Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cats can see into the future!

I have always suspected that cats had powers we mere humans could not comprehend:  they can hear a refrigerator door open at 100m; they can identify those who are uncomfortable around felines and head straight for them; they can leap huge walls at a single bound;  and they can see into the future.  My cats  can see into the future and DO NOT like what they see. 

I haven't taken my suitcase out of the cupboard, nor have I made little piles of things I mustn't forget.  I haven't packed my sunblock and hat -- I haven't even wrapped the presents, but THEY know, and they are grumbling.

Ratty won't leave my side.  Usually he doesn't venture up the stairs as Mr Macc and Miss Ming have ruled the bedrooms out of bounds to interloper cats.  This morning Ratty came up and joined me while I was having my bath.  I was wallowing in luxury - my last bath for three weeks as timed showers are the order of the day in Australia.  Ratty came bouncing in yeowlling.  'There you are!  I've been looking for you!  Why did you leave me by myself?'  And so on.  If he crept in quietly and sat beside the bath like Ming does, nobody would have noticed except me.  No, Ratty has a fanfare everywhere he goes and the 'parent cats' were not amused.

After I got dressed and I began to tidy the bedroom - you know putting away shoes that have been lying about for a week, and jackets that won't be worn for another six weeks -  Ratty was everywhere.  In the cupboards, helping me with my knapsack, spooking himself in the mirror and finally leaping onto the bed (first time since the meltdown).  Then he followed me into my study which is Ming Central while I found another Christmas card to write, and he jumped up on Macc's chair, while Ming peered around the edge of the curtain at him, disapproval screaming across her whiskers.

I haven't begun to pack.  That mountain is looming before me.

They know I will begin soon.  Tonight we leave for Australia and family Christmas.  I hate packing.  I hate travelling. I shudder to think what size my carbon footprint is. We will eat far too much and spend far too much and we will come back from our 'holiday' exhausted.

Rest assured the cats will be well cared for in my absence.  As well as my domestic assistant who will be in charge of day to day care, I have a roster of friends organised to cope with emergencies.

I hope you all have happy and peaceful Christmases (or appropriate festivities if you don't partake of Christmas).  I've enjoyed your company while in exile and hope to see you all (virtually at least) in the new year.

Best wishes, Isabel x


Saturday, December 17, 2011

More Adventures in Cat-land

Don't wring your hands in anxiety - the cats are all well and flourishing.

Little Guy (LG) is growing fuzz where she was shaved for her operation.  Her wound is healed and she is her normal bouncy self.  She continues to neglect her kittens and cast herself at the tomcats.  She is of no interest to them (thankfully!) which is good for her long-term health, even if she is suffering from short-term confusion and rejection. 

LG and Ratty are back hanging out together on the doorstep, still the best of pals.  Ratty has not recovered his former strength - he can't leap up onto walls, only onto comfy chairs and laps.

I have been in hospital this past week having infusions every morning and coming home about 10 o'clock, which has rather upset Ratty's routine.  On Sunday (first day of the week here) when I came home Ratty was sitting on the doorstep with LG.  This was the first time he has climbed out of the garden since his second illness.  He was happy to see me and skipped inside.  On Wednesday I came in, noted Ratty sitting under the table and almost immediately went out again to visit a friend on the compound.  When I got home an hour or two later, Ratty was no where to be seen.  It was a lovely day so I thought perhaps he was in the garden with the other cats, and I was very tired.  I lay down on the couch thinking Ratty will come and join me, as he always does, and promptly fell asleep. (Please note I get up at 4 40 am to get to the hospital for 6 am, and the treatment is exhausting so I am allowed to have a sleep.  In fact I need to have a sleep every day.) 

My conscience woke me up.  No Ratty.  I forced myself up and had a look in the garden for him.  No Ratty.  I knew he would not be upstairs if I was downstairs, which meant he was probably out on the compound somewhere, and possibly in trouble.  I went for a walk along the golf course road.  There was no one around to hear me call 'Ratty', feeling slightly foolish.  There were lots of peacocks about but no cats. 

