Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Everything but an OFF switch!

Have you a moment to share a laugh?

Chloe's first Christmas produced a deluge of generous presents. Each one was greeted with wide-eyed enthusiasm and a thorough investigation of its potential. Amongst a wonderful variety of catnip toys and other gifts was a totally unexpected novelty - a battery-operated mouse.

Never having come across a battery-operated mouse, I studied the instruction sheet carefully. This was no simple rodent, it needed to be opened with a screwdriver in order to insert the batteries. I went in search of a screwdriver.
The base removed . . . the batteries inserted . . . and the base screwed firmly back into place . . . Chloe's mouse was ready for action.

What form would this action take? We soon found out!
Having woken from its trance, the activated mouse was not only mobile, it was also highly vocal! What was more, far from restricting itself to muted squeaks, it had aspirations to be a veritable diva.
As Chloe and I watched in startled amazement, it darted across the carpet to a lively accompaniment of high-pitched squeaks, purrs and chirrups! Yelling with excitement, Chloe dived after it! Sitting back on my heels on the floor, I burst out laughing.

Ten minutes later, with Chloe now thoroughly over-excited, it seemed the moment to switch off the noisy newcomer and let the situation calm down. Too late I discovered that the mouse had everything but an OFF switch!

Turning in desperation to the instruction sheet, I made a discovery. The mouse, I found to my surprise, was voice-activated . . . it was Chloe's enthusiastic miaows and my laughter that were keeping it on the move!
Have you ever found yourself in animated communication with a mechanical mouse? Believe you me, it's enough to get any human laughing, and any cat over-excited!

In search of a moment's peace, I plunged the toy deep inside one of the festive carrier-bags. Peace? From the noises coming through the silver paper, it seemed that there was nothing wrong with this mouse's ears!
Meanwhile, Chloe, upset by the disappearance of her new plaything, succeeded in turning it round inside the bag. With a loud, triumphant squeak, the mouse came rushing out again!
At this point I was laughing so helplessly that I could barely hold the camera.

There was only one thing left to do. An indignant, wriggling Chloe was put to rest in the bedroom and, as silently as I could, I carried the mouse (still in its bag) into the book-room. Here, I placed it on a top shelf and crept quietly away.

It will be invited to come down to play at regular intervals in the future, but, for the moment, the more peaceful catnip toys have come into their own.
What worries me a little is how loud the volume of sound would need to be to rouse the sleeping mouse into strident life?
Perhaps I'd better keep the radio and television at low volume . . . just in case!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

In touch for Christmas

Have you a moment to spare for a little cogitation?

These thoughts were triggered by what I'm doing at the moment, sitting here typing to you - keeping in touch. I've also been sorting through Christmas cards. One of the many blessings of this season is the fact that, through cards and gifts, Christmas encourages us to keep in touch with friends and family.

Now, did you notice which common phrase was repeated in that last paragraph? Yes, that's right, the concept of keeping in touch.

I was thinking about this the other day, and also thinking how, out of all our five senses, the sense of touch is probably the one given the least thought and appreciation.
We are inclined to take our hands for granted. More often than not we look upon them as being purely functional . . . good for typing, gardening, engineering, what you will . . . but surely it is our hands that keep us in touch?
After all, it is my fingers that are talking to you now. When words are hard to come by it's the touch of an outstretched hand that can often speak more volubly and truthfully than any words.

By holding hands we communicate affection, by the touch of a hand we can offer solace or support. Feelings flow freely from the hand direct to the heart, without any confusing interruptions from the questioning mind.

And there is another important factor relating to hands. I'm no physicist, but I fully believe it to be true that, in essence, our physical bodies are composed of massed, vibrating energy. With our five senses we can acknowledge all other forms that vibrate at the same frequency, anything vibrating outside our range is unknown to us - a great blessing when you consider the number of mobile phone conversations that are swirling through the ether at any given moment, but a pity when it comes to the angels!
By what means does our individual energy communicate with the outside world? Through our presence, through our voices, and through the palms of our hands.

