Two years on

It’s two years to the day since I had to say goodbye to the last of my kitties, Her Royal Furryness, Cassie. I didn’t think it would be this long and that I still wouldn’t have taken in a new cat or two. Since I lost her while dad was very ill and waiting on his operation I couldn’t even think about that, and when that went so badly and the short hospital stay turned into months, then months more helping him recuperate (thankfully all of that time was rewarded, I am glad to say) of course I couldn’t think about visiting the shelters to see about giving another cat a home, then for the last year once things were better on that front the financial front just got increasingly bad, going from strained, to bad to downright desperate, through no fault of my own. Finally, very, very slowly recovering from that but still too tight to think about added expenses that come with looking after animals. I lost Pandora, then Dizzy, and then only a year and a half later, Cassie, and it has been emotionally quiet hard, especially after so much stress and strain (amazing how much our furry friends help our state of mind and emotions, even in the hard times) and I still find it odd living in a home with no cats ruling the roost, and really didn’t think I’d have to wait this long. Galling not to be able to just do it, especially knowing the rescue shelters are full of animals who desperately need a new home, and I need some to make my flat back into a home.

Of course, part of me feels ambivalent about it, because even when I do bring new cats home – and I will, eventually – they won’t be my girls. It took years – a lifetime – for us to bond the way we did, I knew all of their little character foibles (and they are so individual) and equally they knew all of mine, we meshed, they had me trained, Cassie especially could tell me with one mieow and a little look or gesture what she wanted, they could tell what I was up to, like seeing me go to brush my teeth at night meant bedtime coming and they’d relocate themselves to the bedroom, making themselves comfortable and waiting for me to come through. And of course different kitties will behave differently – not only does it take time to bond and get used to each other, it will never be the same because the new cats will have their own personalities, they won’t be the girls, they will be themselves. But I also know when I can go to the rescue shelters and I see some of them I will forget the differences and melt and it wouldn’t take long for them to adapt to their new home and train me to their liking, as cats are wont to do. We’ll just have to see, it certainly won’t be this year, sadly, have decided I won’t actively look for new kitties till next year at least, if someone I knew locally had one needing rehomed or their cat was having a litter and they needed homes for the kittens I’d maybe do it earlier, but I won’t actively go looking for a good while yet.

Meanwhile I just miss having my lovely girls bringing the flat to life and making it feel like an actual home rather than just a place I live.

A year since cookie cat…

Today marks a full year since I lost the last of my furry girls, my darling old puss Cassie, after sixteen and a bit years, and a very sudden decline. She had given me a health scare earlier last year, ominously on the first anniversary of the date we lost her wonderful sister Pandora on, but we got lucky and she recovered to become even bouncier than before, until last autumn, when I noticed she was a little slower a couple of evenings, then when curled up next to me at night, I noticed her purring sounded wrong, a bit too nasal, which worried me, especially as this was a precursor to her previous health scare. I booked an appointment at the vet, but on the day I was to take her in she was okay if sounding a little bronchial in the morning but a little later the same day she suddenly declined, breathing hard to try and get air. The vet took her in right away and tried various approaches, but they weren’t working, and at her age the breathing problems were having knock-on effects on the rest of her body, and I had to make the decision to let her go so she wouldn’t suffer. I went from being a little concerned that morning but thinking another shot of the treatment she had six months previously would sort her out again, to realising she was dying and I was losing her.

Cassie on bed

Having lost Pandora then darling Dizzy the year before it was shattering to consider being without her. The vet let me stay with her until she was gone, then my friend brought me home, a home, for the first time empty except for me. The girls were only a couple of years old when I bought this place, so I’ve never lived here without them. The sight of their food bowls and toys had me in tears and the horrible emptiness of the flat was terribly upsetting; lying in bed that night I kept waiting for the quiet pad-pad-pad of cat paws on the wooden floorboards sneaking through, then that little pause of silence as she readied herself to leap up in the dark onto the bed, then over, nose in my face, a mieow, then settle down, curling up against me to go to snooze while getting her tummy tickled, purring us both to sleep. Of course it didn’t happen, and of course she wasn’t snuggled up contentedly with me next morning when I woke up, and the thought that this would never happen again was heart-breaking. Coming home from work that day was awful, because I knew I was going to come in to an empty home. In fact it simply stopped feeling like home without the girls.

