Soup of the Evening

Well, the kittens did not die in the night, which is probably good news. The bad news is that they seem to be just as boisterous, if not more so than yesterday. I believe that only elephant tranquilliser will contain them at this point and am polishing off my pith helmet as I fear that neither of them will be quite so keen to get in the cat basket tomorrow morning for their post operative check.

In other news, I woke up with a beastly sinus headache that hasn’t really shifted all day and it has made me feel a little tetchy, particularly because I have been laying off the dairy, despite the fact that there is still lovely, lovely Christmas cheese in the fridge, calling to me across the plains. I don’t mind suffering if I have earned it, but if I have been saintly and I am still suffering it makes me slightly petulant.

My spreadsheet is evolving. It is huge and unwieldy and I keep fiddling around with it as well as actually entering data onto it, and frankly I was a fool to myself and should have set this up 14 months ago. I only have myself to blame, which again, makes me slightly petulant, as I have nobody to shout; ‘WHAT DID YOU MEAN WHEN YOU WROTE ZARA HUGE SLEEVES THERE?’ and such like. If I were me I’d fire myself pronto and get someone who actually knows what they’re doing running this joint. As it is I can’t get anyone to replace me, so I plod on with my large notebook full of unintelligible squiggles, hoping that eventually it will be a thing of wonder and joy and I will be able to answer many probing questions with all my crunchy, delicious data.

I have cheered myself today by making amazing soup. It is so amazing that I have had several bowls full (as has everyone else) and have gone about proclaiming my own genius to anyone who will listen. I am particularly pleased with it because it used up all the squashy tomatoes from the back of the fridge, so it was thrifty as well as genius.

Here’s the recipe (I call it that, but it’s sort of loose, baggy instructions you can take or leave), in case you too want to wow all your friends and neighbours.

I diced four onions (mediumish) and grated six cloves of garlic into a heavy bottomed pan, added about an inch and a half of finely chopped celery and sweated it down in olive oil with a pinch of salt to stop the onion catching and about forty tonnes of ground black pepper. I added two red peppers (diced) and a great many tomatoes from the back of the fridge (I de-cored the large ones. I hate the woody bits) which I cut into rough dice. I left the skin on because I’m lazy.  I threw in a lot of chopped coriander, and let it sweat for another twenty minutes. I added some water and a tin of reduced fat coconut milk (I am not dieting. I bought the wrong tin in the supermarket). I added a packet of Tom Ka paste I got from the Chinese supermarket near the hospital for £1.50 when I needed to park there the other week. I stirred it about a bit, left it for ten more minutes and then whizzed it up with a hand blender.  My friend Jenn gave me a packet of amazing chilli oil with peanuts in, and I drizzled some into the top of my bowl before I ate it. Everyone else had it as it came. I’d say it’s medium hot if you don’t drizzle it in lethal chilli oil.

I shall probably never achieve such soup greatness again, which is why I decided to immortalise it here.

Tilly is packing up her room in order to move out next week. I gave her many saucepans and she seems to have lost them somewhere. I believe she also has my very expensive Bella Freud sock (I have the other), but who knows?  Looking at the state of her room, this state of affairs does not surprise me, although there were quite a lot of saucepans and really, they’re a very difficult thing to lose, unlike the sock, but she has skills.

Oscar has cleaned his room of all childlike detritus because he is awaiting an electric drum kit the size of Cornwall. Many of the things he wants to keep are in bags on the landing. There is also a chest of drawers abandoned on the landing which we were going to give to Tilly but Jason has changed his mind about. Now all those things are joined by Tilly’s boxes, which are slowly mounting up, dribbling down the stairs and into my stock room. My house looks like it has been burgled and abandoned, and then burgled a bit more. I am trying to remain calm about the fact that all the festive crap has now been replaced by other crap but I’d really quite like to run away.

Luckily for me, before all the madness started Jason decided that he and I could do with another weekend away in the country before funds run out and we are reduced to chewing crusts and weaving our own vests out of baler twine. He has booked us back into the lovely, quiet, empty grain silo near Hay on Wye we went to a few months ago, and we are going tomorrow evening until Sunday.  The children and the cats will look after themselves (or not) and we will eke out the last drops of decadence from the in between days before January starts in earnest on Monday.

