Life, photos but not the universe

Weddings and weather and other things

Today (That’s yesterday now) we were invited to the wedding of Middle Girl’s best friend and it was, for me, a very special wedding because I know that if it hadn’t been for our daughter, the bride might not have been alive today.  Some years ago, when they were  only teenagers, middle girl was one of the first to realise that her friend had a very serious, life-threatening illness and was a constant, loyal and committed support to her friend through several subsequent years of difficult treatment and family troubles.

She also recognised that her friend needed a break sometimes from her family.   Not because there was any lack of love or caring but perhaps because there was too much.  So she would bring her here to relax a bit.  Such trust and such commitment. And today I felt very proud to see this sweet and beautiful girl, healthy, married and surviving and to know that  our girl was  instrumental in that survival if not essential to it.

Anyway, they couldn’t have chosen a more spectacularly beautiful day for the wedding.  A charming, country church, sitting in snow blanketed fields with the sun shining – it was also spectacularly cold but no one minded : )

On the home front, Barney has been driven by snowy imprisonment to paint the bathroom.  Isn’t that wonderful.  (note the absence of joyful exclamation marks).  I can only be thankful that after completing the ceiling and one wall he’s decided he has to go to the pub.  Even though he leaves a powerful smell of paint (non-smelling variety apparently – I can only suppose that the advertisers had never spent an afternoon in close proximity to it) behind him.

Not that he’s been driving me mad or anything like that.  It’s just that one gets used to absence making the heart grow fonder and constant presence can be a little wearing.  That’s all.

And I’m loving the snow but I’m getting tired of lugging all the extra layers around with me.  Tights, socks, leg-warmers, cardigans.  It all slows me down.  My snow boots are lovely but it takes twenty minutes to get them on and all properly tucked in.  When I’m fully togged up for cold weather, I feel as if I’m a hundred years old (or a michelin – er – person)!

On the other hand the dog is loving it a lot.  He leaps through the drifts, dolphin-wise, and barks happily at strange looking shadows of ordinary things.

The animals are all convinced that the world has shrunk.  They sneak out the back door and deposit their necessaries in an area which is about ten feet square, just outside the door.  Not a problem at the moment, as it’s all frozen.  We’ll have to watch our steps when it thaws though.

There’s no more room in the inn.  I mean bin.  The rubbish people assure us (automatically when you you phone them) that they are doing their best to catch up with the backlog (That’s us).  The backlog is out by the front gate in a not exactly hopeful heap.  Some of it is suspended on the garage door in black plastic sacks but they can catch up with that next week.  Maybe.


Today, the vet came.  Little tabby Mandu died very quietly, cuddled in my arms and apart from a small protest  when the injection was given, made no fuss and purred a bit just before she died.

Then, lest one should a) become mawkish and b) forget important things about animals one has known, she leaked on me.

This reminded me of the time when Youngest helped me transport her to the vet, carrying the indignant small cat on her lap.  Mandu made few comments on that occasion, but suddenly, Youngest uttered an outraged cry.

“She pee’d on me!!!”

“well they do that under stress”

Yes but….She pee’d on me!!!!”

Nonetheless, I leaked quite a lot while I was tidying away her things and putting her in a suitable place to wait till the ground is soft enough for a burial.  And there is an empty Mandu shaped space on the floor by the dresser where she spent most of her last few months.


Good night.

January 11, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Stuck here in the middle with you

That can’t be bad : )*

Well we haven’t been out for a whole day.  Barney forbade me to go anywhere (in the car) and although he got a pretty tart response, I hadn’t planned to!

The dustbin men didn’t arrive, the vet rang today to say of course he’d come if we really wanted him to but…? The girls rang yesterday to say they didn’t think they could possibly come over to say goodbye to little Mandu.

The thing is, although the main roads are probably fine (they usually are) the slope outside our house is quite steep and there’s an ungritted hill between us and civilisation which the car might well not get up.  Which would be not so big a problem if I got stuck on the way out but would be a big problem if I got stuck on the way home, on the wrong side of it!

Meanwhile the sun is shining and the snow is falling out of the trees in huge gusts and we’re running out of dog food. And milk. And cat litter. And newspaper.

What constitutes an essential journey I wonder?

Ooh!  tobacco!

