Thursday, 27 January 2011

The Asthma Pussy And The Flat Cat

For some time now, The Boy and I have been on the look-out for flat cats and recently decided Maine Coons are our ideal find. I love a massive moggie with plenty of fur and Maine Coons, like me, are known for their barrel chests and large bone structures. Like Persians (or Ewoks as I like to call them), Maine Coons have long flowing coats, but unlike Ewoks they don't require regular brushing.

They're known as one of the largest breeds of domestic cats - males can weigh anything between 15-25 pounds while females are a more petite 10-15. They can be between 25-41 cms tall and 100cms long (including their bushy racoon-like tails). In 2010 the longest Maine Coon recorded in the Guinness Book of Records was Stewie, measuring an impressive 123 cms from the tip of his nose to tail.

I've always grown up with both pedigree and moggie cats, loving them so much, The Boy has become a pretty radical convert, now campaigning for the flat cat acquisition more fiercely than me. In the past I've tried to explain the ailments of some of the cats back at my parents' house in Cranners and I'm not sure I did the best job. As I have had a heavy week of job applications and have taken on far too many reviews, I'm going to leave you be with an amazing video of Pingus Ming (aka Mr Diddles), the asthmatic rather handsome appearance-proud Siamese Tabby Point. He hasn't always sounded this way, possibly getting this infliction after the arrival of another cat, saw him constantly living in fear. He takes meds but they never seem to stop the wide array of noises that he makes. I have described these sounds as snuffly, snake-like and reminiscent of a guinea-pig before but you really have to hear it to believe it....

and now imagine trying to get to sleep with him sharing your bed.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Strange Scribing

Back in Kent again and I'm heading Sussex-ward, going to meet my Nan for Sunday lunch. Little sis and I are dropped in Hartfield in order to make it to the pub in time for our booking while The Olds go and collect her. On the way there, we walk past an empty field and on the gate leading into this rather lonely-looking green expanse, there is a sign. What this sign says is the topic of discussion for much of the short but blustery walk to the Hay Wagon.

The wording reminds me of another equally baffling sign on a playground gate, The Boy and I saw in Adelaide that was presumably either aimed at paedophiles or drunken adults (see above). The Hartfield sign we can't help but speculate about has a similarly sinister undertone: “We are retired beef cows. Please treat us with respect & keep dogs on leads”, it says. We wonder how a “beef cow” can possibly be retired and decide the wording would perhaps be better changed to “We are the cows that got away”, "We are the rejects" or “We are retired amputee beef cows”... Looking at the empty field, there is little evidence of any lucky surviving cows - even one legged!

After lunch we head back to my Nan's house and attempt various crosswords. Flicking through one of those comical free catalogues that often come with Sunday papers and are aimed at the elderly, crammed full of useless goods, I come across a grotesque advert:

This reminds me of the legendary “dick pants” that were the source of many a joke while at school, aged 16. I often now wonder whether these “dick pants” ever actually existed – they just seem too good to be true! “What are they?” I hear you cry. Well, some bright spark had noted how unfair it is that women can't pee standing up and are often inconvenienced by this so had designed rubber pants that women could wear that would allow them to do so. This ingenious idea was featured in just the kind of magazine the advert above appeared in and sadly I have never seen or heard of it since. Instead, coming across useful gems like the revolting “doll” depicted above.

My amazement at such strangely worded signs and stomach-churning adverts is only surpassed by the fact that someone out there scribed these beauties and someone even more disturbing might actually buy the “Little Umi”, dummy and all!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Reliving A Hair-Curling Experience

I am not sure what it is about mothers and curls (or perhaps it's just my family) but a recent visit home found me re-experiencing a childhood nightmare. With dad unwell, I am often on a train back to Kent at weekends and generally spend much of my time trying to ignore the dire rural-set detective shows my parents seem to enjoy watching (sorry if you're a fan of this type of programme but they're something else I just don't get).

On this particular trip, I was sporting a particularly bad haircut. I don't feel it's fair to blame my hairdresser as she did the best she could with appalling materials (thin “fly away” dyed snapped off hair of uneven length) and did a fantastic job with the back. As normal Big G looked at my hair and pulled a face, this time pleading with me to let her curl it.

As a child, both little sis and I were subjected to many a night lying in bed desperately trying to sleep with agonising hair curlers jabbing us in the head. I also remember the pain of having them put in and worse still the feeling of them being tugged from my hair. The prospect of reliving this experience wasn't appealing but as I knew I wouldn't be attempting to sleep with curlers in and wouldn't be spotted by anyone I knew, for some reason I decided to indulge Big G.

With only a few hours before the performance of The King's Speech that we'd booked tickets for, I was about to undergo a major transformation. About a year ago, I gave in to the pressures of Big G and little sis constantly telling me to dye my hair. I used to have very blonde hair but as soon as I hit my teens it turned much darker and my roots now look almost black, despite the ends remaining pretty light. I was going through a particularly depressed time when I'd had quite enough with my appearance and decided any change would be for the better. Of course since agreeing to that first application, it's been pretty hard to go “au naturale” again and I'm now a slave to dye manufacturers.

Washing the dye out of my hair, I got a nasty surprise. My hair has once gone a strange orange colour from the combination of hair dye and chlorine but has never been this blonde before. With my dark eyebrows, it looked pretty strange but I had little time to fret before Big G was winding my hair round small black plastic tubes. Occasionally making hissing noises I had to repeatedly remind her to take care with the little hair I have.

