Archive for March, 2011

A cake? For little ole me?

Today my hoomins celebrated an important anniversary by baking me a lovely cake; I have been the subject of their adoration for a year now. (Apologies for the shaky photograph – I think the hoomin behind the camera must have been trembling with excitement.)


Many websites and blogs have lists of links somewhere, but I haven’t got one in the menu bar here, because I think they’re often not much use if there’s no context. So I’ll take this opportunity to gives ‘props’ or ‘shout-outs’, or whatever the kids say these days, to some of my favourite sites.

Firstly I should say hello to friends from the real world, Jane and Holly, both of whom are mummy bloggers. Both very good, of course, although Jane’s scatalogical anecdotes are probably more amusing for the non-parent.

I don’t read many blogs consistently, but I like The Incredible Suit‘s take on movies; he writes with wry humour, has never yet steered me wrong with his recommendations, and owns a rather handsome cat called Oscar. Eliza Skinner usually raises a chuckle – she hasn’t blogged much lately (other than Twittering, which doesn’t count), but she’s just had a site re-design, so hopefully that augurs more frequent content. David Thorne’s site, 27b/6, isn’t really a blog, I suppose; he largely posts email conversations with unwitting correspondents which take sudden surreal and brutal turns, and which often reduce me to tears, even upon re-reading.

My favourite blog hasn’t had a significant update since 2005, but, thankfully, Mister Pants‘ archive is still available and well worth dipping into, despite the occasional broken links. Currently, the crazy things his children say provide the only worthwhile Twitter feeds that I’ve come across: boy child, girl child. Mister Pants pointed me in the direction of The Langley Schools Music Project, an album of pop songs recorded by Canadian schoolchildren, in their gym hall, in the mid-70s – it’s a wonderful, sometimes crazy, sometimes haunting, collection that I have returned to again and again over the last nine years.

For funnies, I like all of the geek favourites: xkcd has cartoons that are both clever and amusing; the b3ta newsletter provides a consistently mirthful and interesting weekly round-up of fun (NSFW) interweb stuff; and there are satirical current affairs LOLs aplenty at The Daily Mash, NewsBiscuit, and The Onion. The Mediawatch review of the day’s footballing news is reliably funny and scathing, too.

Book Battle 2: The Girl Who Played with Fire vs One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich

I rather enjoyed my first book battle, so thought I’d stage another bout, with my latest reads, which don’t have much in common other than unfeasibly long titles. If you’ve been living in a popular-trend-proof room for the last few years, The Girl Who… is a thriller by Stieg Larsson, the sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo; I liked it better than its predecessor. One Day… is a wonderful, devastating book by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, one of the few books that I re-read periodically. To mix things up a bit, this fight will determine which book sounds better, using the ‘Sound’ adjective list from my random word generator.

Round 1: Squealing
One Day… draws a battered sabre from its rope-belt and stands defensively, too proud to squeal; although its valenki do squeak in the snow beneath it. The Girl Who… brandishes two lengths of iron pipe and manages a couple of tentative jabs, easily parried, but it is a book that bellows, rather than squeals. Verdict: Draw.

Round 2: Harsh
One Day… whips the sabre through the air, and with ferocious speed and skill forces The Girl Who… to its knees (or whatever it is that books have in place of knees) – the arena resounds with the harsh clang of metal on metal, and One Day… exhales hard, with a chill, Siberian breath that makes its opponent shudder. Verdict: One Day….

Round 3: Thundering
The bell saved The Girl Who… last round, and it regains some confidence with its iron pipes, landing some decent blows. One Day…‘s quiet anger is no match for the thundering voice of The Girl Who…, whose rage builds through the round, as it does in the story. Verdict: The Girl Who….

Round 4: Cooing
Umm… both books stay in their corner for this round, swiping their weapons through the air, sizing each other up. Verdict: Draw.

Round 5: Hushed
One Day… swings its sabre once, clanging against The Girl Who…‘s iron pipe like a hammer against a suspended length of rail. The metallic peal dies out and One Day… drops its sabre, which lands noiselessly in the snow. The Girl Who… takes a step back, and drops its pipes, which crash loudly against one another. Verdict: One Day….

