Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Chloe here . . . I have a little problem and I was wondering if I could ask your advice?
You may be able to help by having a word with my Mum.   I'd be so grateful if you could.

First of all, let me put you in the picture.
Would you call me a demanding cat . . . a difficult cat . . . an unreasonable cat?
Of course you wouldn't  . . . you know me.  But, just between the two of us, I sometimes wonder whether my Mum knows me as well as you do?

Incidentally, did you know that it's my third birthday today?
Not that I'm expecting any cards or presents, or anything like that . . .  just thought I'd mention it.

To get back to the problem we were talking about . . . my Mum is full of good intentions, no-one could deny that.  You've only got to see us setting off for our walks in the garden, she never goes without large bags of bird seed and peanuts.

Why?  It's all for my benefit . . . it's so that she can attract the birds and squirrels, and I can have lots of fun playing with them.

But this is where my poor Mum loses the plot.
Normally she's completely responsive to my wishes, I don't even know I'm on a lead.  She let's me race ahead, climb trees and feel totally free to do what I like.  But there seems to be something about bird seed and peanuts that thoroughly confuses her.

Just after she's sprinkled the bird seed under the bushes . . . just as the birds start to approach . . .  just as I'm tensing my muscles and slowly creeping forward . . . what does my Mum do?
She gets over-excited, forgets the purpose of the exercise, and suddenly tightens her grip on my lead.

I'm sure you can imagine what happens next.
To my shock and frustration, I discover that I'm held rooted to the spot . . . trapped . . . totally trapped.  In no way can I possibly act on my feline instincts.  What I want to do is to pounce on and play with all those fascinating, fluttering feathers, but I can't get within a paw's length of them.
Have you ever been forcibly restrained by a strap around your middle?  Believe me, it's not funny!

This happens each time we go into the garden, and each time I persuade myself that it's all an accident.  I know that my Mum would never intentionally spoil my fun, so why is it that she always tightens the lead at that crucial moment?

Then there's another matter that bothers me . . . there's the puzzle of the misplaced peanut holder in the hawthorn tree.

Just study this picture for a few moments . . .

 . . . do you see the squirrel?
Now, I've noticed that squirrels have very large teeth, so it seems wiser to chase them than to pounce on them. But how does my Mum think I can possibly chase a squirrel when it's feeding so high above my head?

So there you have it, my problem in a peanut shell:  instead of playing with the birds and chasing the squirrels . . .  all of us having lots of healthy exercise and good fun in the garden . . .  I'm left fretting on the sidelines, watching the birds and squirrels enjoying themselves without me.

I knew you would sympathise and understand my point of view . . . and, yes, I fully agree, wildlife watching does have a certain excitement of its own. But, oh dear,  for an energetic three-year-old cat, it's also extremely frustrating.

Between you and me, I sometimes find myself wondering . . . could it be . . . might it be . . . what if my Mum really doesn't want me to get close to the birds and squirrels?

No! She's an  honest human.  I'm sure she wouldn't be as devious as that.
After all, she knows full well that I only want to play . . . she does know that . . .  doesn't she?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Blue sky thinking

Do you find, as I do, that certain scenes from your childhood stand out like cameos in your memory.  If anything, they get brighter and clearer with the years.

I have one such memory dating back to when I was six.
In my memory I'm standing in our garden in Kent.  It's a beautiful day and I'm looking up at a brilliant blue sky.  But I'm not my usual carefree, six-year-old self.  The comforting certainties of my world have been rudely undermined.
Coming from out of the blue, both literally and figuratively,  a realisation has shaken me to the core . . .   the realisation that there's no way to prove that the blue I'm seeing above my head is the same colour being seen by everyone else.

What if my blue was my mother's green . . . or, equally disturbing, if my blue was my father's purple?  There was no way of knowing.
Then, to further add to this confusion comes the discovery that my left eye and my right eye see slightly different shades of the same colour.   Not even my two eyes can agree on the vexed subject of blue!

What, I wondered anxiously, of my other senses?  When I was listening to music, did I hear the same notes as those around me?
When I bit on a peppermint cream, was my flavour of peppermint the same as that of my friends?

It's a long time since I was six, but the questions that bothered me then remain every bit as valid now.
Do you see the same blue as I do?  Who knows!

