Rule 43, Chapter 13: It’s ok to be sad when four become three

On Thursday we found out that our big, beautiful boy cat wasn’t just lost but had been run over. He’d been placed on the verge at the side of the road just meters away from our front door, but despite us searching we’d somehow missed his body. Funny how perhaps you don’t see the things you don’t want to see….

We’d had SlinkyCat for about 2 1/2 years – we adopted him and his sister when we saw an advert online stating that they were ‘free cats – victims of a divorce’. They were meant to be ours – both my husband and I are from divorced homes.  As so it was, broken units coming together to make a slightly wonky, furry little family whole.

When we met them, the hubby fell in love immediately. They were brother and sister, and bengals. Lady was curled in to a tiny tiger ball of golden brown spots and stripes; Slinky was stretched out, a grey and black marbled beauty. One set of bright blue eyes stared up at us, a set of sleepy green eyes peeped open. And so SlinkyCat and LadyCat (or Simba and Nala as they were known then) came home with us to our London flat.

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Now, initially, I didn’t really want cats. Moggies and I just didn’t get along. I didn’t really like them, and they didn’t really like me. But these two were a little bit different. Perhaps it’s the breed – bengals are notoriously playful, clever, naughty – and a bit more like dogs than cats. They lept about. They followed us round. LadyCat couldn’t get enough of the top of the wardrobe. They miaowed at you – and answered when you miaowed back. Slinky only drank water from the bathroom tap. LadyCat became a lapcat. Slinky loved a squirrel. They were both entranced with their DaBird toys. They slept on our bed at night and on us. I became used to their heavy warmth, the snoring (who knew cats snored) the crazy legs in the air  sleeping positions. Little by little I was smitten.

When we moved to the countyside, we talked about how great it would be for them. Acres of land to roam about. Mice to catch. Room to stretch and grow. And for the last eight months they loved it. LadyCat found that she was an excellent tree climber and mole catcher. SlinkyCat patrolled the fields, saving his sister from the amorous advances of the farmers cat on several occasions. He’d wander off adventure-catting for a few days, but always be back, wailing for dinner and love.

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He really came out of himself in the countryside. He was a big cat anyway (bengal boys grow large), but became sleeker and even more handsome. His personality changed too. He’d wake me up at night, huge eyes looming out of the darkness just to let me know he was back safe from hunting and wanted a cuddle. He’d roll over for a tummy stroke. He enjoyed an occasional paw massage. When I got up for work, he’d get up with me, waiting by the shower for me to start the day. He’d sleep forehead to forehead with my husband, paw in his hand.  He’d meet me every day after work – a familiar thud as he jumped off the bed, and a loud miaow as he’d rush down the stairs to say hello and berate me for being out all day. I made up songs and sang them to him. He had a whole heap of different names depending on what he’d been up to; SlinkyMalinkyLongLegs, Pooh, Pookie, PookieMcDoukie, Slinkoid…silly names for the most wonderful of cats. Good natured, handsome, loving, a very special soul. My hubby called him ‘little brother’ – because that’s what he’d become.

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He went missing on Monday. Nothing unusual about him being out for a few days, but by Thursday we were worried. And on that Thursday , we had a call from our neighbour. They’d found him. He’d been hit by a car and had passed away.The road we live next to is just a small country lane. But as such, people like to drive quickly down it. I was (and still am) so angry with that unknown driver, speeding and distracted for a second, just enough to hit him and extinguish the brightest of lights. I’m angry because he had a tag on his collar and yet they didn’t call to tell us that there had been an accident. I’m angry becase it feels like it wasn’t his time to go. I’m angry because there’s nothing I can do to bring him back.

