From the ridiculous to the sublime

I would say even if he’s not the love of your life, make sure he’s someone you respect intellectually, makes you laugh, appreciates you … I bet there are plenty of these men in the older, overweight, and bald category (which they all eventually become anyway).

If you’re doing some sort of exercise regime any doctor will say a brisk walk of 22 minutes is a good thing for everyone to do once a day, so if you do a brisk walk to this, that will have served its purpose no matter what words have been heard. It is only the story of a large overweight Englishman trying to go round a boat and breaking his arm. That’s really all there is, there’s no philosophy, no history, there’s no social truth to be extracted from that melancholy experience. It is what it is.

…we live in the past or in the future; we are continually expecting the coming of some special hour when our life shall unfold itself in its full significance. And we do not observe that life is flowing like water through our fingers, sifting like precious grain from a loosely fastened bag.

The grand ideas and the despair at being nobody all belong to that world where nothing ordinary has value, that world of flickering Ahrimanic desperation.

From the blinkered space between sleep’s hangover and the numbing cold of a grey morning, look up… and up, and back and see the ordinary, extraordinary patterns on the sky. Zoom lens: eyes, then feet float up towards the tree-tops. Cool, dreamy clarity of Winter shapes.

And so the answer I’d give in response to Annette’s request that I describe my life in six words or less would be the following Zen-inspired definition of consciousness: an endless series of random stimuli. Some folks wait until their dying breath to see their life flash before their eyes, but I say watching your life is as easy as walking down a graffiti-covered alley or flipping through the virtual pages of an electronic photo album, the accident of your life appearing in all its random glory.

Deep down, can we know ourselves to be cut from the same cloth as the blue of the sky, the purple of twilight, the liquid gold of setting sun?

Time to re-home the animals

I am spitting blood and feathers. The cat is spitting shredded bamboo.

i *hate* my cat

Just look at the end of that needle. I leave my knitting unattended for a microsecond and he’s pounced. Not content with destroying the ball of wool he attacks my precious, rare-as-a-hen’s-tooth, perfect, gorgeous bamboo needle. Destroys the point. Utterly ruined. Unusable.

It took me three weeks to get hold of that pair of needles. Scouring the interwebbing. 23cm long, 2.25mm in diameter (US size 1) and made out of bamboo. Absolutely perfect for the task. Almost IMPOSSIBLE to find.

Firstly many companies don’t do needles as fine as 2.25mm. Secondly, if they do, they’re 33cm long rather than 23cm. Thirdly, if you can actually find the right size/length/material combination you are forced to buy hundreds of other pairs at the same time. Which you don’t want. Or they’re available, singly, but only ship to America. The major European manufacturer does not make any needle in 2.25mm. To say that I am pissed off is the understatement of the year.

Meanwhile, over by the letterbox, the dog is spitting shredded paper.

i *hate* my dog

That is the back cover of a superb book of patterns which came through the post. The holes were made by the dog’s canine teeth. There are similar holes, decreasing in size, through 46 of the book’s pages. Not to mention the padded envelope and cardboard packaging within which the book was enclosed.


Words fail me

I take a short break from the housework to report the following.

Earlier, in another part of the woods.

Firstspawn: “I can’t hoover my room because it won’t suck up the bits.”
Harassed mother (distractedly): “Maybe it’s full. Have you tried emptying it?”
Fs: “Yes, but it still doesn’t suck properly.”
Hm (concentrating mostly on cooking / cleaning / knitting / washing / helping with homework / blogging / feeding creatures) casts half an eye over hoover, sees it is indeed empty: “But does it still turn on? make a noise?”
Fs: “Oh yes. It makes a noise.”
Hm: “What do you mean, it won’t suck up the bits?”
Fs: “Well all those staples that got spread across the floor. It won’t get them off the carpet.”
Hm: “Ok, I’ll look at it later.”
Fs: “So can I play my wii / DS / go on the computer now?”
Hm (sighing): “I suppose so.”

It is now later. The children are away for the weekend.

I have examined the hoover. The problem was not hard to discern. Lodged at the end of the hose was a sock. An entire black school sock. I removed it and reassembled the machine.

It still didn’t suck. Disassembled it again. And there was another one. An entire navy blue and red striped sock.

So. Rather than expend the energy on actually bending down and picking them up this slack-jawed knuckle-grazing lazy drooling lump had actually hoovered up his socks. Sucked them up. Into the machine. Hoovered up his socks.

*thump* *thump* *thump*

(Sound of head making contact with wall. Repeatedly.)

My child the sub-chicken creature

I have just discovered that secondspawn has access to less outdoor space than a free range chicken. And despite being of slightly less than average stature his is considerably bigger than any form of poultry. (Unless an ostrich counts as poultry, but even if it is I am going to ignore it for the purposes of my argument.)

