Monday, 28 February 2011

Microfiction Monday #72

Lovely Susan from ‘Stony River’ organises and hosts this weekly meme. Thank you Susan J She provides a picture and the challenge is to create a story in 140 characters or less – including punctuation!

Click here to read more marvels of microfiction – and perhaps join in. It’s fun!
Here is this week’s picture followed by my offerings.

Fairy Marigold grimaced as she leant over to clean the prince’s shoe. The ribbons on her wand danced in an effort to escape the odour.
(134 characters)

As Primrose put the tracking device in the shoe she noticed tentacles slithering over the front and wondered what was trying to escape.
(135 characters)

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Today's Flowers #133

Spring is creeping forth and revealing her new season's colours
Crocuses

Tête-a-tête daffodils
Thank you to the Today's Flowers team who organise this colourful weekly meme. Click here to see more flowers around the world.

Friday, 25 February 2011

Friday Night Dinner and Book Blurb

You may remember me writing about a series launch Barry and I went to a couple of weeks ago. The series is called 'Friday Night Dinner' and the first episode is being shown at 10:00 pm tonight on Channel 4. It's written by Robert Popper who wrote 'The Timewaster Letters' and 'The Timewaster Diaries', 'Look Around You' and a few episodes of 'South Park' among other things.  I'm looking forward to watching it again.


The other thing I'm excited about is a new meme being organised by Lisa Ricard Claro of 'Writing in the Buff. It's called 'Book Blurb Friday' and starts next Friday, March 4th. Basically, the objective is to write a book blurb prompted by an illustration Lisa will post on her blog. You can find out more about it here. The first photo has been posted so, if you think you'd like to participate, you have a week to think about the book the photo might accompany!

Thursday, 24 February 2011

SkyWatch Friday - waxwings

Periodically, sometimes for several years in succession, large flocks of waxwings fly from their breeding grounds in Northern Europe, often in Finland, to the UK. Such events have been recorded since 1679. They are visitors to these shores and do not breed here. 
They arrive in November and leave in March so we were particularly lucky that Barry saw this treeful yesterday. They are the first we have ever seen. It was late afternoon and the light was not good.
We identified them mainly through their silhouettes.
This is the sky we saw yesterday. Today was sunny. Tomorrow will be dull and drizzly again. I love British weather - it's rarely the same two days running and that's what makes our skies often dull and also frequently fascinating.
Thank you to the SkyWatch team for organising this meme. Click here to marvel at more skies around the world.

Mondays’ Child #34 Tea with the chimp

There was nothing in Annabelle’s cup but she had to do something to prevent the smell reaching her nostrils. And why did he keep burping?

‘Pardon me,’ said the chimpanzee,
‘You were kind to ask me to tea,
But sandwiches and cake
Aren’t sufficient to take
The hunger pangs away from me.

So I snacked on masses of greens
And plenty of ripe tangerines
That filled me with gas
And now, sadly, alas,
My digestion is in smithereens.

Better out than kept in, so it’s said,
I’m sorry you think I’m ill-bred,
But if I don’t burp now
I really don’t know how
I’ll stop my full load being shed.’

Thanks to bkm at Monday's Child who organises and hosts this meme. Click here to read more interpretations.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Magpie Tales #54 A marriage made in heaven

Image copyright Tess Kincaid
Her life felt disjointed, like a jigsaw badly cut from cheap cardboard, the pieces difficult to fit together. He felt helpless but did not sympathise. She could not make herself understood. He didn’t know what to say. Her words came out jumbled and incoherent. He asked her to repeat. She offended unintentionally, was hurt when he grew angry. He asked questions. She answered. He doubted. She wept. He shouted.

Perhaps, after all, theirs was not the fairy-tale romance everyone had assumed it to be. Their backgrounds were too dissimilar and love could not overcome all. He had grown up with great privilege, the product of centuries of breeding, a true pedigree, one might say. She was newly come to riches and of modest lineage.

The parents shook their heads and decided that the marriage should not take place. Too late! The plans were already afoot, the cameras set to roll, and so bride and groom met at the altar and pledged their troth, each knowing that the other was lying, each wondering how long it would take before they could be set free.

To see more tales please click here.