Don't take my word for this. Instead, may I suggest you try a simple experiment. Place your hands loosely in your lap, palms upwards, fingers gently outstretched. Pay attention to your palms . . . give it time . . . do you feel a tingling sensation? Now, close your fingers over your palms . . . has the tingling disappeared? Open your fingers . . . and I think you will find that the tingling sensation returns. The whole time your palms are open and receptive, so that tingling energy is noticeable.

What is it? I don't know. Call it the life-force, call it what you will. But it's as though our hands are transmitters . . . it is powerful . . . it is healing . . . it is good.
Do we sense this, I wonder, when we automatically stretch out our hands to someone in distress, or hold up our hands in praise?

Which brings us back to Christmas, the season of praise.
In every sense of the word, let's keep in touch this Christmas.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wishing for a backbone

Have you a moment to mull over a statement I heard the other day?
It was made by Caroline Myss, the powerful writer and teacher:
"Today, in the Western world," she said, "we don't have backbones, we have wish-bones."

That phrase has stuck in my mind. Why? Because the truth of it hit me forcibly. How has our culture become so confused that all we can think of is not our blessings in the present, but what we wish for in the future - all those possessions or situations that we convince ourselves we need, the things that we tell ourselves we are entitled to?

Surely we have never been more privileged? For the majority, the necessities of daily life have never been more abundant. But where is our backbone on those isolated occasions when things go wrong? Rather than accepting some minor accident with stoicism, we look to see whom it is that we can sue for this totally undeserved mishap. We wish for compensation. Life, we feel, owes us a smooth passage.

A backbone offers support. It is strong, but flexible, the vital channel for information up and down the body. Like a tree it can bend with unexpected pressures, similarly it can right itself when these pressures are removed. It can stiffen to provide courage, and curl itself lovingly around those in need of protection. It draws in information from the toes and fingertips, and responds as the situation demands.

But a wish-bone? In order to activate a wish-bone it needs to be broken. What sort of support is that? And whilst we are concentrating on all that wishing, surely we are ignoring what we have already?
We would be so happy, we tell ourselves, if only we had a larger car . . . or that special holiday . . . or an extra bonus.
But what about the car that is already serving us so well? Or the picnic that we enjoyed the other day? And has there ever been a bonus that can actually buy happiness?

I'm reminded of the old saying, 'Be careful what you wish for in case you get it.'
Just think about it for a moment: are all those objects and situations that we think we need really worth the sacrifice of Western society's spinal column?

But there could be a solution.
This Christmas let's wish for the return of our backbone . . . and we don't need any outside help to make this wish comes true.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Once upon a time . . .

Would you like an old-fashioned story? A story of friendship . . . loss . . . grief . . . and, finally, a happy reunion?

You would . . .? Then off we go . . .

Throughout her short life, Chloe has been the recipient of my kind friends' generosity.
Toys have been showered upon her. When she was a kitten, it was the small mice that she loved. Now that she is a young cat, her favourites are correspondingly larger.

She has two favourites, her elongated leopard and her pink teddy-bear. Forced to choose between her favourites, I suspect that she would opt for the teddy.

The teddy (or should it be 'tedette', you only have to examine her long, winsome eyelashes to know that she is a girl) is the larger, the more resilient, and definitely the more cuddlesome.

Every night, the bear and Chloe play strenuous games around the flat. Every morning I go in search of the bear's new hiding-place. After a night of being kissed and kicked, and lovingly dragged from room to room, she is slightly dirtier, but really none the worse. I return her to the toy basket to enjoy a well-earned rest before the next bout of excitement.

Such was the regular pattern of our life until the other morning . . . when Teddy was nowhere to be found.

I searched . . . Chloe searched. We searched the living-room . . . the bedroom . . . the hall. We looked behind the chairs . . . down the back of the sofa . . . under the bed. Chloe even opted for the aerial view from the cat tree . . . but no bear could we find.
The elongated leopard had to deputise as Chloe's friend and confidante, but it wasn't the same. As Chloe and I both recognised, the small, pink bear was sorely missed.