Then I heard a voice, and saw one of Seams's May kittens, who came out of the trees to ask for a handout, but I didn't think it was his (probably a male) voice I'd heard.  A few metres further on was Ratty, sitting up and maowing.  I called again and he came running towards me, maowing furiously.  But, he couldn't get to me, and I could see why he hadn't come home:  at that point, the surface of the golf course is about one and a half metres below the surface of our road - so he was facing a two metre high concrete wall.  What to do?

I knew that about 300 metres back towards the club house, the ground rises and at one point, the golf course is actually slightly above the top of the retaining wall.  Could I convince him to follow me along the road back to where he could hop out?

First there was the the group of peacocks and hens to negotiate - pretty scary for a cat of any condition, doubly so for one who is not perfectly fit.  Then there was the Seams-kitten who wanted to keep Ratty off his 'patch'.  Ratty is not the brightest cat in the firmament but he is loyal and deeply, madly, truly in love with me.  He followed me.  I called, he maowed, we'd progress five or ten metres and then he'd stop to have a rest. He tried a few times to jump up onto the wall and crashed back to the sand. Finally I reached the part where the golf course was above the wall, only Ratty was not with me. I called and he answered - he'd managed to jump up and was down on the road behind me, waiting.

We trotted home together, Ratty chatting and me relieved.  He came in and had an enormous bowl of crunchies and then we retired to the sofa, together:

We were quite done in by our excitement.

But very happy the adventure had a happy outcome:

He has not ventured back to the golf course to my knowledge - or if he has, he's remembered where he can get out.  He does like climbing out of the garden and hanging with LG on the front step, and always likes scooting back inside when I open the door for him.  Mind you, he never goes out if I am at home so I suspect some of his motivation for going AWOL is that he is looking for me.  He's at my feet now.

Miss Ming and Mr Macc are continuing with their toffee-nosed approach to the interlopers.  I have caught them ganging up together on Miss Wolfe, which is a bit mean, although she does ask for it.  The other day Wolfe pounced on Ming as she left the kitchen, a sneaky, surprise attack.  Wolfe is a smart cat though, and when I shouted at her, she immediately left Ming alone and ran away to hide.  I could really do without cat-dramas at 5 am.  Really.

Macc and Ming remind me of disapproving parents - I think it is me as much as the interlopers that they are disappointed in:

what have you brought home?


Tuesday, December 6, 2011


LG spent a few days at my friend's spa recuperating from her operation.  We had planned to keep her in protective custody until after her follow-up visit to the Vet on Wednesday afternoon.  However, in spite of all appearances to the contrary, she had been feeding her kittens - and by last night her mammaries were full of milk.

This morning, protesting even more than during her first inelegant plunge into the cat carrier, R and I brought her home.  We took her, in the carrier, to the wall of the golf course.  Her kittens were down in the sand, waiting for me to feed them.  At the sight of us, or the smell of their mother, they began to meow loudly.  LG was frantic to get out of the carrier to them.  We could barely unzip the front before she scrabbled her way free.

There was a touching reunion:

where kittens got milk and LG relief.  She washed them and kissed them, making a happy family.  R and I were also relieved and pleased, as we worried that she would spurn them, leaving them exposed and vulnerable to peacocks and wild cats. We were also relieved that the kittens survived without her for the 48 hours she was 'busy'.

It wasn't long before LG's attention wandered ...

and then  LG had had enough of the whole motherhood sentimental business.  She shrugged off the remaining kittens and climbed a tree to sharpen her (trimmed under anaesthetic) claws.  The kittens came back and finished the crunchies I had scattered for them.

We wondered if LG would ever trust us again.  She'd cast some pretty severe looks our way before she sauntered off into the trees.  (My friend R thought this might be because LG had hoped she'd no longer be out on the street and had passed some bizarre initiation rite.)

Less than two hours later I went out to buy some bread - and look who was on the doorstep, showing off her clipped ear:

The clipped ear tells any would-be cat catchers that she has been sterilised and can be left alone (we hope).  She has a significant shaved patch which will be chilly (it is quite cool for Exile-land presently), perhaps it will encourage her to snuggle up to her babies at night?

I am pleased it has all worked out so smoothly without any major dramas and that we are all still friends.  And I am grateful that my friend R was able to provide lifting and taxi services, along with the all-important recuperation suite.