And it’s Luther tonight, and it’s so good. So what with that and my mini break (very Bridget Jones) and my soup, it’s not been too terrible a day. You?

Balls (Cat)

Reality reared its head today.

I had to set an alarm and get up early. Naturally this meant that I was still awake at 1.45 this morning, trying to find a comfortable spot in a bed that had inexplicably turned from a palace of delights to a stony field of knobbly bits. Knobbly bits that knew just where to position themselves so that I was in the maximum amount of discomfort. Even more naturally, the best sleep I had was in the five minutes prior to having to get up.

I blame the kittens for this broken slumber.

I had to take Ronnie P and Anorak to the V E T today to have their man danglers taken off. Impressively I managed to get them both into the upturned cat basket in very short order. I put this down to the fact that they were weak with hunger, not having had anything since 8.00 p.m. on New Year’s Day (I know this is less than 24 hours ago but they are dustbins). Also they are stupid.

I am very grateful for this stupidity some of the time.

If it had been Tilly taking them, she’d have asked for the mortal remains to make earrings out of. As it was me, I bid them farewell and sped away to do very Mondayish chores and distinctly didn’t ask for them when I went to pick them up this afternoon. As predicted, Tilly did ask me about this when she got home from work. I am of the opinion that she can collect as many cat bollocks as she likes when she moves into her own home, but my home has enough bollocks in it already. Thank you. Kind regards.

The lady who discharged the beasts into my care gave me a very solemn talking to and a long list of instructions.  Apparently there are no stitches for male cats to pick out. I thought this was a good thing until she told me they just have open wounds, and I needed to make sure that they don’t aggravate the wound site too much by fighting like demons or vigorously washing each other or themselves. She gave me another long list of unpleasant wound related things to look for.  She also gave me strict instructions to give them small amounts of invalid food and to make them rest. I have to take them back on Friday for a check up.

On leaving, she thrust an encyclopaedic care package consisting largely of notes typed in bold with exclamation marks at me.  I showed them to the kittens as we all sat rather forlornly in the traffic on the way home.  They told me they couldn’t read.

The youth of today.

When we got home I poured them a small amount of snacks and went and hid all of Derek’s food on high shelves underneath lids. Within twenty minutes of being at home they had scaled the high shelves, knocked off the lids and were feasting like kings.

Since then I have removed all the cat food completely, so they have moved on to some Christmas chocolate, a savaged bag of mini marshmallows and a bit of stair carpet. I don’t know if you ever read Simon and the Witch when you were a child, but her cat, George, likes to eat furniture when she goes out and leaves him. I think Ronnie P and Anorak might be distant descendants of George. It transpires that invalid food is rubbish and only for uter wets and wedes. Chiz.

They have also had a massive scrap across the kitchen table, hanging off several dining chairs and biffing each other across the landing. I broke this up at least twice with exhortations to be gentle and speak softly to your little child and beat him when he sneezes, but they were not having any of it and just legged it out of earshot and continued to pummel each other.

Anorak loves his interesting wound site, and has washed it vigorously on several occasions. This apparently is absolutely not allowed. I found out however that when he was recovering at the V E T’s he was already doing this and had destroyed two cones of shame already, so I am very glad that I did not succumb to the lady’s offer to purchase my own cone of shame. Although if it had been for me, that would have been more fitting, given what an absolute hash I have made of cat rehabilitation.

 

 

 

My Gaff My Rules

All my children drifted away like so much flotsam on the tide yesterday. What started out being a full complement for New Year’s Eve, gradually turned into me and Jason and three cats.

I can’t say I was terribly sorry about this if I’m honest. Long term readers will know that I am not a fan of enforced jollity and by the time New Year’s Eve rolls around my cup usually runneth over in terms of smiling in tights.