Come the evening, I was getting supper in the kitchen when, all at once, I heard an unexpected rustle from behind the door. It came from the corner where I keep a stack of reusable carrier bags.

Carrier bags . . . ? Chloe, I remembered, loved playing with carrier bags. What if . . . ?

I pulled back the door to discover a burrowing Chloe deep inside a bag. And in the bag with her?
Yes . . . there, in a place where I would never have thought of looking, was her missing teddy bear!

By what reasoning, I wondered, had she reckoned that her favourite toy would like to be abandoned in an empty carrier bag behind the kitchen door?

No matter . . . the ecstatic reunion was a joy to behold!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

We will remember them

This isn't really a letter, it's more an accompanying line to a photograph. To try to provide any words of explanation would be beyond me.

Suffice to say that my camera captured this picture shortly after the two-minute silence on Remembrance Sunday, ten days ago. Throughout the service I felt that orbs were present. This photo confirmed it.

Why do orbs respond to my camera?
The simple answer is that I don't know. I can only believe that they come in order to be shared. Which is why, rather like the Ancient Mariner, I am left with this compelling need to show the photos to you.

All I would ask is that you let your gaze linger for a few moments on the extraordinary profusion, intensity and size of orbs in this photo . . . remembering the day and time that it was taken.

I wouldn't presume to speak for the orbs . . . they will do that for themselves . . .

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Lest we forget

Have you bought your poppy? I'm sure you have.

My annual poppy-selling session took place last Saturday. I don't know how you feel, but I always find it deeply moving to witness the commitment of people of all ages towards buying a poppy. It is as though, at some unconscious level, we are all stirred by the sight of these small,
red emblems.
Memories - our own, or inherited - urge us to participate in this annual ritual.

I did my best to pin each poppy firmly to the buyer's coat or jacket, poppies (the man-made variety) are notorious for working loose from their anchorage. As I did so, I couldn't help wondering just what it is that gives this small, red, flower such potency, such appeal?
Were the emblem a national flag, would it sell in the same numbers?
I rather doubt it. After all, which flag would we choose? It is the universality and innocence of the poppy, the picture it conjures up of fragile survival on muddy, worn-torn fields that gives it its potency. The blood-red poppy reminds us of sacrifice, it also speaks of our common ground . . . of hope, resilience, and basic unity. When we buy our poppy we aren't celebrating war, we are giving gratitude for the survival of hope.

Talking of common ground, I was privileged recently to hear James O'Dea, a former director of Amnesty International, give a thought-provoking talk on the subject of reconciliation.

"We are supposed to move beyond the horrors of the Holocaust, the terrors of Ruwanda and all the conflicts," he said, "and move to an integrated future . . . the most profound results stem from a small step towards reconciliation and forgiveness, towards our common ground that we share."

It's a powerful message, one that was echoed by a ninety-one-year-old war veteran who visited our local comprehensive school. His visit was intended to bring the Second World War alive to the students. It did.
The talk was moving . . . the students were transfixed.

At the end, when questions were invited, an eager hand shot up.
"What happened to the German soldier who tried to shoot you in the desert?" a young boy wanted to know.
"I hope he returned home to live a long and happy life," said the speaker.

Is it too fanciful to imagine that, with each poppy sold, there is sold a seed? A poppy seed of love, compassion, reconciliation, forgiveness and hope. A seed that will germinate and take root, and whose flowers will never know the crushing boots of greed and aggression.

Will these poppies flourish?
For the sake of those who died, and for the sake of those who mourn . . . we must ensure that they do.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Amen!" said Chloe

Please forgive me. After going on at great length about the importance of 'fun', what do I do? Send you two rather bleak 'letters', one after the other.
This one may not make you laugh, but I think it can be guaranteed to make you smile . . . and you're certain to like the photos!

Ever since she was a small kitten, Chloe's love of children, from toddlers to teenagers, has been one of her many endearing characteristics.
Nor is this one-sided, children are equally drawn to her. When I take her for a walk in Holland Park she becomes a veritable Pied Piper.

