Monday, December 29, 2014

Plato's Cave

It's a story that I'm sure you know,  but would you mind if we recall it in the lead-up to the New Year?

I'm thinking of 'Plato's Cave'.  The tale of the prisoners who were fooled by shadows.  The prisoners, chained to the cave wall, who truly believed that the flickering shadows cast on the walls in front of them were all that there was . . . that they were reality.

With their backs to the fire that was casting the shadows, and unable to see the people passing behind them, the captives had no idea as to what was creating the moving spectacle.  For them the world was one-dimensional . . .  insubstantial shadows were all that existed.

Do you remember how that the story continues?
It tells of a prisoner who broke free from his chains and rushed out into the sunlight?  Overjoyed by his discovery, he then returned to his fellow prisoners to try to explain, in the face of their incredulity and disbelief, the vibrant, three-dimensional world that awaited them outside.

It's a haunting story.
But what is Plato trying to tell us?  That we're lucky to be free?
No, surely he's suggesting that we are the prisoners . . . the self-incarcerated prisoners, captives mesmerised by shadows.

Wouldn't you agree that there's an over-riding sense of captivity at the present time . . .  we're all held captive by fear.  Be it fear of terrorism, of economics, of epidemics . . . fears specific, fears non-specific.  Fears which cast large and distorted reflections and affect us all.

We're held captive in a world reduced to intimidating shadows.
As for the chains that bind us, we've crafted them ourselves.  It isn't hard to recognise which ones bear our own personal hallmark.

I'm recalling Plato's story because it seems to hold particular significance at the start of a new cycle.

The year that's passing created many frenzied and distorted images.  Rather than carry them with us into the New Year, surely it's time to reject their power and leave the cave in search of the light?

But we're inclined to forget the all-important need for trust when stepping forward.  We look for excuses as we huddle together in the dark.
Is January, we wonder, the right time to make such a move?  The low winter sun produces a dazzling light, wouldn't it obscure the path ahead?

Then there's something else. Whilst we're attracted to the light, what it reveals can be disturbing and painful . . . there have been many such revelations in 2014.
Life may be grim and uncomfortable watching shadows, but it can offer the illusion of security.  We are seduced and beguiled by the false world we've created, we've grown attached to our chains.

In all this uncertainty, one fact is undeniable, we are more likely to step out of our cave if we do it together . . . more likely to accept the invitation of the beckoning sunlight if we move as a group rather than try to move forward on our own.  More likely to succeed if we discard past judgements and maintain the vital ingredients of love, gratitude and hope.

'Snowflakes,' wrote Vesta Kelly, 'are one of nature's most fragile things, but just look what they can do when they stick together'.

I wonder what guise we'll choose as we enter the year ahead.
Will we choose to remain as isolated prisoners, ensnared by the shadows of the past?  Or will we be part of a sparkling blanket of snow, heading unfettered into the promise of the future . . . ?

Let's compare notes in a year's time and see if we made it!

Happy New Year!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Conscripted Angels

"An angel never wriggles, sulks or talks,"
The small boys' harassed teacher told her class;
Then marked out on the floor with coloured chalks
Where each of them should stand. "Nor does he pass
His hamster round," she added testily.
The kings and shepherds waited, smug and proud;
How each rebellious angel yearned to be
A king, or at the least to have a cloud
To sit upon. The shepherds had their sheep;
The kings had cardboard crowns and gifts to bring;
And even Joseph had his wife to keep
Him occupied and stop him fidgeting.
That angels never moved or spoke, they knew;
But what, they puzzled, did real angels do?

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

A Cotton Ceiling

Tell me, which would you rather have, cotton or marble?
Give me cotton any day . . . particularly when you're near the top of an ageing Victorian building.
But let me explain . . .

Do you remember me telling you that the penthouse above my flat had been transformed, what had been a family home was now an investment?  It had been purchased by a sheikh from the Middle East. Bullet-proof doors had been installed and heavy marble laid on the Victorian floors . . . the sheikh, so I was given to understand, intended to pay short and infrequent visits to his new investment

Saddened by the change, I anticipated seeing very little of this new neighbour.

