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 ....