Thursday, 31 December 2009


A restless night, not helped by a chesty cough and in the early hours I have visions of going to the drop-in centre at Grindon and getting diagnosed with pneumonia -again. I get up at  2.00 and go to the toilet. At 3.30 I get up again, let some cats out and take two paracetemol. Eventually I get back to sleep and wake up at 6.45.

By the time Susan and I are ready to leave, snow is starting to fall and it gets heavier and heavier as we head towards Gateshead. We're both feeling stressed. We get there safely enough and in good time with only one spat and the snow begins to ease. We've provided our own wreath which I hand over and then get back in the car and wait for the hearse to move off.

Usually at these things, after the funeral itself people either repair to a booked room in a pub or the bereaved's house or something like that. However, as we expected, there's no-one there we know and only about a dozen -mostly staff from the home or people who were acquaintances who hadn't seen my mother for years- so we didn't bother arranging anything.

We follow the hearse along snow-swept streets built on the long descent of a fell. To our right in the distance are snow covered hill tops. The crematorium is set back against the fellside with many mature trees. As we drive cautiously through the entrance we see three grey squirrels scampering around the base of a tree and the sight lifts our spirits somewhat.

Crematoriums always seem modern impersonal buildings, solemn but somehow soulless. Susan and I sit on the front row in the centre directly in front of the coffin. To one side, the Weslyan (Methodist) minister takes the service. He's very good and talks of compassion and the individuality of a life as he goes through the details I provided of my mother's life. It's simplistic of course but I've still managed give him enough of the good things to speak about. I bow my atheist's head at the prayers and even murmur the Lord's Prayer with everyone else.

I stand at the exit and shake everyone's hand. No-one introduces themself and Susan and I leave shortly after.

The weather has cleared up and the drive back is easy. We call in at the North Hylton Trading Estate with its south-facing view of the river Wear to visit Aldi for cat food and Pets At Home for a large sack of wood-based litter.

After a lunch of fish and chips -just the one lot shared between us, Susan goes off to the shop and I have a nap. I'm woken by the Post Office van man delivering two parcels for me. One is a 7-DVD pack of 50's science fiction movies. The other is a CD -Dion: Son of Skip James. I'm in a pensive and melancholy mood and so I put it on.

This is Dion who had a string of doo-wop hits with Belmonts in the early pre-Beatles 60's. He moved on continuing a sporadic career broken by lulls and periods of intensive activity. He's not someone who ever registered on my musical radar until about 5 years ago when I heard an early song of his on an Ace Records (UK) cheap sampler and his powerful voice just stunned me. I resolved to check him out but never got around to it until I bumped into this record while browsing Amazon and listened to track samples.

This was only recorded a couple of years ago when he was in his late sixties and is an astonishing piece of work. With a basic lineup of guitar and harmonica (played by Dion) plus piano, organ, and percussion, he rolls out a string of blues standardsaltering their traditional arrangements as he transforms them into something you've never heard before, making songs as familiar to me as my cats into something new and reborn. The music does match my downbeat mood but is somehow also uplifting and it makes me smile.

And that's all I have to say. No conclusion or moral homilies. Life goes on. Until it doesn't.

This posting appears in both blogs.


Memo to self: Never attempt to pick up a feral kitten without gloves unless I want to have my hand shredded.

Wednesday morning and I'd sorted out relevant details with my mother's solicitor over the phone and was getting ready to go out for coffee with my ex-colleagues from the library, Denise & Sylvia, when Phil, one of the charity's dog people, rang to say he was bringing a feral kitten round for me to look after. First I'd heard of it but I went to the garage, set up the cage, put in bedding, litter, water, and food. Turned out ot be a cute long haired black and white about 3 months old which, Phil assured me, had been handled without problem.

When he said 'handled' he didn't mean picked up. I left it to settle down, went down town for coffee with my friends, came back and checked out the kitten. It was sitting in the cat litter having shit in its bedding and knocked the water dish over. So I picked it up and put it in a cat carrier and then went to wash my copiously bleeding left hand.

Later I phoned a guy who'd got in touch with us a few ago. He'd been feeding ferals and de-ferralling feral kittens which he then homed and been doing it for 11 years. He agreed to take this one and we would supply all the food, litter etc it needed. Sorted.

In less than an hour, I'm setting off for Gateshead and my mother's funeral.

Tuesday, 29 December 2009


This post is appearing in both blogs.

So, Christmas is over. It was a bit of a non-event for me as I felt as if I was just killing time waiting for today. It was even quieter as just about everyone in Susan's brotherNick's family were ill with sickness including and diarrhea, including his wife Viv was was supposed to be cooking the dinner for us this year. Luckily we'd bought a small turkey crown so I cooked the dinner here with just Susan and her mother.I did little else during the weekend except potter about.

I did get three orders from Amazon buyers over the weekend and popped out early to the post office to put them in the mail. When I got back Susan was being harrassed by a phone call from Carol. When that subsided I started with my phone calls, first to the doctor's surgery to arrange to pick up the death certificate. The receptionist didn't have it to hand so she told me she'd get the doctor on call to ring me back about it. Five minutes later the phone rang and it was Carol again. I said, "Carol, I'm waiting for a call about my mother's death certificate. Bye," and put the phone down. He did ring back about 20 minutes later and after checking a few details confirmed it would be okay for me to pick it up whenever I got there. This was about 9.15. Next I rang Gateshead Civic Centre to arrange to register the death and agreed an appointment at 11.00, figuring if I left the house at 10.00 that would give me plenty of time. The phone rang again, this time the Methodist minister who would be taking the ceremony as per my mother's request. He would have come through here from Gateshead but I didn't want to put him out and had suggested a couple of days earlier we do it over the phone. We talked for about twenty minutes and he sounded like a nice bloke. This took me up to ten so I was out of the house and on the road. Apart from having to wait for the large refuse disposal wagon to get out of the way, the drive through was easy enough and I found the surgery equally easily. The receptionist had the certificate to hand and I was on my way. I knew where the Civic Centre was and parking there was free. Found the registrar's office easily. Had a painless session with a nice lady of not far off my age who was, like I had been, a Unison steward. Then to the funeral parlour whichw as just around the corner but I went the wrong way. Didn't matter though as Katherine, the director, wasn't there and the staff didn't know where the paper was that I had to sign. She was at a funeral so they texted her and I had to wait for her to call back which, fortunately was only about 10 ten minutes.

Home, Susan said I had to ring the solicitor immediately which I did not quite immediately having to scrabble through all the bit and pieces of paper on my computer desk before I could do so. Of course he was on the other line and would call me back. Then Carol rang.

I've tried to steer clear of being critical about people on this blog but this time I can't avoid it. 