But mostly I’m sad. Heartbroken in fact. We all are. LadyCat can’t stop watching the catflap waiting for him to come home. She’s prowling, miaowing, looking for him in the house. I can’t wash his blanket yet because it smells of him. We put his bowl away somewhere we can’t see it everyday and it made us cry. There’s no more morning greetings, no more nighttime cuddles. And for everyone who says ‘it was just a cat’, yes, yes he was. But he was our family. I saw him every day. I saw him more than I see my human family (apart from the hubby of course). And it hurts so very much that he’s gone.

We gave him the best of funerals, saw him off in true Bengal style. His ashes will be buried by the willow tree he used to love sitting under. The hubby thinks he’s gone to Valhalla, and is waiting for the Last Great Battle with the Mice. I like to think he’s in fields that last forever, sleeping in the sunshine with his spotty tummy out, snoring. He will never be forgotten.

R.I.P SlinkyCat. My most beautiful boy.

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Rule 52, Chapter 44: Things often get worse before they get better. But that’s ok. Because things do get better.

We have moved. From our cosy little London flat, to a semi-detached 3 bedroom cottage in the countryside. It’s got a big workshop and a big garden and big fields all around it. The husband, cats and I are in love with country life, and have taken to veg growing and pruning like you wouldn’t believe. We’re in the garden all the time, digging and lopping. In fact we’re never really in the house.

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Gardener’s world….

And that’s because we actually bought a bit of a nightmare. Nine days in and the old oil fired boiler exploded and flooded downstairs. We found out the oil tank was leaking. Then the roof started leaking. There’s damp everywhere. We need new windows. It’s freezing even in summer. The whole place needs decorating. And all I thought we needed to do was pop in a nice new kitchen….

However. We decided to face the problems head on. I did research on boilers and heating and learnt lots of things I didn’t know about pipework and lagging. We made lists of things we needed to do first. We got some chaps round to quote for a new boiler and oil tank for us. We felt positive about the whole thing. Moving house is an adventure, right?

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Be gone, big green evil leaky oil tank!!!

Then the quote dropped through the letter box. The cost was £10,000. Yes. Just for a new boiler and oil tank. That was pretty much our whole decorating and doing budget.

We nearly fell over. I cried. We had an enormous row about the stupid house we’d bought. We both thought divorce was on the cards. I sulked for about a week. I became inert with house buyers regret. But I pulled myself together and  got some more quotes. They were all just as expensive. I cried some more.

Now. There have been a few times in my life where I know I’ve made a massive mistake. Like one which alters the course of you, the very fabric of your being. With this house move, we’d changed everything. Left London and a vibrant city life. Left our friends. Moved to a town where we didn’t know anyone. Given me a 3 hour round commute every day which was tiring and expensive. And, whilst I loved getting home to the countryside, I started wondering if it was all worth it. The money we needed to spend was enormous, and as the sole earner in the relationship, I felt enormous pressure. Which lead to more rows and sleepless nights.

All in all, the house move was not going well.

So, just as I was about to give up on our county life,  I decided to phone one last boiler chap. He came round. We liked him. He also seemed to like us. We agreed that we (the husband) would do the labour and prep for him so that he could just come in and do installing of our shiney new boiler and whizzy new oil tank. He quoted a third of the original cost and the sun started shining again. We booked him there and then.

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Super new concrete area for our super new shiney boiler and oil tank

So we’re now living in a building site. We have lurched from good to bad to good to a right old mess. We have had numerous rows about money and how much everything is costing. But we’re learning all about building stuff. And sorting out our new old cottage from the guts outwards. The kitchen floor’s up. We’re insulating the walls. I might just get a new kitchen after all because I married a fine furniture maker and he’s offered to make me a hand-made bespoke little number out of beautiful wood which we can now kind of afford beause of our excellent boiler chap.

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Not quite the dream kitchen I had in mind…

Yes, there’s dust everywhere. No, you can’t walk on the floor barefoot for fear of splinters and nails.  The cats have been under the floorboards, and I thought we’d lost one of them forever, she seemed to like it under there so much. But things seem to be getting better. We are moving forward. Making inroads. And the boiler and oil tank are finally in.

