Who’s She, The Cat’s Mother?

Growing up, I wanted to be a lot of things.   Writer, nurse, Mom and bus-driver topped my list, written when I was 6, in rainbow block crayon.  I also wanted to be a lawyer, an artist specialising in Spin-art, and a country singer.  So it was a long list, and vet was not on it.  I am a people person from way back.

I have always loved dogs.  Big ones with bigger eyes.  Shrill, yappy ones have never been good for my nerves.

My Dad always had dogs.  I thought of them as siblings.  Mom had a cocker spaniel that I got for Christmas one year.  Dudley quickly became my Grandfather’s dog.  Maybe even as soon as the day after Christmas.

I tolerate most dogs, I’ve even loved a few of them.  Cats, not so much.  The frequency at which they growl and hiss actually makes me jump out of my skin, and continue the climb up the wall.

How a feline-phobic child became an adult with a fur-person is quite a story.

In truth, I was terrified of cats until I was 13 and only tolerated some of them after that.  But if I didn’t get over my rational-to-me dislike of them, I could not have lived in my house.

I had moved into a farmhouse on a hill attached to a working farm, complete with cows and a barn.  And barn-cats.

Two became three became eight.  They would take cover in our sheds and have yoga sessions in our garden.

Two of those became house cats, our house cats.  They had babies.  One of those babies was CJ.  CJ’s full name is Cappuccino Junior.  Her mother, Cappuccino, was so-called because she looked like a Capuchin monkey.  And because I like cappuccino.  Cappy was the first cat that chose me.  She slept at the end of my bed, and sometimes on my head.

CJ arrived, and she would crawl up my arm, settle on my shoulder and watch TV or read with me.  She was the first one to read some of my bad poetry, and I’d swear she missed me when I was away at University.

When Dad and I moved to Glasgow, CJ lived with me and CJ’s aunt, Kirby, lived across the car park with Dad.  We re-homed the others, and left them up North.

CJ has been with me in five Glasgow flats, making a break for it to explore the hallway whenever I left the flat, sometimes making me late for work because I had to herd her back in.

When I watched TV or read, she curled up next to me.  When I had friends over, she investigated their shoes.

One day, she investigated Sarge’s shoes.  She liked them.  He sneezed.  And sneezed again.  He is allergic to cats.  When he mentioned this, I was afraid.  Afraid that a guy I really, really liked would stop coming around because my house made him sick.

He loaded up on antihistamines for our movie nights, and sometimes woke up with CJ sharing his pillow.

In May last year, with CJ hopped up on happy pills, she and I made the journey to our new Edinburgh flat.  In this flat, she isn’t allowed in the bedroom, but she hangs out at the door and sneaks in whenever she can.  She perches near our living-room window, watching the bus stop.  She is depressed.  She is not a city cat.  I have been selfish.  And Sarge is still sneezing and losing his voice.  His allergy pills don’t work anymore.  His own house should not make him sick.

At some point in recent history, I made a decision.  Something I’ve been thinking about, but could not say out loud.  I had to find CJ a new home.

I presented this to Sarge.  He would never ask me to choose.  But humans come first.  Well, at least some of them.

At first, I wanted her in another Edinburgh flat, with people I knew.  So I could have visitation rights.  But that’s a bit like asking your kid to go to college close to home.

CJ is not the same cat that left the farm.  Every flat I’ve put her in has dimmed her spark.  She deserves to explore like she used to.  She deserves grass and mice and other country cat treasures.

And so, she’s going home.  I want to find her a home up North, through the same agency that placed her furry brothers and sisters.

One day soon, I’ll get in the car with my Dad, and make the difficult and bittersweet journey with my unlikely, but beloved friend.  Letting go, and growing up.

CJ a few years ago, unimpressed with another city move.

100 Books or Bust: Heading For 50


Dead Until Dark was the 45th book I’ve read this year.  Not my usual thing, but my brain was buzzing and needed down-time.  I had fun reading some choice lines aloud to Sarge, and finished it in a few hours.

Here’s a list of all the books I’ve read so far this year.  If I finish all the books I’ve got going, I’ll break 50 soon.  However.  I probably won’t make it to 100 books read this year.  I could read a book a day from now until the end of the year, but I won’t.  I’m not giving up, just ‘managing exceptions’.  Maybe my own.

