Monday, June 21, 2010

Stuffing cushions

May I occupy a moment of your time with a brief ponder?
I put the question like that because that is what I need to ponder on . . . the perplexing subject of time.

The morning paper has just been delivered . . . a half-read book is waiting on the table . . . there are a host of new emails demanding attention in the IN box, and don't even mention the
washing-up! I'm sure that your life is much the same, each day presenting yet more activities all in competiton for the every minute of the time available. Not only that, as a race we seem intent on creating as many time-occupying pursuits as possible, we are never satisfied unless our diaries are full and every moment mortgaged.

Why . . . ? Are we steadily growing happier as we create more and more time-occupying pursuits? It doesn't feel like that. On the contrary, the very pressure we create by trying to cram yet another commitment into an overcrowded diary squeezes out the pleasure. There's another factor . . . have you noticed that the more we try to cram in to every congested second, the more speedily time rushes past? Incredible as it seems, we are already galloping through June 2010. What happened to 2009? Did I blink . . . ?

Wouldn't you agree that we all have a strange attitude towards time? It's as though it were an empty cushion cover that needed to be stuffed full in order to be appreciated. Which, when you stop to think about it, is sheer rubbish. It's the cushion cover that's the inexplicable miracle, not the stuffing.

In fact, whilst concentrating on the stuffing of our cushion, we completely ignore the cushion itself. We do our utmost to fill time . . . but we can't, for all our ingenuity, all our cleverness, create one additional second. I can give you a book to occupy your time, or chatter on like this and waste your time. What I can't do (would that I could) is to give you one, brand-new second of time itself.

I wonder . . . by filling this precious commodity to bursting-point are we studiously avoiding the fact that, for each one of us, time is finite? Were we to have an unoccupied minute, a second of stillness . . . might it reveal a truth that we're unwilling to accept? Or, more positively, cause us to wake up to the incredible wonder of the unstuffed, uncommitted moment?

And I'm as guilty as everyone else. Here I am, taking up your precious time with wafflings and ponderings.

My sincere apologies . . . let me give you back the far more valuable gift of my silence and some time to yourself!

Enjoy . . . !

Monday, June 14, 2010

A Girl Needs A Cat Tree

A Girl Needs A Cat Tree

A girl needs a cat tree
Beyond any doubt,
A girl needs a cat tree
For looking about.
For seeing and searching,
Or spotting a mouse,
A cat tree's essential as part of the house.

When somewhere is needed

To store all your toys,
To offer a haven
Away from the noise,
For climbing or tumbling
Or just having fun
A cat tree's the place where it ought to be done

A girl needs a cat tree
When play's at an end,
When somewhere is needed
To sleep with a friend.
Curled up in a blanket
And hidden from view,
Just look what a cat tree can offer to you!

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Requiem to Lost Love

Oh dear, I'm afraid we may not be in agreement over this letter, but please bear with me.
Yes, I know you love trains. I used to love trains . . . but let me tell you what's happened. For all your admiration for sleek, new technology, I'm hoping you'll recognise that we Luddites have a point!

Whereas I once used trains frequently, the situation has changed. Over the past ten years I've used them very little, long distance trains not at all.
Then, last week, I had a need to go to Somerset. What a treat . . . I would take the train.

In my childhood, trains were a source of excitement and delight. This pleasure reached its peak when my mother took me to Venice on The Orient Express (in the days before that magnificent locomotive had sunk to the classification of a 'tourist attraction').
I was spellbound. European stations flashing by . . . enigmatic figures relaxing in sumptuous compartments . . . proper sheets on proper beds and a wake-up call for breakfast.
This was no mere train journey, it was an adventure in wonderland!

As an adult, I loved the steam trains that carried me home to Somerset. What luxury, after a demanding spell of filming in London, to relax in the comfort of a dining-car and be pampered with a slap-up dinner . . . complete with linen table-napkins!

Later, there were the magnificent trains that carried me - together with my car and my cat - to
the North of England and Scotland.
How much easier and faster to put the car on a trolley behind the train and travel in the comfort of a carriage. The carriage window offered a panoramic view that could never be obtained from a car. All the cats in my life have enjoyed the novelty of travelling on a train. I treasure the memory of when Sue, my Siamese, alighted with great poise on the platform at Carlisle and promptly used a strategically placed tub of geraniums as a handy litter-tray!

Until last week I would never have questioned the continuation of my lifelong love of trains . . . then, after an absence of ten years, I discovered the modern version.

It came as a shock to learn that I was no longer a passenger. In the intervening years I had metamorphosed into a customer.
Why? I've no idea . . . could it be that our cash now takes precedence over our comfort?

This sense of shock continued. I discovered that once squeezed into your allotted restricted space in the crowded carriage you can't move, you're trapped. There is no opportunity for happy wanderings down the corridor, no chance to stretch your legs. You can't open the window, far less the carriage door. The seats are crammed in so tightly that your knees are hard up against the back of the seat in front and, on this occasion the seat I'd been allocated was alongside an intersection in the window. I was even deprived of the opportunity to look out and enjoy the countryside. The overall effect verged on the claustrophobic.