Ratty is doing well although he is still a little gamy in the hind legs.  He more than makes up for any physical shortcomings by his devotion.


Sunday, December 4, 2011

Ratty & LG

I've written before about the lovely and unique relationship demonstrated between two street cats - Ratty and LG - who I've known and fed, cared for and loved, for about 15 months.

They are litter-mates and are always together.  Even when LG is seeing suitors, she makes time for Ratty. 

We've had more rain lately and it has been unseasonably cold.  This last week while Ratty has been ill,  LG has been camping on the doorstep, waiting for him to come out (or better still) for her chance to come in.  This morning she had her chance. 

LG - Marius refers to her as 'Not the Mother of the Year' - is famous for neglecting her kittens; when she is with them she ignores them (I know how she feels) and she seems to spend most of her time hanging around our house. When we give her food, she is reluctant to share (normal) and resistant to feeding them (not normal).  Her current litter has three surviving kittens, all desperately cute bundles of fuzz.  They must be three or four months old and able to fend for themselves outof necessity, although I think LG  was still feeding them in a haphazard fashion. 

LG is in  season again. At least she has been waving her bum under the nose of Black Tom in a fairly provocative way, so I presume if she isn't yet in season, she will be very soon.  She is tiny, always looks underfed and quite simply, another pregnancy would not do her any good.   At last count we had about 15 strays on the compound.  We do not need more kittens, please.  So, I arranged with a friend to help me catch LG and today we took her to the vet to have her spaying operation. 

I put one of Ratty's old bed pads (unsoiled of course, but deliciously Ratty-scented) in one of our cat carriers.  We let LG come in to the house with us where my friend R scooped her up and plunged her, struggling, into the waiting carrier.  She screamed and swore and threw herself around in the confined space.  Then Ratty strolled up and sat  next to her and spoke softly in cat-ese to her and she calmed down immediately.

R and I had a cup of tea and a quick piece of toast - it was 7 am - and then we took LG out to the car and drove the 40 minutes to the Vet.  She meowed once, softly, on the way.  Perhaps the Ratty scent made her feel more secure?  She is in the animal hospital now, coming out of her anaesthetic and we will trek over to pick her up in an hour or so.  My friend R has agreed to let LG stay with her in a spare room, for a day or two while her incision heals, and then she will be out on the street or my doorstep, once more.

As for Ratty, he is convalescing.  He can walk and run, wash himself, eat and do all the cat things except leap up onto a chair, and his purr has also returned.  He is curled up at my feet as I'm writing this.  We hope he will not have another neurological meltdown.  We hope the HDU is closed permanently, but we can't say, and neither can the Vet, whether he will have a further episode.

In January, another neighbour will help R take some more of the kittens to the government veterinary hospital where they have a free program of trap-neuter-return.  I was concerned if we waited until January LG would have become pregnant, and as that would make the spaying operation much more complex, I am afraid the government would simply euthanise her, rather than spay her.  Hence her trip today (for a fee!).  We don't know where the government vet is and we are relying on this other lady to direct us there, but she doesn't want to transport cats etc, until after she returns from her holidays. 

At least something is being done to help the strays.  Lots of people (well, half a dozen) are keen to feed the cute little kitties, which is lovely, but I believe there is a further responsibility to get them sterile if you want to feed them - helping them tomorrow as well as today. 

Marius is not impressed with me.  He says 'You can't save the world'  and 'Where is this going to stop?', both reasonable reactions I suppose.  When I sent him a message this morning telling him how smooth the catching and transporting adventure had been, he was very pleased.  See, he tries to be gruff and uncaring and sensible, but he is as much of a softie as I am.


Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ratty-Rat-Rat-Rat-Rat Rat!

Our young friend is slowly regaining his strength.  He is following the pattern he set the first time he had his 'head injury' and gradually, he is recovering control. Similarly to his first episode, the improvement has started at his head - his vision returned, control of his tongue (so that he can lap water and lick) - and now his front paws can almost bear his weight.  His thermostat has settled down and he can regulate his body temperature.  However, it is quite chilly here - only 15 this morning, and as he can't yet run around to warm up, I keep him wrapped if his ears or paws feel cool.

