Sunday, October 14, 2012

Seems to have survived ...

On the 4th of October, 2011, I published this sad post about Ratty's close encounter with a solid object/vehicle/death ray. Do you remember how Marius and I traipsed back and forth to the vet dithering about putting him down because he was so ill -- and yet so excited to see us?

I think I made the right decision, taking him home and nursing him so he had a little longer to recover and avoid the lethal injection.

He's been having continual problems with a fungal infection we haven't been able to eradicate -- so far -- and has spent the last five months in and out of his bonnet, on various expensive drugs:

In spite of these setbacks, he is flourishing.  

The four cats are finding their new roosting spots and working out their new battle-lines, but they all seem to be very happy in the new house with its magnificent garden and multiple climbing opportunities.

Ratty has claimed a shelf in the pantry, right next to the street cat food:


 While Ming has her private quarters nearby (but higher up, naturally):

Ratty continues to be closely attached to me.  He'll go to sleep near me and wake up later yeowlling when he can't find me.  Best of all he rather likes to help me with my writing tasks.


 There are still a few boxes to negotiate, things we can't find (like a cupboard full of shoes???) and no-go corners of chaos.  Last weekend we hung 46 pieces of artwork and photographs.  I told you we had a lot of stuff.  Marius has been busy in the garden replanting the fountain, putting up hose reels, the clothesline and lantern brackets.  We've bought a few new plants as this garden has almost no flowers, so he has been busy digging too.

In mid August, before we moved, we submitted a request for some extra handrails - one for the front door, one for the carport/kitchen door and one for the steps inside which lead to the dining room.  This is standard procedure when you want to make modifications to your compound house. If the work is approved, we will be charged a 'reasonable rate' for materials and labour. The handrails are for me as I have become dangerously unsteady on my feet and the steps are marble - slippery at the best of times, lethal when wet.  So far we have not had a response.  We would simply go and buy standard grab rails and install them ourselves (well, Marius would do the work while I said encouraging things) but being Exile-land, we can't find any ... 

Marius has a conference in Perth, Australia next month.  Guess what he'll have in his luggage on the return journey?


Wednesday, October 3, 2012


This pile is getting bigger ...  

Moving is disturbing on so many levels, not least of which the confrontation with how much stuff one has.  Yes, loved and with stories attached, but stuff nonetheless. 


Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Moving Experience

It does look like it will really happen.

 After false starts, delays and attempts to persuade us to move somewhere else (so that an Important Person could have the house earmarked for us), problems with the maintenance crews and almost everything else, we have a confirmed key-handing over ceremony for next Tuesday morning. 

Prima is flying over to help with the chaos, bring her mother cups of tea and generally make herself useful.  She is in the air as I write this and lands here tomorrow morning at 6, inshallah, as they say here.  Fourteen hours flying, poor wus.

The packers will arrive on Wednesday and do the heavy packing and lifting (especially of the 1000+ books), finishing sometime late Thursday night.

The cats go to the vet for the duration on Tuesday afternoon.

I have devised plans for each room which Marius has printed on A3 for me, and which I will stick on the doors and walls to help the furniture placement.

We will be without internet for a few days (oh, and a little busy!) so I will check back in post-upheaval.

Really though, do you have a spare bed?  Could I come and hide at yours for a few days?  No one would notice me, I'm very quiet, don't eat much ...    why did I ever think this would be a good idea?

Last weekend we found these on the lawn:

Bigger than hens' eggs  -- probably peacocks' eggs I reckon.  The next day they were gone, no sign of broken shell, far too big for a bird to move, so somebody must have pinched them.


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Other Wall

Downstairs we've painted one wall red - everywhere else is painted a sort of 'almond white', which you can see in the photo.  The rooms downstairs don't have doors (except my study) so you catch glimpses of the red wall but don't see the full expanse unless you are in the hall. If you look at the other walls in the hall you see the reflected rosy glow from the red.

Strong colours have an interesting effect:  people either love them or hate them I find.  This is the first time we've actually been in a position to choose any wall colour in over 12 years.

Our house in Sydney has a central hall that runs from the front door to our bedroom door (a long way, about 20 metres or so) and it is painted 'Egyptian red', a sort of terra cotta colour, to the picture rail and white above it, with skirting boards, picture rails, window frames, doors and architraves in a fresh pea green.  At the time of painting viewers were divided between the head-shakers who said 'how will you sell it?' and the more open-minded who loved it.  In the front of the house (the old part) the walls are 11'6" in the old money (just under 3 metres) and in the back of the house they range from 4 metres to 8.  There is a lot of 'Egyptian red' and we never got tired of it.

