Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Still not the Pantheon

Oh dear, why do work and other such time-consuming activities take up so much of my valuable blogging time? I am SO tired.

But I’ll just snatch a few minutes from the fast-flowing stream of life to record the odd thought.

1) Thank you for all your sympathy! Much appreciated. The insurance man came, tore large bits of the wallpaper off to see how damp the walls and ceiling were (fairly) and installed three large and noisy fans to dry them out. It all looks horrid. But at least we no longer have to worry about the catlets damaging the wallpaper…

2) Loth asked about the Trevi Fountain – no, we didn’t find it disappointing, exactly: we found it red. Someone had thrown red dye into it shortly before we arrived. It looked horribly sanguinary. Lots of police were standing around gazing at it and not letting anyone very near it, though it did seem a bit late for that. We think it was a political protest; the following day there was a Communist rally nearby.

We saw it again a few days later and it was normal.

3) When replying, embarrassed, to your kind enquiries about our gastronomic adventures, I concealed our finest hour from you. We spent most of the time walking around Rome, which is conveniently organised so that most of the stuff you want to visit is within a few miles of the other stuff. One evening we arrived back at the hotel and collapsed on the bed, exhausted. After a while, I said to Mr Life, “Well, how about dinner?”

Very unusually for him, he didn’t immediately leap to his feet at the prospect of nourishment.

“Or,” I suggested, “we have a packet of fig rolls and a bottle of water.”

“That sounds fine,” he said from his supine position.

So that was our gourmet Italian meal: two fig rolls each and half a bottle of water.

4) – And most exciting of all – we got visited yesterday by an Australian blog friend – Fifi of “Strange Fruit”! She was in Glasgow giving a lecture at a conference, and came across to Edinburgh. It was very weird but very nice indeed, to meet her. The weirdness was because we knew quite a lot about each other and yet there were huge gaps in our knowledge. She had a terrible journey, since Scotrail had decided to dig the line up or something, so she was transferred to a bus and then she was going to have to go back again by some circuitous route. It was so kind of her to bother and I was a bit anxious that she was going to find us very boring and not worth the tedious journey; however, she concealed this very well. She met the catlets (and they met her), the husband and Daughter 2 – Daughter 1 had gone home by the time Fifi arrived, and Son was visiting his girlfriend up north. Fifi is lovely!

5) Finally - these are knitted ghosts. Or at least, that’s what we consider them to be. I’d love to claim that I made them but cannot tell a lie: I bought them some years ago at a sale of work at the church. You know the situation – I felt obliged to buy something but there was nothing I wanted. Then I spied these. “What are they?” I asked. The lady behind the counter didn’t really know but suggested that they might be ghosts. Well, of course that did it. What would any household be without a few knitted ghosts?

Happy Hallowe’en!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

The Trevi Fountain... and the Fountain of Life

Well, here was I all ready to pontificate about the wonders of the ancient world, and most of my commenters wanted to know about the food.

Ah. Umm. How embarrassing.

The trouble is that I’m vegetarian and we got the distinct impression that Italians don’t really do vegetarian. Which is why, in four days, I had three margherita pizzas. To be fair to myself, I ate only a total of one and a quarter of these (Mr Life helped out). What else? Panini (cheese and ham, with the ham given to Mr Life) and once – this was the very best bit – French fries and a nice mixed salad. Well, at least there were some vitamins there.

I do apologise to all you foodie people hoping for vicarious exotic gastronomic experiences. Mr Life had pasta of some sort at one time, and a tuna salad, and also a ham and veal thing. I wasn't really paying attention, though. Oh dear, I do feel a failure.

On another topic, the catlets, having just about worked out about rainy days (wet outside, dry inside) got a nasty shock yesterday. As did Mr Life and our son. The shower in the upstairs bathroom sprang a leak, which spouted back into the wall behind the shower, down the inside of the wall and extensively through the hall ceiling below; also to some extent down the walls.

“Fortunately” seems a slightly inappropriate word to use in the circumstances, but it was lucky(ish) that, just about the time of the flood, our son had decided to come home to have some lunch and write an essay and Mr Life was popping home to collect the car so that he could ferry some colleagues to a funeral. Normally, the water would have sprayed unchecked for some hours, but yesterday they managed in a reasonably short time to turn off the water in the street (we didn’t have the necessary turning-off device, but fortunately our neighbour did) do things with buckets and towels and phone an emergency plumber and the insurers. (Mr Life never got to the funeral; his colleagues got a taxi.)

Still, we have bulgy hall ceilings, slightly bulgy wallpaper on the walls, wet carpets and confused (though very interested) catlets.