Carol is known for being difficult and alienated the local charity Pawz for Thought who used to sponsor her. But she's the only person in Sunderland who looks after large numbers (i.e. ten or more and usually it's around twenty) so I tend to makes allowances and, as everyone in Animal Krackers knows, I'm her biggest supporter. However, she has no sense of proportion. Her heart is in the right place, but her head isn't. She started ranting on about a cat that had died this morning and how awful Vets4Pets was and she knew my mother had just died but I had to put that out of my mind as the cats came first. I've omitted the frequent swearing and the fact that this was screamed down the phone at me. When she started on about my mother after I told her I was waiting for a call from the solicitor I just put the phone down. I few minutes later she called Susan on her mobile and ranted on to her for several minutes. Eventually, after telling Carol that I didn't want to speak to her, Susan also put the phone down on her.

The solicitor never rang back and I slept for most of the afternoon.

Thursday, 24 December 2009


(Pasted from Freethinking a day later, but see that blog for earlier details. For some reason my right click button is working again.)

Wednesday, 23rd Dec.

Jackie from Hawkesbury House rang me late on Tuesday to say that my mother had taken a turn for the worse and was now in bed all the time, semi-conscious at best and it was really only a matter of time. I said I'd call round today.

Then I got a call from Carol who had been rung up from an old people's home to say that a possibly pregnant cat had been coming in but they couldn't keep it there on a night. I rang them back and found out the home was about 20 miles or more away deep in the snowy Durham countryside and there was no way I was going to go there to a place I'd never been before in the pitch black on icy roads. Fortunately one of the staff who lived near the home agreed to take it for the night.

Then Susan took a call from Honour of Vets4Pets who was concerned about a cat that Carol was looking after as its blood tests did not bear out that it had been getting the prescribed medication and she wanted it away from Carol asap. I called Lynn the fosterer who lives not far away and she kindly agreed to take both cats. Then I rang Carol and told her. Needless to say, it wasn't an easy conversation as she didn't want to let the cat go and that she was caring for it properly. I told her bluntly that whatever the truth of the matter, if I didn't get the cat -Hettie, an old thin friendly tortoiseshell- Honour would refer the matter to the RSPCA and Animal Krackers would have them on us, not her. Carol gave way. There was another problem that evening which involved me going out but as it involves money I won't go into further detail.

Got up this morning, cleaned and refreshed several litter trays, had breakfast -porridge in the microwave- went for a quickish -half hour- swim, then to the post office to top up my mobile which had run out the previous evening, then home to sort out what I'd need. Ian F turned up with the van just after 9, we went to get some diesel then I had to go back home to get my mobile which I'd forgotten and then finally it was on the road down the A19 dual carriageway, with the sun shining brightly in my eyes, heading south. Missed the turnoff and added ten minutes to the journey before I could double back. Found the place okay, and country roads were all passable with just a little extra care, the cat was slightly plump and possibly pregnant -a young friendly soft-furred tabby. Drove back to Sunderland without further incident and dropped her off, along with some extra food and litter, with Emma, Lynn's 14 year old daughter.

I had time for a cup of coffee so I went back home and checked my email as I drank it. The post arrived and also the happy resolution to the previous evening's money business. Plus a tax demand. Back in the van, reversed around a tight corner, misjudged it and smashed the rear driver's side lights. After picking up the shattered plastic, I got back inside and drove to Low Fell to see my mother.

She was in bed, not asleep but not really conscious, just making unintelligible sounds from time to time, a hand opening and closing on the blanket. I stayed twenty minutes, kissed her on the forehead which she never noticed, and left. A nurse is visiting three times to a day but it's really a formality. The staff expect her to develop pneumonia very soon and that will be it. Mentally, she hasn't really been here for a while now, just a vestige, and now it's time for that to go too.

I picked up Hettie from Carol's on the way back and gave her to Emma. Happy to have attention, Hettie was purring loudly when I left.

Viv, our sister in law, whose turn it is to cook Christmas dinner, spend all last night vomiting. Alex, my student nephew, has been in bed with bronchitis almost since he got back from university last Friday. I thought it was our turn anyway so it looks as if I might be cooking the meal after all. This isn't a problem, it just means we have the mother in law all day.

I've a feeling that somehow this isn't going to be our best Christmas.

UPDATE: Christmas Eve.

My mother died just under an hour ago and Jackie from Hawksbury House has contacted the funeral firm my mother specified and they've been given my phone number. I was asked if I'd like to see her but I declined. I'd said my goodbyes yesterday. The funeral director will make arrangements as per my mother's instructions and sort out any minor details with me, but other than that I doubt if anything will really happen until the New Year.

And that's it.

There's been a slight thaw this morning but not enough to make much difference to the snow other than to make it a little slushy under foot. Lynn is happy with her two temporary guests, pleased at how friendly they both are.

Nick, Viv, and Alex are all ill so Christmas is cancelled. Well, not quite. I'll be cooking the dinner here with Susan's mother as our only guest.


The funeral director called me. The funeral will be the morning of New Year's Eve (a week today). The day before I'll have to call at Gateshead Civic Centre to register the death. My mother's solicitor will be in touch on Wednesday. Tuesday I have to... Ah, lots of stuff. I'll write about it after it happens.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009


Ignore this and go to the post above.

Thursday, 17 December 2009


There is a woman who is splitting up with her husband and is moving in with her mother and she can't keep her four and a half month old kittens because her mother breeds terriers. Fair enough. Carol is full but Tracy at Burnhope will take them.

I set off with the van and there's a chill in the air. The local forecast on the Internet yesterday said snow but appears to have changed its mind. When I pick up the cats from South Hylton down by the river, flakes are beginning to descend. I get a miserly £5.00 donation from the woman's mother and then go to a local minimart to buy some cat food for Tracy. I was going to give her a load of donated stuff from the garage but forgot.  The kittens? Oh they're cute. Here they are. The grey tabby on the right has a stumpy little tail -born that way- her sister's is normal.

So, up on to the moors where snow lies along the sides of the narrow roads and frosts the tops of the hills. I have to wait about 15 minutes for Tracy who is elsewhere busy looking after her mother's horses and is a bit fraught when she arrives. While I wait I wander around and take a couple of photographs. Here's one of a cat I brought to her months ago and no-one seems to want and I really can't understand why.

Tracy has a lot to do so she more or less rushes me out. I pause to stroke a friendly cat which she says is unhomeable. I find out why when I pick it up and have to step the blood flowing from the puncture wounds in the back of my right hand. Tracy tells me she's in debt because of the rescue and is seriously considering packing it all in early next year. It's a shame because she's the only one in her area. Although only half an hour's drive away on good roads, psychologically that's quite a way in a small country like ours.

Snow is starting to fall when I head back but as I descend it gradually stops. Annoyingly on the way back to Durham, I take a wrong turn at a roundabout and spend ten minutes circumnavigating the villages of Pity Me and Framwellgate Moor before ending up where I started. Back in Sunderland I head for Asda and spend £57.68 on 20 tins of catfood for Carol which I'll deliver some time at the weekend. I take advantage of the 3 for £10.00 offer to pick up a decent Jacob's Creek Cabernet-Shiraz.