I love colour.

Upstairs in the hall we've painted one wall blue in the 'new house':

Shame about the regulation red fire alarm.

We are hoping the blue will be cooling for the bedrooms, and again, apart from passing through the hall, most of the time you will only see glimpses of blue or its reflection through doorways onto the otherwise whitish walls.

It is only paint.  Funny how some folk get so passionate about paint.


Monday, September 3, 2012

One Wall

I've just been across to our 'new' house to check on progress and the painter has completed the wall in our front hall.  (Don't worry, most of the rest of the house will be pretty boring):


Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Cats at No 4

Curiosity will be satisfied.  Or satiated.  Or piqued. Or ...  well, possibly there is none.  Never mind, I will do my best.

First, this chap:

Ratty in bonnet
Our Ratty.  Remember when he was AWOL in January, and we thought we'd lost him to either the Great Poisoning or to a third 'neurological meltdown', and then he reappeared like a bad penny?  We think during his rambling, he picked up a fungal infection which has caused itching, welts, loss of fur gloss etc.  Actually he was quite poorly with it for a while.  Much expense, special food, nutritional supplements, anti-fungal drugs and ointment has been lavished on this street cat.  He responded well, was out of his bonnet for about a month, coat good, energy and spirit returned and then, (co-incidence?  is it all psychosomatic Ratty?) I went away and he re-lapsed.  So he is back wearing the bonnet and taking the expensive medicine and being made a fuss of.

Mdm Wolfe:

Divine, thanks.  Haven't yet succeeded in evicting that obnoxious Mr Macc, but I am persevering.  I broke a fang last week, which is annoying - not that its loss spoils my looks as you can hardly tell, but when I 'open wide' I don't look quite as fearsome with three-and-a-half fangs, as I did with the full set.  Shame.

Miss Ming &  Mr Macc

 We are both well, thank you for inquiring.  It is a little cooler these days so we are able to take the morning air on the balcony, which we enjoy immensely.  Sometimes we are invaded by young Ratty but he is mostly harmless.  Silly but harmless.  We will not speak of that other creature who is trying to take over our home. 

Of course, the others don't know that their world is about to be upended (they don't understand human-speak as well as we do, of course).  In the next week or so, cardboard boxes will be infiltrating the peace, accompanied by rolls of bubble wrap (what has happened to the wonderfully rippable and crunchy  tissue paper that packers once used?) and then lots of men in big boots.  Mother has organised an hotel for us for a few nights, not that that will compensate for the chaos and confusion, at all.  We have our territory delineated here.  Who knows what mischief that Wolfe will inflict on us in a new house?

I think that is enough cat talk for the time being.  There is much news from the street which I will save for another day.  


Tuesday, March 27, 2012

They are all well ...

the 'upstairs cats' Macc & Ming

the luxury-loving 'downstairs cat' Ratty, formerly a street cat, if you would believe it

and the magnificent Miss Beowulf - Norse Woods - Doyle, in her favourite fruit bowl:  definitely a 'downstairs cat'

I wish I could say that peace reigns supreme and that the er, tensions between Mr Macc and Miss Wolfe were all distant memories, buried by the hatchet of time.  This is not the case.  Even while I was uploading these photos there was another chase, roaring and hair pulling incident:  very tiresome.

The survivors of the mass poisoning are thriving.  We have lost none of the street cats since January.  Tiny Tim has been sort-of adopted by next door and is flourishing on regular meals.  LG is the healthiest I've ever  known her, thanks to not having kittens I surmise, while Helmet (who should be 'Bonnet'), Scout and Skippy are also doing well. 

I must try to get a photo of Seams before she disgorges her current bus load of passengers as she looks quite funny - picture a double-decker on its side but not red and you have an idea of her shape.  If we could have her spayed we would stabilise our population because she is the mother -- the super-successful mother -- of almost all of the street cats.  She is very wily and skittish and I think, impossible to catch:  I have touched her once in the years I've known her.  I am sure it was a momentary aberration when distracted by food.

Here are some of them enjoying breakfast:

clockwise from the top:  Skippy, Tiny Tim and Black Tom

I know that I have been neglecting you all, and my blogs, for the last little while, which I apologise for.  Thanks for your continuing interest in our sagas.  As for me,  I think you can fill in the gaps ...  next week I go in for an experimental treatment which might help.


Thursday, March 15, 2012


Drawn with the mouse - which must be appropriate! 