Tuesday, 22 February 2011

ABC Wednesday – F is for Freeman’s Farm

The Battle of Freeman’s Farm (also known as First Saratoga) took place during the American Revolutionary War (American War of Independence) on 19th September, 1777.
It was fought in New York State in a clearing known as Freeman’s Farm  on the west bank of the Hudson, north of Albany. (Freeman was a Loyalist who had left to live in Canada) The engagement was conducted by British, German, Canadian, native Indian and loyalist Americans against the Colonists.

Following the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War the Continental Army was established in 1775 by the British colonies that later became the United States of America. The objective was to orchestrate the military endeavours of the Thirteen Colonies as they rebelled against Great Britain’s rule. The Continental Army was supported and supplemented by local militias and other troops remaining under the control of individual states. Both sides employed muskets and rifles. The muskets were quickly charged but imprecise while rifles took longer to load but were more accurate.

General George Washington was Commander-in-Chief throughout the war.  He was not in favour of rifles and would have preferred his troops to continue with muskets only.

Freeman’s Farm was a hard won, barely won victory. The British army was in poor condition, their horses starving, and supplies and troop replacements were not quickly forthcoming. The Americans, however, had reliable supply lines and a constant reserve of fresh troops to replace dead and wounded.

Thus, Second Saratoga, the Battle of Bemis Heights, on 17th October, 1777, was a victory for the Continental Army. The two battles marked a turning point in the war in the North. After this defeat of the British, France opted to support the American War of Independence.

(Jimmy Carter, 39th President of the United States, wrote an historical novel about the war in the Deep South of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Called ‘The Hornet’s Nest’, it is a carefully researched book, full of historical detail interwoven with a story of one family’s experiences. Some of the characters are based on Carter’s ancestors. 

Occasionally, I found the minutiae difficult to follow, but it is a remarkable book, quite 
shocking in parts and giving a fair and balanced view of events.)

Thank you to the Fabulous Denise Nesbitt and her Fantastic and Faithful Folk who organise and host this weekly meme. Click here to see more Fs! 

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Two years!

Image courtesy of chrysalismusic.co.uk

Happy Birthday, blog!

I started this blog two years ago today. I didn’t know when I began writing what pleasure blogging would give me, how much I would learn from other bloggers around the world and what very nice people I would ‘meet’.

So, to all you readers out there, whether you’ve popped in just once or you’ve become a follower, thank you for your encouragement, your kind comments, your interest. I never realised that being followed might actually be something to appreciate  – but that’s the difference between following and stalking, I suppose;-)

Microfiction Monday #71

Lovely Susan from ‘Stony River’ organises and hosts this weekly meme. Thank you Susan J She provides a picture and the challenge is to create a story in 140 characters or less – including punctuation!
Click here to read more marvels of microfiction – and perhaps join in. It’s fun!
Here is this week’s picture followed by my offerings.
This is one of our leading universities. Increased tuition fees allow us to offer the very best education and accommodation to our students.
(140 characters)

NHS cuts mean that some budgets will be much reduced. We don’t think the high standards of care of which we are so proud will be affected.
(138 characters)

Friday, 18 February 2011

More Adventures of Frodo the Faller - Thieving!

Just as I was beginning to think Frodo was finally growing up to be a trustworthy dog he let me down again.

I had got into the habit – a bad one, as it turns out – of leaving the bucket of frozen dog food in the butler sink in the kitchen. At this time of year its usual resting place in the garage is so cold that the meat takes a very long time to thaw. The animals don’t seem to mind chewing chilly lumps of meat full of ice crystals but I don’t like handling it. Even though I wear gloves the cold bites through to my fingers and as I have to cut it into manageable pieces for Frodo it’s almost unbearable. I’ve tried giving him large lumps of meat but he gulps them down without much chewing and then it’s anyone’s guess whether they will remain where they’ve been consigned or be returned to sender.

Therefore I adopted the habit of putting a bowl of meat on top of the larder freezer. It’s more than six feet tall so there’s no chance of the dogs reaching it and Winston shows no inclination to leap up to investigate it. However, I couldn’t find a container suitable for five pound packages of animal flesh and didn’t relish putting the pail on the freezer. Being essentially lazy and always in a hurry I rarely use a step stool, preferring to stretch to reach things. I’m reasonably tall so it’s no great accomplishment. But attempting to retrieve a large container of fleisch (that German word is so perfect – I love it!)  would be tempting fate and I had no desire for a raw meat shampoo and shower.