And it's started to snow.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009


Saturday we had a tombola in Asda foyer. Translated that means: tombola is a kind of a raffle where you buy some raffled tickets and if the number matches a prize you get it and we were allowed to hold it in the entrance to the local superstore. We made nearly £600.00 whichw as quite good. I was all psyched to spend most of the day there as Susan didn't think we'd have many helpers but in the event we had almsot more than we needed so I went off home. Lest you think I did nothing, I did drive the van there, unload it, and help set up. I also called in a couple of times with more supplies and helped pack it all away at the end.

This morning, I went along to Carol's to pick up two cats for trips to the vets. Both are old with health problems and are the cats that no-one wants. Along with quite a few more, they will be spending the rest of their lives in a shed at Carol's. Here are some photographs of them.

This is Archie whose fur was in such a mess that he had to be shorn. He's fat and can't climb and loves attention that he rarely gets.

This is Hettie who is being tested for thyroid problems. She's old and thin and quite loveable.

These three aren't old and they like snuggling up together but no-one is interested so far.

This one is neither old nor young and is often to be found with the three above. He's friendly if temperamental.

This is Gobollino, young and beautiful and we have her because she attacked a baby; but  she'll go for anyone.

There are more. There are always more.

Friday, 11 December 2009


That is a very cynical saying, albeit it has a degree of truth in it, but sometimes it's wrong. Today I received an embarrassingly large Christmas present from an elderly couple I helped with their middled-aged still mostly feral cat that they took in a few years ago. Basically all I did was get it in a cat carrier (admittedly not easy) and take them to the PDSA with it a couple of times. Today I was given a carrier bag containing a couple  of boxes of liqueur chocolates, a large tine of McVities biscuits, and if that wasn't enough, a full-size bottle of rum. Frankly, I'm embarrassed as I don't think I deserved it or maybe I'm not used to being appreciated. I've already given a box of chocolates to Ian F, the regular driver, who helped us out on one trip and will probably give the biscuits to the shop staff unless Susan wants them. The rum and other box of chocs I'll keep for myself. Hey, I'm embarrassed, I'm not daft.

Cat to Vets4Pets today for a checkup. It's Melba who's an elderly cat with diarrhea. I took her last week when Carol stupidly hadn't cleaned her up first and they were shocked by the state of her. Honour the vet still wasn't too happy today as she noticed that the shit had burned the fur of the bottom of Melba's hind feet, something Carol hadn't noticed. She'd also lost weight despite eating regularly and may have thyroid trouble (another one) so Honour took a blood sample and I'm bringing her back next Tuesday along with Hettie, who does have thyroid problems.

I waited nearly an hour to be seen because a local pug breeder had brought one of her dogs in needing emergency treatment. I'd met the breeder there before and don't like her. When she learned I was with Animal Krackers she asked for some cats to act as rat killers because they lived on a main road and her cats were always being knocked down. Like I said, I don't like her.

I don't like breeders on principle. Willow, my brother in law's Cavalier King Charles was rescued from a breeder as she'd been a puppy factory for six years and he now wanted new stock. While waiting to be seen today, I noticed the man opposite had a tiny Border terrier puppy nestled inside his jacket. He'd just bought it from a breeder for £350. It was supposed to be six weeks old when it was barely four. The dog he'd been shown as its mother wasn't. And two days ago it had started fitting and he rushed it here, believing it was going to die, but Honour had managed to save its life. I don't know everything that was wrong with the poor mite but he also told me it had ringworm. I hope it pulls through.

I don't believe all breeders are unscrupulous uncaring bastards but I have reason to believe that of most of them.

Thursday, 10 December 2009


From Funny Cat Photos.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009


We've just got in phone contact with a guy who feeds ferals where he works but also catches feral kittens which he then domesticates for rehoming. He also catches ferals and spays them. He is working with Pawz for Thought but there may be some way we can be of mutual assistance. We'll be seeing him in a week.

Another new contact is a lady who would like to foster cats -one at a time. She sounds ideal and we'll be going to see her again in a week.

On my Igoogle page is a thing called Funny Cat Photos. As I don't have too many photos of my own to put up, I've decided to pinch some of these on an irregular basis when I don't have much to write about.Here's one.

Carol was on the phone this morning, desperately short of food. By sheer coincidence (and this was just after getting back from my morning swim) Susan asked me to take Ann our treasurer down to the shop with a load of stuff for it. Having a captive audience I was able to point out by sheer figures that we should be spending more money on cat food for Carol as we can't rely on donations to make up the difference. I can now spend about 30% more a week.

While I was there I raked around the outside cupboard find a large boxfulls worth of tins. That, combined with another boxfull from our garage, should be enough to keep Carol happy until I turn up on Saturday with around 70 tins from Asda.

Last night I went round to Lynn's to see how the 6 month old kitten was getting on and to take a photo for our website.  Here's the only picture out of 14 that I took which wasn't blurred, along with the accompanying text about him for our website.

Turnip is a lovely, friendly and very lively 6 month old male kitten about ready for neutering. He is into everything -cupboards, fridges, etc- if there is a space he can get into, he'll get into it. He's very playful and doesn't yet realise he isn't supposed to bite and scratch when he does. He also eats everything and has been known to eat a mild chicken curry and an olive. This is not neccessarily good for him and don't ever leave plates of food unattended. But he is friendly and curious and gets on with dogs and cats. Probably not suitable for small children or the elderly, but for anyone used to cats he'll be a delight.

What I didn't mention is that he sometimes uses the bath instead of the litter tray.

Right, I'm now off to drive Andrea home and then I shall get changed ready to go to the pub with my friend Ian (who not one of the other two Ians involved with Animal Krackers but another completely different Ian).

Friday, 4 December 2009


I found this on the Net and couldn't help myself.

Thursday, 26 November 2009


Wednesday morning and I had to cut short my regular swim by 4 lengths (which might not sound much but I swim so slowly that totals eight minutes) in order to get home for 8.30 in case the gas men came to fix our gas fire. Needless to say, they didn't. Fair do's though, they did arrive at 8.50.

In the middle of the mess, Susan popped out of the car to put something for the shop in the backseat. I was sitting down with my back to the window and talking to the gas fitter when Susan suddenly hammered on the window as she gestured for me to come outside.

"There's a stray dog in the street," she said, "It's just chased Twister." Twister being the cat owned and left outside in all weathers by the family opposite. Then she said, "I think it's Jake. Let's get him in the kitchen."

Jake is one of two dogs fostered by the main Animal Krackers van driver, Ian Fullerlove, and when I saw the dog it did look like Jake. It also acted like him -lively, directionless, brainless. So I cleared the cats out of the way and got Jake into the kitchen. Not that this was difficult as he'd been here before several times and knew where the food is. When I think about it, food always tends to be in the kitchen which is always at the back of a house, so no extra points for Jake.

I rang Ian and said, "Have you lost Jake?"

"Yes, but how do you know?" So I told him.

