Monthly Archives: February 2011

Ahh, sakura… sugoi, desu ne?!

As before, the Japanese do expressions of wonder so much better than any language I know. Sakura – cherry blossom and Ume – plum blossom – are celebrated with Hanami – flower viewing.

Well, it’s official. It’s Hanami season. Our ume by the door is beginning to blossom. Buds are fat and some have popped open already. The cherries will be a long time yet, but the apricot and nectarine we planted in November are blossoming up. Hopefully, no frost to kill the buds off. This tradition means a lot to me because it reminds me of the whole idea of transience, the bitter-sweet nature of life, how beauty lasts only a moment, yet how it always returns. It was the symbol of the samurai, but to me, it’s the symbol of spring, of rebirth, of beginnings. With the ‘baby sheeps’ (as Jake likes to call them) in the field, the snowdrops fading and the daffodils beginning, violets poking their heads up all around, it’s definitely a sign that times are a-changing. I can’t think of a more poignant thing to happen at this time, when two little lives are over.

This time four years ago, I was in Kyoto for Hanami. It was everything I imagined it would be.


Goodnight Miss Saffy

Steve buried Saffy this morning. It was quite heart-breaking. She’s in the same patch as Basil.

Unfortunately, by the time I got to my father’s, my brother Al had decided that this was an amusing topic for conversation and asked if she’d done a little wave with her paw before she’d gone out to die. He’s mean. Not only did my dad not stop him, but he joined in a bit.

I miss Saff. I miss her getting under my feet in the kitchen and the way she used to bark at everything, how she’d do giddy little half jumps when she got excited. I miss how she sits down waiting for a treat and how gentle she was. I miss how she took control instinctively and the little bit of joy she got from walks. I feel sad that she didn’t have anyone who loved her as much as I loved Basil. Because it’s not the same when you’ve only known them for two months, no matter how much you want it to be. I miss seeing her under Steve’s duvet in the morning, and how good she was – never even the slightest bit of bother. Even when she died, she did it in the least bothersome way.

Bringing up the rear

This picture is taken perhaps 10 days after we got the two spaniels. She might be behind, but she loved the walks. She’d do her little half jumps when you got her lead out, and both her lead and Tilly’s were chewed through – she chewed them when she was waiting for the door to be open. This walk, she almost had enough – but she kept plodding on, regardless of her size or difficulty moving. I always had to help her into the car. She’d sit on the front seat, with Molly and Tilly in the back, like Driving Miss Daisy.

In the leaves

She loved the walks in the leaves, and I can see her little tennis ball under the TV cabinet, the last place she put it so the others couldn’t get to it. She was only last Sunday pulling a stick from Steve’s hand, like she’d rediscovered the joy of sticks. You could guarantee if she found a stick, or had her ball, she’d keep it until she got home.


And I had such a lovely time with her when Steve and Jake were away.

Yay for Saff with her stick
All my girls waiting for a walk
Dog prison for doggies who eat chicken food!

And our final photo of Saffy, waiting for a treat, taken by Jake. I have to say, I think it’s funny that Tilly’s attention is elsewhere.

Madame Saff xx

What a great dog she was. What a shame she was given up and what a shame what had gone before had interfered so much with her health. I can only hope there was a little joy in those jumps. I know so. Bones, treats, scraps, leftover lamb, bits of crackling are all par for the course in this house. Spoilt our doggies may be, but they can never be with us long enough.

A little tribute…

But of a musical jukebox for anyone who understands how music sometimes says more than words. I used to sing a song to Basil, especially when we were on the way to the vets…

My boy lollipop:

And here’s a little song for Saffy:

Such a lovely song… I really hope she did have the time of her life.


Now I need a little music to cheer me up, so here are my top 5 ‘cheer you up’ tracks… I make no apologies for cheesiness. I have a tendency to use music to reflect my mood – and whenever I get a bit too Leonard Cohen, I listen to these five. They were my most played on my ipod (before it broke through sweat!!)

Here’s the first… Build me up Buttercup, by Busted and McFly! Apologies to anyone who loves the Foundations… that’s just the way I roll!

Track number two is Hippo and Dog singing In the Jungle, which reminds me of a certain Belgian girl in Brazil. It’s a great ‘feel good song’ anyway, and having a happy hippo sing it is genius!

