Well, it was never Grandma until later — we called you Nanny so as not to get confused with grandma and grandad, my father's parents. I have memories of going swimming when we were very little, at Bedworth baths. Later on, walks in the park behind the Civic hall, always lovely lunches, the beautifully kept houses, the apple tree and the big swing in the garden. 

Alas, I also remember the rows.  We were not well off and my father felt it unfair that we made all the effort to see you — and for some of my childhood we were without a car anyway. Grandad didn't like "visiting" his step-children's families, and you didn't drive.  We regularly exchanged visits with my paternal grandparents who were more than happy to do the 40 mile round trip from Hinckley. I wish now that you had insisted on coming more. Bedworth is what, 10, 15 miles north of Coventry?

I remember Charlie the daschund getting into Mum's shopping, and scoffing half a pound of black licquorice and a packet of Polo mints before anyone caught him, Mum being worried it'd harm him, and you laughing that his output would be foiled-wrapped for the next few days. You had a silly sense of humour and I loved your laugh. You were very crafty; I'm still using your cushions you made me from xmas 2016, on our bed, when I want to prop myself up to read. 

Both you and Mum have told me snippets of your early life — running away from home, abuse, eating from bins, being passed around various relatives. Living in a tent in a field, with my uncle and mother as toddler and baby respectively. Enough stuff to give Catherine Cookson a run for her money. 

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My year, health-wise...
2015 was interesting. I was diagnosed with a slipped disc (which happened nearly 9 years ago on xmas eve) right before xmas last year, and had to spend a lot of it lying down or standing, or sitting on a special kneeling chair. So I've been overweight (BMI = obese) for quite some time, and the back injury hasn't helped. I was getting a lot of sciatica and numbness down my right leg, as the disc pressed on the nerve. Couldn't stand up for very long, and could sit, but would rise in agony. Turns out my upper body has been carrying all my weight for 8 years and finally got fed up of it. Standard chiropractice wasn't helping, so I had a course of IDD - a stretching treatment. It took 18 treatments, and all of a sudden I could sit at a restaurant for more than 20 minutes before the pain got too much. From August onwards, sitting too long made my left knee feel sprained. Turned out I'd been standing wrong for the last 9 years and the hamstring on that side was too short. Eight weeks of hamstring-focussed workouts at the gym and things are definitely improving - the knee feels normal now, although I still get a bruise-like ache on the slipped disc side. Apparently it'll never be perfect - but I'm in remission and fitter than I started the year. I now need to work on core-strengthening exercises, but for various reasons I've not managed to get a gym refocus session booked yet - had a bad head cold last week and had to cancel. But I'll be right back on it as soon as I can, if I can squeeze a booking in in amongst the January rush.

At the same time as all this, I've been logging my weight and as of September, logging my food intake, with the aim of losing weight. So far I'm 2st 2lbs down from my heaviest - and I've gone down a dress size and two cup sizes. So I'm posting my diet tips, in the hopes someone else might profit from it. I still have almost 2 stone to lose in the hardest time of the year, and calorie-wise this week has been a disaster - but I'll keep on logging and trying to limit the damage.

  1. Log everything you eat. Everything. Even if you had a bad day. Log it, don't beat yourself up over it, and move on. I use myfitnesspal, set to lose 2lbs a week - and if you stick to it, it does work. As I'm usually slightly over calories, 2lbs a week means I've some wiggle room and sometimes the loss is just 1lb.

  2. Will power - you'll need it. Don't put temptation in your way - if having chocolate in the house means you have to eat it, don't bring it into the house. On the flip side of this, if you have enough will power to only eat individually wrapped mini bars of chocolate (I like Green N Blacks Selections) - and having access to mini bars means you won't go to the supermarket and buy a standard size bar (and then eat the lot, and feel guilty about it) - then do it like that. I keep the GnB in a hard-to-see spot in the 'fridge, and only eat one if I have 100 cals left of an evening. Knowing it's there curbs the cravings somewhat - it's there if I need it, and I find I mostly don't need it. Or swap the chocolate for a low cal hot chocolate drink or a piece of fruit.

  3. Avoid small sweets - it's impossible to work out the calories unless you happen to have weighing scales with you. I can't be doing with all that maths, myself! Work is tricky because birthdays mean cake or sweets for free - but it's not free calorifically...

  4. If you're going to drink your calories, do it after 8pm and stick to just one glass of wine or one beer. Before 8pm and your resolve will crumble, and it'll lead to more drinks.

  5. Exercise. Try and do 20 minutes every day you get chance - a 20 minute walk around the block, 20 mins on the exercise bike. I try and do one Nordic walk a week, and two gym visits a week. The nordic walking "gains" me about 384 calories. If you're using MFP, logging your exercise gains you extra points which you can eat or save at your leisure.