Cassie on the sofa

That this happened during dad’s illness, while we were awaiting his serious operation, just made it all worse. When we lost mum so shockingly suddenly the kitties were wonderful for keeping my morale up, especially on those nights where it all became too overwhelming. And then just weeks later dad’s operation, and it not going well, those weeks and weeks in intensive care, weeks before I could even hear my dad speak again even if faintly, constantly travelling for hours back and forth to hospital, the bleak December, what would have been mum’s birthday came and went as dad was desperately ill in hospital, Christmas day after visiting him in hospital I sat at the family home, utterly empty for the first time I can remember on that day, alone and more depressed and strained and stressed than I have ever been until my lift back to Edinburgh came, and then it was back to an equally empty flat, not even my furry girl to demand attention and cheer me up; it just made it all so much harder to bear. Amazing the effect on our mental state and morale our furry friends can have. I couldn’t even consider visiting the rescue shelter to see about another kitty while I was worried about dad and then having to move back home to look after him when he finally got out after a long, long, dark couple of months. Christmas, New Year and my birthday all went past without registering or happening for me.

Sleepy Cassie 3

Now dad is much better and I find myself starting to think about it again, but after years of being on tight income coupled with too many bills for travelling back and forth last year and the unexpected vet bills of the previous couple of years I simply can’t at the moment, if I took in a cat just now and she needed treatment I would be too stretched. One more impulsive friend tells me to stop hesitating and just do it, but I think that’s very irresponsible, no matter how much I may want to, I take looking after an animal seriously. Part of me is still emotionally unsure about new cats though – what I really want are my girls, but of course I can’t have that ever again. But I know that when I am at the animal shelter it will be just like all those years ago when I first went there before they gave me the girls – two tiny, ten week old kittens – and of course I melted at all the cats there, lots of them in the open play area were coming up to me for attention and I wished I could take them all away and give them a home. So I know although emotionally I’m still a bit unsure I also know that if and when I take in other cats it will help me move on. And it’s no bad thing to give some animals a home. Although as I once said on here before, when you take in a rescue animal from the shelter you don’t exactly give them a home – they make a home with you. They give it warmth and life and make a place you live in into an actual home. I’m not sure when I will be able to take new cats in, but just days before Cassie fell ill I had picked up a spare bag of cat litter. I still have it, unopened. The nice lady in my local pet store kindly offered to take it back as it hadn’t been used before I suddenly lost Cassie, but I decided to keep it tucked away to remind myself that no matter when it is, I will have other kitties at some point.

sleepy puss

Hard to believe that’s a whole year since Cassie left though, a whole year, the first year I haven’t had cats to look after in a long number of years, and it still feels wrong. Funny how such a small creature can have such a huge impact on your life. Goodnight you demanding furry queen of my heart, with your ever present demands for attention offset with warm cuddles and purrs and oh, that astonishingly soft fur. And that strange taste you developed for cookies and cakes. I had some cake just last week and found myself turning around still half expecting Cassie to be sitting in the kitchen doorway observing me, licking her lips and doing the big-eyes thing, waiting to claim a piece for herself. She could be asleep on the bed two rooms away and yet magically if I made a cuppa and grabbed a cookie I would turn around and she would be right behind me looking at the plate, licking her lips, and if I came in with a bag from the wee patisserie nearby she went crazy. I don’t know how she developed this taste for cookies, cakes, croissants and all things baked, but she loved a little bit of it and it became a little ritual with the pair of us, one of those little habits that makes life run a little more nicely. I miss that too.

We’ve lost Iain

It’s Sunday evening, and I’ve just come home and learned that one of the UK’s most innovative and hugely bestselling novelists, Iain Banks, had succumbed to the cancer he only announced he was diagnosed with recently. The news of Iain’s illness at only 59 was a real shock to many of us in the literary world; friends and readers (and readers are often friends in our book world) were shellshocked at his announcement. To find this evening that we’ve lost him so soon, when we still held some distant hope that a treatment may help prolong his stay on this planet is devastating. I’ve had the honour and pleasure of doing many a book event with Iain over my years in the book trade, and I’m sitting here right now, like many others I expect, thinking this can’t be bloody right, trying to square my mental image of a hugely genial, friendly, good natured bloke with a love of life with this news that he simply isn’t here anymore, and it makes me feel sick to think of it.  And he was genial and friendly – the first time I met Iain I found it hard to think this smiling, open chap I was chatting to was the man who devised the disturbing Wasp Factory (one of the most astonishing Scottish novels of the 20th Century).