It had been some months since I had put anything remotely edible or lickable in the butler sink and so Frodo had dropped the habit of checking it several times a day. I thought – well, I didn’t think, really! – he had lost interest and was a reliable and well-behaved Dalmatian at last. (Is there such an animal?) The first couple of days of butler sink usage went very well. Frodo didn’t appear to be in the least interested in where his food was being defrosted. I relaxed – always a mistake when in the company of greedy canines.
Some of you may recall that Frodo is my Velcro dog; he’s happiest when he’s close to me or at least in the same room. He slumbers the days away, only stirring when the worms begin to bite or he hears the faintest sound of the fridge opening or bread being cut. Because of the daily anti-epileptic drugs he takes he is occasionally quite ataxic, tripping over dust motes and finding his front and back legs won’t coordinate but sometimes he can move stealthily and unobserved and so he did the other day.

It wasn’t very long before I became aware of the unmistakeable sound of a dog wolfing down food. It was long enough, however, for Frodo to consume almost four pounds of minced lamb and tripe and the accompanying wrappers. Roaring at him to desist, which did absolutely no good whatsoever, I arrived in the kitchen to find a bulbous dog, looking guilty but still trying to siphon up the last few shreds of meat. He was dispatched in  disgrace to the garden and I looked around for alternative food for the starving Labradors. (Winston doesn’t care for tripe so he was unaffected by the sudden disappearance of supper into Frodo.)

I anticipated a busy night with canine and human sleep being disturbed, but Frodo slept like a baby – well, a puppy – all night, despite the rumblings and whistlings emanating from him. He was on short rations the next day when he finally assumed his normal, more sylph-like shape.

So, now it’s back to freezing fingers from arctic meat. 
Winston can also be sly and skilful in the food stakes. I don’t often give him dried food- it’s not very good for cats and can cause urinary tract and kidney problems among other things – but I like to give him some variety in his diet so occasionally he has kibble, which he loves. I have a lidded box in which I store it but neglected to empty the new packet into it. Instead, I put the pack in one of the larder cupboards – foolish! As I passed it on my way to something else urgently demanding my attention I noticed Winston attempting to open the door and thought, ‘I’ll move that food in a minute.’ 

In the usual pattern of life in our house, I completely forgot about it until I heard a crackling, rustling noise in the kitchen and noticed that Frodo was absent. When I investigated, the incriminating evidence was on the floor, being observed by a rather disturbed Winston. He had pointed Frodo in the direction of the food and instead of sharing with him Frodo had put all the lovely nibbles inside himself and was looking exceedingly pleased. Another black mark for Frodo but as he’s covered in them it really didn’t make much difference!

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Two-headed eight-legged beasts

The two-headed eight-legged beasts are back! No, not a mutant arachnid – even with just one head spiders are scary . . . shudder. The creatures of which I speak are amphibians and often appear in our garden pond around this time of year. It seems too chilly yet for them to emerge from their cosy hibernation in the mud and the weather forecast is for a cold snap for a few days so they may well die to regret their enthusiasm.

Nonetheless, they are active once more, though surprisingly quiet. There are variations on the mutation; I have seen amorphous masses with six or seven heads and twenty-four to twenty-eight legs, some of which seem to be in opposition to the majority – that is, upside down.

Later on gelatinous clumps will appear on the pond’s surface, each with a small black inhabitant which, when closely observed, appears to move. Within a few days the jelly-dwellers have grown and soon will have consumed their surroundings. How strange that must be! Imagine eating your own house! Some of it would be so crunchy and difficult to chew and other parts would be decidedly unappetising if not downright disgusting.
So what do these wriggling black commas do when they’ve literally eaten themselves out of house and home? Well, the ones that aren’t immediately gobbled up by other pond residents continue to grow and before long have developed legs. They are undergoing tremendous changes and one day, provided no passing crow or magpie has feasted on them, they will metamorphose from gilled beings to air-breathing animals capable of leaving the water and living on land.
The frogs this year are camera-shy so the photos are of their bolder, older friends and relations from last spring. 
Yes, the frogs are alive and busy once more!

