Cats, as we know, have small brains. Much of their limited capacity is utilised in ways the average amoeba would not find challenging. Take, for instance, phototaxis. The average vegetable is capable of phototaxis. And the average vegetable uses it for a useful purpose – photosynthesis. The average cat is also capable of phototaxis, but the purpose is highly maladaptive.

I am talking, of course, about the ability of the average cat to assess the quality of light reflected from its coat and, having done so, move to position itself precisely on a surface displaying exactly the opposite properties. My cat, for instance, is mostly white. This means he comes to rest on the darkest possible surface, ideally an item of my clothing, upon which he can then shed his hair liberally. Black cats, obviously, choose pale clothing to sit on.

Why this should be is a mystery. It would appear to be counter-productive given the average reaction of the average cat owner on discovering their clothing looking like it’s been caught in a pillow fight is not positive and friendly towards the offending cat. My theory is that cats are so unbelievably vain they care not for the opprobrium this behaviour attracts since their only concern is to set themselves off to best advantage.

There is another taxis that cats have refined to an art form, and this is fibretaxis. For there is no place, however obscure and protected, that one can place ones knitting that the average cat will not locate in order then to sit, lie or otherwise lounge squarely on the work in progress. No item of knitting is too small or insignificant. An inch or so of sock is as inviting as, for instance, the completed back of a large garment.

Here we have a typical example of the behaviour in action.

Feline fibretaxis

Reading from top left to bottom right we have the cat insinuating itself on the edge of the knitting (which has been placed on the kitchen table to be measured); total occupation is achieved with the entirety of the cat’s body (including tail) placed inside the boundaries of the knitted surface; any suggestion of removal is greeted with extreme contempt; the territory is defended with vigour.

Why? I ask myself. Why, why, why? I whimper as I nurse my slashed hands and attempt to remove white hairs from my green garment without getting it covered in red blood.

The cat merely looks inscrutable (he is, after all, an oriental breed) and I realise my question is in vain. He has about as much idea of why as a cabbage has of how, but without the advantage of tasting delicious boiled and covered with melted butter and freshly-ground black pepper.


A friend dropped by for lunch. We were yakking on about something or other of enormous interest and importance. Yak, yak, yak, rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb we went while I made coffee and he leaned on the kitchen counter.

Meanwhile there was a background noise of which we were both, it subsequently transpired, subliminally aware without giving it sufficient consideration. A sort of viscous wet slapping noise. Suddenly there was a piercing scream.

Continue reading “Cataphatic”


The other night I dreamt that the second and third toes of my right foot fused together into one toe. The same was happening to the corresponding toes on my left foot but I managed, painlessly I think, to peel them apart before they fused as seamlessly and irrevocably as the others had done.

Also in the same phantasmagorical interlude Maizy had open heart surgery and I disturbed her as she was coming round from the anaesthetic, her entire body a mass of huge stitches, she was in pain and I was told to leave because it was my fault. It was also revealed that a dear friend from university was best friend to a former colleague whom I disliked intensely; from this latter I learnt, in the dream, much about my own lack of humility, overabundance of judgementalness and the importance of right livelihood.

The foot thing is highly likely to be related to the current sock-knitting and the acquisition of a pattern for a knitted tabi, the Japanese foot-covering with a separate big toe designed to be worn with thonged shoes and traditionally sewn from cloth. Could the multi-pierced Maizy be traced back in some way to the weekend’s re-encounter with the nightmares in stitches of Louise Bourgeoise?

Or perhaps the whole technicolour experience was due to the consumption of an entire family-sized packet of jelly babies shortly before going to bed. They, after all, have fused toes and are no doubt full of enough noxious chemicals in sufficient quantities to disturb the brain chemistry of even the unsusceptible let alone the susceptible to such imbalances.

It is only recently that I have been able to look a jelly baby in the face, much less insert one into my own. As a very small child (probably between the ages of three and six) my father used to drive my brother and I for what seemed like several days across the country to pay dutiful visits to his aunt. My mother, needless to say, refused to go. I hated it. Hours of excruciating boredom on the way there, hours of excruciating boredom once we arrived (apart from the very few minutes of entertainment provided by Billy the budgie who didn’t talk and bit).

Worst of all was the appalling sickness on the way home. I was always sick. I was always sick for the same reason. Because my thoughtless and horrible great aunt always, without fail, gave me a humungous box of jelly babies and I always, without fail, ate them all in the car on the way home. And it was clearly her fault. It was also her fault that my brother didn’t open his box for days, ate them in small but regular quantities and taunted me with his sweetfulness and my lack thereof for weeks afterwards, which made me very sour indeed towards both of them.

Thinking about this childish shift of responsibility and how prevalent it is in various forms in people of all ages as well as organisations, governments and entire cultures led me to the wikipedia article on locus of control personality orientations which has made interesting reading.

Internals tend to attribute outcomes of events to their own control. Externals attribute outcomes of events to external circumstances. For example, college students with a strong internal locus of control may believe that their grades were achieved through their own abilities and efforts, whereas those with a strong external locus of control may believe that their grades are the result of good or bad luck, or to a professor who designs bad tests or grades capriciously; hence, they are less likely to expect that their own efforts will result in success and are therefore less likely to work hard for high grades… Due to their locating control outside themselves, externals tend to feel they have less control over their fate. People with an external locus of control tend to be more stressed and prone to clinical depression.

Indeed. It’s something else I feel shifting.

So what else? I’ve been doing a great deal of knitting at home, on the bus, in caf├ęs, round at friends’, whilst listening to an unabridged reading of Emma etc. I’ve added a widgety bit of javascript to the sidebar showing recent projects and their progress. Down on the right, below the twittering. A piece of gorgeous goodness from Casey the code monkey at Ravelry.

My father seemed highly gratified with his birthday socks; I started a pair for myself, one of which posed with some art at the weekend; started and finished a very pleasing beret and finally, finally, just a few minutes ago, sewed in the last end of the Austenesque. I’m thinking of modelling it and asking Neha to take a celebratory picture of it when we meet up what is now later today. But I think I need to get hold of a corset first, somehow.

So in the absence of a picture of the charming garment here is a picture of my charming creatures being aaawsome. Taken by the charming and aaawsome Alistair. On his iPhone. Jealous? moi? overcome with uncontrollable capitalistic acquisitive gadget lust? No, no. Of course not.

my creatures are aaaaawsome

This is also, incidentally, a wonderful example of how not, according to all the best advice, to write a blog post. But what do I care? I am half-woman, half-vegetable. Curly kale to be precise. And I’m very happy this way.