Iain signing at Traverse 2
(Iain signing copies of the Algebraist back in 2008 in Edinburgh’s Traverse theatre. Books to sign for readers and a pint by his hand equals contented author. Pic from my Flickr)

Iain straddled literary genres with ease, creating his science fiction (including the remarkable Culture novels) and also his ‘straight’ literary fiction (if you could call anything Iain wrote ‘straight’!) and also deviating into some non fiction for his whisky tour of Scotland (he once told me one of the few books where the research required was a genuine pleasure to undertake). Few writers get to be successful in both a genre and be equally accepted in ‘literary’ fiction (a cumbersome, imprecise term), but Iain did, and both his fiction and science fiction both were covered by the literary critics. His science fiction, in particular his Culture novels, displayed a displeasure at the inequalities of the world as it is but, like Clarke and Rodenberry, a hope and belief that humanity could be better, more evolved, more equal, more caring, more enlightened.

Iain often stuck by those principles in his own life – when Blair and his acolytes fudged ‘intelligence’ to prove why we should invade Iraq Iain refused invites to Blair’s Downing Street gatherings of various artistic worthies and instead cut up his British passport in disgust at this action and said he would do without foreign travel and getting a new passport until the wars were ended or Blair out of office. I am glad that in his last few months he got to go abroad again, having a honeymoon with his long term partner Adele (many Edinburgh geeks will know her for her sterling work in the city’s Dead by Dawn film  fest). I received an email from Iain when he was away with Adele a few weeks ago in Venice. I replied saying I hoped he wouldn’t feel compelled to emulate Byron and challenge the locals to a swimming race down the canals. No chance, came the quick reply, I’ve seen what goes into those canals… That was Iain, humour always there, even at times like that, facing what he was facing.

The very evening before I was due to start here at Forbidden Planet several years ago I was treated to a huge, slap-up feed with Iain, Adele and fellow Scottish SF author Ken MacLeod. I had a bad experience with my former bookstore and Iain and Ken had been among the writers I had worked with who stood up and defended me, which was a huge morale boost for me at a very difficult time in my life. It was to be a cheer up, could be worse night out, but by then I had met with our own Kenny who had asked me to start at FP, so it turned into a celebration night. Huge amounts of curry and wine ensued. Despite his huge bestselling status for so many years Iain remained the same friendly, open and very approachable man, the sort of bloke you could just stand in the local pub and chat to over a pint. We lose him just before his publisher, the very fine Orbit Books, one of the homes to the best in British science fiction, could get his new book out. I know they have been rushing to try and get the book out much sooner than possible, everyone thought we would have a bit more time, but again that bastard devil Cancer has had its way instead (and in the words of the current advert series “up yours, Cancer”) and now the book will come out just that bit too late. And ironically one of the main characters is a man facing terminal cancer. Sometimes when art imitates life it is interesting; in this case it may well prove interesting but also rather bitter to the many of us who loved Iain’s writing. I’ve been so looking forward to the Edinburgh International Book Festival this August, but the thought of that annual major literary bash without Iain’s usual presence seems so damned wrong.

An Iain and an Ian go into a bar
(taken just last year, two of Scotland’s bestselling authors beginning with ‘I’, Iain Banks and Ian Rankin, enjoying one of Edinburgh’s fine hostelries, pic from my Flickr)

We’ve lost one of Britian’s finest writers (held by many to be among the top 50 most influential and important writers in the UK since 1945) and a major influence in our beloved science fiction genre, and worse we’ve lost a damned good man, and far, far, far to bloody young. If you enjoy a good drink then when you have a decent ale or even better a good dram of single malt, raise a wee toast for Iain, he’d doubtless appreciate that. And maybe as well as picking up The Quarry later this month from Orbit readers may, if they are able, want to consider a wee donation in his memory to Cancer Research, still fighting fighting against this damned disease which takes too many of us (are there any of us who haven’t lost a family member or friend to it?). In a small mercy his wife Adele said that his passing was without pain.

