Tag: life advice

Two Years of Blogging & an Escaped Octopus

Two Years of Blogging & an Escaped Octopus

Happy blogiversary to meeeeee!

Actually, no. Not really. I was just looking at my blogging files and suddenly realised that they go all the way back 2016. 2016, you guys.

Okay, it’s not that long. But really – who knew I had that many words in my head? Well, coherent ones, anyway. I did not.

two years blogging
This is still much tidier than my mental desk, people. Much, MUCH tidier.

So, I’m not sure when I actually started my blog. Ahem. I started it on Weebly, because it was just so easy, before realising that I was going to have to switch to WordPress if I wanted to be able to do anything fancy with it. I’m still not sure I’ll ever actually do anything fancy with it, but, you know. I could if I wanted. Anyhow, when I switched I just got really fed up with the whole importing blog posts and re-jigging images and everything, so not all my blog posts made it across. And the old website’s long gone. And because I can be very organised, but often choose not to be, I appear not to have saved any of my original blog posts. Which means the oldest blog post I have is from when I started using Novlr writing software to write them, which was in April of 2016. I actually discovered that I have a load of blogs and short stories over on Novlr, and I don’t use that any more either – I couldn’t even remember the password to get into it. I feel like a small child, scattering debris behind me and not picking it up again, even though the odds are I’m going to want it again.

Adventures in blogging with a cat
Of course I’m more popular than you, human. Look at me.

So, my blogiversary was actually sometime before April 2016, but it’s close enough. Plus, I like that first blog post I found, so I’m going to inflict it on you below. It’s about an octopus.

And what have I learnt in two years of blogging (ignoring the few months where I ignored the blog entirely)?

  • The blogs you like the least always seem to be the ones everyone else likes the most.
  • It’s okay to be personal. In fact, it’s necessary.
  • No matter how many times you spell and grammar check, you won’t catch everything – particularly really blindingly obvious mistakes.
  • The cat is more popular than I am.
  • Dragons are more popular than anyone else.
  • Bloggers are, by and large, wonderful people.
  • Save your damn blog posts somewhere you can find them again.
  • If all else fails, interview the cat or the dragon.

 

two years blogging and Beaufort Scales birthday
There really will need to be a most lovely tea party for Beauforts anniversary…

I think that’s pretty good going for two years of blogging. And it’s also reminded me that later on this year it’ll be two years since Beaufort made his grand, barbecue-festooned entrance. I did manage to find his first story hidden on Novlr, but I can’t find the date. It may have been November. Or maybe October. Either way – I’m going to have to think of something special for his birthday. As befits the High Lord of the Cloverly Dragons.

But for now – a blog about an octopus escapologist.


Two years of blogging and octopus escapologistsOctopus Escapologists

(April 17th, 2016)

There was a fantastic story that popped up this week, about Inky the octopus’ great escape from a New Zealand aquarium. I cheered him on – I mean, who wouldn’t? It’s not like he’s a large, hungry polar bear, or an enraged banker, is he? He’s not likely to wreak havoc on the local chippie, or with your grandmother’s pension plan. He’s just a small, multi-limbed being who had had enough of being pointed at by small children and manhandled by aquarium workers. Or octopus-handled. I’m not sure of the exact terminology, here. Person-handled? Be that as it may, I love – love – the fact that he didn’t make a break for it during the day, but instead waited until the middle of the night to clamber out of his tank, sneak across the floor, and head for the outside world.

Two years of blogging and octopus escapologists
FREEDOM!

But those poor other fish, though. They would have all been shouting: “Inky, Inky, come on! Just open the tank? Please! We won’t slow you down…” Then again, they’re fish, so opening the tanks probably wouldn’t have been any help at all, except to the other octopus in residence, who goes by the unfortunate name of Blotchy, and apparently wasn’t as intelligent or as personable as our hero. That I can see: “No, Blotchy, you’ll only slow me down. Besides, I never liked you much anyway.” And then our brave cephalopod vanishes down the drain and is away for the cool green waters of Hawkes’ Bay.

The whole story was wonderful – not least the description of Inky as being a bit of a “surprise octopus”, which had me imagining him hiding behind coral heads to shoot ink at aquarium workers, while yelling “Gotcha!” Well, it must get boring in a fish tank. But it also got me thinking about freedom, and captivity, and about how we carry our own prisons with us. Some of us inherit them, some of us are given them, some of us build them for ourselves, and we’ve become so accustomed to them that we barely notice they’re there. Often, we’ve been carrying them since childhood.

two years blogging and life in captivity
I’m fine. This is fine. *sigh*

They come in lots of forms, some of them so cleverly constructed that they’re like safari parks – we think we’re free even when we’re not. We even look free to other people. But there are limits to our freedom. And I don’t mean big limits – don’t do this because you’ll get arrested/die/be disowned by your great-aunt Alda. (Assuming you like your great-aunt Alda, and that this is an undesirable outcome). These are smaller, more insidious confines – if those are the zoo walls, these are our artfully designed enclosures. Beautiful, looking like freedom, but prisons nonetheless. And, unlike Inky, we don’t set ourselves the task of testing the limits of our enclosures on a regular basis. If we notice them, we accept them. Hey, we think, they keep us safe. They keep all the other stuff out (and the other stuff is always scary). They’ve always been there. Everyone’s got them.