Apparently he's having his rented house done out and, though he'd locked the two dogs out the back, one of the several workmen who had arrived after Ian had explained about the dogs, opened the door to the yard and Jake followed  by Sam barrelled their way through the house and out the front door. One word from Ian and Sam shot back inside,  but Jake kept going. This had all happened about 15 minutes before he arrived in our street which he must have made for immediately (assuming a trotting pace rather than a run, with frequent pauses for for sniffing). Although he'd never been walked from Ian's house to ours, he had been walked back on a number of occasions and it's too much of a coincidence for him to have arrived here by chance.

So Jake was never lost at all, he knew exactly where he was going. The piece of luck came in that Susan just happened to be in the street when Jake arrived. He may have hung around or come up to our front door or he might have then wandered off and got really lost.

Oh well, if Jake gets out again, Ian knows what to do.

Tuesday, 24 November 2009


Been a fairly quiet week on the cat front. I took a couple of cats from Carol's at different times to Vets4Pets. One, Hettie from Hetton, needed checking to see if she needed stronger tablets for her thyroid problem but got an open verdict. Then there was Melba who needed her teeth seeing to but had her bloods checked first which proved okay so I'm taking her this Thursday morning.

This morning, after arriving back from my morning swim, I got a call from the family who were fostering C'mell. Sadly the steroid injection had worn off and she was back to going in circles crying in a distressed and distressing manner. I rang Roker Park Vets and got an appointment for half an hour later.

As I'd warned them and I'd expected, the vet recommended that she be put to sleep. She had some neurological condition, probably a brain tumour and steroids only acted as a temporary palliative. She was an old and very ill cat. I held her while she was injected, stroking and talking to her as she quickly faded away.

I always hate having to authorise a cat to be put to sleep and always, no matter how convinced I am that I'm relieving the animal's suffering, feel guilty about it just as I know it is the kindest thing to do.

And that is three cats I've lost in the last few weeks. I'm not a very happy animal rescuer right now.

Post Script.

It's now a couple of hours later and in that time we received a request to take in a 4-month old male which was not being well-handled by a two year old girl. Carol couldn't take it but Lynn agreed, despite being upset over C'Mell (or Tabitha as she'd named it) whom she wanted to keep.

Anne and Joe of Star Rescue picked the kitten up from Hebburn and brought it here. It's a lovely tabby and white, lean, clean and healthy, deflea-ed and vaccinated. I took it round to Lynn's where it cautiously and gradually came out of the cat carrier, sniffed her fingers, sniffed the  couch, slid onto the floor and sniffed that and the fingers of Lynn's 9-year old son. Curious and alert and used to being stroked. I think it will do well there, though Susan has her eye on it for June who took the cat with the broken leg (see earlier posts).

A nice end to a rough day.

Monday, 16 November 2009


So, Friday teatime, Susan tells me she's going to do a home check for two kittens with Andrea and wants me to come along. They've been on a proper RSPCA training course in home checks and are experts and I should go with them to observe their skills (she didn't actually use those words but I know when I'm being patronised). In the event it didn't take a genius to realise that this was a suitable home. Experienced cat owners in a  cul de sac in a quietish respectable area who had seen the kittens already and really wanted them.

Andrea contacted Lynn (whom I'd hadn't met) who had been fostering the kittens -these were the 7 or 8 month old ones I'd picked up from Ryhope a few weeks ago. Yes, they could pick them up tonight and she was also willing to foster Cat C'Mell (see previous post). So good.

Apart from a fraught drive back where Susan drove without lights until I pointed this out then me telling her to turn right at a junction I knew very well but not well enough to realise that the council in their wisdom had changed things so that you weren't allowed to turn right there. We got back to the shop and Susan left to go see her mother in the home where she resides. After talking it over with Andrea, we decided to take the cat round to Lynn's which was only a 5-minute walk away.

A railway line splits the top half of Grangetown and Hendon into two and round the corner and down a bank then up and down a bit and a left turn down some steep steps to the houses which border the eastern side of the railway tracks and another couple of hundred yards along and there we were.

Plus Sally aka Scruffy the psycho dog with evil eyes and straggly teeth whom I've written about before. Andrea had promised Sally's owner to take it for a walk. So there we were, me with C'Mell the old sick cat in a carrier and Andrea with the dog that looks like it's a pet of the demons in The Evil Dead.

Lynn was a nice lady in (I'm terrible at ages but she has a 14 year old daughter so let's say) her thirties. She also has two cats of her own (one of which was hiding), the other was a friendly long haired calico cat. Also around was one of the kittens which let me stroke her until she got so sick of Sally barking (which she does when no-one is paying attention to her) that she scuttled upstairs. I gently pulled C'Mell out of her cage and let Lynn get to know her while I explained what the cat might do (i.e.crap on the carpet) and the rest of her situation.

Lynn mentioned that they were looking after her mother's python for a while and that they also had one. I find snakes, particularly constrictors, interesting and was keen to see them so she called up for her daughter to bring them down one a time. So there was this fourteen year old girl (who wants to be a veterinary nurse) with a python draped round her. I'd never been this close to a python before, and it is a lovely animal, so I reached out and touched it finding it cool and dry, the skin a little loose around its body. Its head was surprisingly small and I nervously let it glide over my outstretched hand.

So, my first close encounter with a python. Nice.

I'm now waiting to hear how Lynn is finding C'Mell after having her for two days. She has my number and hasn't called so I'm assuming that everything is okay.

By the way, Sally went nuts when she saw the snake. Cats she doesn't mind, but not apparently snakes. Tough luck psycho-dog.

Friday, 13 November 2009


This poor old girl isn't a happy bunny; hardly surprising as she's a cat but never mind. She didn't seem to be eating so I arranged for a visit to have her teeth done at Roker Park Vets as that's what the vet had suggested. On Wednesday evening she did, though, eat half a dish of Sheba chicken in jelly which was promising.

So, Thursday morning and I had the van and took little C'Mell to the vets. We had a guy in to do the garden and, as we had several sacks of garden waste piled up, I took the opportunity to drop them off at the Council Tip on the way to Carol's to pick up the Hetton cat (unnamed but that was where I got her from) to take her to Vets4Pets for a follow-up visit with regards to her thyroid with Sarah the vet. While has been improving, she's still a skinny little thing and her heart was racing about two thirds faster than it should. Sarah gave me some more tablets and took a blood sample to see if further or different treatment might be neccessary. Still waiting on that one.

Back at the shop, I filled the van with dog food and bedding and took it to the charity StrayAid at Coxhoe in County Durham. Despite it being about a 25 mile round trip, I managed it in about 75 minutes including dropping all the stuff off.

Teatime and I arrived to pick up C'Mell (this is my own private name for her as every time I formally name a sick cat it ends up dying). Fortunately she'd been seen by a more experienced vet this time. She didn't need dental treatment at all. The reality of her problems was much worse than that. She is deaf and her eyesight doesn't seem that good. She also has an undiagnosed problem which may be brain damage or something else. She turns in circles and scratches deeply at her left ear though there's no major infection or infestation in it. The vet had given her a steroid injection which should help her pick up and last for a couple of weeks. He also advised us to monitor her closely in case she deteriorated.

