The return of Flabby Tabby

Socks Akers is in trouble, big trouble, the kind of trouble that causes injury. Worse still, the kind that hits where it hurts, the pocket.

Seeing as he doesn’t have a pocket or has even the slightest idea of economics, GDP , the rate the £ is falling against the Euro , or the scandal of a Penny Arrow now costing a shilling, he’s not the only one who’s hurting.

HOW MUCH? Noel exclaimed as the vet handed us a huge bill for lancing the biggest, smelliest abscess known to man or feline, along with a powerful antibiotic. That little episode now tops my list of the grossest thing I have ever witnessed, even grosser than the remains of the ancient banana in my climbing rucksack. I mean, just how much STUFF can an abscess hold? Where does it come from? How did it manage to flood the vet’s table? Maybe that’s why it cost us so much. The clean-up bill.

Of course Socks was right as rain after the offending bulge on the side of his face had gone, it meant he could eat. Then go out to fight. Again. We know the Vet well, in fact we’re on first-name terms as Socks has helped finance his holidays to save street cats in the Caribbean, he even sends us postcards, passing on his love to Socks. He said if it was any consolation, Socks’ nemesis would also be needing treatment. It wasn’t.

That nemesis is Flabby Tabby. The biggest, flabbiest tabby you’ve ever seen. He lopes into our garden, with only one thing on his mind, to pick on Socks, who is no small fry, weighing in at just under 6kg. It all came to a head last year when FT took advantage of our insecure catflap and freely-available quality catfood. I was woken up by such a yowling coming from the dining room it drowned our Noel’s snoring . Fur was everywhere, along with bits of cat skin, so it was off to the vet’s with him and the down-payment on the first of many Caribbean trips. Plus the purchase of a chip-reading catflap, which was only slightly cheaper.

FT met his match when he returned, looking for a fight. Heidi, our small, feisty tabby, saw him off while Socks cowered in the delphiniums. But the peace wasn’t to last, Socks headed off to FT’s place, which is a couple of streets away. We know that because our webcam got a shot of him in our house and our cleaners identified him as belonging to one of their customers.

We thought that with all the bad weather and Socks’ advancing years, the fighting would have stopped by now. Plus, he had The Snip years ago, so that should have calmed him down a bit. We were shocked to learn from a friend, though, that their neutered cat had behaved exactly the same way and had been found to have a third testicle, which was pumping him full of thuggish hormones. A third testicle? Could that be Socks’ problem? Looks like we’ll be paying another instalment on the Caribbean trip.

Arty start as I mean to go on

Day 2 Challenge – Do something with finger prints – and I’ve drawn with my left hand

Time to be arty again with the 64 Millions Artists January Challenge. None of this cutting out certain foods, I’m doing that anyway, or staying dry, are you kidding? This is my birthday month and it’s a BIG birthday at that. No this is a very arty challenge indeed.

It’s all very simple, every day I get a message through the magic of social media, with a challenge to get the creative cogs cranking. Nothing too taxing or time-consuming, just something fun. I did it last year and it opened up a whole section of my right brain, which if I’m honest was already encroaching big time on the analytical and methodical left-side. Now, where was I?

Last year was a revelation, one of the challenges was to draw with the non-dominant hand, in my case the left. Blimey, I haven’t drawn with any hand since school, which was last century, but it turned out rather quirky, so I carried on. In fact, I only draw with my left hand now in my little sketch book which goes everywhere with me. It beats sitting hunched over my phone, I have even been mistaken for an artist, though they were wearing very thick glasses…. But if it hadn’t been for the challenge, I’d never have had the idea to make a mosaic for the hidden fireplace we found when decorating the bedroom, and I’d never have made and hidden nine mosaics in our local woods to protest about litter!

64 Million Artists was started in 2014 by Jo Hunter and David Micklem who just wanted to encourage creativity in school, the workplace, home, everywhere in fact. They have a lovely mission to bring out the creative in us all, the 64 million is us in the UK, I can definitely sign up to that.

So every day this month I’ll be doing something creative and posting it to my Instagram page @stripeyanne. Why don’t you join me? Ten minutes of your day to do something creative. Go on, it could change your life!