For all of you who may have a need to procrastinate, Prima told me about this site called 'Scribbler' that turns one's doodles into ...  I was going to say 'Art' but I think 'scribbles' is more apt.  I would love to have a stylus and a tablet to experiment with as the  tethered mouse is awkward, to say the least. 

Thank you for all your good wishes during my absence.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Today the dog turns 13.  Is it mad to celebrate a dog's birthday?  A dog who lives on the other side of the world from you and who is 'not long for this world'?


(They are old photos).

January 2012

See, not just cats ...

The cats are all well and were delighted when we returned home.  Ratty did another walkabout last week, in celebration I suspect, of the full moon.  He was determined to come out for our evening walk with us then took off into the golf course.  He was AWOL for 36 hours, but when I came home from hospital on Thursday morning, he was in the back garden, lounging on one of the chairs.  He came bounding in, full of song when he heard my voice.

It has been a stressful few weeks, especially in London where I ended up visiting three professors, rather than my usual one.  Unfortunately I wasn't able to meet any of our fellow bloggers, next time perhaps?


Thursday, February 23, 2012

Packing (again)

Regular readers will remember how much I hate packing.  It is time.  I've been putting it off all day and I can't put it off any longer.

We leave tomorrow morning (before breakfast), back to London to visit the Professors again, I'm afraid (wish me luck).

I am a tiny bit concerned that Ratty will do another mystery-disappearing act, but as we will only be away for a week, I hope he stays put.  We've spent the day bonding.

Having broken the ice with Elisabeth in Melbourne during January, I am now feeling brave:  if you happen to be in London over the next week and have a spare afternoon, let me know and perhaps we can meet up for a cup of tea or coffee.

Lent or not, I'll be having p*rk sausages for breakfast on Saturday!


Sunday, February 19, 2012

An Environmental Rant

I live on a large compound of about 225 houses.  The occupants are highly educated professionals, mostly employed in the energy sector.  Some of the spouses are school teachers, some nurses, one is a judge, there are bank managers and accountants and retired engineers.  People you would expect to be informed and conscientious about all sorts of things.

 My neighbour has two teenage children who attend a school on the other side of town.  There is a school bus for this school, which leaves the compound about 7.10 each morning.  The school bus picks up at the main club house, which is about 100 metres from their house as the crow flies.  To walk it is less than 200 metres, and to drive, it is about 300 metres.

 Sometimes it is very hot here, as you know.  During the summer when it is about 50, school is closed and all the families flee.  Most of the school year it is warm – maybe 30 – lately it has been a very pleasant 20 or so.  It almost never rains.  At 7 am it is usually quite comfortable.

 My neighbour drives her offspring to the bus every morning.  EVERY MORNING.

 We all know that vehicles pollute.  Do you know that the worst pollution occurs during the ‘cold start’ phase, when the engine is cold and the catalytic converter has not yet reached optimum temperature?  Emissions are highest during those first 5-10 minutes of operating.

I did a little calculation on the emissions (cold start only) my neighbour has generated over the 5 years she has driven her children to the bus every morning:
5 years x 8 months x 5 days = about 850 trips

Conservatively, each cold start produces: 2.5 g VOC (volatile organic compounds, ie hydrocarbons); 2.1 g NOx (oxides of nitrogen); 19.7 g CO (carbon monoxide); and particulate matter.  (Rates from the US EPA, based on an average passenger car, not a 4x4monster.)

 These translate to:  2.125 kg VOC, 1.785 kg NOx and 16.745 kg CO over the five years.

 It takes longer to get into the car, start it and drive around the corner, than it does to walk.  What does it teach the teenagers about consumption, exercise, independence? 

 Most mornings I am having my second cup of tea when this extravagance unfolds in front of my window.  Most mornings I shake my head in frustration and wonder.

 Global warming?  Not my problem, eh?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Settling in Nicely

Ratty has made himself at home again very quickly. 

For those of you new to the Ratty saga, he was a street cat who we had been feeding and looking out for with his little sister 'LG', formerly Little Guy, since September 2010.  They were a particularly appealing pair due to their mutual devotion and long-standing companionship.

Then in early October 2011, Ratty was found with what appeared to be a serious head injury, possibly the result of a knock by a car.  I took him to the Vet with the intention of putting him out of his misery, but instead, after a few days on the Vet-bills, he came home to be nursed in the High Dependency Unit  (you can read all the heart-warming details in earlier posts from that time).  After making a significant recovery, he had a relapse in late November and we thought we would lose him, but once again, with intensive nursing, he came through.