Groan. Could we have some sympathy, please? – especially for Mr Life, who was a bit traumatised by the whole thing. Though it's nothing compared to the problems of those poor people in California.

I really want to write about the Pantheon – which has survived 2000 years without springing any leaks, dash it * - but tonight I need to read some of your blogs.

* Mind you, I don’t think the Pantheon is equipped with showers. Those Ancient Romans weren't daft.

Monday, October 22, 2007

We left the country

Oh ye of little faith! – indeed, oh me of little faith too. That very evening both of the catlets starting using the catflap by themselves. The power of teaching by example… And you all laughed. Shame on you.

Sorry not to have been around for a bit: Mr Life and I have just returned from four days in Rome. It was amazing. The Forum! The Colosseum! The traffic! St Peter’s! The Sistine Chapel! The random lumps of Ancient Rome lying around unexpected corners! The Pantheon! Our feet!

I must go and mark now (pain after pleasure) but am looking forward to catching up with all your doings in the next day or two. And I have lots of photos of ruined buildings to share with you. Bet you can’t wait.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cats and bedding and other matters

Of course we still really do like Sheepcat. All credit to him for his pacifist tendencies – an example that various world leaders would do well to emulate. Retreat with dignity (and – but only if you’re Sheepcat - spray the neighbours’ hedge as you go, just to prove your virility).

The catlets aren’t always stalwart. For example, the other day they experienced their first rain. They didn’t like it. They rushed inside. They then looked round with relief to find that rain was no longer falling on them and rushed out again, only to find themselves rained on once more. They kept trying; in, out, in, out. You could see them thinking, “How come it stops raining whenever we come in and then starts again the very second that we go outside?”

Then you could see an “Aha!” form inside Sirius’s head – he decided to try another door. It was raining in the front garden, yes, but maybe if he tried the back garden?

Life is full of disappointments.

But there are nice surprises too. For example, here they are last night – Husband and Daughter 2 were watching tv together and felt a little chilly, so got themselves a rug.
The catlets liked this.

We got a new mattress delivered today. The catlets liked that too. Here’s the old one in the hall, waiting to be removed…

and here’s the new one in the bedroom, waiting to be put on the bed. The catlets thought this was a splendid innovation, just right for allowing access to the top of the wardrobe. Fortunately it was pristine up there. Or is it that black cats don’t show the dust…?

They’re good at climbing but they’re not good at using the catflap unless it’s held open for them. They just don’t seem to fancy pushing it with their heads. Today I tried to demonstrate for Sirius. Getting down on all fours, I proceeded, head first, as far as I could get through the catflap. I then turned round to see the effect of this on my pupil. He had turned his back and was washing his bottom.
I’m a born teacher.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Drama on the drive

You might remember that our son is very fond of a cat that lives near our house. This fine animal is known to us as Sheepcat, because of the largeness and woolliness of his person. Indeed, if there were ever a competition for Scotland's biggest cat, he'd have an excellent chance of carrying off the trophy. This is a photo from last summer, pre-catlets.

Sheepcat spends a lot of his time sitting on his garden wall, like a king on his throne, surveying his domain. Occasionally, however, he takes a stroll round the neighbouring gardens on a sort of royal procession.

Last week, he chose our garden. That, therefore, was the day that…

… the catlets met Sheepcat.

Excuse the rubbish photos - my hand was trembling with fear in case Sheepcat was about to eat our babies. Luckily, the catlets had put on their devil-eyes that day. This gave them confidence - or at least, this gave Sirius the insane idea that he could face up to The Incredible Fluff.

(You notice that Cassie then wisely vanished.)
Sirius approached. Sheepcat glared.

Sirius came boldly on. Sheepcat sat down and waited, tapping one enormous fluffy paw.

At this point, Cassie took advantage of the situation to approach from the left while Sheepcat was focusing on Sirius. Sheepcat suddenly noticed Cassie. You could hear him think, "Not another one!"
His head swivelled to and fro like a nodding dog at the back of a car. You could hear him think, "Whose head will I bite off first?"

Cassie seized the opportunity to retreat. Have you ever seen a kitten prowl backwards while facing forwards? Sirius tiptoed on to his doom.

Sheepcat rose slightly, narrowed his eyes at this upstart - this mad little mouse person - and dared him to come any closer.
Sirius came closer.

Then, amazingly, Sheep gave up. Routed!
He pretended to be simply bored, of course. He shrugged his shoulders, got to his feet and wandered off with as much dignity as could be expected of a giant cat who's just been stared down by a someone the size of one of his legs. And Sirius, who hadn't learnt to quit while he was ahead, followed him to make sure he went right away.