That’s not to say I haven’t had some absolute crackers in recent years, because I have. My default setting for the event however, is light Eeyore with a sprinkle of foreboding and I have to work at getting over myself.  The rigours of 2018 have meant that there wasn’t a lot left, energy wise to spare on getting over myself, so the opportunity to sink into a torpor wearing only my pyjamas was one I embraced whole-heartedly when it was offered.

Our revised plan was to eat steak and home made chips and watch the last season of The Bridge, which we never got round to when it was actually on.

We achieved part one, sort of.  I cooked the steak while Jason nipped round the corner to the chippy and bought a bag. This speeded things up beautifully and meant we had significantly less washing up to do, so I count that as a resourceful win and a resounding success. The television never actually went on however, because Jason fell asleep on the sofa festooned with kittens and I was so engrossed in my book I forgot to be bothered about watching telly.  He woke up at just gone midnight thanks to the fire works. We wished each other happy new ears, and then went back to our respective books.

I read Coromandel Sea Change by Rumer Godden, which my mum got me a while back to cheer me up. I forget how much I enjoy Godden’s writing. She’s one of those quiet, unshowy writers who just gets on with a kind of low level excellence and never makes a fuss. This is a sort of romance type thing, set in an old fashioned Indian Hotel. It’s vaguely mystical, vaguely romantic, vaguely amusing and entirely satisfying if you like that kind of thing, which I do.

I also read The Atlas of Disease by Sandra Hempel which I got from Amazon Vine to review. It was entertaining. I chose it because I like a good map and it promised good maps. I have to say that the maps were the least interesting bit. I’d hoped for old fashioned with great illustrations with fabulous tags like ‘Here be lepers’ etc. That did not happen and they were all modern and computer generated, but I did learn a lot about diphtheria, so it wasn’t all bad.

This morning I got up to find even Jason had buggered off (to play golf) and it is just me and the cats.  After I had cleaned up about sixty metres of cat shit things settled down nicely and I have spent the morning reading Every Living Thing by James Herriot. I discovered Herriot when we were on holiday, thanks to a Kindle deal and am saving what’s left of his oeuvre for days when I want to be mildly amused and escape reality for a little bit longer. Today seemed an ideal day to start one.

I have decided to ignore January for now.  It’s a loathsome month in general. I have massive changes ahead of me that are just too vast to think about right now but which will require my full attention in the coming days, and there will be lots of being calm, bracing myself, facing things and generally stepping up to the plate of adult responsibility to be done. It is all entirely possible and nothing too awful in the grand scheme of things. It’s just change, and change and I can tolerate each other as long as I take things moment by moment.

Today though is a gift. It’s a gift of quiet and calm and nothing to be done-ness, and I intend to make good use of it by pretending that January is not here yet. After all, the only ones who might disagree with me are the cats and they don’t care. My gaff, my rules and all that.

I may have a bath. I may get dressed. This is unlikely to be fair. I might put clean pyjamas on.  I may eat brioche for lunch. This is highly likely. I may even eat brioche in the bath. This is certain now that I’ve thought about it. I will definitely be watching Dr Who later because I love her with all my face. I will be watching Luther later than that because I luff him with everything else and was discussing with my mum only a short while back, how I would quite happily watch him read the Argos catalogue if required, because he is a beautiful man and a balm for the eyes.

I feel that if I wish anyone happy anything it might jinx things. Happiness is a tall order in times like these.  Instead, I wish you kindness. I wish you tolerance. I wish you fortitude against whatever storms come your way. I wish you generosity. I wish you the ability to choose what you want and need rather than feeling that you are rudderless in the world. I wish you the wisdom to understand that you always have a choice, even if it’s between things you would rather not choose. I wish you time and space to think. I wish you all of this for yourselves and towards each other.

I send you love.

 

 

 

My Books of 2018

My name is Katy and I am a book addict. This is not an addiction I wish to address in any way however, despite the fact that one day I will be able to move into a house constructed entirely out of books just on my to read pile. I will build a garden wall out of the books I have read, or possibly community housing.

Sometimes a woman has to know her limits, and sometimes a woman has to embrace something that has saved her sanity and her life on more than one occasion and keep at it like it’s going out of fashion.