You may be wondering what it was that re-awakened such vivid childhood memories and prompted this letter.
It was a photo that I saw recently at an exhibition.  The photo was of a man . . . someone I'd never met and about whom I knew nothing. But the photo told me so much.  I could recognise the authority in his eyes . . . the generosity in the lines of his mouth . . . his face conveyed a lively interest in the world around him.
I looked into the eyes of this man I didn't know and felt a sense of empathy and friendship . . . I liked this man, I knew this man.

Then, once again, I was pulled up short by a thought . . . would anyone else, on looking at this photo, see the same man that I saw?  Would they interpret the same qualities?
Would their 'blue' be the same as my 'blue'?

Building on those basic queries of my childhood, am I right in concluding that the senses don't show us what's outside, instead they reveal what's inside?
If it isn't inside me, I can't recognise it.
The external world is a potent trigger, but it's the interpretative mechanism inside us that gives the outer world its colour, shape and form.

Why does some music move me so deeply?  Not because of the sequence of notes, but because of the emotional body within me that  resonates with the music.
Why does a sunset cause me to hold my breath?  Not because of the earth's rotation on its axis, but because of an inner  acknowledgement of the very existence of heart-stopping beauty.

Why do I enjoy sitting down and sharing my thoughts with you?
Now that's a question we'll have to leave for next time . . . !

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mid-Life Congestion!

Something struck me the other day which I found a little disturbing.
May I share it with you?

Tell me, when you watch women on television (newsreaders, reporters, weather forecasters or what you will), has it occurred to you that they all look and behave as though they were somewhere in their mid-thirties?
With the men there's no such problem.  Over the years you can see them mature.  What's more, you can guess with reasonable accuracy which generation they represent.
Not so with the women.

This strange set of affairs leaves you with the impression that women, having reached the age of thirty-five, decide by common consent, stay put.

Mind you, there's an understandable reason for this phenomenon.
Over the centuries our western culture has spawned what is now a widely held belief`:  the concept that women, once they reach a certain age, become both invisible and ineffective.
Who wants to be invisible and ineffective?
It's hardly surprising if older women, particularly those in the public eye, do their best to keep this unwelcome prospect at bay.

But is there, I wonder, a downside to eternal youth?  If every woman looks and behaves as though she were thirty-five, could society as a whole have lost something?

I may be wrong, but it seems to me that we've lost a great deal.

We've lost the wisdom and experience of the older woman.  We've lost the comforting lap of the understanding grandmother.  We've lost the ability to grow old with panache!
We've also lost (and this is a surprising one) the fresh-faced teenager . . . not only do women refuse to grow old, but little girls are positively encouraged to race headlong towards a caricatured maturity.

The outcome?  We all of us meet in the middle.  All members of the female sex, from childhood to old age, all squashed together in a state of mid-life congestion!

It could, of course, be argued that the very concept of age is irrelevant.  We all know children who were 'old souls' from birth, we all have lively, elderly friends who are still wondering what to be when they grow up.  But surely the very structure of society needs the supportive strata offered by an acceptance of the ageing process?

A child needs a grandmother to fulfil a very different function to that of a mother.  A child needs a mother - not a fashionable best friend.  And wouldn't you agree that we all need little girls - not mini-adults in make-up and padded bras?

If the men can do it, why can't we?  If they can mature gracefully without fear of being ignored and rejected, why is it that western women feel this pressing need to live an indefinitely extended youth?

Let's grow old together . . . let's grow old exuberantly and triumphantly. Let's relish the wisdom we've accumulated, laugh at our wrinkles, act our age and value our importance in society.

And there's one important truth that we're all inclined to forget.
No amount of wrinkles can conceal or diminish the ageless attraction of a youthful heart.

Friday, February 8, 2013

No Overture

There is no overture to art, no time
Of introduction whilst the painting grows
To fullness and the viewer slowly knows -
As with the steps of melody or rhyme -
What fired the painter's brush.  Sublime
On first encountering the eye, art flows
Directly past the questions thoughts impose
And nestles like an arrow in its prime
Recipient, the heart.  My words belong
To time and space and stumble through their praise,
Whilst even birds need sequence for their song;
But paintings come, as lovers come, down ways
That know no past or future, right or wrong,
And give of their abundance as we gaze.