Posted in Life and Family

UK’s Icy Plight

“Aldi had plenty of bread and milk but no eggs. The shelves were bare of milk at Asda, sparse on bread but plenty of eggs – who can fathom it?!”

– from friend in Yorkshire.

I had high hopes things were returning to normal, but when I got up and looked out of the window this morning, snow was drifting determinedly from the sky.

Ahh, noooo!

Drooped downstairs, and my mother mimed falling snow, if you can picture that!

Nevertheless, people are moving around again, and my sister came in from her icy fastness yesterday with a variety of things from the supermarkets. Everybody seems to be doing a supermarket crawl; traipsing from one outlet to the next. I notice when our tall neighbour calls with food, which he did again today, the items are from different shops.

The cats are getting used to him… they used to slide out the back the same second he came in at the front, but now they just hover beside the cat flap and blink patiently. ‘Just in case,’ you know. In the same spirit, the other neighbour put our bin out for collection. ‘Just in case’, he said, but the bin lorry never came.

I emptied the bag of groceries… fish ‘n’ chips, M&S style. Salad and my favourite Piccolino tomatoes. Cold meat, more bread (wow!) and a copy of the Scottish Sunday Express, screaming in particularly large type: “WINTER HELL TO LAST TWO MORE WEEKS”.

Ahh, noooo!

The ‘TWO’ is picked out in red ink, and in slightly smaller type, it goes on: “Scots told to brace themselves again for snow in aftermath of Beast from the East.”

Reading the article, I get a picture of things being cold and wet, some more snow ahead, and likely floods when the snow melts. Some shops are still frantically putting things out on shelves only to have them snatched up by hungry customers… but on the whole things shouldn’t be as bad as they have been, floods aside.

We’re better off than some. Our house hasn’t been buried, or our front door blocked by a wall of snow, and our boiler got its breakdown over with earlier this February. I don’t think there’s a single thing we’re out of, though I finished my cucumber at the start of the storm and had to do without till yesterday! We also ran out of mayonnaise… It’s not so much the ‘doing without’ as the feeling that you are not free to have just what you want when you want. It’s still a land of plenty, but availability is uncertain, so don’t waste what you have.

As I said in the comments to my last post, my sister brought a luxurious Tiramasu cake yesterday. It was strange to be eating cake when folk have been struggling to obtain more basic supplies.

A couple of pages into the Express is the headline, “Finns are amused by UK’s icy plight.”

Well, I’m not surprised…

The paper also mentions a tweet by transport minister Humza Yousaf, who said communities have come together to clear their neighbourhoods of snow, and this weather has brought out the best in people. Our neighbours are great, but a friend is having issues with one of hers. She said they shovelled the pavement but stopped just as they got to her gate! They missed an opportunity to extend an olive branch, it seems. However… there’s plenty positive that’s going on, and we don’t need to focus on the determinedly negative.

A notification has just this minute popped up from The Independent. It says: “Seed vaults protect the world against the apocalypse — but what if doomsday is already here?

Ahh, noooo……

Posted in Life and Family, My Cats

Everybody’s Having a Snow Party

Here in the UK and Ireland we’ve been hosting the Beast from the East and Storm Emma, who were in the mood to party together. In Scotland we had the joys of a ‘red alert’ — apparently the first time we’ve had one. I took a few photos outside and figured out how to use the video option in my camera (nothing special resulted), then wished our snowy guests would leave again… am tired already.

Trying to blog with a cat squirming in your arms is not easy. 😛

Yesterday I lifted my toilet bag from the bathroom window sill and it felt cold. The toothpaste inside also felt cold and was stiff to squeeze out… I think it half-froze! This morning the toothpaste was more relaxed, although people are still not allowed to go anywhere. A local warned on Facebook that roads are closed, buses aren’t running, his car was sliding all over the place on a narrow road, and snow ploughs and tractors needed to be rescued… if *they* were in trouble, what chance has a car?

An old friend who lives locally contacted me via Messenger and said was everybody keeping warm? I said yes, though we heard from a neighbour that the shops were running short. He (the friend on Messenger) said he got the last lot of milk, bread and bacon from his local shop. I said we have fruity flapjack cookies with coconut in (I’m so glad I bowed to temptation when I saw these in M&S!) If he went back to the shop, he said, and raided it for oats, he could make his own flapjacks. I said he won’t be able to if the local old ladies buy all the oats before he gets there. “Then I’ll just mug them,” he said.