When my mum visited, she told me that houses on corners have bad ‘chi’, which is why it’s all been a bit of a nightmare so far. I say that our house had just been a bit unloved. And although things might have to get worse before they get better, we’re going to patch her up and going to stick with her. And hopefully, when the dust settles, we’ll have also stuck with each other….

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Here’s to a super home and happy ending

Rule 356, Chapter 7: Consider everything before having a tattoo

When I was at uni, many moons ago, my bestest buddy Lou bought me a tattoo for my 18th birthday. Wandering into a tattoo shop in the backstreets of Cardiff (classy, I know), I pointed to a star design on the wall, and proceeded to have myself inked. Just below the left hip bone, so that only I knew it was there.  Well, me and Lou. Certainly not my mother.

As the years went on, it became like wall paper; I ceased to notice its existence. When I met my husband, he had a half finished Koi carp on his back – a massive piece, which is not only beautiful, but must have hurt tremendously. A Chinese dragon adorned half of his chest, and more tattoos were scattered on the tops of his arms, each representing a journey for him throughout his life. It was fascinating listening him to talk through why he had each piece done and where and when and how they all linked together.

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I shyly showed him my little star. He physically baulked when he saw it. ‘You’ve got a pentagram on you. An upside-down one. …? Erm…is there something I should know?!’. Only, my darling, that your future wife is an idiot perhaps? And that a star on the wall of a Welsh tattoo shop isn’t quite what I thought it was.

Of course, I didn’t believe him at first. Then I did some research, and have since then, tried to tell myself that it’s a symbol of pagan fertility. Which is still ironic, as I’m not really a fan of kids…

Anyway. You’d think that this lesson in getting something ridiculous on you would have stuck. But alas, I got another tattoo.

However. This time, I spent ages thinking about what to have and where. I did my research. I decided I wanted text this time, words by an old fave of mine, Sylvia Plath. Part of a phrase that, for many reasons, meant a lot – it says ‘And I listen to the old brag of my heart’ and ends ‘I am, I am, I am’. I just wanted those six words. On the right hand side of me. A heartbeat, echoed.

I got it done.

Although what I forgot to think about this time, was the font. So when I looked in the mirror, expecting a whisper of a tattoo, I got ‘Jam, Jam, Jam’. Wrong script for the capital ‘I’. Foolish girl. The chap I got to do it wasn’t so great at text either. Apparently it ‘wasn’t really his thing’.

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So. I did some more research, on people who could do good cover-ups. And I decided to stop messing about with a little ‘star’ here and some ‘words’ there. I was going to get something proper. And frankly, I needed to to cover up my Jammy mistake. Luckily, Santa Perpetua came to my rescue. She’s simply amazing (see her work here) and I now love my side piece. It’s ink black and scratchy, with type and splodges, and, for someone who has worked in newspapers all her life I now also have some print in my skin to also underline who I am. I am. I am.

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So, what of this lesson, Rule 356 of Chapter 7: Consider everything before getting a tattoo? Well, unlike me, consider the basics, like what and where and what font. Do some research on styles you like, rather than just wandering into a tattoo parlour. Check out who you might like to ink you – and if they’re good at what you want them to do. Ask the big ‘why’ question too. If it really represents you, your journey. If you really, really want one. Because its pretty permanent – apparently removal hurts like billy-o. And, of course, whether you need to hide it somewhere so an incensed parent can’t shout at you, regardless of your age.

That said, I really hope my Mum isn’t reading this post….

Rule 10, Chapter 12: Your job should not define you

Last week, I had a mini epiphany. The clue as to what this was is in the title of this post.

british-newspapers-881358_640I was reading the Daily Mail’s You magazine at the time (I hate to admit it…), but the article I was skimming though actually made me double take. And indeed re-think the old career path. Let me try to explain….