I took her back to the shop where she seemed okay. Later on though I got a call from Susan who was upset by the cat's behaviour. It was going in circles and was clearly distressed. I went round and had a look and it was still acting like that. As I've said many times in these postings, my prime concern is not to let an animal suffer and so, if it was still like that in the morning it would be put to sleep. Andrea and Susan were in complete agreement.

With a heavy heart, I turned up at the shop this morning, half-expecting the cat to be dead. Happily she had improved, even to the extent of eating the food I'd left down for her the previous evening. I could still see the tendency to go in circles but she wasn't distressed and purred loudly when made a fuss of

I don't think she has a lot of time left but for the moment we're leaving her as she is. As long as she can keep going, we'll keep her going.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009


Dogs: Millie (left, Andrea's), Wendy the whippet. (Photo by Andrea.)

Cat: C'Mell. (Photo by me.)

So we had two calls to make in the car, the van being elsewhere, and I had Andrea with me as she'd been in contact with the people involved, and Millie her dog who goes everywhere with her and is good with other dogs and cats.

First to South Hylton down a bank and just above the Wear. New cottages fitted out for the disabled and it had been an elderly disabled lady who'd called us. Apparently she'd phoned all over the place for help, finally getting in touch with Roker Park Vets who gave them our number and she was delighted to see us. I checked out the cat and, following a quick look at her front teeth, wrongly guessed that she was young when she was actually at the opposite end of the spectrum. So: bagged and tagged -that means put in the cat carrier and placed on the back seat for those of you who don't watch cop shows or speak gibberish.

From the banks of the Wear to Chapelgarth at one of the most southern points of sunny Sunderland, more modern housing. This time a young whippet which had just wandered into the area and been taken in by a nice family who got in touch with us. The whippet was a lovely little thing, friendly to Millie and delightful with people. Into the car where it settled down on the back seat and paid no attention to the cat in the carrier.

We took them back to the shop while we decided what to do with them. The whippet was quickly fostered out and I took the cat to Roker Park Vets. The vet, after a quick check, was ready to put the old girl to sleep straight away being obviously old, apathetic, dehydrated and underweight, plus fleas. I wanted to give her a chance so, after putting Frontline on her to kill the fleas, left her there for blood tests. The results were in by teatime and she was clear of anything majorly obvious. We decided to keep her in a cage in the shop's upstairs office. This time the van was available so Ian F the driver went to pick up the cat after first getting the carrier and cage from me and I met him with the cat and Andrea at the shop where we settled the cat in for the night.

I was round there just after 9.30am to see how she was. It looked like she'd had a mouthful of food and maybe a drink of water. I got her out of the cage, popped her on my knee and stroked her. She stayed there and purred faintly. I put her on the couch and she didn't move and was still in the same position when I came back from washing her dishes and bringing fresh food and water so I picked her up and carried her downstairs to show her to the staff who were around. She didn't stir in my arms.

I came back again later in the afternoon to brush her rather unkempt coat and make a fuss of her. Again, she purred faintly and made a hlaf-hearted attempt to rub her head against my finger. Back for the finall time at teatime when the shop had shut to try her with fresh fish. I brushed some against her mouth but she didn't react. I gave her some more cuddles and left her on the couch for the night with the fish next her.

It's basically one of two things. She's either got a tooth problem which is stopping her from eating and grooming or she's an old girl on her last legs and waiting to die. We should find out which in the next couple of days.

Thursday, 5 November 2009


I haven't been directly involved in any of this so what follows are my recollections of hearsay. Take that any way you want.

Paul and Joanne our new cat fosterers are having to give it up because Joanne's cat allergy has come back fiercely. However, we have someone who wants to adopt the two they're looking after. Paul is to take them to their new home but phones us first to confirm details. He casually mentions about not letting them out for at least two weeks and at this point the erstwhile adopter says words to the effect that she has no intention of cleaning out cat litter. Paul sensibly replies that she clearly isn't a suitable person and he won't take the two seven month olds to her.

Apparently she comes into the shop and wanted a dog from us to use as a guard dog as well as a cat and was turned down. Needless to say, she isn't well thought of.

Next thing, Carol our cat rescuer phones us and speaks to Susan. She has a nice lady wanting a ginger cat (this particular detail may be wrong but it's something like that) but she doesn't have one. However, a rescuer at Wallsend (we'll call her 'Sue' as that may be her name, I'm slightly unsure) has a suitable cat and can we go through in the van to pick it up. Well, Wallsend is way outside our catchment area and we don't know the place at all. Susan checks and it would onluycost £25 to get a taxi to pick the cat up.

Now at this point it's nearly 7.30pm and I've just finished cooking our evening meal but Susan has to go and take Andrea home from the shop. This should be a 15-minute round trip. She comes back just before 9.00 some 90 minutes later, having spent much of this on the phone.

The new titular owner of the cat is none other than our old friend who has no intention of cleaning cat litter so there is no way she's getting it. (She seemed nice on the phone, Carol said.) This upset 'Sue' who needed the space to take in a pregnant cat (again details may be wrong) who apparently started going on about the hundreds of thousands of pounds we have in the bank (we don't) being used to help other rescues (which we do anyway if and when we can) but where she got the idea that we had vast unlimited funds (which, I repeat, we don't) one can only speculate and while I have a good idea, I'm not going to name names. It is true that we are trying to build up funds for a permanent animal rescue which was part of our plan from the very beginning but we won't get very far if we keeping parting with the savings we do have.

Susan came back exhausted and irritated.

Like the title says, people are annoying.

While I'm on the subject, our cat Ted went to see Honour the vet and the fleas are back and our house is riddled with them, so Susan reported to me, and that the dead kitten Poppy also had them. This may well be true but I would like to know why in all the times I took her to the vets that none of them mentioned this fact to me and did something about it.

And how come I don't get bothered by fleas while Susan constantly scratches? And I'm still loaded with cold and pissed off.


Tuesday, 3 November 2009


Which is why there haven't been any entries since Friday. I'm loaded with cold and just can't be bothered with anything and have been palming stuff I normally do without a thought onto other people.

Susan has just got back from the vet's with Ted and his flea problem, which I thought we'd sorted, is back and Honour the vet, without seeing the house, thinks we're riddled with fleas, or so Susan says. I think Susan is using it as an excuse to get  me to empty the room where I work on the computer and store my Amazon Marketplace stock. This, despite the fact that the cats come in here less than any other room in the house and fleas live in carpets and bedding and not on books, DVDs' or CDs.

Friday, 30 October 2009


Poppy died early this morning.

Unusually for me, I had a lie-in  probably because I was woken by cats fighting about 5 and got up and let them out. So I didn't get up until 7.40 when I let the cats back  in and fed them. Then I went outside into the garden and looked through the french windows of the room where she stayed overnight in her cage which is something I never normally do.

Poppy was stretched out on her blanket and it was obvious she was dead. I went back in and checked her. She was cool but not yet in rigor mortis -that came a little later. Her eyes were open.