With this thought in mind, I felt sure she would enjoy following in Rupert's footsteps and attending an Animal Service.
The local Animal Service was an annual treat for Rupert, who always behaved impeccably and invariably proved to be the only cat amongst thirty or more equally well-behaved dogs.

The service this year was to start at eleven, It might be wise, I thought, to arrive early. At a quarter-to-eleven there was still plenty of room on offer and we found ourselves an empty pew near the front of the church. Rising to the spirit of the occasion, Chloe curbed her natural exuberance and seated herself demurely in the corner, a prime position from which she could peer down the aisle and witness each exciting new arrival.

We hadn't been seated for long when a small girl, with eyes only for Chloe, wriggled her way into the pew beside us. Her mother, so she told me, was further back in the church. They had no animal to bring to the service, so could she come and sit beside Chloe?
I assured her that, if her mother was happy with the arrangement, she certainly could.
Chloe, who clearly thought this an excellent idea, moved to a position between the two of us and curled up happily beside this new friend.
"Would you like to hold the lead?" I asked the small girl.
Confidently, she took control . . . everyone was happy.

We stood for the hymns, we knelt for the prayers, we sat and listened to the readings. Throughout this unfamiliar ceremonial, Chloe remained motionless and wide-eyed in the pew.

It was time for the sermon. Chloe, her gaze fixed on the pulpit, sat listening.
As he reached the end the preacher paused for a moment, then, "Amen!" he declared emphatically.
"Miaow!" replied Chloe with equal vehemence!

Heads, both human and canine, turned in surprise to look at this unexpectedly prayerful small cat!

When the service was over, the children gathered to bid Chloe farewell. Beyond any doubt, her baptism into the rites of the church had been an unqualified success.

My only worry? That Chloe may be planning to preach the sermon herself next year!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

First there was bird-song . . .

From choice, I would write to you about the stories that make me smile, incidents to make you laugh. But there is only sadness in this story.
Why share it? Because I think it's important.

"First there was birdsong,"wrote the sage, "then birds were created to sing."

It's a beautiful and thought-provoking statement, but, as of this moment, it is also incredibly poignant.

Birds have formed an integral part of my life. From my country childhood, to work with the BBC Natural History Unit, right up until the present day, when fat-balls and peanut-holders dangle outside the third-floor windows of my London flat. There have always been birds.

But, in our fast-changing world, there is nothing you can take for granted. I say that because I've been talking to a friend who recently returned from a holiday in Italy. He and his wife chose to visit a peaceful, rural area well away from the tourist traffic, an area known only for its agriculture and extensive forests. My friend is a keen photographer. He takes his camera on holidays for the purpose of recording the wildlife, in particular the birds.

On this recent holiday to Italy, apart from the ubiquitous pigeons and seagulls, it appeared that they saw - and heard - no birds. No birds in the peaceful forests, no birds flying low over the vineyards, no birds roosting in the eaves of the sun-baked houses. No birds. The countryside around them had been silent.

Where had the birds gone? My friend made enquiries of the villagers, but met only with resigned confirmation that the birds
were no longer to be seen.

Such things happen so gradually, so imperceptibly. As in the case of the missing Italian song-birds, it isn't until a seemingly indestructible and vital part of the eco-system has disappeared completely that we realise what we've lost, how silent the world has become.

Did you catch a glimpse of any butterflies this year? When did you last see a hedgehog? And what about those clouds of starlings that once patterned the evening sky . . . have you seen them recently?
On a more practical note, did you know that in parts of China the farm workers are having to pollinate the fruit trees by hand? Indiscriminate and excessive use of powerful pesticides has caused the mass extinction of the once prolific pollinating insects.

No living species should become extinct on account of our heavy footprint on the earth. In our blinkered self-obsession, have we failed to see that we need the birdsong, we need the birds?
Not for our selfish enjoyment, not even out of respect for the myriad forms of creation, of which we are but one. Quite simply, because, in a totally inter-dependent eco-system, without the birds, the bees and the butterflies there will be no human beings.