Then, at the start of last month I was disturbed by the sound of footsteps on my ceiling . . . my neighbour, I realised, had arrived for his first, short visit.
I'd never been disturbed by overhead neighbours before . . . marble, it seemed, was noisy as well as heavy.

But far worse was to follow.  Shortly after the footsteps I was shocked to notice small bubbles of water which, having penetrated the edge of the hall ceiling, were rapidly patterning the wall.

Appalled at this turn of events, I rushed out of my front-door, up the stairs and hammered on the bullet-proof door.
There was no response.  I hammered again.
An Arab gentleman, whom I took to be the sheikh's valet, appeared in the doorway looking a little surprised.

"Water!" I told him indignantly, "It's coming through my ceiling!"
The valet inclined his head, "We will look into it," he said soothingly.
"I don't want it looked into," I protested, "Something needs to be done NOW!"
The valet, who had clearly had enough of this excitable Englishwoman, gave a polite nod and tried to close the door.  However, as my foot was firmly in the gap, this effort defeated him.

It occurred to me that, high on the list of every valet's Code of Conduct, must be the firm instruction: 'Never disturb your Master in the bath'!
But surely this was a time when rules needed to be broken?
"Now . . . please!" I pleaded.

The valet, torn between duty and a genuine desire to respond to my distress, finally made his way down the passage and, as I watched, knocked tentatively on the bathroom door.

Anxious to know if my mission had succeeded, I hurried back down the stairs.  To my relief, the water was no longer oozing out of the ceiling.

But any relief was to be short-lived.  What I hadn't realised was that the sheikh had installed no less than three bathrooms.
Deprived of bathroom number one, he had, it seemed, simply resorted to bathroom number two, where, once again, he had turned on the taps.
This time the water didn't merely trickle down the wall, it cascaded with joyous abandon from the centre of the hall ceiling.

Buckets, saucepans, dishes . . . every water-collectible vessel I had . . . was called into action to try to contain the incessant downpour.

Things had become serious.
The valet came . . .  the sheik's representative-on-all-things-structural came . . .  the plumbers came.
It was generally agreed that action, speedy action, needed to be taken.

But how could they get to the pipes and discover what was wrong?
Yes, you've guessed it.  Because of the weight of the marble they could no longer tackle the job from above . . . entry to the pipes had to be from underneath, up through my hall ceiling!

They would, the sheikh's representative assured me, repair all the damage.
In due course they would plaster and repaint the hall.  They would replace my sodden hall rug.
"You can't," I told them sadly, "my Grandmother made it."

Suitably sobered, they set to work.  It was hours later that they finally assured me that they'd discovered the cause of the trouble and put a temporary patch on my damaged ceiling.

But was the problem solved?  I was far from convinced.
Water trickling through the bathroom ceiling a few days later further fuelled my anxieties.  What if they plastered and painted the hall only for the leak to re-open?

From being blissfully unaware of the  intricate web of piping so close to my ceiling, I was now only too conscious of the powerful flow of water . . . water clean and water dirty . . .  that was circulating above my head.

It was then that inspiration struck.
"I know what we'll do . . . " I told the man in charge, "until we're certain that all the leaks have been traced, we'll have a cotton ceiling!"
He looked a little bemused, "I've never heard of a cotton ceiling?"
"Nor have I . . . but couldn't you fasten a cotton dust-sheet right across the ceiling?  It could stay up for a least a year.  Just think about it . . ."

And so it was that, with Chloe's enthusiastic assistance, a top-quality dust-sheet was screwed firmly into place.

The sheikh has now departed, he'll be gone for at least two months.  My flat has finally dried out.  But, as a permanent reminder of a traumatic episode, I've acquired a cotton ceiling.

Nonetheless, if I'm to be honest I must admit to being proud of  my idea . . . I like my cotton ceiling.
It's unusual . . . it's distinctive . . . and it effectively conceals all the damage.
If you find yourself in London, you're welcome to drop in and see if for yourself.

