Saturday, September 29, 2007


Molly has suggested I issue a "Show us your jugs" challenge. She points out the risqué nature of this request (which had not occurred to me; to the pure, all is pure) but rest assured, we're talking milk, cream, custard jugs here. Does your collection rival mine? If so, let's see it.

(Alternatively, show us your two-headed cats. This picture is worth clicking on to get the full effect of the blissful expressions on the catlets' faces.)

Friday, September 28, 2007

Jane Austen's milk jug

I thought the world ought to see my jug collection.

This one is my favourite – or at least, one of my favourites – because it’s the oldest. It’s a Worcester fence-pattern sparrowbeak jug, made about 1780, which means that Jane Austen might have used it. All right, so it’s not very likely. But can you prove that she didn’t? She took good care of it, anyway, since it isn’t chipped or scratched, though I've seen some similar jugs which have lids, so possibly she dropped this in her excitement at getting her first book deal.
I do wonder where it had been all its life till I bought it in a rush of prodigality with some birthday money in 1997. Wouldn’t it be great if such things came with details of their previous lives?

It cost £190!!!! I still can’t quite believe that I paid that much for a jug that probably sold for about a shilling in its day. (I have no idea what it would have cost, really. But not a lot. It’s not handpainted; just transfer printed. But it’s quite old. And if anyone out there is an antiques expert and knows that it’s now worth £6.50, just keep this information to yourself.)
The only other elderly jug is the blue and white one in the middle of the second top shelf, but this dates only from about 1900. I got it in an antique shop on the island of Arran, one of my spiritual homes. The big one at the bottom right used to belong to my mother-in-law. It’s Portobello pottery – Portobello being the part of Edinburgh where I spent most of my life, though not the last eighteen years - as is the one at the back at the left of the shelf above. I can’t quite think where I got that one, but it was in the early days of our marriage. All the others I just bought because I liked them, mainly but not all when we were on holiday, as souvenirs.

There’s something very satisfying about jugs – their solidity and roundness and also their usefulness. I do use some of them, though obviously not Jane Austen’s one.

But you really came to see a cat picture, didn’t you? So there it is. And here are some flowers.

Sedum in the Botanics.

Clematis in the Life garden...

... and some more fuchsias.
Have a good weekend.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Good and not so good

I'm a bit discouraged – nothing new or drastic, but much too busy, rather worried about various insoluble things and generally feeling that life is hard work. So here are some pictures of some pleasant things from the last couple of weeks. As you can see, our son washed "his" car the weekend before last, which the catlets found very interesting.
Hello. Do you like our bells and magnets?

We then went to the Botanic Gardens, one of our favourite places. There's still a lot of colour even though it's nearly autumn. Rudbeckias make a wonderful splash of sunshine.

These colours aren't exactly subtle but they're cheerful.

This Sunday, we took the family to lunch at the Goblin Ha' at Gifford, in East Lothian. It was mild and actually quite sunny, though not when I took the photos.

Gifford is a pretty little place, though not improved by all those cars. There are two nice pub/restaurants, so quite a few people come at weekends.

Here's the village hall: quite impressive for a two-street village.

Then we went home.

My garden isn't quite the Botanics, but it's still reasonably colourful. Begonias...

... sweet peas...

... some beautiful roses...

... and lots of fuchsias.
And then it was Monday again.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Breakfast time with the Life family

Warning: you shouldn't read this post if you're a fan of Queen. I'm not really into music with guitars and bangy things.

Scene: our kitchen, breakfast time. Terry Wogan's breakfast programme is on the radio. I listen, while eating muesli, for the jokes rather than the music.

[Loud music fills the air.]

Me [wincing and turning down volume]: That's a terrible racket.

[Son and Daughter 2 begin to sing along.]

Me [surprised]: You know the words?

Son [patiently]: It's Queen.

Me [more surprised]: You know the words to a Queen record?

Son: It's our only act of rebellion. We listen to acknowledged classics from popular music that you could have listened to when you were young, but didn't.

Daughter 2 [comfortingly]: We're singing ironically, if that makes you feel better.

Monday, September 17, 2007

The great escape

The catlets were allowed outside yesterday. They were very nervous – Sirius was actually trembling, though did venture out, taking little trips further and further from the door. He eventually became extremely excited and dashed enthusiastically around. By contrast, Cassie took a long time to put even a paw out and then kept withdrawing it. In the end, however, even she went outside for a short time. It had been raining, though, and everything was a bit wet so they keep getting damp feet.

The four of us – Daughter 2, Son, my husband and I – hovered around like anxious parents all the time they were outside. Eventually it got too much for our nerves and we ushered them inside again.

My husband has installed a catflap in the door from the kitchen to the garden – though we haven’t introduced the kits to this yet. I really, really don’t want to come home from work to find a scene of devastation featuring little furry or feathery corpses so we’ve equipped the twins with collars adorned with bells in the hope of warning off the local wildlife. I wonder if the bells will work. (I hear hollow laugher echoing round Blogland.)

