Monday, June 30, 2008

It's not so much "Stuff on my cats" . . .

. . . as "Cats on my stuff". Particularly books. When I'm trying to read. Bless.

Flowers from the garden

Pretty, aren't they? And so cheap! Gardens are great!

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Cats, baking, gardening: All I need is The Archers omnibus and I've got the typical British suburban Sunday afternoon

I'm exhausted. I've spent 2 hours in the garden, chopping away at the brambles that are growing lightning fast, dead-heading geraniums, and cutting back the tree out front that is creating something of a hazard along the road. It's an overcast, sultry day and I'm beginning to ache. I haven't even started mowing the lawn yet -- I'll wait till my bread's finished baking and I've recovered a little. As a special treat, I let the cats into the conservatory for only the second time. They're delighted: New areas to explore, new furniture to destroy, new clothing to play with. They're particularly enamoured of the clothes rack; I hope their obvious pleasure at sitting amongst our damp underwear isn't evidence of some kind of kinky fetish.

Come out, come out, wherever you are!

That's better:

You too, Nin.

Most of the time, however, they sit at the window, watching me slave away. It's rather sweet, really. They're also displaying certain territorial tendencies. When Shin spots a bird out of the window, her tail starts moving and she makes this weird "ack-ack" noise in her throat. While I was in the garden, the blackbird started his warning signal; I looked round, and the rather large neighbourhood cat jumped over the wall into the bottom of our garden. In the conservatory behind me, Nin and Shin came over to the window, staring menacingly at this intruder. Despite the fact that they were no real threat to him, our big-boned buddy decided to push off. I foresee some battles when we let the girls out in a month or so. Till then, they'll just have to focus on hunting down our socks and pants.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Why wasn't I invited?

It's party time at a house across the allotments. They've got a marquee, party lights, and a mobile disco. It's playing all the classics: Macarena, YMCA, and -- best of all -- Yes sir, I can boogie by Baccara. God, I love this song! All together now!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Shinobi's IT help desk

"Yeah, so I've run an error search on your hard disk, and it's full of bad clusters. Yeah, lots of 'em, mainly in photo files. So, I think your hard disk is on its way out. Yeah, you'll need a new one. Hey, no problem. Just doin' my job. Have a nice day."

I can take a hint

I received not one, not two, but THREE books on gardening for my birthday. Personally, I don't think the garden looks that bad, and brambles have their appeal (for some), but I get the message. Loud and clear. So I called a gardener today. And with the 70 quid we won at last night's pub quiz (Go team Norfolk Dumpling!), we'll be able to pay him. Problem solved!

Friday, June 20, 2008

CSI: Otterbourne

First, we found the mutilated limb.

Then came the dismembered torso.

What twisted soul could have committed such a barbaric act? Could it be Kitty No. 1?

or perhaps Kitty No. 2?

They're not saying, and there were no pawprints in the arterial spray. I guess we may never crack this case!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Cats notwithstanding, we get on our bikes

At the weekend, we decided to haul out our bikes (and our Dutch courage) and set off to explore. First up was a new route to Waitrose in Chandler's Ford, one that didn't involve a loooooooong uphill slog on the way back. We still have an uphill slog, but it's considerably shorter and more manageable. The route took us along the back of some very pleasant 70s estates and up into the centre of town, and will probably be good for burning up a few calories before reaching Dave's fish n' chip shop. On Sunday, we cycled into Eastleigh; while we discovered another set of local shops -- including a Co-op that's open till 10! -- we also found that the cycle path into the centre of town fetches up at a railway bridge. In my youth, BR provided gates across railway lines so that you didn't have to hoist your bike up and down steep flights of steps, but presumably that would violate all sorts of health and safety issues today -- and result in lawsuits.* So, up and over the bridge we climbed, cursing as we went, and determined to find an easier route back (which we did, via Leigh Road and Woodside Avenue, if you're interested). It's about a 15-minute ride from the arts centre in Eastleigh back home, more than doable of an evening. Result!

* I'm with Mencken on this one: "By protecting people from the consequences of their own stupidity, we populate the world with fools." But, it didn't get me out of doing bus duty at school when on my PGCE course and I doubt it will get Railtrack to install a convenient gate across the tracks.