The moral of the story . . . ?
Well, surely it must be that you can't impose the weight of modern wealth on an old and fragile superstructure.

Do you understand why it is that I prefer cotton to marble?
After giving the new ceiling a thorough inspection, Chloe completely agrees!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Time to go home . . . ?

I wonder if you enjoy online seminars?
Do you value, as I do, this incredible sense of a worldwide community . . . a sense formed in the knowledge that, although it may be dawn in Los Angeles, mid-day in London, and evening in Melbourne, people throughout the world are united at a meeting-point outside time and space.  All of us linked in discussion in a way that was never before thought possible.

Whilst participating the other day, I was brought down to earth by the speaker's comment.  It was wonderful, she said, that we could gather in this way, wonderful that our minds could communicate in space, but, she added, she always felt a little flat afterwards.

Minds might have been united through the internet, but, when her computer was switched off, there was no-one there to share a cup of tea.  Physically, she was on her own.

It was true.  Do we over-value these powerful links?  After all, no matter how many friends you have on Facebook, it's no comfort if you feel in need of a hug.

It may seem an unlikely connection, but I'm reminded of the parable of the Prodigal Son.  Do you remember?
It's the story of the younger son who left home, lured by the attractions of the world.  Years later, sadder but wiser, he returned to his waiting family.  Here he received what might be considered an undeservedly warm welcome, complete with a fatted calf.

Surely there has never been a generation which has travelled more than we have?  We are constantly on the move.  Families no longer comprise three or more generations living in close proximity, they are widely scattered.  Many people live highly mobile and, in consequence, often solitary lives.  But what when we switch off the computer, the iPad or the smartphone  . . . what when we want to share a cup of tea?

Like the Prodigal Son, have we had enough . . . has the time come to go home?

To go home, wise in the knowledge of what we've encountered, and recognising just why we need, and value, what it was that we left behind.

This is the belief of a large group of people in Oregon, as they put it, "We Need Each Other".  They speak of 'a maturing humanity where values move from transaction to trust, from consumption to contribution, from scarcity to abundance . . . and from isolation to community'.
Go to their website and see for yourself.

Nor is the United States alone in fostering this concept.  In Mali, one of the poorest nations on earth, they have what is known as a Gift Economy:

' . . .  a culture of constantly giving to their neighbour, with no immediate expectation of return.  Their cultural belief is that by giving, you will also be given to and be taken care of.  Hoarding is frowned upon, so people avoid it. Medical care, education, Social Security and other things that many Westerners think are supposed to be provided by the government, are handled on a personal basis and somehow, everybody gets what they need.'

Is this African country wiser than we are?  Watch this link and judge for yourself.

We've had fun since leaving home.  Disowning the natural world that reared us, we've been enticed by the concept of competition, seduced by the glamour of individual success, bedazzled by the pursuit of wealth . . . although proof is still lacking that you can actually buy happiness.

But all this has been typical of adolescent self-indulgence.
Isn't it time we grew up . . .  time that we followed in the steps not only of the Prodigal Son, but also of the people of Oregon and Mali?

It's time to go home.
Why?   Not because we want the welcome and the fatted calf, it's far simpler than that . . . it's because we need each other.

Monday, November 10, 2014

We that are left grow old . . .

It's been a time of remembrance . . . a time of honouring the fallen . . . a time of reflecting on the tragedy of young lives lost in warfare.
"They shall not grow old," we've been reminded, "as we that are left grow old . . . "

It's true.
But let's switch our minds for a moment from that heart-wrenching moat of poppies to 'we who are left' . . . we who are left to grow old.

Surely we owe a debt to those who died?  Surely we owe it to them to make our old age a time of celebration?  A time to of fulfilment, passion and positivity?

Sad to say, all too often this is not the case.  But it seems timely that, in Remembrance Week, I should have learned of an Australian initiative, the 'Men in Sheds' movement, which aims at doing just that, and which was recently introduced to the UK.