After sitting under her old-skool 60s salon-style hairdryer and painfully having the curlers wrenched from my hair, the final result was met with hysterical laughter by little sis. Of course with glee Big G rather disturbingly cried: “You look just like your sister used to!” Clearly pleased by the end result, she waited in the lounge while I went to inspect myself in the nearest mirror. The final result was something I couldn't help but also laugh at, safe in the knowledge that I could at least instantly remove the curls, if not the rather artificial-looking colour. I looked like I was wearing a blonde Scouse wig and with my glasses on, rather disturbingly resembled a boy called Nathan I knew through a friend at University.

I expect you'll be wondering whether I actually made it to the cinema like that and the answer would be “yes”. I have to confess though, that I took the coward's route and made myself look rather freaky by wearing a scarf around my whole head for the entire film.

Later that night as yet more dodgy detective programmes were viewed, I entertained myself playing around in Photoshop and discovered that with a little doctoring photographic evidence of my temporary “do” actually bared an uncanny likeness to the Moors Murderer, Myra Hindley.

No disrespect to those with curly hair because there are plenty of both famous and everyday folk out there who have great curly hair.... but I'll never understand the attraction of spending hours creating artificial curls - especially not when you've got really short hair and the aim is to create huge wavy ones that remind me of the older generation, in particular my nan and the Queen. If I think back to being a child, the old nursery rhyme comes to mind:

There was a little girl,

who had a little curl,

right in the middle of her forehead.

When she was good,

she was very, very good,

but when she was bad, she was horrid.”

And of course that old trick to get children to eat the crusts of brown bread – “it'll make your hair curly”. I have never wanted curly hair and I can now confidently say I still don't – perhaps that's why I'm not a brown bread fan.

For now I will have to tolerate my radioactive-looking hair and reassure myself with the notion, “ice blonde” is apparently this season's colour. Perhaps when I'm the same age as my nan or the Queen I'll be happy “au naturale” again and willingly trying to curl my hair.

Friday, 7 January 2011

When Technology Invades

2010 was the year of visiting hospitals and it seems 2011 is going to be no different. Mid 2010 “Little Bitch” (aka Tiff, my younger sister) developed a nasty kidney infection and ended up on a drip. After it was discovered Dad has Myeloma, in combating this rather nasty incurable but containable cancer, trips to the hospital became a norm for him. As his immune system is so low, last year he ended up in hospital several times with a whole array of pretty unpleasant ailments. Then just before Christmas a bad fall down the stairs backwards saw my Nan in hospital. I am pretty certain I had never had so many trips to the hospital in one year.

Just before Christmas the “Bitch” had a sudden relapse and was threatened with celebrating a “Happy Christmas” back on a drip but with some persuasion was allowed to return home. Just after Christmas, seemingly better she returned to work before her sick note had expired and within a few days wound up back in hospital with an infection, E. coli (yes!) and an abscess on her Kidney so I began 2011 with yet another hospital visit – something that rather depressingly seems to increase as you get older.

I recently heard about a school that uses online canteen accounts and scans finger prints rather than using good old fashioned cash or even a canteen swipe card. Gone are the days of children being bullied for their dinner money as fingerprint swiping heralds the arrival of the child gangster lopping off their peers' digits left, right and centre.

Visiting “Little Bitch” at University College Hospital in the last week, introduced me to similarly bizarre newfangled hospital workings. In all my recent hospital visits I have never come across patients having to pay to watch TV but in this establishment, “Little Bitch” was spending like crazy. In order to watch TV or use the Internet (yes, the hospital is that high-tech!), she had to purchase a card and regularly put money on it - we're not talking a full array of satellite channels or movie channels but just regular TV in all its glory.

In a similarly bizarre move, all out-going phone calls to land lines are free for patients. Despite being in a ward with a woman unable to press the assistance button who continuously cried out “ 'Scuse me” to little sis, each patient had their own phone. Every time I rang her I had the pleasure of listening to a lengthy answering machine message telling me that I may have received a missed call from the number, kindly explaining who this missed call might have been from and helpfully suggesting that I donate TV credit. Sis spent each TV viewing day living by the hour, awaiting updated news of her condition before putting more money on the card, unsure what would happen to any unspent credit.

Hearing this reminded me of London Underground and all those people trying to sell on one day travel cards near the end of the day. Recently returning from one of my Leeds-London stints, in Victoria Coach Station these very same people were desperately trying to sell travel cards at 10.30 at night for more than the average single fair when it's most likely purchasing such a thing is pretty pointless. I now can't help imagining patients outside the University College Hospital trying to sell on their TV “credit cards”. Hospitals are such strange places such a sight probably wouldn't seem out-of-the-ordinary and certainly not in London.

I'm always amazed by the lack of communication that seems to occur between medical staff. Sure I know that these days patients are often allocated “teams” to look after them but when the patient is being asked to fill in what they've been told for the next doctor and given two enormous bags of almost identical drugs surely there's something wrong. During one of my dad's hospital stints a slip up almost saw him being prescribed a lethal dose – it was only after he noticed the mistake and rang his consultant that the error was rectified. Both my dad and sister have been forgotten by staff - left without liquid for hours on end and abandoned to a hallway already feeling nauseous.

I have a few NHS employed friends (you know who you are) who I know do a great job but clearly not everyone out there is as on the ball. What's happened to communication and basic admin? I have only ever been in hospital twice and both were flying visits for stitches so I can only hope that I manage to remain the one family member in 2011 who continues to act as visitor.