By a beautiful irony, we have become the cuckoo in the nest, the over-sized cuckoo who is throwing out all rivals in our greedy, short-sighted demand for the earth's dwindling and finite food supply.

And wait a moment . . . just think about it . . . when did you last hear a cuckoo?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

We can't eat money

Have you come across this Cree proverb?

I never thought I'd say this, but may we muse for a moment on the thorny topic of money?

After all, what is money? What is the true nature of this commodity that we value so disproportionately? It isn't a growing part of the created world. On the contrary, it is entirely man-made, a substitute for the reality it represents . . . a shadow . . . an illusion . . . a mirage. Yet we all know that the craving for money is addictive, and those who set their sights on accumulating a vast fortune never reach a point of satisfaction.

So why does money exert such a hold on all of us? Is it beautiful in its own right? Hardly, whatever form it takes, be it metal, paper or plastic, its beauty lies entirely in the eyes and mind of the beholder.

How, then, have our values become so distorted that the possession of money, vast amounts of money, is now considered a positive virtue, whilst those sitting atop the largest piles are automatically elevated to unquestioned positions of eminence in society?

It's as though we've become bewitched by our own invention . . . seduced by the substitute that we once devised for the simple purpose of barter.
This obsession isn't logical. It isn't reasonable. Can the grubby fistfull of paper and coins that we hand over in exchange for a concert ticket offer the joy of music? Can a plastic credit card, however large the bank balance it represents, offer warmth and shelter? I suppose that pound notes, if accumulated and ignited, could provide some temporary warmth. However, it would be a very short-lived and ineffectual blaze.

Our current financial system, as an American economist wrote recently, is 'a money game in which the players use money to make money for people who have money, without producing anything of value'.

But, even as I sit here typing this letter to you, a thought has struck me. This stuff that dominates our lives does have one redeeming feature. In fact, I would even suggest that this fact alone raises our dubious invention from the ranks of 'curse' to that of 'blessing'.

Money is good for one thing . . . you can give it away!

It has, after all, a similar quality to water. Left standing and confined money stagnates . . . allowed to flow free it is beneficial to everything it passes. A steady trickle from the over-stocked reservoirs of the West could bring life and hope to the arid deserts and parched plains in the rest of the world.

The Cree Indians are right. Money of itself won't nourish the trees, restore life to hunted animals, clean the polluted waters, or purify the air . . . but, if we give it away, freely and willingly, in pursuit of these aims, who knows, we may yet save our beleaguered planet.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Calling all orbs!

What is it about a good book that instantly converts its reader into an evangelist?
A book that's fired me is the one I've just finished, "Countdown to Coherence" by Hazel Courteney.
I say that I've finished it, but that's not strictly accurate. I may have reached the final page, but this is by no means the end. This book is, in itself, a launch-pad . . . a launch-pad to a continuing spiritual journey.

Hazel Courteney takes her reader on an intriguing scientific and spiritual quest, during which she travels worldwide in search of luminaries in the many fields that she investigates. All the interviews are absorbing, much that she covered was totally new to me, but, after my own experience with orbs, it was her enquiry into this phenomenon that particularly captured my attention.

Amongst many other things, I learned that orbs appear eager not only to make contact, but also to respond to our requests for their presence.

This statement made me sit up in my seat . . . it perfectly mirrored my own experiences.
Do you remember what happened at the Tyburn Convent? After repeated photographs had revealed no orbs, I pleaded under my breath for them to show up on the camera . . . and, to my amazed delight, they did.

But let's bring the orb story up-to-date. Last month (two years and over three hundred orb photos later) a friend kindly bought tickets for us to attend the Monteverdi "Vespers" at the Albert Hall. It was to be the penultimate concert of the 2010 Proms season. However, a week before the event, her husband was taken into hospital and she urged me to offer her ticket to someone else. Sadly, I agreed . . . promising that I'd take my camera.
If she couldn't be there, I told her, I would photograph the orbs for her to enjoy afterwards.

It was a rash promise . . . a stupid promise. After making it I could have kicked myself.
How could I possibly guarantee orbs at the Albert Hall? My friend didn't deserve to be disappointed on top of all her anxiety.