I have a book to write, and a job to go to and adventures to have.  I’ll bring a book everywhere.  Maybe I’ll get to add 55 more titles to my 2011 list.  Maybe not.  But I’ve still read more than last year, and I’ve had fun.  There’s always next year.  And tomorrow.

What are you reading these days?

A bookshelf in my hallway

Weekend Wanderings

My weekend begins on Friday, so we’ll start there.

I woke up and asked Sarge to make me a coffee. I did so nicely.

‘Can’t (the PA) do it?’

‘She doesn’t make coffee,’ I said. ‘She pours water into ugliness.’

‘Fair enough’, he said, turning on the coffee machine.

For the rest of the day I scribbled and read, scribbled some more and thought about organising my dresser-drawers. I opened them, and quickly shut them again. A story for another day, I thought. And then I chased the cat out of the bedroom not long before Sarge got home from work.

‘What should we do for dinner, be good or get take-away?’

‘The diet starts Monday. I vote for curry.’

And forty-five minutes later, we had pakora and Futurama in front of us. Futurama is one of those shows I didn’t realise I liked until I watched a few episodes. Either that, or Sarge won the coin-toss many, many nights ago and now I’m the one who says, ‘Let’s watch Futurama!’ Ours may be the only household where ‘bite my shiny metal ass’ just means it’s time to turn on the television. Most of the time.

On Saturday, we had salmon and eggs with soy sauce for brunch. Almost everything Sarge makes has soy sauce on it. Or in it. Or around it. I don’t complain because for one thing, I like soy sauce and b, I don’t cook.

Then we wandered up to the cinema to see Midnight in Paris.

‘What’s this actually about?’ I asked on the way.

‘It’s a Woody Allen film. So, Woody Allen.’

‘Fair enough,’ I said.

I love Woody Allen films. I liked this one because it had Hemingway in it. No, not my computer. The real one. Well, not the real one. That would have been really special. Yeah, I liked it. But as I watched Owen Wilson, I kept wanting to shout two words. ‘Blond’, and ‘Nose’. I didn’t. That would have been really special.

We went home and watched some more of the Northern Exposure Box set. I won the coin-toss. No, we don’t actually make decisions by tossing coins. Ever. Well, there was that one time.

And today, I’m scribbling and reading and scribbling some more. All while obsessively listening to this song:

Where has your weekend taken you?

Magic Coffee: Audience Participation

A few weeks ago, a friend sent me this photo and I thought I’d share it:

These are two of my favourite things! Thank you, Karen!

This week, while shopping for my nearly oldest friend’s birthday gift (but I’m still older than she is), I found this and had to get it for myself:

True words. On a mug.

So, what made you smile this week?

My Island Diaries: Mull

Wherein I get fresh air and new perspectives, remember promises and maybe change my mind.

Edinburgh – Glasgow, holiday o’clock.

Sarge turns on all the lights in our bedroom to make sure I am actually awake. We have cupcakes for breakfast.  They are neither red nor velvet.

I put on striped socks, a museum t-shirt and a Mom-made sweater. We take a taxi to the train station and get there with time to spare.

This time I actually booked ramp assistance. Someone in a suit and tie sets the ramp between the train and the platform, and we are officially on holiday.

The biker sitting next to us is reading his Kindle. My paper and ink book hides my curled lip. And I like bikers.

Glasgow – Oban

Our second train of the morning has facing seats, but we face no-one. We figure the people behind the names on the reservation slips have over-slept.

Sarge reads about 20 pages of Blood Meridian while I finish When God Was a Rabbit. I cried into my ham sandwich.

Oban – Mull

We got our unreserved ferry tickets and joined the queue. Aside from a family with twins, we were the youngest travellers.

We ramped onto the ferry and rolled into the bar for expensive coffee and on-tap lemonade with very little syrup in it.

Sometime later I asked, ‘We moving?’

‘We have fifteen minutes left.’

Once I realised this, I got woozy, of course. I might have used Sarge’s beard as my horizon.

As we docked, a rainbow appeared. We were on holiday.

Mull, Thursday.

The rain greeted us off the boat. We were on an island where time stretched before us. I used the last of my phone signal to tell The Crew (Dad, Anne, and Anne’s Mum) where to find us.

