Less Than Perfect, and All the More Loved

In films and books, characters connect the dots and have lightbulb moments in nano seconds. Maybe I am a bit slow, or maybe it’s just that my  life narrative doesn’t have to fit into a prescribed amount of time or pages, but my own joining the dots tends to take longer.

Last week I went to a talk which was, in part, to do with conservation. One of the challenges conservators face when restoring an object is deciding how close to new that conservation should bring that object.

The patina left by people’s hands; the dirt from the homes where it was kept; the general wear and tear that any object has in its life, is part of that object’s story. Yet look online and you’ll find objects in ‘mint’ condition, from coins to Matchbox toys, achieve the highest prices.

My home has many objects from my parents’ house. I moved to this flat at about the same time they downsized from a three bedroomed house to a two bedroomed bungalow, and as well as the furniture from my bedroom, they passed on a book table, my mother’s nursing trunk, a lady’s chair. Continue reading

Of Tea Cosies, Vet Visits, Ill Aunts, Insightful Books and a Bit of a Rant

Octavia has a new and gorgeous tea cosy. It is ragwork, and beautifully done. If I drank tea, I should be seriously covetous. As it was, I just turned it around so that the ginger cat side was on show, rather than the likeness of the grey ninja.

Thanks to drugs making him dozy, the ginger ninja has spent most of today asleep under a blanket. He had another trip to the vet yesterday afternoon after more trouble peeing. It was a different vet in a different practice. MasterB is now registered with two vet surgeries. This one is open on Saturday afternoons and even on Sundays.

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The diagnosis is idiopathic cystitis, meaning the cause is unknown, but this vet, an antipodean like Ellie the Vet, was prepared to rule out cancer. Ellie, knowing me better, would have ruled it out without telling me she had done so. But suddenly I am wondering how short MasterB’s life could be. This vet agreed it might well be stress induced – ie Cookie – hence the opiates to keep MasterB zen. He was very zen at the surgery. Remarkably so. A lot less zen this morning before I had administered a dose of the Metacam, and pretty lively now, and outside swishing his tail. I offered him the chance to come in away from his rather over-assertive girlfriend, but he declined. He seems to prefer to watch her, an Outraged-of-SE17 expression on his whiskers. There may be letters to the feline equivalent of the Daily Mail.

However, I prefer lively to sick, but I can see the timing of the drugs, which he is on for five days, may have to be thought through. Tomorrow he is back at Ellie’s, though I think it is her day off, so he’ll probably see her partner.

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As it turns out, MasterB is not the only one close to me requiring medical attention. Aunt has had a suspected heart attack. She called her GP who called an ambulance; spent a day at the hsopital which she found exhausting; and much to her relief was allowed home. She has been told to rest, so I am resisting the temptation to call her every few hours to check up on her. She feels she has lost a lot of ground this year. When I see her next we are going to check out audio books to download to her tablet in case she has to go into hospital again. I have some spare head phones, so she should just be able to close her eyes, shut out all the busyness and bustle, and relax in her own sound bubble.

We had the chance of an extra hour in bed today as the clocks went back in the middle of the night. That’s the end of British Summertime until 2015, and it was dark so early this evening. Suddenly all the Christmas stuff in the shops doesn’t seem so out of place. But it is still mild, so I am hoping the heating will remain off for a few weeks yet.

Slowly catching up on yesterday’s Guardian today, and steadfastly ignoring all the mess and clutter around me, I reached the Review section. Last night I was clumsily trying to articulate how I felt hospitals and care homes put the needs of running the institution above the people in their care. Phrases like ‘care for the individual’ are well meaning claptrap. The individuals have to adapt to the institution; the institution is too inflexible to adapt to the individual. Continue reading

Trevor, A Happy Ending

At the very beginning of the year, a stray white and black cat pitched up in our garden. Thin, and with nasty wounds on his front paws, he was taken in by Hamilton’s Cat Fund, fed, treated by the vet, named Trevor, and given lots of attention. Some of you very generously contributed to the cost of his treatment and food. You may recall how he grew healthy and happy; alert to the sound of the back door of the house opening and the possibility of another meal. In the summer, he was given the run of the garden, where he swiftly disillusioned another cat who thought he might be a bit of a pushover. He gave us a scare when he disappeared for two weeks in August. Hunting, the charity thought, and hopefully not something bigger and stronger than himself. But bears and wolves have been extinct for quite a while now in Dulwich. Continue reading

Holiday Diary Cont: Some of My Snaps

Now that I am home, the daily posting will probably come to an end quite quickly. However, I already have more photos from today when Kirsty’s mammoth pumpkin (this is not a euphemism) was ceremonially baked, and enjoyed by all.

Those photos will follow.

in the meantime, here is a first selection from the past week: Continue reading

Other Places, Other Mores

Above the clouds somewhere between Thessaloniki and London Gatwick. I have eaten; drunk; looked through my photos; gazed down at mountains, houses, seas and pasture; read the magazine from last Saturday’s Guardian; read some more of my book; and am now listening to Abba whilecontrarily resisting an inclination to doze.

By chance I am in the same seat as I was on the way out with the same family around me. I have been reacquainted with Panda, leaned back to allow Beth-Anne a better view out of the window, exchanged smiles with the parents.

Obviously this will not be posted until later.

