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It’s really very cold here. For England. We are lucky: last year double glazing throughout. Still, with the heat on, it’s chilly. 

Snow coming, weather people say. 

In town, homeless people of all ages sit on layers of cardboard. It’s just unspeakable, really. We are ashamed, but do little. Thoughts which have a regular rhythm in my life — I must go and do something about all this — occur with more frequency now. Lately, most days. And before that, most weeks.

Writing exists for me and is possible no matter what. It doesn’t need trappings.

I love teaching. But there are other things that need doing.


In this brittle morning, Schubert popped through the cat flap with a tiny, tiny wren. We flung the cat into the bathroom, and while he scrabbled and scrabbled at the door, we shooed the little bird out. At one point it flew into me, the gentlest bump, before veering outside.

(Photo by Steve Round, Cheshire, UK)


Hours later Schubert is still looking for it, roaming about. It’s the right decision, to protect what we can. But it’s not an entirely simple one.

Just in case anyone was unduly worried: I’m back with the programme.

1) Gym achieved. Motown played. Much better.

2) Schubert and Cleo on form. 

3) M cheered by good violin practice last night.

4) R fixed printer. Yay! Will get ink later. And more cat food.

5) Although I *did* send a series of weird messages on my mobile phone yesterday, today it seems totally reliable.

6) & 7) Only downers (well, not including general existentialism and too much work overall, too fragmented a life and not doing anything to help the state of the world): still can’t get through to mysterious musical organisation (answering machines). AND STILL HAVEN’T SENT MY WORK OUT.

Here’s the deal: by the next post, work will be out. Some work. A little work. Okay, 15 poems.

Meanwhile, another Italian scene from H, brother-in-law:

Ever have these days?

1) Forgot my gym shoes. So had to turn around. So didn’t go.

2) Schubert gone flat. Hmm. Vet’s this pm. Suspect hairballs.

3) Even Cleo a bit low energy. Hmm. Probably just a kitten thing.

4) M a bit tearful generally. Hmm. Suspect a growing up thing. Alas.

5) Four phone calls ending in an answering machine. Within the same organisation!

6) Every single avenue investigated for publishing any of my work not accepting submissions.

7) Printer not working. So can’t send work out anyway. Ever since the whole computer had to be rebuilt over the weekend. And out of ink.

8) Mobile phone mysteriously not connecting. (To be fair, this is now fixed. Just did the old turn-off-turn-on routine… But yet another technological mishap was irritating, however short-lived.)


And I guess this doesn’t count: but I stupidly caught the side of a door with my — face! — two days ago. Man, does it hurt. No bruise yet though I keep looking. It’ll be fetchingly striped should it appear.

Can’t wait for tomorrow.

Ta da! Here she is:

Her official name is Cleome, which is apparently a flower. We were going to call her something different, but somehow Cleo just stuck. In our house, Cleo is short for Cleopatra.

She and Schubert are siblings from different litters — and her resemblance to Tilly is striking. So striking that at times we’ve all been a bit sad. HOWEVER. She is a delight, much more outgoing than Tilly, hugely soft natured, with a purr like an idling train. And obviously artistic: within 24 hours, she’d turned one side of herself red by rubbing against pastels, and dyed her tail yellow by brushing against lily pollen. (The lilies are in now in the bin. Fortunately they were on the way out anyway…)

In three days, Schubert has progressed from hissing at her with disdain, to sniffing her even while in the litter tray (yuck!), watching her from on high (kitchen counter – not allowed but somehow he’s got away with it this week, windowsills), tolerating her rubbing up against him, then tolerating a ‘tail tackle’ from her…

Then, this morning, he suddenly did a kittenish four-paw-spring, scat-catting around the kitchen, sweeping down a picture frame and telephone in his wake, ears back. Cleo chased him, hardly believing her luck.

He’s a changed kitty. He hasn’t leapt like that in months. He hasn’t sat on my desk in months. He hasn’t finished my tea and then knocked the cup off the side — in months. And now he’s downstairs rolling around, chewing a cat toy, Cleo looking on. And now — I just had to look — they are wrestling. Sniff.

Quiet celebration. As R says, a cloud has lifted.


Not that I was so confident that first morning, when I was up at 6am, struggling to feed them in different locations. And a Cleo wee on the kitchen floor. And a poo protest from Schubert, right smack in the middle of the bathroom. Lordy.

Two good things are happening on Monday: one, M and I go see Mamma Mia again (see previous post!) with a number of other future devotees (at least, that’s what I’ve convinced them they will become…). 

Number two is a secret-ish. But I can tell you it involves a small ball of white fluff. And lots of quiet excitement. And a few skittery nerves.



From January 2010, my new blog is Waving and Drowning


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Who am I?

A writer born in Texas, who grew up in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia (yes, like the song), and who's been living in the UK since 1988. I've published two books (see below), and teach creative writing at the University of Kent. I'm married to a composer, and we have two young children. See About for my full profile.