As well as the bells, the collars have magnets to unlock the catflap magnetically when the catlets approach. Or that’s the idea.
We’ve been accustoming them to the collars for a few weeks, on and off, but once the magnets were added, a couple of problems immediately arose.

1) The bells stick to the magnets; the rattly bits inside the bells stick to the magnetised side of the bells; and the bells become silent. We solved this one, though, by putting the bells and the magnets on opposite sides of the buckles. Cunning, eh?

2a) If a cat walks too close to the fridge, freezer, washing machine or tumble drier, there’s a dull “clonk” and the feline finds itself attached to the appliance: a furry little fridge magnet. Sirius has established that a firm, manly yank will disengage him while Cassie simply collapses on her side in the opposite direction and frees herself that way.

2b) When they curl fluffily up together, they tend to become attached at the neck. They can unlink themselves by pulling firmly apart, but this needs a certain amount of coordination which isn’t necessarily one of their talents.

Don’t say I don’t bring you thrills and laughter from the Life household’s weekend.

There are other things in our lives beside cats. I just can’t recall them at the moment.

Later, Daughter 2 and the cats needed a nap to recover from the excitement. Napping is a talent that the three of them share.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

A message in Cat

Cassie likes sitting on our son's laptop. This is so helpful when he's trying to work.

I was just reading your comments on my previous post and she jumped up on the desk and walked across my keyboard.

And her message appeared in the comment box.

So this is what she says to you all, dear friends:

Can any of you more experienced cat owners translate this for us?

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Why I never achieve anything

Sometimes, when I read blogs written by wonderfully creative people who pour forth rainbow-coloured streams of quilts, aprons, socks and paintings, I wonder what I’m doing with my life. In my head, I’m quite creative. In my life, I prepare teaching materials, teach, mark students’ work, do ironing, wash the kitchen floor, endlessly tidy up… .

I always delude myself that the weekends are going to present great swathes of free time but they never do. For example, last weekend was more social than usual – so was nice – but was as ever filled with action.

Friday afternoon: a friend was coming to eat with us and to spend the evening, so I was leaving work in reasonable time when our son phoned, having arrived home to find Cassie catlet walking on three legs only, the fourth having changed from a little furry leg to a BIG FAT FURRY LEG. We wondered if she’d broken it. However, Son whizzed her to the vet, who diagnosed a wasp sting and gave her an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory injection, which soon eased the situation. (We never found the wasp. Did the kittens eat it? Seems fair.) These kittens are more stressful than babies.

Friday evening: I ironed while talking to the friend. She hates cats so wasn’t sympathetic to our little wounded pet – who was actually fine again. Then I went and spent the night with my mother, as I do on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.

Saturday morning: Daughter 2 and I went up town first thing to buy some presents for Daughter 1’s birthday the following day. There she is above with my mother and below with my father. He's reading to her, though by the time of this picture she could read to herself and indeed spent most of her childhood doing just that.

Saturday afternoon: I took my mother to the supermarket. I usually just do her shopping for her, but sometimes she likes to go too. She enjoys picking up and examining each of the 60,000 items of merchandise. We got back to her house at 3pm, the time I was supposed to be at another friend’s house, and Mum couldn’t find her key. We went to our house (only a couple of minutes’ drive away), got a spare key, returned to hers and found her keys down the side of the car seat. Having carried in her shopping and then taken mine home, I was at the friend’s about 3.30 and had a nice chat with her and another friend.

Saturday evening: I did some housework and prepared a birthday repast for the next day.

Sunday morning: we went to church and then, very interestingly, Daughter 1 and I went for coffee to the home of the parents of Rosemary, a Scottish blogger who lives in Southern California. Daughter 1 and she had exchanged comments for several years before realising that they had met when they were four and formed a friendship but had then been in separate classes and later different schools so had never really been able to get to know each other well. Rosemary was home for a holiday and she, Daughter 1 and the famous and fantastic Shauna of Dietgirl and Pussycat fame had met up on the Friday. Daughter 1 and I had SUCH a nice time at Rosemary's – what a lovely family.

Sunday afternoon: Daughter 2 and I finished preparing the birthday meal, and we had my mother and my aunt, together with the offspring and their significant others to dinner (most of these people come every Sunday, so this wasn’t much different, except that it was darling Daughter 1’s birthday. Twenty-eight! How time flies (etc)! Happy birthday, dear Daughter. I’m so proud of you).

Sunday evening: cleared up (with assistance) and prepared for the next day by marking work.

And that’s why I never seem to get round to making anything.

I wonder what Michelangelo’s weekends were like. Or Jane Austen’s.

Did they have kittens? Such as Sirius?

Or Cassie?

Saturday, September 08, 2007


Above, you see a picture of a tree.