 
Who would not love that happy smiley face?
Late one day this week, when the sun had set and it was cold and dark outside, a large frog was spotted trying to break into our house. He sat next to the patio door, waiting for a foolish human to open it and allow him access. It was as well that he did not succeed for inside were four-legged animals that would have played with him but not known when to stop. Thus his chances of passing on his genes would have been dashed forever.

If you are too cold, little frogs, return to the dusky depths and slimy safety of the bottom of the pond.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

ABC Wednesday E is for El Teb

Thanks are due to the Energetic Denise Nesbitt and her Erudite and Efficient Exponents of this Entertaining meme. Click here for more Es.
File:Melton-Prior-batalla-de-El-Teb-28-01-1884.jpg
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons 
The Battle of El Teb took place in East Sudan on the Red Sea coast on 29th February 1884.
Image courtesy of Wikipedia
Muhammad Ahmad bin Abd Allah was a young Muslim who proclaimed himself Mahdi (Islamic messiah) and raised a jihad, leading the Sudanese Jihadist Arabs or Mahdists against the Khedive of Egypt. The Khedive depended on British support to eradicate the Sudanese slave trade and to safeguard the Suez Canal. The Suez Canal was of great importance to the British as the most direct route to India, then part of the British Empire.

During the First Battle of El Teb on February 4th 1000 Mahdists overwhelmed and slaughtered the majority of an Egyptian force of 3500 led by the British officer, Baker Pasha. Following this the British government diverted British troops returning from India to quell the Sudanese Jihadist Arabs.

The British troops numbered around 4200 and faced a force of unknown numbers of  between 10000 to 15000 Mahdists. The success of the smaller contingent lay in the deployment of a closely packed formation of infantry called the square, a strategy that has been used, in different forms, since Roman times.

Two Victoria Crosses (VC) were awarded for this battle, one to Captain Arthur Wilson, RN who held off a Mahdist attack so that his men could bring their Gardner gun into action. The second was awarded to Sergeant William Marshall, 19th Hussars, who rescued his wounded commanding officer whose horse had been shot, dragging him back through the enemy troops to his regiment. Several Distinguished Conduct Medals (DCM) were also presented by Queen Victoria at Windsor.

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Magpie Tales #53 The lion

Thank you to Willow who organises and hosts this meme. To read more Magpies please click here.
Image copyright Tess Kincaid

The lion roared as if to say,
‘Use what I hold with utmost care’
But little children like to play
And shook the pepper everywhere
Until the sneezes it released
Made everybody weak and red
So when at last the uproar ceased
They all repaired at once to bed.
The lion laughed and shook his mane,
The clout he held delighted him;
‘I may be glass yet I maintain
Dominion over all of them.’

Monday, 14 February 2011

Wondering

Something has been troubling me recently – apart from my back, that is, which has really been giving me gyp since I foolishly dragged Barry onto the dance floor on New Year’s Eve. I am now walking more normally and less like a constipated crab (do crabs suffer from constipation?) I have actually been out for a walk twice this month (second time today, in the sunshine) though it’s more of a wallow, as though I’ve just come ashore after a goodly time aboard ship, six months without shore leave, say. Having Barry to hang on to helps if we’re walking a pavement anywhere (who said ‘street walker’?) but he uses Pacerpoles(they look rather like ski sticks) when he’s walking the dogs so I’ve resorted to them in the forest too.

There are honest people in the world, you know. He lost his first set of Pacerpoles – probably put them on the roof of the car while he marshalled the dogs into it after a trek. He bought a replacement pair – better than the originals, in fact, because they’re made from carbon fibre and are therefore lighter - and was talking about them to someone he met in the forest. He mentioned his lost poles and she said she’d found them and a couple of days later her husband brought them round to the house. Wasn’t that nice?

Anyway, having decided that I really must walk straight again rather than the dot and carry method that has become my recent habit, I started to use a walking stick for occasions other than walking the dogs. I have also blessed the day we decided to build an Endless Pool because I have been able to use it to do some valuable exercise and get myself moving more or less conventionally again.

So, apart from my back, the thing that has been troubling me recently is the use of photographs, or rather the word ‘photographs’. Can I really call digital images photographs? Because they’re not – photographs, that is, at least not in the snapshot sense, at least not to me.