Track three is a real joy… if you love Cool Runnings, you know why:

Track four is a bit related to that… nothing like reggae to make you feel a little happier:

Track five is my ultimate feel good band… you can’t feel bad listening to this band. They’re safe in a way that you can’t always trust a band to be, when you’re emotional!

I used to have days when I was really depressed, back in 2008 when I couldn’t get off the couch or out of bed. I used to start with the first one and see if I could manage to do 2 minutes of picking stuff up, or two minutes of brushing my hair or getting dressed. As I got a little better, it was all five. Some days, I was back to just one track. But it was a good way to get me off the sofa. As I got even better, I got the list up to 15 tracks – half an hour’s worth of moving about.

Just out of interest, my other ten feel good tracks are:

Guillemots: Made-Up Love Song #43 (and if you want to know how I feel about Steve (mostly!!) this is it!) It reminds me of the magic in life… Now there’s poetry in an empty coke can… Now there’s majesty in a burned-out caravan! He is my best friend. I love him as if he is my family. And this pretty much says how it is for me. Not the ‘I love you, I don’t think you care’ bit, although last night, I felt a little like that! Ankle sprain aside, I never heard a man moan so much about doing my chores! He even said at 10:30 last night, when he needed to let Tilly out, “I only sat down at 9:30!”

Dinosaur Jr: Freak Scene. Such a good song. Don’t let me fuck up will you, because when I need a friend, it’s still you. Genius.

Bob Marley: One Love

Rihanna: Umbrella

The Holloways: Generator. Little known band, top song. I love the video, which is a sad clown who is rescued from sadness by the band and this happy little song. I’m not going to let things get me upset and I won’t let all the little stuff get me depressed.

The Kings of Leon: Fans. For those days when you need a little whoo-hoo-hoo in your soul.

Broooce: Dancin in the Dark and Born in the USA. Stonking rousing tunes.

Faith No More: Easy. I know it sounds funny, but I can’t stand the pain. Girl, I’m leaving you tomorrow. Seems to me, girl, you know I done all I can, you see, I begged, stole and I borrowed… but he’s easy, easy like Sunday morning.

And finally – Queen Somebody to Love.

This is my prescription for feeling a little bit better. And if you feel like listening to my playlist, here it is. Dr LJ to the rescue with a whole load of music that helps you get things in perspective.

Come on God, do I seem bulletproof?

Just when I thought things would settle down a bit, they don’t.

Saffy had been very sick yesterday and hadn’t eaten much since Thursday. She was crying and sick last night, so we decided to take her to the vet this morning. Really didn’t think it was anything serious. Just when we were getting ready to go, she went outside. I seriously thought she was feeling a little better. She just lay in a patch of snowdrops and stopped breathing. Just like that. Poor old girl.

Part of me is devastated. She’s only been with us since just before Christmas. But she was so ill. She made valiant attempts to come on walks, played with her ball, had discovered sticks and chews. She’d learned to give a paw for a treat and she was a real old character, always in the chicken pen trying to scoff chicken food. But it was a world of pain for her – she might have been only nine, but she was so ill. She was a real valiant trooper. I can only hope she had a sweet retirement and that she didn’t suffer too much – I don’t think she did. She just got weaker and weaker. She ate treats, chased cats and chickens, ferreted about and had walks. A dog can’t ask for more. I can only hope those two months weren’t too distressing for her, being away from the people she’d known all her life. But she was loved here.

Trouble is, with Basil dying, our garden is fast becoming an animal graveyard and I just wish they weren’t so close on one another.

I also sprained my ankle yesterday. It’s the fourth time in about 10 years. Always the left. The last time I sprained it, like this time, I just went down on the floor, from pain-free walking to painful flat-on-my-face with barely a collapse in 1 second. Yesterday it was the same. I was walking alongside Steve – one minute I’m chatting shit, and the next I’m rolling around on the floor in the leaves. He had to get the van, get through the mud up the track, pick me up and take me back. I’d actually started writing this bit first, and was going to be funny, but I’m just not feeling the universal love today. Except from my family. My mum has already been on, as have Joanne and Abi. It just doesn’t get any easier.

Sometimes, a lyric just grabs you with how ‘wow’ it is:

This song does that twice for me…. “The medicated state of mind you find is overrated.” and the title of this blog. Sometimes, it feels like the universe is throwing a whole world of shit at you. You just have to remember that it’s just life.

Rest in peace, Saffy… I know you’re no longer in pain. xxxx

Beans, peas and farting.

