In the short time I have been away winter has begun to recede and make way for spring. Walking Westie Boy the past couple of days my heart has lifted to see the snowdrops and crocuses in gardens and by the roadside, fat lambs in the fields and yellow gorse in the lanes. The days are noticeably longer, dwindling to soft greys and blues as the sun streaks the clouds with pink.
While I looked, Westie Boy sniffed. He may have missed the rabbit that hopped ahead of us, but his nose twitched at burrows, his head disappeared down the entrances to larger animals' abodes, and we had a difference of opinion about the wisdom of rolling in cow dung and fox poo.
Ewes lifted their faces as we passed, keeping a watchful eye. Their lambs, less wary, bounced about them, or nuzzled at their bellies. Farmers were making the most of the extra daylight, working in the fields. Once the elderly golden retriever at the bottom of the hill rushed out barking, but when we passed on later walks, he slept on on the porch step.
I'm enjoying a cup of coffee in the Linen Hall Library where Fiona and arranged to meet. But I am alone. Moments after leaving Cousin I found a message on my 'phone saying that Jake, the family Westie whose arrival in the McSpec household a few years ago when he was adopted by them brought such joy, is seriously ill and Fiona was dashing to the vet with him. Ominously, she said she did not expect to be bringing him home. I do hope she's wrong, and that Jake, whose health has not been great, can be put on the road to recovery and exerting his grumpy charms again. I have never met him, but he sounds a great wee character, and the Internet has secured him fans beyond his home.
The death of a pet is always hard, the anticipated death equally so. Those awful heart lurching moments of mixed fear, love and anxiety; dreading the vet's verdict even as you hope for a miracle. When we came back from Homeplace last night we watched the second part of The Secret Life of Dogs. For any of you reading this who struggle to understand friends' and neighbours' love and respect for their pets, do watch it, as you may begin to get an inkling of what immensely rich and wonderful relationships you are missing.
Back on the bus to Belfast. It would be fun to continue in this alliterative way, but the people I'm meeting have names that begin with F and J.
Fiona, known to WordPress readers as Speccy, and I have met once before by the Europa bus station. That was a summer's day. It's February now, and chill winds whistle and find unprotected gaps in clothing, seeking out the spaces between glove and sleeve, sneaking down the back of a collar and testing the advertised thermal qualities of underwear.
I should hate to disappoint a newly ennobled Octavia by refusing to comply with her request. So here are some pictures of Her Puppyness with all her dishevelled charm.
She may grow into her ears one day.
Getting photos of her awake and still is a challenge in itself. She is full of life, loves being with people and has a Miss Marple like interest in everything around her.
There is something about doing a journey in reverse that makes it feel as if you rewinding a holiday. Would I reach home to find November was just starting? In the event, no, but the reality of here, made there, which had been here the previous day, curiously unreal.
The plane had Christmas decorations, and Heathrow was full of festive decs too, if somewhat low on the festive cheer. After a bit of a battle to get into a lift to the bus station, I pulled on my gloves and zipped up my jacket against the cold of a London that had embraced winter in my absence.
The journey home was uneventful; bus, train, taxi. I lumbered up the stairs to my flat where no one was surprised to see me. The cat/flat sitters had been exchanging texts with me since I landed so were obviously expecting me, but MasterB seemed remarkably unphased by my reentry into his life. He was engrossed in a biscuit game with B, who could have an alternative career training cats.He gave me a nod, rubbed against me and resumed his game. It was a while before I got the nose rub, but it came. I know people who say their cats ignore them when they come home. That has never been my experience. Continue reading
As the number of days I have left before I fly home drops to single figures so the temperature rises. Tomorrow it is expected to be 38c in Melbourne. We're planning a day in an air-conditioned cinema followed by an air-conditioned museum. I thought I might do another trail in Melbourne's arcades this afternoon, but the promise of Martinis at two has persuaded me to put that off. In the meantime I'm enjoying herbal tea at the kitchen table.