I'm feeling much better, thanks

Unlike the October incident, his purr box has been affected this time and he cannot purr.  It is really perculiar because he acts the purring cat:  paws kneading, eyes closed in bliss, whiskers forward, head-butting and so on, but no purr.  Every so often we hear a little rumble as if he is trying very hard to purr, but that is decpetive:  no purr.  His voice is also slightly odd, with no siren yeowls and a meow with a break in it.  (Perhaps the neutering op has affected his singing???)

He is not in any distress or pain, eats well, uses the litter box successfully and is alert and interested in what is going on around him.  After a few days of hesitant licks, he is well into his regime of personal grooming, which I think shows that he is returning to his cat-self.

the black spots will never go, but I can keep the white gleaming

cats do like some privacy - do you mind?

I have a friend who suspects this is an elaborate charade on Ratty's part.  He was expected to spend too much time out on the street and was never given access to the bedroom.  What better ploy than to stage another life-threatening attack to regain his former position of being waited on paw, tail and whisker?

Marius predicts he will be walking again by the weekend.  I hope so.


Friday, November 25, 2011

Déjà Cat?

I think we have been here before:

Ratty this morning

Ratty went to visit Dr Rhett last night.  He had a thorough going over, a blood test and his temperature taken.  The Vet thinks his 'head injury' has somehow recurred - or rather the effects of it.  Maybe scar tissue, maybe a small bleed.  Maybe, maybe.  An MRI might answer some questions but that is not available (or choke, choke, financially sensible if it was available).  Dr Rhett thinks a biological or metabolic cause is unlikely.  Having a diagnosis would only be valuable if it could help us look after Ratty better or force us to make an informed decision about his future.  We've ruled out diabetes and ruled in 'something neurological' for what it's worth.  The Vet's given him some anti-inflammatory syrup to help with inter-cranial swelling.

Dr Rhett said he was optimistic, given Ratty's recovery previously and given continued devoted care.  No guarantees, of course.

So we've brought him home for more TLCC (tender loving cat care) and hope.

Ratty can hold his head up (which he couldn't last time) and when he's taken to the litter box he uses it, which suggests he has control over his bowel and bladder, both encouraging signs.  However his eyesight is 'variable' at best and once again, he has no motor control of his paws.  He's also not licking around his mouth or doing any other grooming.

He can feed himself cat-crunchies - the brand he has always preferred - but refuses to drink.  This means I have to syringe water into his mouth regularly and try to get him to swallow.  I've also got some more tins of 'recovery' diet which I can mix with additional water and also syringe into his mouth.  He accepts that more willingly than the straight water.

I worry about hydration.  Last night Dr Rhett told me cats need about 2ml/kg/hour, which works out to about 240 ml per day for Ratty.  This is quite a bit to syringe in, 2 ml at a time ...  when he is not enjoying the experience and spitting half of it out.

Now I feel I am caught on the horns of a moral dilemma, twisted up with my own stubborness and sentimentality.  There is no confidence that if Ratty recovers again, he will not have a further 'turn' in the next weeks or months.  Clearly our dream of letting him return to his former swaggering street-cat status is dashed.  That is fine, we've made a home for him and he has his place here.  But how many more episodes of neurological meltdown does he need to endure?  Can I keep up the 24 hour care he needs?  Am I, in some bizarre way, putting my needs ahead of his?

He is not in any discernible pain.  He is responsive.  He loves having a snooze on my lap - that always seems to calm him so he can sleep.  He is dry, safe, comfortable, fed.

It is a beautiful clear day and quite cool for the time of year (16).  This morning LG had her breakfast alone in the sunshine.

I loved seeing Ratty out and about, having picnics with LG and washing her face.  On Monday morning I sat with them while they ate together and watched.  Ratty gobbled for  a bit while LG (his little sister) steadily munched.  Then Ratty stopped, sat himself up and watched her eat.  When she had finally had enough - she signalled this by backing away from the remaining crunchies and washing her face - Ratty tucked in and finished the rest. 

Lately they were waiting together for us in the morning when we set off for Marius's bus.  When I got back from my walk, they would have 'seconds' and Ratty would come inside with me while LG went off to neglect her kittens some more.  In the afternoon LG would sit on the door step and wait for Ratty to come out and then they would entwine their tails (really!) rub heads and weave themselves around to the empty carport next door (we have stopped feeding anybody outside our house, it was causing too many problems) for tea.