Goodbye, Iain, your inventiveness brought so many of us onboard and you took us with you on some extraordinary expeditions into the imagination, and on a personal note you and Ken and many other writers were there for me when I needed it and stood up for me, which I will always be so grateful for. Rather than dwell on losing Iain so damnably young I prefer to remember him smilingly signing books for fans, chatting away to them and other writer friends and booksellers after the author event was over, usually in the bar over a pint, beer in his hand and big, open grin on his face. My thoughts go out to Adele, his family and closest friends who have had to endure the thought of his dreadful illness and now his sudden passing. Somewhere, in the vastly distant future, when mankind has perhaps evolved to be more like the Utopian Culture he imagined I hope one day there will be a Mind piloting a starship and it will choose to call itself after Iain.

 

Goodnight, my furry queen

Cassie on the sofa

I’ve just lost my darling old girl, my furry queen of all she surveys, her royal furryness Queen Cassandra, better known simply as Cassie. It’s just over a year and a half since we lost her dear sister, the huge cuddlepuss Pandora, then a month later my precious petite puss Dizzy was taken away from us. And now with Cassie goes the last of my wonderful girls and I’m sitting here alone in a dreadfully, miserably empty, lifeless feeling flat. I’ve had the girls since they were tiny kittens from the rescue shelter, small enough to fit on the palm of your hand, mieowing in that high pitched kitten squeak for someone to give them a home, love, adoration and lots of tummy tickles.

Actually the first part of that statement isn’t really true; I didn’t exactly give those little kittens a home – they came with me and made my flat into a home. They brought life and warmth and purrs and fun and furring up my clothes and chasing balls of wool and attacking my shoelaces and jumping on my head in the morning when it was time for breakfast. They made it a warm, inviting, alive place that we shared. You never give an animal a home, an animal makes a home with you and enriches it so beautifully, simply and wonderfully. Giving an animal from a shelter a home isn’t just giving them a home, it isn’t just taking responsibility for looking after them, they look after you too and they enrich your soul as they do.

Cassie by fireside 1

And the girls made me so very happy, even though sometimes they drove me mad and delighted in doing that deliberately contrary cat behaviour thing. And these last four years… These last horrible, devastatingly hard four years since mum was ripped away suddenly from us… I’ve struggled, struggled a lot. You try to go on but there are times when you just wanted to curl up in a corner and not be part of the world anymore. And there were my girls, through all of those bloody awful, hard years. Warmth and the softest, softest fur against me, gentle purrs that you didn’t just hear but felt, vibrating right through you. The worst times suddenly felt that little bit more bearable. Hard as coping these last few years, losing mum, worrying about dad’s health, I had my girls helping me, soothing me. They didn’t make the bad things go away, but being curled up with purring kitties always helped a bit.

A few months ago, back in February, by horrible coincidence right on the first anniversary of the day I lost Pandora, Cassie gave me a big health scare, some horrid breathing sounds developed. We went to the vet, she was worried it might be a growth that some older cats get in their nasal passages and which can’t be treated save with very expensive surgery only available in the vet hospital, and it wasn’t recommended for a cat her age as she was unlikely to survive it. Only other chance was it some anti inflammatory drugs and steroids, but they might not work depending exactly what the problem was; fortunately within two days she was bouncing around happily again, fine.

Sleepy Cassie 4

Over this weekend I noticed she started to make those bronchial breathing noises again, just a little bit, not all the time. When having her tummy tickled she purred and it was lower and more nasal than it should be; I also noticed she seemed to be breathing a little harder and faster than usual, so I made an appointment for this afternoon. She seemed not too bad this morning when I went to work, but when I came home early to pick her up for the vet she was nowhere to be seen. Found her eventually hiding under the bed, very lethargic, picked her up, cuddled her, her breathing was much harsher now, lay her down on the sofa and her wee tongue was sticking out as she gasped in air, the colour not the healthy pink it should be, struggling to get in air and I realised with a shock how much she had deteriorated just since the morning, her situation had gone from something to be a little concerned about and needing a look from the vet to being seriously distressed; I started to think I was losing her. Mel drove us to the vet and despite a good long period of trying there really wasn’t much that could be done, X-rays showed that old age and the condition had taken their toll and even if we could help her through one bit something else was going to go wrong and she would be in distress all the time we tried. I had to let my little darling companion of sixteen years go gently to sleep.

my girls with their toys
(Cassie hiding behind her cat toy mat, with her wonderful sister Pandora on the right)