After a second day of peaceful staying home, I was beginning to get a little stir crazy (in spite of two long treks through the field opposite and the field out back) and even Barney thought we needed to make an expedition.  (he needed cooking ingredients see).  So we clambered into the pickup and set off into town.  After doing about half the shopping, Barney was ready to go home but he just about managed to hang on for one more stop at Waitrose where he really tried to be helpful.  And then announced that he’d had enough and needed to go and sit down.

Eventually we left with lots of shopping, wrapped in dustbin bags and flapping about in the snow-filled pickup truck, only to realise, when we got home, that I’d forgotten the tobacco!

I’m reading “A Passage to India” by EM Forster.  It’s a little surreal when you look out of the window and then back into the story.

Three wishes?

Ooh, it’s a long way home!

*Although, because I’m not the only one stuck at home, I haven’t been able to blog as much as usual!

January 8, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

4 inches!* What more can you say?

It’s late and dark and past time to be asleep but it’s snowing again.

I know this is going to be a real pain in a day or two but just now – well words fail me : ) !!!!

It’s light out there in the dark 🙂  And there’s a set of footprints and a set of pawprints going up the road to the field and back again.

Right.  Now I’ve been out in it I’m going to bed.  I rather think it will still be there tomorrow.


yes : )

Still there.  And still falling.

Got to go and get boots on and stuff.  Oh well, maybe coffee first.

the bird feeder has been very popular I must say.  They’ve eaten their way through nearly 2 kilos of seed since we put it up and most of that went in the last three days.

Various things will be delayed.  The rubbish clearly won’t be collected – again.

The dentist won’t be taking out any of my teeth today.**

Unless it all vanishes before tomorrow, I very much doubt that the vet will come.


So I’m wondering, what happened to snow chains for tyres.  In Devon, years ago, we used to have them and my Dad, aged 65, used to travel over the snowy hills and lanes in his Vauxhall VX490 (such a catchy name : ) to visit patients.

I remember me and Dad going to visit my Mum in a nursing home in Exeter in the big snowfall of …..  We slithered about a bit but we got there, 10? 15? miles on packed frozen snow.  And safely home again.

faithful wheelbarrow overcome by snow

It’s a bit chilly out there.  But it’s nice:)

*Not that I measured it or anything practical like that but I had a good look at it and made an estimate.***

**It’s ok, I haven’t got toothache any more – it’s a preventative measure.

***because under the oak tree, it’s only about one inch but outside the back door it’s more like six.

January 6, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Approaching the end of the ninth life.

Last night I let the dog out and he slipped away into the darkness.  Rather crossly, I went looking for him up the road in the blinding moonlight and frost.  When I got to the field, it was totally silent and black and white.  Then I heard a doggy rustle and after a minute, a black scampering shape crossed the field below.  In the trees I could hear heavier and busier rustling and  an unusual clacking sound.  After a while, a picture formed in my mind of two deer playing, their horns clacking together.  I called the dog again but there was no appearance so I went back – to find him sitting by the back doorstep waiting for me eagerly.  I wondered, did he creep past the deer in the dark woods and return home through the back gardens or was it some other scampering creature I saw, who belonged out there?  A fox?

Now I’m half watching the bird feeder and occasionally trying to get a shot of the visitors.  I think I’ll have to have the tripod mounted by the window so I can just reach over and press the shutter!

Life goes on all around us.  But I’ve got a rather final call to make.

I’ve decided, very sadly, that little skinny Mandu’s time has come.  She returned from her New Year’s Eve flight looking like a tiny skeleton, draped in tabby fur and three days on, she’s getting more and more wobbly and her eyes seem to be getting bigger and bigger. She still eats and cleans herself (and makes regular use of the cat litter though she’d still prefer the dining room floor!) but her tiny hip bones are sticking out and making her fur lie all the wrong way and when she settles down to wash, she has to keep changing sides because her little old bones hurt.  And I notice that her stomach is tucked up as though she might be in pain. She’s a trooper, she makes her way doggedly from bed to food dish to cat litter and back but it’s hurting her.

