“Stay At Home…”

Firstly I must say that I hope everyone is safe and well. I confess I thought this staying at home thing would be easy, plenty to keep me engaged… here is a little break down of my past week.

Day 1:

Make list of everything that I need to do, then notice the sun is shining so get sidetracked and go outside where I end up moving three azaleas and planting some radish seeds.

Day 2:

Look at list. Make cheesecake. Eat cheesecake while binge watching so much “True Blood” and “American Horror Story” I feel my brain has turned to mush and will probably slide out my nose if I bend over.

Day 3:

Look at list. Think about doing at least one item on the list. Go outside. Find garden gnomes and instruct partner to repaint said garden gnomes. Argue over what to call garden gnomes. Him: “No, you can’t call them all Dave!” Me: “But why not? They all look like Daves!” Settle on compromise of calling one Dave and the others after the cast of “True Blood”. Dig large hole at the bottom of the garden and eye partner speculatively till he retreats nervously indoors.

Dave…

Day 4:

Look at list. Throw list away. Make trifle. Eat trifle. Go upstairs to tidy bedroom, have a little sit down on the bed and fall asleep, only to wake up and find not only have I drooled in my hair but I missed “Gardener’s World” too.

Day 5:

Decide to go out. Make comprehensive list of everything we need. Go to shop. Discover list is at home and return with pickled beetroot and cat food, neither of which were on the list.

Day 6

Go through music on phone. Play “Crank That ” by Soulja Boy Watch “Crank That” video on YouTube. Learn steps of dance to “Crank That”. Practise steps in front of mirror. Show assembled cats my version of “Crank That” by Soulja Boy. Run after cats as they flee in horror from my “cranking back”.

“Perhaps if we keep very still she’ll just run straight past us…”

Day 7:

Tidy wardrobe and throw old clothes away. Realise you don’t know when you’ll be able to get out and buy new clothes so retrieve previously discarded clothes, carefully replacing errant woodlouse outside.

Seriously though friends, I write to raise a smile in these difficult times – it can help, as does gardening. If you don’t have a garden, try growing something from your fruit or vegetable scraps – I have a thriving celery plant that has its origins in a large supermarket..The sense of achievement is lovely, as is the sense of looking after something living and growing.

Check out some book lists – various libraries around the world are offering thousands of books to download for free. Do something physical – not necessarily “Crank That”.. – just something to get the blood moving.

My version of a sourdough starter…

Eat if not well then at least inventively… A few ideas at any rate. And of course, look after yourselves.

LOOK! “Mr. Sagittarius is Here!”

Mr-Sagitarrius-Mallon-FB“Is she here yet Lily?”86183695_3180852228628363_3708799058614157312_n“Yes! I can see her now!””Thank you Lily – wonderful!”Look everybody! I would like to welcome a special guest to our blog today, the lovely Marje from Kyrosmagica. It’s great to have you here, the first stop on your new book blog tour!img_20170205_090149_185-author-photokyrosmagica-black-on-white1-e1523295724272Thank you very much for stopping by to tell us about your new book – help yourself to tea and cake!84089025_1531202207027206_2373041625145278464_nWe’ve known Marje a couple of years now, and I know Lily in particular has been looking forward to seeing you again.86188645_1569892723177481_1101913631185960960_nLily and Marje were first introduced by our friend Gary, from “Fiction Is Food” blog, when Marje needed a black cat model during the creation of her first Y/A novel, “The Curse Of Time.”Lily’s picture and one of a tourmaline crystal, taken by Alex is featured, among other things, in Marje’s new book, “Mr.Sagittarius.” Please will you tell us a little more…”We’re listening!”86177135_173845187276092_7426235506913968128_n[Marje reads:]

Who Is Mr. Sagittarius?

And what is his connection to twin brothers, Harold and William?

When Harold dies, he leaves a simple memorial request

Will his sister Annette honour it?

Or, will the magic of the garden ensure that she does.

A magical story expressed via poetry and prose with photographic images.