I’m devastated. The girls got me through the worst parts of my life. Now the flat is so damned empty. I came home, put away the empty pet travel box, saw her food and kitty milk bowls sitting, almost untouched since morning, she hadn’t really used them, and I didn’t want to clean them and put them away. In the end I emptied them, cleaned them then sat them back down on the kitchen floor; I’ll put them away and sort the litter tray and cat toys later, but not just now. I sat down and looked around and the flat felt wrong, just a place, not a proper home without the girls. And I looked at the cushion Cassie would always pull down to use as a pillow for her nap, expecting to see her looking back at me with that stop typing on the computer and come here and pay attention to me , the centre of the world look on her face. Except she wasn’t there. And she won’t be ever again, and that breaks my heart. As I type I keep expecting to see her watching me, or rubbing her head against my leg, or deciding to curl up and snooze on my foot. But she won’t, she’s not here anymore, just an echo now.

I sat there thinking only two hours ago you were here in our home and now you’re gone from me and how can that possibly be? And who will demand a share of biscuit or cake now my beloved Cookie Cat is gone? Where did you develop that taste for cake, biscuits, even croissants, you crazy cat? Your sister never did, just you. Oh how you went crazy if you saw me coming home with a bag from the patisserie! And how you could be sound asleep on the bed yet as I made a cuppa in the kitchen I would turn around to find you had appeared in utter silence, sitting in the doorway, regarding me as if to say oh, making a coffee, eh, going to be getting out some shortbread to dunk in there, I daresay – know who else likes shortbread? And as she watched she would actually licked her lips in anticipation. Quite how she knew what I was doing as she slept two rooms away I never knew, obviously just those superbly sharp feline senses, but I couldn’t get it past her.

pretty kitty and her shadow

Goodnight, my darling, soft-furred girl, you and your sister made me very, very happy and I will miss you terribly and I really don’t know how I now face more stress, more depressing times, more hard times, without your wonderful presences to keep me going. I’m heart broken without my girls, but for all the pain this causes me I will never regret having them in my life, because they were simply wonderful. Goodnight, queen of my heart, be with your dear, dear sister now.

My darling Dizzy

MultiDizzy

Mel just called me to tell me that we lost our gorgeous wee Dizzy, the precious, petite puss, with her huge, shining eyes, tiny, almost kitten like build and lovely, soft grey and white fur. I know she was 17, a good age for a kitty, but she was so petite and still so lively and perky that many people first seeing her assumed she was just a year or two old and not full grown. She’s been a part of our life since she was just a few weeks old, a tiny little kitten, back in our student flat days; afterwards she lived with Melanie near my flat so I was round regularly and looked after her all the time. Unlike my big cuddlepuss Pandora she didn’t really care for being picked up, although she always let me do so, picking her tiny, light body up so she could then drape herself over my shoulder and around my neck, like me wee furry, warm scarf, and she would then purr that hugely loud outboard motor purr right into my ear, utterly content because she knew she was loved and adored. Maybe she wasn’t mad on most people picking her up, but she always let me, she was my special wee girl.

Skateboarding Kitty 2

We lost her big brother Zag several years ago to an evil motorist who never even stopped and of course it’s even harder for me to accept losing her just a few short weeks since I lost my wonderful Pandora. The fact that it comes on the same week that sees the third anniversary of losing my mum so suddenly (this Thursday marks that evil day) doesn’t help my frame of mind much either, as you can imagine. Not that I am equating them, but emotional loss is an emotional loss and they all hurt. Pandora, Dizzy and Cassie have all been so important in keeping up my morale since losing mum – no matter how much you are hurting it is always a bit better with a warm, purring kitty snuggled up against you. It’s horrible to realise I’ll never have her draping her tiny body over my shoulder again or using my legs as her personal pillow. You made us so very happy, little darling, I hope you’re curled up now against your cuddly cousin Pandora wherever you went to. You were so tiny but you leave such a huge hole in our lives.