The cat climbed up the chimney

This is what happens when you’re curious. If we hadn’t completely stripped the bedroom wallpaper to see what the wall looked like. If we hadn’t found a board and wondered if it concealed a secret. If Garry the joiner hadn’t removed that board to reveal a lovely fireplace. If I hadn’t wondered what it would look like surrounded by a mosaic. If Heidi the cat hadn’t decided to jump up the newly-opened chimney to see what was up there.

If all that hadn’t have happened, we’d have a boring blank bedroom wall, a healthier bank account and a soot-free cat. But where’s the fun in that?

Following the Great Gutting of the Bedroom back in April, when we swallowed our bodyweight in plaster dust, the long-concealed fireplace was revealed and all agreed it couldn’t be covered up again. There was nothing but the fireplace, no surround, no mantelpiece, no antique tiles, so in my mind, it was a blank canvas. ‘I know’, I announced, ‘I’ll make a mosaic’. I have no idea where that came from, I’ve only made one mosaic before and that was from a kit, but I’m never one to let enthusiasm and lack of any practical knowledge or skills get in the way of a good idea.

What followed was a lot of research and quite a bit of maths, which is not my best ever subject. Still, working out how many 2cm² tiles I needed wasn’t that hard. And of course there’s the old adage, measure twice, cut once. I’d a massive template on my work table and I damned well made sure it fitted the surround. How I would carry it upstairs when it was made was a bridge I resolved to cross when I reached it.

Mosaic-making is like doing a massive jigsaw, except you wear goggles and make up the pieces and the pattern as you go along. Glue is also involved, it’s gloriously messy and extremely colourful at the same time, what’s not to like?

Carrying it upstairs turned out to be easier than I expected, nothing fell off, which was a bonus. Once in place and grouted, which created even more mess, it was time to get Garry the joiner back to cut cut through the plasterboard which had covered the fireplace while I did the mosaic. I felt I should have invited a band to give us a fanfare as we saw the lovely fireplace again. Instead, our curious little cat walked straight into the bedroom, sniffed at the fireplace and jumped up the chimney. The little minx. Turns out it’s a very big chimney and she disappeared from sight. Fortunately I have a voice that can be heard in space so my yells brought her tumbling down with a nice little layer of soot. Socks, our other cat, looked at her in disgust, which is nothing new.

The chimney has now been plugged, the cat cleaned up and I’m contemplating my next mosaic project to decorate the inside of the fireplace. Watch this space!


Intruder alert! Feline fur flies!


Socks the not-so-brave

There was a sudden commotion and almighty clatter and Socks Akers’ whiny voice floated up the stairs. “Intruder alert! Intruder alert!”,  followed by an eardrum-piercing yowl that would waken the dead. Then silence, broken by the faint growling of Hidey, our other cat. Something was up.

Noel was well into his REM sleep, but sprang into full alertness, clattering down the stairs, his naked milk-white torso reflecting the moonlight. That’s scare ’em, I thought, in my semi-wakefulness. My next thought was that Noel and Socks would be able to cope with whatever he found, and that I’d leave him to it. Hey, there could have been a burglar, or more likely dismembered rodents, or worse still, catsick, ewww, Noel could definitely deal with that.

The cat flap opened and closed, Socks the Brave, as we shall not call him, was cowering behind the settee, looking like he was trying to avoid the monsters from Dr Who. Hidey was pawing the treats bag, because it was there and she assumed Noel was there to feed her. She has no problem with daleks, they can’t do stairs and she is the Queen of the Stairs.

We’d suspected catty trouble when we saw Big Fatty, a huge tabby and white cat as big as a dog, with legs as thick as my arms, he was ambling up the garden path, pawsteps echoing down the ginnel. Socks was confident Big Fatty was way too lardy to fit through the catflap, so wasn’t worried. He weighs in at six kilos is no minion himself, but he is a scaredy cat. He’s all boasts and bluster when he’s perched on the upstairs windowsill twitching his whiskers at Big Fatty below. Or maybe he’s not figured out that something that looks small from far away gets larger the nearer it is. Socks Akers is not a very bright cat.