Then we went to Australia for Christmas, returning to exile on January 10th.  Ratty was living inside with our other three (groan) cats, but took off the day before we returned.  And was not seen again until last Friday night, an absence of 25 days.  That is why, especially after the poisoning, we didn't expect to see him again.  We really thought he'd had a further neurological relapse and had died because there was no one to look after him. 

We would like to know what happened to him.  I think he might have been trapped or caught some how as his paws are not worn and his only injury is this one around his mouth:

which looks like somebody bit him - prey perhaps?  He has none of the classic cat-fight injuries.  He has been eating like a champion and filling out again.  His hind legs look a little odd when he walks, which is probably a result of his neurological traumas but his reactions are lightning-fast.

Ratty is very clingy, calls out if I am upstairs for more than half an hour or so and remembers he is not allowed upstairs by Macc and Ming.  He likes to sit on my lap or at my feet.  I think whatever happened while he was missing was quite distressing to him.  He spends most of his time asleep or eating and has not yet begun to play again.

We still can't quite believe he is back.

Thank you to you all for your kind comments welcoming him home - the Miracle Cat has used up a few more of his lives.


Saturday, February 11, 2012

Miracle on 5th Avenue

This time I can say it!

Last week it was my birthday.  Marius asked what would I like as a present.  I replied, I'd just like Ratty to come home again, I miss him.

We all knew that we would not see him again.  He'd been missing for three weeks, he'd had two life-threatening 'neurological meltdowns', and there had been the poison on the golf course. 

I had almost begun to say goodbye to the hope of seeing him again.

Last night I went out to feed LG, Seams and Tiny Tim, before we went out to a party (yet another leaving do).  I went around the corner to the small generator building, and scattered the cat-crunchies on the steps, as I often do.  This technique spreads the food around so that no one cat can dominate the others and stop them getting a fair share.

I was in a bit of a hurry, so I didn't hang around while they ate;  I simply left my alms and headed home.  I had my back to the golf course and had entered our street.  I heard maows.  I presumed they were the maows of the cats I had been feeding.  But the voice was different and insistent.

I turned back to see Ratty leaping over the golf course wall and running towards me.


I wasn't sure for a moment that I had the right cat.  Ratty?

He came charging home with me, maowing and rubbing my legs and circling me and purring. 

I called to Marius:  Look who's here!  I can't believe it!

Ratty knew exactly where he was.  He came bounding in the front door and made straight for the food bowls, where he INHALED two full bowls of crunchies.  I expected him to be sick he was eating so fast, but no.

We went to the party full of excitement and disbelief. He'd been missing for 25 days and we had no expectation we would see him again, or even that he was still alive.

We came home early to check up on him.  He ate two more bowls of food and then settled down on the couch, on his back beside me.  Purring.  He has a few small scratches near his nose but no other signs of wounds or illness.  He is definitely thinner but his coat is in good condition and he is clean.  He paws are not worn, nor the fur around the pads matted or dirty.  His claws are long and sharp.

We have no idea where he has been.  Perhaps he was trapped somewhere, perhaps he got picked up and taken away, but he doesn't look like he's walked a long way.  The only sign that something is amiss is that he is thinner.  Strong but thin.

Not everybody is pleased to see him.  The jealous queen is put out:

We are delighted he is back and safe.  He is fast asleep at my feet now.


Sunday, February 5, 2012


You will all know how truly childish I am, when I tell you of the jigs I danced this weekend, the weekend of the Golf Tournament. 

The weather here in paradise has been appalling:  dust storms with low visibility, high winds, cool temperatures.  Yeah!!  They had to cancel play on Friday because of the conditions and although they have persevered, it has Not been a success.  (If you haven't been following the saga, I am pleased in my childish-tantrum way because it was the tournament that prompted the poisoning of our neighbourhood cats.)  Nemesis?  Karma?  Just deserts?  Who knows, but at least, so far, money can't buy fine weather too.

The population of cats has stabilised for the last three days, so we are hoping this means all the poison has been consumed, or the baits have lost their appeal/efficacy.

The survivors are Black Tom, Seams (the mother of them all), Helmet, Smudge and Scout.  In addition, this morning we released LG from protective custody, so she is back on the doorstep, free to come and go as she pleases.  She was looking a little confused when we let her go - not sure if she really wanted freedom, or perhaps wondering where all her friends were:

You can see that her fur has grown back following her spaying last December:

The ginger kitten 'Tiny Tim' is still in protective custody but will be released later today or tomorrow, as my friend R seemed to think that LG and Tiny Tim shouldn't be released together.  R is about to move internationally, otherwise I reckon she would have adopted TT herself.

