Thursday, June 30, 2011

News Update from the Doyle Household

I finished my last scheduled IVIg cycle this morning so am, at least temporarily, released from the hospital horrors.  Five months ago when I began I was distressed beyond belief to be submitting myself to the local health system.  Not being a democracy, the Supreme Health guys control all the decisions and it was only through their hospital that I could get the life-saving treatment I needed.  No options unless I went abroad.  Now I've grown used to the chaos and lack of privacy (okay, maybe not that) and general alien-ness of the whole thing, and I've learnt a few more words of Arabic.  The nurses got used to me too, and were even apologetic yesterday when it took 7 goes to find a viable vein.  When I left this morning they said: drop by when you are here next time and say hello.  Sweet of them but highly unlikely that I will be anywhere near the place unless I have to be.

I say scheduled because although my doctor here thinks I'm finished, (I use the word 'thinks' with care) my Professor in London, who is the only one I trust, wants me to continue to have monthly 5-day cycles.  At this point I don't know if I will be able to have further cycles here, which would be much easier, or if I will have to travel to London for the treatment in future. 

                                         *                            *                            *

On an entirely different and happier note, even happier that is, I want to tell you about an incident last night with Seams and her kittens.

Seams is a protective and fierce mother.  She keeps her kittens under an iron paw.  They are still confined to the golf course side of the fence, away from stray people and dogs, but at the mercy of the peacocks.  Most evenings we go for a little walk with the intention of helping out in the nutrition of the babies and especially their mum.   Sometimes Seams is with the kittens, sometimes she is off hunting and when the kittens hear our voices they come charging through the trees and stop under the fence (a drop of about 2 metres from the road where we are) and look up at us and meow.  Pretty fast on the uptake they are.  But some evenings we don't see them, even though we patrol the length of the fence looking for them.

Last night after we got back from yet another farewell dinner, we saw Seams on our side of the fence and we gave her some dinner, but we couldn't spot the kittens.   Marius walked down to the end of the road away from where I was standing and Seams was eating.   When he was out of earshot, she came back to the fence and whistled (it was a cat call, but was just like a whistle) and I heard little voices reply, and then they all tumbled out of their hiding places and lined up under the fence waiting for food.  Seams went back to her eating and when Marius returned he threw handfuls of cat-crunchies over the fence for the kittens who performed a perfect scrum to get at them.

I thought the discipline of the kittens was extraordinary.  They would have heard our voices but didn't come out until Seams said it was clear, and then they responded immediately.

Later Seams followed us home for a further snack on our front porch.  I think the main reason she comes is for the bowl of water I leave out.  I do worry about her and the kittens getting enough to drink in this hot weather.   I haven't figured out how to lower water down to the kittens but presume Seams has the fluid balance worked out.


Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Food, Cupboards, Construction Standards, Insulation

I think I've confessed somewhere that in fact I am an imposter-poet, because in my 'real life' I am actually an Engineer.  Try as I might, every so often my interest in the physical world of science and engineering wins out over the airy-fairy poet.  Granted, I have been 'retired' for a few years, but that was because legally I couldn't work in Malaysia, no doubt because my skills in traffic and public transport and road safety were redundant in a country with one of the highest road fatality rates in the world (only surpassed by this fair country and a few similar ones).  I digress ...

Why is this cupboard always open during the summer?

This is the only cupboard in the kitchen that stores food and it is food that we use frequently, like the olive oil, worcester sauce, macadamia honey, marmite, vegemite, peanut butter and muesli.  We have a poor excuse of a pantry in the next room, off the laundry where the bulk of our dry goods is stored, but for everyday items, especially at breakfast time, it isn't convenient.  So we use this one.

It is very hot outside - most days we are in the mid forties now (I laughed when I read about the 'heatwave' in Britain),  and the kitchen is airconditioned.  Sensible, really.

This next point is a little technical (just teasing) so stay with me:  the outside walls are so poorly insulated that the insides of the cupboards get as hot as is it outside.  This implies that our cupboard doors do a better job of insulating the contents from the cool air of the kitchen than the outside walls do of insulating the contents from the heat outside.  Not brilliant.

So we keep this cupboard open.

Old tidy habits die hard and we are constantly closing the door absent-mindedly and then coming in and noticing it, and then opening it again.  Come late October we will stop leaving the door open.