But, as you can see, the orbs overlooked my stupidity and collaborated. Whether it was in response to my plea, or to the transcendent beauty of the music, they made an appearance and joined the audience in the final rapturous applause.

Orbs, so Hazel Courteney was told, make themselves apparent on digital cameras in response to the photographer's request. It may be hard to believe, but my experience encourages me to believe that this is true.

Last week I was invited to take Chloe to an Animal Blessing at our local church.
"I wonder if there'll be any orbs?" said Shelagh, a friend who has recently photographed some beautiful orbs in France.
"I'll be far too busy keeping Chloe in check to even think of orbs!" I retorted.

But Chloe was on her very best behaviour and, remembering Shelagh's remark, I turned my camera towards the altar and . . . yes . . . in response to my hopeful plea, there were this beautiful orb.

Relationships never stay the same, they grow and deepen or they diminish. My relationship with orbs has grown from initial amazement and disbelief to a stage of profound gratitude and confidence. A confidence that these incredible, radiant presences (what else can I call them?) will respond. A confidence that they are every bit as much aware of me as I am of them.

I say that, and it is true . . . but, nonetheless, it is impossible to be anything other than deeply moved and incredulous each time an orb appears . . . and, surely, that is how it should be?

Wouldn't you agree that to make contact, albeit momentarily, with an invisible body of consciousness is something beyond words . . . something that I can only call an awesome blessing?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Six in a bed!

Have you time for another story about my exuberant young cat? It won't take long to read and I think you'll enjoy it.

It amazes me what I can sleep through. Not only am I undisturbed by Chloe getting in and out of bed during the night, but I wake up most mornings to find the flat strewn with toys, the furniture askew, the mats out of place, and happy mayhem in the bathroom. All of which has taken place whilst I've been sleeping peacefully.
But I've met my Nemesis . . . toy mice!

Look at this photo carefully . . . it's Chloe with a packet of toys bestowed on her the other week by a loving admirer. It's a packet of toy mice. Did you happen to notice something significant about those toy mice? Were you studying them closely enough to see the small silver blobs on the end of their tails?
This is significant, very significant. Those silver blobs are bells and although by daylight the tinkling is barely discernible, come three o'clock in the morning, come the same mice with the same tails arriving in your bed . . . believe me the raucous tinkling of those bells is enough to waken the dead!

Chloe has a warm and spontaneous nature. In the middle of the
night she is intent only on giving me pleasure. In her mind, as she goes to her toy-basket and ferrets around, she is generously finding me a present. She arrives back in the bedroom purring with satisfaction, the tinkling mouse in her mouth, and pushes it affectionately into my sleeping cheek. I thank her blearily and, after a short game (very half-hearted on my part), manage to tuck the mouse discreetly under the pillow.

Chloe, who thinks that I've lost her gift, is in no way discouraged. Within minutes she has appeared with another which she wedges firmly into my chest before snuggling down beside me.
In due course I am forced to welcome a third . . . and then a fourth . . . if we both stay very still, I wonder wearily, will this stop the hidden bells from tinkling and might we get some badly needed sleep?
Finally . . . we do!

You wouldn't, I suppose, like to offer a sleep-over to a very endearing small cat, just to give me a night's untroubled rest?
No, I didn't think you would!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Not noodles . . . !

Laughter is good for us. Would you like a laugh at my expense on the subject of noodles?
I'm sure you would!

A few weeks ago I was one of a small group invited to represent our local residents' association at a Supper Party, a party that was being given by the Mayor at the Town Hall.
Such an event had never happened before, it was an unexpected and generous idea. On the invitation was a request to notify the Mayor's office if you had any dietary requirements. I duly 'phoned to say that I was a vegetarian, and thought little more about it.

The evening of the Supper arrived and we all made my way to the Town Hall, curious as to what lay ahead.
If this was the Mayor's definition of a supper, I thought, as we were greeted with champagne in an ante-room, what could possibly classify as a dinner?
My suppers, often enjoyed from a tray on my lap, were in a totally different league to what was on offer at the Town Hall. But I wasn't complaining!