Apparently, Steve turned the air blue in Charmé today. As usual, I got the blame. Apparently, my cooking gave him rip-roaring, blue flame wind. Meh. I don’t have wind so I don’t care.

Jake has been doing his second paid day of work. He has ably assisted The Aged P. I’m not sure who is worse off – my father for having to put up with Jake, or Jake for having to put up with my father. By all accounts, it was a success. Jake got some appropriate wellies – which was way beyond what Steve or I were capable of achieving with ‘nike boy’ – who has blue fits every time he has to wear them, including saying his socks don’t fit and saying he can’t walk. Meh. I think they kept each other very well occupied. Not only that, but Jake’s first 20€ was spent on a tool belt. I like that. He did buy some devil bangers, but that’s just as much a part of the real Jake as the tool belt. He’s now accumulating tools, and we are mucho proud. He did go in Leclerc and look at knives, but c’est Jake! He’s got great plans for his new-found earnings, including xbox gold membership and COD Black Ops.

I had a busy day of animals and plantings…

Broad beans

Finally my beans have emerged in both the polytunnel and the pot. Took a bit of time!!

Pea babies

The peas in the good soil in the lean-to are a lot bigger than those in the polytunnel but they don’t have to put up with being pecked by the chickens. Steve bought more polythene today so we can re-make the polytunnel – hoorah! Thus the chicken ladies are out of a dirt-bath hammam, but needs must. I can’t sacrifice seeds to nosey chickens. It’s bad enough they’re IN the trenches you dig and ON the spade and AROUND your feet, pecking your shoe laces and sitting on the spade. Tomorrow, they are being shut out. Such is life for a chicken. Not that they don’t have enough space to make room for, but I’d love to dig a straight line trench instead of digging in L shapes around me, moving from one side to the other just to escape chickens grubbing over the soil like old ladies with a new charity shop arrivals box. It’s like someone went in Oxfam with a box and shouted “Dior… Chanel… Kurt Geiger…”  – they’re all over it.

Preparing lunch of worm sashimi

Not only that, but my savoy cabbage have popped up a couple of leaves, as have the red cabbage. The cauliflowers are darkening up their baby leaves.

Infant cauliflowers

Although it must be said, cats are still big news here. Bird and Fox get more and more comfortable every day. Here’s to their long and happy dwelling in co-habitation with us!

Fantastic Mr Fox
Gorgeous Mr Birdie

The end of winter approaches…

… Although we still have frost on the car – but not on the ground. Does this count as a frost??!

Anyway, my leeks are now little blades like grass. My polytunnel peas are about 3 leaves big. My inside peas are about 5 leaves big and coming on to be re-potted. I planted some more peas today. Can’t have enough peas! Both Alicante and Gardener’s Delight tomatoes are ready to be pricked out. Gardener’s Delight have been the easiest to grow. Either the begonias or petunias are right. The broad beans are coming up in the pots and the polytunnel. My cauliflowers have shown a couple of leaves’ growth. Red cabbages are beginning to take. Savoy cabbages are coming up. So far, no gherkins, no sweet peas, but some achillea and some stocks.

I dug over some of the potato patch today, ably assisted by the hens who got underfoot like you wouldn’t believe. Fox ran away this morning and didn’t come back til night, but Birdie stayed around most of the day.  I’m going to double dig now and double dig later once the weeds think I’ve done it once so I won’t do it again.

Buds are starting to fatten on the fruit trees. The bamboo is putting out green leaves. The peaches are starting to put out leaves. Pretty soon, things will be out of control once again.

And I’m loving it.

My only wish was that it wasn’t raining!

p.s. anyone who wants the password for the next post only needs to ask. It’s just me ranting. 😦

Mr Fox and Mr Bird

First published on Anglo Info – but it’s my only news. Apologies if you read both!!

The naming of cats is a difficult matter…

It was as inevitable as karaoke at a Japanese bar…

Mr Basil passed away last Thursday. He was my child – my petulant, spoilt, lovely boy. I cried buckets. We buried him on Sunday underneath one of his favourite trees, complete with everything he’ll need for Cat Valhalla. He might not have died in combat, but he was a fierce warrior, and I like to think the Valkyries escorted him to sit outside Valhalla and there he sits.

Yesterday morning, I’d decided I needed new cats. Sure, I could do with a bit of time grieving. I keep looking over to the windowsill, seeing a reflection and thinking it’s my boy. But we have mice and a home for cats, so Sunday was as good as any day to place an ad on the wanted section of Anglo Info.

