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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.

Ah well. Had a wonderful time. Am still digesting the full dinner that is three weeks’ travel. Meanwhile here is proof that the sun did shine at least once while we were away: Schubert in the garden.

Not exactly pining for us methinks!

Photos courtesy of the lovely George B. They had a lurve thing going. Texts from her went along the lines of Schoobs catching some rays just nowSchoobs chillingSchoobs eating every meal of gourmet cat food I got for him (!).

Looks like we weren’t the only ones on holiday. Thank you, George: we found one well-fed, super-brushed and super-loved cat upon our return.


Certainly to come:

1) light-fingered M

2) swallows and swallowtails

3) hornets and other buzzing things

4) pool (table and water)

5) anunciations, more saints than you can throw a stick at, etc

6) what we read (of course)

This time of year is not at the top of my list of favourite times. With Christmas over, all you can do is wait for the mornings to get lighter. And keep your head down.

Saying this, it is a time for considered thought somehow. I think of people who’ve died, who I’ve lost touch with, or things I’ve let slip. And I am grateful for those who’ve reminded me just by their friendship and steadfastness of what’s important: Nancy, Lynne, Lisa, Katherine, Deborah, Helena, Valerie. Not to mention relatives, again whose consistent and unconditional presence has been life-changing: David, Janet, Hugh, Bridget, Anna, Howard, and my mother.

And don’t even get me started on the children, or R.


I feel a need today to write for Valerie. From the ages of 10 to 12, we were each other’s best friends. Bestest friends. Times change though, and we moved on, and lost touch, and…to her credit she searched me out last year — after 25 years. It’s been a treat to talk to someone who is ‘from where I’m from’ and who — still, all these years later — is interested in what I’m interested in.

Anyway, today I heard that Valerie’s much-loved dog Luna had died. The memory of holding our 17 year old moggie as he died last year is always close to the surface, despite our two new lovely kittens. Like everything we lose or lose track of, they stay with us.

The title of this post is taken from a poem by Yehuda Amichai called ‘Ballad on the Streets of Buenos Aires’. It’s a love poem, really, and the whole thing is one of my all time favourites, but this particular line keeps me breathing this dark time of year: and the light is always there to serve all loss. (I prefer the Stephen Mitchell translation, so have used his version of this line.)

This is not exactly what I said to Wonderful Builder at 8.15 am this morning, but it is what the world feels like today. Another full inbox or two, a playroom which is impassable, cold and snow (they say) approaching. January throttling me.

Happy New Year, by the way.

Before I get really carried away, a breather: we enjoyed a sparkling and joyful Christmas with family and FOUR fluffy white cats meeting for the first time. Glad to report that after half a day of hissing and deliberate nonchalance, all are fast friends now. Sound familiar?!

Then four days back in the Lakes, where we shot up to Stickle Tarn like bats out of hell on the only good day for it. This time I did get a couple of pictures.

Yes, back too soon…I’ll hold onto these as long as I can though.

On the Way to Stickle Tarn


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.