We cower in the bedroom

In just a short time, the kittens have firmly established themselves as in full control of the household. We feed them when they demand, clean out their (excellent) litter tray, and have taken to hiding away any and all objects that they might decide to chew -- i.e., all the books. We don't leave our room at night, as it's difficult to get them out of it once they come in, and we are constantly aware that a kitten may decide to land on our heads/legs/back, claws unsheathed, at any moment. They've also discovered a catnip toy -- chaos ensues. However, they are still adorable and the source of constant entertainment. And, they've fully cleaned out the space under the oven by dint of sliding under there on the blue rug. Now, if only I could tie dusters to their paws and get them to polish the parquet, we'd see a real return on our (considerable) investment.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Lean, mean, purring machines

If you don't like cats, look away now. And probably for the next few months (or possibly years). Our kitties are home! We picked them up today from the shelter, and after complaining vociferously in the car on the way back, they appear to have settled in. The first two hours were spent tearing round the house, delving into the dustiest corners and finding the highest surfaces to jump off. Then came a blissful hour of them both dozing and purring noisily on my lap. And now? Running around the house again. So, please say hello to:

Ninja (small, dark, will run around quietly [ish] and jump out when you least expect it):

and Shinobi (another name for Japanese warriors, plus Shin and Nin have a pleasing ring to them):

It's going to be all kitties all the time round here!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

In which we experience an action-packed 26 hours

Starting yesterday lunchtime, when we went out for a 4 km run -- reasonably impressive, given that neither of us are natural runners, PJ's carrying several injuries, and the last kilometer is uphill. Flushed (quite literally, in my case) with this success, we worked for the rest of the afternoon, then loaded up the car with all the remaining cardboard boxes and rubble in the garage and headed to the Eastleigh dump. We then moseyed through Eastleigh, under the M3, to the gigantic Asda in Chandler's Ford. This was ... impressive. Two floors, cheap food, a well-stocked Polish food section, presumably for all the local tradespeople, and we were the thinnest people in there. Thus heartened, we stopped off for fish n' chips on the way home, and proceeded to slump into a carb-driven coma, watching a couple of Liverpool-related episodes of Rock Family Trees.

At crack of noon today, we set off again. This time, our destination was St Francis Animal Welfare Centre in Fair Oak to see if they had any kittens. We were in luck! Two sisters, who have been reserved for us! We just need to have a home check and buy vast quantities of stuff for them to eat from, sleep in, and poo next to (if Plato and Aristotle -- our former cats -- were anything to go by). Next, on to Up & Running in Chandler's Ford to get some new running shoes, in a sad attempt to convince ourselves that our inability to run fast or far is the result of bad footwear, rather than ineptitude. The shop was fantastic; no Adidas or Nikes in sight, and experienced runners who checked our feet, recorded our gait on a video and played it back, and then prescribed shoes to correct my weak left ankle (for me, obviously; PJ doesn't need to correct that problem, although he has plenty of his own). Finally, we headed down to The Old Forge for a light lunch and a lazy perusal of The Guardian. Back home, PJ swore mightily at the video game console, while I sat in the back garden, finishing off The Guardian and watching the birds. I am clearly morally superior.

Anyway, now it's time for Dr Who. Pip pip!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

O I do like to be beside the seaside!

Glorious sunshine yesterday so we headed down to Portsmouth -- a 30-minute drive away and new to both of us. It's a mixed city, to say the least. There's a huge new outlet shopping mall near the harbour -- fine if you're happy to still spend 45 quid on a Paul Smith t-shirt followed by lunch at Nando's, slightly overwhelming if you're not. We did find Aspex, a rather sweet little art gallery with cafe and shop near the waterfront. We then headed over to Old Portsmouth -- the cathedral, a few naval fortifications -- and the real highlight of the day, Southsea. Southsea is the alternative, scruffy, student heart of the city. Albert Road is the main drag, with all manner of vintage shops, ethnic food stores, and fun bars and restaurants. It's a bit like Stoke Newington, only with fewer police helicopters and only a third of the price when it comes to housing (and shopping). We're pottered along, bought lots of spices that I can't get in Sainsbury's, had a good meal in Cape Verde, and then headed home. Fresh air, the sea, good food. We shall definitely go back.

This is what I'm talking about

Of course, he's not the only insect in the garden. Check out this David Lynchian beastie, which I came across when mowing the lawn on Friday evening. Scary.