Farewell Terry, Farewell Miles

Supper with Octavia tonight for the first time in a while, so some catching up on how the Grey Ninja coped, first with a house full of people at Octavia’s mother’s over Christmas, then the return home to the smells of three Labrador retrievers who had been there in her absence. Fine. She has come a long long way from the cat who needed to urinate over anything and everything to mark her presence and assert her right to be. For which Octavia must take the credit. The best thing you can give an animal is the feeling of safety, to establish trust which then, if you are lucky, leads too love. The Grey Ninja, and her ginger counterpart MasterB, have decided they are safe, they trust they love. Yes, I am blowing my own trumpet too, because I know Himself has confidence in me which I have earned. It’s not that different with humans.

Last week I clicked on an Instagram picture posted by Steve of https://outwardhounds.wordpress.com. It was of Miles, one of The Pack. The photo was in black and white, which was probably a clue. A clue I missed. Miles has died. Like Terry Jones, he has gone to meet his maker and join the choir invisible. I never met Miles, or Terry Jones, although for many years the latter lived not far from me, and I learned this week went to the boy’ grammar school in the town where later I went to the girls’, but I shed a tear for both dog and man. Both have enriched my life. Continue reading

In Praise and Recognition of Pets

Watching a fascinating programme about immigration and its history in the UK. I missed the beginning as the signal was poor, but now I have moved the aerial and balanced it on a box means I have a good picture.

One of the things I enjoy about television on das Boot is how in this small space I can watch it while washing up, cooking, stowing the stuff I have brought abroad.

While I ate (a spicy curry with brown rice since you ask) I watched the Supervet. One of the owners, whose active puppy Noel described as a box of frogs, spoke about how much she loved her puppy, Nala. How Nala was more than she had expected.

Oh how I understand. On the road, when MasterB made the occasional complaint, I examined why I bring him to das Boot, when he so obviously believes car travel is over rated. The fact is das Boot is so much nicer when he is with me. And not just das Boot. Home is so much nicer when he is there. Life is so much better when MasterB is there.

He is affectionate, a moderately good listener, beautiful, funny, playful. He improves my life beyond measure. All loved pets do. To non pet lovers, this may sound crazy, deluded, maybe even sad, proof of impoverished lives where humans fail to make significant relationships with other humans.

Except that it has proved over and over again that pet owners are happier and healthier, that we connect not only with our animals but with others of our own species.

It has been hot in London the last few days. Fortunately much cooler today. As is our wont, Octavia and I ate together on Sunday night. We enjoyed the warm evening and dined in her small courtyard garden. The Grey Ninja lay on the wall. Her paws lifted to the skies. The very picture of a cat on a hot brick wall. If only I had had my big camera with me (a lament I may repeat over the next few days at das Boot as I am already regretting only bringing my point and shoot).

Octavia called to her. I wish we had been filming this. Her hot cat spread the toes of one paw in response. Fabulous. My own hot cat, the Ginger Ninja, slept on his back with his front legs stretched out like skis. His appetite flagged; he cried to me to turn the heat down; he wanted to stay in the garden late at night when I wanted him in. Continue reading


Just over a week ago I was mentally congratulating myself on having got through the winter with no more than a few sniffles.


As spring sunshine turned skies blue and my neighbours socialised in their gardens, I was wrapped in my quilt, the light filtered through the half closed shutters, my temperature risen and my head pounding.

It’s amazing how quickly things fall apart. I can easily understand how people are reduced to eating sardines out of the can; leaving the washing up; allowing laundry, cleaning, everything to slip. Illness, physical or mental throws us off balance, upsets our routines, our systems; reveals the chaos that lies just beneath the surface.

I had to work on Saturday and again on Sunday morning. It’s all a bit of a blur, but I was very glad to get home and into bed. There I stayed for two and a half days with some breaks lying on the sofa or letting MasterB in and out.

At least it provided some precious reading time when I wasn’t sleeping. I read Helen Macdonald’s sublime and extraordinary H is for Hawk which won the Samuel Johnson prize for non-fiction last year. After her father died, she decided to train a goshawk. 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 rest, 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

The Sea Inside

I think it was Pat who called it the sea inside. It’s an image that has stayed with me because it fits so well. One minute it’s a limpid blue Mediterranean sea on a hot calm day. Suddenly a careless speedboat goes by and the waves appear, a bit choppy and unsettling. All very well if you have something to hang onto; less good if you have been snorkelling face down, looking at the water through your mask. If you are lucky it stops there, but some mornings you wake up to grey seas with menacing, angry surf, noisy waves that drag back the shingle, shredding you, and you are supposed to climb into your canoe and get out there.
Friday I felt like I had been crying even when I wasn’t. My eyes were salt sore. Finally, I took my doctor friend’s advice and called the surgery. They advised a week or two away from one of my places of work. I steeled myself and informed the boss, and thanked the heavens that the response was sympathetic. Yesterday, a month since mother died, I had my life jacket in place and the day got easier, ending with an evening spent in the company of friends I have known for years. Even MasterB’s determination to stay out and thus keep me out of bed until gone one in the morning didn’t overset me.
Today I had plans to go out and about; to do things. They didn’t happen. I wanted to be at home. I got as far as the market to buy some plants for the hanging baskets. Then I baked my first cake in my little Remoska, cleaned a cupboard and lost two hours.

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A Good Day

Aunt Margaret, Mum and Snibby

Aunt Margaret, Mum and Snibby

A good day. I wrote my tribute to Mother last night. I thought it would make me feel better to have it written, but I kept waking in the night worrying about it. Was it a proper tribute? Did it convey what she was like? What had I forgotten that should have been included?
The anxwer to that last question hit me at four in the morning; baking. Mother never rated herself as a cook (I’d disagree), but she was a great baker of cakes, biscuits and puddings. Her fruit cake was famous in several countries. It was something she would give me when I was going away from home, so travelled to France, was sampled in southern Italy and in the US. I am not a great fan of fruit cake, but Mother’s was the exception. Always baked in a tin with a hole in the centre so it was easy to slice. I don’t know when she baked her last one. I have been trying to remember when she stopped baking, but I have failed.

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