  6. I don't hold with fad diets that cut out a major food group or advocate only eating one thing. Everything in moderation - if you cut out something completely and start craving it, the diet is not going to work for you in the long term. By all means make sensible swaps - brown bread over white, etc - but if you don't like the food, don't force it. Resentment only brings a diet meltdown!

  7. Healthy eating is for life, not just for xmas. Try new foods; learn new recipes.

Right, well, I've rambled on far enough now. Here's to a happier, healthier New Year! 
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It's been over 6 months since Thomas died. We got another rescue cat, who could not be more different. His name was Gus, but we decided he looked more like an Eddie. He didn't seem to answer to Gus anyway. He's about 18 months old.

I don't think he was well treated - all we know was that social services were involved. So I suspect he was poked by a very small child, too little to be left with a pet. He can be very loving at times, but then he gets over excited and wants to wrestle, which involves biting and holding with the front claws whilst kicking with the back legs. He spent the first few days hiding under the sofa. He overturned the bins looking for food and had diarrhoea (luckily in the bath) the first two nights. I think the change in diet upset him, there were also a few emissions of the silent but deadly kind. He was jumpy at the smallest sound, and seemed to have no desire to leave the house. It was nerve wracking when we did let him out.

He's a very quiet cat who only miaows when food is about to be served. He's starting to learn how to ask to be let out or in. He's not quite made it onto a lap yet, but he'll lie alongside your legs. He loves to play so much, we sometimes have to use a laser pointer to get him to come inside. He still likes to wrestle, but st least now the claws are somewhat withdrawn and the nibbling often turns to licking.

It's been a difficult transition, these last few months. In hindsight, perhaps an older cat would have been better. Partly I feel guilty for replacing Thomas, I suppose. But nothing can bring him back now...

One night a few years back I was having a terrible time sleeping. In order not to wake the other half, I went downstairs and laid out on the sofa. Thomas came and sat on my chest. He never usually settled, so I often had to kick him off. This time, though, he fell asleep, one paw on my cheek. I'll never forget that.

Miss you much, dear boy. I'm sure the new chap'll work out, but he spends a lot of time hiding under the sofa at the moment.

We've adopted this little guy - who is very bitey, when he's not being soppy. He was called Gus but we renamed him Eddie. At 10 months, I think he can handle it.

He was underfed and kept in a flat, so we don't know if he's ever been outside. May day has been set as the day he gets to taste the great outdoors. In the meantime I'm a surrogate scratching post, when he's not hiding under the sofa.


Sprinkled Tom's ashes under this forsythia yesterday. It was one of his favourite spots to sunbathe.

And yes, there appears to be a shuttlecock in the garden. No idea why.

Cats I have loved
As a rejoinder to the last post I thought I might post some pics of cats I've loved and lost in the past. Just because.


Puss, my mum's first cat. Tried to rename her Trixie Fluff, but Puss stuck. A loving, placid animal, I was honoured when she finally deigned to sit on my lap. I was about 12.





Biscuit - my first cat - was rescued by a friend of a friend from a bag of kittens dumped in Coventry Canal. She was the only survivor, because she was pretty free with her claws. Eventually she retired to London with friends, and lived to age 18. She was originally named Tuppence. Had a beautiful spotted tummy, which alas I never got a photo of.


Fraggle - a daft as a brush cat with no road sense whatsoever. Non-pedigree persian, you could pick his fur out of the carpet because it clumped. Had a little white bald spot for a belly button. Liked to chase butterflies but had no idea what to do with them. Got run over aged 5, despite having lived alongside a railway line for a year and coming to no harm. Alas, I don't seem to have many pictures of him.

In memoriam


We knew you were the cat for us, the moment we met you at a foster house in Nuneaton. You came bounding in, greeting everyone in a friendly way. Couldn't believe your owners had got divorced and given you up for adoption. You peed up the side of the foster carer's kitchen cabinets. "He doesn't usually do that!" she said, panic in her voice. She had her own cats, I think you were making your own mark. We had gone to look at another cat, but he just sat there, and we felt he might get beaten up by the locals.

You didn't trust us to start with. You'd only eat food in your bowl, and turned your nose up at salmon or anything offered at the table. That changed within a few months, though - and in later days, you'd demand to try anything I was preparing in the kitchen (banana, baked beans, celery).

You were always "the boy" - "Is the boy in?" "Have you fed the boy yet?". You had a knack for sitting in awkward places, like in a doorway, earning you the nickname "inappropriate cat". You were a people person, and always wanted to be wherever we were. Which often meant the rug on the landing, halfway between the knitting room and the office. You loved the sheepskin rug by the fire, and the radiator bed. You hated being constrained under a blanket and learnt that the garage door noise might mean the cat box. You got expert at hiding behind or underneath the sofa.