I work in media, essentially doing a weird job which is a mix of sales, marketing and creative stuff for a national newspaper group. I have done this for various media companies for the last 15 years.

Therefore I:

  • Drink far more than I should do
  • Swear like an absolute trooper
  • Have very little patience for people when I’m busy
  • Can be very blunt, often to the point of rudeness
  • Go ‘mad’ – think gnashing teeth and hair pulling – when the work load gets too much. Which is frequently
  • Fight the daily (loosing) battle of keeping many, many people happy

However, when I left university, I was none of those things. Well, in truth, I liked a beer, and was known to drop the odd swear word into conversation for effect, but nothing like my traits of today. I certainly wasn’t rude, mad or impatient. And I believe I managed to keep most of the people around me fairly happy without much effort at all. Thus keeping me happy in the process too.

So why the change in me? Well. Newspapers are a brilliant industry to work in, but media sales is a highly pressured job (which I know many jobs are), but add to this a hard-drinking culture (a quick way to de-stress), somewhere where saying ‘fuck’ every other word is totally acceptable (in fact, it’s weird if you don’t), where editors often lose their temper on an hourly basis (so it’s fine when you lose yours), where everything is time pressured (you have to get the newspaper written, designed and printed every single day, therefore you need answers, the right answers now), and where no matter how hard I try, clients will always want more from me, and the company will want more off me, be it my time or more money to hit targets, then you get an environment that breeds bad habits. Very bad habits. And if those habits become ingrained, then what are you? I am my job.

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When I thought about it further, I realised that I’d let my job define me. In a really bad way. I’ve become a stereotype. And not a very nice one at that.

So on my journey home with You magazine, I wondered to myself, where was the kid at uni who just wanted to write great stories? Where was the person who was happy when they made other people happy? Where was the smiling girl who was laid back and relaxed, who liked to say yes to things, rather than a monster who was approaching the whole wide world with wry cynicism, a large glass of red and a pocketful of  ‘fuck you’s’?

I reckon she’s still in there somewhere. And, I never thought I’d say this, but thanks to that article in the Daily Mail, I’ve decided to have a bit of a rethink about myself. I don’t need to be those things that my job has inflicted on me, so I’m simply going to try and shed them and emerge happy in a new skin. Drink a bit less, swear a bit less. Try and think about how my tone of voice and behaviours affect others. And let my job just simply be my job. Not me. Because I can be whoever I choose to be, regardless of where I work.

And for my next career move, perhaps I’ll take a totally different path and write those stories, or simply do something that makes other people happy. Might make me a happier person too.

So. That’s my view anyway. As the Daily Mail so succinctly put it, your job should not define you. Should it?

The office worker is wearing a conservative business dress in appropriate colors with matching accessories. Her hair is arranged simply, and her hands are carefully manicured. She uses makeup with discretion.

Rule 64, Chapter 10: Birthdays are there to be celebrated

Last week at the office we had a birthday.

However. When Steve got to work, he told us that both his wife and his child had totally forgotten it was his 42nd birthday.  And that he hadn’t heard from his parents, although ‘there might be a card in the post when I get home’. He brushed it off with a ‘Well,  it’s only another day, isn’t it really’ and proceeded to make everyone a round of tea.

When my husband turned 30, he sent me a photo of himself working late in his birthday. He’d bought himself a beer, and was sat behind a computer cheers-ing himself. On his own. On a birthday that happened to be on a Friday night.

laptop-733572_640Now, you might read those two stories and think ‘Whatever! They’re 30! 42! Far too old to be enjoying birthdays! They’re not kids. And anyway, perhaps they didn’t want to celebrate getting a whole year older. Who wants to draw attention to that?’

Both of which points of view I totally understand. But…but…

Birthdays get a bad press in my humble opinion. A birthday isn’t about another year gone, or one step closer to death and all that depressing stuff. It’s a Birth Day. The day you were actually born. The day you popped into the world, purple and squealing, shouting your existence to all that you had arrived. Ta-dah! ‘Look!! I’m here! The party can finally start..!’

