Ironing… With Cats

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As you may have gathered from this little series, having four cats means we spend a lot of time together… doing things… and while their help and advice is not always appreciated, their company and love certainly is!

1. Remove Siamese from cupboard where the ironing board lives and take it out to set up in preparation for ironing the freshly washed and dried heap of laundry in the basket.

2. Remove large black cat from clean washing and sort out the items that need re-laundering due to muddy paw prints.

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3. Fill lovely new iron with water, place in position and switch on in preparation.

4. Remove small black cat and Siamese from ironing board as they are having a punch up.

5. Scream and catch iron as a flailing paw knocks it.

6. Scream again – this time in fright – as tabby cat chooses this particular moment to launch herself from the back of the sofa to sit on your shoulder and offer advice about the best way to iron a shirt.

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7. Remove large black cat from wash basket and sort out items that need re-laundering…

8. As son is at home, offer to teach him how to iron.

9. Remove Siamese from ironing board, tabby paw from eye and beg son to iron.

10. Decide that actually, Life is too short to iron… and put everything away, having first removed Siamese from cupboard where ironing board lives…

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Agate and Agreeable Cats

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Agate is perhaps one of the most easily recognisable crystals, it’s stable, versatile and wonderful at bringing emotional, physical and spiritual balance. It encourages agreement and union between positive and negative, yin and yang.

Slices of this crystal are used to make coasters…or clocks, like this one, a wonderful charity shop find and when sliced you can fully appreciate the beauty of its layered structure. So are we humans layered, emotions, feelings, experiences and memories. Agate brings self-acceptance and improves mental clarity, bringing the ability to look inside yourself with love and kindness.

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This crystal can help you find inner harmony and begin to heal past hurts. It comes in a wide variety of colours, which will all work to benefit their matching chakras, as well as having the additional benefits associated with Agate… a stone as varied as cats…or people…and the key words to remember with this crystal are harmony, protection, strength and balance, concepts that are sorely needed in this day and age…

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Agreeable cats…” practically a contradiction in terms, but nowadays more and more cats are finding that they have to be agreeable and co-operate to a degree no self-respecting feline has ever previously done. My own four girls have come to a generally pleasant agreement…

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Luckily, we have a large garden, so there is plenty of space for individual territories, and the house itself is divided into areas that belong to certain cats. The laptop is Lily’s… she likes to lie on it. Tooty has a scratch mat that she likes to lie on.

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My bed can sometimes cause issues… all the cats like to spend time sleeping on the bed with me. Even when I’m not in it, actually, there are very definite micro-territories… the whole of my side belongs to Charlie. No dispute. No negotiation. The other side is divided into foot square pieces that belong to Lily, Ting and Tooty, although they will sometimes overlap, being sisters and not minding sharing too much.

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I am fully aware, being mostly solitary myself, of just how much stress enforced contact with other cats can cause cats… therefore I have taken steps to ensure that my girls have every modern convenience… a catflap, scratch posts, scratch mats and furniture…but we won’t talk about that…water fountains and various beds in prime locations.

At some point, during the day, all of these will be used; but come bedtime, as if by some unwritten, unspoken agreement, my feline family will all come together and settle in my room to see me into the Land of Nod…

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Ruins… And Rumbled!

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As you might remember, I have mentioned in previous posts, I went to boarding school… what some of you may not know, is that I was actually expelled too… (sorry Dad) and a few months ago, I did promise one of my dear friends to tell the story. So, here you are, Garfield Hug! This one’s for you!

I was in the sixth form and weeks away from taking my “A” Level exams. I was bored, lonely and missing home, so over the wall at the bottom of the school grounds I headed, and off to our favourite bar to see what my older group of friends had planned. We all ranged in ages from sixteen to nineteen and one of the boys not only had his full driving licence, but also a very clapped out little old car…think glorified shopping trolley.

One of the older girls and her boyfriend were planning a romantic evening in the ruins of a castle in the countryside, a few miles outside the town. Of course, there were the inevitable rumours of ghosts, grey ladies and ghouls, the haunting screams of tortured souls were supposed to echo through the crumbling stones… I may have added a story of my own here… a mad monk forced to watch his holy brethren chopped to piece by Viking marauders, seeking revenge and wielding an altar cross as weapon for all eternity…

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A romantic evening for two duly became an alcohol fuelled party of twelve… all travelling to the ruins in the shopping trolley car. You’ve seen these clown sketches where clowns just keep pouring out of one tiny little car…well that was us. In reverse. I occupied the footwell of the passenger side of the car.