I think their relationship is unusal for street cats (or any other litter-mates).  Precious.  No doubt I am anthropomorphising again, wanting to preserve it for them.

* * *

I saw this chap looking for handouts:


Thursday, November 24, 2011

The HDU has Re-opened

I wish this was simply a plea for more readers gripped by the saga of my friend Ratty.

I was so tempted last month to head a post 'Miracle on 5th Avenue' but resisted thinking that would be asking the gods, the fates, the gremlins ... for trouble.

Ratty made a full recovery from his 'head injury' and his neutering operation.  He hadn't rebuilt his muscle bulk because, we thought, he was enjoying the leisurely life of a pampered resident cat.  He was agile, could run, climb trees, jump, yeowl ... everything a cat should do was done.

Lately he eschewed the garden overnight and returned to his friends on the street.  He had 'picnics' with Little Guy (LG) his small sister and loved being out and about, going for walks.  One paw was firmly at home, one paw out on the street: the perfect world for Ratty.

Yesterday, at about 6 am, Marius spotted him in the car port while packing his lunch.  I opened the door for him and he came bounding in full of energy, maowing for his breakfast and then jumped up onto 'his chair' to wash his whiskers and digest.  Marius and I discussed his quality of life:  he was back where we had hoped he'd be, independent and free to roam, but relying on us for food and love.

We spent a normal morning together.  Wolfe and Ratty vying for my lap or snoozing at my feet.  At one point I said to him 'you are such a lucky, happy little cat.  Who would have thought life would be so good to you?'

In the afternoon, I noticed Ratty had left his chair and had crawled into the cat tunnel for a snooze.  I thought that was odd.  Maybe he felt like a change of scene?  About 3 pm he crawled out.  I wasn't paying close attention but I noticed him sitting up at the end of the tunnel and not going to the kitchen for a snack.  Something must have registered in the back of my mind that the sitting was somehow 'wrong'.  I was busy so didn't look closely, and then I heard the fabric crunch as he crawled back in to the tunnel.

Marius came home about 6 pm as he always does.  Ratty didn't emerge, run to greet him or dart outside to see LG.  I sat down at the end of the tunnel and spoke to him.  He maowed but didn't come out.  Eventually he half-turned around and looked at me.  How can I explain that his face told me he was ill?  It did.  My cat radar again?

I went out to feed LG on the step next door.  Usually Ratty comes with me and eats with LG.  Last night he stayed in the tunnel.

When I came back in, I asked Marius to get him out, which he did with a struggle.  Ratty's hind legs have failed again.  He couldn't stand.

I called the vet and managed to speak to Dr Rhett, who had cared for him the first time round, when we thought he must have been struck by a car.  Should I bring him in for a blood or urine test?  Rhett said keep an eye on him and call me tomorrow.  He could not explain what might be going on.  He said relapse from head injury was possible but very unlikely at this stage.

Then Ratty seemed to deteriorate very quickly.  It was as if his progress over the week in the HDU reversed in the space of a few hours.  He seemed to go blind, lost his front paws, and was only semi-conscious.

We left him for a bit while we ate dinner in tears.

Then he seemed to perk up a little (or re-gained consciousness) and I managed to syringe some water into him and later we sat him up and he ate some dry cat food (not my first choice but he wasn't interested in the fish).

We took him upstairs to bed with us, like we used to do when he was in the High Dependency Unit the first time. We made up his little bed and tucked him in.  He promptly crawled off his matress and settled down amongst the teddy bears on the floor at the end of the bed.  A couple of times during the night he croaked - half cough, half cry.

This morning he is much the same.  I am not sure if he can see.  He can't sit himself up and has lost control of his front and rear paws completely.  He did eat a little breakfast and swallowed some water.

I am particularly concerned that he is not talking to me.  The last time I was nursing him, he was very responsive, seemed comforted by being stroked, called when I came near, purred if he was touched. 

I am glad this 'turn' didn't happen while we were away in London, nor when Ratty was out and about.  At least this time, we know he hasn't taken poison or been hurt.  I wish we did know what is going on.

