Thursday, July 31, 2008
But some cats are bad.
We had a bad cat living in our garden, for over a year. A bad stray cat. If it had stayed in our garden merely terrorising our cat, we might have lived with that. But it came in the house. It ate our cat's food. It terrorised our cats inside - creating scary noises. It pissed on our stuff. Its piss really, really stank. And worst of all, it woke me up at night. Now, Buddy is not a good sleeper - not at all. I'm running a sleep deficit that would make the Federal government look parsimonious. And while I try to remain patient when my darling only son wakes me - I'm not so sanguine when it comes to raggedy strays.
While Other Cat was alive, she sort of kept it at bay. Not very effectively, but she tried. But after her demise, Fancy just wasn't up to the task. She's a charming critter, but slight and not a fighter. The stray cat, whom we christened Blind Cat because of its squinty, bleary look and its seeming inability to see us as we waved our arms violently and shouted at it to go away.
We tried everything we could to run that cat off.
1. Yelling and screaming - check
2. Broom waving - check
3. Squirt gun - check
4. Super-soaker squirt gun - check
5. Pellet gun - check (animal lovers, don't worry it was a kind of lame battery powered thing. Once he realised it didn't hurt it was no deterrent).
Once Other Cat (who was chunky) passed on, we devised a new strategy. We'd close the cat door and just crack the windows. Fancy was slim enough to slither through and the blind cat could only look through.
But our tactic worked too well. Blind Cat began to lose weight. Enough weight to get through our windows. At night. And wake me up. And piss on our stuff.
And we can't close the windows altogether because, this is England and our house doesn't have AC and the days have been hot and the nights are not cooling down enough to sleep without a bit of a breeze.
So enough's enough. We called the RSPCA and our pleas of mercy fell on deaf ears.
And then we knew we had to take matters into our own hands. We tried to make our cat door a one-way system - so we could trap it in the house and catch it. But he was wise to that. Several days passed and the food disappeared too rapidly and we realised he was pawing the door open and getting out.
But last night something different happened. I don't quite know how it happened but the cat got trapped inside. My husband shut it into the understairs closet and then we plotted how we'd get rid of it.
I was all for driving it down to the coast and chucking it into the sea. But I was worried that I'd be spotted and this is the kind of country where you can throw your Thai bride or child into the sea and get away with it, but a cat? Not a chance.
We planned to release it on Mitcham Common - a derelict bit of "nature" a few miles and a few very busy roads away. But I was afraid the cat would find its way back. I was still worried about getting caught, too.
So this morning when we finally decided to release the cat from the closet and box it up for a new life further south. I took Buddy out for a walk and told the Vol-in-Law to call me when the cat was safely in a carrier.
Instead I get a frantic call from the ViL saying the cat hadn't been caught and in fact had bitten him. He was going to try to phone Battersea Dogs and Cats Home and see if they would help.
Well, it turns out they don't make house calls, but they did give him a handy piece of advice. Throw a blanket over the cat. They also promised to take the nasty critter off our hands.
I returned to a scene of carnage. The ViL was still dripping blood. The cat had really mauled him. It had stuck his fangs deep into the knuckle of his left index finger, leaving an ugly looking puncture. My anger towards this cat (for the night wakings and the stinky piss) became a rage and the red mist descended. The cat was shut in the back rooms of our house. The ViL brought me a thick woolen blanket and as I opened the door (leaving Buddy and the ViL safely in the hallway), I was determined that one of us would only be leaving the room in a cat box.
No more Ms Nice Gal, I channeled my inner redneck and went after that cat with a vengeance. I through the blanket over the moggy and pinned it down to the ground. I managed to wrassle it into the box (not easy with the thick blanket) but failed to secure the door and it sprang free. The cat hissed and spat and literally climbed the walls. It was so impressive an acrobatic feat that I was momentarily deterred from my mission. But I threw the blanket again, wrangled it once more and this time pressed my weight against the door while I fiddled with the locking mechanism. A little advance preparation on that score would have saved me much trouble.
Battersea say they'll take cats day or night, but I wanted that thing out of my house then and there. By this time, fright had caused the cat to piss again. And its urine reeked of anger, fear and that normal icky cat pee smell.
We loaded up the car with ourselves, baby and cat and headed off to the cat shelter. It's on the other side of our borough, but shouldn't have taken too long to get there. It was a hot day, so we decided to turn on the AC in the car - but the stink was too high so we had to open the windows. And then calamity struck.