Although happily I read an article over the last week that says that book sales are up and more independent bookshops are opening all the time. Hooray.

It is time for my books what I have read in 2018 Top Ten round up malarkey.

Reading has been slower this year. Post menopause my brain got a bit wonky in terms of concentration and I have only just found my reading groove again. Usually I read around 150 books in a year and this year I managed 100. My Good Reads list says 101 but that’s because I accidentally logged one twice, and don’t know how to take it off.

There might have been less books, but the ones I read were largely absolute belters and it was difficult to choose my favourites this year. There is no particular order to these by the way. That would be way too hard.

  1. Notes To Self by Emilie Pine – This is a series of essays by Pine about difficult things, like growing up as the child of separated parents, like dealing with her aged father’s alcoholism, like coming to terms with childlessness. It is, on a larger scale about speaking out as a woman, about finding the space to talk about what is labelled shameful or forbidden or something that we should be quiet about. It’s not an easy read, but it is brilliant. I got a copy from Net Galley for the Kindle edition which is being released at the end of January, but it is already available on Amazon in a different format and that’s the link I’ve provided in case you can’t wait.
  2. Lies Sleeping by Ben Aaranovitch – This is the seventh book in the Rivers of London series, and if you haven’t read the previous six it will make literally no sense to you at all, and if you have read the previous six it will come as no surprise that this is on my top ten reads of the year. I love Aaranovitch and I love this series. I found this extremely satisfying and am only sad that I read it so fast. If you haven’t read the series and you like police procedurals set in London with a fantasy edge which is not twee and is extremely funny and clever, you should read it.  It’s like Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman but with more car chases.
  3. Midnight Chicken: & Other Recipes Worth Staying Alive For by Ella Risbridger – I have been following Ella Risbridger for a long time on Twitter, through her blog and through her amazing articles for The Pool. I got a preview copy of this book from Net Galley and after reading it I immediately ordered two hard copies of it for when it is released on the 10th January. It is entirely possible I will order more copies. It is one of those books that is absolutely perfect and which I will rave about for years to come, and have small stashes of about the house so that I can press it into the hands of reluctant visitors so that they too can own and read something so very, very perfect. Risbridger writes like an angel and she writes in that way that is like chatting to someone who you have known for a very, very long time even if you’ve only just met them. Her recipes are all delicious sounding, even the ones for things I don’t actually like, and she scatters reading references around like stars. I love anyone who can write about pies whilst referencing Danny Champion of the World.
  4. Bookworm by Lucy Mangan – This was another Net Galley treasure that was delivered to my Kindle by a beneficent technological wizard. Mangan writes about her childhood reading and it is just an absolute delight. We are, to all intents and purposes, twinned through books. So many of the books that shaped her childhood and adolescence shaped my own. I identified so strongly with this book it almost made me cry at times, although it is not sad at all. It was another book I finished and immediately ordered in hard copy and pressed upon people. I press it upon you, too. It is wonderfully nostalgic.
  5. How To Be Famous by Caitlin Moran – This is the long awaited sequel to the brilliant How to Build A Girl.  I have to say that I loved the sequel harder than the first book and I loved the first book pretty hard.  You do really need to read them in order to get the full experience, and I will just say that I really, really wish this book had been around when I was growing up.
  6. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith – I am so late to the party with falling in love with J. K. Rowling’s Cormoran Strike series. I have to thank my mum for giving me The Cuckoo’s Calling and ordering me to read it so that she could talk to me about it, earlier this year. The books are so, so good and this latest is my favourite by a country mile. If you haven’t read them, do!
  7. Theft By Finding: Diaries Volume One by David Sedaris – If you’ve never come across Sedaris before, you’d be better starting with one of his volumes of essays. All of them are joyful. Strange, surreal, funny, sad and brilliant. I think the first book of his I ever read was Me Talk Pretty One Day. I was hooked. He’s kind of like the fucked up, American version of Alan Bennett.
  8. Slow Horses by Mick Herron – This is the first in a series about a bunch of failed spies all grouped together in a dingy establishment called Slough House, being overseen by the infamous Jackson Lamb, a hero of the cold war, now supposedly very much washed up. Until things kick off, of course. These are like Le Carre updated for the cyber generation and I love them. I got the set from Net Galley to read and absolutely ate them up.
  9. The Word is Murder by Anthony Horowitz – This is the first in a new series by Horowitz. I got given The Sentence is Death by Net Galley and loved it so much I went back and bought the first one as a Christmas treat.
  10. Transcription by Kate Atkinson – I was in on the Kate Atkinson thing from the start. I loved her. Then, for reasons which are now unclear to me, I went off her a bit, and then last year I read Life After Life and wondered what madness had possessed me to go off her. Now I am a devoted fan again. This is fantastic. Clever, brutal, funny and really twisty. I read a lot of crime fiction and sometimes I find myself bored because I can already guess what’s coming.  Everything I have recommended this year by way of thrills, has been clever and unexpected and really, properly intriguing.