It can be forgotten that, at heart, we're creative beings.  Without the incentive and urge to create, in effect we cease to be.  What's more, age does not diminish this creativity.  Which prompts the question, why are so many elderly people deprived of an outlet for their abilities?

Men, in particular, can find retirement very hard, unless . . . yes, you've guessed what's coming next . . . unless they have the opportunities afforded by a garden shed.  A shed, or a workshop, in which they can hone their skills and promote the flow of their natural talents.

Since its inception in Australia in 1995,  'Men in Sheds', a movement which fosters friendship as well as activity, has extended its beneficial work worldwide.

Here in the UK, over a hundred and forty flourishing Sheds have already been established.  Stretching to all corners of the kingdom, their imaginative activities range from growing moustaches as a charity fund-raiser, to building a Viking boat!

I must admit to a personal interest in this venture as it endorses my own experience.

Every week, on behalf of the Pets As Therapy charity, I take Chloe, my cat, to visit our local care home.  It's a very good care home.  The elderly residents are well looked after, in-house activities and entertainment are provided, the individual rooms are immaculate.

If any of the newcomers express the desire to see Chloe, I take her to to meet them shortly after their arrival.  At this point, with few exceptions, the men and women are articulate, self-possessed and confident . . .  happy to chat and circulate.  But, as the months pass, almost invariably I observe this individuality and self-confidence being eroded.

Why is it eroded?  Quite simply because they have little say in their own lives, no responsibilities, no major decisions to make, no work to undertake, no outlets for their abilities.

Although physically fit, they often spend the greater part of their day on their beds.  There's no point, as they see it, in getting up.

It's not enough to be alive.  It's not enough to  be mentally and physically fit.  There's a vital need for a sense of purpose, for the knowledge that our talents are contributing to the welfare of the whole, that we are each of us a vital and unique piece in the evolving jig-saw of humanity.

So, as we honour and remember the young who died, let's celebrate the work of Men in Sheds.
Let's honour an older generation whose members are fired by an ageless sense of purpose.

And, should they need an example to guide them on their way, there's a shining star in Iowa who can offer them limitless inspiration!

Yes, it's true, 'we that are left grow old' . . . but wouldn't you agree that we owe it to the fallen to make this a life-affirming process?

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Jungle Games

Forgotten jungles fired those blazing eyes,
Whilst from the throat an ancient memory
Gives utterance to low, staccato cries.
Attention that before roamed wide and free
Now centres on a point. All consciousness
Is focussed, clear and still - no time but now,
No aim in mind but this.  With suppleness
Of liquid steel the crouching limbs allow
Their tension to escape through twitching tail.
No worries drain the body's energy.
No idle thoughts of failure can prevail
To blur that cloudless mental clarity.
At last, with lethal, calculated spring,
The kitten pounces on the ball of string.

Monday, October 27, 2014


My Great-Grandmother would never have known what I'm experiencing . . . she lived in a different age.
Mind you, I could never have imagined it myself . . . not until now.  It was last night's storm that enlightened me.

The last kick of an Atlantic hurricane, it was a storm that shook the whole country . . . uprooting trees, disrupting travel and, somewhere unbeknown to me, disconnecting my landline and broadband connection.

This morning I've had a rude awakening . . . there's no telephone . . .  no emails . . . I can access no websites.
It's a shock to discover that, from the communication viewpoint, I'm completely cut off.

With an active phone line, friends and services positively cluster at your finger-tips.  When that line dies (and you have no mobile alternative) you are, as I'm discovering, truly isolated.

In a strange way, it's as though I've been marooned.  I can't contact anyone . . . no-one can contact me.  And whilst the radio and television provide information, it's as though I've been shipwrecked on that proverbial desert island.  The radio and television are my luxury items, but they afford no personal contact with the world.

Yes, I know I'm exaggerating.  I've only to look through the window to see life continuing outside.  I need only to walk through the front door to encounter people on the pavement.

But I still feel curiously cut-off.  What makes it worse is that I can't notify my friends that my phone and email aren't working because I haven't the phone or email facilities to do so!

