A Little Gratitude List…

A Little Gratitude List…

1. We were in Fife recently visiting my husband’s cousin and his wife who have just moved there. We spent a little time catching up over mugs of coffee in their home as the four of us don’t get to see each other as often as we used to when they lived round the corner from us, but we always enjoy the time we do spend together and it doesn’t usually take long for my husband and his cousin to bring out the mischief in each other. After a tour of their new house, we all piled into the car and drove to a nearby beach where we spent a happy couple of hours strolling along the shore, chatting and exploring rock pools. I’m grateful for time with family and the chance to explore new places together.

2. On Saturday night, we had a house full of friends for a little Eurovision Song Contest Party. The Eurovision is a lot less kitsch than it used to be, and our guests were a disparate group (some of whom had only met once before at our wedding), but laughter and banter resounded round the room all evening. It was the first party we’ve hosted in our house, but it won’t be the last. I’m grateful for good times like these with good friends.

3. My husband is working away this week, something he tries to avoid as he’s a homebody at heart. We miss each other, but I’m grateful for technology (like Skype) that helps us stay in contact when we’re far apart.

image1 (1).JPG

4. Luckily, I have our cat, Mara, to keep me company while he’s away. It’s almost impossible to feel lonely with Mara around, she brings so much life and noise to our home; from the impatient whine at feeding times that sounds more like “now!” than “meow” to the rumbling vocal cords when she runs up or down stairs, paws padding across wooden floors, a slurping tongue as she grooms herself and too many other distinctive chirrups, squeaks and meows to list separately. Lately, Mara has started sleeping on my pillow with her head pressed against my neck, although her whiskers tickle and she sometimes snores in my ear, she’s too cute to shoo away. As always, I’m grateful for Mara’s companionship and affection.

image2 (1)

5. I’ve been adding a few new recipes to my repertoire and realised that most of the food I associated with Mexico (nachos, chilli con carne and burritos) are actually Tex-Mex, so I borrowed Mexico: The Cookbook by Margarita Carillo Arronte from the local library to learn more about authentic Mexican cuisine. First attempts at making corn tortillas failed but the other recipes I’ve tried have all been tasty and I’m looking forward to adapting some of the meat dishes to vegetarian. Some of the ingredients are tricky to find here in Scotland, but I’m grateful to live in a country where food is plentiful. I’m also grateful for public libraries, they’re a valuable resource in the community.

Have a lovely week.

Advertisements

At Home with Mara-cat

13 the Love of a Cat1

Our evenings and weekends lately have been spent at home as my husband and I tackle various projects around the house and garden, before changing out of our muddy, paint splattered clothes to play games on the rug with our cat Mara or snuggled up on the sofa with her stretched across our laps. Mara is recovering well from her recent operation, and is almost back to her scampering, chatty and cuddly self.

So many of our daily rituals revolve around Mara: our mornings invariably start with the sound of her plaintive mewing for breakfast, and our evenings end with her wishing us “goodnight” in her own way by nuzzling her face against each of ours in turn before she settles down to sleep by my ankles. Mara is almost always there waiting behind the front door to welcome us home when we’ve been out, and she often follows us around the house like a little shadow as we go about our routines and chores.

I’ll never forget the day we brought Mara home from the rescue centre: When we released her from the cat carrier into our bedroom, after a quick exploration of the room, she jumped up on our bed and began affectionately butting heads with us. Mara was timid and unsure, but seemed overjoyed to be out of the cattery and eager to bond with us. Since then, our home has very much become her home with all her countless toys, dens and miscellanea scattered everywhere, and scratch marks on the upholstery to prove it. Many of our friends (even those with pets of their own) think we spoil Mara, but from the moment we adopted her, she has given us so much love, affection and companionship that it always seems like a fair trade.

13 the love of a cat2

Hanging in pride of place on our living room wall is a framed picture of the three of us drawn by web-comic artist Li Chen. My husband commissioned it shortly after we adopted Mara and it was our Christmas present to each other that year. To us, it represents that no matter what happens or where we go, Mara will always be part of our little family and home.

We often lament that we have no photos of Mara as a kitten, though we imagine she must have been very cute given how kittenish some of her mannerisms still are. We knew so little about her when we adopted her, only that she had to be rehomed because her previous owner died, and even her age is estimated.