Honourable mentions this year go to:

Mr Godley’s Phantom by Mal Peet – A perfect creepy tale.

In A House of Lies by Ian Rankin – Rebus forever. Although I feel after 22 outings, Rankin might be planning his demise soon.

Old Baggage by Lissa Evans – A beautifully written prequel to one of my favourites of previous years, Crooked Heart.

The Lark by E. Nesbit – Absolute, romantic nonsense. I love Nesbit, and I am always struck by how modern she is in her style. Readable, gorgeous, silly and perfect.

 

 

 

Half Measures

Good morning

I have a food hangover this morning.

It is interesting to me that as I age, my body gets more sensitive to things that in the past I could have happily ingested for about a fortnight before noticing any ill effects. I am not just talking about booze. My days as a hard drinking woman are long behind me. Living with an alcoholic (not Jason) for ten years will do that to a woman, despite him getting into sobriety early on. Too many evenings sat in dank church halls listening to people telling their stories has meant that alcohol lost its shine fairly sharpish.

It doesn’t mean I don’t like a glass of wine here and there, or an excellent gin. It just means that drinking until my hair goes numb is not as much fun as it used to be.  See also, dealing with small children whilst coping with monumental hangovers.

It’s food that I find tricky these days. Not all foods, which is good as I am a glutton of the first water and nothing excites me more than a full pantry or an invitation to dinner. There are however, a few foods which I now have to eat in moderation. This is something I find tricky. In the Big Blue Book, which is the Alcoholics Anonymous manual there is a line which is etched on my brain. It says ‘Half Measures Availed Us Nothing.’ This is me.

Moderation is not a word that sits comfortably with me. As you know I have my own addictions to wrestle with which means that I am no stranger to excessive behaviours and patterns. Big addictions can be ruinous, but then there are the small obsessions that mirror the big addictions but which are less harmful and which usually fizzle out after a while.

I think back with fondness to the six months I ate as many coconut Boosts as I could afford.  Then there was the time when I had chocolate mousse for breakfast every day for a year, or the time I would only eat and drink out of bowls and only use a spoon, just because I could.  It seems to be a trait that is common to small children but which I have never quite managed to break.

These days, those crazes and cravings must be tempered because my poor body, which is mostly viewed by me as a vehicle by which to transport my over-active brain around, tends to fight back.

I can no longer eat cheese in the same vast, quantities I used to. If I do, my sinuses wave a white flag of surrender and I end up a congested ball of mucus and screaming head pain.  If I eat too much chocolate I get headaches. If I eat too many sweets I get blisters on my tongue and mouth (no more eating an entire pound of foam bananas for me, alas). If I drink too much coffee I get the shakes. If I eat too much bread I get gut ache. Too much milk, again with the snot head (farewell milkshakes, my sweet, sweet love).

It’s lucky that there are so many delicious foods that usually I can fill myself to the brim without feeling that I am going without, and I have managed, over years of training to learn some kind of self control around the foods I love but that increasingly don’t love me. Except for bread, because it is and ever will be, the staff of life and I am completely unable to say no to a warm baguette, or a cottage loaf, or sourdough, or just anything.

