Friday, July 27, 2007

Going to the vet's plus the bad weather

Do you think cats can mind-read?

Our two seem to be able to do so, or are very attuned to our
general mood or body language. We took them earlier this week
to see the vet for their annual check-up and jabs - this was
on Monday. I went downstairs to feed them and make myself a
cup of tea at about 6.30 in the morning, and there they both
were, hanging around their food bowls waiting for their food,
as they usually do.

Anyway, after I’d put some food in their bowls, I nipped
downstairs to blockade the cat flap in the back garage door
to stop them getting out of our house (our house has got
three floor levels, by the way). Unusually, they followed me
into the garage about half a minute later, either to
see what I was up to, or to make a sharp exit. And for the
next few hours they kept their distance, dashing past us if
either Mrs C or I approached them.

Over the years we’ve just about perfected how we catch them
… although the cats always put up a last minute struggle and
howl a lot when we pop them in the baskets. I remember the
time when they were younger and smaller, and when we took
them to the vet's in just one basket … the first one inside
the basket would zoom out as soon as we tried to get the
second one in … quite funny with hindsight, though
frustrating for us at the time.

They’re quite different at the vet’s – they have to be
dragged out of their baskets, and usually stay very meekly
on the vet’s table during the check-up, etc..

They also take evasive action whenever it’s time to dob them
with their anti-flea treatment. The makers of the stuff
recommend giving this every 4 weeks all year round, though
we tend to give them it every 6 weeks and for about the six
months of the year around summertime … touch wood, this has
worked for us. We do our best to conceal what we’re doing
while we’re opening up the lotions, but somehow our cats
sense this even when they’re having a cat-nap. So getting
this stuff on them can take about a day or so, when we can
grab them unawares.

Rather than trying to pin them to the floor, when if they’re
on carpet they switch on their four-wheel drives, and often
struggle free, I now pick one of them up swiftly with one
hand and dab the stuff on the back of her neck with the other.
They zoom off at top speed afterwards, and about 20 seconds
later we see them hurdling over the wooden garden fence
outside, to make their get-away.

We’ve got more fun and games with them in future as our vet
has advised us to worm them every 4 weeks, as we’ve got very
young children visiting us from time to time. The vet’s given
us a special spoon/syringe to get the pills down their
throats - as neither of us are good at getting stuff past
their teeth. I don’t think I could have been a vet, as I
don’t like being bitten – hamster teeth are amongst the
worst, don’t you think? –- they’ve got needle-sharp chompers.

Those of you who are living abroad may have heard that
parts of the UK are under flood-water at present – affecting
low-lying areas around the Severn and Thames in particular.
People have been without proper drinking water and
electricity for days, and have had their houses ruined.
For those who have stayed inside their waterlogged houses,
what do they use for a toilet, I wonder?

And how are GPs managing to run their surgeries in such
areas? Have they set up themselves in tents on hillsides
nearby, and are they examining people lying down on camp
beds? Smear tests by torchlight? "Just take your clothes off
behind the screen, Mrs B, and put them and your wellies just
by the paraffin heater.... Oh dear, I could do with some new
batteries for this torch ... now, let's have a look inside."

We’ve had the wettest summer here since 1903. This time last
year, it was very dry and hot. Hosepipe restrictions were
in force and our reservoirs were drying up. We were being
advised to plant plants in our gardens that could withstand
such weather, and that a Mediterranean-style climate would
become the norm for the UK. I thought this would be great
– we Brits wouldn’t have to travel abroad as much, for the
sun. However, this year we’ve had the worst June and July,
in terms of rainfall, for a century. And then we read about
the high temperatures in central and southern Europe, 45
deg C or so, and 500 people dying of the heat in Hungary
this week. What’s going on? Is it just a natural blip in
the weather, or is it all due to global warming, or a bit
of both?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

July is a busy month

July is a busy month for us, socially. Today Mrs C and I will be
celebrating our 35th wedding anniversary, with an evening meal out
with one of our daughters, and a meal in at lunchtime with two of

We visited Nottingham's "The Cheese Shop" two days ago to get in
some lovely food for today's lunch ... a really ripe (and stinky)
French brie, some Blue Stilton, plus some olives with garlic
inside them, fresh anchovies, and some nibbles. I'm baking some
malted grain bread rolls this morning, and Mrs C will make us some
Kenyan Peaberry coffee -- gorgeous flavour (but cost-a plenty).

Yes, the cheese is really smelly ... we get a strong whiff of
rotting cabbage everytime we open our fridge door ... still, it
helps cover up the smell of our own farts. "The smell, dear? Well,
I got some cheese out of the fridge a short while ago."

The restaurant we'll be visiting tonight is one of our favourites
- Cafe Nomad - which is a short walk from here, with lovely
vegetarian food (Moroccan influences, I think), and one of the few
places where you can bring your own bottle of wine.... and totter
back home again afterwards. It's had mixed reviews on the Veggie
Heaven website, but we'll be going there a lot.

