February brings the sun

This is February, typically the coldest month of winter, a month associated with low temperatures and even snow. Yet today I was out and about in my shirt sleeves, opening windows wide when indoors. I can’t deny I enjoyed it. I had the morning earmarked for dusting and vacuuming. The sunshine had a downside though, mercilessly showing the amount of cat fur chez IsobelandCat.
Just how much fur can one cat shed over the course of a winter? A lot it seems. Each time I thought my duster would come up clean from the carpet there was another clot of fur. I resorted to the rubber glove technique to speed things up. I haven’t broached the drawers under the bed where MasterB often likes to sleep during the day. I know the cat fur there will be mega.

This seat needs some fur

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Let the boy sing the sad one one more time

One way or another today has included a lot of death. I spent much of it in Guildford, the town where I was born, and where I lived throughout my teenage years.

Looking down the High Street to The Mount


The main purpose of my visit was to see the dentist for my six month check up (all good). I was early and looked at my ‘phone. There was a message that made me gasp, notification of the death of Ernie, a really lovely man I used to see often during the course of my work. I made a note of the funeral arrangements in my diary. His partner Paul must be devastated. They were together for nearly sixty years. Throughout my appointment I was remembering his kindness, the way he used to call me Mate.
As I was leaving the dental practice an elderly gentlemen was making a follow up appointment. When I heard his name my ears pricked up and I turned to look at him. It was an unusual name and one I recognised, though I did not recognise the man. He was our family GP for some years. More grist to the memories mill.
Then it was a trip to the museum, a place where I spent some time almost every Saturday until I was around twelve. I walked there via the Castle Grounds where I used to walk my grandparents’ dog. I’m sure some of my DNA has entered the soil there.

The Castle Keep

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Twenty Minutes Apart

After Dry January (which I did not do, but Octavia did), Veganuary (which basically I do all year) it’s now Frugal February. Not, at least so far as I am aware, a national or international thing, but having received a bank statement which brought the unwelcome news that I had spent far more, despite already thinking I was being frugal, than I had made, I am wondering what further economies I can make.
So lots of good intentions which immediately got thrown aside when I had to buy a new printer cartridge costing £20.00 – £20.00! But at least I have the money. As a self-employed freelance, I know in my particular field January is not a good month. Neither is February. March tends to pick up, but Brexit is changing things and my sector is already suffering, so I can’t count on March, April or May to be busy.
I don’t earn a huge amount, even in a good year. If I were a foreigner there is no way the government would welcome me into the country. This is not a sob story, a plea for self pity. I chose to do what I do, gave up a part-time salaried post where I was bullied and miserable, I love my job. And I am lucky; I have paid off my mortgage, my outgoings if I am careful should be within my budget. I have choices.
But what of those who do not have the same securities? For some families that £20 unplanned expenditure wouldn’t be a setback, it would be the difference between eating or not eating, having the heating on or turning the heating off. When I hear politicians saying the pain we shall inevitably go through after the UK leaves the EU is worth it I simply don’t believe them. Today I saw Jacob Rees-Mogg’s new house. I’ve seen it many times before, but now he lives there. It’s in a very nice street, a lovely location, walking distance to the Palace of Westminster: further to the nearest branch of Poundland. As it turns out, a Poundland very close to where I live. About a twenty minute bus ride away.
It’s amazing how different neighbourhoods twenty minutes apart can be. Continue reading

Jeremy Hardy RIP

Shocked tonight to learn that Jeremy Hardy has died from cancer. For those of you outside the UK his name probably means nothing, but he was a stalwart of Radio 4’s News Quiz and I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue. A truly funny man who was intelligent, left wing, compassionate. His politics didn’t always agree with mine, but that doesn’t make the loss any easier. Here he is on the News Quiz several years ago talking about gay marriage:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2Qhcq65Ob4 Continue reading

Doughnuts, Dolls and The Dead

I don’t usually have doughnuts for breakfast, but the on the other hand I have never, ever seen a doughnut that looks anything like this.