The Wandsworth gyratory (a system of one-ways) is never easy to navigate. But one lane was closed. This backed traffic all the way up Garrett Lane and it took us almost an hour to go a quarter of a mile. On a hot day. With a piss-reeking cat. And a baby. In the car. Many's the time I fantasized about just chucking the cat out the window (perhaps into the path of oncoming traffic) and turning around.
It was all relatively smooth sailing after that and the ViL managed to leave the cat off with Battersea, explaining how this cat had made our own Battersea cat's life miserable. (The fact that we'd passed their rather difficult re-homing interview apparently gave us a bit of moral credit). We had to donate our cat box, but it was a small price to pay.
The thing is, Battersea is the pet re-homing agency to the stars. Everyone wants a Battersea cat, but few can meet the standards. Hollywood actors have been turned down. They'll probably manage to adopt out even that cat. And who knows, maybe Gwyneth Paltrow is looking for feline friend for her offspring? Maybe Madonna will want a pussy to compensate for her crumbling marriage. And scraggly old Blind Cat might just be headed their way (which is just as well since I believe they both live North of the River and which would make the cat's return unlikely).
Even if he doesn't end up a celebrity cat, he'll probably get a nice home.
Which is more than he deserves.
I started this post last night, but wasn't able to finish it. I slept a bit better knowing that even if somehow that cat gets back to our area, at least for one night he was in secure lockdown. The ViL's finger is still swollen and hurty this morning.
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
For years, I've scoffed at the Brits when they complained about the heat when the mercury rose above 75 and I was still wearing a cotton sweater. I've lived through Tennessee summers without the benefit of air conditioning. Now that was hot.
But now I'm feeling the heat a bit. It was 82 in house this morning at 5am.
* I would never, ever do that.
Monday, July 28, 2008
It's not that it was completely ignored. The BBC covered it with a headline:
I've been to church myself, attended services there. Everyone was very friendly. The setting was lovely. A nice bunch of people who didn't deserve that. It's hard to imagine someone wanting to bust in on church services there with a gun. But then, I have a hard time imagining why people to do lots of things.
I can't imagine, too, why people would hate liberals so much. It's become like some national sport. Blame the liberals. It's not that I don't think a lot can go wrong when you have gushy leftist policies, but honestly - I think most of the liberals I know really do mean well. They do try to cover up their own outward meanness - which isn't the worst thing you could do. It's not as bad as shooting up a children's play - in a church.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
The same machine was in use all through my childhood. So I remember the constant run of the hose pipe and my grandfather moving the hose throughout the day to water the shrubs out the front, the tomato plants, the watermelon patch and the drifts of cannas. But best of all, we grandkids could play with the hosepipe as much as we wanted - and the water was warm. Not the best for drinking, but great for splashing around in and filling paddling pools (except on the very hottest of days).
It was so warm, in fact, my grandfather rigged up a little shower system on the back porch, and screened from the traffic of Springer Road by overgrown hedges, we could bathe outside at night.
There must have been other such systems in existence, but I don't remember hearing about them and I certainly haven't heard of any others like that now. When the unit had to be replaced in the mid 80s - a normal air conditioner was installed. No more warm water eternally on tap.
Kids like hosepipes though, no matter what the temperature. We stripped Buddy down in the garden yesterday (yes, a little of the edge of the sub-arctic chill of British summer has finally melted off) and let him play with the hose.
It's not that hot though, and the water from the hose is cold. We saw him sucking in his tummy from the freezing water and his flesh was cool to the touch. Still, he kept playing. But I wished he could have experienced that warm water hosepipe.
Saturday, July 26, 2008
I didn't want that.
And I understand burden weighed especially heavy this year, apparently. It was difficult to find the time to organise and the committee only met in early July to agree a date. Which to me would have necessitated a date somewhat far into the future, like December. You know, so people could plan and stuff and maybe make travel arrangements and so forth.
But the date they agreed is in early September. This year.
I didn't go to my tenth reunion, but for over a year I've actually been looking forward to going to my 20th high school reunion.
And now there's no way I can go, I only found out the date this week. Yesterday, in fact.
Had I known - say in early May, I almost certainly could have arranged my work schedule to go. I probably could have arranged airline tickets at a reasonable price. And so on... but I've got project deadlines and speaking engagements all around this time. Work people asked me to go events ages before I got the invite (actually I haven't had one officially) for my 20th high school reunion.