We are continuing with our strategy of feeding the cats as much as possible in the hopes they won't be tempted by any further poison or baits.  Sadly, we have not been able to get the golf course groundskeepers to remove the little carcasses.


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Guilt, etc

Last weekend we went grocery shopping and bought ourselves a new fridge, as you do.  We've lived with rubbish appliances for over four years here and finally gave up. 

The compound was originally conceived for the other multi-national, most of whose employees come from a land of huge white household appliances with bizarre current/voltage arrangements.  To make these folk feel at home, special circuits were installed so that we could enjoy native-to-them washing machines and dryers - ones that could easily accommodate a small elephant, should one be visiting.  The top-loading washing machine uses GALLONS of water, no matter how low one sets the water level, and having a central agitator, is great at shredding clothes and said elephant.  I have always wanted to replace these monsters with a tidy front-loader that would spin out enough of the water that I could also dispense with the gargantuan dryer.  I don't ever use the dryer as it is dry enough in the house for most articles to be bone stiff dry within 24 hours when hung on a clothes horse.  That replacement is my next project.

Along with this foreignness, the appliances selected are the most basic and unsophisticated I have ever seen.  They are cutting edge design from an era before even I was born.

The fridge was not frost free.  It had a cunning arrangement with a fan at the back of the freezer that filled with chunks of ice.  Then it would groan and growl and stop working.  We were on to our third fridge (in four years!) and frankly, I had enough.

We decided we would buy a small overflow fridge, to put the extra contraband (ie p*rk) in it, from our shopping excursions overseas.  We'd looked at a few in the shops and Marius did his research, pronouncing the model we would purchase.  Which is why it only took as a few moments to select a completely different one, with side-by-side doors, and a brilliant, non-space wasting interior.

We have pushed the old dinosaur into the back utility room, where it compromises every other use of the space and continues to grumble.  The kitchen itself is now quiet, filled only with a gentle hum.

When we moved in, we asked if we could have the appliances removed and we would replace them ourselves (own account in expat-speak) but we were told we would have to store them in the house and we would be responsible for them (so we couldn't leave them outside) which is why we persevered for so long.  I have a plan though ...

Marius has signed a contract and has had his new position and promotion approved by all the Boards and Masters, so now it is official that we will stay (groan) here in Exile for another three years.  We are hoping to move to a different villa in the middle of the year - which will be bigger (necessary for two adults, three cats and very occasional visits from offspring, I know), have its own small  pool so that I will be safe to do my hydrotherapy without risk of being jumped on by uncontrolled children, and thankfully removed from the insane common-wall noise of our neighbours.

When the blessed day arrives and we shift abode (about 400 metres I reckon) I will stand high up on my pedestal and demand the removal of the offending appliances and quietly replace them with decent, 21st century ones.

I have done something irresponsible and possibly foolish this morning:  I bowed to Wolfe's incessant demands to go out, after being incarcerated since Sunday.  As soon as I released her I abused myself:  no, you fool, on your head be it, and so on.  She was out for ooh, twenty minutes (yes, long enough to cross the fence and poison herself, I know) and is now back inside.  I told her not to eat anything while she was out and to come back quickly.  I pray she has not made herself ill.

Macc also took advantage of the open garden door and is still out patrolling his estate - but he is in no danger of poisoning I believe, because he has never climbed out and is too fat and unco-ordinated to start now.

Two of Seams' May kittens seem to have survived the slaughter - so far - and one of hers from the November -ish litter.  Black Tom was still well last night although I haven't seen or heard him this morning.  On Sunday I managed to catch LG and put her in a cat carrier (all by myself!  such strength and dexterity!) and later that evening we caught the little ginger cat 'Tiny Tim' as well.  They are both at my friend's house in protective custody.  Tim was very sick on Monday and we were ready to take him to the Vet to be put down, but he has recovered.  He must have only had a little poison.

The last of LG's kittens was on my doorstep on Monday morning, huddled up and ill; she has since died and is lying on the golf course side of the fence. There are little bodies everywhere but we can't get to them to bury them or remove them because of the wall and fence.

We have tried to find out what poison was used and how long it will persist, to no avail.  As we have virtually no rain here, it isn't going to be washed away, is it?  When will it be safe to let Wolfe out and to release LG?  My friend R is trying to re-house Tiny Tim.  He has a reasonable chance as he is still young and cute, whereas LG is a street cat and although she is very sweet and I adore her, most people would not think she is pretty - and that seems to be the deciding factor for finding a home here.