I took Susan a cup of tea, woke her up and told her. Unsurprisingly she's very upset. So am I, I just don't visibly show it. Instead I write this at 8.10am.

In a little while I'll take her to the vets, Susan wants us to treat her the same as we've treated our other cats which have died, and ask for them to arrange for her to be cremated and the ashes returned to us. Poppy will then join Lucy, BB, and Tiger in our garden.

Thursday, 29 October 2009


It may be because it's late in the evening. It may be because I'm tired and Susan has flu and I've been doing what I can to look after her. It may be because I feel I've got a cold coming on. Or it may be just because I've had a large glass of red wine.

But I don't think Poppy has got much longer. She's kept in the cage over night and when I'd checked it this morning she'd done two motions of a pate-like consistency which is good. She's constantly hungry but only nibbles. Today she's leaked considerably as well as doing several motions on the carpet. I don't know how many times I've washed my hands today. She's also slept a lot of the time on Susan's bed, snuggled up next to Susan who is herself low and only tolerates it because she can't bear to upset the kitten.

As I mentioned in the previous post, she's lost even more weight. Now I just think she's worn out with it all. I suspect the next couple of days will have her improve or drastically decline and die. I hope it's the former. I think it will be the latter.


Rabbit photos courtesy of Andrea Parkin. Top: group. Bottom: Basil the Baby Bunny.

So I was due to take Poppy (previously named Lulu the loose kitten) to the vets because her diarrhea isn't getting any better and then discovered I had to take Andrea and the five baby bunnies we've been looking after prior to re-homing.

My hands on experience with rabbits is quite limited so I was surprised just how friendly and inquisitive these little bunnies were in that they came to the front of the cage as I approached and happily sniffied my fingers. All of them were very happy, one at a time of course, to be picked up, held against my chest and stroked. Each one of them snuggled in comfortably and I found it almost as relaxing an experience as stroking a cat.

We were all seeing Honour, whom I've mentioned in several previous posts, at Vets4Pets. Not unusually, we were late going in but I never mind that because I get the opportunity to meet animals and talk to their owners about Animal Krackers. Anyway, Poppy, despite having physically grown a  little has actually lost weight since she was seen two weeks ago. Honour decided to try her on micro doses of steroids combined with this brown gunge which is supposed to line the stomach. If this doesn't work, then we have to decide whether to go ahead with expensive tests which could cost up to £800. The alternative is to put her to sleep; or, of course, let her die a lingering death and that is something no-one wants.

The bunnies were there to be sexed and checked out. Never seen a bunny sexed before and even a vet as experienced as Honour had to check them all twice before deciding which were which. She also pronounced them to be in hopping good health.

One the way out we saw Gillian of Feline Friends whom we've known for a number of years but my attentionwas drawn to a rat in a small plastic carrier with the top open. The rat's owner, a young woman called Kate Young, runs a rat rescue at Washington.

Here's her website:

Her poor little rat had a very swollen eye which she reckoned would probably have to be removed.

That's it.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009


Another entry, another no photo and not much happening.

Saturday teatime Carol rang wanting me to go through to Washington to pick up a cat. Apparently it was neglected and the police were involved with its owner and it was skinny as a rake and left out all night. So...

I didn't go. I hate driving round Washington where I always get lost (see previous entries) and it would be even worse in the dark. I reckoned it would survive until the following morning. Carol phoned me later to say the bloke who originally contacted her had managed to get a lift and brought it through.

This afternoon I took it to Vets4Pets for a check over. It's a beautiful long haired ginger cat and I hope I'll get a photo of it before it's rehomed. Nice natured and lively. Also in very good condition: lean but not skinny or underweight. We aren't sure if it's been neutered or not so just to be on the safe side I'm taking it in next Monday morning.

While I was there I discussed our kitten, currently called Poppy, with Honour the vet. The result of that conversation being that tomorrow afternoon I'll take her in for a steroid injection to see if that has any effect.

I'll let you know.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

CATS: busy busy busy

No photographs because I've just installed Windows 7 but not yet reinstalled the copy of my hard disk. (For the full but still short story of that, see my other blog:

Monday was a record: 6 cats to the vets in one day. First off, I picked up a mother and her two grown kittens from Ryhope, getting lost in the process, and took them to Vets4Pets for neutering. The owner didn't want the kittens back as with 2 kids, studying science at Shiney Row college, and working at the Casino, she had enough on her plate. Later I picked up 3 cats from Carol's for checkups following their 2 neuterings and 1 teeth removal the previous week. At the vets I then picked up the 3 neutered cats and had 6 in my car at the same time. The kittens are being fostered by a couple who have just got in contact with us and seem very nice indeed. Paul has just been on the phone to let me know they have settled in well and are starting to play with his two cats.

Last Thursday (or Friday, I get mixed up) Andrea and I went to West Boldon (and got lost thanks to her crap navigating) to pick up a 14 month old Staffy bitch. Owner had a new baby and couldn't cope with the two. The dog was lovely, very friendly, almost gentle by staffys' ebillient standards. We took her to StrayAid at Coxhoe deep in the heart of Durham.

A couple of hours later I had got myself totally confused in Sulgrave, Washington, finding myself completely incapable of seeing my destination despite driving and walking past it several times. I was there to pick up two cats (brother & sister and proud parents of two kittens) for neutering. Rather than leave the house ridiculously early the following morning I'd decided to keep them here overnight. No problems, nice owner but with a lot on her plate. I strongly emphasised that she should get the kittens neutered no later than 6 months. Already the product of inbreeding, I shudder to think what their kittens might be like.

Talking of kittens, loose Lulu is now in my house. When there's no-one around she's kept in a cage which is more restricting that before, but when she isn't, she has more company for longer. Still loose, we're now trying a different food but nothing seems to work.

Last night a drunk idiot phoned who seems to think we should give her the name and address of the people we got the two cats from that she adopted and was pissed off when I told her that even if we had their details we wouldn't pass it on. She then threatened to smear our charity to the local newspaper. I put the phone down on her. So far today no more has been heard.

Sunday, 18 October 2009


While I'm behind on new posts, I have today finally caught up with transferring all the animal-related entries from my other blog to this one. They aren't strictly in (reverse) chronological order though they mostly are. They are also still on my Freethinking blog but I'll probably get round to deleting them from there.

I had quite a busy week last week which I hope to get around to writing about this week. But what with dealing with new software which crashes my system, cats, and finding time to read the many lovely books I've been buying lately, plus hoping to fit in an afternoon to go and see Zombieland. Oh, and my dear friend Barry is going into hospital for a heart op at the Freeman in Newcastle in two days and I'll have to visit him.

Well, we'll see.

ANIMAL RESCUE: The Story of Animal Krackers.

Monday, 6 July 2009

2002: Getting the shop ready.
L-R: Edie, Ian, Susan, Jacqui, Chris.

I meet Susan Hardy and we get married on August 21st 1988 Although we met on an Open University Social Sciences degree foundation course, it's really our mutual love of animals which brings us close.