There are times however, when even though I know I will feel sad in due course, I allow myself to indulge. I take my lumps and agree with myself that I will not moan and wail because I have a head that consists of 90% dairy related mucus, because I bought it on myself. I allow myself to indulge because these are not cravings that will kill me if I give in to them. These are cravings that will cause me some discomfort, and sometimes some discomfort is an acceptable price to pay for the joy of digging into a wheel of Brillat Savarin (my current cheese obsession) with a spoon, and slathering it onto sourdough and posting it into my mouth until my stays are creaking. It is possible that this joy was augmented by the addition of a very large piece of Yule log and a bucket of coffee at an inappropriate time. It is just possible that this happened.

If this did happen, it is also entirely possible that the feeling that I am coming down with the flu this morning, may not actually be true and might, just might be entirely self-inflicted. It’s hard to say.

 

Do or Not Do

Good morning to everyone still wallowing in the weird, limbo space between Christmas and New Year. It never ceases to be a strange time no matter how often I experience it. The fridge is still full of pate and cheese (no bad thing. I could continue to live as if I were in a 24 hour buffet to no ill effect), there is festive detritus everywhere and yet we are gearing up for the next big push of New Year already. That’s before you factor in the dark, penitential misery of January. You can feel it, like an undertow, pulling at your conscience as you shovel another wheel of brie onto a Carr’s water biscuit and loosen your belt.

Christmas here was slightly weird. I mean, regular readers will know that I do not do decking the halls much, but we always have a tree. This year however, Bruce the Spruce sat outside with his naked, accusing branches unadorned. That is because I decided spending 97% of my Christmas plucking kittens out of the branches was not going to be good for my mental health. Nor would taking kittens to emergency, out of hours vet services for having punctured their bowels chewing indiscriminately on pine needles. The children all did ‘waily waily’ until I said that they could have the tree as long as they pulled the kittens out of the foliage and took them to the vet, and everyone subsided sharpish.

So there was no decking of any kind.

Normally we stay at home, which we did again, but this year we had guests. Tilly’s boyfriend, Bred was with us, and our adoptive son (not really) Lee. Tilly and Bred have a house now, but it is largely a building site, full of plaster dust and Ikea boxes. They had hoped to be moved in by Christmas, but it didn’t happen. I was very aware that this is probably Tilly’s last Christmas with us before she goes off to make traditions of her own. This is as it should be, but it was also a bit melancholy making.

Boxing day was also strange, as this is the day we go to visit my mum and dad en masse. Except that this year both Tilly and Bred were working and couldn’t come, and so was my brother, and our numbers were depleted.

It’s not to say that we didn’t have a nice time. We did. Games were played, gifts were exchanged, four hundred tonnes of roast beef were eaten, glasses were clinked and terrible crackers were pulled.

But it was, for me, a bit of the ghost of Christmas past and the foreshadowing of Christmases to come.

Change happens all the time. If things didn’t change life would cease. Tiny, incremental changes usually pass unnoticed until they’ve gathered enough momentum to make an impact, and generally by the time you’ve noticed them they are mostly integrated and less massively disruptive. Sometimes though, changes are sharp and pointy and make their presence felt.  This is what the last few days have felt like to me.

Maybe it’s because so much has changed this year that my senses are sharpened to detect them, and my coping strategies are rather strained, I don’t know. I just know that I am feeling more than a tug of sadness at the moment.

There are other, huge changes coming in the New Year and my mind is not entirely tranquil about them. Jason has a new job, and it will mean that I need to look at jobs for myself in a serious way for the first time in decades. That will impact all our lives in so many ways that our domestic landscape will be irrevocably changed.

I was flipping things over in my head last night, making lists, thinking about what will happen and what might happen and what I could do and what I will do. You know, the usual, washing machine of the mind that happens when you are supposed to be relaxing into sleep.

Usually I sleep on things and then get up and ‘do’ a lot of things. Doing things makes me feel better about stuff. It makes me feel more in control, even though this is largely an illusion. It is an illusion that makes me feel like I can cope though, which can be quite helpful when you feel your life is in free-fall. However, sometimes, when things are about to change, you don’t know which way things will go, and doing a load of pre-emptive stuff on the off chance can backfire. It can mean that you expend a lot of energy for very little reward and end up having to do a whole bunch of other things to get yourself back to the place you needed to be instead of the place you thought you needed to be.