Monday, June 27, 2011

Pheewwww ...

I am pleased to report that I have a candidate for the all-important cat feeding job!

The cats are relieved that I won't have to impale myself on my plane ticket after all.  If I would simply stay put like I ought to, we wouldn't have these problems, would we?


Sunday, June 26, 2011


I was going to post a piece I wrote earlier about kitchen cupboards (fascinating, bet you can't wait eh?) but instead, I've decided to have a little moan.

This is my week in hospital to have my five infusions so I am feeling a little 'poorly' as they say.  I think I've told you that I have a serious and rare auto-immune condition, that has left me quite disabled: basically my arms don't work.  It is wonderful cover for chronic laziness and lack of interest in domestic chores because, well, I can't do much.  I am a lot better than I have been, but have serious limitations and serious on-going fatigue.  These are all excuses for me having part time domestic assistance.  Well I did.

We are off to Australia to see family in a couple of weeks and you may have noticed that we have cats. 

The domestic assistant also fed the cats for us while we were away because they don't like kennels, and Ming in particular always goes on hunger strike until we get back.

I got back from the hospital about midday and had something to eat when the assistant came in unexpectedly - usually she is here in the morning - to announce that she is leaving on Tuesday, permanently.  To be fair, she told me her mother is ill (who looks after her boys while she is here) and is going in to hospital.  Of course I could only wish her well and send her on her way with blessings and cash.

Almost everybody I know is away for one reason or another and all the pet accommodation places have been fully booked for months for the summer peak season.  I haven't been back to Australia to see my elderly parents or my offspring since last September (offspring have been here in the meantime) so I can't really postpone my trip.

So now we have a frantic time, amongst my hospital visits, to try to find a replacement domestic assistant and/or cat sitter.   A job opening for someone with high quality skills and a low threshold of thrills.


Saturday, June 25, 2011


Our neighbours across the street recently installed a new glass door in front of their standard-issue wooden front door.  They have also recently acquired a live-in maid so their house is undergoing rather a cleanliness transformation (we could all do with such?) and the new door sparkles like a mirror.

In an earlier post I wrote about the day I caught a peacock challenging his reflection in our bedroom balcony door to a duel.  Yesterday Marius was being domestic in the kitchen (we don't have a live-in maid) when he spotted this young peahen admiring herself:

He took these shots through the kitchen window and across the street, so they are a little fuzzy.  I asked him to, quickly before the peahen went away, so I could show you.  See I am always thinking of your entertainment.

This is another picture (which I took with my telephone) through our kitchen window in May:

Luckily there was no damage done, and he didn't disturb Floyd, who is asleep at the back end of the car.

Floyd's favourite spot:


Thursday, June 23, 2011

A Note about the Family

I'm glad you've enjoyed the shadow portrait of Prima.  I can't claim it as my own work as my talented daughter took it as a self-portrait on a very windy day at Zekreet. 

We are very shy in our family, sort of.  You may have gathered that 'Isabel Doyle' is a pseudonym, or you may not have noticed.  Sorry if you have been searching the internet for other news of me ...  Isabel Doyle was part of my maternal grandmother's maiden name so I feel entitled to use it.  She was of mixed Irish-Australian-Spanish-English descent, so I am rather a mongrel, really.

'Marius' is not my husband's  name either, but he has a rather high profile job in a very small place, so rather than risk embarrassing him (which I fear I am very adept at doing) I try not to identify him or his place of employment.

'Primus' is number one son and 'Prima' number one daughter (I wasn't trying to hide the fact they were all pseudonyms) who are delicate young adults both with unique names (nice old family names, but rare, not Peach-talcum-powder or the like), which if I used would make them quite identifiable to their social circle, which I have been forbidden to do.

And finally Exile-land:  I avoid idenitfying the place of exile by name because there is wall-to-wall censorship and eavesdropping here.  Somewhat naively perhaps, I hope by not using the Name I will keep below the radar.  The very strict internet rules also mean that I cannot use my gmail account associated with my blog.  I tried it once and got shut down and everything turned to squiggle-writing and in order to get back in, the authorities wanted my mobile phone number, which I was reluctant to give.  Primus helped me out by giving his number in Australia.

If we move somewhere else, I may choose to reveal all, but until such a reprieve, I am sorry but you have to put up with my games.