It sounds fabulous!Being a cat mother I sometimes come into contact a little closer than I ever really wanted with the Natural World, but I know that you have a wonderful eye for detail and a way of capturing the beauty in even the smallest creation of Mother Nature. Likewise, living with a family of four sister cats I am interested in reading about the sibling relationships – please don’t slap Ting, Tooty, not while we have guests… so I am very much looking forward to reading “Mr.Sagittarius” for myself!Ooh – could I ask anyone who is on “Goodreads” to add “Mr.Sagittarius” to their “To Read” list and I must also mention that Marje is very kindly donating the first month’s ebook royalties to the Australian Bush Fire Appeal, please follow the links at the end of my post to buy your very own copy.Marje – I hope you don’t mind, but the Girls wanted to ask you a question, and as the oldest -“And most intelligent!”- Charlie felt she should be Spokesfeline…85090693_2587970881491009_6472501507320184832_n

Charlie asks :
“I notice there is a poem called ‘Life Lessons From Cats’ with my sister Lily’s picture. What would you say is the most important lesson you’ve learned in Feline Philosophy?”
Marje :
“Hi Charlie.
Your sister Lily’s photo with Buddha is really cute. That’s such an interesting question regarding feline philosophy. Cats teach us much about the world in which we live. I’d say the most important lesson they impart to us daft humans is to nurture a curious spirit. Without a curious spirit, life would be very dull.
Unfortunately, having a curious spirit can be dangerous sometimes, so I’d say don’t forget to combine a curious spirit with a state of awareness, so no harm comes to you when you’re crossing them pesky roads. That’s especially true as I lost my dear ginger tom cat Chester to a road accident.
Chester
Chester was as curious as any cat can be. I miss him so much. He was such an adventurer and very popular with everyone, probably because he had lots of fascinating feline tales to tell!”
That’s a lovely answer, Marje, thank you very much!
It’s been wonderful to see you – no, Lily, you can’t ask if Marje would prefer a sparrow or a mouse to take away, something sensible – please take our good wishes with you for the next step in your tour and every success with your new publication!

Follow Marje’s tour:

Happy New Year!

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Perhaps a little late, but here we are – 2020, perfect vision, a new decade, the Roaring Twenties again… and I find I have taken the roaring part quite literally to heart.

Regular readers may recall I was searching for that little je ne sais quoi, the little added extra, a flourish, if you will, to add as I get off the bus and run away. The running away part is definitely catching on, I’m pleased to say.

On my journey into town the other day I noticed several ladies leaping off the bus and running onwards to their next destination. Not so much men though…come on chaps! Where’s your spirit of, um, adventure!

Anyway. I was with Alex in Asda, just before Christmas, actually, and it was packed. Thronging with desperate last minute shoppers – “Well, why won’t she eat that? She ate it last year!” – “Please stop doing that, Mummy’s very tired and Santa won’t come if you carry on being a little s&*t!”- and all I wanted to buy were the staple supplies of any conscientious cat owner, three different types of wet food and four packets of treats for the Girlies’ stockings, and I found myself welling up with frustration at the mass of humanity seething around me.

I couldn’t help it. I let out a little roar. Alex looked at me, concerned and more than a little alarmed at the unusual noise I produced. So I did it again. And was mildly gratified as one family shot me a wary look and moved to another queue…

I opened my mouth again, preparing.

No Mum, don’t! Look! We’re here now!” Alex interrupted hurriedly, and we paid for the shopping and left.

Then I added in a roar as I ran away from the bus and actually found it quite liberating… Alex was … horrified. Then my mother came for dinner the other week, and afterwards, Alex, his boyfriend and I walked her to the bus stop.

Having seen her safely aboard, I began to run off. Puzzled, Alex’s boyfriend gamely followed me, as did Alex with a look of grim resignation on his face.

Why are we running?” his boyfriend enquired.

No reason,” I replied, then I gave a bit of a roar too.