After quaffing champagne and meeting our fellow guests, we were escorted to the dining hall. Here we were shown to allocated seats at the elegant, candle-lit tables.

As a vegetarian, the first course presented me with no problems. For the main course there was duck. This was duly served to everyone else together with roast potatoes and runner beans.
What, you are wondering, was I given?
You can imagine my dismay as the waitress placed before me a plate piled high with the longest, thinnest, most slippery noodles I've ever encountered!

Can you think of anything more difficult to tackle at an elegant civic reception than a plate of wriggling noodles?
The ones that actually reached my mouth were delicious. But, try as I might, the others slipped from my fork, evaded my knife, and even fell into my lap. To make matters worse, I had been provided with a knife and fork, but no spoon. How can you twirl your noodles around your fork without the aid of a spoon?

Everyone else munched their way happily and delicately through the duck and roast potatoes. I alone, unhappy and self-conscious, struggled to cope!
Finally, despairing of ever coming to terms with the willful and slippery noodles, I abandoned my futile efforts . . . and accepted defeat.

Turning to a fellow guest, I tried to make light of my predicament.
"The sort of meal," I said sadly, "that should be eaten in private with a towel on your lap and no-one to watch!"

The Mayor had done his residents proud . . . the setting was memorable . . . the guests impressive . . . it was just the greatest pity about the noodles!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Under The Skin

Come, meet me in the dark with outstretched hands,
I would not know your colour or your kind;
And do not speak, in case my biased mind
Forms judgement long before it understands
The words you use. Conceal from me the lands
You've travelled through, the culture that's entwined
In all your thoughts, the politics you find
Acceptable, the ground where your faith stands.
If I could come as nakedly as you,
Abandoning my way of life and creed,
Forgetting those ideas I'm closest to
And recognising what I really need;
Could we, for just a moment, see right through
Our diverse layers to our common seed?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Going Up . . . !

Would you like to hear about the latest accomplishment of my wonderfully supportive cat? I knew you would!

Little did I appreciate, when Chloe first shinned up her cat tree and went on to target the trees in Holland Park, that I would be the beneficiary of her love of climbing.

When you live, as I do, in a third-floor flat, you need a lift. Or such had been my reasoning for twenty-five years. The antique lift, that had regularly and reliably transported me and my baggage, had become a valued friend. How else to carry up the shopping? What other means for moving weighty cat-litter and heavy parcels? Then, a few months ago, we learned with a shock that our much-loved lift was not just antique, it had become obsolete. No longer was it possible to obtain spare parts. The entire lift would need to be replaced.

How long does it take to replace a lift? Believe it or not . . . three months!

With three months of disruption inevitable, it was decided that the public parts of the building would be rewired at the same time. Those of us who live in the building would have three months of filthy chaos.
But, or so we were promised, it would all be worth our suffering. At the end of those three months there would be a sleek, modern lift, state-of-the-art wiring, beautiful new carpets . . . all we had to do was to patiently endure the chaos and await the promised Golden Age.
What wasn't mentioned was that those of us who lived at the top of the building would also need to develop muscles of steel to cope with three months of climbing . . . but Managing Agents like to gloss over such minor details.

My concern was not just for myself, but also for Chloe. What chemicals were being used by the workmen? If these chemicals got onto her paws, would they do her any harm? Best, I decided, to carry her. This aim was achieved on the first journey down, but Chloe was having none of it on the way back upstairs.

Frantic wriggling resulted in her leaping from my arms and charging triumphantly up the dusty staircase.
She charged . . . she pulled . . . and, towed in her determined wake, I followed!

When you are past your first youth a little help is not to be scorned. This, I decided, was an excellent idea. With a damp cloth waiting inside the door to clean her paws on arrival, Chloe now happily pulls me up the seventy-two stairs on a regular basis!

I wouldn't dream of suggesting that you're in need of similar help, but . . . should that time ever arrive . . . well, you might consider taking advantage of Chloe's generous towing services!