You'd often come in to see me when I was knitting, and demand food. As soon as a lap was available, you'd be on it. You would sometimes make a strange sneer (Flehmann's?) which made us think your second name ought to be Elvis.

You had a knack for finding the sunniest spots and you loved your radiator bed. You constantly tried to hide in the bedroom at night, so we wouldn't shut you out. You had a penchant for drinking out of the toilet. Only the ensuite, though - you had standards! You never buried your output in the litter tray, that was just your way.

You had a penchant for drinking water out of puddles, and hiding in the bushes. You liked to get our attention by sitting on the front windowsill, although just lately it's been icy so you'd taken to sitting on the wheelie bin instead. You learnt how to rattle the front door to be let out or to get attention.

You came to something of an entente cordial with the local cats Bowie, Giggsy and Eric. You learned to tolerate Houdini, a boisterous lump of overgrown kitten muscle that moved in next door, who always wanted to play too roughly.

You once peed in the Cog's wardrobe. He'd left a pint of milk to go off in his bag, and you didn't like the competition. Well done for getting his suede shoes, too!

You loved catnip, and once almost got it out of my bag before I did. You learnt which drawer it lived in, too.

You liked being groomed, but only if you could move around. You hated being held down.

You were always pleased to see us, no matter what mood we came home in. You were always talking to us, telling us about your day or asking to be fed. Neither of us speak much cat, but we appreciated the effort.

Sometimes we took you for a walk around the block. Once, you got into somebody's garden, and waited there whilst we were in the pub, not being able to figure out how to get back out again. The Cog had to rescue you.

One famous afternoon you didn't come home for hours, and when you did, you had blood on your chin. We reckon a dog had spooked everyone, because Eric was sat way up a tree all afternoon. About a year ago you came home with a torn ear. "Well, he just doesn't look brand new anymore!" was the Cog's comment.

I used to play a game called "Jump!" when I got home - you'd jump on your hind legs for fuss, and it meant food. I would pick you up and sing "You are the sunshine of my life" to you.

You often greeted the cars when they came home. If I was outside in the garden, you loved to join me on the table or on the picnic rug.

Your favourite part of the day was 10pm, for an hour of snuggles and fuss on the bed, where you permitted me to tickle your tummy. You'd always check around the bed before mounting though, in case of other cats. Lately, you spent most of your time indoors, and preferred to go out when we were at home.

We took a fortnight's holiday last year, and when we picked you up from the kennels, you were almost beside yourself with excitement. I truly think you thought you'd been abandoned.

When I took you to the vet with a mild skin complaint, I had no idea it'd lead to the discovery of hyperthyroidism, and pills for life. You really hated the pills (it was a two-person job), so to alleviate your stress we decided a thyroidectomy was the best option. Alas, a blood clot after the operation ended your life, and we had no option but to put you to sleep. It would have been easier to take, had you been ready to go, but you were full of vitality.

I cannot tell you how empty the house is now. Even though I saw you put to sleep, I still rush home in the hope you're just lost and have found your way home to us.

Sleep softly, dear boy. We'll never forget you.

Kisses and smooches.

More photos here

The white elephant in the room....
HS2 phase two has been announced, the phase that connects Birmingham to Manchester and Leeds. On the map they have helpfully shown the existing railway line. Which it pretty much shadows - just like the first phase, in fact.

Am I the only person who cannot understand why they are building this thing? Why can't they spend the money where it is needed - a decent train link to Devon/Somerset, for a start, because getting down there on the train is harder than getting to Paris!!! I appreciate they've spent millions on this so I guess it's unlikely they'll cancel it but, seriously!!! Didn't anyone think to stand up and ask "Why this route?" I guess it's because the rest of the UK doesn't actually exist, in some minds, outside of London. Well, here's news - I don't care about making their transport easier. Lots of train lines already lead to London - I have a choice of two routes from the Midlands - Brum to Euston, or Warwick to Marylebone - and I'm certain there are other routes. It's already at the centre of the rail network, despite geographically being located in the right hand corner of the landmass.

Just me, then. OK.

In other news, slammed my left index finger in a car door. It's rather purple at the moment, but has healed enough that I can craft somewhat. Hope it grows out soon, it's rather yucky looking. 


Had a fantastic few days in Wales last week - I even got a bit of sunbathing in, which is unheard of for March. Weather is back to its grey normality now.

We stayed at Bluestone near Narberth - a little Centreparc-style village at the bottom of a steep hill. Kept us eating in mostly as couldn't face the uphill trek to the car in the dark.

Been enjoying the April Fools hoaxes online today - a royal BMW model, a Toshiba laptop for dogs and a Narhwal in the Thames near Lambeth Bridge :)


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