Doughnut Breakfast

The topping contained more sugar than I usually eat in a week. But it was nice.
I didn’t buy it, it was brought by a young relative who came to supper last night. I filled us up with ribollita until neither of us could face pudding, though true to form I picked at the bunch of grapes in the fruit bowl. I eat grapes as though I’m in a competition.
It was a good evening. MasterB took to the YR immediately, striding forward with his tail hoisted like a flag. I’ve already got her marked down as a potential cat sitter.
Apart from the unexpected doughnut it has been the week of the unexpected visit to one of the magnificent seven cemeteries, in my case Kensal Green. It was a fine cold morning when I set off rather later than I’d intended as MasterB had brought up a hairball on the bed which necessitated some unplanned and urgent washing before I could leave home. I met Badger the Staffie on my way to the tube. He held up his paw. I expressed sympathy and his owner laughed, saying Badger had been milking the sore paw for days.
My visit to the cemetery came about by accident rather than design. Lindy Lou took me to Kensal Green.
Here she is, newly unwrapped from the towel in which she travelled the tube for (I’m fairly certain) the first time in her existence.

Lindy Lou

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Sanity Television

Tonight there are more moves in Parliament to try to resolve the difficulties of Brexit. Ideally, we shan’t leave the EU at all, but leave or remain, the fallout will continue for years, probably decades. The referendum revealed schisms, rifts so deep in our social fabric they make the Grand Canyon look like a ditch. If we leave, the campaign to rejoin will begin at once; if we remain, the campaign to leave will begin all over again. The EU has been our whipping boy, our scapegoat, our blame hound. You could be forgiven, listening to some virulent leave supporters, for believing that the UK has had no say in EU legislation for the past forty-seven years.
That meaningless yet emotive phrase, the will of the British people, has made a recent reappearance. It is all profoundly depressing. The Labour Party wants a general election. I’m with Brenda of Bristol on that one. I’m not all that keen on a second referendum either. Our positions have become so entrenched we could have a similarly narrow result to leave, which leaves us just where we are now. Companies are leaving the U.K. the damage has been done. But it can be stemmed.
I’m no fan of Tony Blair, but I do agree with him that we elect our MPs to work for us, and having looked at the consequences of leaving the EU, I have little doubt that a cross party consensus would agree that we should cancel the whole shebang. Continue reading

Poetry, Pain Thresholds, and Imaginary Bridges

Top of January’s High Spots is tonight’e event at the Royal Festival Hall when the shortlisted poets for the TS Eliot Prize will each read from their work for eight minutes. It was Celia who introduced me to this pleasure several years ago when she had a spare ticket. I think it may have been the first time I saw Simon Armitage perform live. Bliss.
Tonight there are about eight of us going and sitting together, meeting two more whose seats are waaaay behind ours, and almost certainly seeing Kate and Jane who like us are serial recidivists. I have only just realised that Nick Laird is one of the shortlisted poets. Delight. I saw him read at the Heaney Homeplace in February 2017, that magical weekend when Cousin’s friend Ann and I enjoyed three successive nights of poetry. Laird grew up around Cookstown, so not far from Bellaghy. Ann has since died from cancer which makes that weekend infinitely precious. There was a good local crowd, and I enjoyed a chat with him afterwards, learning that for a time he had lived near where my home is in South London. He was savage about Boris Johnson and the regeneration of the Elephant and Castle, so no wonder I warmed to him. I’ll have a quick gargle so I can whoop at the end of his set. Continue reading

Divided not Ruled

I feel immensely cheered by Parliament tonight. At the eleventh hour, seeing their party leaders sitting on their hands or worse, cross party MPs are finally doing something to stop a total derailment at the end of March.
I have long believed the pro Leave vote was more a vote against the government, this one and any number of previous ones, than about the EU. The EU has been a scapegoat. Divide and rule is an ugly, but in the short term often effective, gambit. Pro Brexit voters voted against people taking their jobs, or doing jobs they wouldn’t do for the low wages those people accepted. So who wins in this low wage scenario? Well, goodness me, the people who pay the low wages and make lots of money. But instead of pointing the finger at them, the low wages workers and those who won’t take such a low wage become enemies and the exploiters laugh all the way to the bank. Nuts. Continue reading