Now look at this picture. Do you see any trees? Well, yes, there's a picture of a tree, or at least half a picture, and there's a plant, a crassula, just visible to the left; but do you see any actual trees?
No, you probably see an archway which leads from the front part of our hall to the back part.
Here's a view from the opposite direction. You may see a kitten's ball there, but does the archway look like a tree to you?
It looks like a tree to Sirius.

Here's Sirius. He's ignoring his scratching post, and just about to mistake the archway for a tree. I haven't got a picture of him climbing it, because when he does, I'm busy shouting at him rather than taking photos. But he's very good at climbing it - two legs on each side of the arch. The arch has textured paper on it - now rather shredded textured paper.
When we shout at him in such circumstances, he looks round ("What? You don't want me to climb this tree? Oh dear!") and slides down.
This doesn't really improve the shredded-paper situation.

It's really hard, at least with my not-very-terrific camera, to take nice pictures of black cats. They either turn out looking a confusing mix of undifferentiated kitten parts...

... or look rather sleek and evil. As above. Note variety of rugs which we vaguely hope may protect our new sofas a bit longer.
Actually, the terrible twins are sweet and fluffy. Most of the time. Next week, we're going to let them outside. Maybe the advent of real trees in their lives will limit the damage on our wallpaper. Do you think?
(In answer to your question, Meggie, the book group member who cooked the first meal did have a (fairly new) wife but I think he mainly cooked the dinner. Mind you, he's since left the group - no one really knows why. Maybe his wife rebelled... she wasn't in the group.)

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Too much to do

Oh dear, I’m much too busy. How I would love to be a stay-at-home mum. What bliss that would be. I’m very much at jam-in-the-sandwich stage, when both the offspring and the parent (not to say, to some extent, the husband) require my time and attention. This would be a lot easier if I didn’t work. Teaching is an exhausting job.

Last week featured the 23rd birthday of our youngest, the son. (Hence the chocolate of the previous post.) This makes him a near twin of Thimbleanna’s son. Twenty-three years! How time flies (and similar astonished comments). By the time he arrived, we already had two daughters. Somehow I didn’t think I could produce a son, and we were so pleased with our daughters that we would have been happy to have another. I didn’t think I knew how to do boys. However, he’s a pet: clever, kind and funny. And sometimes his room is even tidy.
This photo makes him look cheeky, but he never was. All his teachers used to say how quiet he was - though in fact, he was always good fun.
So we had various birthday celebrations with (my) mother and aunt and (his) girlfriend. To add to the busyness, I had my book group for dinner on Saturday. We take it in turn to host the evening, but when we started the group, we just had drinks and nibbles . Then one member invited us for a meal when it was his turn, which then became the norm.

Personally I’m not at all interested in cooking, though I do it reasonably efficiently. There are ten in the group, and my fellow-members are quite foody people. They watch television chefs, and tend to say things like, “Ah, is this from Nigella’s latest book? That lemon grass gives it a very subtle flavour, doesn’t it? ” So I did a Delia main course this time. It was an all-in-one-dish thing which I thought would be easy, but of course it had ingredients I don’t have in the cupboard such as saffron stalks and fresh coriander, or that I’ve had lurking there for some time with sell-by dates of November 1996 – can’t feed guests on those.

The dish was easy once it was in the oven, but frankly, preparing it was a bit of a footer, as we say in Scotland. A fiddle. I don’t spend much of my life toasting cumin and coriander seeds and then pounding them with a mortar and pestle. Indeed, I don’t possess a mortar and pestle and had to substitute the end of a rolling pin and a bowl. It worked well enough. I reached the end of my patience, however, when Delia instructed me to strip coriander leaves from the stalks. I had imagined this could be done in one swift movement, but no: coriander is a delicate plant, so each leaf had to be removed separately from the fairly large bunch. At this point I dragooned Daughter 2 and her aspiring actor boyfriend to assist. Delia seems to assume that my life might be full of long, lazy afternoons, when I could sit under a tree in the garden delicately picking leaves and placing them in a silver dish…

I bet Delia doesn’t have classes to prepare, marking to do, an elderly parent to spend time with, bathrooms to clean. Kittens to retrieve from under beds.

It seemed to go down well, though. And the group liked my puddings: both the pavlova (very easy) and the lemon cheesecake (another slight footer, though not so much as the coriander leaves nonsense).

When I’m a lonely old woman, I’m going to live on toasted cheese, frozen sweetcorn and bananas. With the odd bit of chocolate.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Slightly lesser kittens

Scene: Daughter 2's bedroom first thing this morning. Daughter 2 and I are sitting on her bed in our pyjamas, having a chat.

Son wanders in, also in pyjamas, having just come downstairs from his room.

Me: What are you eating?

Son: A chocolate.

Me: Before breakfast?

Son: Oh, you know. It's an aperitif.

Daughter 2 [nodding approvingly]: An amuse-bouche.

(Education, you know. It' s a wonderful thing.)

(You'll be glad to know that the kittens are now home and have recovered from their nasty experiences at the vet's. )