The winner: One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich. A powerful book with spare, heart-rending detail; and it sounds good too!


Supercat says: “Your puny website margins cannot hold me!!”

A Cat’s Tale – Part Five

The story so far: Binky Mackenzie has recovered from his accidental, over-zealous-grooming-induced, defenestration. But his house is about to change shape again…

One of my hoomins disappeared after a while, to be replaced by a taller one that liked to dance; or rather, that liked to make me dance. Initially I was not over the moon about this; but any sort of attention is better than none, and as it turns out I’m a pretty slinky mover.

The house continued it’s shape-shifting, smell-shifting behaviour, but by now I’d grown used to such changes; a lap is still a lap, whatever colour the walls. Gradually, one of my hoomins seemed to swell up, which was a bit inconvenient as her lap shrunk correspondingly. But worse was to come – evidently she burst open, and released two small, bald, mewling cats, or so I thought at the time. These creatures demanded, and received, outrageous levels of care and affection. It was enough to make a cat’s fur fall out.

The pair of animals changed over time, coming to resemble little hoomins. But with stickier paws. I’m sure they loved me (I am a dapper, handsome cat, after all), but they were rather noisy, and I have a delicate disposition. I like hoomins, on the whole, but I prefer them when they are big enough (and sit still long enough) to have laps…

To be concluded…

When you’re a cat, every day is caturday

Recipe for a happy cat: mix equal parts cushion, warmth, and a view of the outside world. Leave in the sun for 12-18 hours.

Cats Rodents I Have Known – Katie

Katie came into my life when my friend Jane brought her along when we got a house together. She was a cute, friendly hamster, named after the eponymous heroine of What Katy Did. Her tenure overlapped with that of Binky, but fortunately his predatory instincts begin and end with a catnip mouse. He showed curiosity without aggression when she was in her cage, and would scamper away when she charged at him in her hamster ball. When in that ball she had an unerring ability to make directly for any drinks that were on the floor; glasses of wine were a particular favourite of hers.

I’m fortunate enough not to have had much scope for heroic action in my life, but Katie presented me with an opportunity to prove my mettle. I think of it as my finest hour. Jane and I had a unexpected weekend away, and on the way home I dropped her off at her boyfriend’s, then returned to a dark cold house. Katie was asleep. Deeply asleep. Dangerously deep. She had gone into hibernation mode, which can be quite dangerous, particularly if the hamster is getting on a bit, as Katie was.

I picked her up, and tried to warm her in my hands; I could feel her tiny heart beating slowly, but I wasn’t sure if it was speeding up or not. I used her water bottle to drop a little bit of water on her mouth, and waved a hamster treat under her nose. She seemed to be responding a bit, so I popped her in some bedding, then microwaved some tea towels, to wrap her up in. This seemed to help, and gradually she started twitching her whiskers and moving about a bit. I continued in the same vein, and a few days later she was up and running, playing hamster-bowling with our wine glasses. Like I said earlier, my finest hour…

Cats Rodents I Have Known – Madison J. Holdsworth

I remember, quite vividly, carrying home a little gerbil from the pet shop in New Eltham (now long gone) in a rather flimsy little cardboard box. As a voracious reader of Dick King-Smith’s books, I decided to name him after the eponymous parrot in Harry’s Mad, whose full name was Madison. I have grown up convinced that ‘Madison J. Holdsworth’ was a former US president, a notion that Wikipedia has just disabused me of. I think Madison the parrot was named after the 4th president, James Madison, and the family in the book are the Holdsworths, and so I arrived at ‘Madison J. Holdworth’. As far as I can remember, the ‘J.’ never stood for anything, I just thought it sounded American and cool. I don’t know when I started believing that the whole name was presidential; memory is such a strange thing.

Madison was a lovely little gerbil, although he never properly got used to being handled. He did everything you expect of a small rodent: running in his wheel; scurrying through, then gnawing, toilet roll tubes; looking cute when you give him a gerbil treat to chew on. I think of him with affection, despite his occasionally fractious behaviour, but remain resolutely a cat person. The only other time I’ve lived with a rodent was many years later, with a darling hamster called Katie…