All of which, of course, are pretty rubbish reasons for staying in a fish tank when there’s an ocean at the other end of the drainpipe.

two years blogging and freedom
Testing those limits.

Maybe we should be channelling a little octopus bravery and testing the limits of our captivity. Maybe it’s as simple as talking to the neighbour we only nod at but think we might become friends with, given the chance; or as complex as packing the job in, selling our stuff and stepping out on the road to somewhere else. Maybe it’s saying no when you’d normally say yes, or having hot sauce instead of mayonnaise. Maybe it’s joining a sports team or going to a restaurant on your own or reading a book you wouldn’t normally read. Little things, right? (Well, other than the quitting your job and heading off into the sunset one. If you do that, I absolve myself of all responsibility. This is a blog post inspired by an octopus. Don’t get your life advice from a blog that takes inspiration from such dubious sources.) Our confines are so often created by our fears and reinforced by our behaviour, and sometimes it doesn’t hurt to shake the bars a little. Maybe you’ll decide that actually, no, this is more than enough room, like a reef fish cruising his own little domain, with all the clean water and good food and reef fish nookie he needs. But maybe you’ll find you need to expand things a little more, a moray eel that has her home but roams the reef at night.

Or you might just go, bollocks to it. I’m an octopus.


I may need to rethink my previous statement regarding coherent ideas. It has only the loosest relationship to the facts. Although I do stand by my directions not to take life advice from a blog that gets its inspiration from escaped cephalopods.

two years blogging
Ribbons and things, because blogiversary.

How about you, lovely people? What were you writing and reading at this time two years ago? (Or, you know, what other stuff were you doing? I do realise that some people have a life outside writing and reading. Understand, no, but realise yes. 😉 ) Let me know below!

Happy Valentine’s from a Valentine’s Cynic

Happy Valentine’s from a Valentine’s Cynic

I’ve never quite got Valentine’s Day. It wasn’t a huge thing when I was growing up in NZ – or I don’t remember that it was. I don’t really know – maybe it was popular, but as I was a bit of a late starter on the whole romance thing, I may have missed it. I certainly don’t remember that there was loads of cheap chocolate around in the second half of February, and I’m sure I would’ve remembered that. I was all about the chocolate.

YES.

And really, I’m still all about the chocolate. I’m not great at going out anyway, but fighting to get a reservation for an overpriced meal in an overcrowded restaurant, accompanied by an overwrought flower arrangement and an over-sweet card? Not seeing the appeal. And don’t even mention expensive, scratchy lingerie. I will, however, take that half-price chocolate on Feb 15th. Yes. All the chocolate.

These are heading in the right direction for Valentine’s cards.

Look, I’m not an entirely unromantic, Valentine’s Day grinch – actually, wait. No, I am entirely an unromantic Valentine’s Day grinch. I’m not good at romance. I never have been (good thing my preferred genre is very light on it). I am, in fact, terminally unromantic, much to the despair of the SO, who is quite a romantic. He’ll do lovely things like draw a candlelit bath, and I’ll want to turn the lights on so I can read. Or he’ll cook a beautiful dinner, and I’ll eat it on the couch in my pyjamas. Or he’ll have a gorgeous orchid plant delivered while he’s away, and I’ll have killed it by the time he gets home (to be fair, he’s known me for seven years. He should know better than to give me plants. Not once has that ended well). No, my natural inclinations are not towards the romantic, and that’s even before you factor in the commercial bloat that surrounds Valentines, with every shop breaking out in a rather nasty, frilly, pink and red rash and racking up the prices starting around January 2nd.

Not that I’m a cynic or anything.

Friends and breakfast food. Life is complete.

However, I did fall in love with Parks & Rec a while back, and the idea of Galentine’s Day – and Galentine’s cards – just makes me ridiculously happy. Special cards for celebrating friends? And breakfast food? Yes please! And while yes, all friends should be celebrated (furry ones included), I adore some of the Galentine’s Day cards, and I love the idea of telling my friends how wonderful they are, because that’s another thing I’m not terribly good at.

Galentine’s > Valentine’s

I think I can blame the softening of my attitude towards Valentines entirely on Leslie Knope, because it wasn’t long after this that I started to notice some clever little cards sneaking around. Despite my ban on Valentine’s, the SO got me a card that just read, ‘I like you quite a lot, actually’, which was admittedly not bad.