The cats all appear as themselves ...


Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Sunday, June 19, 2011

'Seams' and her Brood(s)

A few weeks ago, I introduced you to Ratty:

Marius decided that 'Black Ears' wasn't personal enough so he re-named him Ratty

and I probably mentioned his pal, LG:

LG was Little Guy, until she went on heat and we realised that she was Little Girl

They always hang around together, walking with their tales intertwined and being remarkably affectionate to each other  (they are semi-feral cats, after all):

We used to feed them at the rubbish bins behind the, then defunct, cafe.  There was often another cat having a feed, but she was very wary of people, never let us pat her, and was always on the edge of the group, ready to tear off.  She ignored Ratty and LG, and their other friend Pirate (who disappeared before Christmas).  We named her 'Seams' because her tabby coat doesn't fit properly, and there are white stripes on her limbs, where the 'seams' don't meet.

A few months ago, Seams was pregnant, and huge.  She looked like a double-decker bus on its side.  She still managed to waddle around and jump, relatively gracefully.  Then she disappeared for a few days, presumably to give birth, and when we saw her again, she was much slimmer.  We tried to make sure we fed her if we saw her, as we suspected that she was nursing her kits, and we even went looking for her some nights.

Seams talking to Pink Floyd

the Matriarch

Life is fairly difficult for the feral cats and new-born kittens are particularly vulnerable as they are easy prey and often eaten by other cats (sorry, but true).  Seams must have had her babies well protected because FIVE have survived. 

We first saw them on the night of the lunar eclipse.  They haven't ventured into the compound yet; Seams keeps them in the golf course, away from the dogs being walked and the humans.

Seams doesn't care for the flash

We gave them some cat-crunchies that night, and again yesterday evening before it was dark.  Afterwards, looking at the photos we'd taken of the kittens, we thought how similar they were  to LG and Ratty, if a little fluffier, with one of them even looking like Pirate (who was fluffier than LG and Ratty):


almost LG and Ratty in miniature

It would appear that LG and Ratty (and the missing Pirate - I don't need to explain his name, do I?) were from last year's litter, and were probably litter-mates as we had suspected.  How many of the new ones will survive this year is a moot point.  There are too many feral cats and soon someone will complain and they will be rounded up and 'dealt' with, I fear.  The golf course has taken more of the wilderness buffer away to extend the course facilities, reducing the space for the ferals to survive.

If we didn't feed them, they would probably move away - or die of starvation.  There are no mice or rodents around and not enough birds to keep them all alive either.  They do go through the garbage sometimes but only at the cafe, not individual house bins.   I can understand that plagues of cats are not good for the neighbourhood, yet we know that some of the strays are abandoned pets  (there is a beautiful Russian Blue that doesn't seem to have a home any more). 

If it was feasible, I would have all the females sterilised, and the males too - but if (a big if) I could catch them and get them sorted out, how would I then turn them out into the desert post-op?

Marius says to me 'you can't save the world' and he is right, I can't save all the cats either.  I worry that feeding them is only making the problem worse and prolonging their agony, but I am a weak thing too, and I can't bear to see them starving.


Friday, June 17, 2011

Feeling Like a Big Kid?

The other day Marius and I were having a chat after he came home from work.  I don't see many people during the day so he tries to amuse me with stories of his day, interesting encounters, dramas and gossip (only of the non-salacious kind).  He told me about a conversation he had with one of his colleagues who is about 62 or so - about ten years older than Marius.  They were discussing their relative good looks (we are not talking vanity here, they are both normal blokes, not kewpie dolls, no overtones of Barbie's Ken!) and fine state of preservation. 

Ludwig said 'The thing is, I still feel like a kid.  Getting out of bed in the morning I move a little slower, and when I look in the mirror shaving I wonder who the guy with the white hair is, but inside, I still feel like a kid:  about 8 years old.  I feel like I can do anything and go anywhere.'

Marius apparently said 'Yup, that's how I am too.  Baldy with a gut on the outside, but definitely a cheeky big kid on the inside.  I'm only pretending to be grown up ...'

This is not about to turn into a feminist rant, I promise you.  I am always quite touched when Marius reveals something of his inner self like this.  And being an introspective misery myself, I thought about what he told me.  I didn't think, caustically, well that explains a lot ... I wondered about myself:  do I feel like a big kid?