Which he did.
Later, I said to my son, "You still like Sheepcat, though?"
"Sheep who?" he said.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


On Saturday, our church held a coffee morning. Afterwards we wandered the twenty yards down the road to the beach and sat on the sea wall. The weather was idyllic: the seductive aspect of global warning. My husband took some (slightly blurry) pictures on his phone camera.

The air was warm and perfectly still. On the beach, dog-walkers strolled while their charges sniffed seaweed or galloped about, leaving deep paw-prints. A few children built sandcastles with buckets, spades and deep concentration. The sea was a glassy blue and the waves whispered politely as they folded themselves on to the sand. There were a few strands of cloud resting gently on a bright blue sky.

A friend of ours was down by the water with his two grandsons, who were very busy with buckets. The boys’ father used to play rugby for Scotland and they seem to have inherited his speed and stamina. Beyond them, a boat moved through the middle distance, contrasting decoratively with the sea.

On such a day, you’d think that all was well with the world. Tension seeped out of the soles of my feet.

Then we went home. I spent the afternoon at the supermarket, heaving around an unusually full trolley of food (human and cat) and litter (cat). It cost £180. Sigh.

But yes, I know: we’re lucky to have food and to the money to pay for it. And to have cats.

And the memory of that golden morning has warmed me through the week as I’ve looked through the college windows at the Indian summer outside.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Middle name tag

No, of course our cats aren't allowed on beds. Look at Daughter 2's wry expression.

Lucy from Box Elder double-tagged me last week. Here’s the first task: to describe oneself using the letters of one’s middle name.

I have two middle names. One is Isabelle, but I thought I’d use my other middle name, May, so as to cut down the potential number of fascinating insights into my personality.

M: Maternal. I was never particularly maternal before having children, but the moment that Daughter 1 was put into my arms, I was besotted. Ever since then I’ve been a huge fan of all babies. Naturally, my babies were the most beautiful and intelligent ones ever born – and still are. Alas, I’m a regrettably clingy mother, not good at the whole bring-them-up-and-let-them-fly thing.

I do try, though. Daughter 1 nannied in Belgium and then went to Oxford University followed by the Shakespeare Institute at Stratford to do her Master’s. Daughter 2 did her first degree at Edinburgh but her Master’s at Sheffield, while Son… all right, he did both degrees at Edinburgh, but is off to New Zealand in March and April for an elective at a hospital in Nelson. He’s going with his young lady and they’re SO EXCITED, while I’m thinking – oh! my baby! on the other side of the world!

A: - I have a bit of trouble with this one. Anxious is what comes first to mind, but I wouldn’t like to think that I come across as nothing but a big anxious blob. Accommodating, maybe (sometimes too accommodating? Not good at saying no.) Awkward? Certainly I was awkward as in shy when I was young, though I do think that being obviously shy at my advanced age is a bit pathetic, so now I pretend not to be. Awkward as in difficult? Well, I dare say everyone is sometimes. I don’t try to be, anyway.

Y: There aren’t many adjectives beginning in Y. Yellow would probably fit quite well (see Anxious) but let’s not overemphasise this. Yearning? (if only x,y and z were different then life would be so much easier). Yappy? I have been known to chat. An adjective starting Yore… or Yester… would be appropriate. I’ve always been interested in the past and the recording of lives and have read lots and lots of published diaries and letters. And now, of course, I read lots of blogs, which catch the fleeting days like butterflies in a net and pin them on a sheet for passersby to admire.

Just think how long this post would have been if I’d given you Isabelle…

It's ok to allow cats in sinks, though? Much more hygenic. This is Cassie.

If any of the following would be prepared to be tagged and to tell us about themselves based on their middle names, please do so: Sheep's Clothing, Liz of Not in Your Ear and Smoke and Ash.

PS - I did this post and then managed to make it vanish. I know that there's a draft somewhere but where? so I redid it. (It was already a Word document so it wasn't that arduous.) Couldn't have my profound thoughts lost to the world, could I? So I'm also:

Mildly irritated
Annoyed with myself
Yes, an idiot

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Cosy cat

Look, you lot, stop all this unseemly talk of jugs. Jane Austen would be ashamed of you.

I don't have time to do a post (marking, class preparation, mother, etc) but here's a picture of Cassie catlet. She discovered the other evening that, now it's autumn, Daughter 2's nightly routine is to put on her electric blanket, take her pyjamas from under her pillow and go to have a bath.

Leaving the bed turned down just enough to allow a little cat to slip in.