And then I came across a much better interpretation of the kittens and hearts card. Much better. It appears I am not alone in my grinch-ness.

This is right, yes?

So maybe it isn’t all ribbons and frills, and maybe Valentine’s isn’t such a smug couple fest as I always felt it was. But still – my advice would be to choose a quieter night for the meal out, do the flowers and the card at some other time, because surprises are more fun, and definitely wait on the chocolate until the 15th.  If I haven’t bought it all already.

Anyhow, I did have a point, and, getting to it in a roundabout way – happy Feb 14th to all of you, my lovely, wonderful readers! Whether you do the Valentine’s thing or not, I think you’re amazing, and I would share some of my half-price chocolate with you just because you’re so perfectly you. Because that is something worth celebrating.

Well, virtually, you know. Via t’internet, because otherwise we’d have to be right next to each other, and I’m not sure about that.
A Dragonish Q&A with Beaufort Scales

A Dragonish Q&A with Beaufort Scales

Introducing Beaufort Scales, High Lord of the Cloverly Dragons and lover of tea, cakes and barbecues, if you haven’t met before.

Beaufort: So, what are we doing, Miriam? Lovely scone, by the way.

Miriam: Thank you, Beaufort. And we’re going to do a blog.

B: Which is neither a bog nor a log, or any combination of those?

Mm: No. It’s just an article, really, but it goes on my website instead of in a newspaper.

B: And the website is in the twitter machine?

*Mortimer sighs loudly in the background*

B: Alright, lad. No need to get sniffy. Old dragons will learn new tricks, we just take a little while to do it.

Mm: Okay. So – are you ready?

B: Fire away!

Mm: Okay, so – can you explain to the readers who the Cloverly dragons are?

B: Of course. We are a very ancient clan, and have been living in the area ever since that whole St George incident made us decide we were best to move to less populated places. I saw that, you know. High Lord Catherine was sleeping, and he just –

Typical. Making High Lord Catherine look ten times the size of that ‘knight’, rather than her true size- that of a Shetland pony.

Mm: Oh dear. Maybe we should move on…?

B: There’s a whole day devoted to him! Where’s High Lord Catherine’s day?

Mm: Well, that does seem unfair –

B: And a flag! St George’s cross! Cowardly monster. And did we take revenge? No! We just moved away and left the humans to it! Some days I’m not sure that was the right choice. Maybe we should have taken a stand against such vulgarity, then and there!

Mm, hissing: Mortimer, what do I do? He’s going to scorch the tablecloth!

Mortimer: Beaufort, sir? Would you like some more tea?

B: I – ooh. Are there more scones too?

 

…a little later…

 

Mm: So, what made you decide to, um, visit with humans again?

B: Well, that’s all down to Mortimer, really.

Mort: What?

B: Yes, lad. First that clever idea of changing our definition of treasure, then those wonderful baubles you created to enable us to actually start trading – wonderful!

Mort, spluttering: I didn’t – I never – it was meant to be all anonymous!

B: Nonsense. And then you made friends with Miriam here, and she introduced us to all her Women’s Institute friends –

Mort, faintly: I think that was called you gate crashing a meeting, not being introduced.

B: And then it became very clear that the WI needed our help when the vicar was poisoned last summer, and you were ready to help straight away.

Mort, fainter still: I really wasn’t…

Mm: Mortimer, are you alright? Your tail’s gone blue.

Mort: Am I stress-shedding again? Again? We’re not even doing anything! Just talking about it! Just talking about it upsets me!

B: Mortimer, I think you could use another cup of tea. Sit down and leave your tail alone. You’re not helping, worrying at it like that.

*Mortimer mumbles indistinctly but furiously*

B: Miriam, do you have any cream? It goes terribly well with scones, and it always seems to calm him.

Mort, indistinctly: I shall be fat and bald. Fat and bald and stressed.

 

 

…a little later again…

 

Mm: Does everyone have enough scones and tea? Okay, let’s talk about something else. Beaufort, you’ve been High Lord for centuries-

B: Ever since High Lord Catherine was slaughtered.

Mm: Um, okay, yes. What are the greatest changes you’ve seen?

B: Oh, what a terribly exciting question! It’s been wonderful. Humans are so interesting. You never rest, do you? Always something. Trains, and cars, and airplanes, and rockets. Satellites up among the stars, and people on them. People! Such clever things, you humans. But at the same time you don’t change a lot. Still fighting with each other over everything, and never looking up from all the clever things you’re doing to really appreciate everything. What else? *pauses thoughtfully* Vegetarianism. Yes. Vegetarianism in dragons. I mean, humans are always a little odd, but dragons? I consider myself very tolerant, but that is strange.

Mm: I – okay. Yes, I can see how that’s a really big change.

B: And village fetes. The standard of cake has really gone up in the last millenia.