And I think that the day that you were brought to life is pretty special. Regardless of how old you are. Because as a person, you’re unique and generally awesome. So why wouldn’t you – shouldn’t you – spend one day celebrating the wonder of you? Yes! Yes, you can make a fuss of me! Offer me balloons! Buy me gifts or just shower me with love and kindness for my one special day! Make me a home-made sheep cake out of marshmallow and don’t mind when I pretend to stab it in a ‘gag’ prior to cutting it…!!

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But what about the birthday ‘party’? Those partners, parents, kids, friends, work colleagues who need to combine, team up to make someone’s day brilliant? What part do you play in Rule 64: Birthdays are there to be celebrated?For those Birth-Dayers who are up for it, I’m pretty sure all of you guys could easily throw a pretty hot party. But I’m not suggesting that if you have a friend who really hates birthdays, you should ignore their feelings and throw a massive shindig anyway. It’s all about levels of celebration suited to the birthday person – it’s a day all about them, after all. So perhaps just a card. A card and gift. A cake. Buying them a coffee, giving them a hug. Not necessarily tequila shots at 2am or a private jet to Monaco, but a gesture. A little something. A nod to their Birth Day.

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Which brings me back to Steve at work. He’s not a massive birthday fan. But he does like beer, so we took him to the pub and bought him a few pints at lunchtime. We clubbed together and got him a card and cake, and sang happy birthday to him at his desk. We made him a cup of tea in the afternoon. We didn’t really spoil him or make a huge fuss, but we did make him feel a little bit special. And at the end of the day, he declared that it had been the ‘best birthday for a long time’.

And my husband with the saddest 30th I could ever imagine? That weekend I went up to see him (it was our first ‘proper’ date after we’d met).  He had an impromptu gathering in his local pub on the Saturday night. One of his mates had done a bit of calling round and facebooking so a crowd of friends and family arrived. I bought him a cupcake with candles and a bottle of overpriced champagne. He was over the moon and proceeded to celebrate by getting very drunk, and dance wildly on tables. Which to be honest, was probably the moment I fell in love with him.

So here’s to birthdays.

Celebrating you. And celebrating with others. And perhaps even blowing out some candles. Now. Where did I put that cake…?!
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Ahhh..life….what’s it all about, eh?

Hello! Thanks for stopping by. My first blog post of a spanking new blog. How very exciting!

So. What’s this one all about then? Well, as you may have guessed from the title of the blog and also from the title of this post, I’m going to try to make sense of life. Well, that’s not strictly true. In my 36 years on the planet, I am under the firm conclusion that life is throughly baffling in every single way. It gets no easier to fathom, and I have no doubt in the years ahead, I will only get more confused by it all. But, with this blog, the small amount of wisdom I have learnt, I will try and share with you, the good people of the world. And if you can help me out with your own thoughts and advice along the way, then all the better. Heaven knows I need all the help I can get.

A little while back, there started a running joke. Not so much of a joke, but general way of categorising things, situations, general happenings and the like. And so the virtual ‘Book of Life’ was born, and within it, multiple chapters, subchapters, sections, lines, verses, all of which help towards a vague way to cope with, deal with, enjoy, celebrate – you name it – different things across the course of well, life. Rules to live by. Things you can store deep within your memory for times to come. Things to loosely adhere to. Or simply things to read, pooh-pooh and ignore. After all who am I to claim to know anything about it?!

However, for want of a better idea, this blog shall duly start to look at random bits of the ‘Book of Life’. Bear with me. In my head it’s better than I’ve made it sound.

And, in conclusion to this first post, a far wiser man than I once said ‘the web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together.’ Here’s to all of it. The ups, the downs – and trying to work out how to get through all the bits in-between….

Book of LIfe. Kind of....
Book of Life. Kind of….