Within minutes, I had several offers. Some were a little older, or a little young, or a little far away. But a very kind lady was the first to reply and the deal was done. I’m a great believer in kismet.

“I’ve got two cats on offer.” I said to Steve.

“Hmmmm.” He smiled beatifically from the corner. I could read his thoughts. He thinks we have enough animals. He thinks we don’t have money going spare. He remembers Mr Basil’s spraying when we arrived here, and the way I pampered him. He remembers that animals can be hard work. He looks at Tilly, asleep in her basket and I can see him thinking ‘we have enough trouble’. But we don’t.

I showed him a picture.

“Hmmmm.” he said.

Not convinced.

But he loved The Basil, even though he hadn’t known him very long. He liked it when The Basil curled up on his pillow. He liked the whimsy and I’m inclined to think he felt a kinship with the petulant one. I think maybe he was more sensitive about Basil’s passing than I was. However, I’m accustomed to losing what you love. I’ve taught thousands of kids who I’ve loved dearly and let go on to college or work. In fact, on my first teacher placement in a primary school, I realised I could never spend full weeks with kids who I would grow to become too attached to. It would break my heart. I much prefer things that are brief and a little distant, because I know I’m going to find it hard to let go.

The Aged Parent arrived this morning. I’ve decided to call my dad this in honour of “Great Expectations”

“I’m picking up two cats later,” I said.

He smiled fixedly at The Man. The kind of smile that says: “Can’t you stop this madness or at least reign it in? You aren’t building an ark you know, or running a rescue centre, and could you not keep a tighter hand on this mad girl?”

The Man smiled fixedly back. The kind of smile that says: “Not a chance. You’re her father. You should have beaten this out of her as a child.”

Both of them smile fixedly at me. The kind of smile that says: “You’re several sandwiches and a pork pie short of a picnic.”

I smile. I’ve got cats to pick up at lunchtime.

Linda, their previous mum, had been ‘brought’ them by some other strays she feeds. Trouble is, like many of us, she’s a little short of cash when it comes to feeding the feline five thousand, though I could see she’d love to.

And when I saw them, I knew why. They’re beautiful!

I’d a conversation earlier in the day with a French client – a feline friendly guy. We talked about cats we’d loved and lost. I described the new ones to him.

“They’re ginger.” I said.


“Hmmm. It’s a cat colour. We call it ginger. Red.”

He didn’t know what colour it was in French, but it’s decidedly not gingembre. He laughed as if it was the silliest thing I could have said. Turns out it’s cannelle or roux. Cinnamon. Not sure why it’s funny to call them gingembre but okay to call them cannelle, but there you go.  We went a whole conversational detour around The Spice Girls (Ginger Spice, of course!), why we think Posh Spice would be better to embrace an inner bitch and stop trying so hard, why kids in England are bullied for being red-haired. Turns out we both have red-haired mums. He was proud of his mum’s flamboyant hair colour. I have a friend who jokingly said if she had a child and it was ginger, she’d drown it.

Anyway, the two boys were asleep on the swing when I got there – and as soon as I approached them, they purred, licked my hands, nuzzled me… I was smitten.

Truthfully, I wanted the privilege of naming an animal, and I was kind of glad she’d held off naming them. It’s such a… personal thing. I had a couple of names in mind. Basil had been named before arrival, and he was definitely a Basil, not a Baz or anything else. I liked to stand outside shouting him like Sybil Fawlty. His name became a little like Oiseau – and I’d already decided one of them would be called Bird as a kind of loose namesake. Birdy. Good name for a cat. Plus, we’re watching re-runs of The Wire and I love some of the characters in that.

The trouble lay with the other name. I liked Bubbs to go with that, but neither cat was a Bubbs. I thought about Mac for a bit, like McVities Ginger Nuts, but it didn’t work either. Linda had mentioned something about calling one of them Fox or Foxy for his marmalade colouring and it seemed to work really well. Foxy would keep his name, and Birdy would be my other little cat. Foxy and Birdy. Fox and Bird.

It works.

And so I ask you to bid welcome to Foxy Loxy and the Birdman of Alcatraz, our new resident predators.

Please don’t smile fixedly at me. I’ve had enough of that for one day. Just indulge me a little like The Aged P and Steve



Sometimes, I just need to write – just my way of creating a little something. And sometimes my head is full of other stuff, like Basil. So I like the postaday idea from WordPress – since it gets me thinking about things other than where my head is right now.