FullSizeRender

Mara has had such a lot of upheaval over the last couple of years from losing her previous owner and everything familiar to being adopted by us, moving house with us at the end of last year and most recently having her tail amputated after we found a malignant tumour near the base of it. Yet throughout everything, Mara has shown such bravery and resilience, and given us her unwavering trust and unconditional love. Whatever the future holds for us all, I’ll always be grateful for Mara, and I’ll cherish every moment we’ve spent together. Have a lovely week.

Our purr-fect patient

image1
Mara before the operation

A little while ago, my husband found a lump about 3mm wide and 8mm long near the base of our cat Mara’s tail. Our vet took samples but didn’t seem particularly concerned. About a week later, the vet called us to advise that the lump was a malignant tumour and they recommended operating to remove it, because this type of tumour was particularly invasive and reactive; they also apologised that they hadn’t recognised it at first as they never see tumours at such an early stage. We were warned that the location of the lump meant tail amputation might be necessary. It came as a shock because in every other respect Mara seemed perfectly healthy; eating, playing, grooming and cuddling as normal.

It was painfully reminiscent of when my family’s cat Peach died of cancer. It was me who took Peach to the vet when he stopped eating, became lethargic and breathless, and I also brought his body home after the vet called to tell me Peach had died in his arms.

My husband and I took the day of Mara’s operation off work. Signing the consent form warning us that some animals don’t wake up from the general anaesthetic and about the risks of unexpected complications during surgery made leaving Mara there difficult. We spent most of the day driving, as there were too many reminders of Mara at home and it was too quiet there without her. We tried to distract each other but couldn’t stop ourselves from anxiously checking our phones every few moments. My husband answered the vet’s call, they had unfortunately had to amputate Mara’s tail as they found a second smaller lump next to the first, but she had woken up from the anaesthetic and we were able to have her home that evening. We both shed tears of relief and sorrow.

image2
Mara slept on me every night for a week after the operation

Our world shrunk as we wrapped ourselves around Mara to make sure she was as comfortable and pain-free as possible in the days after her operation. Mara has been a purr-fect patient, she’s a very special little lady, and she was soon back to affectionately butting heads with us (albeit awkwardly because of the cone she has to wear to stop her from licking her wound), squeaking for her food that she gobbled up despite the medication hidden in it, and sleeping stretched out on my torso every night after the operation.

It’s hard to explain to those who don’t have pets just how much love and joy they bring to a home, but also how much we worry when our animal companions are injured or unwell. Many of us consider our pets to be members of the family, and often it is the daily routines of feeding, petting, playing with them or even washing their bowls and litter trays that ground us in the here and now when other personal and global events seem overwhelming.

image3
Enjoying some cuddles with the cone off

We’ve been touched by the messages and calls from well-wishing family and friends, and we’re so thankful to our vets who acted quickly and decisively to give Mara the best chance of survival, and for all their advice and after-care. There are unfortunately more procedures and tests on the horizon for Mara, but for now we are just relieved and grateful to have her recovering at home with us.

Review of ‘A Street Cat Named Bob’ by James Bowen

img_4177

I saw the film of this at the cinema last year and was so moved by it that I read the book soon after. James Bowen was a busker and recovering heroin addict living in sheltered accommodation in London when he encountered an injured but friendly stray cat (whom he names Bob) that found its way into his block of flats. The two quickly become inseparable companions and the book follows all the highs and lows they share together, it is their loyalty and devotion to each other that drives the book forward.

James is living a hand to mouth existence for most of the book, but spends the little money he earns busking and selling the Big Issue magazine on cat food and vet’s bills. From the offset, James is a responsible pet-owner, taking Bob to the vet, getting him neutered and micro-chipped. Taking care of Bob gives James a purpose, and it seems like the simple routine of caring for the cat keeps him tethered to normality, and he is rewarded with Bob’s affection and trust.

Having adopted a rescue-cat of my own from the Scottish SPCA, I could relate to James’ speculation about Bob’s past, as he tries to understand the quirks and behaviour that might offer clues about Bob’s life before they became companions.

Throughout A Street Cat Named Bob, James shows humbling insight into how society regards homeless people and addicts, drawing attention to the deliberate blindness of passers-by and how it felt to be invisible. He also describes the vulnerability of working on the streets of London, trying to eke out a living from busking and selling the Big Issue, as well as the numerous barriers facing those trying to turn their lives around.

This is a rags-to-riches autobiography in a sense, yet this is a also a tale of recovery, second chances and above all the friendship that develops between a recovering addict and a stray cat.