Our front steps are covered over almost completely with snow drifts; you can barely see the edges peeping out. I opened the back door at one point to find a set of dog pawprints leading up to the cat flap. Today they are all over the place… scuttling through the hedge and crisscrossing the snow. People let their dogs off the leash around here (though they’re not meant to) and they run into people’s gardens. My sister’s seen dogs let off in the path behind the house who run up the length of the garden and dash out onto the road at the front, with the owners obliviously calling them on the nice safe path behind. One particularly bad-tempered canine attacked my mother’s old cat — my sister intervened and nearly got bitten. The cat (who had been picked up and shaken) was very shocked and had to go to the vet. I remember the blind look in her eyes that day, but she’s still with us and doesn’t seem to remember.

The ‘off the leash’ thing might explain stories of dogs and their owners ending up in icy lakes. Someone was writing about how drivers forget to change their driving techniques in icy weather… they go too fast; drive too close to the car in front, etc… it strikes me that that warning also applies to other things we do, whether it’s getting our stocks right or walking dogs.

I understand it’s difficult when we do things by habit… we can be knee-deep in trouble before we wake out of auto-pilot.

I was thinking to myself that I wished we had more milk and bread. I noted that we’d gone onto freezer rations — tins next! We still have vegetables and potatoes; biscuits and sweets (including my special hoard of Bassett’s mint creams and chocolate peanuts); a very little fruit; rice and pasta in the cupboard; one small loaf of bread in the freezer (the kind Mum likes but I hate)… I knew we would hold out for months and there’s no need to complain, but I still wished the fridge contained more in the way of fresh groceries. I can’t even make simple things like scrambled egg or macaroni cheese, as we are hoarding what’s left of the milk.

My sister can’t come out because she’s snowed up in her little village. It would be a long icy tramp for me to the local supermarket, though I would do it if it was really worth it. There are no little shops at the end of the block here… one of the not-so-good things about this particular location.

No need to worry, though… Man Mountain to the rescue! He appeared yesterday with milk, bread, and jam doughnuts, and surprised us again today with two bags of food. It was very kind. He said shops are running low in things like milk because the lorries aren’t getting through. The milk he brought today is long-life.

I still mustn’t make dishes that need milk… there are other things we can eat instead. (Eyes the pizzas and and sausage rolls hungrily).

Another neighbour rang up and said he and his wife are making the long walk out to the supermarket and did we need anything, and my mother said “thanks, but we’re okay!”

A friend in Yorkshire says the wind is still whipping up the snow into blizzards. They’re sitting tight and not risking their safety; the only thing they’ll run out of is salad, but they’ll survive without it for a bit.

Now the cat is squirming in my mother’s arms, but that’s fine by me… easier to blog! …D’oh… spoke too soon! This cat (Delilah) is the definition of the phrase ‘in your face’. She lies on your chest and watches your eyes. I escaped by going outside to change a litter tray, and cleaned it with balls of dry snow. Gosh, this stuff has its uses… it saves on kitchen paper.

The following piece seems to be going the rounds on Facebook: “Where are we going, Piglet?”

I don’t go on Facebook much, so don’t pay attention to me if I sound blase! It’s pure gammon. My sister posted me the link and said she visualized Pooh as me and Piglet as The Little Witness. The Little Witness was currently squatting on a box of chocolate-covered peppermint creams, so that doesn’t surprise me.

We don’t have the stocks of red wine referred to in the Pooh conversation, but we have plenty of cat litter, Man Mountain brought the pizzas, and there’s a little bottle of Dandelion and Burdock in the fridge.

It’s odd how differently you view your food stocks when you are snowed in. It goes from “I suppose I should drink it,” to “I’m so glad to see that there!” and “I wish I hadn’t thrown away the year-out-of-date tin of Carnation Milk.”

Ah… a blob of white just flashed past the window.

“Did you see snow drop off the roof?”


Hopefully this freeze party is ending.

Posted in Health Issues, Life and Family, My Cats

Sweet Power

A neighbour who is also an electrician came in today to talk about power sockets. He is the tallest man I’ve ever seen… Man Mountain. I don’t mean he is overweight, because he certainly isn’t. It’s amusing to see the cats’ reaction when he’s visiting! Their eyes get very big and round, their bellies drop to the floor, and they don’t want to be in the same house with him.

He’s a pleasant fellow, but my anxiety makes me feel trapped if people are standing between me and the door. That’s multiplied when it’s someone as tall as him, so I can laugh at the cats all I want… I’m really no better!

Perhaps the universe is playing a trick on us and sniggers up its sleeve when you think, “I don’t know why I get so nervous!” and all the time it’s just that you were a cat in a former life. Nobody could possibly know that except the universe itself.