Though I can see that restaurants need to charge a lot for wine
in order to stay in business, I do resent being charged an extra
£10 on top of the price of £4-5 bottle.

But to come back to my main theme, which is wedding anniversaries
and birthdays this month ... last weekend, we went to Mrs C's uncle
and aunt's 40th wedding anniversary (which I mentioned in my last
post). At the meal, Uncle Frank and Auntie Margaret sat a short
distance from each other so they could chat with family members.
During the conversation, Mrs C asked a kind of rhetorical question,
(which F and M didn't hear as they're both rather deaf and wear
hearing aids): "I wonder what the secret of a long and happy
marriage is?" To which their son, Mike, quipped: "Sitting apart
from each other!" I suppose if you wear a hearing aid, you could
say: "Turning it off."

We've got lots of July and August birthdays in our family... two of
our girls, my two sisters, Mrs C and her mum and sister, and several
other relatives too. I wonder if this is happening/has happened
nationwide...are maternity staff busier in the summer months in the
UK, and does this reflect what couples get up to in the winter
months ... more bonking in October to November due to the longer
nights and colder weather.

How nice it is to cuddle up to your loved one in bed at night to
keep warm ... and as they say: "And one thing led to a mother".
If this is a national trend, I think it contradicts what the
Italians say about what we get up to in bed at night: "Oh, we
Italians make love ... the English, they have hot water bottles."

But then what about the falling birth rates in Italy, with few women
wanting to get married and settle down to have lots of children
and to do all the domestic chores. Are Italian blokes (and women)
missing out on having sex, or are they just better at using
contraception than we are? And is it true that Italians have more
fun and more passionate sex than we do, I wonder? When we last went
to Italy in the summer, it was just too hot to have sex (other than
a quickie) in the evenings, so I wonder how they all cope with the

I'm rambling on as usual, so I'll stop there.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Our second daughter and little India set off for home (in
London) yesterday morning in the pouring rain ... after a
week's stay with us. The house felt considerably emptier
afterwards, despite having our cats in the house for company
... they were sheltering from the rain.

In the afternoon, we set off to the smallest cinema in
Nottingham, the Screen Room.... walking in with one brolly
... the rain became torrential as we got nearer to the
city centre, so we sat down in the cinema in soaking wet
clothes ... lovely. I was rivetted to my seat watching the
French thriller/mystery called "Tell No-One" ... I give it
five stars - a brilliant film to go and see if you like
thrillers. Here's the link to the IMDB site ... you'll see
an in-depth review of the film if you scroll down the page.

And then in the evening we were out again, and walked up the
hill to Mapperley to do some baby-sitting for our niece. We
spent most of the time watching a DVD and then some TV (an
American drama called "Medium", which Mrs C likes to watch.
I tend to snooze through stuff that doesn't grab my
attention ... so 40 minutes went by very quickly.

On Saturday, Mrs C and I were down in Leicestershire for a
ruby wedding anniversary for Mrs C's uncle and auntie.
Uncle Frank is now in his mid 80s, so if you do the maths,
you'll work out that he married fairly late in life....
Mrs C and I are coming up to our 35th! We had lovely hot
sunshine that day interspersed with cooler cloudy weather,
which was ideal. The restaurant "The Grey Lady" where we all
met up was in beautiful countryside, next to Bradgate Park
... a lovely place for walkers to go. We went a walk there
some 15-20 years ago, which we must repeat again sometime.

Lady Jane Grey was an uncrowned Queen of England for nine
days in 1554, but ended up having her head chopped off at
the age of 16, at the Tower of London ... poor woman.
I've found another history article about her, which is
easier to read than the Wikipedia one.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

There's a hole in my pants

A large hole has appeared in my favourite pair of trousers,
which are a light olive green pair of chinos.

I was aware of a tiny hole that had appeared from nowhere,
at the back and top of my left leg ... it had a curious
fairly bright orange ring around the edge of it, as if I'd
sat down on a rusty nail.

Anyway I was aware of this and was half-listening to Mrs C
commenting on the hole (while I was doing stuff on this laptop),
so I didn't really take in what she was saying at the time.
Later in the day, she brought up the topic of the hole again
in conversation. Whereupon it dawned on me that she was talking
about a much larger hole.

I took off my trousers and was horrified to see 2 large holes
with frayed fabric in between, just where the trouser leg joins
the bum part (I wonder what the clothes designers call the seat
of your pants?). Earlier in the day, I'd been round town for
some food shopping -- I must have been an unusual sight for
people (if the tears had occurred earlier) ... you could have
seen my underpants and some bare leg through the holes.

I did wear the trousers for a short time after my discovery,
(but have since thrown them out), and I did experience an odd
draught of wind (fresh air) in my nether regions.