Above all else, I'm being forced to recognise the vital role that electronic communication plays in my life.  How regular contact with friends, both locally and around the world, is something I normally take for granted.  Not only that, there's the profusion of websites . . . the online seminars.

I hadn't realised how often, in a normal day, I sit down by the computer just to up-date myself on information or enjoy what's on offer.

It's nearly time for bed, fourteen hours since my line went down.  The storm is slowly subsiding and I'm feeling rather like a communication-addict who's gone 'cold turkey'.

Is that the right expression?
I can't even access Google to check it out!

Still no connection . . . is there anything more undeniably dead than a dead phone?
And what of the friends who've been trying to contact me?  I'm worried they may be growing anxious.

Nonetheless, the sun and birdsong in the garden have combined to lift my spirits . . . although I'm ashamed to admit that I'd exchange the blackbird's song for the ring of the phone . . . or even the bleep of an incoming email!

I've been writing these thoughts  in the hope that, before too long, the telephone engineer will have restored my damaged line and everything will be back to normal.
The fact that you're now reading what I've written is justification for that hope.

Believe me, and I don't say this lightly, I'll never take our contact for granted again.  Nor will I under-estimate the power and value of such connection, the miracle of global communication that is literally at our finger-tips . . . it's up to us to ensure that what is communicated is worthy of the medium it employs.

Welcome back!
I really don't recommend a prolonged diet of cold turkey!

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Once upon a tribe . . .

I've been given much food for thought over the past few days.
It was triggered by a suggestion from the award-winning author and publisher, Byron Belitsos.
May I share it with you?

Just imagine, for a moment, that you are a member of a primitive tribe deep in the rain forest.  So deep, and so primitive, that you know nothing of the outside world. So established over the centuries that you consider yourself to be unique.

You are the chosen people, this forest is all there is.
On several occasions over the years you have ventured by boat down the fast-flowing river.  But your craft is fragile,  it cannot cope with the concept of long-distance travel.  You have turned back, fully convinced that there was nothing further to explore.

However, in your own eyes you are far from primitive.  You have advanced in many ways over the centuries and now consider yourself skilled and sophisticated.  There are other tribes in the forest and you treat each other with caution . . . caution and a degree of fear.  Warfare is your first option in disputes.

Just imagine the shock you would experience if, one day, a large vessel was seen approaching up the river.  A ship without oars or sail . . .  a vast edifice that seemed to be moving swiftly under its own volition.

Not only would it be totally at odds with all you had experienced, but it would appear to house an alien species.  Strange faces would be peering down at you from the deck, strange creatures would be muttering in a language you didn't understand.
Your first reaction would be fear . . . then attack.

The vessel would disappear as quickly as it had arrived and you would be left with a quandary.

Had you imagined it?
There were, as you knew, no other forms of life beyond the boundaries of the forest.  How could these creatures have appeared when there was nowhere for them to come from?

It would, you'd decide, be best to conclude that you'd suffered an hallucination.  And so life would return to normal . . . but for the residue of a disturbing memory.

Do you see where this is going?

We, the human beings on this earth, have long felt ourselves to be alone in the universe.

But, think about if for a moment, what if, just a few light years away from our tribal village, there were vast cities of highly-evolved species who would look upon us, and our way of life, as primitive?

What if the alleged 'visits' from spacecraft, news of which has been so carefully suppressed by governments worldwide, indicated a sophisticated and benign wish to help . . . not harm?

It's just a thought . . . but it's one shared by many scientists and philosophers.  One shared by many members of the armed forces . . . people who sincerely believe that they have encountered such spacecraft and their occupants, but whose testimony has been officially discredited.

It's also shared by the many people who sense that there's more to a crop circle than a pretty pattern.

Wouldn't you agree that we are at a stage in our evolution where we could do with some good advice and a helping hand?

Perhaps, if that ship comes sailing back up the river,  we might it be wise to make it welcome . . . ?

Friday, October 10, 2014

A change of direction?