My sister brought us odds and ends (milk and other groceries we asked for) and also turned up with a large apple pie. Said we could share it, and cut it herself in the kitchen (turning it into apple crumble in the process). She wasn’t staying long, and took off out the door again with her share.

I know she was looking at desserts anyway to tempt my mother’s appetite, but I think it’s cute when somebody can’t resist something — hard to explain. I have a couple of bags of my favourite sweets squirrelled away in my room but haven’t touched them… just feel happy knowing they are there in case of need. Chocolate peanuts and Bassett’s Mint Creams, in case you wondered!

I need a cleaning agent to whiten some grouting in the kitchen. Asked everybody I could think of (other than Man Mountain) what would work. My mother was trying to tell me, and I said unfortunately my battery had just gone phut and she’d need to write it down. We didn’t have a pen and pad to hand, so she traced letters on the kitchen worktop with her finger: the name of a shop in town. Should see if they have something suitable.

I was amazed I could read what she wrote when it was invisible writing!

A few days ago, I had a strange not-quite-headache. All my energy vanished in a puff of smoke and I couldn’t even get up the strength to sleep. I had a persistent cough that got worse and worse, and my mother pointed out that it started when somebody gave her daffodils. My lurgi did have that kind of vibe… could have been an early spring allergy.

Once I start coughing it takes absolute ages to go away, so I was dismayed… then remembered a friend dissolving a dessertspoonful of honey in a mug of boiled water. He said his mother gave him that whenever he had a cold. I tried it again for the first time in years, and it’s really comforting. My cough is nearly gone. The honey’s nearly gone too, sadly…

Posted in Life and Family, Lost in Thought, My Cats

Cats, Goblins and the Mysteries of Thought

There’s a print of a goblin on my wall, and I’m still a little mystified. My mother came home with it one time, and that’s all I know. I spotted similar prints at the town library, so it must be connected with that — it’s from The Spiderwick Chronicles.

I read a snatch of something somewhere… ‘scientists still don’t understand how the brain thinks’. Well, I had an odd thought just yesterday. I was playing the game Northern Tale for the umpteenth time… there are many levels and you get to know them quite well, though you don’t always win at expert grade without repeating some of them a few times. To start with, you click ‘play’, look carefully at the layout of the level, and think to yourself, “Oh yes, it’s *that* one.”

A couple of times I didn’t recognize one right away, and thought “which *is* it??” and studied it for a while, then suddenly… “Oh yes… THAT one!” and everything shifts in my mind as though I’ve found the general slant and form of the level, which now falls into place.

It’s quite a complex idea, if you think about it. I would be hard-pushed to explain exactly what data goes into my perception of that level as a recognizable entity. There are no words to describe it.

I wonder if we make life too complicated for ourselves. We live such short lives we end up sitting back, thinking “hold on… I never got round to even a fraction of the things I meant to do!”

Part of the trouble comes down to our energy levels. We berate ourselves for not acting more like well-oiled machines every day and doing all the things we meant to do. Sometimes we need to rest and take time to rethink our priorities and strategy. Sometimes there really isn’t a lot of point in a goal. We probably aren’t living lives the way we should but have been brought up to think it’s normal to live lives like these… all the games we could play or films we could watch or places we could visit or people we could get to know or crafts we could learn — or languages to speak, or books to read, or dishes to cook, or objects we can collect… well, maybe we can do a little of some of these things. They don’t have to be constants in our lives unless there’s a genuine need.

There’s a reason why we fall into ruts, routine, habits… it’s less confusing; less tiring. When we have a need for a new game to play or a new thing to learn, we will reach out, but otherwise we just bump along doing what we are used to. Perhaps, for some of us, that includes blogging!

I don’t want to get in such a rut that I won’t try something new once in a while — perhaps ennui is our guard against getting stuck in the mud.

Why do I have a goblin on my wall? Two other pictures in the room are of cats. They aren’t dissimilar creatures, come to think of it. I was constantly chasing the wee red one today because she was determined to be part of our coffee party when some friends visited. I must have carried her out again about five times.

Meanwhile, my mother’s cat clung to her knee, which was fine… you think of them as almost the same person, and it wouldn’t cross your mind to put her out of the room while there are visitors. After they’d gone, though, she was determined to sit on her at a moment she wasn’t welcome. We kept trying to dissuade her, but she was absolutely determined to cross that table and hop on.

I said “cats don’t understand the meaning of ‘NO’, do they?” and my mother said “they PRETEND they don’t understand.”