In some ways - in the not being very confident about the world - I do, definitely.  But in the carefree, silly, irresponsible-having-a-lark way, not at all.  I feel old.  The reverse happens when I look in the mirror, I am shocked that I still look, er, relatively young.  And then a memory came back to me, from before I started school. 

I recalled a morning when I thought I'd told my mother where I was going to play (I used to call on many of the neighbours, regardless of whether they had children at home of not) when apparently I hadn't. In fact I'd gone to call on a neighbour I'd never visited before, who in some way which I wasn't clear about, was not quite one of us.  Nothing nasty happened, I wasn't scarred.  All I remember was that the lady had a youngish child who wasn't much fun to play with, and a sand box with a wooden cover, that was fun to play in, or helped me feel like I was playing. The childhood part was somehow laid on for me:  I knew what to do in a sandbox to look like I was a child.  I remember the wooden cover because I had to ask her to take it off, which was a nuisance to her, and she explained the lid was to stop the neighbourhood cats peeing in it.

I remember this morning as an example of my usual feeling of being confused and not really knowing what to do, to be a child.  I was at an utter loss.  I remember dressing with care - I particularly recall grey knee socks and a pleated skirt - in something like a uniform.  I remember skipping home after my play visit, feeling I'd made a good effort at it, and being bewildered as I was scolded.  Bewildered because I thought I had done what children were supposed to do, and somehow the AWOL scolding got confused in my mind with only pretending to behave like a child, that I had been found out.

Which is a very long-winded way to my question:  is it me and some faulty part of my psyche that abandoned being a child at some very young age because it wasn't safe for me, or is it a gender thing, that females grow up in some determined way while males don't?  Is it personality alone? If you have stopped feeling like a kid, when did that happen?

It does occur to me as well, that Marius is simply very lucky that his life has not scorched the child out of him, and most people have had to relinquish  that kid-feeling a very long time ago.


Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Weather & Water

This is the weather forecast from today's paper:

A tad warm?  If you are sufferng under grey cool skies, spare a thought for others less fortunate than you are.

Now that it is hot all the time, even overnight, an interesting thing happens:  there is no cold water.  Of course there is the fridge, and we have a water cooler thing-o that takes 20 litre bottles and offers chilled or room temperature drinking water, but if you turn on the cold tap you don't get cold water.

I usually shower with the tap hard over to cold.  Sometimes it is so hot I push the tap around to full on hot and have a very quick wash in the cooled-down pipe water, before the 'hot' water from the tank starts to run.  This only works if you are first to shower.

When I do the laundry, I fill the tub (we have one of those dreadful toploading machines which takes gallons and gallons of water and then shreds your clothes, which I hate) and wait two hours for the water to cool down, before I add the clothes and switch it on. 

I am worried about Floyd.  He is still on the doormat; he hasn't quite convinced Marius to adopt him fully, yet.  He spends the night on the car roof where I expect he feels a bit safer - out of sight, at least.  During the day, when it is really hot (like it is now - 48 or so) he sleeps on the marble threshold of our front door, which is cooled by the airconditioning inside the house.

I would like to bring him inside - I think it is too hot for him.  I make sure there is a bowl of water for him, and he is shaded, but the temperature is insane.  The only thing that is holding me back is a fear of pests/parasites (not fleas, but some of the feral cats look like they might have mange) and disease, and the risk that Floyd, who appears very well, might make my cats sick.

I would like to take him to the vet to have his 'pockets picked', get vaccinations and a health check, so I can safely introduce him to Ming and Macc.  Marius, quite sensibly realises that if he agrees to this procedure he has signed the adoption papers.


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Why Can't I Move Back?

After my little foray into the world of 'Interiors', I bring you a question, faithful readers.  I am blessed with 'A Room of One's Own' (no independent means to go with it, but never mind), a bright and charming study, which I don't have to share with anyone:

except Ming.  This is an old photo, taken when I was still using my old laptop, and my study.  (You can even see some of my Buddhas.)  Ming is stretched out on the keyboard because it is warm, and if there is one thing she likes best, it is heat.