'Tiny Tim', in November 2011
One of Seams' May kittens, 'Helmet' has survived so far,
but his cute, beret-wearing sister succumbed to the poison

We are trying to give the surviving cats heaps of food in the hope that they won't be interested in the baits.  Their lives are in the laps of the gods.

And still no signs of Ratty ....


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Feral Cats

I am grateful that my readers are so passionate about the subject of feral cats and the proper treatment of them.  But I have not been clear, I see now, and readers that are not familiar with this blog may not appreciate the situation here, so please let me clarify (not that I expect to change any minds).

I live in a desert.  It is probably a place that you can barely imagine.  In the summer the temperatures soar to over 50 Celsius (120 + Fahrenheit), in the winter they drop to below 10.  There is no rain to speak of.

The native population of humans love to hunt.  Most of the indigenous species - from oryx to desert mice are extinct locally.  One species that has survived the extermination sprees and has adapted to co-habitation, is the sand cat, felix margarita sp. These are indigenous 'wildcats'. 

Our golf course cats are unlikely to be pure 'wildcats', but they show characteristics of those species, mixed with some Arabian domestic cat signs.  

My use of the words 'feral cats' has no doubt conjured images of monstrous domestic cats that decimate local wildlife populations in places like Australia.  Cats such as these are a menace and should be controlled.

Some of our population was also made up of pets who live on the compound, and sadly former pets, who have been abandoned.  A few of us have tried to look after these cats, feeding them, taking them to the vet when they are sick or injured, and having them neutered and spayed.

One of the comments from the previous post maintained that TNR programs are also cruel and seemed to suggest that it is more humane to euthanise the cats immediately.  I can see this argument; however, cats are territorial animals, and believe me, there is an unending supply of them here in Exile.  We hoped that by maintaining a stable population of neutered and spayed cats, they would look after the newcomers and chase them away.

If 'all' the cats are eradicated, in a few weeks we will have a new population to dispose of.  The idea of an endless treadmill of catching and killing cats does not appeal.

We all know that the world is far from perfect and there are many many calls on our charitable natures.  Perhaps for some people, caring about starving animals is frivolous.  Perhaps for some people seeing a kitten die a wretched death from poisoning is 'ok'.  I am not one of those people.

As for the abusive comments ...  I can see that the subject is one that arouses passions - quite rightly.  I am happy to listen to your point of view, whether you agree with me or not.  I will not resort to name calling or personal nastiness, and I expect the same of you.  I have not blocked any readers nor deleted any comments, yet, but if you are unable to be rational and reasonable, I would prefer you did not read my blog.


Sunday, January 29, 2012

I am heartsick

Our neighbour, the golf club, is having a big tournament this weekend.

I suppose peacocks and feral cats are untidy.

A week or so ago, we had 16 feral cats, well-fed and loved.  So far, LG has survived.  My friend R, who gave her succour during her post-op recovery, is going to try to catch her and keep her at home in protective custody.

Last night there were 4 cats.

Two more bodies were found this morning.

There are almost no peacocks.

It seems poison has been laid to 'tidy up' the wildlife problem.

All of LG's kittens, including the ones in the photo from a week or so ago, have disappeared, presumed poisoned.

Macc and Ming do not go out of the garden so they should be safe and I will be keeping Wolfe indoors for the rest of the week, because she does go for strolls and loves to eat.

I am heartsick.


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Big Toys and Road Safety

Thursday's newspaper had 'Road Deaths' as its leading article.  On the same front page, was a commercial press release, masquerading as 'news', about a wonderful demonstration of an F1 car for the public.   That happened on Saturday, closing down the city centre and encouraging more hoonism.

Today's paper had a report on the excitement, detailing the 300 km/hr speed achieved on what is normally a public road, and the many '360s' the professional driver performed for the adoring crowds.

I am a bit of a petrol head myself. I confess.

I am also appalled by the road fatalities here, one of the highest rates per capita in the world (and astronomical when you consider how much of the population is bus-bound and unable to drive).  The biggest cause of death on the roads is speed; closely followed by not wearing seat belts, driving dangerously, being distracted by texting or the video playing, and all fuelled by a fatalistic disregard for personal responsibility.

The young drivers have high-powered cars and love to decorate the road with skids and tyre burns from their antics.  They hardly need to be encouraged in their madness by 'professional' drivers setting a bar for them to emulate.

Marius and I did not venture to the main display, but we did witness the marshalling of the parade of private vehicles that preceded the main event.