Hidey on the other hand, had worked out that not only was Big Fatty very big, he could indeed fit through the cat flap. With ease. She wasn’t too worried as she can also run very fast and hide extremely successfully, that’s why we called her Hidey.

It seemed Fat Tabby had helped himself to food and was about to bed down on the sofa. Socks told me he’d slapped FT about a bit and showed him what for. Hidey said Socks was a big fat smelly liar and a coward to boot. She said he’d wedged himself behind the sofa, covering is eyes with his paws. Socks said that was not the case, he’d spotted something very interesting behind the sofa and had then got something in his eye, besides, he wasn’t smelly, he was manly.

Noel shrugged his shoulders and came back upstairs, relieved that there were neither burglars, rodents nor catsick. Socks followed and jumped onto the windowsill, watching what he saw as a tiny FT disappearing into the bushes and congratulating himself on seeing off the interloper. As I said, he’s not a very brave cat, but we love him to bits.



The cafe of awwws and big smiles


We’ve a lot of cafes in Leeds, but the latest to open is the only one that comes with paws and purrs. The Kitty Cafe is the new home to a dozen or so rescue and stray cats who rush to greet you as soon as the door’s opened. Well, not so much rush and greet, they are typical cats and just ignore you until it suits them. Cats, eh?

We’d visited a cat cafe in Paris, it was the first I’d heard of cafes with cats, but the idea of sipping a latte surrounded by cats, particularly French cats, was very appealing, I was excited to see whether they miaowed with a French accent.  They didn’t, it seems miaowing is a universal language.

The Kitty Cafe opened in Leeds last week, of course we had to go. The windows were already covered with smudges where humans had pressed their noses in the hope of seeing a cat or two. I confess, one of those smudges was mine and yes, I saw the occupants who, having come from not-very-nice places to somewhere they would be fed and adored, were looking rather pleased with themselves.

Our one-hour slot was early morning, the cafe is fully booked for weeks, so we took the only available time. It gave us a chance to sit down with a cuppa and continue to be ignored by cats – pretty much like at home. However, we did observe the humans, every one of them awwwed as they came in and every one smiled.

There has been debate about the rights and wrongs of cat cafes and whether it’s cruel to the cats. But as far as I could see, the cats were getting on with being cats and have they very real prospect of finding homes. The cafe charged £6 per person to cover cat care, which is cheaper than going to the cinema and certainly more interactive. And the humans are happy, if only for an hour. I’ll definitely be back!




In want of a good home

“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a stray cat in possession of cuteness must be in want of a a good home”

Someone had opened a can of very cute cats, they were everywhere, tails up, miaows, mews, purrs and the odd hiss as all vied for position in the expectation that a lap would become available to sit on very soon. For one, it was sooner than any of us had expected.

We were at the One Paw Cat Rescue with heavy hearts following the death of our lovely cat. The house was just too empty without him, and despite agreeing to wait a little while to replace the irreplaceable, there we were, within days of losing him, carrying a miaowing cat basket and promising to be back the following week for the second cat who had chosen us.

What? Who said anything about TWO cats? We certainly didn’t, but as all of those who live with cats know, it’s not up to us. In our naive minds, we were going to look at, that’s just look at a male cat, a younger version of what we’d lost, easy enough. We did that, we looked at him, and yes, we agreed, we would take him. He looked at us and in that feline way shrugged his shoulders and looked inscrutable, he supposed he’d let us give him a home. Whatever.

But sitting in a corner, away from the commotion and clamouring for attention, was one little tabby looking forlorn. She was called Lucky, and had enjoyed good fortune, being rescued as a stray in the family way, but after giving birth and losing two of her four kittens, she’d given up. She wasn’t eating, she was just pining and, we were told, needed to get out of the rescue into a quieter home. I looked at Noel, Noel looked at me, we both looked at Lucky. I nudged him, he nudged me back, the rest is history.

So now we have two cats. Lucky is now Hidey, because all she did when she first arrived was hide from us, so we thought that was a better name and Socks with his odd-sock black-and-white, white-and-black legs. The house is no longer quiet, especially at 5am when the two of them race up and down the stairs, or at 11pm when they repeat the racing. I predict there will be many feline adventures in their new home.