And I hate traveling too much to go just for a weekend (especially with a one year old baby).
I'm really pissed off.
On the bright side, I have an extra ten years to lose weight and make my life a success.
Friday, July 25, 2008
I found this when I was looking for something else in Flickr today. Apparently, they were martyred by yellow fever. Is that possible?
Just thought it was interesting, click through on the picture for the full story.
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Even the BBC (generally in the tank for Barack) point out that a love this great could lead to disappointment later on.
I'd also point out that Germans don't, in fact, have a vote, which is just as well given their historical record on choosing charismatic leaders who know how to whip up a crowd.
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
I could hear the guy, perhaps a little bit in shock, chuckling to himself over the unexpected encounter.
I turned to him and said, jokingly "But not me, apparently."
He smiled and said "Jesus loves you, too. You don't need to be told that."
Here's a clinical description:
Cysts are fluid filled sacs within the breast. These sacs form when normal milk producing glands enlarge. The cause of this enlargement is not definitely known but is very likely related to an imbalance between the normal production and absorption of fluid. Breast cysts may be solitary but are most commonly multiple and can vary in size from microscopic to larger than a ping pong ball.
And let's just say, I was hitting the ping pong edge of the scale.
Today I went to the specialist breast clinic at my local hospital. (Yes, they call it a breast clinic, which I think is kinda funny). I was seen by a male nurse practitioner. Pretty much not all the kind of person I wanted to see. I would have preferred a female doctor, but there you are. The guy had a nice manner about him though and he seemed kinda gay. Don't know if he actually was gay or just affected the slightly gay thing, regardless it was somewhat reassuring.
There's the usual waiting and undressing and breast touching and so forth and then he told me he was going to stick a needle in my breast. I think I made a bit of a face, because he went all touchy-feely and stuff and asked me if it was a problem and did I need the other nurse to hold my hand? I assured him that I wasn't needle-phobic (I'm not) and that I'd be ok. I think they expected me to flip and the other nurse did hold my hand. I'm not the kind of person who finds that sort of thing comforting, but I was too worried about offending her and maybe it's part of their tactic to get in there and hold down a flailing arm if they need to.
Sticking a needle in the old breast tissue doesn't sound good, but it didn't actually hurt. In fact, it was far less painful than a blood draw, way less painful than getting your ears pierced or getting a tattoo. I'd wholeheartedly recommend it to even the most pain sensitive. They didn't even administer any pain relief - and a lydocaine shot almost certainly would have been more painful than the actual procedure.
The aspiration took a while because he pulled out five syringes (58ml) worth of instant-ice tea colored fluid from the cyst. Nasty. But when I saw them all lined up on the little stainless steel hospital trolley I said "I wish I'd brought my camera."
Because I was thinking of you, dear reader.
I'd been led to believe that the needle thing was to be diagnostic, but it turned out to be curative (hopefully). But the best part about the whole episode was that their "calming technique" was basically asking me questions about me. I was happy to comply.
But I was even more amazed to find that she was less interested in the deer than in the cattle. There was still at least one working farm in the Cove then and she'd never seen cows before. Not up close like that. See, she was from Philly. A City Girl.
Now, I wasn't raised on a farm or anything like that. But I guess I had a basic working knowledge of cows and certainly I'd been on other people's farms and my granddad sold supplies to farmers. And from a young age I'd been to my cousins' other grandparents and my uncle had let me bottle feed calves as a special treat. You have to make your own fun in small town Tennessee.
I understood that not everyone had experiences like that, but I thought everyone had seen a cow. But I took real joy in her fascination. I did have to explain to her that it wasn't such a good idea to hop the fence and get in with the bullocks trying to pet them.
I don't know what they have in Philly, but around the UK there are City Farms. Back when the Vol-in-Law and I were first married in Sheffield and had no money we used to regularly visit Graves Park and city farm. That was a great city farm. There was a petting area and they had acres of pens stocked with rare breeds - heritage pigs and the woolly mammoth looking highland cattle.
When we lived in Coventry, we took one sad, sorry visit to a city farm in what's described in policy circles here as a "deprived area". Apparently, they'd had some unfortunate incidents in the past and so visits to the animals had to be supervised. We were escorted around the livestock by a sickly looking ten year old who kept a close and suspicious eye on how we petted the pony.