So today I am not doing anything. Of course, this feels terrible. I am going against all my natural instincts and the habits that have arisen out of them. I am however, going to continue to do nothing except think and perhaps write down the thoughts that are most persistent so that they don’t eat away at my brain and make me totally insane. I am going to wait and see. All the best things of my life have happened when I have relinquished the need to be perpetually in charge of everything and micro manage myself and the world around me.

That doesn’t mean I’m going to sit idly by and fiddle while Rome burns. It means I’m going to assess things before the fire really takes hold and think about where best to put my energies instead of running around like a loon before collapsing in an exhausted heap before a single bucket of water has gone anywhere near the flames.

I have to remind myself that sometimes, sitting tight and not doing, is actually a form of doing, even though it doesn’t always feel like it. So I am.

 

 

 

The Kittens of My Life

Thank you to everyone who responded to my last post. I am consistently amazed by how wonderful the people who read my words are and I am very grateful for all of you and your care and honesty and kindnesses. I will be writing more on the subject as I pick my way through the raging bin fire of my mind in coming weeks.

I’d like to take a short break to write about Tallulah’s kittens. I am hoping that this will remind me why they are lovely creatures and stop me from drop kicking them over the fence (Hint. Kitten cruelty is not on. Any cruelty is not on. Except maybe to Donald Trump, who I shall happily line up to drop kick over his fecking wall).

Regular readers may remember that we promised Tallulah a kitten if she reached her weight target for CAMHS. We were working on the idea that when you’re struggling to find a reason to stay alive, the need to care for something that depends entirely on you can keep you here when other things can’t. She loves kittens and it did indeed prove a very effective prompt during times of deep despair.

They may also remember that when we went to pick her kitten up, it turned out to be one of two brothers in a two kitten litter, and I could not leave the runt behind because I am that person who spent her childhood rescuing earthworms and half dead birds and crying every time something died.

And that’s how Ronnie P and Anorak came to live here at Boo Towers.

Ronnie P was Tallulah’s first pick. He’s called Ronnie P after Jason once referred to RuPaul as Ron Ponding and the name stuck. It suits him. If any cat were going to be a fierce drag queen, it would be Ronnie P. Anorak was named by Oscar. I said: ‘What? After a coat?’ He said: ‘No! Don’t be stupid. Nobody calls a coat an anorak. He’s a character in a book.’ We had a long discussion about coats. He still doesn’t believe me.

Regular readers may also remember that we already have a cat called Derek. Derek is a complex creature. She was abandoned as a tiny kitten and found in a ditch by someone who took her to my friend Andrea’s farm. They’d just got a new Jack Russell pup at the time, for ratting purposes, and bedraggled, half starved kittens are too much like rats for stupid pups to cope with, so I got the call and everything in me rejoiced, because I am RESCUER OF KITTENS (and part time Saint of Armadillos) and so Derek came to stay.  Jason, my husband, loathes cats and said the only way he would tolerate her existence is if we called her Derek. So we did and as she has no idea about gender politics she’s quite happy and the name suits her.

Derek does not know that she is a cat. She never learned to cat properly because she was taken away from her mum too early and so she has grown up thinking that she is a hairy human being who is perfect and beautiful and we are the runts of her litter. Over the years she occasionally experiments with some cat behaviours, but frankly, eccentric is the best description of her I can come up with.

As it turns out, Jason adores Derek and has often opined that she is the perfect cat for us, because she is as weird as we are. I cannot fault him on his logic here.

You can imagine that the cat politics in our house are complex, and best described as tense. Derek spent the first few weeks trying to eat the kittens. The kittens have no idea that Derek loathes them. Ronnie P has Simpsons’ cloudscapes where an actual brain should be, and Anorak is quite slow on the uptake so they rush towards her with unmitigated joy as she tries to murder them.