The cat tried again to cross the table… “NO!!” Mum said, absolutely clearly, and the cat hesitated and sat back. Well, she knows what ‘no’ means. She just hopes you will forget about it in a minute, when your mind has wandered off and she can sneak over without anybody even noticing.

I’m not sure that goblins would even care… they’d just leap on you and pull your hair, and the more you shouted ‘no’ at them, the more they would grin. Actually, not so different, really!

Got to make some leek and potato soup now. It’s not my favourite, but my sister bought two enormous leeks that I have to use up somehow! Zzz.

Posted in Hearing Loss, Lost in Thought

On Communicating

Was wandering the internet and finding so many interesting things that I got confused. Which direction do I go in?

This is the lesson I take from housework: don’t think about the fact that you’ve got all these things to do before the visitors get here. Just focus on hoovering the landing! Put the kettle on, hoover the other rooms, one by one. Then have a cup of tea! You get less tired and irritable if you stay in that relaxed frame of mind, and will be able to accomplish more.

The same thing should work when your attention is going different ways and trying to get its teeth into different things. Any lion could tell you that — you can’t chase down two zebras at once.

First blog post follows. Others might take a few days or weeks, depending on how far they have dispersed into the bush.

— — — — —

So, let us say… I was thinking about how it might be possible for a severely or profoundly deaf person to get more involved in conversation with groups of normally hearing people. I don’t pretend to have found an answer to that, but the hunt goes on.

As I mentioned to a friend, groups are tricky. People can be genuinely keen to include you and they’ll say something like “I’ll write you notes,” but that’s not how conversations work. They need to fill any potentially awkward silences, even if that means talking while someone else is trying to write or read a note. I’ve seen my mother trying to keep me in the loop by writing something while all the time a friend is blethering away… it’s hard for her to keep both of us happy!

People might start with good intentions of including me, but soon slip back to their usual way of communicating.

Things might be better for future generations at a time when everybody is learning sign language at school — surely then people will be more included (and more easily included) than not. That’s all the hope I have.

When searching around for ideas and inspiration, I found a Vimeo video on lip-reading along with its connected essay, Seeing at the Speed of Sound by Rachel Kolb.

In her essay, Rachel mentions how she sometimes feels guilt about going along with hearing conventions. You know it’s not simple, barely even possible, yet we go along with it, or try to. That sense of disquiet puts you at war with yourself. I wonder if I’d be happier if I rocked the boat more? On the other hand, you can’t engage with people or change anything by pitting yourself against them.

I know what she means when she speaks of complete communication breakdown hanging in the air — gosh, that feels bad. I had a dose of that a couple of days ago, which is what sparked off this entire blog post and my discovery of these links.

There’s a bit in the essay where someone starts typing on a cellphone and she feels like hugging him — it made me smile, remembering when the audiologist typed everything down on his computer monitor. The relief was amazing! You understand everything and it puts you at ease — you are more likely to laugh and engage, because the tension and awkwardness has been lifted and you feel more equal.

Anyway, I’d just got to that bit in the essay then caught the most fragile of squeaks at the edge of my hearing. Uncertain there’d been anything, I looked up and saw my mother’s grey cat staring at me.
She squeaked again — this time there was no doubt.
“Just a minute,” I said. “I’ll get it.”
When I returned with her box, she looked at it, unfurled her tail, and went unhurriedly to take possession. I left to give her privacy, and couldn’t help thinking it was ironic that I was reading about the difficulties of communicating with people, but had no problems with a single rusty squeak. It does help if you know what the topic of conversation is likely to be!

Another post I came across today was A Tear or a Smile.

Both topics in that — white lies and responsibility — have been engaging my thoughts a lot.

When important, white lies don’t solve anything — simply causing confusion and allowing problems to steadily get worse… much like somebody regularly buying a brand of beer you detest because she thinks you like it. When she discovers the truth, months or years down the line, she feels like a stupid klutz. I know this from personal experience!

You can build on honesty and respect, even if slowly, but anything else is a shaky foundation or a total waste ground… yes, perhaps like ‘communication breakdowns’ where I escape to my lair rather than try to find a way. Sometimes, I guess, we have to start from rock bottom.

As for responsibility — I’ve been reading how it all rests with us. When something needs to be fixed or changed, we must ‘man up’ and get on with it. No question. I think, however, that we are responsible not just for ourselves but each other, and it would be dangerous to lose sight of that. People can go through a huge amount of difficulty that you might never be made aware of. What are we learning if we sit silently, each side of a chasm, and smile? I don’t yet know.