Ah! I see!” he said, giving a bit of a roar too and throwing himself wholly into the spirit of things…and although Alex ran with us, he declined to roar…

So. Happy belated New Year, everybody, and may you enjoy the new “Roaring Twenties” in every sense of the word!

                                                                                  *

Look what’s happening next week – we have a guest! The lovely Marje from Kyrosmagica is coming for a chat (and maybe tea and cake) to kick off her blog tour with us and tell us about her new book!  We’re looking forward to seeing her and hearing all about it as it’s a magical mix of short stories, poems and photographs… and perhaps even a cat!

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In Sickness…Theirs…And In Health…Mine….

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I don’t know how the present weather is affecting the rest of the country, but here in the East Midlands, the rain has not only flooded the surrounding farmlands and countryside, but also seems to have created a fetid fug of soup like flu symptoms that just seem to be trapped in the bowl created by our natural geology, just circulating endlessly…

Now. Don’t get me wrong, I am not unsympathetic to people who are ill… but I do feel quite strongly they should keep their germs to themselves. It started with a hat trick of grandmas… my mother, a confirmed and dedicated smoker, generally has a smoker’s cough, but on this particular day it seemed a little more…vehement than usual.

You’re going to be ill, aren’t you,” I observed, with trepidation.

My mother is a retired nurse and a Yorkshire woman to boot, consequently she is as stubborn as hell and the worst patient ever.

No, don’t be – hrgghhh! – stupid Samantha – bleughhh-ahh!- I’m fine!”

The dogs laid back their ears and retreated to the kitchen. I did likewise.

Then my partner’s mother had the flu jab and promptly caught flu. I had just run home from getting off the bus, contemplating how to add an extra flourish to my run away with a squat, or a forwards roll, perhaps, when-

SAM! SAM! MAM’S NOT WELL!”

What do you mean?” I enquired, more than a little alarmed because she is getting on a bit and has had a few health problems.

“’ER EYES ARE ROLLING AND SHE’S BREATHING FUNNY!”

I decided this necessitated further investigation and trotted round, curbing an arbitrary impulse to attempt a vault over the gate, and ran upstairs to have a look at her.

Are you all right?” I enquired cautiously, poking my head round the door.

Hrrhhha wahhggrr!”

Ah. Let’s sit you up a bit…”

I helped her sit up and her chest eased a little and I sent my partner back to our house for eucalyptus oil.

A cup of tea, essential oil inhalant and a laugh later, I am very pleased to say she was looking a lot better.

Then, although not known to me personally, I heard that Alex’s partner’s grandma was ill too – I spent some time with the Wishing Tree in my garden, asking for help and healing from the Appropriate Places.

Then I went to my mother’s yesterday for dinner, we were watching “Countryfile” and I asked her for the television guide so I could check something. She sneezed in it, closed the pages and offered it to me.

No, I’ll let you keep that,” I said politely, as the dog sneezed in Mum’s face, triggering another coughing fit.

I returned home to be greeted by the mournful face of my partner, mouth breathing, wheezing and coughing… I thrust paracetamol, honey and echinacea at him, seized my sage and thyme infusion and ginger capsules and fled upstairs.

So. I have been taking powdered ginger in capsule form for about a month, I gargle with sage and thyme infusion, have a spoonful of honey every day, a pack of sanitising wipes to hand and I have anointed myself liberally with patchouli and lavender essential oils, hoping that their overpowering scent will fox any particularly persistent germs.

Just in case though – I have my lovely doctor on speed dial…

*

On a serious note, friends, look after yourselves in this season of illness, and I hope you’ll join with me in wishing my wonderful friend Jean at The Canadian Cats all the very best for a speedy recovery back to full health. Get well soon, Jean, love from all of us here xxxx

“A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Theatre…”

 

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Sometimes I actually do feel as though the stuff that happens in my life is part of a Universal vaudeville routine… I try to console myself with encouraging platitudes like Oh well, it could be worse, it could be raining…

Alternatively, I think: “F&#$k it that’s an absolute b#@%ard”… I swear quite appallingly so I’ve been told, although personally I think I do it rather well, having a flair for the more , um, earthy side of our language… but anyway, generally I just laugh.