Wikipedia says:

The word "photograph" was coined in 1839 by Sir John Herschel* and is based on the Greek φς (phos) "light" andγραφή (graphê) "representation by means of lines" or "drawing", together meaning "drawing with light"

*Herschel was the only good thing to come out of Slough, in Berkshire. Sir John Betjeman wrote a poem which began,

 ‘Come friendly bombs and fall on Slough!
It isn’t fit for humans now.’

If only I’d looked at Wikipedia in the first place I could have saved myself hours of pondering for it seems that digital images can be referred to as photographs. Of course, they are stored in a different way but can still be printed - on photographic paper for a really fine finish but otherwise on any printer paper.

What shall I worry about next? Supper, I suppose, though Barry is wrestling with a computer at the moment, so we shall not eat early. Two points there – you can’t really wrestle with a computer. For a start it’s impossible to get an arm lock on a machine and computers break if slammed to the floor. Secondly, have you ever eaten early? What does it taste like? 

Microfiction Monday #70

Lovely Susan from ‘Stony River’ organises and hosts this weekly meme. Thank you Susan J She provides a picture and the challenge is to create a story in 140 characters or less – including punctuation!

Click here to read more marvels of microfiction – and perhaps join in. It’s fun!

Here is this week’s picture followed by my offerings.
The two young couples were absorbed in each other but Walter watched the lava flow and wondered if he should warn them of impending danger.
(139characters)

Alfred was unlucky with the ladies. He gazed into the distance. A beard might make him more attractive. He could feel a few bristles now.
(137characters)

While Jane and Theo read poetry and Josiah dreamed, May told John the facts of life. He couldn’t wait to practise! She bade him be patient.
(139 characters)

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Magpie Tales #52 In memoriam

Thanks go to Willow who organises and hosts this meme. To read more Magpies please click here.

In memoriam

They had painted the house the year their son joined the army – he had helped them during his final leave before embarkation. The colour was not quite what they had intended and they had wanted to repaint immediately but he had persuaded them to postpone. ‘We’ll do it next time I’m home,’ he’d said and they had agreed. Instead, they tied yellow ribbons round the trees in the front garden, constant reminders, if ever they needed them, of his absence.

The day they were told that he was missing in action, believed killed, they had gone out and tied fresh ribbons to the trees.  Until they had a body to bury they would not believe their boy was gone. And so, when the ribbons tattered and frayed into fine filaments, they replaced them proudly and with loving care.

Years passed and they began reluctantly to accept that their son might never return. The fabric of the building was deteriorating and it appeared that it waited, heartsore like them, for the young man’s return. To refurbish it would feel like a betrayal and somehow it seemed fitting that the house should shrink into itself, just as they were doing.

Quietly, uncomplainingly, they advanced into old age and as the paintwork peeled so did their eyes grow dim until one day, peacefully, they closed for the final time and saw no more. The house crumbled into disrepair but the trees remained, remnants of yellow satin grown into their bark, a permanent memorial to a young life lost and to undiminished love and hope.

Gus the Artist

Gus is an artist who displays distinction and diversity as he practises in different media. Still young, he has nonetheless shown great imagination and skill in his works to date and the art world expects great things of him as he matures. Below are two examples he intends to enter for the 2011 Turner Prize. As in previous years the Turner Prize Exhibition will be held at the Tate Britain in October. 
Gus's first exhibit is a wood carving he finished in the autumn of last year. Note the delicacy of the work and the contrast between the apparently random shapes and sizes. Some elements are so small as to be almost unnoticeable were it not for the strong background colour of the mount he chose for his work.
For his second piece Gus chose to work with found materials and selected a small tea carton on which to work his magic. He had intended to attempt an origami structure but discovered that the different textures he achieved made a more pleasing display. Note how some elements are roughly, almost crudely, torn, while others retain approximately their original form. Yet other components have been subtly punched to give an embossed texture. Again, the background has been cleverly selected to show the work to its best advantage. The dust and hairs are an integral part of the whole oeuvre.

Be sure to look out for Gus's name in the shortlist for the Turner Prize - we have high hopes for him.

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

Betelgeuse - the end of the world?



When next you look heavenward and identify the constellation of Orion the Hunter, glance to his right shoulder (bottom left in the Southern Hemisphere, as Orion stands on his head there!) and you will see Betelgeuse (Alpha Orionis), the eighth (some sources say ninth) brightest star in the night sky.

