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

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.