I always knew that the school – huge, built in a different era – had a seriously inadequate outdoor space. Now it transpires that not only is there not a single blade of grass but also there is a ratio of a mere 1m² of bald featureless tarmac per pupil. The playground is so small that the school can’t have playtime together so the classes operate what is called “timetabled play” where different years use the space at different times.

Contrast this with the UK Government standards for free range poultry:

In addition, the birds have had during at least half their lifetime continuous daytime access to open-air runs, comprising an area mainly covered by vegetation, of not less than:

* 1m² per chicken or guinea fowl (in the case of guinea fowls, open-air runs may be replaced by a perchery having a floor space of at least that of the house and a height of at least 2m, with perches of at least 10 cm length available per bird in total (house and perchery)).
* 2m² per duck
* 4m² per turkey or goose

Apparently the school playground provides less than half the area of the current government guidelines on minimum outdoor space for children, although I can’t find those guidelines to link to.

I know all this because I’ve been helping a dynamic (and gorgeous) friend finesse our children’s school’s entry in a dream playground competition.

It’s a huge school, it’s an inner-city school, it’s a poor school and a very high proportion of the pupils is made up of refugees living in temporary accommodation.

Winning the competition wouldn’t make the playground bigger but it could make it far, far more stimulating and better-used. I really think the children deserve to win.

I also really think it is the job of the government to ensure that the schools it provides conform to its own minimum standards rather than relying on the charity of “lady bountiful” banks. But that’s another story.

The v1rgin/wh0re complex

Or, to put it another way, the glam0ur model / research scientist simplistic:

Quick links from the past week in mind and brain news:

Glam0ur model Daisy Thompson-Lake has a forthcoming paper on synaesthesia in the British Journal of Psychology.

I’m not going to parse this other than to say it appeared on a site serious about science.

For men: what’s the type of your v1rgin wh0re Complex? Whatever combination of answers you put in there appears to be only one outcome.

For women: the v1rgin-wh0re dichotomy test. For this there are, well, three results.

The peculiar spelling is to prevent a possible rash of ill-fitting google ads.

I’m grumpy today.

Internet down AGAIN

(Modem utterly f*cked)

So I am here to check my mails.

internet wall

Yes, outside. It’s pouring with rain, freezing cold and the computer is at shoulder height. Sheltered from the worst of the wet by a strategically placed Leilandii.

Thanks very much indeed, free wifi provider at the end of the road, whoever you are.

Tantalising twitter



snotty noses?
tiny brains?
bad taste?
fat butts?



None of the above.

Oh FFS seems the most suitable response.

Cat update (with a knitted tail)

He had three more injections at the vet’s this morning, two pills and some kaoline paste. She was encouraged that he’d eaten a little last night. Said we could hold off on the drip until this afternoon and if he ate more during the day then maybe he wouldn’t need one at all.

Eating – refused sardines this morning before going to the vet. Deigned, some hours after we got back home, to eat something resembling duck paté but only when fed to him in a small, pre-warmed dish placed on the chair under the table he was occupying having earlier refused it from his bowl at room temperature on the floor. Hg – please attempt the most humiliating caption possible, although I’m afraid this isn’t a very inspiring picture.

cat eats

Puking – zero.

Crapping – twice, noisome and viscous at best but no sign of blood.

Vet bill to date – £356.41

Chances of saving money by cancelling pet insurance – zero.

Chances of Cat living on duck paté for the rest of his life – zero.

Chances of Cat ending up as cardigan trimming if he doesn’t go back to eating cheap dried food – very high indeed.

Despite the suggestion from acb below that it is demeaning not to knit a garment purpose designed for a cat-fur trim I am still of the opinion that the current WIP (the austenesque) would be ideal for such adornment. The yarn in question is thick and warm and has a multitude of white hairs in its makeup which would be well accentuated by Cat pelt, as can be seen in the picture below.

austenesque wip back

For those of a knitting disposition – the Kochoran tension square came up at 14 sts x 20 rows to 10cms on 6mm needles, so close to that of the recommended yarn (Louisa Harding Castello, 15 sts x 20 rows) that I started in good heart on the recommended needles. It may end up a little wider than the advertised garment but that is definitely a fault on the right side.

The bile coloured carpet and the anorexic cat

It’s always been difficult to describe the colour of the carpet that runs along the corridor, up the stairs and along the upper corridor of this house. Not mustard, not buttercup. Sunrise? no. Baby-shit comes close. But now, thanks to Cat, I know the exact hue. It is cat-sick-bile coloured.