Susan at the time was active in the anti-vivisection movement, which she still supports, and had been for some while. She got me to go along to some meetings and a couple of marches, though the movement seemed to be declining in Sunderland at least. I had and still have some reservations about its demand for a total ban of animal vivisection, though I would like to see a situation where it was completely unnecessary.

About a year after buying our first house we get our first cat together. Lucy is a stray black and white which wanted to live with friends of Susan's. They advertised it but no-one claimed it, their cat hated it, we went round and she sat on my knee the whole time we were there. When we got her home, she had a wander round, used the cat litter, ate something, then jumped on my lap and sprawled across my left knee, paws on either side of my leg. A couple of years later we got another cat whom I called BB after BB King (whom I'd recently been to see at the Newcastle Arena with Susan's brother), being that he was short, black and with a pot belly. A little while Bonnie, a psycho long-haired tortoiseshell, jumped in front of Susan while she was talking to a neighbour in the street. Susan picked her up ,ran in the house, gave her to me and went to visit her mother. Bonnie was in heat, we had her spayed (the vet reckoned she was about 3 years old) and she's still with us albeit a little bit doddery. Lucy had a stroke which left her blind and partially paralysed so we had her put to sleep. BB was hit by a car in our street and, we think, died almost instantly.

In the late 90's we started helping a lady called Wendy who'd set up her own rescue called Wendy's Ark. A support group had formed around her and Susan became active in that. Wendy, being shall we say, difficult, ended up splitting from the group which became the north side of Sunderland's animal rescue Pawz For Thought. Susan became fed up with Pawz for Thought because it became clear that only one person in the organisation mattered and everything had to be done her way.

About the same time Susan and I met Andrea, an animal-lover who was the shop manager of the local branch of Oxfam in Grangetown where we live. Oxfam was closing the shop down and Andrea was interested in setting up another charity shop. It seemed a match made in heaven. We soon found -found is not the right word- we walked along the street and stopped at boarded-up premises about a hundred yards away from the bottom of the street where we live.

The owner showed us round. It was a total mess. In the larger of the upstairs room, there were gaps in the ceiling and in the roof above. The floor was covered in a layer of pigeon shit and dead pigeons and the stench was appalling.

However as the rent was so cheap we took it. The owner had the roof repaired and cleaned up the rooms making it at least habitable. We then set about renovating it which involved redecorating, cleaning, fitting shelves, and so on. Even with the help of a number of volunteers, it still took months. I suggested the name Animal Crackers because it indicated what we were about, it was also the name of a Marx Brothers movie and a Shirley Temple song, which I'd like to forget but can't, so it had added nuances. Later on and for legal reasons we had to change the name to Animal Krackers.

As the shop took shape so did our ideas about what we wanted to do with the funds we raised. Although the spur to open a charity shop was to raise funds for Wendy's Ark, we never intended to limit ourselves to just funding Wendy. We hoped to be able help other local animal rescue organisations. A few months later, and like most people it seems who have much to do with her over long periods, we had a falling out with Wendy so we concentrated helping other local rescues and building funds to go towards establishing a permanent financially secure animal rescue for the City of Sunderland.

What we weren't going to be, until then, was an animal rescue.

To be honest, my interest had tailed off somewhat because the shop didn't become what I'd hoped. My intention had been, and I was more than willing to do all the work, was to have the shop become a pet information centre as well as our prime means of raising funds. But no-one was interested or wanted to give it much space. Making as much money as possible was the important thing. And after spending my working week involved with the public the last thing I wanted to do was go behind the counter of a charity shop or sort out stuff behind the scenes.

While this was going on we acquired Lily, a five week old grey kitten, and our fourth cat.

However, word got around about us and people started coming to us with lost animals, mainly cats and dogs, and we had to develop procedures to deal with this when the local rescues were full. Part of this involved liaising with Carol the cat rescuer who worked under the aegis of Pawz for Thought. With me being so keen on cats, I happily took this on. And then Carol fell out with Pawz for Thought and we took her under our wing, paying for vets bills and collecting (we had dump bins in several local food stores) and buying food.

On a visit to Carol's, Susan fell in love with the runt of the litter, a tiny long haired tabby who is now called Tiger and is the biggest cat we have.

Max, a needy six month old black and white cat was brought to the shop only a week or so after BB's death. We were just going to foster him for a few days and then take him to Carol's but he never left. A few months after that while Susan was away for a week's holiday with her brother and his family I fell in love with a little ginger kitten Carol had taken in. Several months after that Susan was at the doctor's when she was told of a kitten in the scaffolding outside. We advertised in the local newspaper but no-one claimed her so she also stayed. A couple of years later and while at Carol's a large black and white cat literally jumped into Susan's arms and she didn't put him down.

In the eight years since we first took on the shop we've developed from a virtually unknown support group to a very well known and highly regarded local rescue. The Sunderland Echo has featured us on its pages a few times a year -the most recent piece late last year was a double-page spread about cats with a quite decent photo of me on it. We temporarily house dogs at Ferryfarm Kennels in Sunderland and at StrayAid at Coxhoe (see earlier posts) and this works very well. I'm busy several times a week either picking up cats to take to Carol's or taking them to the vets, collecting food or sometimes driving the van for dogs. We always spend well over a thousand pounds a month on vets bills and it would be more if it wasn't for the national charity Cats Protection giving us neutering vouchers worth £30.00.

Sometimes we have to make the hard decision about whether or not we can save an animal or if it should be put to sleep. I hate that and have to convince myself I've done the right thing. My prime concern is that I do not let an animal suffer and if that means putting it to sleep then that is what I have done.

This is my blog and you may get the impression that I do a huge amount. If you have, then that's wrong. Susan and Andrea do far far more than me every day. I do what I enjoy doing and that is running around helping cats and, where required dogs too. I love dogs, I just love cats more.

But here we are, despite all the fights that happen in any group, we still going and still going strongly, though we never have enough people, never have enough fosterers, never have enough resources, and there is always another cat and another dog to be helped and we keep going on.

Update: four years later.

Obviously the cat rescue story continues in all the proceeding blog posts. The dog side of things continues more or less unchanged. The major change was our opening of the Cat-Rehoming Centre at Ferry Farm Boarding kennels (again fully detailed later in this blog). Volunteers have come and gone and many who have been with us from the beginning are still here. Susan and I split up but remain good friends. I have my own nice little house which I'm currently sharing with 5 adult cats and 4 kittens; number subject to change without notice.

There have been ups and downs and mistakes made but I like to think that we're still doing a good job of rescuing and re-homing animals and helping others to do the same.

Friday, 26th July 2013.

WHAT I DID TODAY: I Am White Van Man

Friday, 12 June 2009

5.00 am Woke up.

5.50 Got up, let 6 cats out, let 2 in, fed same, drank a glass of water (no food, no caffeine, I'm having a blood test later), watched BBC News 24 for 10 minutes, checked email.