Octavia is my Lab Rat

As someone who loves, and I mean loves, fairy lights the sheer range available in the pound shop in December was severe temptation. I was almost salivating. I had to get myself out and away before considerable damage was done to my pocket.
Now, in the cool light of January,my decorations down, cards undisplayed, but fairy lights still twinkling as they do here all winter, I found myself thinking of those lights again. I returned to the shop, imagining I might, in a more restrained, less Christmassy frame of mind, be able to choose wisely from the selection.
All gone.
We have moved onto St Valentine’s Day. So I could have bought heart shaped candles, various tacky objects in shades of red. No fairy lights. Perhaps it’s a blessing. But I am thinking that if they have the same wonderful array next year, all the friends to whom I give presents will get at least one string of lights for Christmas.
Meanwhile, Octavia made a fleeting return to the capital and we ate together on Sunday evening. She is my lab rat, or guinea pig if you prefer, when I am trialling new dishes on visitors. Unusually we ate at mine. This was because I was making soup and didn’t fancy carrying it around to her house. The chances of spillage which would have been messy, were too high. My experimental dish was a Freekeh salad. Now I have had Freekeh in a local restaurant but not been able to buy it. Apparently it sells out very quickly. So Lyn very kindly got some for me in Auckland, and then Celia managed to bag a packet which was part of my Christmas gift from her.
So now I am Freekeh rich, but with Brexit looming, I don’t think I’m going to be rich in much else. I am particularly worried about fresh veg as I eat a great deal of it. I might get by on home grown tomatoes in the summer, but there’s no chance of that in April.
Maybe by some miracle the MPs will put a stop to the madness and we can reboot. Brexit’s wounds are going to take a long, long time to heal, whether we leave or stay. The bitterness, the hatred, the anger the referendum threw up will leave scars.
I have just watched Brexit: the Uncivil War, a drama about the campaigns starring Benedict Cumberbatch. It left me thoughtful, and more than a tad depressed. I had seen part of it being filmed in 2018 and been told by one of the crew it was to air the night we left the EU. In that case, I hope I never see it, I replied. But we are still in the EU, and it has aired. Watching it on catch up I didn’t get the full complement of ads in the breaks (it was a Channel 4 production for anyone looking to find it) but I did get that it had been sponsored by Lexus, so presumably that was the type of buying power the anticipated audience was expected to have. Not I. Among the more ridiculous accusations levelled at remainers is the one that we are the metropolitan elite. Some of the poorest parts of London voted solidly to remain. My own neighbourhood among them. Apparently, and especially as I read the Guardian, I am also a member of the chattering classes, which perhaps I am, though not alas with any influence. The term was coined by Auberon Waugh whose politics were more than a bit extreme.
We are seeing the unedifying spectacle of MPs, journalists and others being racially abused; women having misogynistic comments hurled at them by a group of vociferous pro Leave protesters who gather outside the Palace of Westminster. How anyone hearing them could embrace a future where their views dominate is a mystery.
I don’t agree with Owen Jones about much, but when he says the right wing press and the language of hate and prejudice that adorn its front pages has much to answer for, he’s right. He didn’t mention the lies the Mail and the Express serve up on an almost daily basis. According to them, climate crisis is a lie, we are overrun with malign foreigners, the NHS is being bled dry by health tourists. All these stories have been shown to be false, but still they keep peddling them. It worries me that the newspaper proprietors push this trash, it worries me even more that people buy these newspapers and want to believe them. That is self-deception on a frightening scale.
But I can only take a little of Brexit at a time. It looks horribly like I shall be living in an ex EU country very soon. Any problems will be blamed on the EU which has become some sort of whipping boy for the right and far right. Any success, any minor survival, will be hailed as victory. And as I don’t want to see my country go down the pan, I and my fellow remainers will be doing our darnedest to make something positive out of this disaster, and not relying as the leavers seem to do on fairies at the bottom of the garden.
So expect recipes, pictures of MasterB, poetry, anything that distracts and keeps me sane while this lemming like race to destruction continues. Meanwhile, beneath the surface my legs will be paddling like billyoh.