In reviewing 'Grantchester', ITV's new series, the critic, Michael Pilgrim, wrote:

"Sometimes, resistance is futile.  Much as I would love to come across as a sneering aesthete disdainful of cosy period drama like 'Grantchester', I just can't.  Because it's good . . .
It's a grim October in the early 21st century.  British warplanes are over northern Iraq . . . you can't buy a  flat and apple crumble makes you fat.  There could be a worse antidote than 'Grantchester'."

However, whilst viewers have been eager to abandon the real world for the persuasive charms of 'Grantchester', listeners, so it would seem, are leaving Radio 4's flagship, 'Today'.

Their departure is not because of any drop in the programme's high standard of news coverage.  Nor is it because of less probing interviews or less penetrating coverage.
No, quite simply, 'Today' is losing its audience because we, the listeners, have had as much as we can take.

In a world of seemingly unremitting gloom and anxiety, a world rocked by warfare, disease and terrorism, we need to be heartened, not merely informed.  We need hope.

Is it really such a grim October, or are we looking fixedly in the wrong direction?  Trapped, as we are, in the headlights of a blitz of bad news . . . what's really going on?

In much he same way that no two witnesses to a crime will offer the same version of the story, so our view of world events would appear to depend on the point of view of our informant.  Everything that we see, think and say is filtered . . . filtered through a point of view.

Whilst it's true that the camera cannot lie, we can forget that the lens is pointing in one direction.

What's going on behind the cameraman's back?   We've no idea.  Nor do we know why he chose to point his camera in the direction he did.

But what if we turned the camera round?  Turned it away from fear and combat so that it was pointing instead at care and hope?

If, this October, we feel badly in need of hope (and have already had our weekly 'fix' of 'Grantchester'!), what about turning our camera away from the flow of mesmeric and debilitating news bulletins?

What if we focus instead on the worldwide rising of the human spirit . . . a rising so graphically demonstrated by students in Hong Kong.  Surely this is a source of hope?
If we turn away from the bad news and concentrate on celebrating the good, wouldn't that be beneficial to all of us?

History, so it's said, is a fable agreed upon.
What if we agreed to make it a fable of hope?

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Trench Cello

Tell me, have you heard of the 'trench cello'?

It came out of obscurity this week to steal the limelight.
Not only was it featured on Radio 4, but, as part of the War Music season at The Royal Academy of Music, the trench cello was played by the distinguished cellist, Steven Isserlis.

The instrument used will be on display at the Academy until March 2015, and you can listen to it here.

Trench cello . . . the name speaks for itself.  Unlikely as it may seem, this particular cello was played in the trenches of the Western Front during the First World War.

True, music has long been associated with warfare . . . each regiment takes pride in its band.  Not only that, a rousing march can revitalise weary troops, whilst certain music evokes national pride and loyalty.

But a cello in a trench . . .?  This isn't what springs to mind when you think of music on the frontline.

It appears that this instrument was owned by a Lieutenant Triggs of the Royal Suffolk Regiment.  Constructed so as to be easily portable, it was a cello that could be quickly assembled from parts contained in a box, whilst the box itself formed the framework.

Even the bow served a dual purpose.  It had been cleverly designed so that, by blowing down a hollow indentation at one end, the player could produce the note 'A', thereby enabling him to tune his instrument.

But just think about it for a moment.  A soldier about to go fighting on the frontline must give careful consideration to every item he chooses to take, weight is an important factor.  In all probability, in addition to clothing, he would want to take some photos of his family, perhaps a favourite book, maybe a camera . . . but a cello?

Lieutenant Triggs was clearly a keen musician, but he must have been driven by an emotion far stronger than a mere wish to display his talent.   Was it the realisation of what the music would mean under the stress of conflict that prompted him to carry such an unlikely burden into battle?

And what was of benefit to him was of equal benefit to others.  Still contained in the case is a note from the poet Edmund Blunden, written after the battle of Ypres, in which he tells of his delight at the impromptu concerts in the trenches.

Pondering on this story, a thought struck me.  Don't we each of us have our own trench cello?