Peaceful Midwinter Days

December passed in a merry blur as my husband and I squeezed too many catch ups with family and friends from near and far away into too few days around Christmas, along with trips to Christmas markets and the cinema to see A Street Cat Named Bob, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

fullsizerender-5
Christmas with Mara

On Christmas Eve we drove to the little town where my parents live, singing along to Christmas songs on the radio, with our cat Mara curled up at my feet in the passenger footwell. There was no lie in for us on Christmas day as Mara woke us up bright and early demanding her breakfast; she’s a creature of routine and her body clock is unerring where feeding times are concerned.

Fortunately my family and in-laws only live a short car journey apart so we’re able to spend time with both sides on Christmas Day. We visited my husband’s family in the morning to exchange gifts and catch up over mugs of coffee, before returning to my family and Mara.

Christmas dinner has become a team effort in my family as we all do something to lighten the load of whoever is hosting it, whether it’s setting the table, preparing the starter or washing the dishes afterwards. As we gathered around the dining table, my grandmother insisted everyone wear the paper crowns from their crackers as we tucked into a three course Christmas dinner, while Mara circled like a shark under the table searching for scraps. Boxing Day was also spent surrounded by family, chatting and picking at leftovers.

It is always the cosy togetherness with family and friends that I look forward to and appreciate most during the festive season.

image1-9
The Kelpies by night

My husband and I started 2017 with a trip to Falkirk with a couple of good friends for a refreshing New Year’s Day walk around the Kelpies. It was a cold, clear evening, and I loved breathing in all the hope a new year promises in the chill air.

Back in our own home now, January tends to be a peaceful month, providing a much-appreciated lull after the busyness that precedes it. Life seems to slow down at this time of year as the world outside hibernates.

img_5988
Cosy mornings with Mara

On the coldest, winter mornings, Mara crawls under the duvet and flops down on her side between us, purring like an engine and revelling in being warm and close to us. While the short days and long evenings provide the perfect excuse to stay cosy at home together, playing with Mara or letting her snooze across our laps while we read, write thank you cards and finish off the last of the cheese selection.

Taking down the Christmas decorations seemed more poignant than usual as we are moving soon, yet with change and upheaval on the horizon, I’m grateful for these peaceful midwinter days. Wishing everyone a happy New Year!

Time spent with cats is never wasted…

image1-3

It was around this time last year that my husband and I adopted our cat, Mara, from a rescue centre. We had just returned from our honeymoon when we decided to get a pet, both of us had cats growing up and missed the energy and routine that pets add to a home.

The cats I had growing up were all rescued: Peach and Lucky were kittens abandoned in a sack on a construction site; Oscar was the runt of a farmyard cat’s litter, he was suffering from a respiratory infection and was left behind when his mother moved her other kittens from one barn to another. Despite having a difficult start in life, all of our rescue cats became such loyal and trusting members of the family that I was determined to give an “unwanted” cat a safe, loving home when my husband and I decided to get a pet of our own.

Although we knew very little about Mara’s background we took a chance on her because she seemed timid but curious and affectionate in the re-homing centre.

Mara has become such a big part of our little family that it’s hard to believe it has only been one year since we adopted her. From the cheerful chirrup when we arrive home from work to the impatient whine at feeding times and the rumbling purr when she’s content, the affectionate nuzzling and playful scampering, stretching across our laps for a snooze or curling up at the bottom of our bed to sleep every night, Mara has made a significant impression on our home and our hearts.

img_0311
Bedtime stories…

It’s been so rewarding to watch Mara start to trust us, settle into her new home and slowly overcome her timidity. Nowhere is this more evident than in her playfulness, Mara has progressed from hiding under furniture with all but her two front paws hidden swiping at her toys to scampering, pouncing and leaping after her toys in the middle of the floor with fearless abandon.

I learn so much from observing Mara, she lives in the present moment, she doesn’t ruminate on the past or worry about the future; and I’m always inspired by the pleasure she takes in the simple comforts of life such as companionship, food, play, rest and a warm, safe home.

The thought of coming home to a hug from my husband and nuzzles from Mara is enough to help me keep all the daily stresses and struggles in perspective. The quiet, cosy hours we pass together always fill me with a sense of peace, contentment and gratitude. As the autumn nights grow longer and the weather gets colder, I look forward to the three of us spending many more evenings snuggled up together. Have a lovely week.