It has been a good holiday with a good bunch of people. We haven’t circulated a list of emails, but a couple of us have swapped contact details. This seems realistic. To expect acquaintanceships forged while sweating up hills to turn into life long friendships is somewhat optimistic. But one of the joys of a group holiday such as this is that you can have as much or as little company as you want. It’s nice to wander into the bar and see familiar faces. The boredom of check in is relieved by chatter and there is always a group ready to look after bags while an individual or two wander off to investigate shops and facilities.

Whether I ever return to this part of Greece is debatable. But I shall be back in Greece, that’s for sure. I hope by then the situation is more stable, and the waiter I spoke to last night who is looking forward to his first holiday in four years at the end of this month, will feel financially more secure.

Welcome though visitors are, I have an uncomfortable feeling that the Greeks are becoming servants in their own country, catering to the wishes of ever more demanding tourists, and working increasingly long hours. I hope I am wrong about this.

I have been visiting Greece for years. It is one of my favourite countries where as a foreigner I have almost always felt welcomed. Maybe because this is the first time I have stayed in a resort that has grown out of tourism, it is also the first time I have felt uncomfortable about some of the ways I have seen Greek culture marketed, and to my mind, debased.

It seems wrong to see Greek Nights advertised in local tavernas. Surely every night should be a Greek Night in Greece? And if it isn’t, what does that say about the corrosive power of mass tourism?

I don’t regret the old toilets; I only came across one hole in the ground, and mercifully I was in walking boots at the time. Most meals were hot, rather than the tepid ones I remember from previous visits. Stray cats and dogs seem better treated than before, which is wonderful in itself given the economic climate, but two very young cats at the hotel were evidently pregnant and there was a tiny orphaned kitten at yesterday’s taverna. Her siblings have gone to new homes in the Netherlands and Monaco, and the staff were suggesting one of us might like to take her. With the end of the tourist season approaching at the speed of a runaway train, pray to all the gods at once that she and others like her are scooped up by visitors and local families ready to give them a chance.

But now as Greece recedes and England beckons, I am looking forward to being reunited with MasterB who was in his own perilous situation not so far away from my destination airport when the students I got him from rescued him.

In some ways, scavenging strays in Greece’s tourist hotspots are better off than abandoned pets in the UK who do not find armies of visitors willing to slip them tidbits from the groaning tables in high season. Colonies of semi-feral cats in London are quietly caught are destroyed. I do not think I have ever seen them featured on postcards or cuddled by waves of cooing foreigners.

In the meantime, Mark, the younger of the two children of the little family beside me, has decided to paint his face a rainbow of reds, blues and greens. It doesn’t seem to have harmed him; on the contrary, he has caught the eye of a young girl in a pink dress and matching plaster cast.

Perhaps the romance of travel is not quite dead.

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This is probably going to be one of my last Holiday Diary entries. This time tomorrow I shall be heading home, back in a London that is several degrees cooler than here.

Apparently it reached 28C today. I wanted some beach time, so after a taverna lunch on top of the hill at Parthenonas, I opted to join two others and come back by taxi instead of sticking with the group and returning on foot.

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A wise decision I feel. A chance to have my cake and eat it. So there was a swim in the sea, and some lounging on a lounger under a pretty but not very effective sunshade. Another group member who had taken the whole day off, joined me.

Continue reading

Of Mosquito Bites, Bee Stings, a Chained Dog, and Lots of Up

I thought I might upload some pictures, but it wasn’t to be. Today we walked up from a town where I drew some much needed cash from a hole in the wall.

Maybe I should make that we walked Up. I have plasters on my ankles from early morning mosquito bites in exactly the right places for my boots to rub.

We have nearly all been bitten. Jackie’s bites look like works of art. They started as small punctures, turned into pink, swollen patches and are now a patina of hues.

There has been a suggestion that we should have some sort of awards ceremony: most bites; biggest bite; smallest bite; bite in most embarrassing place.

Anyway, we went Up and in the foothills met a village where it seems many of the original habitants have sold up and gone. So a typical village in Greece has become a place of holiday homes and self catering for the mainly German visitors.

Lots of cats, and a dog with a death wish who chased cars. I was pleased to see happy dogs wearing collars. Later in the days we met a young, very underweight dog chained on the hillside. He was thrilled to see us. I gave him water and someone else had a biscuit for him. I wanted to take him home. He wants company and something to do. His future is something I find hard to contemplate. Continue reading

Of Early Mornings, Kitsch Boats and Transient Friendships

It was our free day today. I opted to go on a boat trip to see Mount Athos. Naturally I didn’t read all the available information and was somewhat taken aback by the appearance of the boat. I have never seen, let alone been on, a boat as kitsch.

I am going to make you wait for another post to see the pictures, but it featured pirate statues, gold dolphins, two lion statues, rigging and no sails, toy cannons, and a pretend castle. That’s probably the half of it, but my horrified yet fascinated gaze edited out the wrist, and I could not bring myself to photograph some of its excesses.

The boat was a big clue as to the tone of the day. A day off where I had to get up earlier than for any of our walking days.

Don’t get excited about my photos of Mount Athos; I’m not. We had to stay a respectful five hundred feet from the coast, but I suspect the commentary, in German, Russian and English, and generally in that order, reached some of the monks at their labours or devotions. Continue reading