Mm: So, the biggest changes since the days of St George are vegetarianism in dragons and cake?

B: Well. We notice the small stuff, don’t we? The big things are wonderful, but it’s the small things we really live, don’t you think?

Mm: I guess so.

B: And there’s no point dwelling on the changes that help no one. This is a positive glob, isn’t it?

Mort: Blog.

B: That’s what I said.

Mm, quickly: Absolutely.

B: Anyway, I think there’s more positive than negative. All species have their funny little scuffles and problems. But, individually, you’re all quite lovely. And you do all these things to connect to each other, like the twitter. All these little people living in the machine and chatting to each other and supporting each other. It’s wonderful!

Mort: That’s not-

Mm, talking over Mort: You’re right, Beaufort. It is kind of wonderful, isn’t it?

B: And having human friends again is a beautiful thing. It teaches an old dragon all sorts of new tricks.

*Mortimer sighs heavily and picks at his tail*

B: What else do you want to talk about?

Mm: I think that’s perfect. Unless you have anything else to say?

B: Hmm. Only that too many humans think they are very small and unimportant, and it makes them sad, or angry, and sometimes hurtful. But every one of you is beautiful and wonderful and fascinating, with the most astonishing thoughts and ideas and potential. You should all remember that, and tell each other the same every chance you get. *pause* Mortimer, do stop picking your scales. You are far too young a dragon to be having a bald tail.

Mm: Mortimer, do you want some more cream?

Mort: No.

B: Come on, lad. A scone, some cream – maybe a little something stronger?

Mort: Noo…

Mm: How about hot chocolate?

Mort: I’m not sure.

Mm: With Baileys and cream?

B: Well, I certainly want one. Come on, lad.

Mort: I guess I could.

B: There we go. Hot chocolate. Chocolate in general! That’s another wonderful advance!

Mort, whispering: He’s so enthusiastic. It hurts my head.

Mm, patting him on the back: I know. I’ll make you that hot chocolate now.

 

…and later still…

 

B: How’re you feeling, Mortimer?

Mort: Mush – much better.

B: There we are, then. Life should always be contemplated with plenty of tea and cake. And spiked hot chocolate, when necessary.

Mm: And that is a universal truth.

 

 


 

Do you have any questions for Beaufort? Ask away in the comments, or you can find him on twitter here. Well, when Mortimer lets him use the twitter machine, anyway…

 


 

If you enjoyed that little insight into the world of Beaufort, you might want to jump over here and read one of his short stories – or ask me about his others! Don’t forget that most of the short stories will be coming down from the website at the end of the month, but if you sign up to the newsletter below you’ll get a link to a new story every month (and yes, this month it’s a Beaufort story!)

 

 

7 Things About Snowboarding, Writing, & Life

7 Things About Snowboarding, Writing, & Life

I finally got my first snowboarding day of the season in yesterday – a friend and I headed up to Auron, which is about 2hrs drive from here. The snow was gorgeous, and, being a Monday, it was lovely and quiet. Which was good, as the first day of the season tends to be… patchy for me. My friend, being French, elegant, and a skier, spent most of the day laughing at me and asking when I was going to learn to ski.

Which I’m considering, but, honestly, controlling one board is about the limit of my coordination. Two skis and two poles? I have doubts.

But something occurred to me when I fell getting off the lift (happens a lot), and my friend and the lift operator were both teasing me about it.

I didn’t care.

I wasn’t embarrassed.

I hadn’t hurt myself, so what did it matter? I laughed as much as they did.

And I’m not as relaxed about most things in my life.

So, because I needed a blog post, you shall now be subject to the philosophy of writing and life, as taught by snowboarding. (Lesson – never think anything is not relatable to writing if there’s a writer in the vicinity.)

 

7 Things Snowboarding Taught Me About Life (& Writing)

1. You will fall. Probably frequently. Sometimes it hurts (sometimes even a lot), sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it’s frustrating. It’s okay. Everyone else falls, too. Even the ones that go super-fast and have the awesome expensive boards. Often they fall much harder than you just did. Check for broken bits, laugh, get up and keep going.

2. Learn how to fall. Since you’re going to fall anyway, learn how to do it so it doesn’t hurt too much. Learn to lean into the motion of your board (or your writing, or life), so you’ve got a better chance of catching yourself and not landing on your bum in an icy patch and really feeling it. If you want protection, wear it. It’s okay to have a buffer against the bumps.

3. Relax. You’ll fall, you’ll get up, you’ll keep going. So will everyone else. Maybe you feel like you look silly (windmilling your arms trying to stay upright, perhaps, or hopping up and down trying to get yourself moving, or sliding head-first on your back down a slope because you got a little cocky). Don’t worry about it. Everyone looks a bit silly at some stage. And the more you relax, the less that fall’s going to hurt.