There's the tune that we hum when we're feeling stressed or in need of courage.  There's the music that we play to lift our spirits.  Music, the universal language, has an unique power . . . the power to elevate and transform the listener.

Perhaps it's music, not ammunitions, that we should be sending to the world's trouble spots.  Perhaps it's concerts, not conflict, that would unite us.
Just listen to the first movement of Elgar's cello concerto, written in the aftermath of the First World War . . . see if you agree.

Music or mayhem . . . ?  Surely there's no contest!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Sunken Garden

On Summer afternoons, from two to four,
The sunshine's probing fingers gently trace
A passage 'twixt the city roofs to pour
In fullness on a basement dwelling place.
Here, tended by the occupant within,
A little garden manages to grow.
Each corner for a pot or earth-filled tin
Is utilised;  and from these efforts flow
Such unexpected Sumer flowers that we
Who pass, heads bent and lost in thought, for this
Brief moment waken from our dreams to see
A world made brighter by such loveliness.
A little garden?  No! My heart denies
That such a paradise be judged by size.

Monday, September 8, 2014

A story shared . . .

CHLOE:     Hello, it's Chloe here . . .

MUM:         And it's also Chloe's Mum . . . we've agreed to tell this story together . . .

CHLOE:  . . . only because I'm not quite sure what happened in the middle . . .

MUM:         . . . and I remember it all too clearly!

CHLOE:      But I'm going to be the one to start.

I don't want to preen my whiskers, but everyone knows that I'm a very observant cat.  Nothing escapes my attention.  When we go into the garden for our walks I notice all the things my Mum doesn't . . . like outsize flies . . . and exciting rustlings in the bushes . . . and squirrels way up in the trees . . .

MUM:          Come on, Chloe . . . get to the point . . .

CHLOE:       This IS the point . . .  the other day, when we went for our usual morning walk, I jumped up on the old iron chair to get a good look at everything.  Speaking as the official garden cat, I believe it's my duty to keep a keen eye on all that's going on.
Well, peering down from the chair, I heard these very loud rustlings way below me in the thick ivy.
It was worth going down to ground level to investigate.

I stayed very quiet . . .  which is difficult for me . . .  but these noises kept moving about.  What's more, they were growing louder and louder. . . so what could any resourceful and intelligent cat be expected to do other than to pounce . . .?

But . . . well, after that I'm afraid that everything gets a bit of a blur . . .

MUM:        Don't worry, I remember it only too well!
You leaped into the ivy and I was a little perturbed when some bees came buzzing out.
I was afraid you'd been stung, so I pulled hard on your lead and dragged you away.

At first you seemed absolutely fine.  But then I looked closer . . .  something wasn't quite right, you were gazing into space in a rather stunned fashion.   Even more puzzling, your eyes were bulging in a very peculiar way.

It was all rather strange.  I'd never seen your eyes bulge like that before and I started to feel worried.

CHLOE:  You weren't the only one!

MUM:  I thought a bee might have stung your nose,  so I lifted you up in my arms to get a better look.
Do you remember what happened next?

CHLOE:   How could I forget!

MUM:      Your mouth burst open and what should leap out but . . .

CHLOE:     That mouse!

 MUM:     Exactly!  A very damp, bedraggled and startled mouse . . .  which tumbled to the ground before scampering off into the ivy . . . doubtless to tell its family of its narrow escape!
I don't know who was the more startled . . . you, me or the mouse!

CHLOE:       Well . . . I must admit that sniffing noses with the mouse wasn't quite what I'd expected.
I just wanted to be friendly, but he seemed to want to sniff everything, including my back teeth!  And it did feel odd . . . very odd . . . sort of full-up to overflowing . . . and very wriggly, and furry, and peculiar.
But, wasn't I clever to find him . . . shall we go out and find him again?

MUM:    Chloe, that's not a good idea!   Now that you've shared your exciting story, it's really time for a rest.
You dream about your adventure  . . . I'm sure the mouse could do with a rest, too!