Betelgeuse, more than 600 light years distant from this planet, is a dying red supergiant scheduled to exhaust its fuel supply, collapse under its own weight and explode into a new existence as a supernova any time between now and the next 100,000 years. It will then be so brilliant that it will be visible in broad daylight and brighter than the moon.

Some journalists have seized the opportunity to link this with the prediction that the world will end in 2012, claiming that there will be two suns in the sky. Astronomers discount this as irresponsible scaremongering. Betelgeuse is too far away to make any impact on Earth.

So, gaze at the firmament with wonder and enjoy Betelgeuse while you may!

ABC Wednesday D is for Dettingen

The Battle of Dettingen
Painting by John Mackenzie
Image courtesy of www.britishbattles.com
The Battle of Dettingen was fought on 27th June, 1743.
50,000 British, Hanoverian and Austrian troops of the Pragmatic Army opposed 70,000 French troops at the village of Dettingen in Bavaria. The Pragmatic Army was so called because it was a confederation of states supporting the Pragmatic Sanction of 1713 agreements. The objectives were to preserve the independence of Hanover and to support the claim of Maria Theresa to be recognised as Archduchess of Austria and the legitimate heir to the Habsburg Dynasty.
George II at Dettingen.jpg
George II at Dettingen 
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
It was a significant victory because it was the last time British troops were led into battle by a reigning monarch - King George II.

It is also important because before the engagement the opposing sides agreed that sick and wounded soldiers who fell into enemy hands would be properly cared for and not treated as prisoners of war. This was a precursor of the Geneva Conventions that set the standards in international law for the humanitarian treatment of war victims.

As a salute to this victory Handel composed the Dettingen Te Deum and the Dettingen Anthem.


Since 1947 Dettingen has been the name of one of the companies at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst. All the companies at this training establishment for officer cadets are named after noteworthy British victories.


Why not seek out further Ds which Delightful Denise Nesbitt and her Diligent Devotees have Delivered here?

In place of a rabbit . . .

Clown, Magic and Angus
Clown and Magic were chocolate and Angus was lilac
Many years ago, when all my children were still living at home and my parents were alive and living near enough to be visited every day, I started to breed Burmese cats. It was a somewhat foolish venture – I had more than enough to occupy my days as I was also teaching full-time and Barry was frequently abroad on business – but it was fun.

It all started because Susannah, then my youngest child, said she would like a rabbit. We had dogs, of course, but a rabbit has such soft fur and feels so warm. We had had rabbits before, when Susannah was quite tiny, and they had all come to a premature end for one reason or another. Barry had reached the conclusion that rabbits were really too big to be penned, even in the palatial dwellings he constructed for them, with attached runs so that they could hop around outside when the fancy took them. We had tried house-training them – I knew it could be done as my mother had kept a house rabbit when she was a child – but we were singularly unsuccessful and couldn’t keep pace with the chewed wires which effectively severed us from the outside world.

Barry didn’t want to disappoint Susannah and so suggested that we get a cat. My sister and brother-in-law had owned a very beautiful brown Burmese cat and had given my parents a feisty little ex-breeding tortie queen. I had been very impressed by these striking cats and their strong personalities and so we began our search. We were fortunate in finding breeders not far from us who had a female a few months old. Knowing that we would not be able to resist her, nonetheless we went to see her and of course, brought her home with us. She gloried in the registered name of ‘Illuskass Coriander Autumn Lady’. (Illuskass was the breeders’ prefix and was Greek for ‘beautiful cat’.) We tried several names for her but never reached a definite decision and she eventually became known as Alicat, which sounds like Alley Cat but isn’t.

At that time we had three Jack Russell terriers, a breed known for their propensity to chase fur but when we carefully introduced the diminutive cat they behaved with great decorum. Daisy was so intent on ‘being good’ that she jumped up on my lap. We were persuaded by the breeders that it would be good to breed from Alicat and we were excited by the prospect of having home-grown kittens. How little we knew!