4. Know how to stop, and don’t be afraid to do it. Unexpected things are always jumping out at you, whatever form they take – battalions of very small children snaking across the slope in such long lines you can’t get past them, or appearing off snowbanks and dropping onto the piste, or flying past you so fast you need to take a break to re-evaluate if you’re even young enough to be out here (small children on ski slopes scare me. They’re so quick. And small). Or, you know, colds, or unplanned visitors, or needing to know where you’re actually going, or the lure of hot chocolate. Or even just a really nice view that requires appreciating. There’s nothing wrong with stopping. Make sure you’ve got the hang of it. It’s important.

5. Sometimes it hurts. I don’t mean the falls, although sometimes they do. I mean the seam in your sock rubbing on your little toe, or your calves aching from too much toe edge coming down a skinny trail, or your sinuses playing up, or (nasty new discovery this week) mal de montagne. Things hurt, and that’s just part of snowboarding, or writing, or life. And it’s okay to hurt. The thing is to find the good stuff that outweighs it.

6. Make it fun. You can moan about the hurts and curse the falls and whinge about all the people who are better at it than you, or you can look past it. See the bits that matter – after all, what other sport basically invites you to slide down a mountain on a piece of wood, fall over, roll around in the snow, then go drink hot chocolate, all while bundled up like a five-year-old (well, that’s me. My friend always looks very glamorous and put together)? And writing – where else do you get to make up worlds, play with imaginary friends, then go tell people about it? And said people actually want to listen? And as for life – well, it’s just generally pretty ridiculous, I’d say.

7. The more you do it, the better you get. Don’t let those first few horrible days, where it’s more falling than fun, put you off. Don’t let the rejections stop the stories. Don’t let the stuff that made you stumble at twenty still trip you at forty. Every fall, every rejection, every trip, is one you don’t have to do again. Keep going. It’ll get better. You’ll get better. And the better you get, the more fun it is. Keep going.

Although I still have my doubts that I’ll ever completely get the hang of getting off lifts.

 

 

What’s your favourite activity for getting out of your head? What have you learned from it? Let me know in the comments!


A bit of an update, too, as I know I haven’t done a short story since December (which feels like a really long time ago). I’m going to be making some changes to the website over the next month or so, and one of those will be that there’ll only be one short story a month, the link to which will go out in the newsletter. I’m sorry I couldn’t keep up to the more regular stories, but I’d rather do less and do them better!

The old short stories will also be coming off the website, and I’ve yet to decide exactly what I’m doing with them, so stay tuned – and sign up for the newsletter to receive this month’s short story in a week or so!

Sign up here!

 

A Few Tips for Surviving December

A Few Tips for Surviving December

It is getting horribly close to Christmas. A month. Obviously I have all my Christmas cards done, the Christmas cake is being basted as we speak, the Christmas lights are all neatly coiled and functional, the veggie haggis is on order, the table decorations are ready to go, and I have decided on presents for my nearest, dearest, and the mailman.

I’m also a writer and you should believe very little of what I tell you.

I had considered making the blog a Christmas-free zone until December 1st actually rolled around, but who am I kidding – we’re all thinking about it, right? Where we’re going to be, what parties we’ll have to go to, what family members are coming for the day and how many are just going to move in for the foreseeable future. How many disagreements will be reignited, and how many times you’ll be told how you should be cooking the turkey/lamb leg/nut roast/insert holiday preference here. If you’ve struck the right balance of fun and useful with the presents, and if anyone’s going to give you anything other than socks this year (honestly, you wear one pair with holes in the toes…).

So I decided that if we were already worrying about December, I’d throw my ten cents in, and after that this blog will become a place of stories until the madness is over. A little slice of escapism, full of dragons and reapers and (hopefully) the sort of Christmas spirit that reminds you it’s not all bad.

But first, before we jump headfirst into a sea of mince pies and mulled wine (or eggnog, for those of you that are into what is, as far as I can tell, alcoholic custard), here’s a few thoughts about the whole thing.

The presents don’t matter. They really don’t. Not once you’re over the age of eighteen, anyway. Well, twenty-five. I used to tie myself in knots trying to come up with thoughtful, inventive, one-of-a-kind presents that would show I’d put in the requisite effort, had really considered the person in question, and had spent a decent sum. But you know what? It’s not about that. We don’t need more stuff. Not unless we’re moving into a new home, or having kids, or some major life event like that. I love presents I can either eat, or read. And as far as that goes, book vouchers are amazing. Because, as every bookworm knows, even if we told you what book we wanted last week, by this week we’ll have done an ooh, shiny! on something else. Don’t spend your time and money trying to out-present everyone else. If you know what someone wants, great. If you don’t – vouchers work. And chutney’s easier (and quicker) to make than it looks.