Posted in My Cats

Even the Cat Finds Me Annoying

Today Samson (one of my cats) was lying on my lap, and the TV was running long commercials I’d already seen a million-and-one times before. Because I was bored, I was repetitively patting his flank.

He got fed up with this, so he gently grabbed hold of my fingers, curling his paws inwards to hold them, and carefully stuck his claws in till I stopped moving! Then he plucked up both his hind feet and plopped them on top.

That’s a cat who brooks no nonsense. 🙂

Posted in Health Issues, Photographs

Kitten Fever

Yesterday visited Big Sister… she has some kittens. I didn’t take camera, so have no photos, but she had a naughty little Tortie who pricked my legs all over with a wicked little fork, so I put a hand down to stop her. Instead of stopping, she managed to scratch one of my fingers on the top and at the same time stab it under the nail, so I let out an awful yelp. We’re used to cats and kittens, so it’s not as though we screech every time we get nipped or clawed!

Pulled my hand away and the finger was already dripping blood from under the nail. Kitten wasn’t fazed, though… no intention of running! The more you object and wriggle and tell her to stop, the more she attacks. Looked across the room at an older cat who was watching all this, grinning wryly, as though to say “welcome to my world.”

Tortie kitten already has owners booked, and I asked “do they know what they’re letting themselves in for?”
“I suppose so,” said Mum. “She has a wicked little face.”
Wicked? It’s pure innocence… wide, astonished eyes.

She followed me upstairs where I was trying out Big Sister’s new computer, and Mum came in and said “she’s decided she’s yours.”
Not a chance! Anyway, Delilah would have something to say about that.

When I came home I left the computer off as I was fatigued. I thought nothing of it at the time, thinking “I’ve been out; I’m tired!” but wondered next morning when, before I even opened my eyes, I was feeling dizzy. Wonder if that kitten stuck me with a little bug! Or maybe it’s the tooth infection, though it appears to be behaving right now.

One bit of good news though…. it was nice, hot, dry and gusty: a good drying day at last!

Washing on a whirligig, surrounded by fresh greenery

Posted in My Cats


I’ve just been rescuing what looked like a wood mouse… very dainty little fellow. Cats are supposed to catch rodents living in the house, whereas ours catch them outdoors and bring them in to play with. For some reason, Delilah’s favourite torture chamber is the bathroom.

I was watching Suspect starring Cher and Dennis Quaid, and noticed Delilah joyfully grabbing at the tail of something trying to hide under the bathroom door. I grabbed Delilah (nearly getting my wrists slashed when she made a determined attempt to chase the mouse, which had scuttled temptingly over to the door of my sitting room). I shut Delilah in the bathroom and turned back round, expecting the mouse would have disappeared, but it was still sitting there. I didn’t really want it to go inside my sitting room, as we would never find it again, and it might chew cables and things… but when I moved towards it, thinking it would rush inside, it stayed, and then ran back and hid under a table on the landing (not very good cover).

I started to close the sitting room door, then realized why the mouse hadn’t gone in. It had stopped there on one side of the door, and on the other side of the door was Samson, my other cat.


Samson didn’t have a clue the mouse was there, though the sounds of Delilah thumping around in the bathroom seemed to puzzle him slightly; the mouse knew he was there without even looking. Maybe he saw the light change with his movement, smelled him, heard him, or all three.

Anyway, I didn’t tell… I closed the door on Samson, then went after the mouse with a shoebox. I thought I had him, put the lid on, carried it downstairs, went outside and opened the lid to place the mouse in the grass… and the box was empty! Arr. Stumped back inside, found mouse still lurking under the table, then it hid under the teddy bears lining the side of the stairs (they’re there for some tea party Mum’s going to hold). I would pick up a bear, exposing the mouse, and it would plink down a step and under the next bear. Then it plinked up a couple of steps, confusing me for a bit, as I was still working downwards. I blocked it from going back up on the landing, and it not only started plinking down the steps again, it FLEW down them, over the heads of the bears, and was at the bottom of the stairs in about 2.5 seconds.

Do you ever dream about flying? Being a mouse would be nice if it wasn’t for the predators, you could sort of swoop about without the need for wings.

After that it was a piece of cake; it obviously knew what a door was (is that a stupid thing to say? wasps know what doors are too) and it scrabbled despairingly at the front door (unfortunately shut) then huddled in a corner. I eased the door open, waited, and having hesitated for a long time as though trying to work out what sort of trap I had laid, it ran out and off into the night.

Delilah can’t find her mouse, so she’s beating up Samson instead.