And today’s a good one – your favourite road trip. I have lots and lots, so it’s hard to pick one out that I liked the most, but I think it would be a toss-up between hitching from the Amazon to another boat post, or driving down to my dad’s with my sister. Maybe. I loved the drive up through Scotland into the highlands though… so it’s not an easy choice to make. And possibly my favourite ever journey was one by train, anyway.

The train journey was from St Malo down to St Hilaire de Riez – 7 trains in a day. Every single one of them was on an ancient old SNCF train with small compartments and deep seats with huge springs. The seats smelled musty, in a good way, and reminded me of the old train that used to run between Bury and Manchester, back in my early teens when I used to go to Affleck’s Palace when I was a very small, cute emo child to buy patchouli-scented clothes and second-hand levi 501s. It was overcast for much of the journey, and it all seemed so foreign. Dol de Bretagne. Rennes. Nantes. A hazy, warm and soothing journey.

I’d got off the ferry at St Malo, early in the morning after sleeping on the boat. I’d slept on the floor in the seating area – most people had cabins, but I was hard up. I had few cassettes and I’d picked ones I loved since I didn’t have much room (back in the days before you could get 10,000 albums onto something you can fit in your palm!) I had Depeche Mode and James.

It was Laid that I was mostly listening to – and the title track is brilliant, although the album is known more for this track:

which is great in itself because when I find bipolar disorder hard to live with, this song sums up much of it.

I’ll sing myself to sleep

A song from the darkest hour

Secrets I can’t keep

Inside of the day

Swing from high to deep

Extremes of sweet and sour

I hope that God exists

I hope, I pray

Drawn by the undertow

My life is out of control

I believe this wave will bear my weight

So let it flow

I’m relieved to hear

That you’ve been to some far out places

It’s hard to carry on

When you feel all alone

Now I’ve swung back down again

It’s worse than it was before

If I hadn’t seen such riches

I can live with being poor.

It’s soft and calm, hazy and gentle, then rousing at other times. I was reading a lot of Kerouac at the time, and I’d taken On the Road with me, clichéd as that might be. A 22 year old doesn’t care about being cheesy and clichéd. I watched the grey dawn rise as we came into St Malo, and when I went back in 2004, it was just as bleak. I guess that’s why I liked Essaouaira in Morocco so much – it reminded me of St Malo with its coastal fortifications. And I watched the ferry draw in, around six in the morning, and I knew I was getting closer to Phil, who I was travelling to see. He was my first love – the boy I fell in love with at 17 and I stayed with until after the summer.

I ate a pain aux raisins in a café in St Malo, before getting on the train. Seven connections and I would be there. It seemed like an eternity. Each train brought me closer to my one love – hard as it had been that summer to be separated. In fact, when he came back, when he said he was going again the next year, I broke up with him. I couldn’t bear to be apart from him.

Going down to Rennes, I was struck by how many trees there were – we seemed to go through miles and miles of forest, thick and damp. From there, it was down to Nantes, across plains of yellow corn, ripe in the fields, and the sun began to come out. I slept a little on the train, comforted by the gentle motion of the train and the comfy seats that bounced. I had an ancient old suitcase of my great-nan’s, and the whole journey seemed to be one from many, many years ago – not just 20 years ago. The train was quiet, the carriages empty. From there to Challans, then Challans to St Gilles-Croix-de-Vie, getting warmer and warmer, sleepier and sleepier. It seemed a whole country away from the cold, damp St Malo I’d landed at in the morning. I felt like I was leaving England behind: it was the summer after I finished training as a teacher, so it was a holiday that marked the difference between being a child and being an adult. It was the first holiday I paid for myself. It was the first time I’d travelled alone. I felt on that trip as if I were leaving my childhood behind to become an adult. When I came back, I went straight into my teaching post, left my first love behind, began the stages of adulthood – working, buying a house, getting a pet, so that journey was like the journey out of youth into limbo, a place where I was free from being a child, a dependent, a responsibility, yet free from adult responsibility. I think it was the last time I really, truly, felt free. The hazy, lazy music of James coming through an ancient cassette player seems ever more appropriate now.

Part of that road trip was about seeing Phil when I got there – he was sun-tanned and lovely – and we had one of those kisses that last for hours, so sad and so happy to see each other once again. He was in shorts, his hair long and loose – the beautiful boy who was my first love. Journeys don’t get better than that.

and life goes on…

Sometimes, I need to remind myself that the trivial ordeals I face are just that: trivial. They’ll be gone another day. It’s times like this that I ask myself: “In 10 years’ time, will you even care?” and mostly, the answer is no.