Feast your eyes:


Thursday, January 19, 2012

10 Days Long

I've stopped leaping up at every unidentified voice now.  I oscillate between acceptance and hope.  Eventually I will possibly stop hoping and resign myself to acceptance, but so far, I keep hoping (pace Seneca).

Ratty was last seen, full of beans and energy, the morning before we returned to Exile.  My domestic assistant gave him and the other cats their breakfasts and then let them all out into the garden for an airing.  Apparently Ratty climbed a tree and skedaddled over the wall.  Indrani tells me that while we were away, he took off on adventures twice before, once for two days, but he always came home.

When I am feeling optimistic, I think Ratty is out on an extended bachelor jaunt, like he used to have before his accident in early October.  When I am feeling realistic? pessimistic?  I think he must have had a final 'neurological meltdown' and has gone off to die by himself, as cats do.  I worry that he may have been hit by a truck out on the big road, or he ate poison on the golf course, or he got swept up in a 'trap, neuter, return (somewhere else)' program. 

I've spoken to all the other cats on the street, including LG (his little sister) and none of them have told me news of Ratty.  I've looked in unoccupied gardens and through the fence, and I still call him from our garden.  I've spoken to the maids I see out walking their employers' dogs, and I listen to all the voices of the peacocks and children, hoping to hear Ratty.

If I find his body, then that is that.  I'll know he has gone.  And yes, I expect I will stop hoping to see him on my doorstep, but not yet.  I miss him.

LG is well and her fur has grown back.  Strangely enough, she is still feeding her kittens in a haphazard way, although they are nearly as big as she is.  They are devastatingly cute:

Soon it will be time to try to organise for more neutering and spaying as we have an abundance of gorgeous young cats on the compound.  They are flourishing because people feed them, which means they are healthy and will soon start breeding too.  In fact Seams' May brood are already big enough to be multiplying.


Monday, January 16, 2012

Holbrook Lamingtons

In my post Driving Home    I mentioned lamingtons.  There is a wonderful bakery at Holbrook, on the Hume Highway, roughly midway between Sydney and Melbourne, which is famous for meat pies and lamingtons.  

Many years ago, when we still lived in Sydney, both Marius and I worked full time.  With two small children, and restricted leave, we struggled to manage the holidays.  Our generous parents would help out by letting the children stay with them for a week or two at a time.  This meant that rather than having separate 'childminding-only' leave, we were able to take our holidays as a family.

Marius's parents lived about three or four hours drive away, which is easily manageable on a weekend.  We would deliver the children, stay over night and drive back to Sydney (and work) the next day.  My parents lived in Melbourne, which in those days before multiple by-passes and dual carriageways, was a twelve hour journey, making it impossible to do a return trip in a weekend.  We developed a wonderful scheme where we would meet my parents (and sometimes stay overnight) at Holbrook, famous for its submarine.  After we had handed over the children, we would head north to Sydney and my parents south back to Melbourne.

If we were not staying overnight, we would stop and have a picnic together in one of the lovely parks.  At Holbrook we discovered the Holbrook Bakery (now sadly competing with imitations) where we sampled the meat pies, sausage rolls and especially the lamingtons.

I am delighted to report the Bakery is still operating, and the lamingtons remain fabulous.  (A lamington is made from plain sponge cake, cut into 2 inch cubes, dipped in melted chocolate and then covered in dessicated coconut.  Avoid ones filled with jam and/or synthetic cream as they are decidedly inferior.) 

Just after Christmas last year, on the way up to Forster, we stopped for our picnic at Holbrook.  It is the perfect distance from Melbourne for lunch, if you leave between 8 and 9 in the morning.  When we pulled up outside the bakery, there were plenty of people milling about, dithering over the menu, but Prima and I walked up to the counter and ordered three  meat pies and (amazingly conservative) a half dozen lamingtons.  By the time we walked out of the shop with our order, the queue was out the door and onto the footpath.  Popular place.

On the way back to Melbourne, Marius and Primus stopped at Holbrook again.  They bought 2 dozen lamingtons and managed to eat a quarter of them on their way home.

It is lovely when some things remain the same as the shrine in one's memory.

Prima and Primus, at Holbrook, c 1992


Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Oh -- it's so good to be back in Exile


I have unpacked my bag.  A breakthrough.

I didn't sleep much last night, in spite of staying up ALL day and finally succumbing to the delights of my sheets at about 8 pm.  I slept and woke and slept and worried and didn't sleep and worried.  Not only about the still missing Ratty, but also about the not-so-well Prima.  Who would live 12,000 km away from their children?  I don't recommend it.