Dizzy in the tulips 2
(I shot so many photographs of Dizzy over the years, she was so beautiful and so photogenic, her pictures have been admired so often on my Flickr, but I think this one is one of my all-time favourites, her with the flowers and the look on her face that clearly says she knows she is more beautiful than the flowers or anything else)

tired of reading

Dizzy monochrome 2

me and Dizzy 3

Dizzy and her cushion 1
(I took a picture of Dizzy dozing on a blanket in the garden and had it printed onto a cushion as a present for Mel; for months I waited for her to lie down on the sofa next to it so I could get her in the same shot as the cushion with her own pic on it and finally I got it)

Goodnight, my sweet girl

It’s been a very rough couple of days for me and my Cassie cat. Towards the end of last week I thought her sister, my gorgeous big Pandora puss, was acting a bit out of sorts. At the start of the week she was acting as normal, jumping up on the bed for a nap, happily munching some sliced chicken. Towards the end of the week I thought she was seeming a bit off her game, a bit lethargic maybe, still eating, not being sick or anything, wasn’t sure if she was just having a couple of off days or if it might be something more and I was thinking okay, next week we better get a vet’s appointment for you to be on the safe side. On Saturday she seemed a bit more off, atlhough still eating, still ambling around the flat and even jumping up into my recently vacated seat to steal it. Well, actually not to steal it, when Pandora grabs your seat when you move she isn’t actually stealing it, what she really wants is for you to sit next to her and snuggle with her.

Pandora on the rug 1

But then came Sunday morning. Cassie woke me with alarmed mieows and as soon as I sat up in bed I thought she was trying to alert me to something and right away thought Pandora. Then I heard a terrible whimper from under the bed and Pandora was there, had come through at some point during the night and curled up underneath the bed as I slept – not unusual for her, the girls long ago claimed an old suede suitcase under the bed as a kind of kitty hammock for their Secret Dark Hidey Hole Spot. But she was barely moving, I had to pull the case out to get her, she couldn’t move out herself. I picked her up and she was limp in my arms, head lolling and panicking carried her through to the living room and gently lay her down on the sofa. She couldn’t even move her head or paws enough to make herself comfortable and I had to arrange them for her. I couldn’t believe how much she had faded since bedtime last night and was terrified she was dying on me right there. Phoned the vet and got the emergency weekend number which turned out to be in a surgery on the far side of town, but luckily my friend Gordon came right round with his car and drove us up. Poor Pandora was so limp it was hard to get her in the travel box and at the vet we had to tilt it and gently slide her out, she just lay there not moving.

After a lot of checks the vet told me her temperature was dreadfully low, barely above the bare minumum for a living cat, her blood circulation was poor although her heart was beating strongly and she was dehydrated even though I had seen her drinking water and kitty milk. They put her on drips to get her hydration and blood sugar back to normal and put her into an incubator to warm her and told me to phone in a few hours. I went home worried sick but when I called later they said she was responding to treatment, but it was as well we came when we did, she had been only an hour or so from slipping into a coma then death. Thank goodness for Cassie waking me to help her sister, or else I might have found her later in the morning already gone and that would have been even harder. She said we’ll keep her going on this and keep her overnight, get her tomorrow all being well and take her to your normal vet. Call back in the evening she said. I did and she was now keeping her temperature herself without the incubator and fluid and sugar levels returning to normal, but her eyesight was gone, but the vet said this was because of the sudden low sugar and hydration levels and should return in a day or two as she stabilised. But they still didn’t know what caused it, although she noticed a lump under her ribs in front of her heart, but she thought that was something to check later. So I called Gordon to say we’d get her back in the morning as he has already kindly said he’d give me a lift again. And I had gone from thinking I was losing her in the morning to thinking great, get her home tomorrow, more to check out but she’s doing okay and coming home.

Pandora closeup 02

Pandora yawns
(I was trying to get a close-up of Pandora when she opened her mouth in this jaw-stretching yawn!)

Then the vet called again. A complication, that lumps was full of fluid and the drip she was on was making it worse, they would have to stop or she’d suffocate from it, but if they stopped she would slowly slip back in her weakened state to the coma like state she was in when I found her. Either way she was going to decline slowly during the night and she would begin to suffer as she did. We have to think what’s best for Pandora, the vet told me, which was a gentle way of telling me I had to let her be put to sleep to spare her suffering. Thank god Gordon didn’t mind being dragged back out late on a wet, dark Sunday night and drove me back there so I could be with my gorgeous girl for a little while. Her sight was still wonky but she knew it was me holding her, talking to her, stroking her and I could hear her purr so very quietly. Then it was time and they made her sleep so she wouldn’t feel the final injection. I held her and stroked her lovely, autumn coloured fur until her heart stopped and my adorable Pandora was gone. The vet was very nice and left me with her for a little while. She looked like she was sleeping on her little rug and I felt so guilty having to leave her there, even though I knew it wasn’t her any longer. And I felt so guilty at signing the form to let them put her to sleep, even though I knew it was the only mercy I could give to her and was the right thing to do. God knows how anyone ever makes a decision like switching off life support for their human family members, it’s agonising enough with your beloved cat.