The coffee-shop had about five awkward steps, so we followed the signs to the pub. We were half-way through our fish and chips when The Crew arrived. I might have taken a photo of the map before I said, ‘Hello, I’m on the map!’

We got to the cottage where I snapped another map, and read the back of all the the books on the shelf before I took off my coat.

I took off my shoes and started Notes on a Scandal before the coffee was all the way brewed. Dad and Sarge started the fire. I gleefully switched off my phone, asking Sarge to take the photos so I didn’t have to look at it all. ‘Start with the lobster on the wall,’ I said. Because, well, there was a lobster on the wall. He didn’t. ‘You already have a lobster,’ he said. Yes, really.

The kitchen caught me in the throat, reminding me of the one I did most of my growing up in. We had pasta for dinner. I still find it funny I have to rely on my father for my Italian food fix.

We went back into the living-room and ended up watching a documentary on eagles. I fell asleep before they landed. I woke up long enough to ask if I’d been snoring.

‘Like a girl,’ Sarge said.

Fair enough, I suppose.

Iona, we thought, Friday.

I write and drink coffee at the kitchen table. I am in a time-warp while the others take showers and put on socks.

We get in the car and have ice-cream before lunch on the way to the Iona ferry.

Now. Because of some loophole, we can’t take the car on the ferry. So, Iona is closed to us, kinda. I hate loopholes. I made several mental notes, and the adventure of the day becomes navigating around the gift shop and hunting the elusive accessible toilet. There is one, but it’s Radar key locked. It’s a universal key that opens all the Radar toilets. Well, if you have a Radar key that is. I have two. Neither of which were in my bag when I needed one.

The other toilets were gated, with no attendant to be found. I tried to walk through, but even my skinny ass didn’t fit.

Sarge and I trooped back to the car.

‘What’s the problem?’ Dad asked.

‘It’s locked, and I don’t have my key.’

Dad took his keys out of the ignition and waved one of my Radar keys in the mirror.

‘That’s mine!’

‘Aye, and you gave it to me for times such as this.’

‘I’m so smart. Gimme.’

Sarge opened the door and honestly, I don’t remember much after that.

Back at the cottage, it was time to tackle the shower. Because my chair didn’t fit in through the door, I transferred to another one, brought in from the kitchen.

I looked at the step into the shower. ‘Well, that’s excessive.’ But I took Sarge’s hand, stepped up and launched myself in anyway. Onto yet another kitchen chair.

I took my own chair to the kitchen table, where we had scallops with apple and cream sauce and then played Poker for chips and Goldfish crackers. Let’s do the time-warp again.

On the road, Saturday.

We take a guided van tour around the island, in search of eagles and seals. We stopped at various points for fresh air and photo opps. The guide had straps that hooked onto the front of my chair, and I can now say that I’ve been dragged up a hill. When we got to the top, I said, ‘Thanks, boys. Can we do that again?’

I stayed in the van for the last stops, happy to have the doors open, sharing biscuits and binoculars with Anne’s Mum. Sarge was out at the very edge.  Dad circled back to van to ask me, ‘What’s he doing?’

‘Looking for penguins.’

We drove back through late rain and then sun to another card game before another night on couch cushions.

On the road again, Sunday.

No time for Dad’s pancakes, so we had cereal before the others packed the car. I stayed in the kitchen as long as I could, and as I left said, ‘Goodbye, house.’

I am not a city girl.

We stopped for bacon rolls before the others took the car on the Oban ferry and Sarge and I walked up. And talked of times that aren’t now.

The Crew found us on the ferry and I may asked for a shot of Anne’s Kindle. Maybe.

We got off the ferry, and had fish and chips next to the train station, before The Crew left for the drive back. I may have cried. Maybe. I hate endings. I much prefer hellos.

I finished Red Dust Road before we even got to Glasgow. I was too bleary-eyed to read on the second train. Reality was creeping in already.

‘Where should we go next?’ I asked as we sat with cups of tea in our very-city flat in Edinburgh.

‘Anywhere we want to go,’ Sarge said.

(Taken from my journal, written around a family trip to Mull, September 2011.  Our Raasay trip can be found here.)

Some of Sarge’s photos (and the one of me on the map), used with permission!

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