7.30 Swimming.

8.30 Received no longer wanted four year old black cat which had just peed in its carrier. I get one of our carriers from the garage and put it in while I clean the wet one. Then I let it out in the kitchen for an hour. It's a chunky thing and quietly friendly but it still scared the crap out of its former owner's one year old daughter hence its appearance on my doorstep. It seems quite a placid animal.

9.40 I load up Animal Krackers' new white van (see above)a nd drive to the doctor's for the blood test. Until yesterday I had never driven anything larger than our Ford Fiesta so this is quite strange and I'm a bit nervous but don't have any problems and take to it better than I expected. I also discover that the cat (which I call Max as in Maximum) doesn't like being in a cat carrier in a van and loudly expresses this feeling. He also shits in the carrier. Twice.

10.15 Pick up Andrea (along with my wife, Susan, the co-leader of our charity) and we head off to Ferryfarm boarding kennel to pick up a dog.
At this point an update is in order.
The very sick dog we took in on Monday was taken back to the vets on Tuesday but this time was looked at by Honor, the senior vet. Honor quickly diagnosed the dog as being very old, having no feeling in its back legs, probably had some brain damage, and was suffering. She recommended it being put to sleep and mercifully it was. We find out later today that this was actually illegal. But later on Tuesday we discovered the owner of the dog -an elderly and not very capable old lady who was glad we had ended her dog's suffering; she intended to do it herself but we think she just couldn't face it.
Max the cat had supposed to have gone to the Burnhope cattery on Monday but didn't make it and the revised plan had been to take it today. However, two of the cats I'd taken there had come down with what might be cat flu and had been isolated. As it wasn't fair to Tracy the owner of the cattery/rescue to dump her with Max and put Max at potential risk, we managed to get Stray Aid to take him for rehoming. This was where we were taking the dog we'd come for.
Stray Aid is a combination of dog boarding kennel, rehoming centre (mainly dogs but the odd cat), and veterinary surgery and we pay them to keep 5 kennels available to us.

10.50 Arrive at Stray Aid, some 20 miles away in County Durham. Max is checked out, vaccinated and de-flead just in case, and declared fine. Four years old, low mileage, suit an elderly driver. Or something. The dog, a friendly cross-something, is also declared fine.

11.50 Back on the motorway heading to Penshaw Village on the outskirts of Sunderland to pick up a rottweiler. It had been re-homed with a family but we were told their landlord had changed the rules of their tenancy and they couldn't have a large dog. Translation: it's too much for us to handle and we want rid of it. Andrea knows of someone who wants a rottweiler and is experienced with large dogs so she rings her up and tells it's on its way back to Ferryfarm Kennels if she wants to see it. We duly dump the dog -large, friendly and likes to chew on your hand -in a friendly bone-grinding way.

1.45 I finally arrive home.


Thursday, 1 October 2009

Now why, you're wondering, in the first place would we be at the Bangla Deshi Centre and who, in the second place, is we?

We, is me and Andrea. Why, is we was asking for money.  Let me explain...

There's a government funded local group called Back on the Map which is a quango with the aim of improving life in the Sunderland areas of Hendon and the East End. It does a lot of very good work, part of which involves promoting the area. One a year they allocate relatively small sums of money to groups which provide some form of service to the area which is where we come in.

Animal Krackers is well known in the area and a lot of rescued animals come from here such as Lulu the kitten. This year we put in a request for £1800 which would provide 5 places at Ferryfarm Kennels for a year and stray/unwanted dogs from Hendon would be guaranteed a place. One such dog can be seen sitting on my knee in the photo below about an hour after it was taken away to its new fosterer. The dog is a Jack Russell, a ratter by instinct and likely to chase small animals. It proved to be terrified of cats as I discovered when I had to drag it past one of my cats which was sitting just inside the front gate.

The format of the meeting is that each individual group gives a maximum 5-minute presentation. Each group is fit into one of 4 categories -Health & Fitness, the elderly, ethnic, and 'small sums' (our category). A varied amount of money is allocated to each category and is voted on by 50 volunteer judges from the area. However, as I've just found out from Susan a few minutes ago, the voting is overall and not in each separate category so it's possible that none of the groups in a particular category could be voted any money. This is obviously not a good idea and clearly I'm writing from hindsight as I found out some disturbing information after writing the following two paragraphs.

And it's held at the Bangla Deshi Centre which, despite the name, is open to all and is a very active centre.

Usually Susan and  Andrea we do it but Susan had to be at a meeting about her mother and I was the obvious replacement being articulate, confident  and charming. You do recognise that description of me, don't you? One slight problem, until the day before, Andrea was away for the week. Susan dictated an introduction which I typed and modified. I then wrote my piece about Lulu and Grace and brought it all together in the conclusion. Andrea emailed a piece a couple of days before which I then edited, cut, rewrote, etc until the whole thing pretty much worked. Given the 5-minute limit, I was still doing minor revisions an hour before we were due to arrive.

Held in a large hall arranged into the audience in groups of tables with up to six at a table, and the supplicants arrayed on either side of a wide table along one wall. With over 20 groups and allowing for technical hitches this would, I thought, take a long time. As it turned out, only one group overran and no-one minded as it was to support a group of prepubescent would-be cheerleaders who, while their young female presenter was excellent, were pretty terrible but all the more charming for it. Quite a few presentations were over in a minute or less and we were on last.

We had brought three display boards packed with photos of Hendon animals we'd rescued and put it in front of the table. Holding the microphone close and wearing my Animal Krackers t-shirt, I gave the introduction about why we were asking for money and what we did. I passed the mic to Andrea who then cited examples of Hendon dogs we'd rescued referencing the relevant photos. Back to me for brief stories of Grace and Lulu and I then wrapped it up by explaining that if we got the money for the dogs if would have a knock-on effect in that we would not be placed, by limited funds, into having to choose whether to provide either veterinary care or a kennel place, in effect, condemning an animal to an uncertain future. I may have imagined it but I thought we got a substantial applause when we finished.

Strange thing is, despite being shy in a social situation where I'm not on familiar territory or with people I know, I have no problems at all about talking to a large group, concerns that I might fluff lines or lose my place, yes, but I don't feel nervous at all. It would also seem that this is not a delusion on my part as several people mentioned how confidently I came over.  Andrea and I agreed that if we didn't get the money it would be because the judges had other priorities rather than any weaknesses in our presentation or content.

We then networked the various tables for about three quarters of an hour until lunch arrived, ate lunch, and, deciding we'd done all we could, left.

In a nutshell: we got the money we asked for.

However, Back on the Map shot themselves in the foot. Because it wasn't voted on by category, none of the groups in the ethnic section got anything and the organisation is in turmoil and accusations of racism are flying around. Susan even offered to donate £500 of the money we'd been given to one of the ethnic groups but we weren't allowed. I feel sorry for BOTM because they are a worthy organisation but they've screwed up big time and I hope they can this mess sorted. It's rather soured our win as I do feel the ethnic groups haven't had a fair shake.

And that's it, no real wrap up, just life, man.