Been off the last couple of days and feel shattered, all happened so fast and I can’t quite process that my gorgeous, lovely, warm kitty of over 13 years has been taken away and I never get to see her again. When I don’t see her here I keep thinking she must be sleeping on the bed in the other room and expect to see her come trotting through to the living room at any moment. Then I remember and realise that will never happen again and it’s awful. Pandora is such a huge, huggy puss – she loves being picked up, lies back in your arms like a big furry baby purring against your arms. Sometimes when I held her like that she would raise one of her enormous creamy white paws and gently pat my face. Adorable. Every night when I came home she would wait patiently for me to pick her up like that and cuddle her. I never met a cat so damned cuddly, I am sure she must have been a teddy bear in a former life. No matter how bad a day I had I came home to a big Pandora hug and I felt better. Even in the dark days after we lost mum so suddenly both my girls made me feel better. And now I’ll never come home to my little darling ever again and that’s awful.

pandora 2
(those big, shiny eyes, those gorgeous colours like an autumn forest. And those huge white paws. As soon as I brought her home as a kitten I saw those paws and knew she would grow into a huge puss. And she did. A huge and cuddly puss)

Not slept much last couple of night, Cassie normally curls up with me at night, but she is curling up for a while then she goes off round the flat mieowing and looking for Pandora, then comes back to me in bed, then goes looking again. During the day she’s been snuggling up to me all the time except when she goes looking for her sister again. She doesn’t understand what happened, but she knows Pandora is gone and that something bad happened and she’s clearly distressed. I worry about Cassie, she’s never been alone in her life, never been parted from her sister. I brought them home as 10 week old kittens from the cat shelter years ago, they were so small they could fit in your hand and I loved them right away. The cats made the flat into a real home, not just a place to live, but a warm, living, welcoming place;’ they’re not pets, they’re companions, friends, family, your girls. And believe me, when you live by yourself they are such a hugely important part of your emotional life support. The girls and dad have been what kept me going since we lost mum and I’ve been dreadfully afraid of this kind of thing happening as they got older. You know when you have pets one day this will happen, you trade the many good days and years off against the bad days when you lose them. And painful as that is, a pain that goes into your heart and soul, it is still worth it for the brightness they bring into our lives.

Pandora and Cassie on bed
(Pandora with her sister Cassie lying behind her,she liked lying on the end of the bed, big paws out in front like a Sphinx. Some nights she would lie there while I slept, as if she was keeping guard so no bad dreams could get to me)

Goodnight my adorable Pandora, you made me happy, you made me smile even when I was miserable and in pain like I had never known before, you snuggled up to me and purred against me, you made me laugh as you played with the ball of wool. You brought life and love and warmth into my life and made the flat a home along with your dear sister. It’s only been two days and already I miss you dreadfully and so does your little sister. I don’t know where we go when it ends and I don’t believe the fairy tales of any religion, but it’s also hard to believe we just stop. If we go somewhere afterwards then mum, please look out for my wee girl, she’ll be lost and wondering where I am. She loves to be held and stroked, please look after her and love her for me. Goodnight, my gorgeous girl, I love you and life is so much darker without your light beside me.

Pandora in slatted sunlight

Happy birthday, mum

It should be my mum’s birthday today. She should be here with us and delighting in the flowers I always arranged to have delivered to her. I’m trying my best not to dwell on it, but it’s bloody hard. She should be with us and she’s not, she was ripped away from us. I don’t think I’ll ever really come to terms with that. I miss her every day and I worry about hard it must be for my dad.

I’m trying not to dwell on it, but of course it wells up. I’ve planned ahead a little and made sure I don’t need to spend free time doing extra work as I often do of an evening. And I’ve picked up one of my favourite films cheap recently and kept it aside especially for tonight: Singing in the Rain. It’s very difficult for the Black Dog of depression and despair to get it’s foul smelling fangs into you when you have Gene Kelly singing and dancing with that wonderful, big smile of his. I think I’m going to try and ignore most everything else and go and watch my film.