He is lying asleep on his side on his chair.  Occasionally he stretches a paw or opens his eyes and blinks at me and then goes back to sleep.  He is breathing evenly and does not seem to have a fever.  My cat radar says Ratty is not well at all.


Monday, November 21, 2011

How many men does it take to change a light bulb?

In this case four:  3 to build the scaffolding and 1 to plug the bulb in:

I know they are only doing their job (at my request) and following the rules, BUT they are all wearing safety boots, hard hats, industrial gloves and are carrying goggles (and no doubt hearing protection).  This is my house, and they are CHANGING A LIGHT BULB.  So far it has taken 30 minutes to build the scaffold ...

(mumble mumble rhubarb rhubarb mumble mumble)



Sorry, I am going to sound like a spoilt princess.  I know it is difficult, if not impossible to entice tradesfolk to your abodes.  I know in the real world, you pay oodles for a job, wait for the expert to arrive, call again when he (usually he?) doesn't show.  Take another day off work waiting.  Mop the floor because the tap still leaks, or whatever.  Dear Reader, I sympathise. 

I loathe having tradespeople in my house.  We live in a managed compound where all the maintenance is laid on - rubbish bags in the bins replaced daily, light bulbs installed free of charge, grass mown, air conditioning serviced etc.  A householder's paradise eh?

I loathe having tradespeople in my house.  Did I say that already?  These gentlemen are very polite, obsequious even.  Terrified of the management.  Paid poorly by our standards but fabulously by theirs.  They  are far from home, living in barracks, discriminated against by shopkeepers and the authorities.  They usually get one vacation every two years.  They send all their salary home to support family and village.  I respect them and empathise with them, and I always try to be fair and kind.  (My son says my blog is shockingly racist but I don't mean to be.)

I loathe having tradespeople in the house.  I ignore problems for as long as I can stand it.  Then I give in.  Today is the day.

I have two gentlemen in my bedroom repairing the curtains - the rod is falling off the wall and the pull cord is broken.  They are  also fixing the sliding doors on my cupboard.  They were so stiff and unmanageable, eventually Marius took them off for me.  Well, no, they had half fallen out of their tracks and Marius rescued me, on two separate occasions when they tipped onto me.

I had the electrician in to replace light bulbs.  We have a window-less room upstairs with an overhead lamp carrying five bulbs.  Four of them had blown (see, it really was time to get the maintenance in).  The electrician also looked at the light in the stairwell, shook his head and said it will need scaffolding.

Because I keep the garden door closed to keep Macc and Ming in the garden (not Ratty and Wolfe) the gardeners don't usually come in.  I had to have the door open for the a/c men to get to the roof, so also arranged to have the grass cut.  The gardener swept the patio, tidied the garden, mowed and trimmed the edges.  He is very young and I suspect that he is homesick, poor chap.  And the pride of his family, no doubt.

I had three gentlemen servicing the airconditioning. Two are currently on the roof cleaning filters.  This has to be done every six weeks or so because of the dust.  Previously the three of them were in the kitchen, servicing the separate kitchen unit.  They had to take the grill, filter and hoses outside to clean.

I am sorry, this is where my complaint comes in.  The management says water is enough to clean the kitchen units, but because of cooking, they get grease as well as dust clogging up the works.  The repairman always asks for detergent to help clean.  Fair enough, I can supply a little detergent.  When he came back in with the gleaming unit I noticed something else - he was brandishing my dish brush!

Now it occurs to me I should have given it to him, to keep with his tools.  I am not likely to use it to clean dishes with, am I?

It feels like a seige, albeit self-imposed.  The four cats are locked up inside with me, each seeking hiding places from the scary men.   They are scary in their uniforms and big boots with tools and ladders and noisy drills.  Communication is difficult as few speak more than a word or two of English and I have failed to learn Tamil, Malayalam, Hindu or Nepalese.  But they are all gentlemen, polite, shy and trying to please.

No.  I withdraw my complaint and apologise for acting like a spoilt princess.  My only excuse is that I am shy.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sun in November

It is a beautiful morning in London, Remembrance Sunday.  HM the Queen will be laying the first wreath at the Cenotaph in Whitehall in a few minutes.  Somehow, it seems almost irreverent for the sun to be shining; no doubt the dignitaries must be grateful that there is no howling wind, no frost and no battling umbrellas.