I remember meeting her for the first time at the cat rescue centre.  While the rest of the family were choosing and discussing other cats, I suddenly encountered this pair of huge, solemn, yellow eyes, gazing at me unblinkingly from her cage and realised immediately that this particular person had to come home with us.  The very first thing she did when she arrived was to leave – precipitately into the night.  It took nearly six months to coax her back, Youngest enticing her with treats and calling her and sitting out in the garden waiting for her and leaving bowls of food out whenever we saw her around the back door.  But return she did and settled down to a busy life  as the family’s chief  hunter.  She brought mice, birds and rabbits into the house so often it was a normal part of life to check behind doors in case there were remnants there.  Once she brought in a live stoat and trapped it behind the loo.  I would watch her stalking in the field and hear her voice, stridently announcing a victorious return, all the way down the drive.  (Always amusing because her normal speaking voice was the tiniest, most pathetic mewing sound you could imagine)

She loathed and hated being put in a cage to go to the vet and for the last five years or so, I stopped submitting her to this indignity.  And she never liked to curl up ‘in’ things or ‘on’ things.  She liked to lie flat-out on the floor – often the coldest, hardest floor she could find.  Usually in a doorway.   She had a neurotic fascination with doors.  If you opened one, she’d dash though it as if it was her last chance to escape the end of the world.  Only to request immediately afterwards that it could be opened again so she could come back.

Once, I was sitting upstairs when a movement at the window caught my eye. It was Mandu, walking onto the windowsill.  As I watched, transfixed by disbelief and horror, she tipped slowly over sideways and vanished from view.  I rushed over to the window and looked down expecting to see her lifeless body on the gravel 18 feet below.   But no.  She was sitting on the grass, washing herself calmly and then got up and went off into the orchard for all the world as though she hadn’t just fallen off the side of the house!

She was a portly cat and would bounce up the steps to meet me, with her striped tail waving vertically behind her and her little barrel shaped tummy swaying.  Soft charcoal black paws would grip my hand gently when I lifted her up for dinner – she hated having to jump up – pouncing was more her style.   And her heart would beat frantically even while she was purring immensely.

She was shy of visitors – when people came to the house, she would vanish immediately, although as she got older she became more friendly.  When the children’s dogs came though, she’d vanish until they’d left no matter how long they stayed.  Which was no problem when she was younger, no doubt she lived off the land and certainly never seemed any the worse for her absences.  It’s just this last few months when she hasn’t been able to hunt any more and coincidentally, there have been more visiting dogs,  that have been too much for her.  Somehow, she has always seemed such a dignified, energetic and self-sufficient little creature  it’s hard to imagine that she might have had enough of life until you look at her and see how much effort it’s all become.  The only thing that hasn’t changed is her serious, piercing gaze. And the strident voice – no longer announcing, but demanding, food.

So.  I have phoned the vet and arranged for him to make a visit – it hardly seems kind or dignified to bundle her into a cage and tip her out onto an examination table.   She hasn’t got the strength any more to fight much but she’d certainly arrive in a filthy, stinking condition, shaking all over and too shocked to clean herself.   I’d sort of hoped that she would just fall asleep one day and not wake up but I can’t justify letting her drag on in such a miserable state just to make it easier for us.  It’s going to be hard and I know I shall miss those eyes dreadfully.

Tonight I shall spend some time cuddling her and listening to her enormous purr.  I might try and get one last photo of those enormous eyes.

Of course, it’s possible that she’ll confound us all by suddenly perking up and making me look a complete fool when the vet comes.  That would be nice.

January 5, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

The sun going down

A nice start to the year 🙂

That’s our local pub, seen from the woods.

I’m fresh out of words at the moment.

Back soon : )

January 4, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments


Skinny Mandu cat is back, skinnier than ever if that’s possible.  So in an attempt to make her life even a little easier, I’ve put her food on the floor.  And her water.  So now the dog has to be shut in the dining room and the cats have to be shut in the utility room.  Gradually, all the doors in the house are being closed – not such a bad thing when it’s so cold!

Further, Barney got us up very early today, hoping to be on the road by eight, to drive Great Grandad home.  But GG had a bit of packing to do and unlike the days of Barney’s youth (when GG would often have the whole family up and out and on the way by five in the morning) he likes to get up quite slowly.  Actually until a few years ago, if you were taking him anywhere, he’d be standing at the door with his bags packed by about six am.  But not these days.

So though breakfast was ready by 8, it wasn’t eaten til nearly nine and then there was coffee and then there was more packing and then, and then ….