Some things are worth caring about 10 years down the line. There are a couple of jobs I’ve left that still smart as to why I left them. There are a couple of relationships that still sting to think of, although mostly I laugh about them.

I think my most damaging was with a guy called Martyn, a.k.a The Weasel.

Martyn and I met in Chicago Rock only a few months after Andy  – October, I think. Chicago Rock was the bar where I met Andy (opening night!) and I was a little nostalgic about it. I had dallied with online dating and was kind of seeing a guy whose name now escapes me. He was a perfectly serviceable kind of guy and we’d been out a couple of times. He kept a suit of chain mail in the kitchen and was into historical re-enactments. That’s about as much as I remember – bar another detail that will emerge later.

I got chatting to Martyn – he’d come over to talk to me, having seen me with Lynsey and Abi. He said something cheesy like he just had to talk to me. I laughed. We chatted. He was out following his grandfather’s funeral. He’d been in the Army and had been out for 2 months. He was beautiful. He had beautiful lips and I was still sad. I thought I could maybe share in this boy’s sadness too. We chatted and had a very wonderful kiss, the kind of kiss that you have when you’re 28 and you don’t do when you’re way past that. He gave me his number and I took it. I sent him a text on departing and Lyns and Abi and I went our own way.

I didn’t text him that weekend – far too busy, but that was like a red rag to a bull. He sent me a text on Sunday, asked if he could come for tea on Monday, and that was that. I glibly said yes, and then I had a full-on monster living in my life for 18 months. I was so entranced by this beautiful beast that I cancelled my date with the chainmail guy, who’d freaked me out when we were watching The Others in the cinema by staring at me and not the screen. Really, I should have gone with this guy, shouldn’t I??!

To be fair, the first few months were wonderful. Here was a guy whose sister had died when he was 17, who understood how death felt to the outsider, who was grieving himself. Here was a guy who had a set of skills, a good job, a lovely family and who would do marvellously romantic things, like the time he phoned me when I was working, said ‘Is your school such-and-such?’ – ‘Yes,’ said I – and there he was, at the gate, asking the kids where to find the beautiful Miss Lee to give her 12 red roses for no better reason than it was a Tuesday. He started talking about arranging trips to see his best friend in Osnabruck, Germany, taking me with him.

One weekend, he was supposed to come round on the Friday. He didn’t. I called and called, thinking something terrible had happened. He didn’t ring back. Nor Saturday. I’d given up and written it off by Sunday, and then, 6:00 Monday morning, he turned up. I didn’t know where the hell he’d been, and he didn’t tell me either. He apologised and we made up. He promised not to do it again. And he didn’t. Until the next Friday. Same thing. It became a joke, and by Christmas, I was sick of it. I started seeing someone else – a cute SAS guy called Paul – and Martyn was so far out of my mind.

In fact, he’d spun me some bullshit about being at work, only I saw him in the card section in Asda. I phoned him there and then, he answered, I asked where he was and he said Morrison’s. Compulsive liar.

But, by Valentine’s Day, he was back in my life. I got not one but two cards, left around the house. He bought me gifts and flowers. I’d almost forgiven him. We were doing fine. I stopped asking him by at the weekends, got used to this unpredictable and bizarre romantic and got used to him turning up whenever he damn well pleased. Then I found a receipt for a restaurant, including a kids’ meal, which was a little bizarre, along with times for planes from Amsterdam and Thailand on a weekend when he’d gone missing. At the time, I thought ‘WTF??!” but Thailand and Holland equal two things, sex and drugs. So, it was one or the other.

I decided not to see him again, took all his stuff back, had a huff and cut him out of my life. He came round about 6 months later to apologise. Then, in about December, he came round again to make up. I didn’t believe a word of it. He disappeared half way through the conversation to ‘get something’ and then emailed me 3 years later via facebook to say sorry. I put it down to some kind of 12 step programme – it was bizarre from start to finish.

Whilst I can be objective about it, it really knocked me for six at the time – I was totally smitten by him. I remember being so upset about it all, so bemused. And now, I just think ‘Meh!’

I wanted closure so much, and to know what had happened and what went on. Now I can’t even be bothered to get upset about his bemusing behaviour. At the time it all felt so important. Now it feels so…. meh.