On Friday morning we stood in Trafalgar Square with hundreds of others as the silence descended at 11 am.  It was eerie and beautiful:  nobody moving, no traffic, no chatter.  Only the notes of the faultless trumpet drifting.  Even the pigeons were stilled. 

Yesterday we walked down to the Thames and watched the river of history surge by.  The tide was very low when we reached the Embankment and began to race in almost as we arrived.  We always try to get to the Thames when we are here.

And this poor chap was fighting the tide:

and making good progress - I suppose the current is not so strong close to the bank in a straight reach of river.

I can hear  church bells calling across the roof tops in the clear air.


Monday, November 7, 2011

It is raining in Dust-land

We are having our first rain since ?April, ?May ...  not only rain, but thunder too.  Naturally, I didn't cover the cushions last night or bring any in, so they are soggy and coated with the cement-like muck that results from months of dust and no rain.

It is nearly 8 o'clock and I have the light on (we are not far north, so this is unheard of).  It is coolish - about 23 - and my hair has curled up like a brillo pad.

It is Eid al Adha - a blessed time of Haj, prayer, charity, thanksgiving and feasting for our Muslim brothers.  All the shops are closed for the holiday and we have no milk.  No milk: no tea: on a morning that calls for cosiness.

The cats are disgusted and lurking inside, staring balefully, as only cats can, at the wet.

Marius went off to work this morning - he will pick up the days next week - and we managed our walk to the bus between showers. The compound is deserted. 

The rain means the roads will flood as there is no proper drainage and there will be more car crashes due to a combination of inexperience driving in wet conditions, fatal speed and the lubricating effect of dust and rain on greasy pavement.

 Tomorrow we are off to London to visit my Professor (the reason) and to have a break in civilisation (the real reason).

My shopping list consists of the usual suspects:  b*con, s*us*ges, PG Tips, Hovis Biscuits, cat litter tray liners, and a few surprises, including a super 'Animal' vacuum cleaner and a wheel for a suitcase.  Oh, and a haircut - I will cease looking like a poodle in need of grooming and regain my human form.

I am looking forward to exchanging the grey soggy skies of Exile with those of London.


Friday, November 4, 2011

This morning on the way to the pool ...

Shadows and the familiar ...

That is 'Black Tom' who is LG's boyfriend.  A fine and muscular chap, surprisingly friendly ...  no no NO!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Cats at Number 4

Life has got complicated since we returned to Exile in mid-September.  As you may recall, our long term resident cats, Macc and Ming were disturbed in their naps by the change in circumstances of Miss Beowulf, who moved from months of doorstep sitting to 'resident' status.

Ming has always been a shy retiring sort of Princess, but latterly she has taken to lurking upstairs in cupboards:

and under beds.  Mr Macc is also displeased with the new arrangements:

The pair of them have ruled the upstairs is out of bounds to interloper-cats and Macc defends his new border fiercely.  They slink downstairs for meals and then retreat.  At night they are cuddlesome - Ming always ends up under the blankets in my armpit and Macc in the crook of my knees on top of the blanket.   I feel guilty that this is the main bonding time we have together.  I miss their company too.

I was hoping to report that peace has returned to the household, sadly I cannot.  Even this morning there was another fur-pulling encounter that ended with the watering can being tipped on the antagonists.  The fight - for that is what it was - was instigated by Wolfe, who snuck up on Macc as he was going out into the garden.  There was a great tumble of fur and growls and screams inside, and when I opened the door further they tumbled outside to continue.  I kept pushing the 'nulla-nulla' (Aboriginal hunting stick) between them to no avail.  That was when the watering can came into play.  It is very tiresome this constant quarrelling.

And it is usually Miss Wolfe who starts it.  She is a delightful cat, loving, friendly, clever, and a domineering bossy-boots.  She seems to have a plan to eradicate the former owners of the humans.  I think she tries to eat all the food, all the time, in the hopes they will starve and leave ...  it is not working.   She loves playing, pats, being brushed, and sitting on my lap.  She doesn't believe in sharing. 

Ratty is tolerated, mostly because he ignores her and keeps out of her way, while Ming and Macc are threatened on sight. 