I watched a lot of cat behaviour/psychology things on YouTube, got lots of advice and spent a considerable amount of money on various cat hormones/plug in stuff, to no avail. In the end we separated them and this policy is one we still operate. Now the kittens are bigger, and after they go and have their huge, furry bollocks chopped off in the new year, my plan is to reintroduce them and let them fight it out in a furry rendition of Beyond Thunderdome. I will be Tina Turner. If that doesn’t work, the kittens have to go and live in Tilly’s new house and Tallulah will have visiting rights.

This is one of the many reasons why my mental health is quite fragile, by the way.

The kittens are a bloody nightmare.

I have had cats all my life, and I realise, watching the kittens swinging from people’s eyebrows and dangling upside down from light fittings, that when I had pairs of cats in the past, they were always quite grown up by the time I got them, and therefore less prone to be riders of the furry walls of death. They were always reasonably sedate and I had not bargained on two nut jobs with half a brain cell to split between them, egging each other on to increasing levels of lunacy, coupled with a never ending battery life that sees them power napping for thirty seconds before throwing themselves headlong into the next crazed activity.

So far they have:

Learned how to open the panel in the cavity wall that has the gas and electric meters inside, and almost fallen down the gap in between because they’ve been teetering along the plasterboard edge showing off. I have had to hang a picture over this panel. If anyone has to take the picture down and doesn’t put it back, they do it again, and again, and again. One day the fire brigade will almost certainly be called.

Climbed up my Victorian dressing screen that we use as a blind for one of the sets of French windows and fallen down the other side, wedging themselves between the windows and the screen in a Flat Stanley scenario.

Eaten half a bunch of roses, leaving small, confetti shaped clumps of petals everywhere. This would be cute except that it gave Ronnie P the raging shits and the P in his name now stands for ‘Pooh.’

Taken all the decorative twigs out of another bunch of flowers and dragged them round the house, before getting bored of them and stuffing them under the fridge.

Eaten half of the bottom step of stair carpet.

Dug up carpets in rooms where they are left so that Derek can get some peace. Basically I will have to burn all the carpets later on, when they either retire or die.

Produced unspeakable mountains of pooh. They are epic shit buckets. I have never seen so much pooh come out of such small animals. You would think we were housing elephants there is that much pooh in this house. It’s a good job we live by my granny’s mantra. Shit luck is good luck. We are going to be very blessed in 2019.

Climbed into the washing machine/fridge/dishwasher any white good that happens to have a door, repeatedly and have to be plucked out from the innards.

Eaten everything that is not nailed down. They pull tea towels off bowls, puncture cling film, knock dishes over and think an unattended saucepan is an invitation to supper. They like granola, Thai curry and beef stew best, but will attempt most things. They are gastronomically curious. This also explains the shitting. They are smart enough to know that this tasting menu approach to life is not allowed, so only do this if your back is turned. One day I expect I will have to take them to the vet when they jump onto the hob when something is cooking. Their life expectancy is very low, which upsets me as double kitten upkeep is quite expensive.

Drunk everything that is not covered up. They are particularly baffled by sparkling water. It makes them sneeze, but still they persist.

Fallen in the toilet. They like water. They like teetering round the rim of things that contain water. Sinks, baths, toilets. Anorak fell in, investigating the interesting water in the downstairs loo, and then ran, dripping through the house. Fun times.

They do not do these things once. They do them over, and over again. They are like a wrestling tag team with ADHD.

Also they have massive bollocks. I mean, massive. Of all the kittens of my life I have never met any so prodigiously endowed. They really should have been named after Buster Gonad and his unfeasibly large testicles. They have huge feet, and huge knackers. If they weren’t going to have them chopped off as a New Year treat, I would fear for the lady cats of Knighton once they were allowed out. As it is, I am thinking of having their bollocks stuffed and turned into an entry for the Turner Prize.

I’d win.

p.s. the title of this post comes from an amazing book by a woman called Elizabeth Von Arnim, who alongside writing some glorious novels (Enchanted April is probably her best known), led a brilliantly bizarre life and had many disappointing husbands but many excellent dogs. Her memoir is called The Dogs of My Life. It’s well worth a read.