I just need to remember “This too shall pass” and remind myself  that life and all its trappings are nothing more than temporary and transient.

A tout a l’heure Monsignior Basil

Once upon a time, a young girl bought a house in Bolton. There she lived for three months with a bed bought by her Gramps, an old desk for a dining table and a second hand suite to sit upon. When she was firmly ensconced in her lovely new home, she decided it was time to get a pet. Her mother knew of such a suitable animal, who was living in a temporary foster home with her friend Wendy.

The Basil surveying his kingdom

One sunny day, Mr Basil arrived at Cavendish Gardens. He was most upset by the journey and never spoke to the young girl’s mum ever again. He would run away when she turned up, and it was only some years later when he was very poorly that he ever went in a car again.

A very young Mr Basil and a very young Andy

His first days were spent sussing out the neighbourhood. At the time, it was cat-free, except for a very old man over the road, going by the name of Merlin. Some time later, Nimrod arrived, and after that, there was no shortage of other cats, including Jasmine, The Basil’s arch-nemesis.

Surveying the neighbourhood from his spare mum's door

He spent much of the time sitting in his nest by the door, curled up waiting for the girl’s arrival back home. He loved to sit on the windowsill and watch the world go by. The young girl met a lovely young man, Andy, and The Basil would spend much time curled up on his lap. He was always a man’s cat. He loved whiskas, but only fish flavours, and he would eat like a pig and throw up a lot, including on the girl’s keyboard. The carpet became a patchwork of Basil’s bulimic vomiting. And then he would eat some more.


The Basil grew to rule the roost. He would sleep wherever he chose, including on the girl’s bed, or in the spare room, or on the settee. Often, he would stretch out and the girl would have to sit on the floor. She didn’t mind though. She loved that he ruled her.

Not impressed by the Halloween costume!

He loved ping-pong balls and would chase them across the floor for hours, even if they went under things. He was a very talkative cat and would always talk to the girl when she came home from work, and when he wanted food. Sometimes, he would curl up like a snail shell next to her when he was wet.

Look at my works, ye mighty

When she gave up working, he would spend many a happy hour driving her crazy by going in and out more often than a fiddler’s elbow. He was happier in the house now the neighbourhood had filled up, and was very happy to spend his days with her. He would lie with her in the garden and stretch out to be tickled. Basil’s nests took up much of the garden, all the places he liked to sit.

A cute moment

He wasn’t much of a bird-killer, thank the lord, and spent most of his days hunting for mice, voles, shrews and rats. Sleeping, purring, playing, trying to catch feet, sitting on exam papers, getting on the newspapers, endlessly howling for food, never eating what he’d got, jumping for ham… his days were endless fun.

An uneasy truce

When he was sixteen years of age, the young girl, now an old lady, decided to move Mr Basil to France. She fretted about her beloved, worrying he wouldn’t make it. He had to have lots of injections and he didn’t cry once the whole journey, getting out of his cage at Rouen to lie on Jake’s duvet right next to him.

Sunny days in France

Moving in, he settled quickly, never going far. He spent most of the summer lying in his favourite spot behind the barn, or howling for food. He didn’t settle too well at first, sleeping in a corner on the bed, terrified of the Moll. In the end, it was the Moll who was terrified of him. He slept next to the woman, snuggled up in her arms, every night, with the Moll at her feet.

My beloved

He would wake up the girl each morning by yowling and poking her face. On Saturdays, he would sit with her whilst she knitted in bed. On Sundays he would sun himself in the garden. He was just as faddy about his food, and never was the girl more worried than when her boy was ill.

One Tuesday, he came and sat by her side in bed. He was very ill. He didn’t move all the next day, and didn’t eat. He couldn’t move and hard as it was, she knew it was time to go to the vet. The vet was a lovely man, but he knew the Basil’s hunting days were over and that it was time he went to sleep. So, on the 17th of February, 2011, Monsignior Basil “Oiseau” Tybalt the Rat-catcher closed his eyes and went to sleep.

Never has a cat been so pampered, so adored. He brought the girl happiness many, many times over. He might have been a whimsical serial killer with a penchant for mice and tuna, but he was always there, when the girl was sad. Sometimes, he was the only reason she came home and didn’t run away from everything. Once, when a kind man asked her what she had to live for, she said, “Basil.”

She’s glad he didn’t take Dylan Thomas’s advice and that he went gently into the night. May he hunt on forever.