Alicat duly presented us with five delightful kittens. They were beautiful and we managed to avoid keeping all of them by selling three. A year or so later Ali had a second litter and then her daughter Sweet Pea gave birth to five and we kept a further two. Sweet Pea’s brother, Herbert, was terrified of kittens and stayed well clear of them.
Kittens in a cat carrier
From the top, brown, lilac, blue, brown
By now another human baby had joined the clan and was often to be seen sleeping with one or two kittens or cats in her cot, her bare feet luxuriating in the silky warmth of real fur. All those old wives’ tales of cats suffocating babies were disproved.

They were delightful cats, very affectionate and faithful and lively. Curtains were hung purely for their amusement, they thought, and the warm-to-the-touch wallpaper provided wonderful scratching surfaces. They jumped and climbed and clambered to the highest points in the room, settling on cupboard tops, easily capable of leaping eight feet, even while carrying a kitten. If a human were around, shoulders were the preferred perching post and assuming that position often involved climbing up the human. This could be painful, especially if said human were clad in thin clothes, like pyjamas, for example.
The first time I saw Ali carrying a kitten I was quite worried. The little creature was limp and seemed unconscious, not rallying for some while after being deposited in a new location. As each succeeding kitten behaved similarly I realised this reaction was entirely normal and part of Mother Nature’s scheme to protect little beings.

I made a point of telling potential purchasers of our kittens all the features of the Burmese breed that might put them off. They are very vocal cats, with loud voices, demanding a lot of attention, but enjoying conversation with their owners, frequently in the still of the night. They are elegantly clumsy and will knock over ornaments or vases and fall out of first floor windows. They are very intelligent and soon work out how to open doors. In cahoots with dogs they will frequently raid the fridge and the food cupboards. They are destructive and do not understand that curtains should not be reduced to scrambling nets nor wallpaper to paper fountains. They are not cats that take kindly to being left to their own devices, needing company and stimulation.

Our kittens always went to their new homes between twelve and sixteen weeks old when they were at their most beguiling. In each new litter there were individuals that demanded to be kept – at least that’s what the children felt. Finally, we decided that we should spay our two queens and enjoy the nine cats we had. With hindsight we should have resisted encouragement to breed from Ali but we never regretted it.  It was hard work and gave us all great pleasure although we would never encourage others to undertake it without serious thought.
When the cats squabbled they would take refuge on Cariadd who was always rather worried about the invasion but never protested. She is hosting six cats here, one brown, one blue, three chocolate and one lilac
We have never been tempted – well, perhaps just fleetingly – to breed from our Dalmatians!! 

Monday, 7 February 2011

Microfiction Monday #69

Lovely Susan from ‘Stony River’ organises and hosts this weekly meme. Thank you Susan J She provides a picture and the challenge is to create a story in 140 characters or less – including punctuation! Click here to read more marvels of microfiction – and perhaps join in. It’s fun!
Here is this week’s picture accompanied by my offering.
Two and seven, six and nine are interchangeable – ‘tis a witch’s clock and so when folk look out, the windows are shuttered after for fear.
(139 characters)

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Sunday 160 War

This week the Sunday 160 prompt from Monkey Man is 'War'

Tudor rose, an amalgamation of the red and white roses of Lancashire and Yorkshire.
Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The Wars of the Roses – red for Lancashire and white Yorkshire – resulted in the union of the two Plantagenet houses when Henry Tudor married Elizabeth of York.
(160 characters)

Thursday, 3 February 2011

First family birthday of the year!

It’s Barry’s birthday today (Happy Birthday, darling!) and so far our week has been most enjoyable. On Tuesday evening we went to a television series launch party which was great fun. We met the writer/producer and his family and two of our daughters and were introduced to other writers, producers, friends and the cast, all of whom were so charming and affable.

We had left the dogs at home alone and didn’t return until quite late but they were fine. Gus practically turned himself inside out when we walked in – he’s used to coming almost everywhere with us and had only been left for short periods before. Yesterday was a quiet day – we didn’t even exercise. The dogs were content to snooze, safe in the knowledge that their people were close by and the humans were tired, too.

I haven’t decided what to prepare for supper; Barry has a choice of trout, kedgeree or venison – he will consider the options as he swims!

Tomorrow he is meeting some old friends/colleagues for lunch which will be agreeable for him and on Saturday, some of our children are coming to lunch. Actually, they’re bringing most of the food with them, according to what they’ve said, so we’re looking forward to what will be a very pleasant time.

The next family birthdays, three of them, are in March. It’s so nice when a birthday expands to take in most of the week.