We went into town at lunchtime today and had a very nice meal
at Wagamama's (BTW--the men's loo is one of the best in Nottm.),
after which I bought two pairs of Chinos from John Lewis --
both of which met with Mrs C's approval. She was pleasantly
surprised, as she thinks my usual daily choice of clothing is
old-fashioned and unflattering ... and she's right as usual.

I'm adding a couple of my photos for you ... the first one is
of our flower/shrub border in our garden taken in the morning
light .... I'm very pleased with the lighting in this photo...
though the Blogger version is nowhere as good as the original.
The second one is of our middle two girls with their
daughters ... a sisters and cousins' meet-up. India is now 6
months and Ava is 9 months (sitting on their aunties' laps).

Sunday, July 08, 2007


I've been busy in the past few days putting together a Powerpoint
presentation on how to search for stuff on the internet (for a talk
I'm giving in about 3 weeks' time to the Nottm U3A). I've also
started building a simple website for two of my daughters (plus a
couple of their friends) who are professional musicians.

My eldest daughter, Liath, learned to play the oboe and piano as a
youngster, and then went off to art college to learn about theatre
design and subsequently stage fight directing -- which she currently
teaches. In recent years she took up playing the traditional harp,
which she plays at weddings and the like. (Liath is her stage name
by the way).

Our youngest daughter Sophie started to play classical guitar when
she was 8. She did a music degree (BMus) at Leeds University (and
studied classical guitar in Holland also). She now teaches guitar
part-time and plays at weddings and at other functions too. She also
does some part-time admin work at Leeds University, to help pay the

It's our middle two daughters who've now got daughters of their own,
in case you're wondering.

Thinking about very young children, I do love hearing about the funny
comments they make about the grown-ups.

Not long ago I told you about a 4-5 year old boy called A. who shouted
out to his grandma (when she was bending down to clear away some toys):
"Grandma's got a big bum!" His 3 year old sister took her dummy out her
mouth and said; "Grandma's got a big bum," and then put the dummy back
in again.

Anyway, we heard another funny story about this lad, who is very
A.: "Grandma ... your hair is different from mine."
Grandma: "Oh really, A.. Why is my hair different?"
A.: "I comb mine, Grandma."

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

What's on telly tonight, luv?

Just as I was thinking, "there's not a lot on telly worth watching
these days", along come two really fantastic programmes, which are
both on tonight...featuring the fabulous Sandrine Voilett, all about
her "love affair" with Paris, and the gorgeous Joanna Lumley in a
rather sad comedy (if comedy can be sad), called "Sensitive Skin"...
but then isn't life sad and funny at the same time? :)
Both programmes had a favourable review in last Sunday's Observer.

The truly awful but very watchable programme with the domineering
dietician and doyenne of dung, Gillian McKeith (formerly known as Dr.
Gillian McKeith), is back on our screens again. This series is called
"3 Fat Brides, 1 Thin Dress", where three women struggle to fit inside
their wedding dresses, and embark on Gillian's diet and fitness plan,
with view to looking good on their wedding day (and winning a thinner
person's wedding dress). Mrs C and I are disciples of Ms McKeith,
eating more or less her dietary regime already.... we've got two of
her books, as we're so keen on her food ... all except quinoa
porridge, which we thought was revolting.
Thank God we're not watching smellyvision, as just the sight of Ms
McKeith opening plastic tubs of poo was revolting in itself.

But then, to be honest, we prefer Ian Marber's dietary ideas, in the
"Food Doctor Diet". If any of you wish to lose some weight and wish to
eat more healthily, I'd recommend you get hold of one of his books.

And then there's a treat for Film 4 viewers tonight ... Francois
Ozon's "5x2", which according to the blurb is all about a couple's
relationship, and how it deteriorates from pre-marital bliss to a
very bitter divorce... but shown in reverse order. Sounds like a lot
of fun. :)

Monday, July 02, 2007

TV drama with cake

Mrs C and I have been avidly watching two TV dramas, both of which
have just ended: "Jekyll" starring James Nesbitt in the lead role
Jekyll & Hyde ... the plot was too OTT at times for me, but I
enjoyed watching it -- excellent acting from JN and the supporting

Too OTT like "Dr Who" ... we missed the last episode of the current
series, which was billed as being very exciting (with DW billed to
get himself and the whole world out of a tremendous mess, and to turn
the tables on The Master). I did watch one or two episodes, where I
was impressed by the special effects, but the whole thing has lost
its magic/horror for me ... for me, it's about as frightening as
watching "Blue Peter".

The other series we liked was on ITV: "Talk To Me", which centred on
the entangled lives of two couples and one bloke, who was a radio DJ
who presented a late-night radio chat show all about relationship
problems. Excellent acting all round and a brilliant production.

Oh, what about the cake? Well, Mrs C made a Black Forest gateau,
based on a fatless chocolate sponge recipe she found on the internet.
The sponge may have been low calorie, but the whipped double cream
filling and topping, and the toasted flaked almonds certainly weren't.
Mrs C adapted one of James Martin's recipes, that was on the BBC site.