Apart from my lap, Wolfe rather likes the wooden fruit bowl:

Of course the week after Wolfe changed status from visiting permit to resident permit, we brought Ratty home for intensive care.  He is now nearly himself again.  He has been neutered and is recovering from that assault, and is allowed, nay, encouraged to visit the great outdoors beyond the safety of the garden.  He comes with us on our evening walk and then slopes off.  We always find him in the garden in the morning and at the breakfast bowls.  He is becoming less clingy and dependent.  For a previously never-domesticated cat, he has taken to residential life in the manner born.  He is actually much less trouble than the grand Wolfe, and although he has raised a snarl from Macc, there have been no physical encounters.

Just one happy cat.

If Wolfe would settle down and stop trying to tyrannise the household, all would be well.


Saturday, October 29, 2011

Loy Krathong

Last week, we celebrated the Thai festival of Loy Krathong here in Exile.  Traditionally this annual festival is when Thais pay their respects to the water spirits, to ensure clean and abundant water for the coming year; and to 'float away' their sins and cares of the past year. 

This fesitval is particulalry poignant today  as you would be aware, Thailand and now Bangkok, are suffering from the effects of severe flooding after a series of heavy storms September and early October.  There has been much loss of life, livelihood and housing and the country is ill-equipped to deal with the humanitarian and physical consequences of the flooding.

'Loi' or 'Loy' means to float and a 'krathong' is a little boat made of banana leaf or trunk and decorated with flowers, incense sticks and candles.  People make their own krathongs traditionally, especially children at school, and may decorate them to reflect their lives and concerns, with small figures or offerings.

Our krathongs were made by a group of Thai ladies. All the krathongs were sold to raise money for the flood victims.  Each was unique and beautiful  and some were quite complex:

We launched the krathongs from the beach - out to sea as there are no rivers or canals here:

The function was hosted by the Thai Ambassador, supported by members of the local Thai community. We had a wonderful Thai feast (always food!) and entertainment.  There were various Thai dances, traditional music and a fashion show of Thai ladies' costumes for the last few centuries from different parts of the country, all arranged by the local Thai community.

The photos are all a bit fuzzy as they were handheld, at a distance, in the dark, but they give you a taste of the beautiful costumes and lithe dancers:

We raised quite a bit of money for the flood victims, but it is never enough.  We are using eggcups to bail the ocean.


Sunday, October 23, 2011

Soft Toy Drive

The association for the accompanying spouses and family has organised a toy drive for some local charities.  I despatched Marius to buy something suitable while he was doing the grocery shopping (usually we do this together but yesterday morning I was not well enough to go out).  These two heroes were selected by my tough, scary husband:

The toys are for children in an orphanage who do not have a legal identity.  Many children around the world are not formally recognised by the government of the country they were born in - or any other.  They are state-less and right-less.


Saturday, October 22, 2011

Feasting - Gourmet Post

We went out to a swanky Thai restaurant last night with friends.  It was a lovely evening allowing us to dine al fresco.

At 8 o'clock, the place was empty.  Most people seem to dine quite late, with the restaurant not filling up until after 9 pm (which is usually my bed time).  I decided I couldn't cope with a late night and alcohol, so I chose one of the jewel-like 'mocktails' from the menu:

In laziness, rather than swim through the pages of menu, we chose the banquet meal, which follows. 

We began with an 'amuse bouche' of taro and peanuts, in a tempura batter.  This was followed by a cascade of delightful morsels, each one more delicious than the last.

Spicy minced duck with salad leaves

Grouper in red curry sauce, from the wok

Squid and vegetables in a noodle broth:

Green papaya salad:

Roast duck curry in a clay pot:

Char-grilled beef with tomato and basil in a chili lime dressing:

Chicken in pandan leaf:

Sea bass and Thai celery with lime dressing:

And for sweets, we had mango with sticky rice and coconut cream:

tapioca and sago:

and fresh seasonal fruit (rambutan, mangosteen, dragon fruit and ciku).  

The meal was accompanied by a light lemongrass green tea. 

Next week is Loi Krathong when we will go to the Thai Embassy function held at one of the hotels.  I hope to bring you photos of what promises to be a magical night.