderly gentleman standing very close to the FT man. He has put all his belongings on the rack above so he could stand with some comfort in the packed train. This man leans over to retrieve his things on the rack. The train jolts. We all shudder. Something falls down from and hits the FT man on the head.

The standing man is flustered and apologises profusely.

The FT man looks up at him, glaring and yells "That's very careless of you dropping things on my head!"

They both stare at each other.

"Very careless!"

I notice the offending item that has bounced off his head and on the floor. I lean over to pick it up and hand it to the standing man who thanks me.

"A shoe horn! You dropped a shoe horn on my head! How careless!"

Everyone is standing up and eager to leave the train. It's like nothing has happened.

Tonight, the cat ate a lot of cooked chicken. A lot. She is snoring away on the waterproof pillow covers. She has her third chemo session tomorrow. I hope it doesn't snow too much.

Monday 4 January 2010

A pair of fatted calves

The cat has a preliminary check up with her vet before her next chemo session on Wednesday.

The appointment is for 9.30 am.

At 9.25 I'm struggling with the zip of my precious pair of Ugg boots. The only pair I will ever own or could ever afford. A pair of authentic Snowpeak waterproof Ugg boots, bought in the bargain shop of Schuh at ebay last summer, bidding starting at 90p. Yes NINETY PENCE. Went all the way to £39.99. For a pair of ex-display, slighty scuffed left boot pair. Did I say they were genuine UGG boots?

Today is the first day I took them out of their box, cut the label and tried them on.

The joy of my feet slipping in nicely makes up for the nervousness I am feeling for my cat. Ah lovely and warm and cosey and woolly - thank you, Aussie sheep!!! Thank you Schuh shop! Thank you ebay! Then I am instantly reminded once more. I know I do not have the slimmest of calves. I know I do have to wear boots that are "wide fit". I know, I know. I know.

Luckily, the veterinary surgery is opposite from where I live. A two minute walk. Luckily, I arrive just in time. The cat is thoroughly unimpressed of course, but the vet is cautiously optimistic. The cat has maintained her weight, looks brighter and may just be ok for another chemo session. We all hope so.

Another cautionary note: The Ugg boots are a size 5.5 - they are a very snug fit and I'm a normal size 5. I just have fat calves, but the zip went up and stayed up. So there.

Sunday 3 January 2010

The human and her nemesis - shoes

I turned 40 last year. This is my story so far

On my way to Argos, I walk past Clarke's shoe shop. They have a sale. A 50% off sale. I go straight to the size 5 shoe rack and there are the shoes that I had lusted after going for half price. They are patent burgundy with a solid 2 inch block heel. I want, I want! I try the display shoe on. I limp to the mirror and admire. It's half price. It's gorgeous. The shoe fits perfectly. I know they will kill my feet if I walk longer than 10 minutes while wearing them but I don't care.

The shop assistant hovers next to me, giggles when I miss the rack shelf as I replace the shoe.

I buy the duvet protector instead.

At home I stare at all my pairs of shoes.

All 110 of them.

My name is Old Kitty. And I am a shoe-holic.

Saturday 2 January 2010

Eats, sleeps, wees - on my duvet

So the cat wets the duvet.

I discover that there are such things as waterproof duvet protectors!

Argos has the cheapest one around at under £15, part of a bed set (mattress and pillow protectors included).

Here are a few facts about this product:

1) Yes, it is cheap so don't expect luxury
2) It is not breathable
3) It makes a crinkly, plasticky noise - luckily I'm a heavy sleeper.
3) It does the job and has saved my fluffy as a cloud duvet (the brand new one).
4) Because it is not breathable, it's very handy for cold winter nights.

My top tips for using this particular type of duvet protector:
1) Use 100% cotton duvet covers. They minimize the "crisp packet" effect by adding a touch of comfort/breathability
2) I found that if I don't zip the duvet protector up, the duvet itself does not slide or move down in a heap if trapped in the protector.
3) Use the buttons/zip of the duvet cover to hold everything together.
4) Have a shot of whiskey/brandy/liqueur before going to bed!
5) I've used the pillow protectors as bedding for the cat who eats, sleeps, wees - on my duvet

3 January:
Cat has eaten, taken her medication and is now preening herself.

The cat and her nemesis - lymphoma

The cat is 17 years old. This is her story so far.

23rd November 2009:
She has a kidney removed - there is a tumour the size of a tomato attached to it. Her subsequent biopsy confirm she has lymphoma.

14-20th December:
She starts chemotherapy. For two days afterwards she is very sleepy and not eating but waking up only to drink water. On the third,fourth and fifth days she is suddenly bright, alert, eating and drinking. She is on antibiotics and steroid tablets. She eats them with her cooked chicken. On the sixth day she starts having diarrhoea. On the seventh day day she starts vomiting bile and her diarrhoea increases.

21st December:
She is due to have her second chemotherapy but her blood tests show that her white blood cell count is so below the lowest acceptable range she is in danger of becoming septic. Her chemotherapy is stopped. She is given fluids and antibiotics intravenously and kept in at the vets until 6 pm. She returns home. At first she seems ok. She eats a little, drinks then sleeps. From 1am she is meowing constantly and has diarrhoea and vomits more bile 4/5 times.

22-23rd December:
She is admitted to the vet hospital. I visit her for a few minutes and sneak in a tub of chicken for her. She is in a roomy cage with drips and wires attached to her paws. She is looking very bright and slightly annoyed. Next door to her is another cat looking shell-shocked. There is a scrawled note attached to the cage: "M, stray. Found under bridge next to pub. V. friendly".

24th December at 4.30pm:
She comes home.

25th-30th December:
She and I have a quiet and peaceful Christmas. We both eat well, sleep alot, potter around.

28th December:
She has more blood tests. Her white blood cells have returned! She is still very sleepy and at 4am wakes up, howls once, wets the duvet, howls a second time and ditto.

31st December:
Her blood tests show that her white blood cell count has stabilised. She is given chemotherapy dose at "half strength".

1 January 2010:
She howls a less ear-shattering howl but still wets the duvet.

2 January:
She has not eaten and is sleeping. She wakes up to drink water. Her haunches are thin but she spends a long time preening and cleaning herself. She rolls on her stomach when I pet her. She purrs, falls asleep. Later, I hear her eating. She vomits all this out. She drinks a lot of water and falls asleep.