Hobarts's gardens were full of colour. I'd have thought that was normal, but we were told last year there was a drought and nothing was growing. People are making the most of the current lushness.
In Seddon, the flowers are also blooming. I am very fond of amaryllis, and this one is in a garden just round the corner.
Like London, Melbourne has a wealth of public art for the visitor and resident to enjoy.
My next trail handily sent me into various atriums (atria?) I should never have found under my own steam.
Today has been fairly quiet. We went out to a farmers’ market this morning, but actually it’s not until next Sunday, so we had a café breakfast and a slow wander down the street to buy fruit and veg in a shop.
Back at the house, a further shopping list was drawn up, and we set off on foot, Billie, the elderly dog leading the way. Vicki had told me Billie was not a cuddlesome dog, but last night she decided I was her new BFF and spent much of the evening with her head in my lap. She was equally attentive as I dressed this morning, commandeering the space between door and bed, so I had to step round and over her to get to anything.
Walking with an elderly dog demands frequent stops, bowls of fresh water, time to gather the muscles and energy to go the next hundred yards. The local shop owners know her, and she knows them. She seemed keen to join us as we chose a bottle of wine for later.
I just learned that it is National Cat Day, though which nation I am not sure. A quick surf showed it began in the US, but there seem to be some UK links too, and hey, if we on this side of the pond can embrace the wholesale purchase of tat and massive overuse of the word spooky for 31st October, I think it’s fair to pick something I prefer to copy instead.
There’s certainly a lot less merchandising.
I see there’s also a World Cat Day 17th March, and International Cat Day 8th August. Though every day is Cat Day when you own a cat. And if it’s not, it ought to be.
The art lover
In this photo MasterB is demonstrating his appreciation of the art on the walls of our home. Either that, or he’s checking to see if it’s a print or an original, and wondering if the proceeds from its sale in the event of my death might be enough to keep him in cat food. As it’s a print, it probably wouldn’t feed him for long.
However, he is sitting on a family heirloom; my great-grandmother’s knee desk, a gift on her twenty-first birthday, and somewhere I discourage Himself from sitting with obvious success. Continue reading
Amazing what pets can do. And I’m not talking about high fives, playing dead or catching burglars, though the last is pretty impressive too. I mean what they can do for us, for our well-being and happiness.
Take Romeo. The manager of the shop where Romeo is the resident mouser is something of a tough guy, yet in a few short weeks Romeo has captured his heart. He comes when he’s called (Romeo, not the manager). “Does your cat do that?” the manager asks me. “Not usually,” I answer truthfully, omitting to say that MasterB is my shadow when we are outside and amuses my neighbours the way he follows me about. The manager gives me a smile that is both pitying and superior.
A week ago Romeo arrived home limping and crying. Much consternation and he was taken to the vet. The manager missed him dreadfully. No pretty tabby with tail aloft greeting him when he arrived at work each day. After a couple of days absence, MasterB realised his persecutor was no longer around and returned to the garden with renewed enthusiasm. Today he was looking out of the sitting room window and started meowing and looking round at me. I joined him and saw Romeo in the loading bay at the back of the shop. MasterB has refused all invitation to go out.
Good for my health
Later I learned that MasterB’s alarm was raised within minutes of Romeo’s return. I am glad to see he isn’t limping, and I am hoping his extremities have been removed and that he will gradually lose his urge to dominate our garden and poo in high places. I’m getting a bit fed up with sluicing it away with buckets of water.
Last night there was the second of two programmes about puppies. I watched with MasterB. He really did watch, face tilted up to the screen. “Shall we have one?” I asked him. He turned to look at me. I can’t say his look held enthusiasm. “Not here,” I explained. “We could move; you could have a cat flap and your own garden. No Romeo.” Still unimpressed. “One like that,” I persevered as a German Shepherd with ears to die for came on the screen. He yawned. Continue reading