Happy birthday, mum, I love you, always.

Ingrid Pitt, RIP

Very sad to hear today that Hammer queen Ingrid Pitt has passed away. I loved her in the Hammer movies and had the great pleasure of hosting her for a book reading and signing several years ago (I still have my own signed copy). It was a good event and a delight to meet one of my movie icons. At the end of the event Ingrid leaned over and gave me a kiss on each cheek while saying (in that wonderfully sexy accent of hers) “thank you for a vonderful event, darlink”. Countess Dracula kissed me and I was over the moon.

Killing the innocents

I am utterly disgusted to read that Edinburgh Zoo, famed internationally for its work in the conservation of endangered species, actually practises killing perfectly healthy animals that are ‘surplus to requirement’. After happily tooting their own trumpet at the breeding success of their Red River Hogs the other year it was decided after more piglets were born that the first pair were surplus to requirement and “were humanely euthanised”. Which is a polite way of saying the zoo – an organisation meant to look after creatures – killed two animals who were perfectly healthy. Killing a healthy animal in this manner can in no way be considered ‘humane’. Vile and cowardly and hypocritical, perhaps, but not humane.

They have tried to excuse this despicable action on a directive from a larger European organisation, but they can’t hide the fact that they, a zoo, have quite willingly taken the lives of healthy, defenceless animals. This is a vile action and there is no justification for it that can disguise the zoo’s dreadful actions; it makes their stance on the conservation and good treatment of animals laughable and those who made this decision into utter hypocrites. Consider what these vile people have done if you are ever tempted to spend your hard-earned money on a trip to Edinburgh Zoo. And if you have been recently perhaps you should wonder which of the wonderful animals you marvelled at may someday find themselves also surplus to requirements…

Goodbye to a Scots Makar

I was very sad today to hear from Ian Rankin’s Twitter that the man who had been my favourite living Scots poet, Edwin Morgan, had passed away at the age of 90. He was writing to the end, a new collection published just this year to mark his 90th birthday, a bard who could shape verse in diverse ways and style, across many different subjects from everyday life to love to the creation of the universe, that important kiss, science fiction and of course his beloved Glasgow and Scotland. Poet Laureate of Glasgow then the first National Makar of Scotland, respected in dozens of countries and translated into many languages, one of the great figures of 20th century Scottish writing.

There were never strawberries
like the ones we had
that sultry afternoon
sitting on the step
of the open french window
facing each other
your knees held in mine
the blue plates in our laps
the strawberries glistening
in the hot sunlight
we dipped them in sugar
looking at each other
not hurrying the feast
for one to come
the empty plates
laid on the stone together
with the two forks crossed
and I bent towards you
sweet in that air
in my arms
abandoned like a child
from your eager mouth
the taste of strawberries
in my memory
lean back again
let me love you

let the sun beat
on our forgetfulness
one hour of all
the heat intense
and summer lightning
on the Kilpatrick hills

let the storm wash the plates

a damned date

I’ve been trying my best all day to distract myself with music, comedies on the radio and work, trying to keep my mind off the damned date. I’ve grown to loathe this date, I’d cut it from every calendar on the planet if it would make a difference, but it wouldn’t. It’s exactly two years since mum was ripped away from us, just like that and nothing’s really felt right since.

Happy birthday, mum

Today should be my mum’s birthday; it’s the first since we lost her with such awful, shocking, sickening suddenness. Right now I should be getting a delighted phone call from her after she received the big bouquet of birthday flowers I’d always have sent to her. She loved getting that big bunch of birthday flowers and I loved how happy they made her. Sometimes they’d even still be in bloom when I went home for Christmas a couple of weeks later.

I’ll never hear that ever again. Instead I’ll be back through to Glasgow with dad and taking flowers to her grave. And I hate this. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it. She should be here and she’s not. I feel it every single day, a horrible ache inside, a weight on my spirit I can’t lift, but this makes it worse and the imminent arrival of the Christmas period lurks around the corner like an unwanted visitor and how I hate the thought of Christmas without her. The world feels very cold and all there seems to be to look forward to is small diversions but no real delight. She should be here and happy with us and instead we’re taking flowers to her grave and her name is on a cold bloody stone and that’s not right.