For example, the other day my morning began at 5.00am with a sound guaranteed to make any cat owner react with lightning fast speed – I awoke to the sounds of Tooty vomiting copiously down the side of my bedside cabinet. I leapt out of bed, a little too late unfortunately to prevent drippage on to the handles of the cabinet, wondered momentarily at the cat’s ability to run and vomit at the same time, but cheered myself with the thought Well, it can only get better…

On the bus to my appointment with my psychologist – yes, I have a psychologist, yes, I have now managed to instil a level of anxiety in him concerning random issues that he has never previously considered, like doorhandles, and should beans and chips really touch on the plate if you’re eating them together – but I happened to overhear a weary father talking to his little son on the bus as the child burst into a bellowed rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.”

No, buddy, that’s not a star, it’s a snowflake,” the father patiently pointed out yet again.

But it looks like a star!” the child insisted. Then, a little defiantly: “Well, I’m going to sing every time I see a star or a snowflake!”

A look of hopeless resignation settled across the father’s face…

Then, as I was coming back, I noticed a man leaving the supermarket who clearly had his life’s priorities sorted. He was carrying a tray of cans of beer and a large pack of toilet rolls – I shudder to think how he was going to spend his weekend, but mentally I applauded his ingenuity, for, he had the toilet rolls on his shoulder first, then the beer on top, thereby creating a soft and comfortable pad to carry the items home.

I also recently seem to have adopted quite an interesting habit as I disembark from the bus…I leap off and run away…not quite sure where that’s come from, I know that “Mission Impossible” left a lasting impression on me…but the puzzled look on the other passengers’ faces is quite rewarding to see as I speed away… Try it…

A Bit Of A Re-Blog…

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I just seem to have had one of those weeks where I have run out of time, not been able to catch up with anything and I have been using the same shopping list for the past ten days…consequently we have plenty of cat kibbles, a bewildering preponderance of frozen peas, pepperoni and vegan pizzas and an advent calendar for Charlie. The others don’t bother so much but Charlie loves the daily thrill of opening the little doors…

Anyway, I was trying to catch up with my NaNo when I found this little story from a few years ago, and it made me feel a little sad at how bleakly it read, although the original idea was actually sparked by a charming dinner service I saw in our supermarket, with all manner of fanciful beasties…have a read and see what you think, friends, and I will try to be more organised and catch up with everybody…

Alice Updated.

Don’t worry, you’ll make friends once you’ve settled in.”

Don’t forget to work hard, we know what you students are like, out drinking all night!”

These words fell on frightened ears as her parents left her. They left her, in the hall of residence in a nameless, faceless block in a city she didn’t know and she was afraid.

It was bleak, it was dark, it was autumn and she longed for the golden days of summer when she had been at school. The city was brutal, it was dark and it rained. She didn’t know where she was or how she felt to be so tenderly abandoned. She was not equipped for this.

The gentle county of her youth, her kind teachers and thoughtful friends, the lessons, the plans, the routine, these were things she understood.

Scornful tutors mouthed incomprehensible words in echoing lecture theatres and people laughed. She couldn’t eat, she didn’t know how. And yet, and yet, she was touched with kindness as others saw her and were drawn to this sad, lonely girl, “Alice of the Otherworld” as the darkness called her.

Here, come out with us, have a drink, you’ll feel better!”

The tall dark boy with knives in his eyes laughed like a maniac and pushed the glass towards her.

She drank, and was transported. Down and down she fell, tumbling down a smooth golden tunnel that smelled enticingly of childhood and weepingly of home.

When she opened her eyes, she was lying in a field. The day was golden and dusted with sunshine, the old oak tree she reclined against felt warm and comfortable, as comforting as her bed at home.