Buddy likes animals and I certainly wouldn't want him growing up to be a young adult who's never seen a cow up close and personal.
Early agricultural training
Where we live now, there's a city farm within walking distance of our house. It's a long walk, but it's doable. On Sunday, we went there, breaking our trip with a stop at an Italian restaurant and a glass of wine overlooking the River Wandle. (Sounds swish, but the Wandle is little better than a drainage ditch in some places).
Deen City Farm isn't exactly a petting zoo, but if you go at a certain time (2 to 3 and some other window in the morning hours) you can buy a plastic cup full of feed pellets to coax the goats and sheep and alpacas close enough to the bars of their pens. to stick your hand in and stroke their woolly coats.
We didn't spend much time on the cows this last visit, as they're not really on eye level with the baby.
Buddy's happy to see the animals, but he's not amazed and he's not cowed. He kicked a greedy goat in the head.
And stuck his finger in the aviary, much to the delight of some hungry, curious parakeety type things. The bird bit him on the finger, which freaked me out a little (I have a slight avian phobia) but phased him not at all. He withdrew his finger, considered his position and then poked the bird again.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
But here's a little tip. If you actually go into church at the right time and sit there for a service you can pray for free. Oh sure, they pass the basket around, but believe you me you can respectably drop in a pound coin or two and that'll save you at least a fiver off admission. But once you're in, sneaking off to look at the statuary is considered uncouth.
I happened to going past Westminster Abbey today, which is filthy with tourists right now. I overheard an American couple asking about the free admissions (I guess for evensong) and the tabard wearing attendant said "Yes, you can come in for free for the service if you plan to stay the whole hour."
At Canterbury you pay a lot, but the ticket is good for a year - so not so bad on the locals.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Saturday, July 12, 2008
I could have lounged around the house and played video games, but we decided to make the most of the day and planned a museum visit, dim sum in China Town and a swimming/sauna/spa trip to a swanky gym in the center of town.
Although we've been to the British Museum many times, we decided to go there because there were a couple of special exhibits on. A Chinese Garden in the forecourt (lame), flowers and insects in Chinese art (lame) and The American Scene: Prints from Hopper to Pollock. Brilliant.
Prints and etchings from the first half of the 20th Century, including works from Hopper (always great) and Pollock (yeah, whatever) and some iconic works like George Bellow's A Stag at Sharkey's. They were all stark and dark and social-commenty and stuff, the Vol-in-Law declared they were not quite Hogarthian, but he could see where they were going. But mostly they were just really powerful images playing with light and shadow in a really striking way.
I sort of forget that British Museum has stuff like this. Although I've been many times, I'm usually going with a visitor and it's a quick look at the big Assyrian thingies, a gander at the Rosetta Stone (if you can press through the throng) and maybe check out the Elgin marbles or the big hall of Egyptian mummies. If that's all you have time for, that's probably a good way to go.
But checking out the special exhibit meant we headed off the north side, where apparently we've never been - because very little of it looked familiar. We'll have to go back again, because after a tour around the Korean room and quick jaunt through a great hall of Asian treasures, it was time for our lunch. Besides, too much museum in one day gives you artifact daze.
Besides the special exhibit, I think the Korean room was a favorite. There's a definitely a cool style vibe going for the Koreans - simple and pragmatically beautiful everyday objects. In some way it reminded me of Finnish design sensibility (though not the same look at all). My favorite was a simple green ewer with a leaf pattern (though I didn't think to take a picture).
In the great big Asian hall that I can't believe we've never been to
Friday, July 11, 2008
At Buddy's weekly playgroup, I've seen that he has an interest in the baby dolls. I was keen to encourage this because he's never shown the slightest attachment to any kind of cuddle or cumfy, despite having been given an impressive collection of cute stuffed animals from pigs to cats to polar bears. He's always preferred hard edged plastic toys.
I guess the baby dolls have enough hardness about them and he loves to finger their eyes and ears and toes.
So, I went on the hunt for a doll that he could call his own.
It's very hard to find an appropriate doll for a very little boy, I've discovered. I didn't want one that weed or cried or shed "real" tears. And not just because they cost a lot more. I already have a baby that wees and cries and sheds real tears. And I have a rather painful early childhood memory of a doll whose mechanical cries scared the wits out of me. It was relegated to a drawer and even seeing it in my late childhood elicited a little frisson of fear. I'm uncomfortable even remembering that thing with her non-removable pink polka dot outfit and the drawstring wail of death.