We made it there, safe and sound, a little squashed, but well padded, since we also brought sleeping bags – I seem to recall someone had to carefully hold back the sleeping bags packed around the driver, so his vision wasn’t obscured…

We set up camp in what was, I presume, the Great Hall, lit a fire and set about becoming heavily infused with alcohol. Big time. It was freezing… we hadn’t seen, or heard anything out of the ordinary and inevitably fire and conversation dwindled, people fell asleep.

Not me: I was one of the diehards, and one of my few friends from the school and I thought it would be an absolutely splendid idea to climb to the top of the thirty foot ruined tower… ( Health and Safety would freak. Sometimes I’m surprised myself that I am still, more or less, in one piece..) One of the boys was still awake and thought he would do the gentlemanly thing and accompany us.

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Picture the scene… three young people sat at the top of a crumbling heap of bricks that had first been put up in about 1070, or thereabouts, watching the sun come up. We passed a cigarette between the three of us, and shared a can of lager. The sun rose, and painted the countryside in wild mediaeval colour, mist wreathing gently between the trees… and I remembered I was supposed to be taking prep with a junior class that morning.

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With the resilience of youth, we packed ourselves back into the car and drove carefully back. I was dropped off at the end of the school driveway and was walking nonchalantly back to House to get changed when out of the bushes, like a hideous troll, my House mistress, Mrs. C appeared.

WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?” she bellowed at me, purple faced with rage.

Oh, just for a walk…” I replied, blushing and stammering…

ALL BLOODY NIGHT? WE NEARLY CALLED THE POLICE!”

The intervention of my room mate prevented this… but I was duly sent home in disgrace… luckily, it was half term, and my mother spent most of it pleading with Mrs. C to take me back to finish my exams.

I returned, shamed, but unrepentant, actually. It had been a good night out… I was grounded, required to sign a register to prove attendance everywhere I went and before the ink had even dried on my last paper, politely asked to leave.

Sometimes I feel like I ought to wish things had been different… but I don’t. That morning, with two people, vague friends, watching the sun rise over the hills, I believe I saw a things could be… the other side of the coin, the unexpected, the old… the forgotten…

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Child

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My heart is filled with ghosts
Of the times when you
Were little,

The games we played
Adventures made
The life we shared together.

Now you are grown
And on your way
The time for me has passed.

Laughter and footsteps
Echo
In the chambers of my heart.

It is
As it should be.
And the days go by
Till I go home at last.

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Trees, Ting… And Tinkerbell!

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I quite like trees. We don’t actually have that many in our garden, there’s four miserable looking leyllandii, that my partner insists are his topiary project, which to me just smell of cat pee… We have an apple tree that he grew from a pip, which obligingly puts forth a fantastic display of beautiful, delicate blossom every year and produces apples as hard as bullets and that are the sourest thing that Mother Nature has ever made.

We have a lemon tree, lovingly grown by my partner from a pip. (But we won’t talk about that…) My son likes trees and has spent a lot of time photographing them, drawing them and painting them.

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But none of the trees in my garden are particularly large. Our house has a park adjoining our garden, and right next to our boundary fence, we have two large trees, I think they’re ash trees. They make a mess, anyway, dropping dead leaves into the garden, the sticky bud cases get in between the cats’ toes and only the most determined plants will grow in their shade.

However, they can come in useful, I suppose. The squirrel uses them as a quick getaway route, goldfinches and blue tits sit in them and pigeons fight in them. Ting likes to sit on the garden table and watch them.

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Now. Our neighbour has a cat. Nothing wrong with that at all, apart from the fact she’s a bit dim… the cat, not the neighbour that is. She’s a beautiful cat, a Chinchilla, but she just has no concept of boundaries, or personal space, or danger… The neighbour is forever retrieving her from under cars, other peoples’ houses and so on… The other day, the cat, Tinkerbell, thought she would investigate our garden. Luckily for her, my girls were having their afternoon siesta, as my partner – never one to resist a pretty face – made friends with Tinkerbell and accompanied her on a tour of our garden. Tinkerbell thought she would repeat the visit the other day… this time, however, Ting was awake. I never thought Ting was a particularly fierce cat – she tends to flirt with passing males:

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Ooh, you’re a big boy…” and apart from her sister, has little to do with the other girls. Well. She took one look at Tinkerbell and CHASED her… right out of the garden and straight up the larger of the two ash trays… trees… Freudian slip there.