No one will eat as much as you think they will, yourself included (maybe). I’m terrified of the supermarkets in December. Never mind the fact that, even in France, there’s always a shop open, even on Christmas Day – everyone’s determined to buy up enough food and drink to feed a family of fourteen until Easter. Stop it. Yes, I know it’s not Christmas until we’re collapsed on the sofa at 4pm in elasticated trousers, arms and legs akimbo and hoping the cat doesn’t jump on our bellies, but really. It doesn’t actually take half a turkey, four Yorkshire puds, six roast potatoes and five mashed ones, seven carrots, eight brussels sprouts, a third of a cauliflower immersed in cheese sauce, half a litre of gravy, and four pigs in blankets per person to do that. And that’s before we get to dessert. I don’t even eat the meat bits, and I still can’t eat all that. Trust me, I’ve tried. Never let it be said I don’t give Christmas dinner my best effort.

It’s only one day. I know we seem to have been building up to it since somewhere around August, but it’s only one day. And there’ll be another one next year. It doesn’t have to be perfect. It won’t be perfect. The turkey will be overcooked, the peas will be forgotten in the freezer drawer, the stuffing will burn on top, the gravy will have lumps in it, you won’t like half your presents (if that), someone’s aunt will ask you when you’re going to get a real job/get married/have kids, someone’s uncle will tell at least three racist/sexist jokes, and the cat will vomit on the rug right as you walk into the living room. It’s okay. Tomorrow you’ll be eating stuffing and cranberry sauce sandwiches in your oldest PJs, the house silent around you. And you won’t have to do it again for another year.

Family is what you make it. Not all of us will spend Christmas with our families. Not all of us will want to. And that’s okay, too. Sometimes family is you and the cat and a houseplant called Arthur. Sometimes it’s a family you’ve acquired from your significant other. Sometimes it’s friends that have adopted you into their clan, or maybe you’ve made a haphazard family together. All of this is okay. Often it’s better than okay. Christmas is rarely the mellow-lit firesides and warm familial embraces of Christmas cards and holiday movies. Sometimes family works anyway, even if it doesn’t look like the TV specials tell us it should. And sometimes it doesn’t work at all. Don’t beat yourself up about that. Don’t regret it. I’ve had nice family Christmases, and tranquil ones with just the cat for company, and wonderful ones with friends. They all work in their own way.

Let some time be just for you. It’s too easy to get caught up in the shopping and cooking and cleaning and shopping and visiting and hosting and eating and shopping and drinking and games-playing and shopping and stuff. But it is the season of goodwill to all, so let some of that goodwill be towards you. Do the shopping on your own so you can take half an hour in a cafe beforehand, listening to terrible Christmas songs and drinking something loaded with cream and over indulgence. Go to bed early, even if the house is full – especially if the house is full – and snuggle down with the cat, a good book, and the fancy chocolates you’ve kept hidden from everyone else. Kick everyone out to go for a walk, telling them you have lots of presents to wrap, and take a bath instead (you can wrap the presents later. It doesn’t take that long). Have the last mince pie. Refuse to let anyone else use your favourite mug. And if the cat’s sitting on you, obviously you can’t get up and do the dishes. (Within reason, of course. If someone else has done all the cooking, then no. Get off your lazy bum).

And there ends my seasonal advice.

TL;DR: Don’t stress out too much, look after yourself, and try and enjoy it.

Have fun, folks!

 

 

What else would you add? Let me know below!

 

Cat Logic

Cat Logic

You knew it was going to happen. Why would you even try?

In the world of t’internet, there exists the term, “cat logic”. It’s both hashtag and explanation, description and exclamation, and it’s one of those wonderful phrases that makes me happy about the existence of social media and the internet in general. Seriously, google “cat logic”.

You’re welcome.

Now we’ve got that out of the way, I’m going to share a few examples of Layla’s cat logic, as it’s a wonderful thing. I may also attempt to relate them to the life of non-felines, to prove that I’m using my blog for more than just sharing photos of my cat.

That may or may not work.

Obviously, Layla shares the usual feline traits. If it was bought for her to sleep in or play with, she wants nothing to do with it. Favourite sleeping places are my lap (or back, if I’m in bed), or anywhere that makes it awkward to get up/sit down/open doors/carry on life in general. Favourite playthings (despite the half-suitcase of Australian catnip toys I carted back to France for her on my last trip) are my hair ties, a drawstring from the SO’s PJs, and crumpled bits of paper. Every time a cat sitter looks after Layla, they very diligently collect all the hair ties and put them away on a shelf somewhere. They must think I’m some sort of hair tie stripper, flinging multi-coloured elastic bands about the house willy-nilly. Because one hair tie is not enough, obviously. It must be every hair tie I put down, no matter where that may be.

This is fine.

I go through a lot of hair ties.

But these are all cat logic traits shared with most cats I know, along with the astonishingly accurate foreknowledge that allows her to come and sit on my lap at the exact moment I need to get up. But Layla has her own wonderful quirks.

She will only sleep on the spare bed if I’ve stripped all the bedding off, including the mattress cover. Apparently this makes it a wonderfully comfortable place to nap, so much so that she only moves for food. Which is unfortunate, as vacuuming mattresses is not as easy as washing cat hair off sheets.

If we’re going out for the day, she must go out in the last minutes before we leave, despite the fact that she’s lazy and spends almost all day sleeping inside. This goes double if it’s raining and/or we’ve spotted some of the neighbourhood strays in the area. With no cat flap, this means we spend all day wondering how many fights she’s got into (Layla has never been known to walk away from a fight. She thinks she’s posh because she’s from Harrogate, but she’s actually very scrappy for a small cat), and return home to an aggrieved kitty, complaining about being left out where she can’t get to her biscuits.

I don’t care if there ARE two doors and three other windows open. Open THIS one.

She likes to sleep in cupboards. This is something that she shares with many other felines, but the problem is that she can’t really meow. She puts an awful lot of effort in, and you can see her sides heave as she pushes the air out – but if any sound joins it, it’s a tinier squeak than most kittens have. Which means that, if we haven’t noticed her go into a cupboard, it can take a long time to find her again. She ended up spending all day in one when we thought she’d done her usual Great Escape, only to panic when we returned home to find she wasn’t waiting for us. It took about an hour of frantic calling and searching outside before we thought to check the cupboards. To be fair, she was sound asleep, so I don’t think it was much of an issue.

And it looks even worse in reality.

She doesn’t like fresh fish, chicken, or meat. She doesn’t even like fancy cat food. Which is good, because there’s never any need to worry about leaving food out, but also bad, because when she occasionally goes off her food, I don’t have many options. Not that I’m entirely complaining that the cheapest, nastiest supermarket own brand food is her preference. Oh, and pork pies. That’s the only food she’s ever stolen. Which may say something about the composition of pork pies.

Layla, unlike many animals, isn’t at all bothered by loud noises. I remember the first Guy Fawkes after she adopted me, I spent a fortune on a Feliway plug-in, Feliway spray, Valerian drops for cats, etc, etc. I tried everything I could think of (or read about) to make sure she was going to feel safe when the fireworks started. Her ears barely twitched. I, however, was a nervous wreck. On the other hand – apparently the SO’s winter jacket is terrifying and he can’t put it on in the house any more. (Edit – I also discovered yesterday that toothpaste boxes are Very Scary.)

If she’s outdoors and feels a hairball coming on, she runs inside and finds a rug to vomit on, then goes back out. (In one house, there was only one small rug in the entire downstairs, everything else being smooth flooring. She always found it).

She never, ever walks on the kitchen counter, but every other surface in the house is fair game. This is not something I’ve taught her.

I hate air conditioning, but if it gets really hot in the summer and I can see she’s getting uncomfortable, I’ll put it on. At which point she will always leave the room. Likewise in winter – she’ll sleep in the bedrooms where there’s no heating on, rather than in the living room where there is.

Without fail, she leaves the Christmas tree a minimum of two weeks before she attacks it. It’s always just at that point when we’re thinking, “Ah, she’s such a good kitty. We’re so lucky, not having to worry about the tree,” that we come home to utter devastation.

Soon…

Two other things about her, which have nothing to do with cat logic, but which I’ll share as more examples of her lovely oddity: she’s clumsy, and she snores. Both of which are adorable.

And I have, of course, utterly failed to relate any of this to human life, so I’ll just say this – we don’t always have to have reasons for our pathological hatred of certain jackets, or our affection for small cosy spaces. We don’t need fancy things to be happy when small things will do just fine. And, while we may know better, there’s nothing wrong with eating a little cheap and nasty food now and then, just because we like it. A little cat logic never hurt anyone.

How about you? Any examples of cat logic you’d like to share? Or just the lovely quirks of your pets?

What?

 

 

Friday Frivolities – Aging Gracefully

Friday Frivolities – Aging Gracefully

As you already know, I’m not the biggest fan of aging gracefully. It seems a little overrated to me, and I figure I may as well continue as I mean to go on. However, there is some sage advice to be found in this video.

I particularly love: “Cultivate younger friends, otherwise yours will all die off.”

 

 

What are your thoughts? What piece of advice would you impart to your younger self? Mine would be – and probably still is – you don’t have to know what you’re doing in life. No one else does either.

Happy Friday!

 

Life & How To Cat

Life & How To Cat

Are you ready to take notes, humans?

Layla has made her mark on this blog more than once, and she’s insisting that she be given her chance to shine again. Having ladled out life advice for cats and humans alike, she has some observations on human behaviour that she’d like to share with us.

I say humans, but really, it’s just me. She’s judging me. Which is what cats do, but she could be at least a little subtle about it.

Over to the little furry muse.


Greetings, inferior beings. I’m going to take this chance to enlighten you on a few things, in the hope that my human will also learn. I don’t hold out much hope, though. She’s terribly slow. (K: HEY!)

It seems to me that you two-leggers do dance around things an awful lot. You call it politeness and courtesy. I call it unnecessary. So let’s get a few things straight.

 

Always know your safe places. And escape routes.

1. Hiding is okay.

No self-respecting cat feels social all the time, and if people are going to be pushy, you should feel free to hide under the couch. Or wherever it is you fit, since you’re all a bit over-sized. You get all wound up about being social, but do you do anything about it? No. I went and sat on the roof for half the night when more than the two permitted humans were in the house the other day. The Significant Human kept trying to get me back in, but I wasn’t having any of it. And did she join me when she got tired? Ha! Silly creature.

 

 

Observe: The human has not observed correct petting etiquette. I bite her.

2. Respect your boundaries, and make sure others do, too.

I am a cat of advanced years, and before adopting the SH life was a bit rough. This means that I have no patience for fussing. I will allow the SH to pick me up once a day for a brief cuddle, and for the rest she knows to limit things to some petting and head rubs, strictly on my terms, of course. I am not comfortable with more than that, and I make this clear with a some assertive tail sweeps and, if pushed, an admonitory bite. If you don’t listen, on your own head be it. The SH tries to explain this to guests, so it’s really their own fault if they push things.

 

(K: The conversation tends to go like this:
“Best stop now, she’s had enough.”
“Oh, she’s just playing.”
“No, she’s not. You really need to leave her alone.”
“But she’s sweet really, you’re just – OW!”)

 

You will not touch me with your poison drops.

3. Express your displeasure.

The SH, for reasons known only to herself (K: it’s called politeness, Layla), rarely makes a fuss when things don’t go her way. She sighs a bit, but then continues as if nothing is wrong, although I hear her muttering sometimes. She never seems to actually say, “I don’t like that,” even when, for example, there are people being loud outside her window when she’s trying to sleep. This is, of course, entirely her own fault as she sleeps at ridiculous hours, and always at night. Humans. Anyhow, if I were her size, I’d throw cans at them from the window. Or potatoes. I’m not sure what else potatoes are good for.

To demonstrate how you can be more proactive in expressing your displeasure, here are some real-life examples:

If I am bored with my food, I will stop eating until the SH provides a decent alternative.

If she insists on putting that stinking poison (K: flea treatment, Layla. Flea treatment. You don’t want fleas, do you? L: Don’t be vulgar, I never get fleas. K:…) on the back of my neck, I will retire to a high shelf and glare at her for at least two days.

If she buys the wrong sort of sand stuff for my indoor toilet, I will use the bathmat.

And if she will insist on sleeping past 5am and not responding to the gentle touch (K: ha!) of my paws on her face, I will fart on her pillow and leave.

Make your feelings clear, people. How else will you be relaxed enough to sleep all day?

 

It is not a real mouse, but I will express mild pleasure.

4. Bring gifts to those you love.

The SH does her best, as does the Other Human. They can’t help that they will never be as beautiful, gifted and intelligent as cats (K: can I insert a face palm here?). I do love their big clumsy selves, and to show my appreciation I will on occasion bring them a nice mouse, or a lizard. These critters take some catching, and there is usually some bloodshed involved, but I persist and try to always bring them in alive, so my humans can learn a little about hunting. They normally jump around and shout a lot while they try to catch the gifts, so I feel they do understand how special these little gestures are.

However, they’re not very good at reciprocating. They keep bringing me fluffy mice and fake birds, stuffed with herbs. I know the real ones are tricky to catch, but they could at least try. It’s very lazy.

 

I don’t WANT to sit in this weird room. But someone has to make sure you don’t drown.

5. Look after yourselves.

You don’t sleep enough, particularly during the day. My humans spend all their time out, or rushing around, or tapping on the internet machine, then expect they’ll get enough sleep by lying down in one special room for about seven hours. That is not enough, and besides which everyone knows that night is the time for adventures and playing, not for sleeping. And what’s with the one room? How can you have slept properly if you don’t sleep in every room, every day?

Then there’s the matter of grooming – I never see the humans grooming themselves. They splash water all over the place instead, which I have to supervise closely in case they need rescuing. Worse than kittens.

They also never chuck up hairballs. I know they eat some odd varieties of grass, but it doesn’t seem to work very well. I hate to think of the amount of hair they must have in their tummies.

So, there we go, humans. Please try and emulate cats a little, and your lives will only be the better for it. You can contact me through my human with any questions, or to express adoration and send treats. You’re welcome.


Hard work, all this catting.

There you have it. Layla speaks, and I’m not sure all of it was entirely rubbish. What do you think? Kitty behaviours we should embrace or resist?

 

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