She sat up and her hands touched grass, grass that slithered through her fingers as soft as silk and as warm as blood. A winged rabbit fluttered by, its delicate wings etched in green, flushing pink as it startled at her presence and shied away.

And as she looked, and looked again, what at first she took for flowers beat their wings and flew away in a chattering flock, and she heard the swallows singing at home as they prepared to fly to Africa.

She sighed and laid down again. This was not home, but it would do, the echoes were familiar and some of it was comforting. She drew this atmosphere around her, like her duvet at home, and shut her eyes.

*

Ally! Ally! No! Ally, wake up! You bastard, what did you give her?”

The dark youth smiled uneasily and slid away, as her head lolled and a trickle of thin, yellow vomit escaped her smiling mouth, while the one who would have loved her grabbed his phone and cried.

The PenIs…Mightier Than The Sword!

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Of course…whatever did you think I meant… made you look though! And that’s my point – words are powerful things.

I was in town a couple of months ago, sneaking in furtively to fulfil my latest craving… violas. Yes, those sweet little spots of floral colour that provide a pleasing range of hue in the garden in those dark few months between autumn and spring. The lady on the plant stall laughed when I said they were very “more-ish” but she knew exactly what I meant.

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I sped away, clutching my new garden friends and decided to call in at the crystal shop, Lizians. That day, Ian was at the helm and we launched into, among other things, a discussion about literature and the actual art of writing.

I love words, the music they create as they flow from your pen, the pictures they paint in your imagination… it’s like a three-in-one hobby. We both like to actually physically write, put down initial thoughts, words, ideas, so we both have notebooks and pens always at the ready. Laptops are obviously more convenient for sheer volume but sometimes my fingers trip over themselves and both myself – and my laptop – have absolutely no idea what I was trying to say…

I find connecting with pen and paper very organic, an emotional action that helps layer flavour and imagery, a useful way of capturing a string of words that chimes in the mind like a musical note…I am possibly too wordy, and a bit of a grammar stickler, but Ian and I both agreed that when you write, your aim is to make your reader feel without getting too bogged down in spellings and so forth. These are the sort of weapons people use to put aspiring writers off, intimidate them, when really, the action of writing is very important – a way of immortalising yourself, and your surroundings as the very first artist realised in the caves at Lascaux when they turned an abstract projection of rock into the figure of a horse…

I hope you get what I mean…or am I waffling? A lovely crisp baked treat…or pointless meanderings of words. That’s their beauty – words can be used to describe, punish, communicate, immortalise or obfuscate, but some of the simplest words are also the most beautiful!

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Gardens Are Good!

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My garden earlier on in the summer

When I was a little girl, I used to love watching “Gardeners’ World” (and still do, actually) with my Nan and Grandad. The presenter at that time was the wonderful Percy Thrower, another Shropshire resident like my grandparents, and those evenings spent in the company of my beloved grandparents and the gentle voice of Percy Thrower stared a love of gardening in me.

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These petunias are called “Galaxy” – you can see why!

It’s only in the past two years that my love of gardening has been able to translate itself into the creation of my own garden. For some reason, it was assumed that I didn’t like it, the dirt, the labour, the bugs… However, this misunderstanding is something I have endeavoured to put right.

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These are “Ray Sunflower” – love the name!

Also – the link between gardening and the benefits to mental health are undoubted. That veritable green-fingered gardening god Monty Don and the brilliantly brave and lovely Rachel De Thame have both in recent programmes talked about the emotional connection with their garden. I found it very moving.

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One of my wonderfully tactile ornamental grasses, “Pennisetum Rubrum” – or “Basil” to his friends..

I am perhaps a somewhat chaotic gardener. I start out with the best of intentions (“Why don’t you make a plan Mum?”) but then I get carried away digging, or something, and I forget what I’ve planted where… It’s like my birthday every day in my garden when Spring arrives, as there are new surprises sprouting up all over, much to my delight.

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I named this one “Casanova”…although he is more properly “Pennisetum Fairytales,” just couldn’t keep his hands to himself on the bus home!

