Tuesday, 17 August 2010


(Slightly expanded from its appearance on my Freethinking blog.)
Apart from Sundays when Phil borrows it for dogs and at other odd times, I'm the white van man driver for Animal Krackers. Mostly it's just around town to call on Carol who looks after our cats, to pick up cats no longer wanted by their owners plus the occasional stray, and to take cats (and sometimes dogs or rabbits) to one of three local vets. Apart from two or three trips a year to Burnhope to visit Tracy's rescue to drop off some cats when she has spare capacity or to StrayAid just down the A1, it's rarely outside the city's boundaries. To any American readers the distances I travel are minuscule which is why I'm mentioning the two I'm about to mention which are outside my usual routes and routines.

Last Saturday morning I found an email from a friend of a friend who lives in Lanchester wanting help with a mother and her three tiny kittens which were staying behind bushes outside her front door. She was particularly concerned because this is out in the country and only recently a neighbour had her cat killed by one of the many foxes which live in the area.
Anyway, to cut a shortish story even shorter, I climbed into the van and drove to where she lived. I may have visited Lanchester before, a Durham village even further away than Burnhope, but if I had it must have been over 40 years ago and then that would have been passing through. It helped that I had to take the same route as I do for Burnhope only without turning off and heading up into the hills and the specific location was very easy to find thanks to certain landmarks.

I went up to the house and found-

(This was taken in my cat carrier)
These two tiny things only a few days old. I was informed that the mother and the other kitten hadn't been seen all morning. After half an hour and a couple of phone calls to Carol, I gently put them in the carrier and drove over to Carol's who popped them in with the mother cat (see the white cats post) who was still lactating. The cat accepted them but her other much larger kittens started trying to play with them. But, after a stint of hand feeding, Carol removed her kittens and put them in a cage with two older kittens and the babies with the mother cat. Two days later and this is still working.
Almost all our charity's income comes from the shop and the donations of goods it receives. From time to time we get some decent stuff for which we can get more by taking them to an auction sale room. Usually it's just the one a few miles along the road but this time they weren't interested in what we had -three good-makes  rocking chairs, a few oldish radios, a magic lantern, and a large Bible with illustrations by Gustav Dore- but another auction house was willing to take them on. 

This place was a bit of a trail (for me anyway) as it's on the far side of Newcastle upon Tyne so I allowed myself an hour to get there. Just as well I did as for a long section of the main Newcastle dual carriageway there were roadworks which really slowed the traffic down. Once past that it got better and I shot through Newcastle on the central motorway. Coming off it, however, I took the wrong road, doubled back and was still on a wrong road. Thankfully a friendly community support officer was able to put me on the right road which was the road I thought was the first wrong road but was actually the right road. 

I got there with five minutes to spare to find myself meeting a miserable unenthusiastic git who reluctantly took everything except an old record player and the Dore Bible. Going back I took a different route (which Susan had mentioned before I'd set out but I knew better) which went past the Metrocentre and was a lot faster and quicker.

And there we are.

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