Charlie told me what happened. Not that she’s a tell-tale, but she obviously witnessed the whole incident and as the responsible adult, felt she had to come and warn me. Ting sat at the foot of the tree:

Hi Mum, look! I’ve chased that funny coloured thing up the tree, let’s leave it there…”

Tinkerbell looked down at me miserably:

I only wanted to be FRIENDS! Where’s that nice man from the other day?!”

I went to fetch my partner. He looked at the tree and looked at the cat.

I’LL NEED MY LADDERS FOR THAT!” (He’s quite a small man, and it’s quite a large tree, and the cat was quite far up…)

I looked back at him impassively. Charlie and Ting looked at him. Tinkerbell chose that moment to change position and balance on one of the thinnest twigs…

He fetched his ladders. He wanted me to video his heroic rescue, but I felt I had to hold the ladders. Large tree… small bloke… wriggly cat… I managed one picture though, to show the neighbour. Although Ting suggested I make a ‘Wanted For Trespassing’ notice from it…

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Moths… and Moving On

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When I was a little girl, I had the most magical experience which has stayed with me in clear and vivid detail, right to this very day.

It was when we lived in the cottage in the country, and we had the typical garden that goes with those types of converted cottages, flowers, bushes, a lawn, a pond… I was playing outside, lost in a world of my own imaginings, watched benevolently by Nikki, our German Shepherd at the time, and my black cat, Snoopy. They were often drawn into my games, and participated, bless them, with good heart.

In the rich brown earth, like crumbled fruit cake, under the bush near where we were playing, lay what looked like a curled up dead leaf. I prodded it, experimentally, as you do, and it wriggled… I was quite a curious and gentle child, and I wanted to prevent Snoopy from showing too much interest, so I picked it up and put it in the palm of my hand to examine a little more closely.

It wriggled again, and then, perhaps encouraged by the warmth of my hands, little splits appeared in the leaf-like surface, and a milky fluid started to seep out. The thing wriggled more enthusiastically, and then, before my enchanted, entranced and totally disbelieving eyes, a little miracle happened.

Slowly, a damp, crumpled creature emerged, and I recognised it as a moth… but what a moth! It sat, quite happily, in my hands, drying out and letting its wings dry and spread. Beautiful creature, I was amazed – I’ve never been able to repeat this experience, even though I’ve found other moth chrysalises.

As it dried, Mother Nature touched it with her delicate palette, borrowed from a sunset sky of pink and gold, each tiny hair on its body drying and fluffing, each miniature scale on its perfect wings powdered with gilt and rose. Antennae, as fine and sensitive as cats’ whiskers, quivered, and two tiny glowing eyes looked at me.

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I must have sat for about half an hour holding this little wonder, until it was dry enough to fly away. I later found out that this amazing creature was actually an Elephant Hawk moth… I have retained a fondness for moths of all variety of moths, from the slender brown ones and delicate white Plume moths to the flashy red Burnet moth to the cuddly brown furry ones, the Brian Blesseds of the Lepidopteric world… I try to prevent my cats from eating them, as they do a valuable job of pollinating night opening flowers…

Recently, I have been blessed with moth appearances from all branches of the family… to such an extent I wondered whether there was actually any symbolism attached to theses little night-fliers, and whether someone was trying to tell me something. I duly Googled “Moth Symbolism.”

In brief, although moths are more usually night time creatures, they seek the Light, consequently they symbolise determination, attraction, psychic abilities and faith. Intuition, higher awareness and psychic enhancement are all mentioned too. I don’t make any claim towards psychic ability – although I can sometimes freak my son out by my uncanny awareness of what he is doing… but despite, or perhaps because of, various things that have happened to me in my life, I have tried to maintain a path, a striving towards the Light – I’m nothing if not determined!

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Coincidentally – or maybe not – I have always felt spiritually drawn towards India and her mysticism… as I mentioned to a friend, in the past week I have met two men who have looked at me and said I should go to India… one man had just come back from Kerala and perhaps saw the interest in my eyes and said; “Go. You know you have to…” And then I had a very interesting conversation with a wonderful man who had the kindest and most peaceful blue eyes…

One final little gem… if you pardon the pun… the novel I’m writing is set in India…

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