When I became ill, I couldn't lift my laptop, so Marius bought me a new one that weighs about 700 g, which I can lift.  I also couldn't negotiate the stairs very well, and once I was up and brushed as it were, I would come downstairs for the day, making climbing the stairs back up to my study almost impossible.  Instead, I would use the dining table as a desk (and the sofa as a day bed) and gradually one of the side chairs accumulated lots of my study junk  - papers and pencil cases and files and filled notebooks - so that now the dining area is permanently messy, and if we want to use the table, it requires twenty minutes of tidying up first.

I am far from well but much better than I have been, and I am able to climb the stairs relatively easily.  I don't run up and down like I used to, but most days I will go up and down half a dozen times.  Yet I am still stuck at the dining table (which isn't as comfortable or convenient) and I find myself very reluctant to move back upstairs.

It has occured to me that I might be suffering from some sort of performance anxiety - it was in the study that I wrote most of my brilliant novel, the one I am now struggling to face editing - and fear of finding out that the novel is in fact rubbish, or unmanageable, and that I can't write worth a bean, might be what is keeping me downstairs, away from serious work.

So it sits, unused.

The books unconsulted.

Any advice?


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Buddhas Return

We have far too many Buddhas, I know.  If one must have a vice, collecting Buddhas seems to be relatively benign.

There are basically three poses that Buddhas are presented in:  standing, seated and reclining.  The position of their limbs and hands, and any decoration is highly symbolic.  They are from all over the Buddhist world, mostly Asia, India and the Far East, and each region and period has different styles and characteristics.   Buddhas are carved from many materials - we have bronze, wood, papier mache, alabaster, jade and petrified mastodon tusk. I have seen Buddhas made of silver and gold, but sensibly, none of ours are.

Some Buddhist cultures, particularly from China, also have statues of Bodhavistas - holy beings that have achieved enlightenment but rather than remain in the state of Nirvana, appear on Earth to support those still struggling.  We have a couple of examples of Quan Yin, a famous Chinese Bodhavista, sometimes known as the deity of Love and Compassion.

There are also monks, although not as common as Buddhas, which I am particularly fond of.  I began by collecting monks, rather than Buddhas, because they seemed more at my level, aspiring, as it were.  And I like bronze, so the first monks were bronze ones. 

We have standing monks (about 1 metre) holding begging bowls which lift off:

They are perched on stylised lotus flowers and were part of a group of five (I could only afford two).  They face their Buddha, who has a modified 'flame of enlightenment' which I think means the group is from Shan, Burma. It is not possible to date bronze, but this group is probably about 40 - 50 years old.  The Buddha is taller than the monks, also raised on a lotus flower,  In our house he stands on a small stool to raise him further:

The Buddha's right hand is lifted in a gesture (known as a Mudra) that means warding off fear and protection from evil.  His begging bowl is also separate.

Most of our Buddhas are from Burma, and most of the Burmese ones are from Mandalay.  I chose them because of their serene faces.  Buddhas from Thailand tend to be more slender, with more austere faces, while Buddhas from Laos are particularly etiolated.

I am not a Buddhist but have a great deal of respect for Buddhist philosophy and beliefs, and never would intentionally offend a Buddhist (except through my ignorance).

This Buddha (smuggled here in my luggage on a trip back from Malaysia) is gilded wood, from the mid 20th century.  He is also a Shan Buddha.  This style is known as a 'royal' or 'crowned' Buddha, also sometimes as a 'winged' Buddha.  He is accompanied by two seated bronze monks which are about 25 centimetres tall (not including the stands). 

The Buddha is in a seated position, with his right hand pointing down, 'calling the earth to witness'.  This is my favourite Mudra.  He has a particularly appealing face, I think.

Even within the pose of reclining Buddhas, there is a lot of variation and meaning in the position of the head and arms.  This example is a Mandalay Buddha, of bronze inlaid with flecks of glass and partially gilded.  It is the only Buddha I have seen that is so sinuous and lithe.

The shape of his hair, in a smooth, rounded knot, is typical of Mandalay Buddhas.  The exquisite face is also a marker of the Buddha being from Mandalay. This Buddha is a little over 1 metre long.

There are another four Buddhas here with us in exile, and several more 'at home' in storage.  I will show you some more later.

Marius and I are blessed with a very peaceful happy marriage (twenty five years and counting ...) which in a small way I attribute to the Buddhas we share our house with:  it is impossible to be cross or argue in front of them.