Yes, I know, there is much to commend these modern trains. They are wonderfully computerised. A trolley laden with food is regularly pushed up and down the gangway, so, should you want it, there's plenty to eat. You can even hire headphones (if it's a sufficiently long-distance train) and watch a film on the back of the seat in front of you. A voice constantly informs you where you are, why you are delayed, and when you'll be arriving. But dare I suggest that the atmosphere is soulless, constricted, and alien to the world it is speeding through?

All right, I'm growing old. I'm suffering from nostalgia. Logically, I can understand the thinking behind the modern train. The population has grown, more people are travelling and these trains pack in double the number of passengers. They are sleek, fast and efficient. A modern, high-speed train is, in effect, an economically-viable mass-human-transporter. But it doesn't deserve to inherit the glamour, excitement and romance that have grown to be associated with the word 'train'.

Were those old trains to return they would probably be despised as being slow, dirty and
contrary to all rules of Health and Safety. But many of us loved them and, if I have to travel on long-distance trains in the future do you know what I'll do? I'll lean back in my seat, close my eyes and pretend.

I'll pretend that I've gone back in time. I'll imagine that I've chosen a window seat with its back to the engine (this was important as the smuts from the engine, coming through the open window, could get into your eyes), and that I've returned to the days when trains were ponderous, upholstered and slightly grubby . . . but, at the same time, infinitely romantic, exciting and loveable!

Could 'Brief Encounter' have taken place in the setting of a modern train?
I rest my case!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Coming of Chloe

You are wondering how it all went? How my Bengal kitten travelled to her new home in London, how she settled in?
I can promise you . . . you're no more anxious about the outcome than I was!

It was all very well I told myself, as I struggled to kitten-proof the flat in advance of her arrival, but was I being fair? I was committing Chloe to the role of Community Cat, to a life of considerable travel and social activity, but would this kitten be willing to co-operate with my plans? Cats have minds and characters of their own, it's one of the many reasons why I love them so much. What if Chloe had alternate views (strong alternate views) on the life she wished to lead? What if she was, by nature, a Solitary Cat?

But anxiety was getting me nowhere. Rather than anticipate such problems, it seemed best to start as I meant to go on. There would be no cat basket . . . just a harness to restrain her and a soft bag to travel in. Chloe, who up until now had never been outside her home, far less witnessed the clamour of traffic, would sit in her bag on my lap, whilst Sally drove us back to London.

Her harness came as the first of her many surprises, but, with so much else going on, she barely noticed the restriction. The car . . . the movement . . . the passing scenery . . . all brought a wide-eyed, incredulous reaction. But in no way was this kitten thrown by the fast-changing events in her life!
She was highly curious . . . keenly interested . . . very excited.

As I'd hoped it would, the bag provided an invaluable sense of security. Sinking down into its depths, she relaxed a little, keeping a keen eye on the cars, lorries and passing countryside.
Finally, clearly deciding that one vehicle looked much like another, she snatched a quick snooze!

How, I wondered anxiously as we sped along, would this very small kitten cope with a totally unfamiliar new home?
New sights . . . new smells . . . new experiences?

I need not have worried! After chewing a leaf on the Peace Lily, and giving an exuberant swipe at an orchid, she settled for the challenge of an exciting new toy!

On that first day her movements were like quicksilver. Scuttling from
room to room, her stomach low on the carpet, she was impossible to catch. However, by day two these scuttles had been transformed into a prancing, stiff-legged dance. With her head held high, and her
tail straight up above her back, my highly vocal kitten was giving every sign of knowing where she was . . . and liking what she saw!

That first night Chloe talked incessantly, I did my best to console her . . . neither of us slept. Night two found her sleeping soundly in the cubby-hole on the cat tree. It was on night three that, with much excited purring, she discovered the comfort and fun of Mum's bed!
Day one was spent exploring at ground level. Day two was devoted to the excitement of progressing upwards. On day three came the discovery that going up was wonderful, but going down far more precarious . . . often necessitating help!

And has she accepted the role of Community Cat?
I've no need to answer that question. Just look how much she enjoyed a visit to Sally yesterday . . .

. . . and her diary is full!

As for me . . . it is no exaggeration to say that a totally new and revolutionary chapter has begun. This realisation struck home forcibly early on Sunday morning when Chloe, having discovered the flowers that had dropped overnight from the cactus, descended on them eagerly as a tasty breakfast! Was there, I wondered anxiously, such a thing as cactus-flower-poisoning? I had no wish to find out . . . and rushed off in search of the hoover.
Any creature, I thought later, that could get me hoovering, far less at seven o'clock on a Sunday morning, was clearly destined to clear my life of any cobwebs and set us both on a new and invigorating path!

She is enchanting . . . beguiling . . . and utterly captivating. Could anyone be Chloe-proof? I very much doubt it.
Welcome to your new life, Community Kitten!