From this you might deduce three things. Firstly that Cat has been sick, a lot. Secondly that he’s been sick on the carpet. Thirdly that it doesn’t show up. These deductions are all correct.

In fact Cat hasn’t eaten anything since Thursday but despite this has managed to produce copious amounts of diarrhoea and the aforementioned vomit. He has lost weight. Lots and lots of weight. This morning as he crouched on my lap he was a bag of bones with a matted layer of fur on top. Despite my best efforts at home remedies, tempting food, tlc etc etc he had refused to eat anything, not even his most favourite prawn treats.

It’s distressing how distressing a sick animal is and Cat has been adding to the general gloom of an already gloomy household. Today I bit the bullet and took him to the vet. Luckily I have not cancelled the pet insurance and will only have to pay the excess for the treatment (in theory anyway).  “Does he like rubber?” the vet inquired as she examined him. I’ve already mentioned his rubber fetish – apparently it’s quite common with “oriental” cats but can lead to the ingestion of rubber bands which of course does them no good at all.

He stayed in at the vet’s. She couldn’t feel a blockage but he was clearly an ill cat and needed blood tests etc. If he was seriously dehydrated she said he’d have to stay in overnight on a drip. If not he would be better off back at home. “These oriental pedigree breeds, they’re a bit too special,” she said, tactfully.

I was called to pick him up in the afternoon. His temperature was normal, his bloods were normal, he was borderline dehydrated, had stubbornly refused to produce anything from either end for the vet to examine and equally stubbornly refused to eat anything she or the doting nurses tried to tempt him with.

So there he was, in his box, throat shaved, drugged to the eyeballs with anti-nausea meds, antibiotics, painkillers, worm and parasite killers, appetite stimulants and goodness knows what else. I was given a little brown paper carrier bag containing six (yes, six) different types of specialist food to tempt him with, sachets, tins and bags. “These oriental breeds,” she said (that phrase again…) “can get themselves into a spiral of not eating if they feel unwell and of course the longer it goes on the more difficult it is to break the pattern. They don’t do well staying overnight, these oriental breeds. Bring him back first thing in the morning. If he hasn’t eaten anything he will have to go on a drip tomorrow.”

Yes, I got the message. He’s a ridiculously expensive, overbred, highly strung, effete creature who’s basically suffering from anorexia and in the process of starving himself to death. Jeeez. Just what I need right now. To spend a hundred quid on a fucking stupid self-harming cat. Besides, nobody’s allowed to have anorexia in my house except me.

I opened various of the tins and sachets from the paper bag. No. No deal. No way. Some he deigned to sniff at, briefly. Others he refused even to approach. Suddenly inspiration struck. What was it he goes wild for? tinned sardines. I usually let him lick the tin, don’t actually give him any fish, but he obviously loves them. So I opened a tin.


He only ate a couple of teaspoons worth which I mixed with a tiny number of kibbles of his normal dry food, but at least it’s something. He then crouched very very still for several hours with his eyes closed and an unutterably weary expression on his face. But that’s better than throwing it straight back up.

So it’s back to the vet first thing in the morning to see if she thinks he needs x-rays or not because, given the number of rubber bands and small toys there are lying around the house which he is quite capable of having ingested, we can’t yet rule out some kind of internal blockage.

My main worry, though, is that I end up with a cat which will only eat tinned sardines. How on earth am I going to pay for that? He’ll have to go. Perhaps I could have a small white fur collar and cuffs on my austenesque cardigan which is now, finally, under construction.

Forty hours off-line shock, horror, misery

Fault finally tracked down to the modem. Which will now, with persuasion, talk to the ISP server and to the laptop but not to the wireless thingy. Still, being tethered by a cable is a very very great deal better than no internet at all. And the children are probably better off without it, although they of course don’t think so.

I was not better off without it. I was sad. Miserable. Bereft. When on holiday one expects not to have it. At home one does. (The internet of course. Before anyone sniggers and suggests that I’ve got those two the wrong way round.) And it is, and has long been, a very important part of my life. The internet. My social, intellectual, emotional and creative life. A necessity, not a luxury then.

Two days without being able to go online, however, meant a lot of knitting got done. The scarf is finished.

scarf finished

It was a lovely journey. We meandered through woodland of coniferous and deciduous green and rowan berry red; had a rather volcanic session with sulphurous scarlet and glinting amethyst; pottered through an iznik palette of turquoise and orange and roamed over a highland glen of heather and bracken. Amongst other combinations. The colours aren’t actually as bright as they appear on the above picture, taken on the mobile using its flash. (Still no word as to the well-being of the camera.) But it will have to do since it’s off into the post it goes tomorrow.

No excuse now not to start the Austenesque.