I love the stately beauty of tulips, the robust colours of dahlias, but perhaps my favourite, well, in this year just gone at any rate, have been the petunias and ornamental grasses. The grasses bring a lovely flow and movement to the garden which I find ineffably soothing, and after a stressful day, there is nothing more I like than to come home and dig a few holes, plant some things, tend to others and communicate my love for my garden, watched, usually, by my four faithful girly gardening buddies.

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Not unsurprisingly, one of my favourite books is “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett, and I would like to finish with this quote:

If you look the right way you can see that the whole world is a garden”

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Meeting Mr.Middleton…

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Now. I don’t often mention mental health or my own go-around with depression and anxiety because I write this blog for entertainment and if I can make someone smile, forget their cares for a minute, then my job is done. (“Meet the gang coz the girls are here – the girls to entertain you -” Oops, apologies to all who might remember “It Ain’t Half Hot Mum”)

It’s been a difficult few months earlier on in the year, one of the reasons why I was absent from the blog, but I read a book that really helped… I suppose this a sort of self-help post. But I have lived with a formless sort of fear for a long time which in turn gave me crippling anxiety to the point where I found myself in Asda crying because I was completely unable to choose potatoes.

Enter Ant Middleton. Not literally, of course, but metaphorically. He is an English ex-soldier, adventurer, television presenter and author. I have watched his television programmes, “SAS:Who Dares Wins,” “Mutiny”,”Escape” and “Extreme Everest.” I was taken by the absolute determination and fearlessness of the man. Granted, he’s not to everybody’s taste, but his courage, achievements and adaptability drew me.

I read his book, “First Man In: Leading From The Front.” Then I read it again. Bite size chunks of psychology and encouragement that I could understand and apply to my own life, put in such a way I could understand and use his lessons. One of the first – “Always have a plan” might seem pretty basic but it rocked me back on my metaphorical feet. Of course. There are always options.

Then he brought another book out, “The Fear Bubble.” I was wandering absently along when I saw it advertised in W.H.Smith. “Oh I must buy that” I thought. Then I read the poster properly… Ant Middleton was coming to Nottingham. I could get my book signed. OHMYGODICOULDMEETANTMIDDLETON.

I must point out here that I am not merely “fangirling”… well, perhaps, a little… but reading this man’s book has genuinely altered my mindset, and for the better.

Handily, Alex was able to come with me on the Saturday that Ant was coming to our city, so we arrived at W.H.Smith and joined the queue. I must say thank you to all the staff who made it such a pleasant and well organised event too. I gave my book to Alex to hold as my hands were getting sweaty with nerves, and as I was somewhat inelegantly wiping them on my front, who should appear from the back of the shop but – Ant Middleton!

I’ll tell you now, I don’t do cool. I have tried, but it never really works for me… so I said, in quite a loud voice: “Look! He’s here!” and shook Alex by the lapels in excitement. Ant smiled and said: “All right guys?” to the queue and disappeared to the front of the shop.

After some more waiting, we moved up and I had the chance to watch how he was with people. He was – brilliant.

Am I gushing? Perhaps, a little – but anyway, from an old lady, to a teenaged lad, to a little girl and others, he had a kind word, a hug or a handshake for everyone. Then it was our turn, he grinned at me, maybe remembering me from earlier, and said: “Come on then mother!”

We walked over and he laughed as I said I was unreasonably excited to meet him and gave me a hug. I said “It’s wonderful to meet you!” and he smiled, he has very blue, very direct eyes and shook Alex’s hand. He is extremely charismatic and very “alpha” but he uses that quality in an empowering manner. He asked us a couple of questions, and then I said: “Thank you. Very much.” I hope I managed to convey a little of how much better his book made me feel.

So… could be I’m “fangirling”… perhaps, a little – but I thoroughly recommend both his books, and as I said I am aware he’s not to everyone’s taste. But I was – and still am – unreasonably excited about actually having met Ant Middleton!