I finally found one that didn't cost too much and doesn't do too much (apparently this one will say Papa and Mamma if you insert some batteries into its chest cavity which we will not be doing.)
That was Baby Hannah.
I'm trying not to play too much into gender stereotypes, but Baby Hannah came in a sickeningly sweet, cotton candy pink sleeper outfit. It was just a little bit too girly for my boy.
Baby Hannah was stripped down and changed into one of Buddy's old outfits and became Petey. Petey isn't anatomically correct, so no one need know about his gender dysmorphic past.
Sadly, and very much unlike us, we were quite organised about putting away Buddy's earliest outfits. So although Petey should be wearing newborn sizes, he tends to wear a few outsized 0 to 3 month garments that were hidden in the dark recesses of our dirty clothes basket. We just roll up the legs and pull the waistband high. And Petey can't go naked because he has a non-washable cloth body and Buddy sometimes likes Petey to join him at meal times.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
We discovered this when we were trying to make a ferry to Germany (and didn't have much time) and the gas light came on. It's fair to say that I'm a nervous traveler. I was freaking - I could just see us (me, my husband and VolBro) stuck on the side of the motorway somewhere in Norfolk as our ship sailed.
There are often many, many miles between motorway stops and rest stations in the UK.
The Vol-in-Law, optimist that he is, figured that we not only had enough gas to get to the next refueling point, but also enough to get us to the ferry port.
I did not agree.
Fortunately, we found a petrol station before the car went pfft, pftt, pluuutttt.
All throughout our road trip through Germany, Denmark, Sweden and Norway I topped up the car whenever I could. I knew it was a little more than necessary, but I didn't fancy coming to a dead stop on one of those high mountain roads with the mountains on the left and a plummet to the sea on the right. The Vol-in-Law kept insisting that the light came on when the fuel level reached a quarter of a tank. Meaning miles and miles and miles of driving ahead.
He told me that his father had told him this.
That's the same man who ran out of gas on the Forth Road Bridge. The same guy who has apparently a relatively long and sorry history of running out of gas.
You don't want to be stuck here.
So anyway, our argument has lasted many years now. With me immediately wanting to fill up after I see the gas light and him saying there's no need to worry, that we could run our errands, go to the park, have a little tootle round London and still have no worries about running out of gas.
So who knows who's right? (Me obviously, but let's stick with the question for a rhetorical point.)
Now perhaps there's a website that could help answer that question. Tank on Empty. The idea is that you self-report how long it took you to completely run out of gas after the warning light came on. Problem is, many of the self reporters are liars, with a disturbing number of 99 miles votes for a disturbing (statistically disturbing) number of cars.
Here's a hint. When you see the light - just fill up the tank.
(Hat Tip Sharon Cobb)
Photo credit: Forth Bridge from Patrick Down shown here under a Creative Commons license.
Sunday, July 06, 2008
There was a big BBQ, with women in hijab serving lamb kebabs with spicy Indian sauces. There was a bouncy castle (Buddy's too little for that), and cotton candy (candy floss in Brit-speak) and a baked good stall and bric-a-brac and books for sale and various other ways to fleece money out of fayre-goers.
And there was the money-making scheme that I remember so well from my school-going, church youth-group attending days.
Krispy Kreme donuts.
And they tasted better than I remember. (I've been sort of down on Krispy Kreme since I got thrown out of the one in Knoxville - for singing. As I recall, the other patrons loved it.)
The man at the donut stall (a parent)had gotten a very good deal on the donuts (I wasn't clear if he got them free or not). And he got a lot of balloons, too. One of them he gave to Buddy, who was thrilled!
Friday, July 04, 2008
What can Brits do to ease the awkwardness and ensure a Happy Fourth?
- no snarky comments about impertinent colonists
- no jibes about how we've made a mess of our independence - especially over the last eight years or so
- no general anti-Americanism (yes, I know it's hard)
- sparklers should be on sale at every corner store
- bring us a brownie
- a paid day off work would be nice
- tax free tea all day
Thursday, July 03, 2008
We saw an amazing display of scarecrows at the RHS Wisley today. They seem to have all been put together by various Women's Institutes around the South East of England. Many of the figures were women and a number celebrated women's suffrage. And one was of the cat in the hat.