On Saturday Prima complained of dizziness and vertigo.  We went to visit her, bought some food for her and fussed as only guilty parents can.  She was a little better on Sunday when we visited and brought food again.  We delivered her to her friend's house where she is staying for a few nights while she is busy at the Uni. 

On Monday she tried to get in to see a doctor but couldn't get an appointment until Tuesday. 

Our tickets were restricted - no changes allowed - so we were compelled to fly out on Monday night or forfeit them.  Prima said she wasn't that bad and we should go.

On Tuesday the doctor sent her for blood tests and an ECG and told her to come back today (Wednesday); he also told her to go to Emergency if she got any worse.

This morning, after my fitful sleep, I got up at 4:20 am and rang her.  She was in the waiting room at the Hospital, armed with a letter from the worried doctor and her test results.  The doctor  wanted her to have further tests, and possibly be admitted.

So - do I buy a ticket for this evening's marathon flight back to Melbourne, or wait?  Such is the agony of the absentee Mum.

I called her brother who promptly scooted down to Emergency to hold Prima's hand.  Champion son.

Eventually it was decided not to admit her.  She has been given a probable diagnosis of viral labyrinthitis, recommended rest and told to come back if she gets worse.  She is being cared for by her competent and careful friends and says 'not to worry, not to come' unless things go pear-shaped.

My rant is not about all the above, difficult though it has been.  No, like any sensible mother, I thought I would look up 'labyrinthitis' to both reassure myself and provide ammunition for more worry.

I typed in 'labyrinthitis':  the first website listed was the NIH one in the US, which I have found reliable for other conditions.  Perhaps you would like to look and see what is on the web page for me, because when I clicked on the link, I got the lovely message from those who know better than I do, that the site was banned because it contains 'pr*hibited m*terial'.  Infection of the middle ear - dangerous stuff, clearly.

Maybe I am incredibly naive and innocent that I can not see the glaring problem with the word or the site.  Such a delight to know I am being taken care of by those who know better.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

All the Peacocks You Will Ever Need

This morning Marius and I landed back in Exile (also known as the sandbox, the litterbox and by other more or less affectionate names).  A fourteen hour flight and an eight hour time change do not make for bright sparky people, even if they travelled in comparative luxury and were able to 'sleep' for some of the duration.

Our flight was half an hour late landing because the pilot had to make a 500 kilometre detour around a storm.  Even so, we had plenty of turbulence and lightning, with the seatbelt sign on for at least half the journey.

I am not unpacked - except the frozen food including b*con and party pies for the upcoming festivities.  We brought back two jars of Commemorative Vegemite, 2 kg of coffee from Timor, four packets of Twisties (oh we are sophisticated!), a packet of Freddo Frogs, three water pumps, six ocky straps, a new tarp for the swing and a barbecue cover (the last one was too big), a pair of secateurs, two flags, a cap with an Australian flag on it, and a pile of books and magazines.  Sorry, I am delaying.

We hoped to find our four-and-a-half cats safe and well.  We have found three-and-a-half (LG of the doorstep being the half cat).  LG was on the doorstep, as expected.  Macc was howling inside the front door as we lumped our cases up the steps.  Wolfe was lurking by the backdoor, avoiding Macc.  Ming maowed from upstairs (she is always frosty when we first return).  Who is missing?  Ratty.

I have heard nothing from the three guardians who were watching him for me.  I haven't been able to raise ANY of them.  I don't know if Ratty has just been AWOL since this morning or if he has been missing for longer ...  I've been out twice, stumbling in my jet-fog along the golf course fence calling him.  No answer, or not from the one cat I am looking for.  Plenty of peacocks.

Far too many peacocks in fact. 

This chap has been on our doorstep, probably stealing LG's breakfast.  He was waiting again when I came out this afternoon on my Ratty hunt:

If you look at his neck, you can see missing feathers, which I suspect is the result of competing with other youngish males. 

It is warmer than when we left - 20 when we landed where it should be below 10.  The peacocks must think it is springtime, mating time, because here is my best effort (under difficulties this afternoon) recording a fan:

He was displaying to another cock, who also had his fan up (no photos of the second chap).

The sequence runs from full display, to hind view, and then the gradual drooping of tail feathers.  There was no characteristic rattle and dance, nor any mesmerised females.  I think they are practising competitive tail-wagging.

I have just managed to contact one of the guardians.  Ratty was here yesterday for breakfast but has not been home since.  I hope this means he is not far away.  I will let you know when we find him.