Meanwhile, I’m in my dressing gown, expecting them to be rushing off any minute so I can throw on some clothes and run out into the early morning light waving a camera.  By the time they finally went it was mid-morning light.  And now I’m slightly cold and tired and my enthusiasm for going out has leaked away from somewhere around my ankles.  (where the dressing gown ends and the socks begin).

Nonetheless, I might take the dog and set off to look at some coutryside.  A bit later.  Returning around sunset maybe?

And first, some more coffee : )   Because yesterday we played a new game, with Youngest and her partner, which is called Big Brain!  If I needed any confirmation that mine has shrunk, I got it.  Thing is, when I see the letters AOTS, I immediately think TOAST!  Then, being imaginative and versatile, I think STOAT!

Well and today, I might have thought OAST (as in house).  This might have led me to correct answer, which is, of course, OATS!

OK.  that was my first round gone without trace.

Later I got a round with lots of instructions to perform various actions involving left and right and parts of the body – like touch your left elbow with your right nose or wrap your right knee round your left ear and stamp three times with your left foot.  I think I should have got extra points for being so good at those.  Especially as the dog got involved with his four left feet and his wet nose!*

Well eventually I got my arse in gear and set off without dog (Barney’s got my car and neither of his are suitable for transporting aged dogs) but with camera.  The sun got lower and more orange and – well, there may be some photos.  I haven’t looked at them yet as I was catching up on blogs.  It seems I haven’t visited any this year – where has the year got to already? (all 2 days of it)

Now it seems to be extremely cold.  Normally we get through more firewood when GG is here than in most of the rest of the year but this year winter seems to be approaching proper winter temperatures so logs are vanishing fast.  So I’ve lit the fire and I’m going to investigate the left overs department.  There must be something I’d like to eat.  Aha!  Like Breakfast Salad soup.  All my own invention as the White Knight said.  Leftover salad and salsa dressing plus leftover cooked bacon, black pudding and mushrooms all tipped into a saucepan together with stock, heated for half an hour and then whizzed in the machine.  Amazingly nice : )

And here are some leftovers from 2009 (because I’d hate you to miss out)

Off street parking?


And a taste of new year sunset.

And now I’ve got hot bottles waiting in bed and all the animals have been carefully enclosed in their separate compartments nd it’s time I went and enclosed myself in a large amount of duvet : ) And it might snow tonight and it might be sunny tomorrow.  That would all be nice.

Sleep well.

*bit of artistic licence there.  Both dogs mostly snored.

January 3, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Once in a blue moon and a new year begins

And so far, I’m liking it a lot.  I looked up at the sky on New Year’s Eve and thought, that’s a perfect moon.  Like a sixpence in the clouds.  Later, after several people had assured me it wasn’t full and I thought (well it doesn’t look empty to me), we looked it up and sure enough, to end the year, there was a blue moon!  Really.  (Only of course it wasn’t blue because, it seems, they aren’t*).  A blue moon is a full moon occurring for the second time in a calendar month and it’s a very long time since the last blue moon happened on NYE.

*Actually, who says?  This is blue isn’t it?

(Ah the wonders of the virtual world : )

And we had fireworks

And the bonfire

The champagne will be opened and ready on the stroke of midnight if Youngest has any say in the matter

(Actually, having a say isn’t as good as just taking over the task and getting right down to it so she did and it was)

We had a gently enjoyable party (a few people missing who were much missed but who I hope were having a wonderful time too) and this morning arrived with sunshine.

Now, I’m reheating leftovers (of which we have far too many) and gradually finding the house underneath all the chaos left behind after the party.  Also, washing the glasses.  And wondering where little thin Mandu cat has got to.  She managed to escape last night, about an hour before the fireworks started and since we had Jess, the spaniel pup visiting, Mandu wasn’t keen to be around.  Jess has been gone for at least three  hours and dinner time has been and gone and Mandu hasn’t appeared yet.

Now there’s a wonderful frost and another brilliant (but not blue) moon and My Word!  It’s a bit jolly chilly around here.  I may take myself off to bed.

I hope the sun shone on your first day of the new year too and wherever you are, if you see a huge not-quite-full moon out there, I’m looking at it too.


January 2, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment