Animal Update

Things are getting exciting in the garden! The broody hen is still sitting, and her eggs could hatch any time now, though are due in a few days. (I’m not sure if the warm weather we’re having will speed things up, or if it takes 3 weeks to hatch a chick, whatever the weather.) The cockerel is very bored, and tries to escape every time I go up to see them. I’m trying to give him cabbages and pots of mud to play with. But he’s still bored. Poor chap. He’ll have to stay caged at least until September, because the fox is still visiting.

The ducks are less bored, as there are more of them, though I don’t think they’re very keen on being caged. The ‘duckling which hen hatched’ is now fully integrated as a duck, and although s/he hangs back a bit, is definitely part of the flock. They are quite hard work, as their main pastime is to fill the water bowls with mud. They need to do this to some extent, as the mud then dissolves, and when they drink the water they also absorb grit, which they need for their egg shells. Except, all my ducks are male, so they don’t lay eggs, which means it is mostly just annoying. They splash the water everywhere, and it’s fun to watch happy ducks playing, but it does mean that their cage is a mess, covered in wet mud at all times. I cannot imagine how much worse keeping a pig must be.

The pond is almost ready for them. It was rather scary when it was first done, as we were basically left with this big, clay lined hole. As we have never lived here during such a long dry season, we didn’t know how low the old pond would have been (it’s a water-table pond, so tends to fill and empty with the weather). However, looking at this huge dry hole was a worry. Then the storms came, and the pond began to fill, and—more importantly—stay full. Phew! We went and bought some plants in our excitement. This was a bit daft, as I know when the ducks are put in, they will eat them all, but I couldn’t resist. My favourite (which unfortunately also looks rather tasty) is a floating plant. It has roots which dangle under the surface, and the plant drifts across the pond. It will be killed as soon as we have a frost (unless I bring it in, I guess; perhaps we’ll have a bowl of water in a shed and try to keep it alive). But I am pretty sure the ducks will eat it. Ducks eat everything. Except, they did not eat the water irises that Grandpa gave us last year. They were yellow, and I rather fell in love with the purple and white water irises we saw in Japan; so I bought some when I saw them in the shop. They are tiny, and were quite expensive, so I have one of each colour. Am hoping they will spread.

The ‘outside cats’ are now free, as all the diggers have gone. They had fun exploring the pond before it filled. The old grumpy cat is now confined to the house, as every summer she gets an allergy, which makes her scratch her fur out. I didn’t catch it in time this year, as it started early (I guess due to the warm weather) so by the time I trapped her inside, she was already very itchy. She then began sleeping in her dirt tray; and using her dirt tray; which was completely revolting. I could not bring myself to stroke her (not that I do much anyway, because she bites me). I looked online, in case I needed to take her to the vets, and learned that cats will sleep in their dirt tray if they are distressed. I guessed being itchy was distressing her, so we waited, I tried to bath her (have the torn skin on my arms to prove it) and we tried to be kind to her. After a few days, she started to sleep in her bed. Happy days! It’s remarkable how low your animal-contentment levels can go.

I feel bad that she’s stuck in a single room, it feels like a prison (but she’s old and will poop in my house if I let her roam free). I therefore put the dog and Milly (one of the outside cats) in with her every so often, as she will tolerate both of them. (I cannot say she ‘likes’ them, as I don’t believe she likes any of us.) The dog takes her gifts. She is unappreciative.

Hope you have a good week.

Love,
Anne

Anne E. Thompson is an author of several novels and one non-fiction book. You can find her work in bookshops and on Amazon.
Thank you for reading.
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Animals and Neighbours

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The cockerels survived! If you read an earlier post, you’ll know that the DEFRA quarantine (for bird flu) lasted until the end of February. I was worried that when I released the birds into the garden, the cockerels would think it was new territory (having bird brains, and all that) and would fight. Cockerels fight to the death, even if you try to separate them, so I was worried. I couldn’t find anything helpful online – I’m not sure many ‘hobby’ farmers keep cockerels. I decided I would start to let the birds out just as it was getting dark. They are rigid about their routines, and as soon as it gets dark, they all roost on their perch, all in a set order. I thought that maybe, if it was beginning to get dark, even if they started to fight, the urge to roost would be greater, so they’d stop attacking each other before one was dead.

Well, it worked fine. I opened the cage door, and they all rushed out. No fighting. Excellent. The four new ones have never left the cage before, so they were very interested by it all, the older ones went straight onto the compost heap for a good dig.

One of the new ones is tiny, even smaller than her mother (I bought “large chicken eggs” on Ebay, but one- the mother of the latest clutch – is a bantam. That’s Ebay for you!) She was so excited she started to fly around and sit in the trees, which was pretty cool. I was slightly worried the cats might think she was small enough to catch, as she’s smaller than a rat and they do a good job at keeping them under control. When I released them, the dog and all four outside cats arrived to watch. The cats like living outside, but they’re both nosey and keen for snuggles, so they follow us around when we’re in the garden. I watched them carefully, but whenever they were approached by a hen, even a small one, they backed away quickly. They clearly associate chickens with being pecked rather than with sport/food. Which is good. Always a good idea to introduce very young predators to adult birds – they learn to not attack. My cats had some sharp pecks when they were kittens, and obviously remember.

As it grew darker, the three old birds went straight back into the cage to roost. The younger birds partied for a bit longer; which worried the dog, who was keen to round them up, but I wanted to wait and see what happened, so made her sit beside me. She sat there, nudging me with her nose and whimpering – disagreed with my decision. It was fine, they all went to bed before it was properly dark. That’s the only nice thing about short winter days I think, the chickens go to bed early. When the clocks move forward, I will have to wait until later before I can shut the door, which makes going out in the evening difficult.

The ducks are all laying. There are little nests of eggs all around the pond. I keep finding them, and don’t know how old they are, so am leaving them (would be embarrassing to give someone an old egg to eat). Not sure if they’ll sit, it’s still quite early, but sometimes they do if the weather’s warm. I have enough ducks, so if they do, when the ducklings are full grown I’ll give them away. They’re not far removed from mallards, so can fly and would cope fine on a wild pond. I do hope bird flu doesn’t spread to this area. I like my birds.

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The cats are fat. I think they put on extra fat during the winter months, plus their fur is really thick. They are wonderful to cuddle. Sometimes I try to bring one inside, but they’re very unsettled and want to get back in the garden as soon as they can. They all come running when I whistle, so if I have any meat scraps, I’ll call them to the door.

We have sheep in the field next to the house. They’re fat too, so I’m hoping we might have lambs soon. I don’t like walking through the field when there’re mothers and young – sometimes they become aggressive – so we’re having to find new walks. The dog likes this, but I don’t. I tend to walk each day when I need a break from writing, and I like to walk the same way, so I don’t have to concentrate and can loose myself in the story while I walk. Then when we get home, I’m usually ready to write the next part of the story.

At the moment while I walk, I’m also delivering invites to the book launch on 29th. My neighbours all live several fields away, so I rarely see them. There is one house, which has tall fences and gates, down a private track. It has no name, no letterbox. No one (that I have asked) knows who lives there, but it used to be a pop star. If you look on Google maps, there is a big house and a few small cottages. Who lives there? Could be someone famous. Or a Mafia don. Or someone royal. Very interesting. Very occasionally, the gates are left open. If I’m walking past, I shall sneak in with an invitation – you never know, they might like to come to a book launch. If I discover who lives there, I’ll let you know.

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Thank you for reading.

xxx

 

Hospitals, packing and flight…

Have you ever met a squeamish nurse? I went for my MRI this week (an annual treat) and it was at a new centre – the NHS are obviously outsourcing some of their patients. Went to a very nice surgery in a posh part of London and filled out the usual “I don’t have any metal parts” questionnaire prior to the scan. Except of course, I do, as they rebuilt my skull with a metal plate. So I was explaining this to the nurse, saying that whatever it is that causes MRI machines to explode is not in my head, as I’ve had MRIs since surgery, etc. She was clearly worried about this (I’m wondering if she was new) and she wanted to know how big it was. Well, I have no idea. I was asleep at the time of rebuilding. I told her I didn’t know, but it didn’t feel very big. She then put out a hand, felt the lumps and bumps and dips in my head, shuddered, gave a squeal and moved away quickly. Unexpected.

I’m guessing she was a nurse, because she wore a short blue tunic, and up until this point had behaved like a nurse. Perhaps she wasn’t. Perhaps she was a student or a technician, or someone who had come to mend the photocopier and was filling in because they were short staffed. Whoever she was, I’m sure she’s not meant to react like that with patients. It was actually rather funny, so I giggled and told her she wasn’t meant to do that. Certainly was a change from the normal experience in hospitals.

It has been a busy week because we’re going to India for a few days. Husband is involved with a charity which does lots of work there,  so we are going to New Delhi to look at their work in the slums. Probably you are not meant to call them ‘the slums’ – certainly in Brazil we were told to call them some other name which I now forget. Not sure of the Indian equivalent, but I’ll let you know. It will be interesting to see how the organisation works. I know they do lots of work encouraging people to claim their rights (their rights being things like not being abused, and having clean water to drink.)

First on the list was to put ‘outside cat’ who has been recovering from cut foot, back outside. I anticipated problems. She has loved being inside, sleeping with the dog, purring round our feet in the kitchen, scratching up the carpet…So, I unblocked the cat-flap and put her in the garden, and waited for her to bounce back inside. Nope. Not even a visit. She ran straight back to her family in the workshop, and has ignored me ever since. I rather miss her.

Next I visited the health food shop. I read online that if you take probiotics prior to travel, it helps to build up all the good bacteria in your gut, which improves resistance when the bad ones invade. Not sure if that’s bunk, but figured it was worth a try. I also bought charcoal tablets because also read that IF bad bacteria invade (and India is kinda known for bad bellies) then charcoal caries it out of your system. Again, might be myth, but am hoping I won’t need to test the theory.

It has been rather lovely to dig out my summer clothes again. Weather here has passed the ‘bright pretty autumn’ stage and is mainly cold and wet. Ahhh, for a little sunshine again. Quite hard to know what to take though (packing is never easy.) I need clothes for the slums – so shit proof (sorry mother, but I can’t think of a better word.) I also need smart clothes for the hotel. Plus, when walking around, I need to cover legs and shoulders if I’m not going to attract attention. I do actually have some trousers and a tunic that I bought when in Mumbai, so I’ll take those. And silk scarves rather than sun-hats. Am thinking suitcase is too small…

I will write some extra posts while I’m away, so you can read about what we see. (If they stop suddenly, we might have been kidnapped, so please send help. Or perhaps will be not managing to leave washroom, so perhaps sending more charcoal would be best…)

Take care,
Anne x

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Another week….

 

Have you read anything good lately? I’ve just started reading The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, am hooked already. It took me a few pages before I started to like it, I wouldn’t have picked it up in a bookshop, read the beginning and then bought it; but after a couple of chapters it’s pretty addictive. I started reading it because daughter recommended it. So often, I buy books because someone has said they are good. (I am really really hoping that everyone who has enjoyed reading my book has told their friends and family…..authors depend on other people to stimulate sales.)

The Girl on the Train is mainly about Rachel, a girl whose life has fallen apart. As we learn more about her, about what led to her divorce and drinking and apathy with life, it seems as if the main catalyst was not being able to have children. That is so sad. I don’t know if the author has children, but she describes in detail how it feels to be unable to have them. I have no idea how accurate it is, but one thing she describes is feelings of jealousy towards people who conceive easily, and how she will avoid places where there are likely to be young families, even leaving supermarkets if there are too many mothers and babies shopping. So sad.

One strange thing about reading The Girl on the Train, is that the author has a very similar writing style to my own. Even the genre is the same as Joanna, so I felt like I was reading my own work – I found I was proofreading rather than just enjoying the story! She even makes some of the same mistakes (so that she has a tendency to use ‘that’ when it isn’t that necessary.) Very strange. At the end of her book she lists all the people who have helped her, including her agent. Given that her book is so similar to Joanna, I am considering sending the manuscript to them for consideration.

This caused me some stress. I found the agent’s website and looked at their submission policy. As with all these agents, it just seems so rude! It lists all the things they want posted (not emailed) such as cover letter, synopsis, first few chapters. They then tell you to check carefully and send everything they have asked for, or they will recycle it without looking at it. Then they say that after they have received your (hours of) work, if they don’t want to represent you, they won’t bother to reply. My inclination is to not send them my book. If they won’t even be polite, why should they have the opportunity to make money from my hard work? Husband tells me this is silly, this is how business works, I will increase my sales through a mainstream publisher. I like the control of self-publishing. Difficult decision. Perhaps I will do both. Self-publishing is good/excellent/fun until it comes to the selling and advertising – then it gets very difficult.

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Another stress point this week has been Milly. She was limping, and when I checked her paw, she had cut it badly. Now, I know about cuts (you learn lots of first aid when you have children.) I know that if you clean the wound, smear it with savlon, and cover it, it will heal – as long as you change the dressing every day. I figured the same would work with a cat. Cats however, are less helpful at staying still. Milly does this wriggling twisting manoeuvre whilst using her back legs to shred the skin from your arm. She got away from me and disappeared. Didn’t come near me for the next two days. When I finally caught her again the cut was worse, so I mortgaged the house and went to the vet. He examined her while she lay still and peaceful in my arms (think he must have hypnotised her.) He then dried the wound with a laser, gave her an antibiotic jab and told me to keep her inside for a few days. Sounds easy. But Milly is an outside cat, she lives in the workshop with her family. She does not want to be an inside cat.

I moved her into the utility room with Louise (the cranky old indoors cat – you can imagine how well that went.) I heaped heavy sacks of cat litter in front of the cat flap, and positioned a full watering can outside, with the spout against the flap so it couldn’t be pushed open. Escape proof – I thought. Milly and Louise were both unhappy, and Molly and Midge (other two outside cats) kept prowling around, trying to find Milly. (Mandy is also an outside cat, but not very clever – I don’t think she noticed.)

The following morning I went into the utility room. No cats. They had shredded the sacks of cat litter, so that was all over the floor. Someone had moved the watering can spout, so I think they had help from outside. Milly, Molly and Midge were all missing. Only Mandy was in the workshop, looking confused.

Eventually, I found the escapee, changed the method of catflap blocking and put her back inside. The paw was now filthy, so goodness knows if it will still heal properly. After a couple of days, she got used to the heat of the house and now seems quite contented. She curls up with the dog and sleeps on the sofa…..Am thinking I might have a problem moving her back outside….

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Take care,
Anne x

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Thank you for reading.

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xxx

Letters to a Sister : 21

So, Mum took me for a ‘treat’ this week. We had lunch at Burswood, which is a lovely stately home. It is now used as a healing centre (unexpected.) I was told there would be a quick, half hour service, then we’d have lunch.

I didnt realise it is also a hospital, so we had coffee with people in pyjamas. Feeling somewhat awkward by this point, sipped my coffee and tried to look as if I was visiting a patient.

We went with an old lady who used to work there. Everyone greeted her and asked if she’d seen Daisy yet. She kept telling them that no, she hadn’t yet, but she would pop in before she left. Eventually, in the bookshop she saw Daisy and introduced me. Daisy is a stuffed sheep. It was that kind of day.

The service lasted one hour, fifteen minutes. At the end, everyone – absolutely everyone- went forward to be prayed for by the healers. I stayed in my pew feeling somewhat uncomfortable. Mum appeared to be asking her ‘healer’ for directions to somewhere. There was lots of arm waving.

We then had lunch, which was lovely. We came home ( after we had gone to say goodbye to Daisy).

The last treat mum took me on, we went to a cafe run by disabled people. We were the only customers and we drank coffee in an empty room while a man ( who I assume/hope was a patient) shouted at us.  I have requested that we don’t have anymore treats for a while. I need recovery time.

We took the boys back to uni, I can hardly believe the Summer is over. I will miss them loads. Maybe not the relationship advice though. This was very evident even as we drove Son 2 back.
Husband remarked, “It’ll be just us tomorrow.”
I lovingly replied, “Yes, it will be nice to have some time together.”
Voice from back said, “She’s been practising that sentence all week: YES, it will be nice….. Yes, it WILL be nice……”

When we later had a slight disagreement over the route, there were sounds of son shooting himself on the back seat.

However, most of the trip went to plan. There was bit of delay when we realised that Son 1 had given us the wrong postcode, so we couldn’t find his new house to drop off his stuff. It then transpired that actually, he had given us the wrong road name as well. Easy mistake, apparently. We found each other eventually.

Another slight mishap was sorting bags of bedding. We thought all was finished when Son 2 phoned to say that we had left him with three duvets and no pillows. One was the duvet with no feathers, so perhaps that was not such a problem. More of a problem for Son 1 who was left with four pillows and no duvet. Did a quick shopping trip before we left him.

We then spent the night at Premier Inn before the long drive home. I really like Premier Inn. They are clean and have comfortable beds, the sort of food that you actually feel like eating and you don’t pay for a lot of stuff that you don’t want. Excellent idea by someone.

We got home to a calm house and happy animals – Mum had housesat for us. I have now moved the outside kittens to the garden. They have been free during the night (when there are practically no cars) but I’ve been keeping them secure during the day. Have decided they are probably big enough now to be free all the time. They have grown noticeably thicker coats than Mungo, who we’re keeping inside as a house cat.

We did have one incident when Midge climbed a tree and couldn’t get down. It was really interesting to watch his Mum go up and get him. She kept going to him, then showing him which branches to jump onto to get down. She got very cross when he ignored her and went even higher – she chased up after him and told him off. There seemed to be a lot of biting of legs involved. Perhaps I should have tried that as a parenting technique.

Take care,
Anne x

PS. Mum has been told by the doctor to drink less tea. She has rationed herself to three cups per day. They are the biggest cups I have ever seen, I think she must have gone to a ‘super-size mug’ shop. Not sure that’s quite what the doctor meant. I will let you have that conversation with her. Ax

 

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